Roots, bark, twigs, and berries usually require a more forceful treatment than leaves or flowers to extract their medicinal constituents. A decoction involves simmering these tougher parts in boiling water. Fresh or dried plant material may be used and should be cut or broken into small pieces before decocting. Like infusions, decoctions can be taken hot or cold.
Decoctions are generally made using roots, bark, and berries, but sometimes leaves and flowers may be included. Add these more delicate parts of a plant once the heat is turned off and the decoction has finished simmering and is beginning to cool. Then strain and use as required.
In traditional Chinese medicine, decoctions are the main way in which herbal medicines are prepared. Large quantities of herb are often used to produce a highly concentrated liquid, or the decoction is further reduced so that there is only 3/4 cup (200 ml) of liquid remaining. This increases the preparation’s concentration. This process is useful for astringent barks such as babul (Acacia nilotica) and common oak (Quercus robur), which may be used externally to tighten gums or wash weeping skin rashes. (Do not take internally.)
20 g dried or 40 g fresh herb (or mixture of herbs) to 3 cups (750 ml) cold water, reduced to about 2 cups (500 ml) after simmering (this makes 3–4 doses)
Take 3–4 doses (2 cups/500 ml) each day.
Store in a covered jug in a refrigerator or cool place for up to 48 hours.
How to Prepare
- Place the herbs in a saucepan. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 20–30 minutes, until the liquid is reduced by about one-third.
- Strain the liquid through a sieve into a jug. Pour the required amount into a cup, then cover the jug and store in a cool place.