Herbal infusions are a gentle and refreshing way to nourish the body. Rarely does a client of mine leave consultation without being instructed on how to make herbal infusions and how important they are in restoring depleted nutrients. This article, an excerpt from a clients-only handout, focuses on the benefits of herbal infusions, how to make them, and where to obtain the necessary herbs.
What are Herbal Infusions?
An herbal infusion is basically a tea, herbs steeped in water for an arbitrary amount of time, and often drunk hot. The main difference between an herbal tea and a full strength herbal infusion is the amount of herbs that are used to make them, and the amount of time that they are left steeping. A lot more herbs are used in herbal infusions, and a much longer soak time is necessary in order to extract as many nutrients as possible from the herb matter. This full extraction is what makes herbal infusions so nourishing. They’re very easy to make, and require a minimum of equipment to put together.
The Basic Recipe
To make your own herbal infusions, you will need the following materials:
Whether you choose a quart jar with a standard or a wide mouth opening is up to you. Just make sure that it’s an actual mason jar. These are heat tempered and can stand boiling temperatures. Obviously take care when using glass, and do not put hot water into a cold jar.
My first strainer was a square of cheesecloth stretched across the top of the jar with the band part of the lid screwed down to hold it in place. It worked great, although the cheesecloth wouldn’t last very long before needing to be replaced. My current favorite for straining infusions is a seed sprouting lid. These are not expensive, and do a great job of separating liquid from herb matter. Look for one with the smallest gauge openings, designed for small seeds. Note that most seed sprouting lids are made for wide mouth jars.
There are a variety of herbs that you can use as the foundation for herbal infusions. They are characterized by their safety for long term use, nutritional value, and taste stability. My personal favorites are:
Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) - a green leafy herb known for the stinging hairs all over the stems and upper leaves. If not for those hairs, which cause a burning sensation when contacted, stinging nettle would be considered a superfood. Stinging nettle is rich in calcium, Vitamin A, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron, potassium, Vitamins C, K, and more. It is known for helping to lower blood sugar, blood pressure, assist with hay fever and skin allergies/issues, promote lactation, improve urinary and kidney health, and much more. Warnings: Those with diabetes should be aware of nettle’s blood sugar lowering capability. Pregnant women are often advised not to use stinging nettle, especially early in the pregnancy.
Oatstraw (Avena sativa) - made from the young seeds and leaves of the oat plant. Oatstraw has been used as a gentle nervine for hundreds of years. It helps to soothe frayed nerves, reduce anxiety, support heart health, may help boost cognition in the elderly (and the young), and is also known as a libido booster, especially for men. Oatstraw is loaded with calcium, and is also a source of iron, manganese, zinc, magnesium, potassium, and more. Oatstraw is believed to have a tonic effect on the body, which is to say that it makes you feel good!
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) Blossoms - a legume often used as a fodder crop, or as a cover crop for soil building and fertilizing purposes. Red clover is a highly useful and nutritive plant, known for its detoxifying effects on the blood, and clearing effects on the lungs and liver. Red clover is rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, B vitamins (1 & 3), and vitamin C. It’s also rich in gentle, beneficial phytoestrogens. This makes red clover an excellent women’s herb, helping to smooth menopausal transition and assist with difficult periods. Combined with its rich calcium levels, these plant estrogens can help to build bone mineral density, the loss of which can lead to osteopenia and osteoporosis. Red clover has also been linked to supporting heart health, helping to reduce high blood pressure, and assist with lymphatic skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. Any condition that arises from or is worsened by poor drainage in the body or poor liver function can benefit from red clover. Gout, skin rashes, hormonal acne, and rheumatoid arthritis all come to mind. The blossoms are chiefly used in teas and infusions. Leaves are fine, but the blossoms are more medicinal. The seeds can also be sprouted and eaten fresh.
Red Raspberry Leaf (Rubus idaeus) - Unsurprisingly, antioxidant rich red raspberry leaves are the silvery leaves of the raspberry plant. Truly a woman’s herb, red raspberry is traditionally known for assisting women through all stages of life, including pregnancy and menopause. It is rich in tannins and flavonoids, vitamin C, magnesium, and B vitamins. Red raspberry is thought to help tonify the uterus during pregnancy, assist with leg cramps and nausea, support menopause, and help with menstrual cramps. Red raspberry leaf’s astringent properties make it a useful herb for reducing the inflammation and discomfort of rashes, sunburn, and skin rashes when used externally. You can also use the infusion as a mouthwash to assist with swollen gums, mouth sores, and tonsillitis.
You can buy these herbs in bulk from sources like Mountain Rose Herbs, the Bulk Herb Store, Amazon, or possibly your local green market. This is definitely the time to buy organic. Remember that pesticides are sprayed onto the leaves of plants. Research has shown that it’s often impossible to wash these chemicals completely off. Since it is the leaves or blossoms that we’re using, it’s best to go organic and avoid the inevitable toxin intake that will come from using conventionally grown herbs.
Herb Infusion Instructions: Putting it All Together
In the herbalist world, the common instruction for making a full-strength herbal infusion is to add 1oz by weight of dried herb to a quart jar, and then cover it with boiling water, and leave it to sit for at least 4 hours. My own investigation into this has not yielded any research-backed information on how much herb should actually go into how much water for how much time. Depending on the herb, 1oz by weight of dried herb can fill your quart jar nearly halfway up, producing a small amount of sludge to drink and tearing through your bag of herb. Consequently, I suggest this tempered approach, which is easier on the budget, but will still yield a nutrient rich infusion.
To a quart jar, add:
Cover the jar tightly with a lid, and leave to steep for 4 hours. After that, change out the lid portion for your cheesecloth, using the band to hold it in place, or screw on your sprouting lid. Both will function as a strainer. And you’re done. It’s that easy. In my opinion these infusions are best tasting on ice, and my clients overwhelmingly drink their infusions this way. You can drink it hot or at room temperature if you wish, but don’t ever boil the infusion again! It will destroy some of the nutritional content.
Alternate a different infusion each day in order to best maximize your nutrition intake. It also gives your body a nice break to process the nutrients received from each infusion without overloading the body.
Your goal is to finish a quart of infusion EVERY DAY; however, if you don’t quite finish it, put the jar into the fridge, and finish it off the next day. After 48 hours, the nutritional value can begin to diminish, so drink off your infusion before then.
I don’t recommend mixing these foundational herbs together into one infusion. I know that sounds tempting, but it’s not a good shortcut. You want each infusion to be nice and potent, which won’t happen if you’re using small quantities of each herb. Also, the resulting infusion is likely to taste… interesting. It is possible to create blends, though.
Herbal Infusion Blends
Now for some fun! Mixing foundational herbs in an infusion is diminishing; however, it’s perfectly fine to create blends with other herbs in order to create better taste and to maximize health benefits. Never lessen the amount of foundation herb added to the quart jar. Rather, the accompanying herbs should be added on top of the foundation, functioning as sidekicks.
There is a lot of play in this area. Before experimenting, be sure to look up the herbs that you want to combine, checking for any cross-indications with meds that you’re taking, opposite effects from one herb to the next, or opposing energies. You want your herbs to work synergistically, not argue with each other.
Clients Only Privilege!
If you're an active client, then your copy of this handout will include some fun blends that I've created over the years, and used to sell at farmers markets. Contact me for your copy! If you're not a client with active status and are ready to take back your health, then see this page for details on how to schedule a consultation.
Celebrating your Health
Editor's Note: The information in this article is not intended to diagnose or treat illness. Always do your research before using an herbal remedy to ensure that there are no allergy risks or cross indications with any prescription medications that you are taking. See your doctor before starting any new treatments or programs. Anything that you learn from Prairie Hawk Botanica, its blog, or Jennifer Capestany must be considered informational only. You own yourself.
Author: Jennifer Capestany
Jennifer is a clinical herbalist and health coach, specializing in autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. Her interest in plant medicine led Jennifer to spend years studying herbology, physiology, and nutrition. She works one-on-one with her clients via her herbalist and health coaching business, Prairie Hawk Botanica. Jennifer lives on a homestead in rural Texas with her husband, 2 children, and various animals. In her spare time she loves to be in her large herb and vegetable garden. Sharing herb knowledge and her love of natural healing with others is her calling.
I'm Jennifer Capestany, a clinical herbalist and freelance writer with a practice in North Texas. Helping people deal as naturally as possible with rheumatoid arthritis, chronic illness and other chronic conditions is my calling.