Herbal Decoctions

An herbal preparation post.

Herbal decoctions are made from the harder parts of the plant, like the roots and bark, twiggy parts, and some seeds and nuts. It is harder to extract the good stuff out of the harder parts, so plants must be simmered, rather than merely steeped, to draw out. Like infusions, decoctions can be taken hot or cold.

Some plant parts like Valerian root, Ginger root, and Goldenseal are often infused rather than decocted because they are highly aromatic. Berries are usually decocted, especially if dried. It really all depends on the herb.

In traditional Chinese medicine, decoctions are the main ways that herbal medicines are prepared. Large quantities of herbs are often decocted to make a highly concentrated liquid. Generally, for 3 cups you want to the reduce the liquid to 2 cups, but they can also be reduced by half or even 2/3. The more the liquid is reduced, the stronger the decoction. This is very useful for astringent herbs that are used externally, for tightening gums, and washing weeping skin rashes. You do not want to take very strong decoctions internally, however. Not only can they upset your stomach among other things, it probably won’t taste good either, no matter how much you sweeten it.

-Place 4-6 tbsp. of dried herb or 6-8 tbsp. of fresh herb in a small saucepan.
-Add 1 quart (4 cups) water.
-On low heat, bring mixture to a slow simmer, cover, and let simmer for 25-45 minutes. The length of simmering time and amount of herb affects the strength of your decoction.
*For an even stronger decoction, simmer herbs for 20-30 minutes and set aside to infuse overnight.
-Strain, sweeten if desired, and drink if chosen herbs can be used internally at such a concentration, or use as an external wash once cool enough as to not burn the skin.

-Use 1 1/2 tbsp. dried or 2 1/2 tbsp. fresh herb per 3 cups of water. Reduce to 2 cups. Makes 3-4 doses, about 1/2 cup each, give or take.

~Store in a covered jug or jar in the fridge for up to 48 hours.~

Decoctions are generally stronger tasting, and some can be quite bitter. Sweeten with honey if you want to make if more palatable, if the herb is ingestible when prepared this way. Shy away from processed sugars, especially when making remedies. Honey has its own medicinal properties that makes it the best choice of sweetener, in my humble opinion. You get no benefits from processed sugar. You want raw, unfiltered and local honey for the largest host of health benefits. Agave is also a good choice, but it is not something I have used myself but is safe for children under the age of 1 from what I know. Honey should not be given to children under the age of 1.


As we move into stronger herbal remedies, I urge you to do your own research. By no means am I certified to give out medical advice and I also do not know everything. You should never only use one resource before trying something. Cross reference and question until you feel like you have found the answer.

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Many blessings,
Emma Lee


2 thoughts on “Herbal Decoctions

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