Medicinal Tea – How to prepare your herbs

two gray frying pans hanging on wall

A history of herbs

Herbs have been used for thousands of years by many cultures.  Herbal medicine in India (Ayurveda) has been documented from 2500 B.C.  Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is based on the body’s relationship to the universe, and uses therapeutic herbs to reach this state of balance.   Many other cultures also have a history of using herbs.  This includes: Greek and Roman medicine, European Herbal Medicine and physicians during the Renaissance and thereafter.

Harvesting Herbs

In order to get the herbs that you want to use, you have several options:

  1. Buy from a store or purchase online (check out Herbie’s Herbs https://herbies-herbs.com/ for a wide selection).
  2. Buy from a herbalist
  3. Grow you own
  4. Wildcraft (collect your own)

There are several things to consider when harvesting herbs.  You should always research the plant to find out what parts of a plant are ideal to use.  As well as when to harvest (season), and whether to use the fresh or dried herb.   In addition, each part of a plant may need to be harvested at a specific time of the year.  For instance, roots should be harvested during the late fall or early spring, after the frost has killed the upper part of the plant.

Other considerations are preserving and processing herbs.  This included the proper storage, temperature, washing, and ideal shelf life of a herb.

three condiments in plastic containers

Herbal preparations


A standard dose for preparing a herbal infusion is 1 or 2 teaspoons of a herb (or combination of herbs) to each cup of boiling water.  Soft parts of a plant are best suited for this type of preparation.  An infusion is generally taken 3 times a day (t.i.d), away from food.  Food has the potential to bind to the herbal constituents, reducing their strength.  You have the option to use a tea ball, infuser spoon, or teapot and strainer.

To prepare:

  1. Boil one cup of water (purified or spring) and pour over the herbs
  2. Cover immediately and let stand for 10-20 minutes, or cool enough to drink
  3. Strain (or remove ball or infuser) and drink warm or cold.  Hot teas may be required for certain herbal preparations

Cold Infusions

Some herbal properties require a cold preparation.  This is important for herbs that have a slippery texture, or form a gel-like consistency.  In addition, herbs that tend to develop a firm texture once wet should also be prepared this way.  This includes: marshmallow and slippery elm.

To prepare: 

  1. Use 1 or 2 teaspoons of a herb for each cup of boiling water
  2. Pour cold water over the herb and let stand for 5 minutes to 8 hours overnight (timing differs for individual plants)
  3. Drink hot or cold


Decoctions are best suited for preparing the tougher parts of a plant, which often requires soaking.

To prepare: 

  1. Use 1 or 2 teaspoons of the herb (or combination), to each cup of cold water.  Taken 3 times a day, away from food.
  2. Place the herbs (roots, bark, or dried berries) into a small, stainless-steel or glass pan (with a fitted lid).
  3. Cover the herbs with cold water and close the lid of the pan.  This may need to be left in the refrigerator over night before boiling.
  4. Bring to the boil, then immediately reduce to simmer and cook gently for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Leave the decoction to cool while covered.  Strain and drink.  Extra water can be added if the decoction tastes too strong.

To Note: 

A day’s supply of herbs can be prepared at one time.  This quantity can then be divided up into the 3 doses and drunk throughout the day.   Avoid preparing more than one day’s dose at a time.


To prepare:

  1. The standard dose of a tincture is 5ml (one teaspoon), three times a day away from food.
  2. Add the tincture to a small amount of water and drink cold.  If you have any sensitivities to alcohol, the tincture can be added to just-boiled water to help it evaporate.   Allow it to cool before drinking.
  3. If you are taking a tea and a tincture, the tincture can be added to the tea before drinking.
  4. Bitter tinctures should ideally be consumed 15-30 minutes before eating.  They can also be taken right before meals or with food, as they promote digestion.


The inhalation of herbs is ideal for somebody who is suffering from any sort of upper respiratory infection or discomfort.  This includes: bronchitis, excess mucous,  or chest congestion.  Herbs that are typically prepared in this manner include: thyme, oregano, peppermint, eucalyptus and rosemary.

To prepare:

  1. Half fill a fairly wide bowl with boiling water.
  2. Stir in the the herb, tincture or oil, and immediately place a towel over your head and the bowl.
  3. Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth for a period of 10-15 minutes.