Sunday, August 15, 2010

An introduction to herbal tea: preparation

So now let's make the tea. There are a few things to keep in mind to optimize the release of power of your herbs. Being a chemist, I'm going to pull out the big words for this section.

INFUSION
This method is used for soft plant matter such as leaves, flowers, seeds, or crushed fruits/berries. Boiling water is poured over these materials which are then seeped for 10 to 30 minutes. The water is not brought back to a boil but rather it is allowed to slowly cool or heated to below boiling. The longer the herbs are soaked in this water the more flavor, nutrients, and medicinal compounds will be released. However, be careful with some bitter herbs as a long soaking of these can render the tea unfit to drink.

DECOCTION
To decoct means to add the woody herbs to boiling water which is then kept over heat and simmered 20-60 minutes. Roots, bark, and twigs need this more vigorous extraction. As before, the longer you soak the herbs the more you'll get out of them. If making a tea with both soft and woody components first boil the roots/bark/twigs then add the leaves/flowers/fruit and remove from heat.

TINCTURE
Extraction of herbal chemicals with alcohol makes a tincture. The basic rule of thumb is 300-400 grams of herbs are used per liter of alcohol. Let this mixture soak for at least two weeks with shaking every day. Some people leave the herbs in the alcohol others filter them out. Filtering them out makes for a cleaner tincture which I find easier to use. Vodka and rum (80-100 proof) are the alcohols of choice, with rum being better at disguising flavors of harsher herbs. To use, take one teaspoon of the tincture up to three times a day, either straight or added to juice or soda.
WARNING: never use wood alcohol, rubbing alcohol, or methanol to make tinctures.

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