With the convenience of teabags the art of making an infusion or decoction of herbs has been lost in some households.
A herbal tea can be an infusion or a decoction. An infusion is made by pouring boiling water over dried or fresh herbs whilst a decoction is made by boiling in water harder plant substances such as bark and roots.
The traditional proportion for an infusion is 30 gm of dried herb to 500 ml of water. You infuse this amount of herb for 15 minutes before drinking. There is no benefit in stewing your herbs, you will have obtained the healing properties in this time. With a decoction use 600 ml of water to 30 gm of dried root or bark. This is brought to the boil and simmered for 15 to 20 minutes.
Herbalists have found chronic conditions require less strong brews. In most texts one dose is a wineglassful. Ideally if you are taking your herbs to help with a health issue, the body responds well to three doses a day. If you have made too much tea for the day, you can keep the reserve in the fridge and warm as you need, though it is best to discard this fluid in 24 hours.
The timing for having your cup of tea will vary. If your digestion is weak, enjoy your herbal tea after a meal. If you are taking herbs as a tonic and general wellbeing, enjoy your tea before meals. Herbs will treat bones or marrow are believed to best taken before bed, whilst female reproductive or liver herbs are better on rising in the morning.
For the management of fevers hot infusions help to bring about therapeutic sweating. A favourite cold and flu brew on my household is peppermint and lemon balm. In between sleeping off the symptoms, a regular cup of tea assisting with recovery.
Mixing flavours of herbs into herbal tea mixtures can be fun. Mix equal parts of the blander chamomile with a tastier herb such as rosehips or for our older readers hawthorn berry to nurture the heart. The rosehips can be pretty in their shell cut form and enhance the appeal to others more enticing if you use a clear glass plunger to make an infusion.
Infusions and decoctions are not as strong as fluid extracts used by herbal practitioners but with most herbs available loose, cut and dried a good cup of tea is a safe way to relax with friends. Infusions are also portable and easy to make at work.
The most important thing to remember is to have fun with making your tea mixes. Mix flavours and colours, and some blends can have up to six herbs in your mix. Then sit back and savour the moment while you do something that is good for you.
When it comes to you horse or dog, simply make your brew 15 to 20 minutes before you offer it to them. For a dog who is fretful while you are away from the home, have a second bowl with chamomile tea available to lap up. For a horse who needs root and bark herbs, brew his tea and pour over his feed, make sure you include the softened herbs when mixing in.
Making up a calendula tea as described you can spray and clean a wound with this yellow tea.
Ask your herbal suppliers if some of their blends can be made into a tea, and while you make a serving for your horse or dog, add a teaspoon of their mix into an infuser for yourself.
written by Catherine Bird