- Infusion: An infusion is gentle medicine that is delivered via a liquid (water) base. Some examples include tea with a variety of herbs rich in essential oils (culinary herbs and wild herbs) that is steeped for 5-10 minutes. Simply add your herbs into a French press or glass mason jar, fill with boiling water, and steep, keeping it covered to preserve the essential oils. The longer you steep, the stronger the infusion. You could also infuse herbs for much longer periods of time or overnight. Generally, with dried berries (hawthorne, elder, shizandra) or hearty roots (burdock, licorice, bupleurum), you want to infuse for longer periods of time (30-40 minutes or overnight).
- Decoction: A decoction is the process of extracting the essence of something by boiling or heating, then simmering for a long time. This is different than an infusion because you are actually boiling or heating the plants continually to draw out their healing constituents. For example, many of the medicinal mushrooms (reishi, chaga) and barks (wild cherry, cinnamon) require a 3-4 hour decoction to be most effective. A bone stock can be considered a decoction as well.
- Extraction: I bet you thought this only happens when you go for a facial! You can extract the constituents of any culinary herb or other plant by using an extraction process. You would use alcohol, vinegar, oil, or vegetable glycerin to draw out the healing properties from the plant. A good example is apple cider herbal vinegar (ACV). You can use any fresh or dried culinary herbs (rosemary, thyme, basil, dill, oregano) and steep in ACV for 30 days. Strain the herb from the vinegar and discard. Save the ACV in an airtight container. Use the vinegar in salad dressings or mix with honey.
Andrea Beaman is an internationally renowned Holistic Health Coach, Natural Foods Chef, Speaker and Herbalist. Named one of the top 100 Most Influential Health and Fitness Experts, she is also a recipient of the Natural Gourmet Institute’s Award for Excellence in Health-Supportive Education and a Health Leadership award from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Since 1999, Andrea has been teaching people how to harness the body’s own preventative and healing powers using food, herbal remedies and alternative medicine.