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How to Cook Herbs
As is the case with many aspects of traditional Chinese medicine, there are many ways to get results. When it comes to the steeping of raw herbs for medicinal teas, there are many methods that all serve to draw out the therapeutic qualities from the herbs. The following represents a few of the possible methods for cooking your Chinese herbal formula.

This article should be secondary to the advice of your herbalist. He or she can likely answer your questions better than a page on the web since each patient has different needs. However, with the following information you will, at least, be able to ask appropriate questions.

The Kind of Container

The best container is ceramic. Glass is okay. It is important that your tea pot has a lid. Materials to avoid include cast iron or metals. Chinese herbs can interact with these metals casing chemical reactions that can alter the therapeutic qualities of your herbs, or worse yet, have an unhealthy effect on whoever drinks the tea.

Stainless steel is better than the other metals. Teflon coatings are not as good as ceramic coatings.


In ancient times the source of the water used in the tea was an important issue. Some teas required water from a spring, others called for water collecting during a rain. Nowadays, any drinking water is acceptable. The purity and cleanliness of the water you chose is a personal choice.


1. Soak the herbs
Place the herbs into the water. The water should cover the herbs by about an inch and a half. Let them sit for 15 minutes without turning on the heat beneath the tea pot. Some sources suggest allowing the herbs to absorb the room-temperature water for one hour.

2. Bring water to a rolling boil. Then, turn down the fire to a low simmer.

3. Cook herbs for 20 to 30 minutes
There is a great deal of variation in the time necessary to cook herbs. It depends mostly on the kind of herbs you're cooking. The average is 20 minutes. Diaphoretics are cooked for no more than 15 minutes. Aromatics only get steeped for 5 minutes. For tonic herbs, 40 to 50 minutes is appropriate.

Don't lift up the lid, especially with aromatic herbs as the volatile oils can evaporate out of the mixture very easily.

4. Strain the tea

5. Drink it
If you find the taste disagreeable, then your tongue is working right. However, if you find the taste so unpalatable that you don't drink it, then you need to do something to make it more drinkable. We suggest watering it down a bit. This helps a great deal. Also, it seems that after time, the body begins to crave a certain formula, especially the ones that help the body and you'll find the taste to be more attractive. Some people add a little honey to sweeten it. This should only be done with the consent of your herbalist. Honey can adversely affect the therapeutic qualities of the formula and so it should only be added when appropriate.

6. Recook the same herbs a second time
During the first steeping, the temperature energetic comes out of the herb. This effects the patient mostly at the Qi level. It is more superficial, more Yang in nature. During the second steeping, the taste energetics come out of the herb. This effects the patient more on the Blood level. These energetics have more an impact internally. The Yin is affected more. It would be a good idea to mix the tea from both batches for drinking.