introduction to herbalism: teas & decoctions

welcome back to our little “introduction to herbalism” series! today we’re going to go over TEAS & DECOCTIONS.

i tried using instagram stories for the first time ever to take a poll, and 98% of you said you liked this series, so here we are again! 🙂 find me @alexraye_ae if you want to hang out online from time to time.


what are teas and decoctions?

teas and decoctions are forms of extracting the beneficial, water-soluble components of plant material. knowing your herbs are important, but equally as important is knowing how to extract certain constituents.

when using water, we should only expect to extract the following constituents: tannins, saponins, lectins, terpenoids, mucilages, polypeptides, and polyphenols. we would not expect to extract minerals or fat-soluble vitamins.

how do i know which plant material constituents are water-soluble and which aren’t?

oops – you missed our last post in this herbalism series! here’s a summary:

  • oil
    • essential oil components, fat-soluble vitamins, carotenoids, fatty acids, tocopherols, lipids
    • ex: wound healing and skin moisturizing properties of comfrey leaf (allantoin); anti-inflammatory properties in black cumin seed oil (thymoquinone)
  • water
    • tannins, saponins, lectins, terpenoids, mucilages, polypeptides, polyphenols 
    • ex: astringent property of witch hazel (tannins); antioxidant properties of butterfly pea flowers (anthocyanins – flavonoid)
  • vinegar
    • minerals and trace elements
    • not as potent as using an alcohol solvent, but suitable and extracts different constituents
    • ex: silica from horsetail; minerals in nettle
  • alcohol
    • carotenoids, tannins, terpenoids, sterols, alkaloids, polyphenols (like flavonoids)
    • ex: antioxidant properties of clove (eugenol)
  • glycerin
    • alcohol alternative, but unlike alcohol, it also extracts saponins
    • ex: oxidative stress scavenging properties of astragalus (saponins)



a tea is a type of infusion. it uses water as the menstrum to extract constituents from softer plant parts, like petals and leaves, where the plant material is strained before use or ingestion. the exception to this rule is aromatic roots, which are better prepared as a tea. an example of an aromatic root is ginger root.

they are considered to be of less medicinal value compared to decoctions.

how do i make a tea?

it depends on the plant material. the temperature of the water is also crucial. this will require some research on your end, depending on what you’re using. overall, though, you would heat up the water first, remove it from the heat, steep the plant material in it, and then strain before use/ingestion.

teas should be refrigerated and used within 48 hours.

here are a couple examples:

  • peppermint tea
    • water temperature: ~170 degrees F
    • steep time: 1 to 3 minutes
  • chamomile tea
    • water temperature: ~200 degrees F
    • steep time: 3 to 5 minutes


a decoction is technically another aqueous infusion, but the key here is the concentration. it’s a concentrated preparation of plant material made by simmering and then steeping the more tenuous plant parts, like roots, stems, seed, and barks.

they are considered the more therapeutic of the two.

how do i make a decoction?

unlike teas, decoctions start with the plant material already in the cold water. it’s simmered until the water has been reduced by half, removed from the heat and left to steep until it’s room temperature, and then strained before use and/or ingestion.

decoctions should be refrigerated and used within 48 hours.

some examples of a decoction are:

  • valerian root – promotes sound sleep
  • dandelion root – aids digestion

can i combine teas and decoctions?

yes, absolutely! once the decoction is made and removed from the heat, you can add the other plant materials better used in a tea, letting everything steep together as it cools.

what do you think of this series so far? was this post helpful?



disclaimer – these statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. anything presented here or on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. i am not a medical doctor. i will not advise on herbal remedies for ailments nor will i advise on herbal safety. your choices are your own.