Fresh Clips: Infusions and Decoctions

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Want to learn more about herbs? Editors from The Herb Companion are out and about giving presentations on topics such as apothecary basics at events nationwide, like the Mother Earth News Fairs. Check and for upcoming appearances.

Q. What’s the difference between an infusion and a decoction?

A. Both extract the properties of a plant for consumption, but an infusion is usually made with flowers or leaves, while a decoction is generally made with roots or bark.

Infusion: Made by steeping leaves or flowers in a liquid (most often water) to extract the plant’s active ingredients. Can be done in hot or cold water, but hot is most efficient.
Example: Chamomile tea
Used for: Sleep aid

Decoction: Best suited to the harder parts of a plant (namely the bark, roots or berries) this method boils or simmers the plant part to extract the plant’s active ingredients.
Example: Ginger tea
Used for: Pain relief or tummy soothing

Allison Martin is managing editor at The Herb Companion.

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