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How to Prepare Chinese Herbs
By: Diane Joswick, L.Ac., MSOM

The Ancient Art of Decoction (Brewing Herbs).

Through the centuries, practitioners have always stressed the importance of correctly decocting an herbal tea. The effectiveness of the medicine depends not only on the ingredients of the tea, but how it is prepared.

Equipment

Traditionally, a special glazed clay herb cooker is used but any ceramic, stainless steel, or glass pot will do. Do not use a container that is made out of cast iron or aluminum. Chinese herbs can interact with these metals and cause a chemical reaction that could alter the therapeutic quality of your herbs.

Water

In ancient times the source of the water was an important issue. Some teas required water from a spring; others called for rainwater. At present, unless specifically noted under the method of preparation for a particular formula, tap water is just fine. Any drinking water will do. The purity and cleanliness of the water you choose is a personal choice.

Soak the Herbs

Place the herbs in water. The water should cover the herbs by about an inch and a half. A good rule of thumb is to have about twice as much water in the pot as herbs. Allow the herbs to soak for 20 minutes. This will facilitate the extraction of the active ingredients during the process of decoction.

Boil and Simmer

Bring the water to a rolling boil. Then, turn down the heat to a low simmer and cover. Do not lift the lid to look at the herbs too often as this will diminish the "flavor" and allow the volatile oils to evaporate out of the tea very easily.

Cook herbs until two cups (about 400ml) of liquid remains. This usually takes 20-30 minutes.

Strain the Tea and Cook the Same Herbs a Second Time

The most common and cost effective method of brewing a decoction is to decoct the ingredients twice. Both times the herbs are boiled down until two cups (about 400ml) of liquid remains. After the second cooking, discard the herbs. The four cups of liquid are combined and will give you a two-day supply of tea.

Drinking the Tea

One cup of tea is to be taken twice a day (usually morning and evening), or two-thirds of a cup is taken three times a day (in the morning, afternoon, and evening). Try to drink the tea before eating; this permits maximum absorption to occur quickly. If you are taking medication, drink the tea at least 1 hour before or after ingesting your medication to reduce the risk of interactions.

It is common to find the taste of the tea disagreeable. Your body will get used to the taste and in some cases begin to crave a certain formula. However, if you find the taste so unpalatable that you don't drink the tea, there are measures you can take to make it more drinkable. Experiment with drinking the tea at different temperatures. Warm the tea up in the microwave or drink it cool from the refrigerator. We also suggest watering down the tea or adding a natural sweetener such as honey. None of these suggestions will lessen the potency of the herbs and they will help a great deal.

Keep it Simple!

The art of decoction is much the same as cooking rice. There are many different methods that all serve to draw out the therapeutic quality of the herbs.

These directions to brewing herbs should be secondary to the advice of your herbalist. Certain herbs require different methods of decoction and each patient has different needs.

Find a preactitioner that prescribes raw Chinese Herbs on www.Acufinder.com

To search for an herb or formula by name, see pictures and learn common uses, indications, and precautions, Visit out Chinese Herbs Directory