How to prepare a decoction of Chinese herbs

Chinese herbs have been used for improving symptoms and relieving pain for thousands of years. The traditional main preparation of Chinese herbs is a decoction. Ancient Chinese people generally made a decoction of herbs at home. Nowadays, because people are busy to work, they don’t have much time to make a decoction by themselves. But if possible, it is recommended to make a decoction at home, because pre-made decoctions has a short expiry date. Moreover, other kinds of preparations like pills, powder and tincture cannot replace a decoction.

How to prepare the decoction of Chinese herbs

The pot for preparing the decoction

Please use a suitable sized pottery pot. People usually use a special pottery pot for decocting Chinese herbs. Do not use a metal or enamel pot.

The amount of water for preparing the decoction

A Chinese herbal recipe writes the dose of herbs for a day. The herbs should be boiled more than one time for fully extracting active ingredients. The decoction for the dose of a day actually contains more than one decoction.

For making the first decoction, the amount of water should be especially paid attention to. Firstly, press the herbs firmly. Then, put your fingers on the herbs and add water until the water just overflows your fingers. For making the second decoction or the third decoction if needed, water is usually added until it just reaches the level of the herbs.

Method for preparing the decoction

Before making the first decoction, soak the herbs in water for 30 to 60 minutes. If the amount of water is insufficient because some herbs absorb a lot of water, more water may be added as appropriate. The decoction is usually made with a fierce fire (also called Wu fire, literally meaning the fire of a warrior) first, and then maintained with a slight fire (also called Wen fire, literally meaning the fire of a scholar) after it is boiled.

Herbs for preparing the decoction of a day’s dose are boiled for two or three times in a row. The article introduces the method of boiling for three times, but the method may be adjusted according to different recipes with different medicinal materials. The first decoction boils for 5 to 10 minutes; the second decoction boils for 15 to 20 minutes; and the third decoction boils for 30 to 40 minutes. After mixing the liquid of the three decoctions, wait for its temperature to decrease and you may drink a part of the decoction while it is still warm.

How to take the decoction

After mixing the three decoctions well, it is usual to drink the decoction in two doses, half at 9 a.m. and half at 3 p.m. The mixed decoction can also be taken in three doses, i.e. one-third at 9 a.m., one-third at 3 p.m., and one-third at 9 p.m. If the therapist instructs that the decoction should be taken at one time, it can be taken at one time after mixing the three decoctions. In other special cases, follow the instructions of the therapist.

Attention for using Chinese herbs

When using Chinese herbs, you should take proper care to avoid eating greasy, cold, raw, fishy, spicy, deep-fried, fire-roasted or indigestible food. The diet should be mild, easy to digest and rich in nutrients. Unless the therapist advises that eating must be strictly controlled, you should not avoid too many kinds of food in order to have a better recovery.

If your condition permits, after taking the decoction for more than 10 minutes, you may take a slow walk for 5 to 10 minutes, which is helpful in promoting the efficacy of the herbs.

The herbal decoction should not be taken with a medicine at the same time. There must be an interval of more than 2 hours between taking a herbal decoction and taking a medicine.

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