Difference between herbal teas, infusions and decoctions

After the gargantuan meals of the Christmas holidays, but in general in the winter period, herbal teas, infusions and decoctions they become the protagonists of the short days and above all of the cold evenings of this season. Herbal teas, infusions and decoctions are ancient “potions” which, thanks to a little hot water (but not always) and spices, flowers, roots, herbs and vegetable ingredients they have the function of giving comfort to our body. But not only! Herbal teas, decoctions and infusions are often considered panaceas to resort to seasonal ailments with natural methods, for example, but also to keep stress under control and to promote sleep. It all depends on what herbal teas and infusions contain that we drink. Infusions and herbal teas in general also serve to help us take more water during the day, which is not always welcome in the cold season. Although they are often believed to be synonyms, herbal teas, infusions and decoctions have differences. Here’s what!

Herbal teas, infusions and decoctions: differences

  • What is herbal tea? It is an infusion or decoction prepared with plant elements and is obtained through the infusion or boiling of various parts of these ingredients such as flowers, fruits, roots, leaves and seeds. So when referring to an herbal tea it would be better to specify whether it is a decoction or an infusion.
  • What is an infusion? It is a drink (which can be served both hot and cold) that it is prepared through the infusion of vegetable elements in boiling water (such as herbs and spices). In this way the aromas and medicinal properties of the plant are transferred to the liquid which will then be drunk. In the preparation of the infusion, the most delicate parts of the plant are usually used, such as i flowers, leaves and fruits.
  • What is a decoction? Even the decoction is a drink that can be drunk both hot and cold depending on the ingredients used. Unlike the infusion, for to prepare a decoction the hardest and most leathery parts of the plant are used (roots, seeds, bark) and the same they are boiled in water.

How to prepare an infusion

Per properly prepare an infusion and thus benefit from all the properties and benefits of the chosen plants, you will have to select quality vegetables. So search a reliable herbalist that sells excellent dried plants for infusion. Bring the water to a boil, turn off the heat and immerse the flowers, leaves or fruit. Cover and leave to infuse. Covering is very important to prevent the precious volatile substances from being dispersed with the steam. The infusion time of each herb varies according to its properties and its characteristics. After the right amount of time, filter and put the infusion in a cup or container that keeps it warm (if it is a type of herbal tea to be drunk cold, you can also let it cool covered before putting it in a cup or bottle).

How to prepare a decoction

We have seen that for prepare a real decoction the hardest parts of the plant are needed: roots, seeds and bark. Fill a saucepan with cold water and immerse the chosen vegetable elements inside. Bring to a low flame and let it simmer gently. Then filter the decoction and serve it piping hot. How long should a decoction boil? It clearly depends on the ingredients used, but the time frame usually varies from 10 to 30 minutes. During this time, the active ingredients of the plants used are released into the hot water.

Herbal teas, infusions and decoctions: sugar yes or sugar no?

The answer is clearly sugar no. For several reasons, first of all is that sugar should be taken sparingly because in large quantities it is not good for our body. It is therefore important to limit its use as much as possible you can replace with honey if you really love sweet flavors. Another reason why it is better not to put sugar in herbal teas is to avoid covering the flavor of the vegetables used. Nature is endowed with magnificent colors and equally prodigious flavors that deserve to be tried and exalted. Not using sugar in herbal teas is easy, it’s just a (good) habit.

What happens if a herbal tea is infused too much?

Forgot your infusion? Don’t worry, when vegetables are infused for too long they don’t hurt, but unfortunately properties are lost. This happens with tea, for example, which after 5 minutes of infusion loses all the exciting properties of theine and remains just a good drink.

Recipes of 5 herbal teas to try

  • Decoction for breakfast: put two tablespoons of orange peel (a powerful energizer) in a saucepan, add a teaspoon of juniper pats and two star anise berries. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Boil for a few minutes, then turn off the heat, filter and serve.
  • Infusion for colds: heat the water and when it has boiled, turn off the heat. Add a spoonful of elderflower and a few slices of ginger. Leave to infuse for 5 minutes, filter and serve.
  • Infusion for better sleep: bring the water to the boil, then turn off the heat and immerse a teaspoon of hawthorn flowers, one of lemon balm flowers and leave to infuse covered for 5 minutes. Filter and drink.
  • Decoction to digest: starting with cold water, immerse half a lemon in a saucepan, 3 bay leaves and a small piece of fresh ginger. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes, then strain and serve.
  • Infusion for reflux: heat the water and immerse yourself in three sage leaves, a piece of lemon peel and a few chamomile flowers. Leave to infuse for 5 minutes, filter and serve.

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