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Monday, March 23, 2009

Herbal Infusions

I've been making herbal infusions nearly daily. I have a lot of dried herbs and wild plants and so I've been using them to make herbal tea. There's a slight difference between a basic herbal tea and an infusion and that is the infusion steeps quite a bit longer.

It works like this, very simple. Put about a cup of dried herb into a quart jar. Add boiling water. Let it steep overnight or at least a number of hours. Strain.

And that's it. You have your vitamin/mineral tasty drink and the medicinal properties of the herb will have infused into the tea.

The last batch I made was catnip/lemon balm. That made a really nice relaxing tasty tea. It made me a bit sleepy so it was ideal for night-time drinking. I usually put my mason jars into the fridge once they've been steeped and strained. Then you can either drink it cold as I do or heat it up on the stove.

The batch I made yesterday is a nettle-sassafrass blend. I'm drinking some of the nettle infusion now, but I made a second quart with nettles and sassafrass because I want to ferment it and get the extra benefit of the lactic fermentation: numerous enzymes and anticarcinogenic substances. I've posted about this before here. This is a very easy thing to do, really all you need is the dried herbs. And some whey, if you want to ferment your infusions. I made the nettle-sassy blend according to the directions given by Kiva Rose in the post I linked. Once the nettles were strained and the sassafrass root removed from the infusion, I added some honey and a cup of whey. (Kiva Rose also describes how to get your own whey in that post.) I added about 4 chunks of ginger to the brew as well. It is fermenting now and will be ready in a few days.

I have never been a soda drinker--since I don't have a sweet tooth I find Cokes and everything of that nature to be way too sweet. The diet varieties are even worse, tasting chemically on top of the almost sickly-sweet. I do understand that most Americans love their pop and have a hard time giving it up. I sympathize because there are things I hate giving up too. But if you want to strengthen your health, enhance your health, perhaps fizzy fermented herbal infusions would offer you something tasty to drink that will benefit you rather than harm you.

The flavors you get would of course vary by the herb/root/seed concoction you start with, as would the medicinal properties. I like horsetail tea very much--it's mild and full of silica, which helps absorbtion of calcium and other minerals. Nettles make a delicious infusion with a very greeny sort of flavor--you can almost taste the vitamin/mineral inherent in it.

Here are some herb combinations I'll be trying in the next few days and weeks:

Pine/rosehip: pine for the vitamin C and rosehips for flavor (also high in Vit. C)
Mullein/mint: mullein is very soothing to the respitory system, which is always nice in cold weather, mint for the flavor
Horsetail/lemon balm: horsetail for the silica, lemon balm as a calming, flavorful addition
Skullcap/catnip/mint for a sleepy time brew
Juniper berries/mint: just to see what that flavor is all about
Nettles and just about anything else: yummy and very good for you.
Sumac berries/mint: I have a few sumac berry heads I both dried and froze. They made a great lemonade then and probably will make a nice lemony tasting tea.

Nettle infusions have been traditionally given to worn-down or convalescing patients, due to its high mineral content. Mints have made flavorful teas for eons. Really, any dried herb you have can be used.

This coming spring and summer, gather what wild herbs and plants you have fully identified. If you don't use them right away, then dry them and use them to make a winter's full of good, tasty, health-enhancing drinks.


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