Infusion or dedoction? What is the difference between these 2 herbal preparations, which herb do you use for what, and how do you make an infusion or dedoction? Read on for info on how to make a herbal infusion, how to make a herb dedoction, and a list of over 100 herbs and whether to infuse them or make a dedoction.
You can simply walk around your garden, or in nature for that matter, and snip a leaf or 2. Chew on it, and your digestive enzymes will extract raw plant based goodness as well as medicinal properties.
I love having a Basil leaf or 2 a day! I mean, does anything taste better than Basil? Not only does it freshen the breath, it makes me feel warm and happy on the inside. It’s full of vitamins and minerals and is (among many other benefits) antibacterial, antioxidant and antiviral. So much love in such a humble leaf.
Or Sambung. Sambung is not the nicest tasting, quite right there, but it’s not called Leaves of the God for nothing. This is one of the easiest herbs to grow, in the right spot that is (lovely soil, a bit of shade), and provides us with an abundance of leaves to chew on. It regulates our blood pressure, is full of vitamins and mineral, is anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
When you can’t use fresh herbs
But, what about when it’s winter and the temperature is not suitable for growing certain herbs outdoors? Or you just can’t stomach chewing on a stick of Valerian root? Or maybe you really feel like a nourishing tea instead of chewing on some greens. I often don’t feel like going outside at night to pick herbs in the dark for example.
Pick them, dry them, store them
What our forebears used to do is pick the herbs, dry them and store them. That way they had a continuous, long lasting supply of all culinary and medicinal herbs they needed. And we should do just that. By using dried herbs we will have a herbal supply year round, and we can use those in our infusions, dedoctions, maceration, compresses, tinctures, creams, salves, lotions – the possibilities are endless.
I believe all our food and all our skin care should be herb-based. If you’re making your own soap – add some lavender or lemon balm. A skin care lotion should have calendula or another herb for the properties you’re going for. Herbs are life! Sprinkle dried herbs on all your food; in stews, on salads, in and on bread.
Because, even though the most effective benefits are achieved by internal (oral) usage of herbs, the skin is one great sponge and herbal benefits will be absorbed through the skin. Having a bath? Add herbs! Foot bath? Add herbs! You get the drift.
What to do with dried herbs?
So, once you have dried herbs, what are you to do with them then? There’s so many terms floating around, I really wanted to give you an overview of which method is the best for the type of herb you want to use.
Please make sure you talk to your practitioner to ensure herbs are right for you, particularly if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or have a condition which needs to be managed. This is general advice only and not to be used as medical advice.
Making a Herbal Infusion
This is probably the best known method of using dried herbs; think tea. You can drink a herbal tea infusion for pleasure and relaxation, or for medicinal purposes. Often medicinal herbal teas are delicious so they work for both purposes.
How to make a herbal infusion
An infusion is made by adding 1 teaspoon of dried herb, or 2-3 teaspoon of fresh herb to a teapot, and pouring 1 cup of boiling water over the top. Let it steep (infuse) for a minimum of 2-3 minutes. Use ceramic (fully sealed, food grade) or glass as vessel for your infusion, or 100% stainless. Many metals will leach into your infusion, or interfere with medicinal properties.
If you like a stronger infusion you can steep your herbs for 5-10 minutes, but be aware that the flavour will also be stronger. This is particularly true for herbs which are high in tannin or bitter properties, such as Chicory, Dandelion, Brahmi and Mugwort.
Tips for the best herb infusion
- Keep the lid on the teapot to stop beneficial properties from vaporising
- Give your herbal tea a good stir before putting the lid on
- Grow your own herbs for infusion or buy organic dried herbs. An infusion infuses everything from within the plant into your tea and we don’t want chemicals, plastics and other crap. Particularly watch herbs like powdered cinnamon from supermarkets – the things they add are horrifying.
- Infusions for medicinal purposes are best taken on an empty stomach, or half an hour before meals. Infusions to assist with digestion or to stimulate your appetite are best taken just before mealtime, although I have had good success with infusions straight after a meal also.
- Smell your tea before you drink it, it’s free aromatherapy
- Herbal infusions are best consumed without milk, but you can use any sweetener you prefer.
- Some herbal infusions, particularly bitter ones, improve in flavour a lot by adding a good squeeze of lemon juice or some ginger root. This is also true for green juices and smoothies! Lemon in particular cuts through the bitterness, and adds a whole lot of goodness.
- Make up a big pot of herbal tea infusion and chill it in the fridge. Herbal tea can be counted as part of your daily fluid intake, so it is a great way of drinking plenty of fluids and constantly infusing your body with natural health. Think of it as iced tea without the sugar.
- Experiment with lots of different flavours; there’s a wealth of herbs out there. Start with the easy-to-grow-or-purchase herbs like Lemonbalm and Basil, or Ginger and Rosemary, Chamomile and Mint. Fennel is one of my favourites and I tend to drink it straight, but it’s nice with just about any other herb. Fennel is the best tummy soother out there, as are fennel seeds.
Making Herbal Dedoctions
This type of herbal preparation is much less well known. A dedoction is liquid herbal medicine made with boiled extracts of water-soluble substances. Dedoctions are used for tough leaves, seeds, bark and roots. Boiling softens the tougher plant material, which in turn extracts minerals, flavours and other water-soluble nutrients.
How to make a herbal dedoction
A dedoction is made by boiling 1 teaspoon of dried herb, or 2-3 teaspoons of fresh herb, in 1 cup water. Keep it at boiling point / gently simmering for 3-10 minutes. The length of time required will depend on the plant material used; how thick the stems or roots are for example.
Tips for herbal dedoctions
- Do not use aluminium or copper pots for your dedoction. These metals can significantly lower the quality of your herbal infusions and dedoctions, and can leach metals into your preparation. Use glass, 100% stainless steel or fully sealed food grade ceramic pots only.
- Herbal dedoctions can be quite intense in flavour. Try mixing them with other uplifting herbs like Lemonbalm or Mint, or adding a good squeeze of lemon juice.
- Keep the lid on the pot to stop beneficial oils and vapours escaping.
- Strain your dedoction before drinking it
- Drink hot or cold. Dedoctions can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days, and can be drunk as ‘iced tea’ as described above under ‘infusion’.
Herbs to use with Caution
The herbs above, marked with *caution or *particular caution, are just some of the herbs which need respectful treatment. You should always consult your practitioner before using herbs, as their powers are strong and can be unexpected, particularly if you’re on medication, pregnant (some herbs may bring on uterine cramping or are an abortion inducer), are breastfeeding or if the herb is for a child, ill or older person.
For example, Garlic is an amazing herb which is freely available, easy to grow and should be used on a daily basis for health and wellbeing. However, if you are breastfeeding, or just started a child on solids, the addition or consumption of garlic may upset their tummies. Homemade gripe water made from Dill or Fennel can remedy the situation, but prevention is better than cure.
- Aloe Vera (cold water infusion/maceration (crushed to pulp))
- Angelica (1 teaspoon crushed seed to 1 cup boiling water, steep 5-10 minutes)
- Bay Leaf
- Caraway seed
- Carob Leaf
- Chia seed
- Coltsfoot (*Particular caution with this herb)
- Comfrey (*Particular caution)
- Dandelion, leaf or root
- Dill seed
- Dong Quai
- Echinacea leaf
- Elderberry (*Caution)
- Elecampane leaf
- Eucalyptus leaf
- Evening Primrose petals and leaves
- Geranium, scented
- Ginseng, Indian (*Particular caution) (Withania somnifera)
- Globe Artichoke
- Golden Rod
- Golden Seal (powdered root)
- Gotu Kola (However, this miracle herb is best eaten fresh, 2 leaves a day really might keep the doctor away!)
- Hawthorn (berries or flowers)
- Herb Robert
- Hibiscus (Cranberry/False Rosella)
- Honeysuckle, Japanese (Lonicera japonica) (*Caution)
- Hops (Try first thing in the morning as hangover cure!)
- Houseleek (Sempervivum)
- Hyssop (*Caution)
- Jasmine, Common (J. officinale)
- Jasmine, Spanish (J. grandiflorum)
- Juniper (*Caution)
- King of Bitters (*Caution)
- Lady’s Mantle
- Lemon Balm
- Lemon Myrtle (Backhousia citriodora)
- Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla)
- Lime, Kaffir (Citrus hystrix)
- Lobelia (*Particular Caution)
- Marshmallow (best in cold infusion, left overnight)
- Meadowsweet (*Caution)
- Milk Thistle
- Mother of Herbs (this herb grows amazingly well in the tropics!)
- Mouse Ears (Hieracium pilosella)
- Mugwort (*Caution)
- Mullein (Strain through fine cloth before drinking)
- Mustard (Black; Brassica nigra)
- Nasturtium (but best eaten fresh, just pick some leaves every day)
- Neem Tree (And a leaf or 2 a day (or tincture) may well get rid of headlice!)
- Oats (tea from oats or dried oat straw – very good for weak tummies)
- Speedwell (Veronica)
- Sweet Verbena (Backhousia citriodora)
- Wild Pansy (Viola tricolor) (flowers)
- Yellow Bedstraw (Gallium verum)
Which herbs to use in dedoctions:
- Angelica (1 teaspoon root to 1 cup boiling water. Boil 2-3 minutes and steep for 15 minutes)
- Cardamom seed
- Cinnamon sticks
- Echinacea root
- Elecampane root
- Fennel seed
- Fenugreek seed (*Caution.)
- Ginseng (Panax) (Simmer 2-3 min)
- Hawthorn (crushed fruit)
- Horsetail (with added sugar to assist constituent extraction)
- Job’s Tears
- Marshmallow root
- Wild Pansy (Viola tricolor)