To get started, read through the general tea-making instructions below to get an overview of the process. Then check out the recipes and herb-buying information and gather your ingredients. All the recipes use dried herbs, which are available year-round.
1. Preparing your blend
Medicinal teas must be used with consistency to be effective; it’s best to prepare a large batch of dried-herb blend so you’ll have plenty on hand when you need it. Store your blend in a tightly sealed glass jar in a cool, dry, dark spot; a kitchen pantry is perfect. Dried blends will keep for up to a year.
2. Brewing your tea
There are two brewing techniques used for all teas: infusion and decoction. For medicinal-strength tea, the ratio is two teaspoons of dried herbs per eight ounces of water; for most conditions, you’ll brew a quart of tea at once -- a day’s worth. Refrigerated, teas stay potent for about two days. If you’re leaving home, you can carry your tea in a thermos or mason jar.
In this common technique, herbs are steeped in freshly boiled water to extract their medicinal properties. Infusions are used to prepare the delicate parts of plants, such as leaves and flowers, as well as all parts rich in volatile oils.For medicinal teas, herbs should be infused for at least 15 minutes, tightly covered, then strained; the longer the infusion, the stronger (though potentially more bitter-tasting) the medicine.
Extracting medicine from tenacious plant parts, such as bark, seeds, and most roots, requires a technique called decoction. In decoctions, herbs are added to cold water, slowly brought to a boil, simmered for at least 15 minutes, then strained. (Roots that are high in volatile oils, which are damaged by high heat, are better infused than decocted.) Some teas contain a mixture of both tenacious and delicate plant parts; the Common-Cold Tea, for instance, contains both peppermint (leaves) and echinacea (root). In these cases, you decoct the hardier material, remove from heat, then add the delicate herbs and infuse the entire mixture.
3. Determining your dosage
Again, when you’re using herbal medicine -- teas in particular -- consistency is key. If you’re making tea for an acute, short-term condition, like the Common-Cold Tea, small, frequent doses are most effective: 1/4 cup every hour until symptoms subside. For teas for chronic conditions, such as the Women’s Balancing Blend, one cup three to four times a day is most effective, between meals if possible. Most chronic ailments, which often take years to develop, also take time to truly heal. You should begin to notice improvement within a few weeks, but continue taking your blend for three to four months.