Making Herbal Remedies – What is a Decoction?

Making herbal remedies isn’t difficult or complicated, its just made to seem that way. If you can boil water, you can make your own tinctures, infusions or decoctions. In this article we will discuss decoctions, what are they, how are they prepared, and examples of common decoctions.

Simply put, a decoction is your basic infusion juiced up to induce stubborn roots, barks and resins to release their medicinal properties. While most plants will yield their properties to cold or boiling hot water in a matter of minutes, some require a much longer period of time, say 30 minutes or more.

While occasionally a whole plant with stem, twig, flower, leaf and bud is used for special preventive effects, usually only one part of a plant is used at one time. Examples of herbs that work best in a decoction would include:

Elm Bark, used for herpes, scurf, itch and other skin problems

Comfrey Root, the decoction makes for a good gargle and mouthwash for throat inflammations, hoarseness and bleeding gums*

Flaxseed, this decoction can be used for cough, chest and lung problems. Remember to use only ripe seeds as the immature seedpods can cause poisoning.

English Oak Bark, a decoction of the bark can be used internally or externally for hemorrhoids and other rectal problems, menstrual problems and blood in the urine.

Preparing A Decoction:

Fresh herbs should be sliced; dry herbs should be powered or well bruised. A decoction should always be strained when it is hot so that the matter, which separates upon cooling, can be mixed again with the fluid by shaking when the remedy is used.

When preparing your decoction use glass, ceramic or earthenware pots. Do not use plain cast iron with astringent plants. Use 1 ounce (30 g) of dried root or bark to just over a pint of water. Allow this to boil for at least ten minutes or longer. The mixture then steeps with a cover on the pot for an additional 3 to 4 minutes. Strain out the plant parts before drinking.

Warning: The FDA has determined that Comfrey can lead to Pyrrolizidine alkaloid poisoning which causes a liver disorder in humans called hepatic veno-occlusive disease. The small and medium veins in the liver become obstructed, eventually leading to liver disfunction, cirrhosis and death. While only 2 deaths attributed to Comfrey have been documented, due caution is indicated.

The information provided by UsingHerbs.Com is intended to heighten awareness of potential health care alternatives and should not be considered medical advice. Always check with your qualified health-care professional for medical attention, advice, diagnosis, and treatment.