During the cold and rainy months, I find myself drawn to the soothing comfort of a steamy cup of tea. Preparing that glorious cup can take many forms, but my favourite way to drink tea is a homemade herbal infusion.
Herbs are one of the best ways to supplement the nutrients and minerals that are missing from modern food sources. They have been used by healers, indigenous cultures and those with an intimate knowledge of the land for thousands of years. My 80-something French grandmother still picks fresh mint from her garden for her daily brew. There’s something so powerful about re-introducing this ancient ritual gifted to us by Mother Nature. Plus, I prefer to avoid profit-seeking pharmaceutical companies and their over-engineered, synthetic pills as much as possible. Herbs offer pure, gentle, healthy remedies rooted in wisdom acquired by our elders over generations. What a beautiful connection between our present selves, our ancestors and the living Earth.
The Magical Power of Herbs
I like to drink homemade herbal infusions for my health, but also as a beauty elixir that works from the inside out. Drinking a homemade infusion regularly is like taking a daily multivitamin. A super supplement containing the most organic and bioavailable sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and polyphenols. Infusions can work wonders for the skin, teeth, nails, hair, blood sugar balance, metabolism, sleep cycle, endocrine system, nervous system, and so much more. These properties and benefits vary across different herbs and flowers. It’s a sort of pick your potion for whatever you want to work on at the moment. Right now, my focus is on herbs, such as nettle, raspberry leaf and milk thistle, that support healthy hair growth, glowing skin and lower levels of cortisol (to reduce anxiety and improve deep sleep).
Unlike conventional tea, which sits in hot water for just a few minutes, an infusion is steeped in boiling water overnight, or for at least for 4-8 hours. The long infusion process makes your beverage, which can be drunk hot or cold, so much more nutritious. It slowly sucks out all of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants originally packed into the plants, and makes them really easy for your system to absorb.
Types of Herbal Infusions
A great place to start in your at-home infusion journey is to educate yourself online about different herbs and which ones could benefit you most. Not all herbs are safe for you and your body type, or when pregnant and breastfeeding. It’s always a good idea to consult your medical practitioner before experimenting with them.
For those of you just getting started with herbal infusions, here are some of my favourites. Each of their benefits are much more extensive that what I have listed below.
- hibiscus flower, which contains more antioxidants than green tea
- ginger root, packed with powerful anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories
- alfalfa leaf, high in vitamins E, C and K, chlorophyll, which detoxifies the body
- Nettle leaf, to promote strong, healthy hair and encourage fuller growth from sulphur and silica
- raspberry leaf, rich in biotin and folate to nourish and repair damaged hair
- goji berry, high in vitamins A & C
- chamomile flowers, helps with relaxation and menstrual pain
- dandelion leaves, high in potassium and beta-carotene, which helps prevent cellular damage
- oat tops, restores energy levels back to normal and supports reproductive hormone balance
- oat straw, creates a super tonic for the nervous system that strengthens depleted nerves
- alfalfa, high in antioxidants, as well as vitamin K, copper, folate, and magnesium
I recommend using organic herbs, flowers and plants whenever possible. I buy all of mine in bulk from a company based in Nelson, BC, called OM Foods. They source really high quality, organic ingredients at the best prices I’ve found anywhere. OM (Organic Matters) Foods ships across Canada, and their American site Essential Organics, ships throughout the US.
How to Prepare Homemade Herbal Infusions
In the evenings I take a few minutes to prepare a litre to drink over the next few days. You can prepare your herbal infusion in any non-plastic container with a wide opening, such as mason jars, cooking pots, a large teapot or a French press. I like using a French press because it is so easy to strain, but anything goes. I drink my infusions hot like a tea, or at room temperature in place of water. You can also turn infusions into iced tea in the Summer.
Place a couple tablespoons of your favourite herbs into your storage container of choice, adjusting the quantity for the size of your container. Tweak to find the combinations of herbs you like best. Then poor hot water over your herbs – just under boiling temperature is ideal, but boiling water also works. Leave your brew to sit for at least 8 hours, strain, and drink over the next few days. Sit back with your soothing cup of tea and soak in all of nature’s love.