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In this post, I am going to share with you how to make the following basic herbal preparations:
- Infusions (like the hibiscus tea above)
- Decoctions (like the herbal coffee above)
- Tinctures (like the American Ginseng above)
Depending on the herb you are using and what you are hoping to get out of it, there are certain ways that you can prepare it to get the most benefit.
Once you know the basics, you can easily prepare a wide range of herbs to get the biggest bang for your buck!
Keep in mind that the proportions are not set in stone and you can adjust them to suit your needs and tastes.
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How to Make Herbal Infusions
Infusions are typically used when the herbs you are using are leaves and flowers of a plant. Sometimes seeds and roots will be used in an infusion when there are delicate essential oils that would be lost when boiled in a decoction.
If you use seeds in an infusion, you should lightly crush them, so that the water has more access to the constituents in the seed.
Fresh or dried herbs can be made using an infusion method. To prepare an infusion all you need to know is:
- Use cold, filtered water.
- Use approximately 1-2 teaspoons of dried herb per cup of water OR use 3 teaspoons of fresh herb per cup of water.
- Bring your water to a boil and pour over your herbs.
- Allow to steep for 10-20 minutes, covered.
- Strain off the herbs and serve.
- If you are wanting more of a medicinal infusion, you can use up to 1/2 ounce of dried herbs per cup of water and allow it to steep for 20+ minutes, up to several hours.
Infusions do not have a long shelf-life, so it is best to make them as needed, or they can be stored in the fridge for a day or two.
How to Make Herbal Decoctions
Decoctions are preferred for harder herbs like roots, barks, and seeds. It is helpful to grind or crush your whole roots, barks, and seeds up some before brewing your decoction, but it is not required. I actually have a coffee grinder that I reserve specifically for herbs, so I will pulse my herbs in there first before starting the decoction.
You can also purchase roots, barks, and seeds already ground, but they will have a shorter shelf-life than the whole herb.
To make a decoction, you just need the following steps:
- Use cold, filtered water.
- Use approximately 1/4 ounce of dried herb per cup of water. I usually make mine by the quart, so you need roughly 1 ounce of herb per quart of water.
- Bring your water to a boil and add the herbs.
- Reduce the heat as low as possible and cover (keep covered tightly as many constituents like essential oils are lost through evaporation).
- Simmer for 20 minutes if you’re using small pieces of the herb, but if you’re using bigger chunks of roots, bark, or seeds, then you can simmer for up to an hour.
- Remove from heat and strain off the herbs and serve. If you like, you can also leave them to steep even longer, up to overnight.
Decoctions are going to be much stronger than infusions, so a typical serving size would be 1/4 cup to 1 cup, depending on what you’re using.
How to Make an Herbal Tincture
Tinctures are herbal extracts and can be made with pretty much any herb. Tinctures are typically made with alcohol, vegetable glycerin, or vinegar.
Making tinctures at home is MUCH cheaper than buying them. Here is a price breakdown that I did recently:
Homemade Holy Basil Tincture:
- Vodka (1.75 liters or roughly 59 ounces): $10.99 or $0.19 per ounce.
- Organic Dried Holy Basil from Mountain Rose Herbs (1 pound / 16 ounces): $13.00 or $0.81 per ounce
- Total per ounce cost for Homemade Holy Basil Tincture: $1.00
Store bought Holy Basil Tincture:
- Gaia Herbs Holy Basil Tincture from Vitacost.com (price as of 5/28/15): $10.82 for a one ounce bottle
That is a MASSIVE savings!
For this tutorial, I am going to be using the alcohol method, as I have not yet tried making tinctures any other way.
Brandy and vodka are the recommended choices when making an herbal tincture and they should be at least 80 proof. I use vodka.
If you’re avoiding grains and potatoes, there are vodkas made with grapes, which I didn’t know about until just recently. I used a brand called IDÔL that is made from grapes in Burgundy, France. The huge liquor store here in Denver only carried two kinds of vodka made from grapes, but they said there are many more brands than that. It will just depend on what is carried in your area.
Here are some names of other vodkas made from grapes that you can look for in your area:
- Ciroc Ultra Premium
- Finger Lakes Distilling Vintner’s
- Grey Heron
- SF Vodka “China Beach”
To make your tincture, all you need to do is follow these steps:
- Use a very clean glass jar. Pint and half-pint Mason jars work great.
- Make sure your herbs are finely chopped or ground.
- Place your herbs in your jar and then cover with your alcohol until there is about 1 inch of liquid above the herbs. Remember that dried herbs will expand quite a bit, so you want to start out with less than you think. Some herbs are going to expand more than others. This is not an exact science, but a rough guideline that was given in Practical Herbalism, by David Hoffman, was 4 ounces of finely chopped or ground herbs to 1 pint of alcohol.
- Cover with a tight lid and label and date the jar. I store mine in the pantry where it stays dark, as light can destroy the useful compounds.
- Shake the tincture every day for the first week or two (if you remember) and then let it brew for 4-6 weeks.
- Strain off the herbs. You can use a strainer, cheesecloth, or even a very clean t-shirt. That way you can really squeeze all of the tincture out of the herbs.
- Pour the tincture into your bottle (the dropper bottles work nice). I liked the dark blue or amber glass, which helps keep the light out of the bottle.
- Compost the herbs.
Due to an overwhelming number of requests, I finally got around to making a quick video showing how I bottle my own tinctures.
Dosage on tinctures is going to vary, depending on the herb. Tinctures are going to be much stronger than infusions and decoctions.
Do you make your own herbal preparations? What tips and tricks can you share? Leave a comment below!
Supporting a The Adrenals, Thyroid, and Whole Body Through Herbs
When it comes to supporting overall wellness, herbs are a great tool to have in your toolkit, especially those who may be dealing with chronic illness of some type. Since 2009, when I started this site, I have met thousands upon thousands of people through my work and by far, the #1 health complaints are:
- adrenal fatigue (or adrenal dysfunction of some sort) (click here to read all of my adrenal health articles)
- thyroid disorders (hypo-, hyper-, or autoimmune) (click here to read all of my thyroid health articles)
Because of this, I wanted to add in a section into this post about the benefit of using herbs with chronic illness.
If you are dealing with any type of chronic illness, I’m sorry to break it to you, but caffeine may not be your best friend. 🙁 While you can find lots of info online in both the pro- and the anti-coffee camps, the fact of the matter comes down to the fact that are a lot of people dealing with chronic illness, especially thyroid and adrenal problems, that simply cannot tolerate coffee and caffeine.
While those with sluggish adrenal glands tend to feel run down and in need of a regular pick-me-up (like coffee and other caffeinated beverages), in the long run, caffeine can do more harm than good while you are healing. I go into the “whys” around caffeine and your adrenals in this detailed post here. In addition to the caffeine, there are other constituents, molds, and mycotoxins that can show up in coffee that some people find they react to and can further exacerbate the toxic load on the body.
When I was diagnosed with autoimmune disease and adrenal fatigue, one of the first things that had to go was coffee. In addition to dealing with these issues, we suspected that I was having some detox pathway sluggishness so we wanted to also focus on supporting the liver and lymph systems. Most people who are dealing with chronic illness are also going to have issues with detoxification of the body, which is why herbs can play such an important role.
To be honest, I never drank coffee because of the caffeine. I drank coffee for the taste and aroma, as well as the emotional experience I felt to my morning cup of joe. For me, it was a ritual that I looked forward to every day (and sometimes multiple times a day). Whether I was brewing it at home or going to my local coffee shops, the experience was one that I clung to tightly.
But, when I was faced with new health struggles, I knew I had to do whatever I could to support my body and give it the tools it needed to heal. Giving up coffee and caffeine was one step in this direction.
And it sucked.
I turned to the coffee substitutes on the market in a desperate attempt to recreate the ritual I had grown so fond of, but nothing ever tasted the way I wanted it to. Nothing ever gave me that same experience that my cup of “real” coffee did. I knew there had to be something better, but I simply could not find it on my health food store’s shelves.
Necessity is the mother of invention so that is why I created my own coffee substitutes. They were made with organic, sustainably harvested herbs with zero grains, zero gluten, and zero caffeine. Just herbs.
Herbs that not only tasted delicious but supported my body’s function, like liver detox, bile production, digestion, etc. All of the herbs used in my “coffee” blends have been used for thousands of years to support the body’s normal functions and help everything work a little better — something we all need in today’s toxic world! (psst, dandelion is one of the herbs!)
When it came to creating these blends, if I could get something to not only tasted amazing (and helped me recreate my dearly loved ritual), but also did amazingly supportive things for my body, then it’s a no brainer!
I sold these pre-made blends on Etsy for awhile and the demand was more than I could keep up with. People literally LOVED these blends and were stunned at how much like coffee they actually tasted. Customers who had been dealing with a variety of chronic illnesses had given up coffee to heal their bodies, but like me were deeply missing their morning cup of joe ritual.
After careful consideration and work with some highly experienced advisors, I decided to stop selling the pre-made blends and instead share my proprietary recipes in the form of an eBook. That way I could arm people with the knowledge and recipes they needed to make their own caffeine-free, gluten-free, grain-free blends in the comfort of their own home.
That is why I created the best-selling DIY Herbal Coffees eBook: A Complete Guide To Making Delicious Herbal Coffees to Support Healing & Stress Relief.
Now in its second edition, this ebook features:
- All of my proprietary herbal blend recipes to you can craft a homemade herbal cup of “coffee” at home.
- A ton of researched information about coffee’s impact on the health of those dealing with issues like adrenal fatigue, blood sugar dysregulation, autoimmune disease, thyroid disease, and any other chronic illness.
- Information about all of the herbs used, why I selected them, how to source them, how to prepare and store you “coffees”, and much more.
- Access to your own personal coffee shop where I show you how to recreate your favorite coffee shop drinks and pastries with wholesome, nourishing real food ingredients. No junk here. Only real food.
This book truly is a comprehensive guide to supporting your health, reducing your stress, and bringing a little something special back into your healing journey. You can learn more and download your own copy of this revolutionary wellness guide here, or simply click on the image below.