What is a Tisane?
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Most individuals who have (or who continue to) dabble in herbalism are familiar with teas. Teas are, by and large, simply no more than dried plant matter placed in a vessel (preferably a tea pot), over which hot or boiling water is poured. Sadly, not everyone is aware that there is only one kind of tea, and that is any beverage that is made from the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, which include the five most basic varieties – green, oolong, black, white, and pu'erh teas. Any other 'tea' made from plant matter (whether herb or spice) that does not come solely from the Camellia sinensis plant is properly referred to as a tisane.
What are tisanes used for?
Tisanes are often the most basic and most commonly employed herbal medicines, not only due to its ease of preparation, but also because of its easily absorbable nature. More often than not, most herbal remedies will call for the creation of a tisane before any other method, simply because tisanes are easily made, even by novice herbalists. Tisanes can be used as a daily drink or tonic, they can also be drunk prior to meals (stomachics) or after meals (digestifs), or otherwise dispensed as a cure for fevers, coughs, colds, flu, and a wide assortment of other ailments. Tisanes can also be employed as rinses – with its 'liquor' literally being employed to rinse selected body parts such as the hair or skin, either for cosmetic or medicinal purposes. The use of a tisane varies depending on the herb (or mixture of herbs) that constitute it, and its curative properties are only limited by the availability, potency, and amount of herbs that make up a 'recipe'. In olden days, tisanes were made daily and rarely, if ever were they stored for long periods of time, although with the introduction of the modern benefits of refrigeration, one may make large batches of tisanes and store them in air-tight glass containers to be used whenever needed, although as a general rule of thumb, it is suggested that tisanes stored in the fridge be consumed within less than a week to ensure potency.
What are tisanes made of?
Unlike tea which is made from only one kind of herb – tea leaves – tisanes are made from a profusion of herbal matter ranging from leaves, roots, bark, seeds, and even flowers. Tisanes can consist of only one kind of plant matter, or can be composed of a combination of herbs depending on its intended use. The herbs used to make tisanes may be dried or fresh, depending upon the availability, although dried herbs, being more potent, are preferred over fresh herbs. There are exceptions to this rule however, and it is best to check with an herbal guide to confirm the most potent state of herbs (whether dry or fresh) prior to creating a tisane.
How are tisanes made?
Tisanes are typically made in two ways: either through decoction or through infusion. Decoction, in plain-speak is boiling plant matter until all of its active compounds are extracted. While this is advisable when making tisanes that have roots, bark, or seeds as its primary components, decocting is not a good idea if you're making tisanes using fresh or dried herbs and flowers. This is because such plant matter is often very delicate, with oftentimes volatile compounds that are lost or otherwise denatured if exposed to high heat. When using fresh or dried leaves and flowers for tisanes, infusions (i. e. pouring hot water over the plant matter) are best. There may be recipes that call for both infused and decocted herbs, in which case the decoctions are best made first, and the ensuing hot liquid poured over the plant matter requiring infusion.
Main article researched and created by Alexander Leonhardt, © herbs-info.com 2013
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