Herbal Tea Preparation

Use of teas:

You can use herbal teas to drink, to soak cloths for external application, or even to pour into bath water where it will be absorbed into the body through the skin. The bath method is particularly helpful for the ill, children or to provide an absorption method for bitter tasting teas.

Containers for teas:

The boiling container and/or teapot and the tea cup or drinking utensil should all have non-metallic surfaces, such as glass, ceramic, earthenware, or enameled metal. The teapot and the drinking utensil may also be made of wood or gourd. Certainly not non-stick!

Preparation of herbs:

Cut the herbs into very small pieces or bruise them. If you are buying herbs for tea, buy them “cut and sifted.” If the parts are too big, you will not get enough out of each piece. If powdered, the powder will go right through a tea strainer. (Powdered herbs may be used, however,  if the tea is then strained through a cloth. Homemade teabags may be made from squares of cloth, and these are also available to purchase.

How much to use for pure enjoyment:

Use 1 teaspoon dried or 3 teaspoons fresh herbs for each cup of water, to make tea purely for enjoyment.

How much to use for medicinal purposes:

Medicinal herb tea is usually made stronger than tea for enjoyment.  The difference is simply the amount of herb to a given amount of water.  By making the tea stronger, you only need to drink a little at a time – maybe a quarter of a cup. This makes it easier to get it down, if it doesn’t taste wonderful.  However, if you really will drink cups and cups of it, it’s fine to make it like regular tea-for-enjoyment!

For the stronger teas, use 1 ounce dried or 3 ounces fresh to each pint of water.  (For a very intense herb, however, like cayenne, use a very small quantity.) An ounce of roots, rhizomes, bark or seeds measures around 3-4 tablespoons.  An ounce of loose leaves or flowers measures about one half cup. If the flowers take up a lot of space, like red clover, mash them a bit when measuring, so you are not measuring a lot of air.  Herbalists or herbal reference books provide more exact proportions for specific herbs.

Drinking temperature:

For medicinal purposes, it is best to drink tea hot or warm, since the warmth aids your digestion, and less of the volatile oils will be lost if you don’t wait for the tea to cool down all the way.  That said, herbal tea may, nevertheless, be chilled or even iced.


Use something other than sugar if possible, since sugar has a deleterious effect on the immune system.  Alternative sweeteners include honey, stevia, molasses, maple syrup, agave syrup, or licorice root (which can be added to the tea while steeping or decocting). If you must use sugar, choose those less processed, such as maple sugar, date sugar, xylitol, or evaporated cane juice, or even organic cane sugar. Avoid beet sugar as it may contain GMOs.  Under no circumstances use a chemical sugar substitute, as these are toxic!

How to make a hot infusion tea:

Make an infusion for soft parts; such as leaves, green stems, softer seeds, or flowers:

  • Boil water separately.
  • In the meantime, warm your teapot or pitcher with hot water, and place the herbs in the pot.
  • Pour the water over the herbs, but only after the water has cooled slightly from the boil. (It should not be actively bubbling when poured, for that is too hot.)
  • Cover the container and leave the tea to steep for ten to fifteen minutes, or up to as much as a half hour for stronger tea.
  • Strain the tea, pressing out the liquid.
  • Use it soon. You may store it in a closed container in the refrigerator for a short time, but discard it if there are any signs of spoiling.

How to make a cold infusion tea:

  • Add the herbs to cold water in a non-metallic container.
  • Leave to soak for six to twelve hours.
  • Strain the tea, pressing out the liquid.
  • Use it soon.

How to make a decoction tea:

Make a decoction for hard parts such as twigs, roots, rhizomes, hard seeds, resin, nuts, or bark:

  • Add the herbs to cold water in a pot (1 teaspoon dried or 2 teaspoons fresh herbs for each cup of water).
  • Cover the pot to prevent the escape of any volatile oils.
  • Bring the water just to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
  • Simmer for approximately 10-15 minutes (longer if the herb parts are large or particularly hard).
  • Strain the tea, pressing hard to get as much of the herbal properties as possible into the liquid.
  • Use it the same day

Special circumstances:

  • To make an infusion out of hard herb parts, instead of a decoction, use powdered herbs. To strain, drape two layers of clean, thin, cotton cloth over a strainer. Good cloths to use include old sheets, T-shirts, muslin, or flour sack type dishtowels. Alternately, make teabags from the cloth, tie with string, and infuse the tea in the teabags.
  • If a hard herb has volatile oils, it is better to powder it and make an infusion (in a covered vessel). Otherwise, the volatile oils might simmer away during decoction.
  • Combination teas. If you are planning a tea made from soft and hard parts, prepare them separately for best results – the soft as an infusion and the hard as a decoction. If that is not possible, because they are already mixed, you can powder them and prepare an infusion, then strain through a cloth. The last choice would be to prepare as a decoction, but keeping the heat low after the initial boil, and to only simmer for 10 minutes. Be sure to keep the lid on.
  • Teabags: To make teabags either for powdered herbs or for your convenience, cut pieces of of thin, clean, cotton cloth, such as old sheets, T-shirts, muslin, or flour sack type dishtowels, place the herbs in the center, gather the sides together to form a purse and tie with string.

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4 Responses to “Herbal Tea Preparation”

  1. Anna May 2, 2009 at 7:35 pm #

    I have found that there is also a matter of personal preference involved, where the strength of tea is concerned. I am a big fan of Yerba Mate, for example, which is normally made very strong. My husband didn’t like it. One day I had a cup of Yerba Mata which was far too weak for me. My husband tried it and he liked it now that it wasn’t so strong.

    On the contrary, he makes his coffee so strong I can’t drink it and to me it tastes like spooning coffee grounds straight out of the bottle!

    Annas last blog post..Consumers Feel the Pinch of Clean Energy

    • Cheryl May 2, 2009 at 7:51 pm #

      I also am very particular about the strength of some teas and certainly coffee. I agree that you need to experiment to find what suits you. Also, if you need a certain tea for health purposes, but you don’t like it, you can experiment by mixing it with teas you do like. Some of my favorites are ginger, peppermint, and licorice, all of which have strong flavors.

  2. Anna May 2, 2009 at 7:54 pm #

    Some teas are also good for this purpose. Many people mix smaller amounts of their “wellness herbs” into Yerba Mate as it disguises bitter flavors pretty well, particularly when there is a proper ratio. In fact if you found a good ratio you could mix up your herbs ahead of time in larger quantities so you don’t have to think of it. As long as there is no danger of getting too much of something, that is.

    Annas last blog post..Consumers Feel the Pinch of Clean Energy

  3. Junki February 6, 2011 at 4:56 am #

    Iced tea is great, a good idea, and clearly not for the UK. But when you travel to Asian countries in summer, with the dust and heat, a glass of iced tea will save your life. When I lived in Thailand in a small rented room, I bought a Sanyo mini fridge and made all kinds of herbal tea to put in it. Every time I came back to the room, you can imagine how wonderful the iced tea felt on my sweaty skin.

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