Decoctions

by Ravemore

Decoctions are usually the method of choice when working with tougher and more fibrous plants, barks and roots. Instead of just steeping it in hot water, the plant material is boiled for a longer period of time to soften the harder woody material and release its active ingredients.

To prepare a decoction, select a ceramic pot with a snug fitting lid. Measure the amount of herb needed (usually the same ratio of 1 teaspoon powdered herb or 2 teaspoons of cut herb per 8 ounces of water) into the pot and add the proper amount of cold water depending on how many cups of the decoction you wish to prepare. Turn on the heat to medium high and bring to a rolling boil. Place the lid on the pot and reduce the heat to medium or medium-low so that the mixture stays at a good simmer. Simmer it covered for 20 minutes. If you can see steam escaping or smell the aroma of the herb, your lid is not tight enough and valuable essential oils are escaping. After 20 minutes, remove from heat and cool slightly.

If using cut herbs, strain the mixture through a strainer into a cup. When straining, make sure to press on the cut herb pieces in the strainer to get as much liquid/decoction out of the herb pieces as possible. If using powdered herb, allow the powder to settle to the bottom of the pot and then pour off the decoction from the top into a cup (any sediment missed will settle to the bottom of the cup). Standard dosages for decoction are generally one-half to one cup, two or three times daily. The entire day’s dosage can be prepared in the morning (2-3 cups at one time), and the remainder refrigerated until ready to use later in the day.

Stronger decoctions, depending on the type of plant material used, are prepared in two general ways. The first involves boiling the mixture longer. This is usually indicated when working with larger woody pieces of bark. Longer boiling time, up to 2 hours or more, is sometimes necessary to break down, soften, and extract the larger pieces. Alternatively, when smaller woody pieces are used yet a stronger remedy is wanted, the decoction is prepared as above (boiling 20 minutes), then it is allowed to sit/soak overnight before straining out the herb. When straining, again, make sure to press on the cut herb pieces in the strainer to get as much moisture/decoction out of the herb pieces.