Making an Herbal Infusion: A General Procedure
by Candace Hunter
An herbal infusion or herbal tea infusion is really just an herbal tea. By soaking dried herbs in hot water, you extract the herb's properties, scent, flavor, and color into the water. Thus, the water is infused with the herb's properties.
When I was first exploring the world of herbs, I found a wide range of advice on how best to make a good herbal infusion. After trying many techniques, I settled on this one as my stand-by. I use the infusions I make with this technique for brewing simple herbal teas designed for pleasure as well as those designed to heal or ease a variety of conditions. The resulting infusions may also be used as a wash or an eye soak.
Most often, I use dried herbs for herbal infusions or teas. On occasion, I've used fresh herbs with this procedure, especially if the fresh herb is one that doesn't dry well, such as is the case with Chickweed. Generally, I prefer to use a more advanced, longer-steeping time for most of the fresh-herb infusions I make.
For most of my infusions, I use plain old city tap water, unfiltered, although at one point I had a terrific water filter and I preferred teas made with filtered water. When I lived in the country for a bit a few years ago, I used the well water that was easily available, and that worked just fine, too. I don't recommend using distilled water for making infusions because so much of the life has been stripped from distilled waters in my opinion, but if that is your preferred drinking water, then give it a try. Whatever good drinking water is available to you is best. The key here is to go with what feels right and good to you. If easy means you'll make and drink the tea, then do what's easy. If taking the extra time to secure a water source that feels more pure adds an element of nurturing and caring to your brew, then go for the purest you can obtain.
I prefer to heat my water in a kettle on the stove top. I've used the microwave to boil water but it carries it's own weight in controversy. I've used water heated with one of those electric, plug-in kettles that folk keep on their counters to for easy tea-preparation. It didn't hold the same romanticism that my discolored, old kettle has, but it worked. I prefer the old-fashioned kettle-on-the-stove top method myself. Do what best fits your lifestyle and needs and be content and confident in your choice.
A General Procedure for Making an Herbal Tea Infusion
This is a basic procedure, not a recipe. I haven't included specific measurements but have instead described the process and what to look for as you're working. For specific recipes using this technique, see The Practical Herbalist Recipes.
Equipment you’ll need to make an herbal tea infusion:
- A kettle or other container for boiling water
- A heat-proof glass measuring cup or other heat-proof, non-reactive container
- A finely meshed strainer large enough to catch a quarter-cup or so of material
- A plate or other cover that's large enough to cover your measuring cup
- A mug or cup for drinking your finished tea
Ingredients for making an herbal tea infusion:
- A quantity of herbs or plant material, dried
- A quantity of water
Procedure for making an herbal tea infusion:
- Prepare your water. Set the kettle to boil or do whatever you need to do to heat your water to a good rapid boil. Water that's heated to a rolling boil will crack the cell walls of your herbs quickly and efficiently, which means a better, stronger infusion.
- Prepare your herbs. Measure a quantity of dried or fresh herbs into your heat-proof measuring cup. Be sure to leave plenty of room for the water.
- When the water has boiled, carefully pour it into your heat-proof measuring cup being sure to thoroughly soak all of the herbs. Twist and turn and pour in a spiral motion as necessary until you've added enough water for the infusion you desire.
- Cover your measuring cup with a plate or other cover. This helps to catch and hold the more delicate properties of the herbs which can easily evaporate while the less volatile properties are infusing.
- Let the infusion stand for ten minutes. More time will make the infusion stronger; less time will make it weaker. Ten minutes produces a good, strong infusion for most purposes.
- Strain the infusion through your strainer into a mug or cup for drinking or into another container based on what you intend to do with it. Sometimes, I squeeze the herbs to get every last drop of goodness out of them. Squeezing the herbs during the straining process will result in a cloudier infusion.
- Discard or compost your used herbs and enjoy your infusion.
Storage of an Herbal Infusion
You can store a simple infusion for up to a week in the refrigerator in a sealed container.
You can freeze it into cubes and store it in the freezer for a month or more, depending on the herbs used and your intentions. I've made some terrific blended drinks with frozen infusions.
You can wait for it to cool, add some ice, and drink it like an iced tea, too. In hot weather, iced herbal teas can help replenish the nutrients your body has lost through perspiration while offering you a bit of tasty cooling.