Herbal Preparation Methods

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Having a cup of herbal tea is rather misleading when discussing it with someone who has studied herbal medicine. Tea is an herb, not a preparation method. Here are some terms that may help you choose herbal preparations right for you and your family.

Infusion: This is by far the most common preparation method and it is what people mean when they use the phrase “herbal tea.” Bring water to a boil and then pour it over the herbs. Steeping time is ten to twenty minutes, depending on what is being prepared and the desired strength.


Decoction: This method takes more time but it is similar to an infusion. Herbs are placed in cold water which is brought to a simmer. Leaves and flowers are usually simmered for five to ten minutes. Bark and roots usually simmer for twenty or more. One has to be careful when making a decoction of leaves and flowers as it is possible to destroy the component desired.

Extract: This process takes a long time. Most take a minimum of six weeks. There are three extraction fluids. Vodka (or grain alcohol if it’s for a topical application), vinegar and oil. You can choose any vinegar or oil but my preferred are distilled vinegar and olive oil.

Poultice: This is a slightly more complicated process. A large amount of the desired herbs is required. Hard herbs such as comfrey root will need to be softened and mashed. Softer herbs can be steeped from just enough water to cover them. The herbs are then placed directly on the skin. Be careful not to burn yourself or whoever you are attending.

Wash: Instead of drinking an infusion or decoction the liquid obtained can be used to wash an area of the body. This process is helpful for cuts and bruises, though care has to be taken in choosing the herbs.

Wrap: This is similar to a wash, except the cloth stays. Wring it out and lay it over the area, then wrap it with plastic. The plastic holds the heat in and can help reduce pain.

Most of the herbs found in a supermarket can be prepared safely by anyone. However, it is wise to discuss any herbal product with your doctor or your pharmacist before using them. They know your medical history and what medications you are taking. This will prevent any negative side effects or interactions.

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