How to Make a Herbal Decoction

This article contains clear instructions on how to make a herbal decoction. Learn about the health benefits of herbal decoctions made from white willow, Echinacea and valerian.

Please read this caution regarding the safe use of herbs.

Materials needed to make a herbal decoction

  • Spring Water, fresh or rainwater
  • Glass or Ceramic pot
  • Tea Pot, China, Glass, Ceramic or Enamel
  • Tea strainer
  • Tea cups or mugs
  • Heat-Proof Ceramic or Glass pot/pan
  • Honey or maple syrup

How to make a herbal decoction

A decoction is different from an infusion in that, instead of using just-boiled water for the extraction medium, actively boiling the herb in water over a longer period of time is needed. This method is necessary when you wish to use the woody material, such as stalks, bark, the roots or fruits of an herb as your medicine.

Make your preparations same as for tea, but instead of boiling the water in a kettle, use a large-lipped pot or saucepan. For each cup of liquid needed, use two cups of water. Bring the water to boil and gently drop the shredded or chopped herb material in it, being careful of the hot steam. Keep your decoction at just above the boiling point and cover as much as possible, in order to contain the volatile oils. Let it boil for twenty to thirty minutes, then remove from heat. Strain into the tea pot and add sweetener. Let cool and pour into cups or mugs.

White Willow, Salix alba or its weeping form, Salix alba ‘tristis,’ contain high, concentrated amounts of salicin, the phytochemical used as the precursor to salicylic-acid used to make Aspirin®. The leaves contain some, but the higher amounts are in the bark of the young shoots. Scrape off the bark in strips and use for your decoction. This medicinal plant has been used by native peoples for centuries to manage pain, inflammation, stomach problems, headaches, toothaches, thinning the blood, and as a tonic and sedative. One important difference from the branded pill, though, is that using the whole bark and all its synergistic chemicals working together, there is almost no chance of this medicine irritating the stomach lining. Regular daily use is not recommended, however, as it is best to use for two weeks, and refrain from using for the next two weeks, etc.

Other plants from which to make a decoction are:

Echinacea, Echinacea angustifoliaAntibacterial; antiviral; stimulates the Immunity SystemParts Used: stems and roots

Valerian, Valeriana officinalisSedative, anti-insomnia, and for stomach problems. Parts Used: stems and roots

by Raymonde Savoie Johnson
Pl. Sc. Tech., Herbal Consultant

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