One of the most ancient, medicinal plant preparations is herbal tea. It is soothing, widely tolerated, and highly effective for delivering potent medicine. Preparing and drinking herbal tea helps individuals to slow down and focus on their health and body.
Tea is ideal for treating a wide variety of health concerns, and addressing acute and chronic conditions. When treating acute health conditions, it is best to drink small doses of tea frequently - about four to six ounces every one to two hours throughout the day. When treating chronic health conditions, less frequent dosing is acceptable - consume eight to ten ounces, two to three times daily. Teas are most quickly absorbed on an empty stomach.
There are three primary methods of preparing tea: hot or cold infusions, and decoctions.
Infusions are made with the more delicate parts of the plants, including the flowers, leaves, soft stems, and buds. They can be extracted in a relatively short amount of time. Boiling these parts of the plants will often destroy or compromise their medicinal properties. Infusions extract the vitamins, minerals, volatile oil, mucilage, and other constituents from the plants.
Method One - Place the herbs in a pre-warmed vessel such as a mason jar, and pour hot water over them. Use two to three tablespoons of dried herbs per pint; or four to six tablespoons per quart. Cover and steep at least 30 minutes. Strain the herbs and serve. Note: Pre-warm a vessel by running it under moderately hot water or pouring a small amount of hot water in for a few moments. This prevents glass or porcelain vessels from cracking.
Method Two - Place the herbs in a pot with cold water and cover. Slowly bring the water close to a boil and remove the vessel from heat. Allow to steep at least 30 minutes.
A medicinal infusion should steep a minimum of 20 - 30 minutes. Teas containing minerals or mucilage should steep for 30 - 60 minutes, although most herbs can steep all day. Another option is to prepare herbal tea before going to bed, allow it to steep overnight, and re-warm it for consumption the next day. This method is recommended for nutritive herbs.
Exception to Steeping Time: Tannin-Containing Herbs
Tannins are extracted in two to five minutes. If plants with large quantities of tannins are allowed to steep longer, they can become very astringent, and sometimes bitter or sour. Tannins can upset the stomach; reduce this possibility by infusing the herbs for just a short amount of time in hot water that is slightly below boiling temperature.
Examples of plants that contain tannins are black and green tea (Camilla sinensis), oak bark (Quercus), raspberry leaf (Rubus) and other rose family astringents.
Cold infusions are made from plants with medicinal components that need longer infusion times. This method is also useful for herbs containing constituents that are destroyed in the process of heating.
To prepare, place the herbs in a muslin tea bag, an English tea strainer, or stainless-steal mesh tea ball, then moisten them with a small amount of filtered water and place in a Mason jar; fill the vessel with room temperature water. Then suspend the tea bag or ball at the top of the vessel (submerged in the water).
Cold infusions enhance herbal extraction by passively circulation process to improve the extraction of the herbs. Allow to steep overnight. Consume the infusion the next morning.
A decoction effectively extracts dense plant materials such as barks, roots, seeds, and nuts.
Directions: Place the herbs in a vessel with cold water and a tightly-fitting lid. Bring the water and herbs to a gentle boil and turn the heat down to a low rolling simmer; allow to simmer for 20 - 60 minutes. Generally, the longer the tea simmers, the sweeter and more harmonious the result. Take care not to allow the water level to drop too low as the water boils off; to prevent this, increase the initial water volume by 50-100%, especially when simmering the tea for a long time. After removing from heat, either strain the tea immediately or allow the herbs to steep in the water up to 24 hours before consuming.
Combining More Dense and Delicate Plant Parts in Tea Blends
Some recipes call for combining herbs that need different preparation methods. To prepare, separate the herbs into two groups: denser herbs that need decoction, and delicate herbs that need infusion. To proceed, first decoct the denser herbs; then remove the tea from the heat source, add the delicate herbs to the pot, and replace the lid. Infuse the herbs at least 30 minutes, then strain and drink.
Proportions for Dry Herbs
Basic Measurement Method - Combine four to six tablespoons of dry herb per 30-32 ounces (one quart) water.
Standard American Pharmacopoeia Proportions - Combine one ounce of herb (approximately 30 grams) to 30 ounces of water (by volume).
Standard European Pharmacopoeia Method - Combine 50 gm of herb to 1000 ml of water. The Simpler’s method combines 6-8 tablespoons of herb with each quart of water.
Proportions for Fresh Herbs (Simpler’s Method)
Fresh herbs have high water content and tend to be less concentrated than dry herbs. For this reason, when preparing tea using fresh herbs, it is best to use larger volumes of plant material than when using dry herbs. Pack the vessel one-half to three-quarters full with fresh herbs, then fill the vessel with hot water.
Herbal tea is often made in one-quart batches and is best prepared fresh each day. However, if the tea is refrigerated or stored in a very cool environment, it can last up to 48 hours before it begins to taste flat or starts fermenting.
When treating acute health conditions, it is best to drink small doses of tea frequently - about four to six ounces every one to two hours throughout the day. When treating chronic health conditions, less frequent dosing is acceptable - consume eight to ten ounces, two to three times daily. Teas are most quickly absorbed on an empty stomach.