Herbal infusions are an easy way to make a potent drink and extract the oils and flavors from our favorite herbs. It's a method used often in natural remedies like tonics and is a nice alternative to herbal capsules and pills. Herbal infusions are a wonderful way to enjoy early spring herbs as well.
As you learn the many ways that you can use your herb garden for your health as well as home and beauty products, you will discover the usefulness of infusions.
They're quite easy to make and require more time than effort, but most of that time is simply spent waiting.
What is an Herbal Infusion?
Whenever you make tea, you are actually making an infusion. These strong herbal infusions are made with the same method. The difference is that the herbs are allowed to steep for longer (often many hours), which is why these are sometimes also called 'long infusions.'
The longer infusion extracts more of the beneficial properties and nutrients from the herbs, barks, roots, and flowers that are used. We also trap the steam and heat inside the jar to bring out more of those elements.
Herbal infusions can be used for a variety of purposes.
- You can drink it for the medicinal value and enjoy it either cold or rewarmed.
- Infusions are used in many homemade cosmetics and remedies such as topical salves.
- They can make an appearance in natural and organic home products such as garden fertilizers and bug repellents.
- An infusion of garlic and cayenne pepper does wonders for keeping rabbits away from your plants.
Popular medicinal infusion ingredients include nettle, comfrey, mullein, red clover, and oat straw. However, each of these should be used with caution and it is generally best to use just one at a time.
To make a great tasting infusion, common herbs include chamomile, ginger, and any of the mints.
It is important to remember that some herbs can be harmful if you consume too much, an infusion is too long, or the wrong herbs are combined. For this reason, please do your research for any infusion and the herbs used if you intend to drink it. It's best to follow recipes from trusted sources and pay attention to any warnings given.
Consult your physician or herbalist before drinking infusions.
How to Make an Herbal Infusion
Herbal infusions take very little time to prepare, but you will have to wait for it to steep thoroughly. Be sure to follow the recommended times and measurements in your herbal infusion recipe.
In order to make an herbal infusion, you will need three things:
- 1 tablespoon dried herb of your choice
- 1 cup boiling hot water
- Glass jar with a tight lid (make sure it is very clean)
The herbs and water can be increased to make a larger infusion if you like. Many people choose to make 1 quart at a time and this would require about 1 cup of dried herbs for 1 quart of water. Yet, when you're first preparing an infusion, the smaller volume would be best so you don't waste it if you don't like it.
While making the infusion, be sure to keep the jar covered at all times to contain the steam. The heat that's trapped inside is crucial to releasing all of those beneficial compounds in your herbs.
- Place the herbs in a glass container.
- Pour boiling water over the herbs so they are completely covered.
- Seal the jar with a tight-fitting lid to keep the steam and volatile oils from escaping.
- Allow the infusion to steep until the water cools to room temperature or for the recommended amount of time for your infusion recipe.
- Strain the spent herb using cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer (or both). Repeat if necessary to remove all of the herbs.
- The resulting liquid is called an infusion. Clean the jar and pour the infusion inside.
- An infusion can be refrigerated for up to 48 hours.
If you want to contain the herbs within the jar, make a sachet. Place the herbs inside a small piece of cheesecloth, tie it closed with a string, and place the bundle inside your jar of boiling water. You can even let the string hang over the side for easy removal. In this case, straining is not needed.
In general, roots and barks require the longest infusion (or a decoction) of about 8 hours. Leaves can be infused for a minimum of 4 hours, flowers for 2 hours, and seeds and fresh berries for at least 30 minutes.
What is a Decoction?
If a stronger beverage is desired, that is called a decoction. Decoctions are used most often for roots, barks, dried berries, and other plant materials that require stronger, more prolonged heat for the oil extraction.
To make a decoction, combine the herbs and water in a small saucepan. Cover with a lid and slowly bring to a simmer. Allow the mix to simmer gently for 20-45 minutes (or according to your recipe). Remove from the heat, strain, and pour into the storage jar.