Thursday, November 29, 2012

Important Considerations When Making Teas, Infusions and Decoctions:

* Not all herbs are suitable for making medicinals.
* It is important to cover your pot while boiling or steeping to prevent the aromatic oils from evaporating into the air. A lid will cause the steam to condense back into the water.
* Use a glass or ceramic container. Aluminum, iron, tin or other metals will leach into the tea. Although copper and stainless steel may be okay, herbalists recommend you use clean glass, ceramic, pottery or unchipped enameled pot.
* Use pure water. Fresh spring water or distilled water is best.
* Boil the water first, then remove it from the heat and add the herb or pour over the herb.
* Strain the finished tea before capping and storing.
* Refrigerate if kept for more than a few hours.
Tea: Herbal teas are quite pleasant and a healthy addition to your diet. They have a mild relaxing or invigorating effect, depending on the character of the herb. They don't, however, have the potency, the medicinal dose, of the active constituents in herbs.

The easy way to make a medicinal cup of tea is to triple up on herbal tea bags or the loose tea leaves that you would normally use and steep them in one cup of very hot water, covered, for ten minutes. By tripling the amount of tea you come very close to the medicinal value of an infusion. Dosage is in cups per day. Single strength herbal teas can be taken as often as you wish.

To use bulk dried herbs, toss a quantity of the herb in a nonmetallic container, pour in boiling water and allow to steep for ten to 20 minutes. Most herbalists prescribe an ounce of dried herb (you should invest in a small scale) in a pint of water. Strain the herb parts. Usually, the tea is consumed at room temperature. Drink the tea hot only if the goal is to induce a sweat or to break up a cough or cold. Sip throughout the day, the cumulative dose would be one to four cups a day depending on the herb.

Infusion: This is another easy way to make an herbal remedy. Start by bruising one ounce of dried flowers, leaves or petals of the herb of your choice in a clean cloth. If you are using multiple herbs, the total amount used should equal one ounce. Then, pour three cups of boiling water over the herb. Cover and let steep for at least 20 to 30 minutes or up to several hours (the longer, the stronger). Strain and drink at room temperature or cold. Infusions generally will last in the refrigerator for three days. Dosage is in cups per day. Follow the same "Important Considerations" (above) as in making medicinal teas.

Decoction: A decoction is made by boiling the hard and woody parts of herbs. Be sure to break up the bark or roots into small pieces, the smaller the better. More heat is needed in making decoctions than infusions because these parts of herbs are more difficult to extract active constituents and be absorbed by water. As with teas and infusions, follow the previously mentioned "Important Considerations" (above in the tea section).

Boil one ounce of your herb(s) in four cups of water for about ten minutes. (Remember, one ounce total if you are using more than one herb.) The liquid should reduce to three cups. If you wish, at this point you can add any lighter herb parts -- flowers or leaves that you would use in infusions. Cover this mixture and steep for ten more minutes. Strain and refrigerate for up to three days. Dosage is in cups per day.

Extracts & Tinctures: Because extracts and tinctures are much more potent than decoctions or infusions, much smaller dosages are used. They are dosed in drops, not cups. They are strong preparations that should be stored out of the reach of children and in a cool place (it's not neccessary to refrigerate) . A tincture is made by pouring five ounces of alcohol (preferrably 100 proof vodka) over one ounce of a dried herb (or a one ounce combination of dried herbs). An extract uses three ounces of fresh herbs. Use a small, sterile, leak-proof, air tight bottle or jar. Shake the tincture or extract twice a day to maintain the blend of active ingredients. Continue to do this for at least two weeks (and up to six weeks). It takes time for the active ingredients of the herb to be released into the alcohol. Tinctures can last for over a year. The alcohol acts as a preservative. If you prefer not to use alcohol you can use vinegar
instead. Or, add the tincture when finished as above to one cup of warm water to cause most of the alcohol to evaporate. This will also dilute the bitter taste however, the strength is also changed.

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