What is an herbal infusion?
An herbal infusion is the process of soaking herbs in either hot or cold water, to extract their nutritional and medicinal benefits. If this sounds like making herbal tea then you are absolutely right.
What distinguishes an herbal tea from an herbal infusion is that an herbal infusion will generally call for a greater quantity of herb and longer steep times.
For example most herbal teabags contain 2 gm of herb, whereas an herbal infusion will generally call for 5 gm, (1 teaspoon) of herb per cup of water. If you want to relax and enjoy a cup of chamomile tea, you might steep for 3-5 minutes to ensure the more subtle flavours of the flowers come through without it being too bitter. Herbal infusion times can range from 10 minutes to overnight long infusions.
Ideally a glass, ceramic or porcelain container should be used to contain your infusion. Aluminium or other metallic containers can interact with elements in plant materials such as tannins, gallic acid and astringent constituents.
To make a hot herbal infusion:
You will need:
- Fresh or dry herbs: leaves/flowers
- Hot water – just off the boil
- Teapot, tea-ball or strainer
If you are using dry cut herbs use 1 teaspoon of herb per cup of hot water. If you are using fresh herbs, use 2 teaspoons of herb per cup of hot water.
- Bring water to the boil. If you are using a teapot use a little of the boiling water to warm your teapot and empty.
- Place your herbs in your tea-ball or infuser and place inside your cup or teapot.
- Leave the boiled water to sit for a minute before pouring it over your herbs. Using water ‘just off the boil’ ensures that delicate flowers and leaves are not burnt and all of their phyto-nutrients are retained.
- Cover to prevent any volatile oils from escaping in the steam.
- Allow to infuse for at least 10 minutes before drinking.
Infusions should be used within 12 hours or 48 hours if refrigerated.
Nutrient-rich herbal infusions
Longer steep times allow for more of the vitamins, minerals and phyto-nutrients of the herbs to be extracted. Herbal infusions offer a very convenient and economical means of extracting the maximum benefit from your herbs. That said, it is also important to enjoy your infusions, so if you find that 1 teaspoon of herb per cup is too bitter for your palette, then use less herbs. Although herbal infusions are made primarily for their medicinal benefits they are also made to be enjoyed.
Stronger is not always better
Unless herbs have been prescribed for you, it is recommended that you learn about the herbs you are using. Some herbs are stronger than others and will have an affinity for a specific organ, can be relaxing or stimulating, or even both relaxing and stimulating. The bottom line is you do not want to over-stimulate an organ, or use herbs that can be a little harsh on their own but wonderful in small amounts with soothing healers.
If you are going to be making herbal infusions the nutritive herbs such as nettle, chickweed and oat straw are generally good choices for longer infusions.