Learn to make highly nutritious herbal drinks and reap the benefits of five healthy, restorative herbs.
Herbal Infusions are one of the simplest and least expensive healthful additions you can make to your daily routine. Similar to a tea, infusions involve minimal ingredients: herbs and water. However, this wholesome drink requires a longer steeping process than tea — anywhere from four to 10 hours before the final product is ready. It is also typically consumed in large quantities, up to a gallon a day.
1. Nettle (Urtica Dioica)
Actions: Alterative, analgesic, antihistamine, anti-hypertensive, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent, blood tonic, diuretic, expectorant, galactagogue, hemostatic, nutritive
Nettle has a long and thorough history of use across cultures and eras alike, as it grows easily in many climates, flourishing wherever it takes root. Known as a powerhouse of chlorophyll, vitamins, formic acid and serotonin, nettle’s fibrous body can be used to create cloth and paper. Nettle is an energy builder and a circulatory stimulant, meaning it aids in getting the blood pumping through the extremities, which is helpful for anyone suffering from aching and painful limbs or joints, as well as arthritis, gout and rheumatism. As a blood builder and tonic, the herb benefits the liver, kidneys and gallbladder by restoring depleted vitamins and minerals while removing toxins from the body. Highly nourishing, nettle assists in rebuilding the adrenals, fighting infections, reducing inflammation and even treating urinary issues.
Infusion: Nettle is recommended to women postpartum for its nutritive and breast-milk-enhancing properties. It is also a vital companion for anyone struggling with calcium depletion, arthritis, allergies and muscle pain.
Nettle can be found growing wild and is identified by its heart-shaped leaves with serrated edges, small green flowers and fruits that bear only one seed. Before the plant is cooked or dried, nettle leaves sting. Always wear gloves and long sleeves when handling the fresh plant.
2. Oatstraw (Avena Sativa)
Actions: Anti-cholesterol, antibiotic, antidepressant, antioxidant, antispasmodic, carminative, cardiac, cooling, demulcent, diaphoretic, diuretic, emollient, febrifuge, nervine, nutritive, poultice, stimulant, tonic, vulnerary
Oatstraw is considered a full-body tonic, as it builds immunity and provides energy. It has a sweet, gentle taste, and its nervine and antidepressant properties help fight daily fatigue and exhaustion. Oatstraw is renowned for its ability to combat stress and anxiety, alleviate insomnia, lower cholesterol, promote heart health and provide a natural resistance to disease and illnesses. The herb has a balancing effect on hormones, specifically in the regulation of estrogen, and has been used to alleviate lethargy in people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Oatstraw works on a musculoskeletal level, renewing bones and alleviating muscle spasms. It is high in magnesium, making it an excellent companion for athletes, and contains a plethora of vitamins, plus alkaloids, wheat protein, calcium and iron.
Infusion: Oatstraw is the perfect infusion for the beginning of the day as it has an energizing effect. It is great for women and men alike and especially beneficial for those with nervous exhaustion or struggling with anxiety or depression. Oatstraw is renowned for women postpartum as well as for people trying to lower or moderate their cholesterol.
Oatstraw is also a sustainable product; it comes from the same plant that provides us with oatmeal and oat bran, enabling producers to use the whole plant rather than just the grain or husks.
3. Raspberry Leaf (Rubus Idaeus)
Actions: Alterative, astringent, febrifuge, hemostatic, mucous cleanser, pelvic and uterine relaxant, tonic
Raspberry leaf is a uterine tonic, making it an essential herb for women. Not only does it tone the muscles of the pelvic floor, it also provides relief from a range of uterine disorders. On an astringent level, raspberry leaf is known to alleviate heavy menstrual cycles, prevent hemorrhaging during labor and stop excessive bleeding postpartum. It may also assist in bringing in a mother’s milk while reducing her recovery pain after childbirth. It has a smooth taste that makes an excellent gargle wash for people struggling with bleeding gums, tartar buildup, canker sores and other diseases of the mouth. Comprising an abundance of vitamins as well as citric and malic acids, magnesium, potassium, calcium and zinc, raspberry leaf is often given to children suffering from bouts of diarrhea.
Infusion: Raspberry leaf is a great drink for everyone, but it is especially beneficial for women during their menstrual cycles, postpartum and during the last three months of pregnancy.
Raspberry leaf can be grown easily in one’s yard. While considered a biennial, its perennial roots send out runners, allowing it to grow quickly. Its leaves can be harvested during the summer months and left to dry for later use.
4. Marshmallow Root (Althaea Officinals)
Actions: Anti-inflammatory, demulcent, digestive, diuretic, emollient, mucilaginous, vulnerary
Marshmallow root, sometimes known as the mortification root, is renowned for its ability to prevent tissue decay. The root can be consumed as both a food and a medicinal herb and may be applied externally. It contains potent demulcent and mucilaginous properties, making it soothing and slippery. Marshmallow root is used to coat mucus membranes of the body, protecting the respiratory tract all the way into the intestinal lining. The herb also assists in combating whole-body inflammation, a vital component to disease prevention. Its anti-inflammatory properties boost gastrointestinal health and can help reduce inflammations of the throat, such as laryngitis and bronchitis. Nutritionally, it consists of easily assimilated proteins, an excess of vitamins, iron, calcium, silica, keratin and asparagine. These properties make it an ally for anyone struggling with kidney disease, bladder discomfort and intestinal pains. Marshmallow root has a mild and somewhat sweet taste that is delicious iced.
Infusion: Unlike the other herbs listed here, marshmallow root makes a better infusion when made with cold rather than boiling water. It is an excellent drink for anyone in need of extra protein or suffering from inflammation. People struggling with acid reflux, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or irritable bowel and gallbladder disorders benefit from this infusion. Due to marshmallow’s potent mucilage properties, it can hinder the absorption of other medications when taken in close proximity to each other. Do not use marshmallow root alongside prescription medications without the guidance of a medical professional.
Marshmallow can be a finicky plant to harvest as its roots are prone to mildew attacks and the leaves can develop rust fungus during the drying process. Find high-quality dried marshmallow root from suppliers such as Mountain Rose Herbs and Frontier Co-op.
5. Red Clover (Trifolium Pratense)
Clover Actions: Alterative, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitumor, diuretic, galactagogue, expectorant, nervine, nutritive, sedative
Red clover is a highly nutritious herb with a long history of use in treating respiratory infections. It can relieve symptoms of the common cold and, used externally, is a helpful wash for skin and eye irritations. Red clover contains flavonoids that work on a reproductive level, promoting fertility and alleviating menopausal complaints. Because red clover contains an abundance of vitamins as well as calcium, copper, iron and magnesium, some claim it as an anti-cancer ally. It tastes similar to black tea and is delicious hot or cold.
Infusion: Red clover is beneficial for women at any point in their reproductive journeys, from fertility to menopause, and is an ally to lactating mothers. Its blood-thinning properties mean people with clotting disorders should avoid this herb. Do not use red clover while pregnant without guidance from a medical professional.
Red clover grows wild and, while similar to white clover, is identified by its large, dark pink blossoms. The flowers are the part used here, although other parts of the plant are also used medicinally. To harvest, pick flowers one or two weeks after blooming, in the morning while dew is still on the plants. Lay them — spaced and not touching — on drying racks in a dry, dark place. Allow to dry, turning occasionally, for two weeks.
Infusions provide the body with phytonutrients and a plethora of vitamins and minerals that you would miss out on by drinking a simple tea. These nutrients are highly bioavailable, meaning they are easily assimilated into the bloodstream. It is important to note that each herb provides a unique and varied amount of nutrients and minerals, making it crucial to alternate herbal infusions weekly.
Although you may find a bit of variety in terms of steeping time for various herbs, in general most infusions are made in the same way. Here are a few tips:
• Make your herbal infusions in the evening, allowing them to steep overnight while you sleep.
• Use dried herb in your infusion. Fresh herb will not break down and does not provide the same abundance of vitamins and minerals.
• Try one herb at a time — to ensure that no allergic or negative reaction occurs — before consuming herbs in combination.
• Store your herbal infusion in the refrigerator and consume within 24 hours to prevent it from going rancid. Prepared infusions often feel “thicker” on the tongue than basic teas. Leftover infusions may be used topically to soothe skin conditions; as a final hair rinse (don’t wash out); or to water and feed plants.
Herbalists abound who swear by the restorative powers of this low-effort drink. Some even use it in lieu of multivitamins or herbal supplements.
• 1 ounce dried herb (roughly 1 cup)
• 1 quart boiling water
Add herb to boiling water. Allow to steep for four to 10 hours. Strain, squeezing all the water from the herb. Compost used herb and refrigerate infusion for up to 24 hours.
Do not consider this article a comprehensive list of actions or contraindications. Always use caution before introducing medicinal herbs into your daily routine, particularly if you are pregnant or nursing, have chronic medical conditions, or are using herbal remedies alongside prescription drugs. Please consult your doctor or herbalist for more information.
Pregnant or Nursing?
Check out The Natural Pregnancy Book by Aviva Romm or Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year by Susun Weed for more information on herbal use pre- and postpartum. Also visit their personal websites, for safe herbal suggestions, dosages and other information.
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