How to Brew Herbal Tea: Infusions and Decoctions

Herbal teas are an excellent way for any beginner herbalist, like myself, to start exploring the power of herbs! Teas are familiar. Most of us have had tea. Learning how to brew herbal tea is crucial to be sure you enjoy all the health benefits from your chosen blend of herbs.

reading book with pink tea

Herbal teas are one of several types of herbal infusions known for their soothing and health-promoting properties. Making herbal tea is super easy and, honestly, just an enjoyable process. Some people take the time to truly make the herbal tea brewing process a ritual, infusing intention into each step.

There are two main ways to brew herbal tea: infusions and decoctions. While I truly believe there is no “wrong way” to brew an herbal tea, choosing the right method can help you get the perfect cup of tea.

Herbal Tea vs. Herbal Tisanes

Okay, so technically we are talking about tisanes in this post (but no one calls them that). Tea is an infusion of tea leaves from the Camellia Sinensis tea plant. While an herbal tisane is any infusion of herbs, spices, flowers, berries, leaves, etc… not containing actual tea leaves. I’m still going to call it herbal tea anyways. Sorry, not sorry.

Herbal teas have been used since ancient times (as early as 2737BC!) to soothe the mind, body, and spirit. Using specific herbal blends can help you fight a variety of ailments from nausea to colds and flu, boost your energy, and even support a hangover!

Medical Disclaimer: While teas are a form of herbal medicine, I am not a medical professional. I still don’t even call myself an herbalist! These are just things that I use at home to support myself and my family. The teas in this series support a variety of ailments, but I urge you to 1) take a more holistic view of your health and see what is causing those ailments and 2) consult a medical professional before starting any new health regimen.

several herbal teas in clear cut glass mugs

Tools for Brewing Herbal Teas

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Tea Strainer Options

There are many different ways to infuse your tea. I do believe only one of them is not the best choice: tea bags. Most tea bags actually contain microplastics (gasp!), and they are single-use products. Not to mention the fact that they don’t allow the tea inside to infuse properly because it is too squished.

The tea strainer options below go from “okay” to “best.”

  • A tea ball is still pretty small, so it doesn’t fully allow the herbs to steep.
  • A bamboo strainer is fun, but kind of just a kitschy tool. While it allows more movement of the herbs, it has large holes so you will end up with some loose leaves in your final tea.
  • I prefer a larger tea infuser. It has the ease of use of a tea ball while allowing more room for the herbs to do their thing.
  • Technically, the best method for brewing tea is to let loose tea leaves and herbs steep in the water, then use a strainer (or even a French press). This is the best choice when brewing tea for medicinal purposes, as you will get the most out of your herbs.

Tea strainer tools

That being said, I still use my infuser or the strainer inside of my electric kettle. Part of the brewing process is a personal preference. You will get the best results and best tea experience when you find what works best for you!

Kettle Options

To heat your tea, you can use:

  • An electric kettle (similar to mine)
  • A traditional tea kettle
  • Heat water on the stovetop in a pot

How to Brew Herbal Tea: Infusion Methods

There are several different types of tea infusions: hot infusion, cold infusion, and decoction. Choose the method that best suits the types of herbs you plan to infuse.

Hot Infusion

A hot infusion is the most common way to brew an herbal tea. It is good for most teas with leaves and flowers.

How to Create a Hot Infusion

Step 1: Boil water and let it cool down to the appropriate temperature based on the type of herb used. Most herbal teas use 212 degrees Fahrenheit (a full boil). While this is the general direction, I tend to use a slightly lower temperature to avoid any bitterness (closer to 160 degrees Fahrenheit).

boiling water in electric kettle

Step 2: Choose the herbs for the infusion. See below for direction on choosing your blend.

Step 3: Measure the appropriate amount of herbs. Most herbal teas use about 2TBSP herbs per 1.5 cups of hot water.

Step 4: Place the herbs in a tea infuser or strainer of choice.

Step 5: Pour hot water over the herbs.

Step 6: Steep the herbs for the appropriate amount of time. (5-7 minutes is most common. Use a shorter amount of time to avoid a bitter taste). Herbalists may recommend a longer steeping time (10-20 minutes), to get the most of your herbs. Always cover your tea while steeping to keep in the oils and herbal goodness.

Step 7: Remove the infuser, strain, and enjoy.

straining herbal tea

Cold Infusion

A cold infusion or cold brew tea is great for several reasons:

  1. It works great for mucilaginous herbs (like marshmallow root) to keep all that gooey goodness.
  2. It helps reduce the bitter taste in herbs.
  3. Cold infusions are also a great way to get the most flavorful iced herbal tea without watering it down with too many ice cubes.

How to Create a Cold Infusion

  • Step 1: Choose the herbs for the infusion.
  • Step 2: Measure the appropriate amount of herbs.
  • Step 3: Place the herbs in a pitcher or jar.
  • Step 4: Pour cold water over the herbs.
  • Step 5: Let the herbs steep in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  • Step 6: Strain the herbs and enjoy.


A decoction is a brewing method best used for roots, barks, and berries (things that need a little extra help breaking down). However, a decoction will definitely bring out the bitter taste in certain herbs, so it might be best to decoct your roots first, then blend that tea in with a normal infusion. This is known as an infusion-decoction blend.

Because of the extra steps and strong taste, I do not prefer to use a decoction at home. But, it is definitely the best way to get the most herbal benefits from your tougher herbs.

How to Make a Decoction

Step 1: Boil filtered water.

pouring water into pot

Step 2: Add the herbs to the pot.

adding herbs to hot water

Step 3: Simmer the herbs for the appropriate amount of time (usually 10-20 minutes). Cover the pot while simmering.

simmering herbs

Step 4: Strain the herbs

straining herbs

Step 5: Enjoy.

brown tea in clear glass mug on top of wood pedestal

Choosing the Herbs

Choosing the right herbs for your tea is an important step. If you feel overwhelmed, find blends that are already created to start enjoying tea right away! You can purchase from a small shop (The Herbal Toad is my favorite!) or get inspiration from a book like Healing Herbal Teas by Sarah Farr.

To Choose Herbs for Tea:

  1. Consider the purpose of the tea. If you are new to herbal remedies, I urge you to try one herb at a time. Make it into a tea and notice what it does in your body. This is a great way to explore herbs and see what works for you.
  2. Choose herbs that are safe to consume. Consider special health conditions, pregnancy, and existing medications. Herbs can interact with any pharmaceuticals you may be taking. Herbs can counteract other drugs, add to the effect of other drugs, or even change the effect.
  3. Consider the taste and aroma of the herbs.
hand holding chamomile

Making Tea Blends

Making your own blends of herbal tea is a fun way to explore herbs! There are general guidelines to follow, but that doesn’t mean that you have to follow them!

According to the book Healing Herbal Teas by Sarah Farr, there are three parts to a pyramid of herb blends:

  • Active (50%): The active herbs what you would use specifically to target your ailment.
  • Supporting (30%): The supporting herbs help soothe the part of the body with the issue.
  • Catalyst (20%): The catalyst herbs are either flavor enhancers or herbs that help route the other herbs to certain parts of the body.

How to Make an Herbal Tea Blend

  1. Choose a base herb (active herb).
  2. Add complementary/supporting herbs.
  3. Finish with catalyst herbs, if desired.
  4. Experiment with different combinations.
  5. Adjust the proportions of the herbs to suit your taste.
close up of herbs in mini cauldron

Herbal Tea Dosage

The typical herbal tea dosage is 1-4 cups a day, as needed. This can vary.

Children’s Dosage

You may be thinking, how the heck am I supposed to get my kid to drink tea? The dosage may be smaller than you realize. My kids do not like tea on its own, so we mix with juice or take it through a medicine syringe.

Young’s Rule for Child Dosage

[Age / (Child’s Age + 12)] x Recommended Adult Dose = Child Dose
Example for a 3 year old: [ 3 / (3 + 12)] X 1 cup tea = 0.2 cups tea
Example for a 1 year old: [1 / (1 + 12) X 1 cup tea = 0.76 cups tea (a little over 1 TBSP).

For a list of safe herbs for kids, check out this free printable.

Where To Buy Herbs

My favorite place to purchase herbs online is Starwest Botanicals.

Other Uses for Your Herbal Tea

pink herbal tea next to herbs with candle

How to Brew Herbal Tea FAQs

Absolutely! Using fresh herbs can make for a delightfully fresh cup of tea (although not as strong). You should double the amount of fresh herbs compared to dry.

When stored in an airtight container, dried tea can last up to about two years.

Can dried tea go bad? Well, it doesn’t really go “bad,” it just loses flavor and herbal benefits.

Brewed tea can “last” for up to six hours, but I don’t recommend even letting it sit for that long. I think it turns more bitter after an hour. If refrigerated immediately, consume within 24 hours.

Yes. If you drink too much of a single herb, you will likely have side effects. Those side effects can range from minor stomachache to heart palpitations (or worse) depending on the herbs. Stick to the recommended dosage and consult a medical professional if you want to increase your dosage.

It is unlikely that tea will dehydrate you. However, drinking a highly caffeinated tea or a diuretic herb could cause slight dehydration.

Yes! Kids can drink herbal tea as long as you follow the correct dosage. I recommend Young’s Rule for Child Dosage. However, some herbs may not be appropriate for children, including but not limited to caffeinated herbs.

Caffeinated tea can definitely stimulate the bowels and make you poop. Senna is common herb to help ease constipation. So, with any luck, senna tea will make you poop.

No! Please, please don’t ingest essential oils. They are so strong. According to Nebraska Medicine, “The body absorbs these concentrated substances very quickly, which can lead to a toxic reaction like vomiting, seizures or vertigo.”

The main reason to take a tea instead of a tincture is when you want to heal a problem along the digestive tract. The tea will bring the herbs where they need to go. Whereas a tincture is mostly absorbed into the bloodstream when taken under the tongue. Some may even choose to use a tea instead of a tincture simply because of familiarity (tinctures are a little weird if you haven’t had one!), or preference.

herbal teas with labels

This post is part of a series about herbal tea blends for common ailments. Check out the posts below!

I hope that you are on your way to enjoying a cup of herbal tea! Tag me in your tea photos on Instagram! I’d love to see what you are sipping on today.

Pin How to Brew Herbal Tea for Later!

reading book with pink tea in hand pinterest pin for how to brew herbal tea

About the Author:

I’m Brittany, totally modern and mainstream turned crunchy mama!

Read more here about how I went from a totally incompetent cook and hyper-consumer to striving to live a more meaningful life from scratch.

I can’t wait to share my modern homesteading journey with you and I hope I inspire you to join along!

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