Long Herbal Infusions - Fig + Flora Apothecary
Long herbal infusions are one of the most delicious & nourishing ways to enjoy herbal brews. In the summer months, sipping on a piping hot cup of tea is not my ideal way to enjoy herbs. Instead, I make herbal blends to let sit under the warm summer sun and infuse on those hot days, or leave some herbal formulas on my counter top, soaking in room temperature, distilled water. I’ll strain these out the following day, add some ice cubes, and sip all day long.
Herbal infusions have been used for thousands of years. Many of us create them regularly when we brew tea which is an infusion of tea leaves. However, while there's a lot to love about popping the kettle on, it's just one of the countless options you can experiment with when crafting delicious herbal preparations.
Not sure where to start?
The best place to begin is to think about what nutritional goals you want to achieve. Are you looking to support digestion? Balance hormones? Or maybe you just want a soothing nourishing drink that is different from your everyday beverage! The answer will determine not just what herbs you use, but also the method you use to make the most of these herbs.
Nourishing long herbal infusions ( my personal favorite) provide large quantities of vitamins, calcium and other minerals, essential fatty acids and proteins in their most natural form. They're also full of antioxidants and anti-cancer phytochemicals, as well as combinations of specific nutrients for calming the nerves, healthy bones, supporting the immune system, improving digestion and much, much more, depending on the herbs you choose. They are much more effective than nutritional supplements due to their superior absorbability.
Taken over time, long herbal infusions can heal anxiety, adrenal burnout, lymphatic stagnation, eczema, allergies, hormonal imbalances etc… Please note that there are other herbal preparations that can be used to heal some of these conditions and that the choice of herb matters. However, all nourishing long infusions provide large amounts of nutrition that cannot be met from topical applications, tinctures or teas. Drinking long herbal infusions helps people to have more energy and resilience during stressful times. People sleep better because they have enough nutrients to soothe and support their nervous system.
Why a long infusion, rather than a cup of tea?
Because you can get certain nutrients out of a dried plant only after soaking it in hot water for a long time. Scientific studies have shown that it takes at least four hours for a significant amount of minerals to extract into the water, and longer (up to eight hours) for roots, which are tougher and take longer to release their medicinal constituents into the water. If you make a cup of stinging nettle tea (1-2 teaspoons steeped in hot water for five to ten minutes), you would get approximately 5-10 mg of calcium, but if you make a cup of nettle long infusion (1 oz. steeped in 1 quart hot water for four hours), you will get over 200 mg of calcium per cup. And not just the calcium, but all the nutritional factors necessary to effectively assimilate calcium, because calcium by itself is not well utilized by the body.
Not all herbs lend themselves to a useful preparation as a long infusion.
A long brew makes some herbs unpalatable. This is nature’s way of saying you don’t need that much of those strong medicinal constituents, and that this preparation may even be harmful. When I was first learning about herbalism, I was fascinated learning about the wonders of long infusions and thought yes, this is the way to go 100%! Well, I made myself a valerian long infusion. Guess what happened? I learned that long infusion isn’t always the way to go! I spit it out nearly instantly - the word “disgusting” comes to mind! That is because Valarian contains a larger number of medicinal constituents that are sedating, and a smaller number that are primarily nourishing – just the opposite of what we want in a long infusion.
The takeaway: Long infusions are incredible if you use the right herbs!
Although valerian and many other herbs are too strong to prepare as a long infusion, it does work quite well as a tincture and tea. Herbs that are aromatic, intensely bitter or otherwise strongly stimulating/sedating are better as teas, tinctures or other preparations. Examples of herbs that are safe as teas but that could be harmful as a long infusion are chamomile & lavender.
Herbs that do make effective long infusions have the following properties:
One, their medicinal constituents (phytochemicals) are primarily nutritive rather than sedating. This is what gives nourishing long infusions their characteristic tastes: earthy, sweet or bland. Two, their medicinal constituents are best extracted into water (rather than alcohol, like in tinctures for example). There are many herbs to choose from, depending on your needs.
Nourishing long herbal infusions can be enjoyed as a one-off to provide nutrition, to improve your energy levels throughout the day. They can also be used regularly as part of a healthy routine. Some people like variety, while others stick with one herb over a length of time as a tonic to help treat a particular condition (2 cups daily for a minimum of eight weeks).
Although I encourage my clients long infusions it’s important to know what herbs to use and what herbs to stay away from. I’ll talk more about this on my next blog.
I’ll also be adding how to videos soon on my IG account.
Thank you for reading!