Chinese herbal brewing is a centuries-old tradition that has played an essential role in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for thousands of years. These herbal concoctions, known as "decoctions" or "tang" in Chinese, offer various health benefits, from boosting the immune system to alleviating stress, balancing the body, and promoting overall well-being. In this blog post, we will provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to brew Chinese herbs.
Step 1: Select Your Herbs
The first step in brewing Chinese herbs is to select the appropriate herbs for your specific needs. TCM practitioners typically prescribe customized herbal formulas based on each individual's health condition and body constitution. To get started, consult a qualified TCM practitioner who can prescribe a suitable formula for your needs. We can help fill your herbal formula by submitting the formula here. We will inform you whether we have all the ingredients and the cost for each package.
Step 2: Prepare Your Ingredients
Once you have your herbal formula, you'll need to prepare the ingredients. Chinese herbs come in various forms, such as raw, powdered, or granulated. Raw herbs are the most traditional form and may require additional preparation, such as rinsing, soaking, or cutting. Follow your practitioner's instructions for preparing your particular herbs. We follow the traditional methods and wrap each package of herbs in paper. Sometimes, the pre-package herbs may also come in a small paper bag. We typically recommend customers soak the herbs for 10-15 minutes before cooking to reactivate the dried herbs. Occasionally, there will be herbs that either need to be cooked before or after the majority of the herbs. When we fill an herbal formula with those components, we will separate these herbs into separate, smaller packages. Please follow the formula's instructions in regards to those specific herbs.
Step 3: Measure Your Herbs and Water
The next step is to measure your herbs and water. The general rule of thumb is to use a 1:5 to 1:8 ratio of herbs to water. For example, if you have 100 grams of herbs, you will need 500 to 800 milliliters (2-3 cups) of water. In times when there isn't a measuring cup available, the water should at the minimum, cover all the herbs that are being cooked. Additionally, don't forget to soak the herbs for about 10-15 minutes to reactivate the dried herbs.
Step 4: Begin the Brewing Process
Now that you have your ingredients prepared, it's time to start brewing:
- Traditionally, we use a ceramic pot to cook our herbs but any pot will do in a pinch. We have a ceramic pot specifically for cooking herbs here.
- Add the amount of water.
- Let the herbs soak in cold water for 10-15 minutes before cooking. This helps release their active ingredients and makes them easier to extract during the brewing process.
Step 5: Cook Your Decoction
- Heat the pot over the stove with the herbs and water on high until it reaches a rolling boil.
- Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cover the pot with a lid.
- Allow the herbs to simmer for the recommended time, which is typically between 40 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the type of herbs and desired potency. We typically recommend customers reduce the starting amount of water down to about 2 cups of decoction. One cup of the decoction is to be drank in the morning, and one cup at night.
- Please check the water level periodically and add more water if necessary to prevent the decoction from burning.
Step 6: Strain and Serve
Once the brewing process is complete, let the decoction cool down for a few minutes. Strain the liquid into a glass or ceramic container, discarding the spent herbs. Sometimes herbal practitioners recommend their patients to decoct these spent herbs one more time; however, please note that the decoction with these spent herbs will be less concentrated. The herbal decoction is now ready to serve.
Dosage and Storage
Follow your practitioner's advice on dosage and frequency, as it may vary depending on the specific formula and your health condition. Decoctions are usually consumed warm and can be divided into multiple servings throughout the day. Store any leftover decoction in the refrigerator and consume it within 24 hours to ensure freshness and potency. Should the decoction be too bitter, you are welcome to add some honey to make the taste a little more bearable. However, please note that there is a Chinese saying, "良药苦口 (liángyào kǔkǒu)," which translates to "good medicine tastes bitter," so most herbal formulas will be on the bitter spectrum.