I thought it was just tea?
A tea bag steeping for a few minutes is wonderful daily ritual. In herbalism your tea is also called an herbal infusion. And there are actually many other ways to make herbal infusions! Why not just stick to the common tea method, right? Well, each method of infusion draws out different benefits of the plant. Water extracts and breaks down the plant material but time and temperature are also important factors. I want this to be a simple guide to introduce some of the concepts of herbal infusions while also giving some reasons as to why.
Type, Benefits, Methods:
🐝 Cold Infusion: When exploring cold infusion you may think of sun tea! And you are exactly right. This method allows you to enjoy a whole new side of herbs. Many times we use (but not limited to) mucilaginous herbs like marshmallow, fenugreek, peppermint, hibiscus, and mullein. This is because the heat does not allow the fullness of the mucilaginous properties to be extracted. Chamomile is also a favorite in the summer for a refreshing sun tea. This method also extracts polysaccharides, volatile oils, a higher presence of antioxidants, and catechins. This allows us to enjoy the benefits of herbs that promote tissue healing and anti-inflammatory properties. However, cold infusions do not extract tannins but this is also why its less bitter.
Method: Honestly I don't do anything fancy here. Simply put about a 1-3 TBS of dried herbs in a quart-sized mason jar, fill it with filtered water and cover the top of the jar. The next day I strain the herbs and enjoy! Just remember to not leave it on your counter for too long and refrigerate the infusion once it's ready to enjoy.
🐝 Hot Infusion: This is probably the most familiar herbal infusion method with a wide variety of commonly-known botanic options. These include chamomile, mints, nettles, and oat straw. The benefits of hot infusions extract tannins, lactones, iridoids, minerals. This means the extraction is very nutrient dense. This is a perfect ritual we can adopt to nourish our bodies.
Method: in a quart mason jar place 1-3 TBS of dried herbs. Pour boiling water in the jar until it is full. Stir the herbs to be fully saturated in water. Cover the jar so none of the volatile oils escape and steep for 15-60 minutes (depending on herbs and taste). Enjoy immediately or save it for later for a few days in the fridge.
🐝 Decoction: this method is mostly used on denser herbs like roots, dried berries, barks, some seeds, and rhizomes. Due to their density it requires more heat and time to draw out the water-soluble nutrients, oils, and volatile compounds. (Although some barks are fat-soluble but that is a different topic for later! )
Method: place 3 TBS of dried herbs into a sauce pan and fill with cold water to desired amount. Keep in mind some water will evaporate. Bring to a gentle boil then place your lid on your pot, lower the temperature to let the herbs simmer for 20-45 minutes. Once finished, you can add softer herbs for a few minutes if you are making a dynamic tea. Strain into a jar. If your jar of decoction is not full you can add more filtered water. It is good to note that some of these herbs used for decoction can be used multiple times. For best results store the used herbs in the refrigerator and use within a few days.
As a reminder, while each method extracts its unique profile, the herb itself will also contribute its own unique attributes which may cause variations in steep time.
Hopefully this post can show you that herbalism isn't always intimidating as you begin to explore botanicals in your daily life!
Disclaimer: This post does not include medical advice or herbal doses. Please use discretion and other sources to determine what is best for you.