How to Make a Decoction.
If you have made an Infusion, you can make a Decoction! it’s just as easy, if a little different in a couple of ways.
A non-aluminum pan
- The herb or herbs required
- A hot plate, fire or cooker
- Amounts of herb to water depend on what you want to do with your Decoction.
- A Decoction can be taken orally, either on its own or amalgamated with an Infusion, or it can be used in other ways of making herbal medications.
As with Infusions, it isn’t the amount of water that is critical, it’s the amount of herb, and the same amount of herb is required whether you are making Infusions or Decoctions:
1 teaspoon of dried herb or 3 teaspoons of fresh herb.
Dried herbs should be broken down into small pieces, the smaller the better, and fresh herbs should be cut again into as small pieces as possible. Dried seeds or berries should be crushed to break the skin. All this makes it easier to extract the herb's constituents.
One of the differences between making an Infusion and a Decoction is that you will lose around one-quarter of the original amount of water during the making of a Decoction as it is made by simmering for 15 to 20 minutes, so this needs to be taken into consideration when adding the spring water to the pan. It's recommended using one teaspoon of dried to a mug full of spring water.
If you are making larger quantities then use the measurement of 1 oz. of dried herb to 1 pint of water.
Herbs can be combined when making Decoctions as long as the herbs used are the type that needs Decoction as the extraction method.
- Add the measured herbs to your pan and add the required amount of cold spring water; around a mug of water will do nicely.
- Place the pan on the hob and bring to the boil.
- As soon as the water comes to the boil, put on a lid and turn the heat down to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Vital oils can be lost through steam if you don’t cover your medications while they ‘cook’, so the lid is essential. 15 minutes for roots, rhizomes, seeds, and berries and up to 20 minutes for tree bark.
- Keep a good eye on the pan, if you think it is in danger of boiling dry then add a little more boiling spring water. It’s as well to have a kettle on the boil with spring water in there all ready for if you need it.
- Leave the herbs residue in the water for another 10 minutes to leech out as much of the herb's constituents as possible.
- After the 10 minutes train the Decoction through a muslin bag into your cup or mug and drink straight away.
Decoctions do not have a long shelf life, as with Infusions, two days in the refrigerator is about the longest shelf life, it is best to drink or use Decoctions the same day they are made.
Decoctions can be sweetened as with Infusions, by adding honey or brown sugar. But they can also be added to an Infusion, and if you are doing this then use less water when you make the Decoction so you don’t end up with two cups of medicine to drink all in one. Again, it’s the amount of herb that is critical not the amount of water.
Decoctions can be a base for adding to other Herbal Medications including ointments, creams, liniments, and poultices.
It is worth mentioning the subject of Syrups at this point in the course, as making Syrups and adding Decoctions is a worthy way of ingesting Herbal Medications that may be difficult for the patient to take. Syrups last longer than Decoctions because the sugar they contain is a preservative.
This is especially useful under the heading of Decoctions as there are some herbs that are specifically useful for colds, sore throats, tonsillitis, catarrh, throat infections, and associated illnesses.
Licorice root, Wild cherry bark, and Echinacea root, Ginger and Garlic can all help with the above.
An excellent cough medicine can be made by first making a syrup as below:
- Pour quarter a pint of boiling spring water into a pan, add 4 ozs. of sugar, and stir until the sugar melts. Remove it from the heat and reserve.
- Add a strong Decoction (simmer for 20 minutes and leave to steep after simmering for around 15 minutes) of Liquorice root, Wild cherry bark, and Echinacea root to the syrup, using the quantities of one part strong Decoction to three parts syrup.
This cough syrup will keep best in a refrigerator.
It isn’t recommended that a syrup is ingested too much as it contains a relatively big amount of sugar, but for a cough medication, it is worth making up as you need it. If you need to sweeten herbs you are ingesting other than for a short time, then use honey to sweeten it rather than sugar.
If the cough is combined with a cold, then an Infusion of lemon and honey is also recommended, see a recipe for this on the page ‘Recipes for Herbs’.