How To Prepare A Herbal Decoction

A decoction is an extract of herbs produced by boiling the herb in water.

This method is used for hard seeds, roots and barks, which need longer to prepare than an infusion.

It is also a method of reducing and preserving ‘water extracts’. There is something very harmonious and healing about using this medium. It is the best for children and persons with a weakened constitution. Although decoctions are prepared by prolonged simmering, they still contain the essential qualities of  the fresh herb.

Decoctions are extremely versatile. They can he drunk on their own, made into syrups, gargles, compresses and douche’s, added to baths or used as an ingredient in lotions, oils and creams.

1.Crush and bruise the herbs in a pestle and mortar. Put the herbs in a bowl and cover with the boiling water. Leave to stand overnight

(There are a number of slightly different ways of making a decoction: the water may be hot or cold and standing overnight is a variable. Try this method first, later you can experiment and compare.

2.In the morning, put the herb and water into a saucepan. Make the liquid back up to 900ml (1.5 pints or 3.75 cups) (some will have soaked into the herb).

Bring it to the boil. Once it is bubbling turn the heat right down so that the mixture just simmer’s. Put the lid on the pan and simmer gently for 20 minutes.


3. Remove from the heat and strain through a jelly big or a fine cloth into a strainer. Squeeze out all the liquid and discard the herbs. This is a standard decoction, which will keep for 2-3 days and can be taken neat.

4. To make a reduced decoction, pour the liquid into a measuring pan or pouring pan and return to the heat. Heat gently until it begins to steam. Once you see the steam rising, tum the heat down very low and let the liquid steam until it is reduced to 200 ml or 7 floz , which is a little less than an average cup size. If the pan has internal measuring marks use them, or you can estimate by watching the rings the liquid makes as it evaporates (or use a ruler). Slow evaporation takes about 1.5 hours per 600 ml (1 pint or 2.5 cups). When the liquid is sufficiently reduced, allow to cool.

Pour into clean bottles, label and date. A reduced decoction will keep for 4 to 5 days in a cool place.

Simple decoctions, can be used on their own, as they contain the essential qualities of the fresh herbs.

Pour a cup of boiling water over 1-2 tablespoons of rosemary decoction to produce a drink as vital as fresh tea. The fragrance of the herb, digestive warmth, circulatory stimulant

properties, general head-clearing and tonic properties are all easily perceived.


Decoctions can be preserved indefinitely by:

1.Adding 450g or 1lb of honey or sugar to 200 ml, 7floz or a cup of decoction.

Dose: 1 teaspoon 3 times a day.

2.Adding spirits at a proportion of 2 parts decoction to 1 part spirit.

Dose: 50ml, 2 floz or 0.25 cup, 2 times a day.

3.Floating a thin-film of vegetable oil over the surface and sealing. This will keep for about a year. To use, either draw off the oil or pour the decoction from beneath it.

Dose half to 1 teaspoons up to 3 times a day.

4.Making a thick fluid extract by reducing 25ml, 1 floz or 1.75 tablespoons.

In a temperate climate, a simple reduced fluid extract will keep for months, if not years. Dose: 1 to 3 drops 3 times a day.

A fluid extract is reconstituted thus:

Decoction strength: 1 part fluid extract : 10 parts water

Infusion strength: 1 part fluid extract : 25 parts water

Once reconstituted it is treated in the same manner as normal decoctions and infusions, with the same dosage.

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