Teas, Herbal Infusions and Nourishing Herbal Infusions.
What’s the difference between them?
Teas are most folk’s introduction to herbal remedies. Almost everyone has had an experience with plants and flowers steeped in water to hydrate the body and delight the tongue. Water carries water soluble chemicals like caffeine and flavor chemicals which we humans use to our delight. The pleasure derived from a cup of hot tea has inspired poetry and commerce around the globe.
What is a tea?
Tea is a beverage made from a small amount of fresh or dried plant steeped in hot or cold water. The plants used most often contain volatile oils and aromatics that are easily released into water. These chemicals are held in the plant between the cell walls and flow easily and quickly into the steeping water, delivering flavor, aroma and sometimes chemicals like caffeine.
Tea can be made with many different plants. Camellia Sinensis is the plant that makes the tea that launched a thousand ships, inspiring a global industry and economy. But there are also thousands of locally grown aromatic plants available that make delightful or useful beverages. The mint family for example, is one of the more well-known plant families for beverages. The range of volatile oils in the mint family plants gives forth to a large variety of flavors. Some of the volatile oils in the plants influence the body like calming the nervous system or soothing an upset stomach and some chemicals like caffeine have a stimulating effect on the body.
To make a tea, you take a small amount of fresh or dried plant material and steep it in water for 5-10 minutes. Steeping too long can extract too much of the volatile oils from the plant making it taste bitter or acrid.
What are Infusions?
Infusions are made from nutritive plants that do not contain volatile oils. The plants used for infusions are nutrient-rich plants that don’t have a strong smell. They contain large quantities of vitamins, proteins, minerals, and polysaccharides.
Whereas teas are made with fresh or dried plants, Infusions are made exclusively from dried plants. By drying the plants, the cell walls are broken and the nutritive properties, the vitamins, minerals, proteins antioxidants and the like are unlocked and flow into the water making them bioavailable to the body when drunk.
Infusions also use a large quantity of plant material.
Infusions use 1oz by weight of dried plant material to 1QT boiling water and are steeped for 4-10 hours. This long steeping time allows all the water-soluble nutrients to go into solution.
After the 4-10 hours steeping, the infusion is strained, the plant matter squeezed to get out as much liquid as possible then composted and the liquid is refrigerated. The infusion is rich in proteins that will spoil in about 36-48 hours if left at room temp.
The infusion can then be drunk cold, warmed, sweetened, added to juice, whatever it takes to get it in. The infusion can be drunk up to a quart a day depending on the plant and the person’s need.
Examples of plants taken as infusions are marshmallow, rose hip, hawthorn berry leaf and flower, violet, mullein, chickweed, plantain, burdock root, hibiscus
Note that these plants do not contain volatile oils.
What are Nourishing Herbal Infusions?
Nourishing Herbal Infusions are Highly nutritive plants brewed at infusion strength and drunk daily as a source of nutrition. I use 5 plants for my Nourishing Herbal Infusions.
Nettle, oatstraw, red clover, comfrey leaf, Linden leaf and flower. These plants are like consuming foods and supply the body with abundant vitamins minerals and proteins.
Nettle leaf nourishes the kidneys and supplies longstanding energy.
Oatstraw nourishes the nervous system and hormones and may help support good sleep.
Red Clover supports the endocrine system and is rich in phytosterols.
Linden leaf and flower help modulate chronic inflammation and soothe mucous membranes
And domestic Comfrey Leaf, not the root or wild comfrey leaf, nourishes the bones and ligaments and tendons.
To make NHI, use the formula for infusion above, 1oz dried plant by weight to 1QT boiling water steeped 4-10 hours.
Drink up to a quart a day of these. Rotating throughout the week insures you get a variety of plant nourishment for good health.
Drink cold, hot, sweetened, added to juice, made into soup, with miso, however you want to get it in you.
The idea is to drink these daily to supply your body with ample nutrition for optimum functioning. Tired? Maybe have nettle more often. Poor sleep? Oatstraw might be a more frequent beverage for you.
At first these brews taste strong to some folk, delightful to some. It may take a few tries to get used to a new food so if at first your infusion tastes strong to you, give it a few days to see if you get used to it. You might find that after say 3 tries, the infusion tastes less strong or foreign. Of course, if you have a bad reaction stop drinking the infusion and try a different plant.
To sum up water-based preparations, teas are used for fresh or dried plants with volatile oils and water-soluble alkaloids
Infusions are used for dried plants with more nutritive properties and no volatile oils.
Nourishing Herbal Infusions are used for Highly nutritive plants using dried plant material and are considered a food source.