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What is the Process of Decocting Chinese Herbs Actually Like?

If you are up for it, your acupuncturist may send you home with a “raw” herbal formula. Chinese herbal formulas come in several other forms also including powdered or as pills, but what you are looking at below is the actual plant parts themselves. This could be as the berry, flower, seed, root, and more. This is known as raw herbs.

Essentially raw herbs are just the dried and prepared specific plant part which contains all the important stuff. In Chinese medicine, we use multiple herbs in a single formula to holistically approach your concerns and treat you as a whole. It is tailored just for you. These herbs all set to go into a pot and boil away leaving you with a wonderful decocted Chinese herbal formula to drink as a tea.

So what is the process of decocting the herbs actually like?

Typically your provider will give you several small bags of herbs and each bag usually is meant to last for about 2 days each.

1.Empty the contents of one bag of herbs into a glass or stainless steel pot. Add enough water to cover the contents or about 2-3 inches.

2. Let the herbs soak for 20-30 minutes. This helps to get the herbs softened up and ready for decocting.

3. Bring the pot of herbs to a boil, cover then let simmer for 30 minutes.

4. Pour off liquid and retain the fluid. With herbs still in the pot, refill with the same amount of water as first boil and cook a second time for 30 minutes. This double boiling process maximizes the output of the herbs.

5. Pour the second decoction together with the first. This is the decoction you will use as your herbal tea. You may discard the cooked herbs at this point. Bonus: can you identify any of the herbs? What looks like bark? Or what looks like a root?

6. Divide the brew into four parts and store in jars. Take one portion in the morning and one in the evening for two days. Store your herbal decoction in the fridge. Reheat the needed amount from your decoction preferably over the stove.

Decocting your own formula is a process, but really shouldn’t take longer than an hour and a half. The process itself is enjoyable because one really is able to appreciate how formulas were taken and prepared traditionally. The aromatic scent that boils off of the herbs fills your home and feels like part of the medicine itself. Ask your acupuncturist if raw herbs fit into your treatment plan!

Katie, L.A.c.