What is a Herbal Decoction?
A Decoction is a herbal tea that is lightly simmered for 30 minutes-5 hours. It is different from an Infusion, which is a tea that is steeped in hot water, but not simmered. Typically decoctions are done with woody plant parts like roots, barks, seeds and berries as well as mushrooms, where the medicinal compounds require longer extraction as they are contained by tough fiberous cell walls. They are not ideal for leafy green herbs or those containing highly volatile oils. These types of herbs are better made into Infusions. The strength of a decoction is based on how long they are brewed for and how much herb material is added. Most are typically done with 20 parts water (ml) to 1 part herb (grams), 20:1 . To make stronger this can be reduced as low as 5:1 before you start having more herb than liquid. When making a decoction, it is also important to use the best water you can get (spring water is ideal).
As it can take up to a few hours to make a strong decoction sometimes it is ideal to make more then you are able to use right away. After straining, they can be stored in mason jars or other glass container in the fridge and reheated or used cold when desired. Most will last for up to a week, so keep this in mind, so as not to make more then you can use, unless you plan to freeze or can some of it.
How do we use Decoctions?
Once created, a decoction can be used in many ways other than drinking as a tea, they also make a great base for other projects. One of my favourite options is to make a hot tonic drink. This can be done by adding super food powders like Raw Cacao or our Super Power Blend, a nut mylk, coconut oil or cacao butter and sweetener to the base and blending while still hot, like an amped up hot chocolate. Another option is to use it cold, as a smoothie base or a base for making your own nut mylks. Decoctions also make a great base for a tonic Immunity soups, becoming the broth. Some are used externally for skin conditions by applying with a dampened cloth or sponge. They can be added to a bath or used as a traditional steam bath, surrounding the area with a towel to keep the steam in. To preserve a decoction, sweetener and alcohol can be added making a syrup or just alcohol making a tincture.
Herbs of choice:
Like I said before, the best choice of herbs are those with tough fibrous cell walls, like roots, barks, seeds, berries and mushrooms.
Harmonic Arts Tea Blends that lend well to decoctions- Adapting Gems, Tonic Immunity, Organic Chai Mix, Throat Harmony, Coastal Roots, and Amazonian Allies.
Adaptogenic Tonic Herbs- Chaga, Reishi, Astragulus, Ginseng, Eleuthero, Ashwagandha, Fo-Ti, Rhemmania, Codonopsis, Wild Yam, Goji, Maca, Licorice, Suma, Devils Club, Sarsaparilla
Immune Herbs- Chaga, Reishi, Astragulus, Goji, Echenacea, Elder Berry, Codonopsis, Wild Cherry Bark, Lomatium, Wild Indgo, Osha
Digestive Support- Fennel, Licorice, Fenugreek, Slippery Elm, Marshmallow, Ginger, Gentian, Burdock
Liver Herbs- Burdock, Dandelion, Milk Thistle, Artichoke, Black Radish, Oregon Grape, Yellow Dock, Turkey Tail, Maitake
Reproductive Support– Dong Quai, Vitex, Cramp Bark, Fo-Ti, Rhemmania, Wild Yam, Maca, Muria Puama, Catuaba, Ginger
Circulation and Blood- Ginger, Cinnamon, Clove, Cardamom, Chai Spices, Hawthorn, Turmeric, Garlic, Cayenne
Pain- Willow Bark, Jamaican Dogwood, Cramp Bark, Ginger, Poplar Buds, San Qi
Seaweeds- Bladderwrack, Kelp, Wakame (Harmonic Arts Fucoidan Blend)
All the Herbs mentioned above are available at Harmonic Arts Botanical Dispensary
If you are using a small cut of herb they are ideally brewed loose and strained out, but can also be put in a re-usable muslin tea bag*, cheese cloth pouch or should be strained out before adding other vegetables. Another option is to add herbal powders and not filter them, although tis will leave some sediment in the soup.