Decoction : method

A decoction is made by boiling water either fresh or dehydrated herbal substances with water or other fluids. A decoction is a chief method used to extract herbal constituents for use as fomentations, syrups, and enemas. We use the decoction for herbs that will not yield their active virtues at a lower temperature. Decoctions secure the soluble active principles of herbs that are hard or have a dense texture. This method is good for the roots, barks, and some seeds.

Some herbs should never be subjected to decoction. These herbs contain volatile principles (valerian root, peppermint), depends on resinous constituents (gumweed), or contain substances liable to be changed into insoluble and inert materials under boiling heat (marshmallow and slippery elm).

A decoction that includes aromatic herbs should be kept closely covered until it has cooled down. The herb to be decocted should be cut or ground. Some woody herbs could be reduced to a moderately fine powder, and soaked in cold water for 12 hours before bringing the water to boil.  If fresh herbs are used in a decoction, the roots should be cut into very thin slices, leaves and whole herbs only moderately cut and woods should be cut in small pieces.

Glazed earthenwater, porcelain, or glass vessels should be used for preparing decoctions. The water used for the decoction should be clear water, rainwater, or distilled water.

Decoctions are intended for immediate use within 48 hours period. Preserving the decoction is difficult because of the decomposition of the starches and the mucilaginous principles. For these reasons, decoctions are made in small quantities.

The proper dosage of a decoction depends on the age, body, weight, and temperament f the individual. In general, give a cup of herbal tea three times a day.

Recipe : Place 1 ounce of the herb into a vessel with a cover. Pour upon it 500 ml of cold water. Cover the container and bring it slowly to a boil. Decrease the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. After decoction, press the herb hard to make sure all the solution is removed from the marc. Allow the decoction to cool and strain the liquid. Pour enough water through the marc to return the volume of water to 500 ml.

Herb that are well prepared by decoction: burdock seeds, dandelion root, echinacea root, ginger fresh, reishi, Chaga, willow, comfrey.

Reference: James Green, The herbal medicinemaker’s handbook: a home manual

Wine and Vinegar infusion

Wine infusion

Wine is characterized as a spirituous liquid, the result of the fermentation of grape juice. The other ingredients of the wine are sugar, gum, tannic, malic, acids, coloring, tartrate of lime, and volatile oils (bouquet).

Medicated wines are one of the oldest classes of Galenic preparations. They are hydro-alcoholic solutions made from various plants and employing white or red wine as the principal solvent. The acid that wine usually contains serves in some instances to increase its solvent power.  Herbal wines seem to have a more festive relationship with the human mind and body.

Wine using for medicinal therapies needs to be a premium quality. The primary properties of wine is antispasmodic. Medicated wines are relatively low alcohol content tinctures prepared usually by maceration. The dosage depend on one each person, but in general, a tablespoonful two or three times a day is required.

There is a variety of wine used in pharmacy for making medicated wines: grape wine, sherry wines, port, sparkling wines, apple cider, Madeira, mead, Grand Marnier, and claret.

Recipe :

  • Reduce the dried herb to powder.
  • Combine with pure wine of your choices.
  • Macerate for 14 days and shaking the mixture frequently.
  • Pour into a sterilized bottle, cap, and store in a cool location.
Vinegar infusion

Vinegar is an aromatic sour liquid formed by a two step fermentation. The first step is accomplished when microorganisms turn sugar-containing liquids into alcohol. These base can be sugar and water mixture or a fruit juices. The second step is accomplished by the microorganisme nammed Mycoderma aceti which takes over and turns the alcoholic liquids into a dilute acetic acid. The microorganisme is resident in all air.  The transition of alcohol to vinegar can take about four months if you are using a mother. But sometmes, it can take merely a few weeks to upp to six months depending on the temperature during the fermentation.

Vinegar who is a derivative of apples or grappes, contains sugar, starch and gum. The fruits contains minerals salts. Vinegar has the advantage to be pure and naturally fermented.  It is an excellent tonic for the digestive tract and can help the boby to regulate its acid/alkaline balance.

Medicinal vinegar is agood alternative for those who resist the use of alcohol. The best vinegar contains the natural “mother” of vinegar. This mother can be filtred out and passed on from batch to batch.

Pure vinegar is know for promotes the flow of saliva, helps alleviate restlessness, promotes the secretion of the kidneys and respiratory mucus membranes, diminish  the frequecy of the pulse and the heat of the skin.

Medicinal vinegars are intended for internal or external use. It is made by macerating medicinal plnta in vinegar. You can do a medicinal vinegar by infusing leaves and flowers or by infusind roots and barks. Note that for the root, you need to heat the infusion to the boiling point afer the strain.

Recipe :

  • Reduce the dried herb to a powder.
  • Combine with pure undiluted vinegar. The weight to volume depend on the plant. It is between 1:2 to 1:5.
  • Macerate for 10 to 14 days and skake the mixture frequently.
  • Strain, filter, pour into sterilizes bottle and cap.

Reference : James Green,The herbal medicinemaker’s handbook: a home manual

Homemade Oil infusion

Oil infusions are an infusion of medicinal or culinary herbs in a fixed oil menstruum. Medicinal oil infusions facilitating the absorption of the herbal remedies. Oil infusions  are well utilized as food and as medicines.

Oils infusions are made with fixed oils, also called fatty oils because they are  chemically the same as fats. Oils vary greatly in their point of congelation. They are lighter than water and they do not evaporate easily. Oil infusions must be store in a cool and dark location.

Use Olive, Sesame, Almond oils. The herbs that are well prepared as oil infusions : burdock root, calendula, cayenne, comfrey, ginger, plantain, nettle leaf, marshmallow, elder, neem.

Recipe with dried plant
  • Prepare the proportion of 1 part powder by weight to 5 parts oil.
  • Grind the dried plant to as fine a powder
  • Place the powder in a jar that can be capped tightly.
  • Add a fixed oil to completely wet the herb.
  • Stir the mixture well.
  • Let the her settle, then add enough oil to cover the wet herb (¼ inch).
  • Check your mixture 24 hours later. If absorption has occured, add enough oil to re-establish the extra measure of oil.
  • Cap the jar tightly and place it in the sun for 7 days or more.
  • Shake the mixture several times every day.
  • Strain the oil from the herb and press the remaining pulp.
  • Let the infusion to sit indoors for several days (3 to 5 days).
  • Decant and filter.
  • Bottle in glass containers. Cap tightly and store.
Recipe for hot infusion
  • Grind dried herb to a powder.
  • Measure the oil in proportions of 1 part herb powder by weight to 8 parts fixed oil by volume.
  • Mix togheter.
  • Place in a closed vessel over a water-bath and digest at 140-160 dregres F for 4 hours.
  • Remove from heat, allow to cool and leave for 12 hours.
  • Pour off the clear oil.
  • Bottle, cap tightly and store.
Digestion method
  • Grind dried herb to a powder. Place in a jar.
  • Add a fixed oil in the proportion of 1 part powder by weight to 5 parts oil.
  • Place in a water bath and maintain a consistent temperature of around 100 degrees F.
  • Stir the mixture well and cover.
  • Let the digestion continue for 10 days and nights. Stir it frequently.
  • Let the sediment accumulate for a few days, decant and filter.
  • Bottle, cap tightly and store.
Oil with fresh plant
  • Chop the freshly plant to a fine pulp.
  • Place into a yogurt maker, meat roaster or apparatus with thermostatic control.
  • Add a fixed oil of your choice.
  • Stir well.
  • Set the thermostat at 100 degrees F and cover the mixture. Let the digestion for 10 days and nights at 100 degrees F.
  • Strain the oil from the herb and press the remaining pulp. The water fermentation of water in a fatty oil favors fermentation and rancidity.
  • Let tour oil infusion sit in a jar for 4-5 days.
  • The water and other impurities will settle in a jar to the bottom. Decant and discard the water portion.
  • Bottle, cap tightly and store in a cool dark place.

Reference : James Green, The herbal medicinemaker’s handbook: a home manual

Types of solvent in Herbal medicine

There are 5 types of solvents that are used traditionally in herbal medicine: water, vinegar, ethyl alcohol, wine, oil. Water is remarkable solvency extract for diverse substances. Vinegar is generally classed among the derivatives of alcohol because it is produced by the oxidation of alcoholic liquids. Wine could be a good solvent for the herbs. In ayurvedic medicine, the use of wine is a part of the pharmacopeia. Ayurveda calls Draksha the medicated wine used for a variety of remedies. Ethyl alcohol is a good solvent for extracting resins, essential oils, glycosides, chlorophyll, alkaloids, and bitter constituents. Oil is a good solvent too. Ayurvedic medicine use ghee that is clarified butter. Ghee is a very good substance to improve the absorption of medicinal properties of herbs particularly those who heal the nervous system.

Water 

Called the universal solvent, water is the most abundant solvent available on this planet. The cold water is a good solvent for plant constituents (proteins, coloring matter, tannins, mucilaginous substances), but hot water implicated that the plant swells and bursts the cells. It is important to know the medicinal properties of a plant to choose good water extraction. Heating a water menstruum encountered disadvantages like the separation out from the solution.

Vinegar

The use of apple cider vinegar is requested but we also use the rice vinegar, plum vinegar or balsamic vinegar. The vinegar is a sour liquid on account of acetic acid. It has valuable properties as a solvent. The role is to fix and extract certain alkaloids and can be substituted for alcohol. Vinegar’s action is excellent for the preservative of herbal properties. Pure vinegar preparations are said to be more liable to change than tinctures. Vinegar is commonly added as 5 percent to 10 percent of an alcohol-based for adjusting the pH.

Wine

The maceration of the herbs in wine is highly recommended. Wine has a low alcoholic content. White wine is preferred as menstrua for making medicinal wines because of their small proportion of tannins. With 16% of herbs, we use 24% alcohol.

Ethyl alcohol

Alcohol does not abstract mucilaginous, gums, starch, albuminous materials. Alcohol paralyzes enzymes and prevents the growth of yeast, fungi, and most bacteria.  It has the advantage to eliminate microbial activity, inactivate the enzymatic action which most of the time destroys the alkaloids and glycosides. Alcohol can be mix with water in all proportions for many active plant substances.

Oil

Fixed oil is obtained from both vegetable and the animal kingdom. There are insoluble in water but are capable of being mixed with water with the assistance of mucilage. The oils are decomposed in the intestine by the digestive juices into fatty acids.

 

Infusion: Methods of preparation

An infusion is a liquid preparation made by treating fresh or dehydrated vegetable substances. The nutritional and medicinal principles are extracted with cold or hot water. The infusions can be made in three ways which are maceration, digestion, and percolation. Maceration consists of soaking the chopped herb in a menstruum until complete dissolution. Digestion is a maceration subjected to moderate continual heat below boiling temperature. The herbs contain a valuable volatile constituent, the use of cold water is a better choice (chamomile, peppermint). We use the cold water when the herb contains a constituent that is not desired and not readily dissolved by cold water (Safran). Some principles could be deteriorated by the hot water like Wild Cherry bark.

The infusions made with boiling water extracted starch. The cold water extracted albumin (plant protein), but the gum, sugar, and other extractive are dissolved by both.

The most suitable vessels for infusions are made of glazed earthenware, porcelain or glass. When the plant contained an astringent constituent, the iron, aluminum, and other metallic vessels are unsuited.

Hot infusion is made by pouring boiling water upon the herb. We can let it stand for 20 minutes in a warm place. For some herbs, it is important to strain and press out the marc (pulp) for bulky herbs and flowers. This method retains a considerable proportion of the extract.

Cold infusions are made by putting the herb into the water overnight at room temperature. It is recommended to suspend the herb in a small cotton pouch and to squeeze out when the infusion process is completed.

Cold infusion: burdock root, chamomile, cleavers, comfrey root, crampbark, marshmallow root, mugwort, nettle, peppermint, uva ursi, slippery elm.

 

Reference : James Green: The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook: A Home Manual