The Art of Herbal Infusions

Infusions are, by far, one of the easiest ways to use herbs in your everyday life. The simple act of adding boiling water to your herbs will extract the majority of its medicinal constituents.  We’ve all prepared infusions from ready-made, shop-bought  teabags, but have you ever tried one from fresh or dried whole herb?  The flavour is incomparable, and that usually means it has a stronger medicinal component as well. (Many of the fragrant volatile oils are what give each plant their medical application).

Infusions are usually made from the more delicate parts of the plant- the aerial parts such as leaves, tips and flowers.  (If you are wanting to use some of the woodier parts, or the roots, consider that you will need to boil it for longer in a decoction-type brew).

To make an herbal infusion, you can use both fresh and dried herbs.  The herb should ideally be chopped up into fine pieces, which will allow for the greatest extraction of the medicinal components.

If it’s dried you are using, the ratio you wanting is around 1teaspoon of dried herb per 1Cup of boiling water.  If you are going to use fresh herbs straight from your garden, I would  suggest doubling this ratio to 2teaspoons of herb per 1Cup of boiling water.  (You need to use more of your fresh herb due to its water content; Herbs which have been dried correctly are more concentrated due to having their water levels dried out of them.)

General ratios when making an herbal infusion:

DRIED HERBS:  1 teaspoon of herb :  1 Cup Boiling Water

FRESH HERBS: 2 teaspoons of herb : 1 Cup Boiling Water

Of course, you can drink an herbal infusion at any time you desire.  After all, to sit for a moment with a warm drink is one of life’s greatest pleasures!  However, for medicinal application, when you drink the infusion, and how often, will have a great effect on its therapeutic effect;

 It is obvious that herbs which can help to calm you are best drunk before bed, but if you suffer from anxiety they are also great throughout the day instead of caffeinated drinks.

Some great anxiolytic herbs are Chamomile, Skullcap, Motherwort, and Lemon Balm.

Bitter and digestive herbs are best used BEFORE a meal, or even with it, and the carminative herbs such as fennel and peppermint, which can help relax the smooth muscles of the gut, are best taken AFTER a meal.

When I think of bitters or digestives, I can’t go past Dandelion Root, Ginger or Gentian.

Herbs that are taken for acute conditions such as a head cold or sinus should be drunk as hot as possible. This facilitates the release of the maximum levels of volatile oils, and the hot drink can also help to raise your temperature and fight any underlying viruses.

Some of the best herbs for acute conditions are Elderflower, Peppermint, Sage and Thyme.

On the contrary, herbs which are taken for chronic, congestive conditions such as skin conditions or detoxification, can be brewed and drunk cool or cold, several times per day. 

My favourite alterative herbs are Dandelion, Burdock, Red Clover, Nettle and Cleavers.

As a general rule of thumb, medicinal infusions should be drunk 1-4x per day, depending on the application.  If you are someone who loves to be constantly sipping at hot teas, I would suggest that you investigate the actions of the herbs which you are drinking, and make sure they are suitable to be drunk in this manner.

Alternatively, switch it up throughout the day and vary the herbs you are taking in.  This will create a more balanced approach, especially regarding the energetics of a plant. (for example, peppermint is very cooling, and too much of this throughout the day can impact your digestion and metabolism).