Herbal teas have been the darling of the wellness world for thousands of years. However, herbal teas might not be doing much for you!
Most folks refer to any herb steeped in hot water as tea, but the name “tea” is technically only appropriate when referring to the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant—a botanical native to Asia. Preparations made from any other botanical are actually called tisanes. Simply put, your chamomile tea before bed is actually a tisane!
Tisanes typically steep for about five minutes, whereas infusions steep for approximately eight hours. This creates a vastly different end product.
Infusions are able to extract all water-soluble medicinal properties such as vitamins, minerals, proteins, and enzymes, whereas tisanes are typically limited to releasing the aromatic properties of the plant.
This means tisanes are more like flavored water — you just can’t extract much medicine in under five minutes.
Almost anyone can benefit from drinking herbal infusions regularly — they are that powerful.
In my private practice, where cultivating intentional, wise, and simple wellness is paramount, herbal infusions are a staple. Unlike the typical piecemeal plan of dietary practices and supplements my patients usually come in with, infusions are a nourishing tradition that focuses on the whole person, outperforming even the most expensive products on the market. Almost anyone looking to improve their health would benefit from an infusion practice, which is primarily due to the fact that infusions are incredibly high in nutrients. In fact, some infusions are so nutrient dense that they can replace your supplements as a more readily absorbable form of nutrition! However, the herb you choose must be a good fit for your health and wellness goals. Those with a daily herbal infusion practice typically experience:
- Hydration on a deep, cellular level
- Improved skin texture, turnover, and glow
- Strong, shiny, and fast growing hair and nails
- Improved digestion
- Mental, emotional, and physical resilience
- Increased energy, focus, and stamina
- Improved hormonal balance
- Immune system regulation (calms an overactive immune system and boosts a sluggish one)
The most important thing to remember is that not all botanicals are suitable for infusions.
Working with a professional that has experience with prescribing herbal infusions is best, as not all herbs are safe for infusions. This is due to the amount of time that they steep, and how potent they can be. There are three major things to remember when choosing herbs for your infusion. First, herbs with high concentrations of volatile oils (aromatic herbs) are better suited as a tisane instead of an infusion. For example, a sage tisane is fine, but a sage infusion would be toxic. Second, dried herbs are a better choice for infusions instead of freshly gathered herbs. This is because many constituents, such as trace minerals, become more bioavailable after drying. And third, some herbs taste horrible when infused for longer periods of time! Typically, herbs that are sweet, earthy, or bland in nature are most appropriate to use. Here are two favorites:
Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Nettle can be a cure-all (and multivitamin!) due to its rich concentration of vitamins and minerals. I often recommend folks start with nettle because the physical before and after is so tangible — long hair, glowing skin, etc.
Oatstraw (Avena sativa)
This soothing plant promotes a strong nervous system and decreases inflammation like no other. A fantastic ally for those who need support on a deep level, and for times of increased stress and discomfort.
After choosing the correct herb, how you prepare your infusion is key.
- Quart-sized glass mason jar with metal lid (no plastic, please!)
- Food scale
- Herbs recommended in your personal treatment plan
- Hot water
- Strainer (I prefer a nut milk bag)
- Bring one quart of water to a boil.
- Weigh out one ounce total of your herb material (if you are using more than one herb, just calculate how much of each herb you need to total one ounce) and add to your jar.
- Pour boiling water into the jar until it reaches the absolute top! If it spills over that is alright!
- Screw on the top, give it a shake, and let rest on your counter for at least six-eight hours.
- When done steeping, strain the plant material from the liquid, squeezing well to get all of the medicinal liquid out. Compost your plant material.
- Drink one quart of infusion per day, served hot or cold. Make sure to drink within 48 hours.
To experience the most benefit, your herbal infusion of choice should be consumed regularly. A good goal is to make your preparation before bed (strain it in the morning!), enjoying one quart at least two-three times per week.
Dr. Marlene Ehrler is a licensed naturopathic doctor and professor best known for her ability to transform the health of her patients using intentional, wise, and simple practices. By blending her extensive medical training, years of traditional medicine apprenticeships, and unique gifts, her patients experience radiant, lasting wellness. Dr. Ehrler is currently offering free introductory consultations to new patients globally, and you can follow her on Instagram for wellness inspiration and information at @dr.ehrler.