Which Herbs to use for making Infusions?
Each herb has its specific constituents, which can be useful for specific systems of the body. It is recommended that before any herb is used, a monograph of that herb is written by the herbal user. (See Herb Monographs)
Whatever herbs you are using requires extraction of its constituents, choosing which method of extraction to use is a key part of herbal medication.
Infusion is one of the two methods available to the herbalist using hot water, the other is when making Decoctions.
Herbs suitable for an infusion method are soft herbs, flower petals or heads, leaves, and soft stems. A good indication is to look at the herbs stem, if it’s green and soft then it’s most likely best suitable for infusion. Herbs that are aromatic also recommend for use by the infusion method, as it is a relatively gentle method of extraction and will not destroy the oils that aromatics carry.
Any herb can, in reality, be extracted by an infusion method, although it would be necessary to reduce the dried herb of choice to a powder before using it, you can try crushing the dried herb and this too will break down seeds or bark enough to give it a try. Although the resultant infusion will not be as strong as using other methods when dealing with seeds, barks, and hard stems.
We would suggest it is best to limit the method of making Infusions to soft green stemmed herbs and flower petals or flower heads, but of course, it is through personal experience that choices are best made.
An Infusion can be a basis for making other types of medications, such as creams, where water and oil, which usually do not mix, are blended together, so Infusions are the first basic lesson usually offered when making herbal medicines.
Infusions don’t have a long shelf life, a couple of days in the refrigerator is about the length of their shelf life, but are useful for emergency requirements, such as hysteria, nervous tension, headaches, or as an antiseptic for a scuffed knee or cut finger.
As you start to make and use herbal medications, you will quickly find that the herbs you find most useful are the herbs you need to keep in your store cupboard in dried form. These are the ones you can grab hold of for emergency treatment as above, or can make into herbal preparations that have a longer shelf life for when they are needed
As with all herbs, we must always do a little investigating before using any herb, any contraindications need to be considered.
In any medication, a contraindication is a factor, a reason, to withhold a certain medical treatment due to harm that it may cause the patient.
There are few contraindications when using Chamomile or Lavender, but its always as well to check before you use any herb.
Chamomile is not recommended for ingesting by anyone who is allergic to flower pollen,
Or anyone taking the medication warfarin, as Chamomile enhances its use.
And Lavender is not recommended for use by anyone who is allergic to its oils.
And as usual, it is recommended that anyone who may be pregnant, does not use herbs in any way, shape or form
Below are a few recipes containing herbs that are relatively easy to obtain and which contain constituents that are suitable for the extraction method of Infusion. You will note that all six recipes contain two or more herbs, requiring one teaspoon of each dried herb, or three teaspoons of each herb if you are using fresh herbs (it will soon become clear why it is that when combining up to 3 herbs (or more), using nine teaspoons of fresh herbs isn’t as convenient as it may seem to be)
These eight recipes will give you an indication of which herbs are best used when making an infusion, as said above, flower petals, flower heads, leaves, and stalks. The recipes are not the only ones that can be used for making infusions, but they are a beginning.
- An infusion of Meadowsweet with Chamomile – this will relieve a headache or muscle pain, the infusion can be drunk three to four times a day as required.
- Cleavers and Red Clover, both of these will clean out the lymphatic system giving a detox, with Elderberry also giving a boost to the immune system. This recipe is a long term one, providing a good detox when required, especially before winter sets in with its colds and infections, and again in spring to remove residual toxins. Take the infusion three times a day for up to four weeks.
- Vervain and Lemon Balm to relax. A recipe to use whenever stress or anxiety threatens to upset the body’s equilibrium. Drink this infusion as required.
- Dandelion and Nettle for water retention. Especially useful for premenstrual bloating and for removing toxins from joints. Take three times a day for up to four days.
- Hops, Lavender, and Passion Flower for insomnia. Lack of sleep, or lack of the ability to fall asleep, affects more people today than is recognised, and causes problems such as lack of concentration, tiredness, and irritability. This recipe can be taken each night for a month to regulate the body clock to sleep. Some recipes recommend Valerian, and it is worth adding Valerian to the above recipe and trying it for yourself, however, take care with Valerian, one of its side effects can be headaches, although it is worth remembering that each individual is different, what may work for one may not be suitable for another.
- Peppermint and Fennel for indigestion (note, fennel is what they put into babies gripe water to counteract wind or colic)This recipe can be taken as required and is a useful one to have in the cupboard when overindulgence can cause an upset stomach.
- Yarrow and Calendula are both styptic (stops bleeding), they will help to stop external bleeding, so make an excellent quick Infusion and use to stem bleeding on a wound or cut. Yarrow is known as ‘woundwort, blood wort, staunch grass’ all indicating its ability to stop or slow bleeding. Calendula is the all-around herb for the skin, its antiseptic, styptic, and a well-known skin healer.
- Heartsease, Chickweed, and Red Clover Infusion, use as a wash for relieving the need to scratch when suffering a bout of eczema. Heartsease is an anti-inflammatory, Chickweed is an astringent and Red Clover stops itching. For anyone suffering from eczema, this is a good topical infusion to bring quick relief.