Decoction refers to gently simmering your herbs in boiling water, and tends to be used with material that is tougher, such as roots, barks and seeds. An infusion is simply a cup of tea made by steeping the leaves, flowers and non-woody parts of the plant in either hot or cold water. You can use fresh or dried herbs. Tear or cut up whole leaves to open the cell structures and release the chemical constituents. You will, however, have to use a greater volume of fresh herbs than dried to compensate for the higher water content. If you find instructions calling for one part dried herbs, say 1 teaspoon, then you will need to use three parts fresh herbs, as in 3 teaspoons. Or, put another way, 1 teaspoon of dried herbs equals 1 tablespoon of fresh. The truth of the matter is that a teaspoon can vary vastly depending on whether you crush, grind or chop the herb, but in weight terms you are looking for 1g of dried herbs or 3g of fresh herbs in a cup of water, which for ease I have made 250ml, because, let’s face it, everyone’s cups are slightly different. Warm your teapot or cup by swilling some boiling water around in it, then disperse this. To save water I put this in my watering can for my houseplants, knowing by the time I get round to watering it will be cool. If you are making a pot, use 1 teaspoon of dried herb for each cup. Add 1 cup of water, 250ml, for each teaspoon of herbs in the pot and put the lid on immediately. If you are making a single cup, use a saucer. This bit is the most important part of the whole process; all those volatile oils are being lost to the air around if you don’t do this. The more aromatic the herb is, the more volatile oils there are to lose.
The tea should be steeped for 10–15 minutes. You can drink the tea hot or cold, sweetened with honey or not. For medicinal purposes hot tea is usually recommended.
If you are using seeds and don’t wish to make a decoction, then bash the seeds a little before making the tea, as this will release the volatile oils from the cells.