Not the same as herbal teas, though there are obviously some similarities. Think of an infusion as a more powerful version of the tea and you won’t be far off.
We all know that drinking certain herbal teas at certain times can help with certain things (certainly!) For example, drinking Chamomile tea before bed will generally help you to sleep better. Drinking peppermint tea after dinner will help you digest your meal more effectively (with less discomfort). Drinking Echinacea tea at the first signs of a cold can help reduce the effects of said cold and indeed shorten its time span. These are just a few examples. There are, of course, dozens of teas out there to try. Just take a look in your regular supermarket tea aisle to start with, or if you have a health store, they will have an even bigger selection. With so much choice, where do you start? Well, a suggestion would be do you want a tea to address an issue, such as indigestion, trouble sleeping, bloating, etc., or do you simply want a tea that is healthy (no caffeine) and tastes great?
If it is just a great tasting tea you are looking for then first decide what flavors you like – mints, berries, herbs…and then try a few. Some may need a little honey to sweeten them, some are perfectly fine without. I love Stash’s Wild Raspberry tea; you do have to let it steep for a good 6-7 minutes to let all the flavor come out, but once you do, oh my, it is the best and no sweetening needed!
IF, however, it is a health or emotional issue you are trying to address, then you may want to explore infusions a little further. As I said, you can consider them a more powerful version of a store bought tea, but they are not complicated to make yourself.
The trick with herbal infusions is the amount of time to steep the herbs – too long and it can cause you to feel quite unwell, which is clearly not desired. You must, therefore, use a recipe from a source that you trust. I have found some great ideas on Pinterest.com by searching for “herbal tea infusion recipes”. Be sure to follow the recipe to the letter!
You do not need much equipment, just a glass jar with a tight lid (Ball jars are perfect), boiling water and your herb/s of choice. In teas you generally only see the leaves of an herb used, however in infusions all parts of the plant can be used – bark, roots, stems, flowers, etc. This also makes it a much more powerful concoction as it draws from more parts of the plant.
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 those beneficial compounds in the 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 time recommended by the infusion recipe. In general, roots and barks require the longest infusion (or a decoction) of about 8 hours. Leaves should be infused for a minimum of 4 hours, flowers for 2 hours, and seeds and fresh berries for at least 30 minutes.
- Strain the spent herbs out of the water using cheesecloth or a fine-mesh strainer (or both). Repeat if necessary to remove all of the pieces of herbs.
- The resulting liquid is called an infusion. Clean out the jar and pour the infusion back into it for storage. An infusion can be refrigerated for up to 48 hours. After this, it should be discarded.
If you want to do this frequently and to avoid the straining, you can make a sachet to contain the herbs during the steeping process. 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. Just like a tea bag! You can even let the string hang over the side for easy removal.
If you have tried all that and are still curious for more, you can start investigating tinctures and decoctions, but we’ll leave that for another day. Happy tea drinking!