What Are Herbal Infusions?
When you hear the term herbal Infusions in herbalism, it is referring to the process of steeping (soaking) herbs in water until the water absorbs the oils and flavors, then drinking the liquid for the taste or for the medicinal value. Think…drinking a cup of tea.
Herbal teas (or tisanes) can be thought of as weak infusions, while true infusions are sometimes called “long infusions” to distinguish them from teas or tisanes.
An herbal infusion is the simplest way to prepare the more delicate aerial parts of plants, especially their leaves and flowers. For herbal infusions, you can use a single herb or a combination of herbs. I always have fun experimenting with combinations of herbs and have come up with some very tasty medicinal brews.
What is a Long Herbal Infusion?
Long herbal infusions refer to the process of soaking plant material for significant lengths of time in order to draw out as much of its medicinal properties as possible.
The vitamin content of herbs has been studied to determine if longer soaks draw out more vitamins than short soaks.
What scientists found was that it takes at least four hours of soaking to extract a significant amount of vitamins and minerals into the water, and even longer (up to 8 hours) for roots or tougher plant material.
If, for example, you make a cup of nettle tea (1-2 teaspoons steeped in hot water for ten minutes), you would get about 5-10 mg of calcium, but if you make a cup of nettle long infusion (1 oz. steeped in 1 quart hot water for a minimum of four hours), you will get over 200 mg of calcium per cup. And not just the calcium, but all the nutritional cofactors necessary to effectively assimilate calcium, because calcium by itself is not well utilized by the body.
Note: It is important to recognize that not all herbs should be infused for long periods of time, as this can make some herbs unpalatable.
Long herbal infusions make for wonderful summer brews. I don’t know about you, but I love a nice glass of iced tea in the summer months, and long infusions are ideal for this. I love making sun tea, moon tea, or just letting herbs soak in water on my countertop overnight. I’ll strain these out the following day, add a bit of lemon, honey, or even an ice cube or two, and sip all day long.
Herbs to Use for Long Herbal Infusions
Overnight Mineral Herbal Infusion
- 1 pint mason jar
- 1 tbsp rosehips
- 1 tbsp alfalfa
- 1 tbsp oat straw
- 1 tbsp astragalus
- Filtered water
- In a 2 cup (or 1 pint) mason jar, add all herbs to the bottom of the jar and cover with room temperature, filtered water.
- Let sit on the counter (covered, optional) overnight or for at least 8 hours.
- In the morning, strain out the herbs and add a dash of honey or lemon if desired.
- Sip throughout the day for nutrient and mineral support.
What is a Hot Infusion?
Hot herbal infusions use heat to draw out the vitamins, enzymes, and aromatic volatile oils of the plants being infused.
A Few Herbs Good For Hot Infusions
Hot Infusion Method
Place 1 to 3 tablespoons of dried herbs in a strainer. Heat a cup of water until it boils. Place strainer in your cup. Pour the hot water over the herbs in your strainer and cover to keep the essential oils from evaporating. Steep for between 15 minutes to one our. Lift out strainer and compost herbs. Enjoy your hot infusion and all of the goodness that accompanies it!
Stress Relief Tea - Hot Infusion
- kettle to boil water
- mason jar or cup
- filter, strainer , or cheesecloth
- 2 tsp dried holy basil
- 1 tsp dried lemon balm
- 1 tsp dried chamomile
- 1 tsp dried lavender
- Combine all ingredients in a mason jar or cup
- Top with hot water
- Place a plate or top onto mason jar and let infuse for 20 minutes*
- Remove plate and filter tea through strainer or cheesecloth
- Add honey or sweetener if desired
- Sip and enjoy!
What is a Cold Infusion?
Cold herbal infusions are ideal for enjoying the benefits of mucilaginous herbs (those containing the slippery carbohydrate mucilage) and herbs with delicate essential oils.
A Few Herbs Good For Cold Infusions
- Roman chamomile
- Witch hazel bark
- Cascara sagrada bark
- Sumac bark
- Slippery elm bark
- Buckthorn bark
- Sarsaparilla roots
- Burdock root
- Comfrey roots
- Marshmallow root
Cold Infusion Method
Place 1 oz. of herbs tied in a muslin bag in a jar. Add 32 oz. of water. If dried herbs are used, dampen the herbs before infusing. Secure the bundle or herbs so that the bag floats in the top part of the water.
This method allows clear water to flow through the teabag, while the suffused water with herbal extractives is circulating downward. This “circulatory displacement” will then force the clear water back to the top of the jar where the herbs are floating.
After one or two nights, squeeze the bag of herbs into the tea. Some go by the 32 oz. of water, but some people use less because they like a stronger infusion. You can go by your taste.
Moon Tea - Cold Infusion by the Light of the Moon
- large muslin pouch to tie up herbs
- glass pitcher or mason jar
- Lemon balm
- Blessed thistle
- Cramp bark
- Lemon Balm
- Fill a large glass container or mason jar with 32 oz. water.
- Add 1 oz. of herbs tied in a muslin bag & hung so it floats in the water at the top of your jar.
- Set the water-filled container outdoors in the evening in a place that will receive the glow from the moon.
- Enjoy your slumber while the moon shines.
- Retrieve your jar the next day before the sun gets too high in the sky.
- Bring you jar indoors to keep it cool and fresh.
- Sip your cooling Moon Tea throughout the day.
- If you are making a full moon blend you may want to savour it over several days.
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