How to Start Using Herbs Part 4: Herbal Water Infusions (Teas, Medicinal Infusions, Decoctions) for Internal Use
I started this series of articles, How to Start Using Herbs, so people who want to be able to turn to natural methods for supporting their health can have a basic knowledge base. After all, this blog is about being more self-reliant and self-sufficient in your life. One of the ways you can start being more self-reliant is by learning to use herbs to support your health!
Here is the fourth part of this series on How to Start Using Herbs. In Part 3 of the series, I gave an overview of the different herbal preparations available to use for your health, along with basic tools herbalists use! It’s a pretty interesting read, as there are quite a few different kinds of herbal preparations!
In these next parts of the series, we are going to go into the different herbal preparations in depth and I’ll add some recipes for you to try! This particular Part 4 of the series will address Water Infusions that are used internally.
These include teas, medicinal infusions, and decoctions. Don’t worry—-they are not as hard as they sound, and I think you’ll enjoy reading about the difference between teas and strong infusions, especially.
When you are creating herbal preparations, one of the important things you want to do is to get as many and as much of the medicinal chemical compounds out of the herb as you can. Water is one of the solvents you can use to do this! It’s by no means the strongest solvent you can use, but it works quite well for many issues.
By the way, you can get my free eBook on 14 Simple Tea Recipes just by completing the form at the end of this article!
Did you miss the other beginning parts of this series? Here are links to the previous Parts:
How to Start Using Herbs Part 1 (How to Choose Your Herbs, Where to Source Them, How to Dry & Store Them, and a Bit about Herbal Safety)
How to Start Using Herbs Part 2 (Herbal Safety in More Detail and General Dosing Information)
How to Start Using Herbs Part 3 (An Overview of Various Herbal Preparations and Tools for the Herbalist)
Now—-on to the water infusions for internal use!
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What are Herbal Water Infusions? Teas, Medicinal Infusions, Decoctions
Here is a quick rundown of the three main types of herbal water infusions you would take internally. These are teas, strong infusions, and decoctions.
Teas are probably the herbal preparation most of us are most familiar with. After all, we grow up drinking tea! You can even buy teas in convenience stores! Many of our parents and grandparents had us drink tea as children to soothe upset stomachs, fevers, sore throats, and lots more!
Grocery stores are lined with boxes of tea bags for all kinds of purposes. Some are for taste, and some are to help our bodies in some way. The best way to make your herbal teas is by using loose leaf herbs and blending them to create a tea for your needs.
You can buy pre-blended teas that also work great. But the loose leaf variety is the best way to go. (Besides fresh herbs just picked from your own garden that is)
Herbal teas can be made in small or large amounts. Many people like to fix a cup of tea in a special infuser cup to enjoy. Others keep a pot of hot water simmering on the wood stove in order to make a little cup of tea throughout the day! Some even take their teas to work in a to-go cup!
Herbal teas do not take long to make, yet they can be very powerful for your health. You can get my free eBook on 14 Easy Herbal Tea Recipes by completing the form at the end of the article.
***NOTE: You can get my free mini-guide to making super easy herbal teas with just two or three herbs by completing the form below!
To make a simple herbal tea, you simply use a small amount of loose leaf herb to a cup of water. Let the herbs steep in just boiled water for 15-30 minutes. The heat of the water helps extract the healing chemicals from the plant matter.
You can use an infuser of some type to hold the herbs (like a tea ball, a muslin bag, or even a special cup), or just strain out the herbs from the container.
Sweeten to taste and enjoy!
You can find some of my favorite herbal teas on the blog! You might enjoy some of these recipes:
Sensuous Skin, Healthy Hair Tea (full of vitamins & minerals)
(and there are many more on the blog and also in my eBook, How to Create Your Own Herbal Tea Blends for Pleasure & Health)
Medicinal Tea Infusions
An infusion is simply a very very strong herbal tea that has been allowed to steep in the water for an extended time. Often, a greater amount of herb is used in ratio to the water as well.
You would use a strong infusion for acute issues or even for some chronic needs. The difference between a strong infusion and a tea is the tea is much weaker than the infusion. An infusion is going to taste different too.
Teas are generally more pleasant to the taste than strong infusions because not all the herb has had time to macerate into the water. With a tea infusion, however, the herb steeps in the water for several hours or overnight, creating a very strong, dark substance.
Infusions can often be on the very bitter, tannic, or astringent side because of the length of time the herb has steeped. It’s likely your taste buds might need a chance to get used to these!
I’ve used a strong tea infusion as a tonic for my liver over a period of weeks, as a nutritive tea, and just because I wanted a tea that was ready to go with me to work, right out the door!
Here’s a great example of the difference in strength between an herbal tea and a strong infusion: A regular cup of Nettle tea can have around 5-10 mg of calcium, while a cup of nettle infusion might have up to 500 mg! What a difference!
Many herbalists don’t even deal with teas and drink infusions instead. That’s how I roll.
Here’s how to make a strong infusion:
I just use a Mason jar (quart size). Add about 1/2 cup of herb to the jar (or even up to a cup). Pour boiling water over the top to within an inch or so of the top. Cover and let steep for several hours or over night.
You could use any of the medicinal teas for health on the blog to create an infusion with too. Just switch up your directions so you are making an infusion instead of a tea!
By the way: Sign up for the newsletter and get my eBook: 14 Easy Herbal Tea Recipes You Can Make Today! Just fill out the form below:
What a strange sounding name, I always thought! Although the word, “decoction” may sound mysterious, it’s really not.
A decoction is when you simmer your herbs in a pan over heat. You don’t decoct all herbs, though. Some herbs that are hard, like seeds, roots, barks, etc. need a different type of preparation in order to obtain the herbal constituents. And this is where a decoction comes in.
With herbs such as dandelion root, burdock root, cinnamon bark, licorice root, and many more, you are going to decoct them.
This means you are simmering them for around 20-30 minutes over a heat source. This allows the chemicals to be released.
So, if you were going to create a tea blend that contained leaves and stems with roots and barks, for example, you would want to steep the leafy (more tender) herbs in water (a tea) and decoct the harder herbs. Then you would combine the two liquids.
Now, I’ll be honest. I don’t always do this. There are plenty of times when I want to just make a quick cup of tea and I’ll add my hard bits with the leafy bits. Just know that you are not going to have as strong of a medicinal tea this way.
As far as making a strong infusion using harder herbal parts, you could do it just I stated above, or you can decoct the herbs for 15-20 minutes, then allow them to continue steeping for several hours. This would be the best way to make a decoction from harder herbal parts (roots, barks, seeds, etc.)
Final Thoughts on Herbal Water Infusions for Internal Use
Teas (and infusions and decoctions) have always fascinated me. And I just love them. They taste so very different, and they can make a huge difference in your health when used consistently over time. That’s actually the key: Consistency over time.
Want to make a great decoction or strong infusion for your man? Try my Manly Man Herbal Tea recipe. It supports the male body, and Mr. V. just loves it.
Do you like to drink teas? Have you tried a strong infusion or made a decoction before? Leave a comment in the comments section. Also, if you have any questions (and I know I did when I was learning all this stuff), please please ask in the comments section! Your questions help other people too!
And here are some of my favorite herbal resources you can take a look at for lots more information:
Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide by Rosemary Gladstar
Herbal Antibiotics by Harrold Buhner
The Earthwise Herbal by Matthew Wood
Making Plant Medicine by Richo Cech
The Way of Herbs by Michael Tierra
These are among my favorites!
It’s a wonderful thing to build your self-reliant skills, and herbalism is one of the most fun and important ways to do this!
Be sure to stay tuned for Part 5 of the Series: How to Start Using Herbs: Infused Oils & Liniments and Herbal Salves, Butters, & Balms. I’m really excited about this part! Herb infused oils are some of my favorite things to make!
NOTE: You may be interested in joining my private Facebook group, Practical Herbs with Heidi, which is a supportive herb study group! :-)
And, if you have time, I’d love if you would pin this pin on Pinterest!
Hugs, Health, and Self-Reliance,
P.S. Get the free eBook, 14 Easy Herbal Tea Pairing Recipes, my eBook on How to Relax Using Herbs, and many other checklists, guides, and eBooks in my FREE Resource Library when you sign up for my newsletter!
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