An infusion, or tea, is one of the most powerful herbal preparations. This is because in tea form, the body does not have to work to absorb its nutritional and medicinal properties. When a herbal infusion is ingested it can be directly assimilated into the body and immediately go to work where it is needed. It is critical that every herbalist knows how to prepare a herbal infusion.
Tea vs Infusion
The terms tea and infusion are used interchangeably much of the time. I personally will use the term “tea” when I am preparing herbs that I plan to drink as a healthy addition to my diet and the term “infusion” when I am preparing herbs for use medicinally in some manner.
A herbal tea is basically a weak infusion, drank throughout the day either for the great taste or for whatever healthy qualities that particular herb can offer.
When using herbs for medicinal purposes, I will typically prepare my infusion slightly different than I would if I were simply planning to enjoy a cup of tea. For this reason I have listed the two processes separately.
Steam Distilled Water
When working with herbs, you will always want to make your infusions and other herbal preparations with steam distilled water if at all possible. Steam distilled water can be purchased at most grocery and health food stores or you can make your own at home if you wish. There are even water distillers that can be purchased for use at home.
David Christopher MH, director of the School of Natural Healing, calls steam distilled water a “hungry water” because it contains no minerals and it is able to draw out the maximum medicinal qualities from the herb with ease. When water with heavy mineral content is used, its ability to pull the nutritional and medicinal value is not as great. Minerals will also build up in the body over time.
Stainless Steel Cookware
You will want to use stainless steel cookware when creating your herbal preparations. Glass and Earthenware are also acceptable.
When aluminum or cast iron cookware is used, the distilled water will draw minerals from the cookware as well as from the herbs into your preparations and the full medicinal potential of the herb will not be utilized.
Fresh Herbs for Tea – To make a herbal infusion using the leaves or flowers of fresh herbs, start by boiling a pot of steam distilled water. As your water is heating up, use this time to get your fresh herbs ready.
Unless preparing a tea for a specific herbal formula, exact measurements are not necessary since the tea will end up being pretty much the same in the end even without perfect measurements. A good guideline is 1 ounce fresh herb to 1 cup distilled water.
Put your leaves or flowers into a cup or jar, pour the boiling water over the herb, cover and let steep. Steeping time will depend upon how strong you like your tea. Leaves should steep approximately 10 to 20 minutes, flowers will be less, and steep about 5 minutes.
The steam from the boiling distilled water is the power in the process of steeping. It is pulling the nutritional or medicinal value from your herb. For this reason it is essential to keep your tea or infusion covered during this process to ensure the oils and nutrients are pulled to their maximum extent.
When steeping is complete, strain out the leaves or flowers with a stainless steel strainer or cheesecloth, sweeten with a little honey or pure maple syrup if desired and enjoy!
Dried Herbs for Tea – When making teas using dried herbs, the process is the same as above. A good measurement guideline is to use the proportion of 1 teaspoon dried herb to 1 cup distilled water.
If I am intending to use a tea for a medicinal use, I will follow all the same processes as above but I will steep my herbs in a glass jar with the lid tightly sealed. This is to be sure to keep all the steam within the jar to get the maximum medicinal value extracted out of my herbs and into my infusion.
I will generally steep the herbs longer for a stronger infusion. Depending on the formula and recipe I am using, steeping can be anywhere from 30 minutes to 8 hours.
Infusions can also be made using tinctured herbs. Depending on the herb in question, adding 10 to 30 drops tinctured herb to warmed distilled water will also make an excellent ready to use infusion. Check with a qualified herbalist for exact proportions.
Cold Infusions and Extracts – Some herbs that contain volatile oils are better used as a cold infusion so as to retain their most volatile properties while extracting only small amounts of the mineral salts and bitter principles. This procedure will work best will soft plant parts such as flowers, aromatic herbs, and minced seeds, barks or roots. Examples of aromatic herbs include Lavender, Chamomile and Peppermint.
A cold extract can be made letting the herbs steep in cold water for 8 to 12 hours. Typical proportions are 2 tablespoons herb per 1 cup water.
All herbs will begin to lose their nutritional and medicinal value when heated above approximately 130 degrees Fahrenheit however, some herbs will begin to lose these qualities at lower temperatures.
When working with herbs, especially medicinally, it is always best to have a good knowledge of all the herbs before formulating any type of treatment plan.
DIY Sun Tea
Sun tea can be made by putting 1 cup herb mixture of your choice (or about 12 tea bags) into a gallon jar of unheated distilled water. Seal the jar and set it out in direct sunlight. The sun will generate enough heat to steep the herbs.
Depending on the strength you like your tea, the steeping process can take anywhere from 4-6 hours to a few days. After steeping, simply strain out the herb, sweeten if desired and your tea is ready to use.
Sun tea can make an excellent iced tea. One of my family’s favorites is sun tea made with spring dandelions. We steep the dandelions in 3/4 gallon of water and after steeping and straining, 1 quart organic apple juice is added to sweeten. The kids love the taste and I love how nutritious it is for them!
Herbal Infusion – Nature’s Perfect Solution
The Earth gives us an abundant variety of herbs to choose from, all with their own unique “super powers.” The herbal combinations that can be made into teas and infusions are almost infinite, which enables us to create teas and infusions for almost any purpose imaginable. This makes teas and infusions nature’s perfect tool.
The body can absorb and utilize herbs in infusion form so they can immediately go to work. Herbs can give us all the nutrients each part of our body craves but they can also target areas in need. This makes infusions one of the most powerful tools in a herbalist’s arsenal.
Having the knowledge to create even basic herbal teas and infusions can literally mean the difference between life and death in some situations.
Share your favorite herbal teas and infusion combinations in the comments below. Have you used herbal infusions for medicinal purposes? I would love to hear of your experiences!