As was discussed in last week’s blog post, the more herbs can be incorporated into the diet and used as food, the less they may be needed as medicine. In fact, if there was only one thing I could ever teach you about how to use herbs, it would be this: DRINK NOURISHING HERBAL INFUSIONS. In about 20 years of using herbs, personally and in sharing the inspiration with others, I have never seen more positive, lasting results from any other remedy or diet change. Daily use of infusion is the picture of preventive healthcare. And as we know, prevention is the best medicine!
So, what is infusion? It is another way of saying “really strong tea.” It’s made with food grade herbs (non-toxic, food-like plants). A longer brewing time (hours) and a greater ratio of herb:water results in a much stronger brew than, say, dunking a tea bag in hot water for a few minutes, which is nice, and is the way some herbs should be prepared, but provides nothing near the amount of bang for your buck as infusion. In short, nothing but a bulk amount of herbs can provide a bulk amount of nutrition. There are no shortcuts in this way (thus, you need a whole plateful of dinner-a teaspoon just won’t do). Consider that when a cupful of these dried herbs are fresh, they would easily cover your kitchen counters. Drying them, which just removes the water, leaves all that yummy nutrition ready for extraction in your boiling water.
Note: Dried plants are always used for infusion, as the cell wall of the plant becomes permeable in the process of drying, making available what is otherwise locked securely inside the cell wall: vitamins, minerals, proteins, and essential fatty acids.You can experience this directly by stuffing a jar full with fresh plant material, pouring boiling water over it, and steeping it overnight. Do the same with just a cup of dried plants (or heck, even a few spoonfuls) to compare. Which jar shows, by the color of the water, that extraction has taken place? With dried plants, the minute you pour boiling water over them, the water becomes dark. The fresh plants may only slightly tinge your water with a pale green color by the next day. This is because everything is still all locked inside that tough cell wall.
What are the benefits? For one thing, by supplying your body with supreme nourishment in the form of daily nourishing herbal infusions, you may notice many beneficial side effects, such as:
a stronger immune system
more energy less harmful impact from stress
more even-keeled moods
healthier skin and nails
less cravings for sugar or caffeine
a shifting of tendencies around many chronic problems
….the list goes on!
One of the wonderful things about infusion is that it by following this brewing method, the finished product is BIO-AVAILABLE. This means that you can begin absorbing the nutrients from it right away (the minute it hits your lips!) without any further work from your digestive system. This is good news, as most commercially available multi-vitamins are difficult to absorb, and often taxing to the already despondent digestive tract. This blend is what I personally use in lieu of a multi-vitamin, for true, cellular-deep nourishment. Really folks, this is essentially platefuls worth of extra vitamins, minerals, plant proteins, essential fatty acids, not to mention the multitude of gentle medicinal effects these plants provide.
There are many plants that can be prepared this way, but my favorites, and some of their properties and actions, are listed below. These four fabulous herbs comprise the blend I call “Powerhouse”….which is conveniently mixed together and ready to use, and can be found on the webstore by clicking here.
Many people like to brew up big batches, a gallon or so at a time, to keep ready in the fridge for a few days at a time. Others enjoy a nightly ritual of brewing their infusion for the next day. Either way, it lasts for about 2-3 days in the refrigerator, and can be made in any quantity, so long as you stick to the ratio of one part herbs to four parts water (see brewing instructions below).
Infusion counts towards your water intake, but packs more punch. It is recognized by the body more as a food than a beverage, and can even take the place of snacking throughout the day, providing a bone-deep, satiated feeling, unlike empty junk foods. You can guzzle it down knowing that infusion contains ZERO calories! There is no toxic upper-limit with these safe and gentle food-grade herbs. You can drink to your heart’s content. To discuss a dose of infusion would be as silly as talking about a dose for brocolli-you just eat it until you’re full. A good guideline is to enjoy about a quart per day.
In case you aren’t convinced yet about the awesome healing powers of infusion, consider this: Every day, old cells in your body die, and new cells grow. There is a different timeline for each organ system in your body, but, for example, and for inspiration’s sake: it takes 30 days for complete cellular turnover in your kidneys, 40 days for your liver to be brand new, cell by cell, 24 hours for your digestive tract, seven years for your brain……What you put in your mouth helps to determine the health of these cells, and your body’s inherent ability to self-right. Infusion is a beautiful way to ensure that you are using the best building blocks available to you as you constantly regenerate a new body, one cell at a time.
The combination of the four herbs in the Powerhouse blend cover such a broad spectrum of benefits, and can be the answer to so many common complaints. Between all of them, they provide what your body needs as far as supplemental nutrition, most particularly in the realm of minerals. (As one friend says, “It gives you what you ain’t got!)
If there is one thing you’re going to do differently for your health in the coming year, consider adopting the habit of drinking infusions. Most people notice good results right away, but to really take stock of changes to your health, I recommend staying steady with the habit, and evaluating how you feel after a month (or moon) of consistent use. One bag will last about that long if you consume a quart (a couple of mugs-full) a day.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:
Glass jar, preferably quart-sized or larger, with a lid
A fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth
BREWING INSTRUCTIONS: Place one cup of dried herb mixture in a glass quart jar. Pour boiling water over to cover/ fill to the top. Cap and allow to stand at least four hours, or overnight. Strain out plant material, capturing the liquid. Reheat or chill according to taste. (It tastes quite different at different temperatures. Experiment to find your preference.) Refrigerate any unused portion up to three days.
WHAT TO DO WITH SPOILED INFUSION: Hopefully this won’t happen, because you’ll be gobbling it up. But it if does go bad, you will know by the off-taste (not harmful, per se, but no longer tasty). This you can feed to your grateful houseplants, or you can pour over your head as a final rinse in the shower for shiny, strong hair. Or, dump it into your bathtub full of of water and soak in it. If none of these appeal to you, you can pour it on the ground outside as fertilizer for your garden.
WHAT’S IN THE POWERHOUSE BLEND:
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica): This is considered a premier kidney and adrenal tonic herb (an adaptogen). Consistent use results in steadier energy and helps to lessen the harmful effects of stress. Good for overcoming chronic fatigue, anemia, debilitated states, adrenal exhaustion, and helpful in rebuilding stamina during convalescence. Consumption of Nettle infusion helps replenish healthy gut flora, eases allergies of all kinds, including hay fever, as well as skin problems, chronic UTI’s and yeast infections. It’s one of the most vitamin and mineral-rich herbs available, loaded with calcium, iron, vit. K and many other nutrients. It is a self-limiting diuretic herb, used to relieve bloating/edema. Use of nettle can ease arthritic aches and pains, and helps to balance mood swings. It is a galactogogue herb, which means it promotes breast milk production.
Red Clover Blossoms (Trifolium pratense): This lovely herb builds blood, enhances lymphatic function, and balances the thyroid. A menopausal ally, Red Clover eases hot flashes. It increases fertility, particularly when paired with Red Raspberry (visit the website to see more about FERTILI-TEA). Red Clover repairs damaged DNA, eases anxiety, and contains coumarins, a naturally occuring blood thinning constitiuent that can help prevent strokes (ask your care provider about using Red Clover if you take a pharmeceutical blood thinner). It is one of the top anti-cancer herbs we have available to us, with four known anti-tumor compounds and the ability to turn off oncogenes, preventing and even reversing cancers and pre-cancers. Abundant in every trace mineral needed for optimal functioning of the endocrine system, it promotes hormonal fitness. Also a galactogogue herb
Comfrey Leaf (Symphytum uplandica): Also known as Knitbone, this herb is the primary herb to turn to in healing any kind of trauma or injury, especially bone, torn ligaments, soft tissue, as well as ulcers of any kind. Being mucilaginous and demulcent, it soothes the lungs and skin, and moisturizes the body from the inside, out, and can contribute to healing digestive tract inflammation/ and“leaky gut.”Regular use keeps bones strong, strengthens short-term memory, enhances digestion, and provides loads of nutrition. Note: Leaves are safe for internal use, reserve roots for external use only.
Oatstraw (Avena sativa): This is the grass of the plant we get oats from, and, like the grain (oatmeal), it is a heart-healthy, cardio-vascular tonic herb. It is also a favorite choice for nervous system support, relieving stress in the moment, as well as working cumulatively to alleviate long term patterns of anxiety, depression and to relieve frazzled nerves. Regular use helps to promote restorative sleep (it does not cause drowsiness, though). Menopausal women love Oatstraw, which, in addition to lessening hot-flashes intensity and frequency, keeps tissues elastic, and counters vaginal dryness. It increases libido and virility, and improves memory, balance and coordination. Also a galactogogue, the third herb in the blend which promotes breast milk production, Powerhouse is an ally to breastfeeding mothers. Anyone concerned about osteoperosis or bone density can benefit from this bone-building herb. It also helps restore muscle mass, and is an important herb for convalescents.