Watery Infusions

Watery Infusions

Watery infusions are an excellent way to become more sensitive to your physical body and spiritual state. If I have time and materials at my disposal, making tea is almost always my favorite way to take my herbs. A remarkable change in my own life since becoming devoted to daily watery infusions is my ability to sense what I need. Each week I craft myself a blend of herbs for my daily infusions in the week to come and in doing so create a spiritual, emotional, and physical inventory. The weekly tea blend tells all: some weeks it’s all about stoking digestive fire, others it’s combating stagnation, sometimes fighting a bad mood, always it is about supplementing my diet and lifestyle with whatever herbal catalyst is needed for my own optimum ability to fully show up.
In addition to being our most abundant solvent, water is also one of our most precious resources. We would be fools to take water’s gifts for granted and should practice reciprocity by doing everything we can to protect our water ways. Water is life. An excellent exercise to help you connect to your local water ways is finding a map of your watershed and hanging it in a high traffic area of your home.
Fresh or dried herbs can both be used to make watery infusions. If you are using fresh herbs, you will likely have to use about three times as much herb to get a standard strength infusion. This is because fresh herbs contain lots of water (just like us) and dried herbs are concentrated.
Let's review 3 ways to make watery infusions in your own home.

1. Hot Infusions / Tisanes

I have to be honest with you, I call hot, watery, herbal infusions “tea” in my house. However, this is not accurate and you should know that. The word “tea” strictly refers to infusions made from the plant Camellia sinensis, from which we brew teas such as green, oolong, and black. These are the only true teas. All other herbal infusions should be technically referred to as “tisanes.” Tisanes are typically made from the aerial parts of a plant: leaves, flowers, stems. These fragile plant parts give up their constituents the most readily. Tisanes are the standard way of extracting medicinal constituents from plants into watery infusions.
Making your own tisane:
  • Choose your herb or loose leaf herbal blend.
  • Bring water to a boil. I use an electric kettle for this and find it to be quick and energy efficient.
  • Measure out herbs in a teapot, mason jar or french press. These days I am using my ~30 oz french press for my daily tisane.
  • Pour the just boiled water over the herbs and quickly cover. If you do not cover your infusion, you will quickly loose potent volatile oil content.
  • Allow the tisane to steep for anywhere from five minutes to overnight, depending on the desired strength of the infusion. I usually steep my daily tisane for 20-40 minutes.
  • Strain and enjoy! For a standard infusion, use 1 tsp herb to 8 ounces water. For a 32 oz mason jar, use 1/4 cup herb to 32 ounces water.

A favorite tisane blend:

  • 2 parts tulsi leaf & flower
  • 2 parts peppermint leaf & flower
  • 1 part plantain leaf & flower
  • 1 part calendula flower
  • 1/2 part fennel seed, crushed
  • 1/4 part licorice root

1 part = 1 ounce
(You can make 1 part = anything as long as you are consistent. If you just want to try the tea blend out you could make 1 part = 1 Tablespoon)

In a large bowl, blend together all ingredients. Store in a large jar and use as your weekly tea blend.

2. Cold Infusions

Cold infusions are employed when the mucilaginous properties of an herb are desired, which are not extracted fully by quicker hot infusions. Mucilaginous herbs are key when working with an irritated passageway, such as in the case of a sore throat or a urinary tract infection. Cold infusions can bring out flavors in herbs that might surprise you. All my life I cringed at the sour, astringent taste of Hibiscus until I had a cold infusion of flower calyxes. The cold infusion revealed a slightly sweet taste with a moistening and cooling after effect. None of the drying harshness that I associate with the hot infusion of Hibiscus was present.

Making your own cold infusion:

  • Measure out herbs in a teapot or mason jar.
  • Pour cold water over the herbs and cover.
  • Allow the cold infusion to steep 8-24 hours (an overnight steep works well).
  • Strain, which may be difficult because of the gloopy nature of the mucilage rich infusion. A wider mesh strainer may be helpful.

1 tsp herb to 8 ounces water for a standard infusion
1 ounce herb to 32 oz water for a super strong infusion

3. Decoctions

Decoctions are watery infusions made from the roots, bark, and twigs of a plant. This is also the appropriate method of extraction for many mushrooms. Decoctions are necessary when the desired water soluble constituents are bound up in woody tissue and less immediately available than those in fragile leaves and flowers. Instead of simply pouring boiled water over the herb, you combine the herb and water and simmer them together.

Making your own decoction:

  • Measure out your herbs and water and combine them in a pot with a lid.
  • Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and keep covered.
  • Allow to simmer for at least 15 minutes.
  • Strain and enjoy.

Decoction ratios: 1 tsp herb to 8 ounces water for a standard decoction 1 ounce herb to 32 oz water for a super strong decoction

Classic cold fighting decoction recipe:

The following recipe is my go-to whenever anyone in my house is coming down with a cold. A few cloves of garlic, chopped. A few fingers of fresh ginger, chopped. Add to a pot of water (approximately 2 quarts), cover and bring to a boil. Once a rolling boil has been achieved, bring the temperature down to a simmer and keep there for at least 15 minutes. At this point you can ladle out a cup of the decoction and add a squeeze of lemon and honey to taste. Ideally the sick person will drink a quart or more of the decoction. You can keep adding more water to the simmering pot, and add more ginger and garlic as well if you want. Both of these herbs are powerful antivirals when fresh and I have been saved by drinking copious amounts of this decoction on numerous occasions.

Okay, that wraps up 3 ways to make watery infusions at home. What watery infusion are you going to make? Let us know in the comments!

P.s. These recipes come from the booklet for my online course "Bioregional Herbalism & Medicine Making". There are three more ways to make watery infusions listed in the course booklet. If you are intrigued, check it out!


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