What is the difference between a decoction and an infusion?
Most people are familiar with an infusion which is what people do when they put a tea bag or tea ball in a cup of hot water and allow it to steep a couple minutes before drinking. Infusions are used to extract vitamins and volatile ingredients from soft ingredients like leaves, flowers, citrus peelings, etc. Green tea, black tea, peppermint tea and chamomile tea are examples of an infusion. The short brewing time helps to retain the volatile ingredients while drinking.
A decoction is used to extract primarily the mineral salts and bitter principles of plants from hard materials such as roots, bark, seeds and wood. These hard materials generally require boiling for at least 10 minutes and then are allowed to steep for a number of hours. The tea is boiled down and concentrated so that water needs to be added before drinking. The word "decoct" means to concentrate by boiling. Essiac tea and taheebo bark tea are examples of a decoction.
[Some of the above information comes from THE HERB BOOK by John Lust]
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