Infusion Confusion?! How to, when and why?.
By definition an
*a drink, remedy, or extract prepared by soaking the leaves of a plant or herb in liquid.
Infusion is the process of steeping or soaking herbs in water until the water absorbs the oils, benefits and flavors then drinking the liquid for the medicinal value or taste. Herbal infusions are a form of extraction specifically used for its medicinal value.
Certain herbs have volatile oils and medicinal properties that are best extracted after long periods of time steeping in a less strenuous environment.
Herbs in every context are best extracted with the solvent water as a menstrum. Whether boiled or decocted in water to infused or steeped in water. Water is the best conduit to extract all of the beneficial properties when immediate need of the herbs medicine is suggested.
In this post we’ ll specifically discuss the process of infusing and in later posts we’ll dive into all this herbie jargon.
There are two known types are infusions that are called on for two very different reasons .
We have COLD infusions and HOT infusions.
Very broadly a cold infusion is where the fresh or dried material is steeped in cold or room tempered water for a period of time to extract the benefits of whatever plant material you choose.
Why do we cold infuse? Well according to Guido Mase, a clinal herbalist, polysaccharides extract well in cold infusion. Though cold infusions take longer, the delicate volatile oils will be more safely extracted then in hot where volatile oils can be altered slightly thus missing some potent medicine.
“Cold water herbal infusions will break down the following plant constituents: sugars, proteins, albuminous bodies, gums, mucilaginous substances, pectins, plant acids, coloring matter, many mineral salts, glycosides, some alkaloids, most alkaloidal salts, and a hint of essential oils.”
Some herbs examples whom preform ideally in cold water infusions are peppermint, chamomile, linden blossom or slippery elm. Each of those herbs have specific properties that are best extracted in cold or tempered environments; slippery elm for its mucligae and peppermint for its potent oil.
Hot Infusion are just as the name suggest , infusions made with use of hot or boiling water. The difference is between allowing the water to boil along with the constituents or steeping in boiling hot water. In this case, the water reaches boiling point and that water is then used to extract the plant material properties.
Hot or boiling water swell plant tissues and burst the cells of the herbs. In this way it dissolves the starches and breaks down elements needed, hot water temperatures can extract more of the plant tissue. Allowing more of its benefits to be used. This is where more difficult elements such as tannins, lactones, and iridoids can now be extracted in water. The only draw back with hot infusions is that because the temperature of the water is at peak, the extraction process is usually a lot faster and much more potent in a shorter period of time then with cold infusions. With hot infusions fresher herbs are always best and recommended but dried herbs work well too.
Explames of herbs most often used in hot infusions, include nettle, dandelion leaf, yarrow, or the elder family (berry and flower).
Both methods are wonderful ways to get the good love in from our plant allies
How to do a Cold Infusion
Cold infusion are made by using 1 part herb to 20 parts of water. ie. 1 ounce of herb to 500ML of cold water. Depending on the herb used some roots, barks or bitter herbs do not always require a large quantity of herbs to provide an abundance of benefits.
Add herbs into a clean vessel , preferably glass ( we’ll have a post on why in the future ). Pour room temp or cold water into glass containing the ounce of herbs of your choice.
The key is to steep and allow the herbs to suspend in the water overnight (at the least 12 hours).
Once extracted, pour and enjoy.
Once fully extracted can be placed in your refrigerator strained or not. I usually keep herbs and remaining water to further extract any other goodies left behind from the first pour.
How to do a Hot Infusion
Hot infusion are made by using 1 part herb to 20 parts of boiling water. ie. 1 ounce of herb to 500ML of hot water. If using fresh herbs you would use 2 parts; so 2 ounces of herbs to 500ML of boiling hot water.
Add herb into clean vessel, again glass. Pour boiling hot water into glass containing the herbs of choice
Shake or stir
Cover your glass container with lid tightly and let stand for at least 30-40 mins. Again the process of extraction is more rapid then a cold infusion. In some cases a hot infusion most indefinitely suites itself as a cold infusion at the end stage of extraction, that we will discuss later.
Once extracted strain, pour and enjoy!
In conclusion, infusions are great way to enjoy most of the benefits from our plant allies and is a great way to incorporate plant jewels into your daily regimen.