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Making an herbal decoction

de·coc·tion
the liquor resulting from concentrating the essence of a substance by heating or boiling, especially a medicinal preparation made from a plant

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what is an herbal decoction?

So, what precisely is an herbal decoction? A decoction is an herbal preparation created by boiling herbs in liquid, usually water. Herbalist James Green explains, “the object of preparing decoctions is to secure, in aqueous solution, the soluble active principles of herbs that are hard and woody and have a close, dense texture” (Green, 2000, pg. 112).

Interestingly, decoctions just like teas, infusions, and many other forms of preparing herbs, have a long history of use. In Medical Herbalism, herbalist David Hoffmann explains that the old pharmacopeias had thorough descriptions for decoctions of various herbs with an official standard for preparation. He shares the following example for a standard preparation.

Source

An herbal decoction is a method of extraction by boiling herbal or plant material (which may include stems, roots, bark and rhizomes) to dissolve the chemicals of the material. It is the most common preparation method in various herbal-medicine systems. Decoction involves first drying the plant material; then mashing, slicing, or cutting the material to allow for maximum dissolution; and finally boiling in water to extract oils, volatile organic compounds and other various chemical substances. 

Occasionally, aqueous ethanol or glycerol may be used instead of water. Decoction can be used to make tisanes, tinctures and similar solutions. Decoctions and infusions may produce liquids with differing chemical properties, as the temperature or preparation difference may result in more oil-soluble chemicals in decoctions versus infusions. The process can also be applied to meats and vegetables to prepare bouillon or stock, though the term is typically only used to describe boiled plant extracts, usually for medicinal or scientific purposes.

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