Ever wish you could get all the nutritional benefit of eating a salad without having to eat a salad?! Then herbal infusions are for you! They’re a mineral rich drink that you sip like tea to support hair health, hormone balance, stress support and more!
I first got into herbal medicine last year when I started experiencing hair loss and went off the birth control pill. I was looking for ways to balance my hormones naturally and give my hair all the nourishing vitamins and minerals it needs to grow. At that point I had tried different capsules, tinctures and powders and eventually learned about herbal infusions while in school for holistic nutrition in the Fall. Despite being a bit of a health nerd, I’m not always the best about eating tons of veggies, drinking bone broth, or getting lots of nutrients into my daily diet. Sometimes I just want to eat mac and cheese and call it a day. However, I definitely don’t want my health to suffer as a result (been there, done that, not going back lol) so I like getting a whole bunch of minerals in my diet in the form of these herbal infusions.
What is an herbal infusion?
An herbal infusion is exactly as it sounds, herbs infused in water. It’s essentially like tea, though you let the herbs steep for about 8 hours. Herbalist Susan Weed said, “Because minerals are rock-like, we need to break open the cell walls to get at them. To extract minerals, we need heat, time, and generous quantities or plant material.” With some herbs you use the flowers, some the leaf and some the stem or root. Fair warning though, certain herbs have a very bitter and earthy taste (like nettle) so if you’re new to the herb scene, I recommend starting with a small amount or using a sweetener so the taste doesn’t turn you off too much!
What is the difference between tea and an infusion?
An herbal infusion (also known as a long infusion) is virtually the exact same thing as tea. You steep some tried herb leaves in water, strain the liquid and then drink it. The major difference between tea and an infusion is how long you steep the leaves for. With tea, you usually only steep it for about 10 or so minutes, but with an herbal infusion, you steep it for 8 hours or ideally overnight. This allows all of the minerals and medicinal benefit to steep into the water to be a deeply nourishing beverage. While I love a good cup of tea, the herbs are not steeped for long enough for there to be any minerals in there. Teas do have medicinal benefit, but if you’re looking for a multi-mineral drink, herbal infusions are for you.
What herbs are best for infusions?
You an make infusions with TONS of different herbs. Some of my favorites include:
- NETTLE LEAF → I’m not trying to make any crazy claims here, but after doing a lot of research into nettle leaf, it seems there is nothing it can’t do. These dark green leaves are incredibly high in chlorphyll, polyphenols, minerals like silica, iron and calcium as well as certain animo acids (source). It’s my all time FAVORITE herb for hair health because of it’s mineral content. Nettle leaf has also been shown to prevent the conversion of testosterone to DHT which makes it a super herb for preventing hair loss. It does so by blocking the enzyme 5-alpha reductase which prevents DHT from miniaturizing the hair follicle (source).
- RED RASPBERRY LEAF → If you are dealing with any hormonal imbalances, are just coming off hormonal birth control, or want to give your reproductive system a little love, this is the herb for you! Raspberry leaf is chock full of supportive minerals and has an affinity for the reproductive system. It tones and strengthens the uterus. Raspberry leaf also boosts immunity, supports fertility, prevent miscarriage, and even induce labor (source). This is a great herb for women to consume during child bearing years to support overall hormonal and reproductive health. As always, talk to a health professional before using any herbs or supplements while pregnant.
- HORSETAIL → Horsetail contains a significant amount of minerals such as silica and potassium, making it an incredible herb for hair health (source). A lot of hair, skin, and nail supplements will contain very small amounts of horsetail because of it’s silica content. Don’t be fooled by the marketing though, this is rarely enough to actually make any noticeable difference in your hair or skin. You’re much better off making an infusion and sipping on it a few times a week. For a serious hair health drink, combine equal parts nettle and horsetail
- OATSTRAW → Feeling burnt out, stressed, “wired but tired” and like you can’t catch a break (who isn’t these days), then oatstraw is for you. Oatstraw comes from Avena sativa (oats) and is source in the early stage of the plant growth cycle. Studies show it supports cognitive function and boosts alpha brainwaves (source). Alpha brainwaves are slower but higher in amplitude than other brainwaves and are in the frequency of 8-12 Hz (source). You are often in an alpha state when you are calm and resting. This herb supports your adrenal glands and can be helpful for anyone suffering from HPA axis dysregulation, commonly known as “Adrenal Fatigue.”
These are merely suggestions of my favorite herbs and herbs that address many common complaints I hear from my clients and overall common issues seen in people today. You can make infusions with tons of different herbs like red clover, hibiscus flowers, comfrey and linden leaf. If you’re just starting out, a simple nettle infusion is a great place to start. It is pretty earthy, so you may want to sweeten it with some honey or lemon!
How to make an herbal infusion
I like to make my infusions at night, just before bed. You can put some water on to boil, brush your teeth, wash your face, whatever floats your boat!
- Put on a tea pot (or other pot) of water and bring to a boil.
- Meanwhile, fill a large jar (I like to use a 32 ounce mason jar) about 1/3-1/2 the way up with organic herbs of choice. I don’t recommend using more than 2 herbs per infusion.
- Pour the boiling water over the herbs until the jar is completely full.
- Seal the jar with a lid and let sit on the counter overnight, or ideally 8 hours. However, try not to let them sit more than 12 hours.
- In the morning, strain the herbs using a fine mesh strainer and use a wooden spoon to press on the herbs to get all of the liquid out.
- Discard the herbs, and drink the infusion over ice with some lemon and honey, or warm it up and have it like tea.
- After the infusion has been strained, it will keep in the fridge for about 3 days, but it’s best consumed within 1-2 days.
If you use a 32 ounce jar and fill it about 1/3 of the way with herbs, you will end up with 20-24 ounces of infusion after it has been strained. You can find these herbs on amazon or iHerb. I like to buy them in bulk to save money!
If you give any of these herbs a try, let me know what you think! The taste will grow on you, especially when you start to reap some of the benefits. I personally aim to drink these 3-4 times a week to get in lots of minerals, especially when I haven’t been on top of eating veggies. It’s up to you how often you drink them, it’s perfectly safe to have them daily, but listen to your body, it knows best!