Herbal Infusions and Decoctions

Tea.

There is a difference between a medicinal tea and a beverage tea. When making a beverage tea, I’m looking at flavor. When making a medicinal tea I’m looking at how I can harness the healing powers of the plant I’m using to my benefit.

When I’m trying to make a medicinal tea for cold and flu season as a preventative or if someone suddenly gets a stomach bug I have a different process and sometimes different equipment I use to get the full benefits of the medicinal plant or food that I am using.

A medicinal tea can be flavorful at times, but taste is obviously not the driving factor. And sometimes what is created, even with added flavors, is downright awful.

When making a tea for medicinal purposes, I recommend making at least a quart at a time (unless more than one person in the household needs it). Making a cup at a time is a waste as this is not the fastest process. Most teas can be kept at room temperature for a day or two, but I do recommend refrigeration. Our house personally loves cold tea anyways (even some of the herbal blends), but it does last longer in the fridge. If the taste is off or you see bubbles forming at the top, toss it and make new tea if needed.

Medicinal teas actually have different terminology for the methods of making it. The method you use is dependent upon the parts of the plant you use. Let’s explore the art of infusions and decoctions. Both are simple, but more time-consuming than heating water and steeping herbs for five minutes.

When making an infusion, you are using the leaves and/or flowers of a plant. This is a gentler process than a decoction, which is important in not destroying the enzymes, vitamins, and essential oils of the plant.  Steeping a plant in boiling water (or heated but NOT boiling in some cases), is an infusion. Making a tea, or infusion, for beverage purposes is fairly quick, as most blends call for a five-minute steeping time. Making an infusion  for medicinal purposes is quite a bit longer. To make an infusion:

20180502_104634.jpgPut 4-6 tablespoons of dried herb (6-8 tablespoons of chopped fresh herb) into a quart jar.

20180501_195231.jpgPour boiling water over the herbs, filling the jar. Steep for 30-45 minutes, covered.

20180501_195404.jpgStrain.

20180502_104328.jpgAnd drink.

Decoctions are what you make if you’re using the bark or root of a plant. For decoctions, you want to simmer roots or bark in already boiling water. Bark and roots take a little extra elbow grease to get the full benefits. To make a decoction:

20180502_104443.jpgPut 4-6 tablespoons of dried root/bark (6-8 tablespoons of chopped fresh root/bark) in a small saucepan with 1 quart of cold water. Bring mixture to a simmer on low heat. Cover and let simmer for 25-45 minutes. For a stronger decoction, simmer for 20-30 minutes then put into a quart jar to infuse overnight.

20180502_104307.jpgStrain.

20180501_205433.jpgAnd drink.

The process really is simple, but it does take time. Time is the biggest struggle because we’re all very busy. I try to take a proactive step because of this at certain times of the year, especially flu season.

Check out our medicinal herb page to see what we grow for our own medicinal purposes on the farm. We have a lot we work with.

On a similar note, before bringing this to close, I am going to b investing my time in a few courses over the summer in the herbalist field. I’ve been making infusions, salves, and tinctures for years and am now dabbling in hydrosols and essential oils. I have already invested time and some money in books and research but am ready to invest even more to work with teachers and really expand my knowledge even further. I am very excited about this opportunity and hope to gain a wealth of new information to use.

Advertisements

Mullein

20180412_183813.jpg

Hi, guys!

Ready to talk about one of my favorite plants in herbal medicine? MULLEIN!

I had posted about mint during a time where my son had some pretty bad congestion. I steeped mint tea for him, but also mixed it with some steeped mullein once the minor congestion turned into an awful cough.

Mullein on its own would have worked, but the mint tea helped with flavor. Mullein is far from the most bitter thing we’ve used (I find it rather mild), but he’s seven and he was sick, so adding something tasty with it made him happy.

This “herb” is actually a weed. There are several types you can find out in the wild, with similar benefits. What’s known as “common” mullein is what we have growing in our garden. It’s a type of mullein that is easy to buy from nurseries due to availability (though not every nursery carries this) and the type most commonly used for its medicinal properties. I have mine confined in a pot right now, but it can spread. I can easily spread these myself in an area and expect success. I can just as easily let nature take its course and expect to see some growing here and there (ground, adjacent pots, etc). I’m waiting for the day one accidentally makes it onto our hydroponic deck. It happened once with some random nightshade that decided to take residence where a bell pepper was supposed to grow. Nature always wins.

20180412_185322.jpg

Bronchial Tract

Mullein is one of my absolute favorites because it’s awesome for cold and flu seasons. Actually, it’s pretty phenomenal for most bronchial problems where the biggest need is to really knock out that congestion and phlegm nastiness. Mullein is an anti-inflamatory, which can assist with inflammation in the chest, throat, and sinus areas. Many herbs and plants possess this characteristic. What makes mullein different from some is that it’s also an expectorant. A medicine or herb that’s an expectorant helps with coughs. An expectorant helps get rid of what’s called sputum, which is a combination of phlegm and spit that you cough up when you’re sick. This is very beneficial because the more time phlegm is stuck in there, the higher risk you have of it turning into an infection. Another awesome fact is that mullein doesn’t have sedative properties. If you want relief, but still need to be on the go, this is a very helpful plant.

Nose and Throat

Mullein is anticatarrhal, which means it aids in the breaking up of mucous in the nose and throat. I’m going to be gross so bear with me. The way this works is that it makes mucous a thinner liquid so that it’s easier for your body to get rid of it. It’s gross, but it does work. You begin draining, and that’s pretty disgusting, but you know what Shrek says: “Better out than in!” This is a great trait to share with being an expectorant.

How to Use It

It’s most often steeped into a tea. I find the taste is not as overwhelming as other medicinal plants can be. When I get headaches from pressure and congestion I often steep this with white willow bark (DO NOT CONSUMER WHITE WILLOW BARK IF YOU CANNOT HAVE ASPIRIN; DO NOT GIVE TO CHILDREN). I find for mild cases of a cold I drain for about a day (without drowsiness unless I’m seriously ill) and then bounce back about the second or third day. Here and there while letting the cold run its course I’ll feel a little run down, but the discomfort from the colds ar greatly lessened and I notice the cold doesn’t often progress into something more severe, like an infection. There are those who smoke dried mullein leaves. Everything I have researched states it is quite effective. I have not tried it yet, but I will update the day that I do.

Mint

Mint is an easy to grow herb that smells and tastes great. I commonly pull a leaf to chew when I’m outside. It’s a favorite here to use to steep as tea, even just for the flavor. There are several benefits to consuming and using mint, other than its pleasant taste.

20180408_182106.jpg

Nausea

We often hear of how ginger is used for any stomach issues, but mint does a pretty decent job in dealing with nausea and other digestive discomforts. I steep it with ginger when my stomach is mildly bothering me. It’s not an instant fix, but it does help.

Headaches

Another way mint aids us is with headaches. For me, just smelling some essential oil or a fresh cup of tea brings a great deal of comfort when I have a headache.

Congestion

Believe it or not, this herb’s cooling effects help with congestion. I like to drink it on its own as a tea, but if I’m severely ill, I will mix it with mullein (fantastic herb used to help clear out actual congestion).

If you have chronic issues with minor headaches or stomach problems, you can make a tincture out of mint to take on a consistent basis. Teas are great and I love tea, but tinctures can be a bit stronger if that’s what we need. There are other herbs to use for these problems, but in more severe cases. Mint is also great to use in conjunction with other stronger herbs to help with taste.

Cooling and Pain Relief

But, if I’m being honest, the coolest thing I love about mint are the different body butters, salves, and balms I can make with it. I have a muscle pain salve I make with cayenne. Cayenne does most of the hard work for this task, but the mint provides a nice cooling effect to counter the heat when applied to the skin. Cracked feet? A body butter with shea butter and mint help heal and soothe.

Tea

The most common method of using mint is as a tea. I made some with fresh leaves this week for my son’s congestion.

20180408_182044.jpg

First, you harvest this amazing creature.

20180408_182017.jpg

If you’re using fresh leaves you do need to chop it. There are many methods to this. This time around, I chose to put some in a small cup and simply cut it.

20180408_181953.jpg

I like using tea balls for steeping. They’re easy to use and store. I pack two of these full of fresh chopped mint.

20180408_181928.jpg

I boil water in an electric kettle. Once it is done and the bubbles from boiling disappear, I add the water to my favorite tea kettle with the tea balls. The kettle holds 1 liter of water. To get health benefits from the herb, you cannot just steep it for five minutes. You need to do a good 30-45 minutes.

20180408_185048.jpg

After that, enjoy!

Want to learn about other herbs we grow and use? Visit this page to learn more! We will be adding more posts about each herb, but if you see a herb you’re curious about and there’s no post, do not hesitate to get a hold of us!

Medicinal Herbs

Happy Monday, everyone! I want to start this post off saying my intent is in no way to discredit modern medicine. I understand and fully acknowledge its place and importance in society. Advances in medicine have been, in large, beneficial and I am not going to claim otherwise.

We do see however, a sort of abuse in the use of medicine. One of the most baffling for me is the overuse of antibiotics. If you have a viral illness, the antibiotic doesn’t really work anyway. Longterm overuse of the antibiotic can result in the development of resistant bacteria.

I always highly encourage others to do their own independent research, and I recommend this article to start with.

What makes the general public so quick to seek out those prescriptions are the discomforts experienced during colds and other viral illnesses. We especially don’t deal well as parents if our children become ill. We want fast solutions to our problems. The sad fact of the matter is, the best option is often to let the illness run its course.

So with this in mind, the goal we should have is not to grab that antibiotic, but to find ways to alleviate the symptoms as much as possible. There are several herbs that can help with symptoms and be of further benefit to your health in other areas.

I use colds as an example frequently, but truly there are herbs for other ailments like different types of pain, chronic issues like allergies, focusing, fatigue, sleep aids, digestion issues, etc.

We began a medicinal herb garden. Here is a small list of some of the herbs we have so far:

20180406_094932.jpg

This picture shows our spearmint, peppermint, and lemon balm. We have them growing in our hydroponics.

20180406_094920.jpg

Lavender, also growing in our hydroponics.

20180406_083228.jpg

Vicks plant. Bet you can’t guess what this smells like…

20180406_083159.jpg

Comfrey. This plant is amazing.

20180406_083138.jpg

Sage.

20180406_083149.jpg

Rue.

20180406_083247.jpg

Feverfew.

20180406_083442.jpg

Rosemary.

20180406_083415.jpg

Mugwort.

20180406_083432.jpg

Mullein.

20180406_083326.jpg

Yarrow.

20180406_083350.jpg

Calendula.

20180407_161329.jpg

Eucalyptus.

20180407_161311.jpg

Wormwood

20180407_161002.jpg

Passionflower.

20180407_161014.jpg

Valerian.

I dabble in homemade salves, tinctures, infused oils, and essential oils. I would like to do homemade goat’s milk soap in the future. There will be future posts on each individual herb in this garden, but don’t let that stop you from reaching out if you have a question about any of them. We will add posts as we add to our medicinal garden as well.

Anyone else here work with herbs?