Infusions are made by pouring boiling water over an herb and letting it sit. Outside of herbal medicine, this process is commonly known as "making a tea." It is the best way to prepare the more delicate aerial parts of plants and is the gentlest form of herbal preparation designed to preserve the vitamins, minerals, and volatile oils. During the steeping process, a lid must be placed on the container (teapot or pan) as the valuable constituents will disperse into the air if a lid is not used. This is especially true of Chamomile.
Either fresh or dried herbs can be used, but tap water should never be used as the components will destroy the medicinal properties of the herb. Therfore, use only filtered or mineral water. As soon as the water comes to a boil, pour it over the herbs and cover with a tight lid and let sit undisturbed. Milk suppresses the flavour and adds nothing to the medicinal properties, but rather, weakens them. Adding honey can be soothing, while an herb like cayenne, for example, will help break a fever. Water infusions can be also be used as gargles, lotions, douches, compresses, rinses, and fomentations.
These are the important points to remember when making an infusion:
- Always use glass, enamel, or stainless steel utensils as this is the best way to preserve the integrity of the medicine. Avoid aluminum as it will contaminate the formulas.
- Use distilled water as it is a "hungry" water which will pull the medicinal properties of the plant into the solution. If the water is purchased, buy only that which is in glass containers so that it does not absorb chemicals from the plastic containers.
- Cover the infusion during the steeping process to ensure that the medicinal properties remain within the liquid.
The standard ratio is one teaspoon herb to one cup water. Place the herb into a teapot and add freshly boiled water. Cover and let steep (infuse) before straining. Add honey if desired, but never milk. Allow one to three minutes for flowers, two to four minutes for leaves, and four to ten minutes for seeds, bark, and hard roots. Cover the pot with a warmer (towel or tea cosy) if brewing for longer than four minutes. Strain at the end of the brewing time and use immediately, or place into a jar to be refrigerated.
A Cold or Flu Tea
Use equal parts of peppermint (decongestant), yarrow (febrifuge), and elderflower (nose and throat tonic). Prepare as above. This tea is a cure-all as it addresses all the elements present at the beginning of a cold. Taken as soon as the symptoms start, it will quickly help the body re-establish balance.
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1/2 ounce (15 g) each of elderflowers and peppermint leaves
- 1 pinch cayenne powder
(for fevers, colds, flu, congestion)
Pour water over herbs and let infuse (stand) for about fifteen minutes. Drink one hot cupful at a time three to six times a day as long as symptoms persist.
Sun tea is a gentle infusion. Place cold water and herbs in a clean, clear glass jar with a lid. Put the closed jar into a sunny location and leave up to six hours, depending how strong you want the tea to be.
Add 500 ml of a strained infusion or 5-10 drops of an essential oil to a running bath. Lavender is ideal.
Make, and strain, an infusion. Bathe an affected area with the preparation.
Make a small quantity of infusion or use an herbal teabag. Strain carefully into a sterilized container. OR, add two to three drops of a tincture to an eyebath container and fill with freshly boiled water. Add a pinch of salt to counter the leaching of salts and minerals from the eye. Allow to cool and place the eyebath firmly over the eye. Tip the head back and bathe the eye by continuously blinking. Repeat up to three times a day.
Eyebath solutions should be very weak so not to damage the eye. Always use boiled, filtered water in a sterilized container to prevent additional microbes from escalating an existing condition.
Do not bathe the eye for more than two or three weeks at a time.