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. 

herbal infusions

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 over night.   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

hrbal infusions

Overnight Mineral Herbal Infusion

This mineral-rich overnight infusion uses astragalus root, alfalfa, oat straw, and rosehips. You can switch out alfalfa for nettle, and can be used interchangeably. Both alfalfa and oat straw are richly nutritive herbs, packed with vitamins and minerals, including vitamins E, K and C and trace amounts of manganese. Rosehips provide a concentrated dose of vitamin C, and the astragalus offers the deep immune support without being immune stimulating. This tea has a lovely flavor – little sweet, a little tart, a little earthy.
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Equipment

  • 1 pint mason jar

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tbsp rosehips
  • 1 tbsp alfalfa
  • 1 tbsp oat straw
  • 1 tbsp astragalus
  • Filtered water

Instructions
 

  • 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.
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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

  • Chamomile
  • Holy basil
  • Nettle
  • Peppermint
  • Ginger
  • Nettle
  • Skullcap
  • Red clover
  • Horsetail
  • Lavender
  • Raspberry leaf

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!

herbal infusions

Stress Relief Tea - Hot Infusion

Enjoy this blend of herbs that specifically target our nervous system to help decrease and balance our stress levels. Each herb has an individual effect helping to support the body in reducing stress!
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Prep Time 1 min
Total Time 20 mins
Course Drinks
Servings 1 Cup

Equipment

  • kettle to boil water
  • mason jar or cup
  • cover
  • filter, strainer , or cheesecloth

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tsp dried holy basil
  • 1 tsp dried lemon balm
  • 1 tsp dried chamomile
  • 1 tsp dried lavender

Instructions
 

  • 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!

Notes

*Covering the tea ensures that the volatile oils (the essential plant compounds) do not escape and get infused in the water.
Note: You can premix these ingredients in larger amounts, if desired. Feel free to add other herbs or play around with amounts.
Keyword herbal infusion, hot infusion, tea
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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
  • Mugwort
  • 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 tea bag, 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.

herbal infusions

Moon Tea - Cold Infusion by the Light of the Moon

Moon tea is similar to “sun tea” where you leave your jar of herbs in the sun for a few hours except that for this cold infusion, you’ll be leaving your “tea” in the light of a full moon. I love to use this as a full moon ritual to bring sacred feminine energy to the tea.
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Prep Time 5 mins
Servings 4 Glasses

Equipment

  • large muslin pouch to tie up herbs
  • glass pitcher or mason jar

Ingredients
  

  • Lemon balm
  • Motherwort
  • Blessed thistle
  • Cramp bark
  • Mint
  • Lemon Balm

Instructions
 

  • 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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