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Tinctures, Teas, and Decoctions, Oh My!

There is concern over the casual internal use of essential oils. While I do not advocate using essential oils on a daily basis say in your water (use fruit such as a lemon or orange slice instead), clinically there are times when essential oils can be used for acute situations for a short period of time via gel capsules, pastilles, suppositories, pessaries, and stronger topical applications. This is best done with someone knowledgeable in the clinical application of essential oils such a clinically trained aromatherapist, health care provider, or such. Another safer way to benefit from plant based support is through the use of herbal teas, infusions, tinctures, and decoctions.

In this blog I'll cover some basics of teas, infusions, decoctions, and tinctures. It is just the tip of the iceberg. Consult a qualified herbalist or give me a call, text, or email if you'd like to discuss further.

Herbal teas are beverage blends brewed for enjoyment and gentle support. They involve steeping a few teaspoons of tasty herbs to support the body.

Infusions are more medicinal in nature and involve steeping larger amounts of herbs for longer periods of time in water. Tea and infusions are typically made with flowers, buds, berries, leaves, seeds, and other other aromatic plant parts that are typically delicate.

For an infusion, a good ratio is 4-6 tablespoons of dried herb per quart of water or 6 to 8 tablespoons of fresh. A glass mason jar is perfect. Add your herbs to the jar and cover with boiling water and steep for 30-45 minutes. Strain and your infusion is ready. You can also make solar (think sun tea) or lunar infusions to further impart the energetics of the sun or moon.

Teas can be enjoyed through out the day or as part of a relaxing night time routine. Usually you can drink 3-4 cups of tea throughout the day.

For acute issues try drinking 1/4 cup every half hour for a total of 4 cups per day. For chronic issues try 3-4 cups of beverage tea daily.

Medicinal decoctions are slow simmered extractions of woody or fibrous plant parts that are a bit tougher to extract. Roots, bark, seeds, twiggy parts, or nuts for example. To decoct an herb place 4 to 6 tablespoons of dried herb with 1 quart of water (use 6 -8 tablespoons of fresh herb) and simmer over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes. Pour the mixture into a glass jar and let it continue to extract overnight. Strain and the decoction is ready to use. Use as you would an herbal tea or infusion.

Tinctures are herbal extracts that are concentrated. Typically alcohol is used as a solvent, but glycerin or vinegar can be used as well. Alcohol is preferred since it can extract the most beneficial molecules. Glycerin and vinegar suffice and are often preferred for children and those who wish to avoid alcohol.

Tinctures require time. To make a tincture choose your solvent. I use 80 to 100 proof alcohol usually vodka. The dose of tincture is quite small (on the order of 1 tsp) so you're not going to get intoxicated by using a tincture made in this way. Chop fresh herbs or place dry herbs in a glass jar. Cover the herbs with solvent such as alcohol by 2 -3 inches. Let the herbs and solvent macerate for 4 to 6 weeks.

To use take 1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp every hour for up to 6 tsp for acute issues or 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp two to three times daily for chronic issues. These are adult doses.

Children's doses will vary by age. Consult an herbalist or use a trustworthy book to help guide you.

Plant extracts are very beneficial and can be used safely to help support the body. This post explore three easy ways to use herbs safely.

If you have questions about essential oils or aromatherapy contact Tricia. There are many fantastic books about herbs -- for example check out Rosemary Gladstar's book Medicinal Herbs.

Teas, infusions, decoctions, and tinctures are wonderful ways to use plant extracts that contain both aromatic/hydrophobic and hydrophilic compounds that can offer great therapeutic benefits.

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