Many people often have the mistaken idea that brewing Chinese medicine herbs is like cooking soup – throw everything together in the pot, stir a few times and let it cook for some long time, and indeed, sometimes preparing the herbal concoctions is pretty much the same . However there are times when the brewing procedure differs, and it is necessary to take note of them to ensure that the right results are obtained.
Starting off with the pot to be used, a clay pot is generally preferred over metal pots. Preliminary studies have indicated that cooking in clay pots may produce more effective treatments. Why is this so? The most popular hypothesis for this is that the rough surface of clay pots provides a greater surface area where chemical reactions between released compounds from the herbs can occur, with the clay acting as a catalyst for such reactions. Another noteworthy hypothesis is that clay itself is rich in minerals, which either act as catalysts or as part of the nourishing component of the soup. Whatever the reason is, my teacher would point out that in the olden days, the Chinese always used clay pots to brew their medicine so if we wanted similar results, then following them would be the way to go.
Dried herbs really take up much space in the pot, therefore the next step of soaking the herbs is to allow them to soften and become more compact, after which it would be easier to push them into the water.
Then comes the most important step – the cooking process. Usually, your doctor would have advised you on how best to cook the herbs, and it is important that his or her instructions are clearly remembered. One thing to take note of is the order in which herbs are to be cooked. There are herbs that have to be cooked before the others, while there are herbs that should only be added in relation to the end. This reason for this is that some herbs have undesirable effects that can be avoided by the longer cooking time while some herbs have desirable effects that would have been destroyed by prolonged heating. Another piece of information to look out for is the length of cooking time. It usually ranges from twenty minutes to forty minutes, depending on the nature of the illness and the herbs used. Overcooking may affect the properties of the herbs while undercooking would result in a diluted solution that would not reach effective treatment levels in your body.
The effectiveness of Chinese medicine is dependent on the way the medicinal concoction was prepared. Only by following the correct brewing procedures, then will the effectiveness of Chinese medicine be materialized.