the family medicine chest is an ongoing series on the fourth thursday of each month.
one of the best way to take your medicine, herbally speaking, is as an infusion. first, let’s get the definitions out of the way. tea is a beverage. it is generally made by heating water and steeping herbs for 2-10 minutes and then drank. it is enjoyed as a refreshment. teas can be made by the cup or by the pot. generally, only a teaspoon or so of herb is used.
infusions and decoctions can be enjoyed too but are generally stronger. they are always steeped for a longer time period for up to 10 hours. 6-8 is the average. infusions are generally made using leaves, flowers and aerial parts of the herb. decoctions are generally made with roots, bark and seeds. there are a few exceptions to this rule (valerian is usually infused because of the delicate nature of the volatile oils in its roots) but today, we are focusing on the generality. infusions and decoctions are always made in batches (a potful). large amounts of herbs are used. infusions are generally used over time, often drank daily for months at a time. however, they can be used during short periods such as colds and flus as well. preparing the herbs in this manner maximizes the healing properties of the herb. it allows more constituents and minerals to be extracted.
the outcome of infusions and decoctions are the same but the means of getting there are a bit different.
to make an infusion, you’ll need a pot of boiling water (1 qt. of water), a quart jar with lid and your chosen herbs. start by filling the jar with about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of dried herbs (3/4 – 1 cup with fresh herbs). fill to the top with the water and seal. let it sit for 8 hours. strain off the herbs and store in the fridge if not drinking within 24 hours.
to make a decoction, you’ll need a pot of water (1 qt. of water), a quart jar with lid and your chosen herbs. measure out about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of herb and place in the pot of water. bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes. pour herbs and water into quart jar and seal. let it sit for 8 hours. strain off the herbs and store in the fridge if not drinking within 24 hours. roots can generally be used for 2 brews.
a typical dosage for infusions and decoctions is 3-4 cups per day which is how much you’ll get out of the quart jar. since it is usually being taken on a daily basis over an extended period of time, i have found it’s best to brew the infusion in the evening before bed. place it on the counter and let it sit overnight. when you get up in the am, it’s ready to drink. it can be drank at room temperature, heated up or chilled. honey or natural fruit juice can be added to sweeten if desired. if you prefer it chilled, start the process a bit earlier and after it has cooled for about 30 minutes, place it in the fridge to steep overnight.
some typical herbs that are made in this manner include ginger root, nettles, raspberry leaf, oatstraw, alfalfa, lemon balm, plantain, rosemary and mint. brews can be made with single herbs (susun weed’s preferred method) or in formulas. if combining both roots and leaves, always decoct the roots first and then add the leaves after removing it from the heat. always use naturally grown/organic herbs since steeping herbs for such a long period will extract out pesticides like crazy (in my opinion, there is never a good time to use conventionally grown plants since herbs are very pest resistant). if you’re having problems coming up with combinations, do a search for herbal formulas online. generally, any formula for a tincture will work fine as an infusion/decoction. but don’t overdo it. it’s better to stay simple and allow one herb at a time.