What is Decoction?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 03 October 2019
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Decoction is a process involving the extraction of essential oils and various organic elements from some plants or herbs. The particulars of the process vary somewhat, depending on the type of end product that is desired. However, just about every approach to decoction involves pressing or mashing as well as boiling the organic matter.

Various types of decoctions have been in use for a number of centuries. The creation of a select group of teas or fusions utilizing various components of herbs is sometimes referred to as a decoction. However, it is important to realize that what is commonly thought of as a fusion or tea does not really qualify as a true decoction. Rather than simply steeping the material in hot water, decoction involves boiling the organic material. In addition, a decoction is more likely to use several parts of the plant, rather than simply focus on roots, bark, or leaves.


In order to prepare a decoction, harvesting the plant matter is the first step. Once the material is assembled, all the ingredients are crushed or mashed in order to begin the process of breaking down the elements and releasing essential oils. The crushed organic matter is then boiled, making it possible to extract as much of the nutritional and medicinal value as possible from the compound. In most cases, a rolling boil lasting roughly ten minutes is sufficient to efficiently extract all the necessary elements from the crushed plants or herbs. Once the boiling stage is completed, the water is strained to remove any trace elements of the original plant matter.

Herbal decoctions are often prepared by herbalists and others who utilize herbs as part of the practice of some form of alternative medicine. Because the nature of the herbal liquid extract is usually concentrated, it is possible to obtain much more benefit than from simply steeping a few dried herbs in hot water. The process of decoction also makes it possible to combine elements of different herbs as a means of treating a particular ailment. For example, it would be possible to prepare a decoction that included lavender and chamomile for use in the treatment of mild depression.

Along with preparing some type of herbal decoction, this combination of mashing, boiling, and straining can also be used to create various types of malt beverages. The process is understood to help release the full flavor of the grain and thus enhance both the taste and the aroma of the finished product. While technology offers more modern methods of extraction, it is not unusual for many breweries to continue preparing decoctions in the traditional manner.


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