Lesson Plans

Sowing the Seeds of Neuroscience – Infusions & Decoctions: Preparing Plant Extracts

Created by : 
University of Washington

Students learn that many plants contain chemicals with medical properties, including neuroactive properties. These chemicals can affect the nervous system when an organism is exposed to the chemicals. Students learn how plants have been used around the world to treat illness and alter brain function.  In the lab portion, they use either an infusion or decoction laboratory procedure to make liquid that contains these plant chemicals. These plant extracts will be used in other labs in the Sowing the Seeds of Neuroscience curriculum. This lesson is part of the Sowing the Seeds of Neuroscience Series.

What’s In the Lesson Plan: 

  • Teacher instruction guide
  • Student handouts
  • Laboratory instructions
  • Extensions and additional resources

Grade Level(s): 


Student Skills Targeted: 

  • Understanding that the plant world is filled with species that contain chemicals with medical properties, including neuroactive properties
  • Understanding that chemicals in plants can be isolated to make medicines
  • Understanding that the nervous system controls and responds to body function and directs behavior

Time / Duration: 

  • 2 class periods, plus additional time for homework


  • Various plant materials and extracts
  • Copies of student handouts
  • Safety goggles and gloves
  • Beakers, jars, lab tape, pens, graduates cylinders, cheesecloth, foil, hot hand protectors, and stirring rods
  • Calibration method – balances and spoons

Alignment with National Standards: 

  • Next Generation Science Standards
  • Common Core Standards: English Language Arts


  • English