While it’s true that at its simplest, tea is dried herbs + water, when it comes to a truly medicinal cup of herbal tea, there are far more intricate directions and methods of preparation that help you maximize the active compounds (depending on our goals and the types of herbs you’re using).

In fact, there are 4 main types of tea preparation that herbalists use for proper, potent medicinal preparations. Today we’re going to go over what makes each one different, what plants they’re best suited for, and why some herbs are actually best infused with cold or room temperature instead of hot! 


1. Short/Hot Infusion

A “short infusion” or good old “hot infusion” is your standard pot of tea. Short infusions are generally made from plants with medicinal components that can be extracted in a relatively short amount of time: think aromatic rich herbs like chamomile, rose, lavender. 

It doesn’t take too much time or heat to get these beautiful aromatics (and thus, the essential oils within the leaves responsible for their smell and medicine) into your cup, therefore you can steep for a shorter amount of time (5-30 minutes) than the other methods we’ll cover.

This is perfect for those who are short on time and want to “set and forget” their tea in a french press during their morning routine, then pour and drink throughout the day! I love adding my tea ritual to part of my daily “systems” of how I self-care. A short infusion in a french press allows me to set my tea to steep, then do my morning stretching and practices while something nourishing for my body is brewing.


  • Add 1-2 tsp of plant material or tea blend to a french press
  • Pour just boiled water over the herbs until the press is about full
  • Let it steep for anywhere from 5-30 minutes depending on the strength of flavor and medicine  you’re looking for
  • Strain and serve! Once strained, it can be stored in the fridge in a closed mason jar or container for 2-3 days.


2. Overnight Infusion

An overnight infusion is how you make the most restorative, rebuilding kitchen medicine. Also known as a “nourishing infusion” or “long” infusion, this method allows the herbs to soak for a longer period of time to ensure all their goodness infuses into the water.

For this method, choose herbs where you’re looking to get nutrients (minerals and vitamins) > over phytochemicals. Think of this tea almost like a salad, but a beautifully warming beverage instead; it’s like drinking leafy greens, rich in plant-sourced, bioavailable magnesium, calcium and so much more. 

If you’re dealing with mineral-rich herbs like nettle or horsetail and want to get as many nutrients out of them as possible, this is your moment. 

It’s also perfect for a pregnancy tea with raspberry leaf, red clover, and oatstraw! 

This preparation style involves steeping a large amount of herbs for a longer period of time (a few hours to overnight), allowing the water + heat + time to work its magic. The longer the water has contact with the herb material, the more minerals it can extract.


  • Place about ½ – 1 cup of herb material into a jar; either one single herb or a mix of mineral rich plant matter as a tea blend
  • Fill the rest of the jar with freshly boiled water 
  • Tightly close the jar, let it sit on your counter for 8+ hours or overnight
  • Strain and serve. Once strained, can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days

THE PURIFIER (if you’re looking to get maximum minerals from the horsetail)

3. Cold Infusion

Did you know that two types of herbs are best suited to “cold” infusions with room temperature water, rather than brewing with heat? 

1) Delicate herbs that are heat-sensitive such as hibiscus, 

2) Herbs that are high in gut-healing, mucous-membrane-soothing mucilage, polysaccharides and starches.

In these cases, a cold infusion is a perfect solution to uphold the integrity of the herb, extract the correct compounds (like those mucilaginous polysaccharides), while still brewing a tea packed with loads of flavor and medicinal benefits. 


  • Marshmallow root
  • Slippery elm
  • Comfrey root
  • Hibiscus 


  • Place about ¼ cup of the herb of your choice (or a mix!) into a jar, we used marshmallow root
  • Fill the rest of the jar with room temperature, filtered water – no warming necessary
  • Tightly close the jar, let it sit on your counter or in the fridge for several hours or overnight to really give the tea time to extract
  • Strain and serve, or once strained this can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days

Interestingly, the herbs that lend themselves to cold infusions also happen to be quite cooling and soothing to ‘hot’ and ‘angry’, aggravated, inflamed tissues. For example, a 50/50 marshmallow root/hibiscus cold infusion is lovely for someone who runs hot, carries tension in their shoulders, and is quick tempered – especially by their pain. 

The method matches the herbs, and both the method + the plants match the needed medicine. 

THE HEALER (if you’re looking to get maximum gut-healing mucilage from the polysaccharides. You can also brew THE HEALER as a regular hot infusion and leave it out on the counter for a few hours as it comes to room temp to mimic the extra cold infusion step for the marshmallow)

4. Decoction

Tea doesn’t just have to be dried leaves! A decoction is often made with stronger herbal materials like roots, bark, dried whole berries, & mushrooms. Simmering the herb material/tea over a period of 15 minutes to hours helps extract the phytochemicals to get the most out of your plants. 

Yes, it’s true that this method takes a bit longer and has a few more steps – simmer, cover, watch… but that’s because we’re working with denser plant material that has some HEAVY DUTY MEDICINE INSIDE. It takes time and patience and the end result is worth it. You’re cooking some serious kitchen herbalist goodness here. 

This is a long, low simmer method that is indicated for hard plant material such as roots, barks, seeds, and resinous plants. Think anything from rosemary and cinnamon to ginger root and burdock. 

The long simmering helps to soften and extract the plant’s full spectrum of medicine, and the cover is kept on to keep volatile oils from escaping. The result will be a dark, earthy tea that has texture and richness.


  • Add about 4 cups of water to a pot with 1-2 tsp of roots/herbs or your herbal tea mix
  • Bring to a light boil, then let the herbs simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes up to an hour or two
  • Strain and serve, can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days

Decoctions can be rebrewed 2-3 more times after first brew because there’s so much medicine within them; you can use the same blend of roots + herbs you just simmered. Cover them again with water, repeat this process, and you’ll have a whole extra batch or two.

THE GUARDIAN, THE CLEANSER, THE DEFENDER & THE PURIFIER (if you want these at maximum strength)

While all four of these methods = tea, the differences lie in how long you steep them for, what parts of the herbs you’re using, what types of herbs you’re dealing with, and how much heat (or not) you use! These subtle distinctions make for more accurate, medicine-packed cups with proper extraction of each herb’s unique phytochemicals and nutrients.

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