Preparing to Cook Your Herbs
Before you cook your herbs, you want to start by soaking them. Place the herbs into the pot of water you intend to cook them in. The water should cover the herbs by about an inch and a half. Let the herbs rehydrate for 20-30 minutes before heating.
There are formulas that may have single herbs in a separate bag or tea satchel. Your practitioner will have given you instructions on when to add these to your formula. For herbs that need to cook longer than the rest of the formula, you will cook those for the designated time while you soak the rest of your formula. You will then add your soaked herbs and their liquid to the herbs you are already cooking, and continue through the steps below. If you have herbs that you are supposed to add towards the end of the cooking time, simply soak those separately and add them to the rest of the formula at the appropriate time.
Put your soaked herbs on the stove and bring the water to a rolling boil. Then, turn to a simmer and cover.
Different herbs and formulas require different cooking times. Unless otherwise specified, the average is 30 minutes. For some formulas, 40 to 50 minutes is appropriate. Your practitioner can tell you how long to cook the formula and any individual herbs. Periodically check to make sure too much water hasn’t evaporated. If it seems low add a bit more. After the cooking time ends, strain the liquid into a large jar or other container.
Now, cook the same herbs a second time for 30 minutes. The first cook of the herbs will impact the body at a more superficial level, while the second cook will impact the body on a more internal level, which will make your formula more effective. It also ensures you are getting the full extraction out of your herbs. Mix the tea from both batches for drinking.
After the second steeping and the two batches have been combined, drink one quarter of the amount in the morning and another quarter in the evening. Repeat the next day. Once you run out of tea, cook the next bag of herbs following the same instructions until you are out of herbs.
The majority of formulas don’t taste good. If your formula is extremely unpleasant you can dilute it until it is more agreeable. This usually helps a lot. Avoid adding sweeteners or other beverages to the formula. This can change the way the formula is intended to work.
If you really want to get a lot out of your herbs, you can soak your cooked formula overnight and cook it again the next day. This will give you 2 extra doses of your formula.
How To Properly Store Your Herbs
Store your herbs in the fridge, and warm on the stove before taking.
How To Begin An Herb Regimen
Generally, you should drink your tea one hour before eating, on an empty stomach. If the herbs cause a little stomach upset, you can drink the herbs one hour after eating.
Raw herbs can seem like a daunting task, but there are unique gifts to this ancient medicine which can only be experienced through the practice of cooking them. We can always take a granule formula for convenience and ease. However, the raw formulas are more composed, and have a much more integrative quality to them. Chinese herbs work by incorporating the smell and taste of the substances, and cooking them together helps to reinforce the whole gestalt of the medicine. Taking the time to cook these herbs with our health and body in mind is a contemplative practice that can offer benefits beyond what the formula is designed for. I invite you to use this process as a contemplative exercise of gratitude and self reflection.