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[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 111 – Making Herbal Infusions with Kids

Last week I talked about making and blending herbal teas with kids.

This week I’d like to teach you about another water infusion with herbs known simply as herbal infusions.

While teas involve a few teaspoons to tablespoons of herbs steeped in water for under 30 minutes, an infusion uses a larger amount of herbs and a much longer steep time to produce a more medicinal beverage.

Why herbal infusions?

Like herbal teas, herbal infusions help to bring out the water soluble constituents of herbs, including vitamins and minerals, making a strong beverage that can be helpful for relieving chronic conditions.

For instance, Stinging Nettles is an herb that is well known for his use for seasonal allergies.

When drank consistently over a course of several months, or longer, Stinging Nettles has been known to reduce and even eliminate the body’s histamine reaction to allergens, making hay fever misery a thing of the past.

Herbal infusions are supportive of our body systems, strengthening and toning them over time.

Many herbs can be used for herbal infusions, depending on the need. Linden, Hawthorne, Plantain, Milky Oats, Stinging Nettles, Red Clover, Chickweed, Cleavers, Holy Basil, Chamomile, and mints are just a few of the more commonly used herbs.

Typically, one herb is steeped at a time but sometimes they are mixed together for an infusion.

How are infusions made?

Unlike a tea that requires a small amount of herb, infusions require larger amounts of herb to be an effective remedy.

A general rule of thumb is 1 cup of herb for every quart of water.

Some herbalists choose to do 1 ounce of herb per quart and I encourage you to experiment and compare to see what works best for you.

I generally made a half gallon at a time.

I place 2 cups of dried herb into a half gallon jar and then add a large metal serving spoon to the jar to help dissipate the heat when the boiling water is poured in.

This is not required but it does help to pull some of the heat away from the glass jar to prevent it from cracking.

I’ve had a few jars crack over the years, even with a metal spoon in them and I suspect the jars were old and the glass had gotten brittle or weakened over time as I am pretty rough on them (I also used them to store goat milk in the freezer so they were going between extreme temperatures constantly).

The crack was nothing spectacular, no shattering, just a pop and then a line shooting up the side of the jar and I knew I needed to grab a pot to quickly pick it up and put it in before it fell apart and boiling water ran everywhere.

But I digress!

Pour boiling water into the jar to the top, stirring the herbs to saturate them with the water as you fill.

The stirring can be a great activity for the kids to do while you pour the boiling water, just remind them the water is hot, and so is the jar, and to use caution so they don’t get burnt.

Once the jar is filled with the water, I let the jar sit for the next 4-10 hours, depending on the herb.

Most herbs I leave in for 8 hours but some herbs, such as Chamomile, do not need to steep as long.

After the steep time, strain off the herbs and compost them.

Cap your jar and store it in the refrigerator.

Infusions will last in the refrigerator for 4-5 days, sometimes longer.

I often make several different infusions at the beginning of the week then use them up over the course of the week without any problems.

Observe the flavor, color and smell when you place it in the fridge, and each day after and you’ll know when it goes off.

For instance, after infusing Stinging Nettles, the infusion generally turns a deep, almost thick, greenish brown color.

It will stay that way until it goes off, and then it turns a translucent light brown color.

The flavor drastically changes as well.

You’ll want to drink 1-2 cups (8-16 ounces) of your infusion daily.

Depending on their age and weight, kids can drink 1/4-1 cup daily.

The great thing about infusions is they are very safe and okay for larger amounts to be consumed.

So don’t fret if your child finds they love the flavor of an infusion and want to drink several cups in a day.

How to use infusions

So now that you’ve made a few infusions, now what?

Infusions are very versatile as a beverage and remedy.

As I mentioned earlier, I like to make several infusions to have on hand for the week.

Typically I will infuse individual half gallons of Stinging Nettles, Milky Oats, and a rotation of a third infusion such as Linden, Hawthorne, Plantain, or Red Clover.

Then, throughout the week, I’ll drink what my body craves.

Sometimes I’ll drink more than one in a day. For instance, since Stinging Nettles is mildly energizing, I might have a 16 ounce glass of that in the morning as a booster for my day.

Then, when the afternoon or evening rolls around, I might pour myself 16 ounces of Milky Oats or Linden, both of which are calming.

The temperature of infusions can be altered to suit your needs as well. Experiment with drinking your infusions cold, warm, and at room temperature as temperature variation can alter the flavor a bit but doesn’t change the medicinal aspects.

Ten Herbs that make great infusions and their benefits

I mentioned a variety of herbs that are great for herbal infusions.

I also mentioned that some herbs infuse quicker than others.

Another consideration is flavor.

Some herbs such as Linden and Milky Oats are naturally mild and sweet, while others such as Plantain, and Stinging Nettles can take some getting used to.

You might find some herbs taste better if you add a pinch of a more flavorful herb such as Spearmint to them, over even sea salt, or a dollop of honey.

The following list is a run down of ten herbs that make great infusions, why they are often used, their typical steep time, and some flavor enhancement suggestions.

Chamomile

Steep time:  2-4 hours

Flavor enhancement: This brew becomes very bitter, which is part of the medicine, but a small spoonful of honey may help it to go down

Use: A strong infusion of Chamomile is bitter! This herbal infusion is great for digestive issues and helping to dissolve and move stones.

Chickweed

Steep time: 4-6 hours

Flavor enhancement: Some people find a teaspoon of Peppermint or Spearmint added during the steep enhances the flavor

Energetic level: Energizing

Use: This is a great pick-me-up for that afternoon slump time. Drink 8-16 ounces after lunchtime to aid in digestion and to keep your mind alert for the afternoon. Chickweed can also assist with weight loss, when combined with proper diet and exercise.

Hawthorne

Steep time: 6-10 hours

Flavor enhancement: Some prefer to add a spoonful of honey to sweeten

Use: Hawthorne is a great cardiac support herb. Adding herbal infusions of Hawthorne to your weekly routine can help to strengthen and tone the heart.

Holy Basil

Steep time: 4-8 hours

Flavor enhancement: Fairly pleasant and none needed

Energetic level: Relaxing to nervous system, can be stimulating to the brain

Use: Holy Basil, also known as Tulsi, is supportive to the nervous system. Use this infusion when you need to relax and focus on a task.

Linden

Steep time: 6-10 hours

Flavor enhancement: Fairly pleasant and none needed

Energetic level: Relaxing

Use: Linden is another great cardiac and nervous system supportive herb. The flavor is mild and many children find it enjoyable to drink, making it a great infusion to give to children who tend to be wound up and need calming support.

Milky Oats

Steep time: 6-10 hours

Flavor enhancement: Fairly pleasant and none needed

Energetic level: Relaxing

Use: Milky Oats contains lots of great minerals like calcium, which are supportive to a strong skeletal system. This herb is also beneficial to the nervous system, helping to sooth and calm frazzled nerves.

Peppermint and Spearmint

Steep time: 2-6 hours

Flavor enhancement: Some prefer to add a spoonful of honey to sweeten

Energetic level: Strongly energizing

Use: Peppermint is a swift kick to the brain and is very energizing. Those coming off their morning cup of joe may find replacing it with a cup of infused peppermint to be the perfect replacement. Kids will most likely prefer Spearmint as it is milder and sweeter, the perfect balance for them. Peppermint and Spearmint both are great for the digestive system.

Plantain – Plantago lanceolata

Plantain

Steep time: 4-6 hours

Flavor enhancement: Some people find a teaspoon of Peppermint or Spearmint added during the steep enhances the flavor

Energetic level: Mildy energizing

Use: Plantain is great for so many things! This herb is very soothing and healing to the digestive system

Red Clover

Steep time: 6-8 hours

Flavor enhancement: I find the flavor to be great as is, but some prefer to add a spoonful of honey to sweeten

Energetic level: Mildy energizing

Use: Red Clover is very supportive of the female reproductive system and can help to nourish and tonify it. Red Clover is also considered to be useful for preventing and fighting cancer.

Stinging Nettles

Steep time: 8-10 hours

Flavor enhancement: Some people find a pinch of sea salt added at the end enhances the flavor

Energetic level: Energizing

Use: Stinging Nettles is energizing, helping to support the adrenals and lessen fatigue. This herb contains many vitamins and minerals which are extracted in infusions. Stinging Nettles also helps to calm the histamine response, lessening the body’s reaction to allergens and is supportive to a strong skeletal system.

Keep in mind that these are just a few of the herbs that can be infused! Play around with herbs that you like, starting with a 2 hour infusion and working up to an 8 hour infusion to find that herbal infusion sweet spot.

Do you use herbal infusions? What are your favorite herbs to infuse?


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