Preparing medicinal herbs at home has become increasingly popular in most households, with a variety of herbs being more readily available. But, with easy access to different medicinal herbs comes the responsibility of ensuring that you’re using the herbs in the correct manner in order to obtain the best possible result.
Similar to any other form of medicine or practice, preparation has a large part to play in the product’s end result. That being said, different styles of preparation are better suited to different types of herbs and health conditions.
While you may often find that herbs are traditionally used medicinally in tea, some health problems (including eczema, acne, sprains and headaches) also benefit from applying the herbs externally as a poultice, fomentation, or soaking with them in a bath.
In this short article, we explore hot infusion, cold infusion and decoction as the main types of medicinal herb preparation.
A hot infusion is one of the simplest ways to prepare many dried herbs for use as a medicine or as a revitalising herbal tea. Preparing a hot infusion begins by weighing each of the herbs listed in your choice of recipe. Once weighed, place all of the herbs into a bowl, mix well and then store in a sealed glass jar away from sunlight.
To prepare each dose of a hot infusion, measure 1 heaped teaspoonful of mixed herbs and pour 1 cup of boiling water over them. Cover the cup with a lid or saucer to ensure that the volatile oils in many medicinal herbs do not escape into the air. Allow the mixture to steep for 3-5 minutes and strain before using. If the mixture won’t be used straight away, you can store an infusion in a covered jug or container in the fridge for up to 24 hours and gently warm the mixture before drinking.
Cold infusions are usually recommended for preparing more delicate herbs whose active ingredients can be damaged by high temperatures. To prepare a cold infusion, begin by weighing each of the herbs listed in your chosen recipe. Place all the weighed out herbs into a bowl, mix them well and then store in a sealed glass jar away from sunlight.
To prepare each dose of a cold infusion, measure 1 heaped teaspoonful of the mixed herbs and pour 1 cup of cold water over them. Cover and allow to steep for 8-12 hours (this is best done overnight). Strain and warm slightly before drinking.
The preparation style, decoction, is the method used to extract the medicinal ingredients from the harder parts of herbs such as roots, bark, twigs and berries. To prepare a decoction, start off by weighing each of the herbs listed in your chosen recipe. Place all of the weighed herbs into a bowl, mix them well and then store in a sealed glass jar away from sunlight.
To prepare each dose of a decoction, measure 1 heaped teaspoonful of the mixed herbs and place them in a saucepan with 1 cup of cold water. Bring the mixture to the boil, simmer for 10-15 minutes (longer if the roots are very hard) and strain before drinking. If not using straight away, you can store a decoction in a covered jug or container in the fridge for up to 48 hours and gently warm the mixture before drinking.
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