Although a cup of herbal tea can be comforting and delicious in its own right, or can act as a new routine for where caffeine once ruled, it doesn't extract the same degree of nutrients that an infusion does. This is not my grandmother's cup of tea either. She barely wanted the leaves to graze the water before pulling them out, and even then, it would be too strong. Infusions are dark, earthy and medicinal. Infusions are simple to make, however they require more time.
- Add 1 oz of dried leaves per 1 quart/4 cup mason jar. If you do not have a scale on hand, 1 oz is roughly 3/4 cup of finer dried plant material, or 1 cup of bulky dried material. Fresh plant material may also be used, however if weighing your ingredients, you'll need to add more in. (Why use a mason jar? Mason jars are affordable, accessible, portable, made of glass, they retain heat for quite some time and come with a sealable lid! You may use any type of large vessel however, such as a teapot.)
- Pour freshly boiled (purified) water over the plant material and fill until your jar is full. Cover with a lid to prevent any volatile elements from escaping with the steam. (Please note, although mason jars are heat-safe, they do break on occasion. To avoid a messy cleanup and burn potential, I recommend placing your jar in the kitchen sink prior to filling with boiled water.)
- Infuse flowers up to 2 hours, leaves for 4 hours, and roots/inner bark for 8 hours, all at room temperature. You may use separate jars for each plant, or simply infuse all leaves in one jar, all roots in another and all flowers in a third. This method will promote a thorough extraction of nutrients from each plant part. For simplicity's sake however, you may wish to start by only infusing one type of plant material. The most important factor is that you get the minerals and vitamins into your body! If this means you're not infusing for the entire recommended time, you'll still receive many benefits.
- Nettle leaf (Urtica dioica): an anti-inflammatory, high in chlorophyll, great for treating low iron and anemia, osteoporosis and varicosities. Minerals: boron, calcium, chromium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and silica. Vitamins: A, B complex, C, D, and K. Electrolytes: potassium.
- Red Raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus): a well known uterine toner, has been shown to shorten labour and regulate blood flow. Minerals: calcium, copper (required in red blood cell production), iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc. Vitamins: A, B complex, C, E and K.
- Oat Straw (Avena sativa): treats nervous exhaustion, excessive nervous energy and anxiety, osteoporosis. Minerals: calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, high in manganese, phosphorus, silica, and zinc. Vitamins: A, B complex, C, E, K. Electrolytes: potassium.
- Alfalfa leaf (Medicago sativa): an anti-inflammatory, used to treat vaginal atrophy, osteoporosis, iron deficiency anemia. Minerals: calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc. Vitamins: A, B complex, C, E, and high in K. Electrolytes: potassium.
- Lemon Balm leaf (Melissa Officinalis): is an antiviral (used to treat mono, herpes, cold sores, genital worts, shingles), it calms the nervous system, treats postpartum depression, and insomnia.
- Rosehips (Rosa canina): an anti-inflammatory and blood purifier that aids in excessive menstruation, cramps, also a diuretic that helps with fluid retention, urinary tract infections. Minerals: calcium, iron, phosphorus. Vitamin: A, high in C, E, K and P (flavonoids).
- Ginger root (Zingiber officinale): an anti-inflammatory, used to treat nausea, vomiting, headaches, antispasmodic used to treat fibroids, pelvic pain. Minerals: calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc. Vitamins: B complex, and C. Electrolytes: potassium.
- Peppermint leaf (Mentha piperita): used to treat headaches and migraines, and is a known digestive aid, treating nausea, and flatulence. Minerals: calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese and zinc. Vitamins: A, B complex, and C. Electrolytes: potassium and sodium.
- Rooibos leaf (Aspalathus linearis): an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, used in treating high blood pressure, helps balance blood sugar, improves circulation and aids in digestion. Minerals: calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc. Vitamins: P (flavonoids). Electrolytes: potassium, sodium.
- Catnip leaf (Nepeta cataria): crazy-making for cats, yet gently sedating for humans. Antispasmodic, good for digestion, colic, and insomnia.
- Lavender flowers (Lavandula angustifolia/officinalis): another nervine, used to treat headaches, cramps, depression, and insomnia.
- Chamomile flowers (Matricaria chamomilla/Anthemis nobilis): used to treat digestion, inflammation, stress, anxiety, tension, colic, great for teething, and insomnia. Due to its high volatility, it need only infuse 15-30 minutes.
Where to meet these gems...
Wildcrafting is a sure way to know the health of the plant you are consuming, the conditions of the soil in which it grew, whether it has been collected from the earth during the peak of ripeness, the timeframe from harvest-to-drying-to-consumption, or whether the plant gave permission to be plucked from its source. The plants that spring forth in your community cohabitate among the same environmental toxins and pollutions, as you do. This factor may play an added role in aiding your body to further adapt when consuming them by boosting your immunity, similarly to how local honey can assist with seasonal allergies.
If you're in Alberta, I recommend visiting Kolya Naturals Apothecary located within Optimum Health Vitamins. The Earth's General Store may stock some of the ingredients, however they also carry food dehydrators, composting worms and an assortment of DIY books, depending on how in-depth you'd like to venture along this path. Edmonton's Seedy Sunday is also fast approaching March 20th, and is a great location to gather most the seeds you'll need to start your own apothecary, or pick a seasoned gardener's brain on the "how to's".
Lastly if you're in the USA, Mountain Rose Herbs carries a large variety of bulk organic herbs, and Banyan Botanicals is an Ayurvedic apothecary, for even more angles of exploration.
Angela Esplin is a labour and postpartum doula, as well as placenta encapsulator with Full Circle Birth Collective. She has been serving families since 2000, and has recently transitioned back home to Mission, BC.
Click here to read more about Angela.