How to make – Infusions and Decoctions

The easiest and most natural way to use them dried or fresh, mixed with food or fed straight from the hand. This method works very well with horses, cows, goats and other grazing animals. Dogs and cats are more likely to accept herbs herbs if they mixed in with their food. Cats and dogs are carnivores and their digestive system is not as efficient in extracting plant nutrients, so adding herbs that have been made into an infusion or decoction can be more effective and efficient as the herbs are already partially broken down.

One of the simplest methods of making a herbal preparation is that of an infusion or decoction. Infusions and decotions can be used internally as well as externally, depending on the situation.

Using Infusions and Decotions

Herbal infusions are made the same way as a cup of tea, except the herbs are allowed to steep for a much longer period (15-20 min), which allows the medicinal and nutritional qualities of an herb to be drawn into the water. When making an infusion it is important to follow instructions and although most herbs extract well in hot/boiled water, some herbs are better if infused in cold water.

Herbal Infusion/teas can be used in a variety of ways either added to the animals feed, gently syringed into their mouths or even used topically to cleanse wounds or as a rinse as part of the bathing routine for your animal. For example, a tea made from Rosemary can be used as a rinse to give your animal a shiny coat as well as sooth tired muscles. Adding a few drops of Rosemary and Marjoram essential oil to the tea will increase the effect on tired muscles and would be a great way to sponge down a horse coming back from an exercise session, helping it to cool down and soothe tired muscles.

How to make an Infusion

To make an herbal infusion, bring water to a boil in a steel or glass pot, and then remove from the heat. (Aluminum and copper are both reactive metals and should not be used to prepare herbal solutions.)  Add 10g of dried herbs per 250ml of hot water. Cover and let steep for 15-20 minutes. Strain through a fine cheese cloth and squeeze out as much water as possible. Let cool and store in the refrigerator, in an airtight glass container, for 1-2 days.

This works for most herb material if it is based on stems, leaves and flowers and soft seeds, though for bark and root material it is better to make a decoction.

Herbs better suited for cold infusions are:

  • Chamomile Flowers
  • Coffee Beans
  • Peppermint Herb
  • Nettle Herb
  • Senna Seed Pods
  • Marshmallow Root and Leaves
  • Comfrey Root

10g of herb to 250ml of cold water in a lidded glass jar, infuse for 8 hours.

Personally, I enjoy a cold infusion of Peppermint but dislike a hot infusion of it. Give it a try.

How to make a Decoction

For a decoction add 30g herb to 750ml cold water in a stainless steel, lidded pot. The volume will reduce to approx. 500ml. Bring up the heat and simmer gently for up to 30 minutes.  which reduces down to approx 500ml. Bring up to heat and simmer gently for up to 30 minutes. Strain through a stainless steel filter or clean cheese cloth. This formula makes approximately 3 doses (~165ml each). Decoctions should be made fresh each day and stored in the fridge.

When I make teas/decoctions for my animals I always add the dregs into the feed as well, thus 100% of the herb is used and there is no waste. There may not be much nutrition or medicinal constituents left in the plant matter, but fiber is always a healthy addition to a diet.



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