Herbal Infusions for Health & Wellness
On International Women’s day this month, I was listening to the local radio on my drive to work. The presenter was asking listeners to call in and share wise words they had received from a strong woman in their life. I pondered on this, so many wise women, so many wise words. I thought about how the relevance of my grandmother’s words has continued to echo throughout my own life.
When I left home my grandmother gave me a teapot. She told me that there would be many moments in life when the best thing to do, or the only thing to do, would be to simply share a pot of tea with another. How right she was, many pots have been shared over laughter, tears and connection. When my older two children recently left home, I passed on the same message with the same gift of a teapot.
As people navigate the increasingly busy and hectic pace of life, it is probably no accident that so many teashops are appearing in parallel, beckoning us to slow our pace and stop for a moment. The beauty of making tea is that it makes us pause, and can be a small gift to ourselves and to our family amidst the busyness of our day. There is ritual in it that naturally takes us to a place of mindfulness. It satisfies our sense of taste, smell, sight and gratitude as we lean in and take that first sip.
Preparing a herbal tea allows us to participate in our own health and wellness, connecting us directly to the process. Watching the leaves, flowers, barks, or roots impart their colour and release their healing constituents into the water, reminds us of our connectedness to the natural world and grounds us to our place within it.
The possibilities abound today for experimenting with flavours for pleasure. We can mix and match, for example, if you don’t like the taste of green tea on its own, you could try adding some spearmint or an orange spice blend.
For Medical Herbalists, blending teas that impart a therapeutic action as well as being palatable is a bigger challenge and is a skill learned during study and honed over time. To improve palatability we may add herbs such as liquorice, fennel, mint, or cinnamon to create a natural sweetness or to compliment a more bitter element.
Below you will find a list of some common herbs and their medicinal uses.
Herbs for sleep and relaxation
Herbs such as passionflower, chamomile, rose, valerian, lemon balm, skullcap, hops and lavender are often recommended. The choice and combination of herbs will often depend on whether a person has trouble falling asleep, or if the concern is waking through the night and unable to fall back to sleep, or if there is a hormonal element such as menopausal waking or disturbed sleep before menstruation.
Herbs for digestion
The classic herbs for soothing digestion include chamomile, fennel, mint and ginger. However, a herbalist may add marshmallow root, liquorice, meadowsweet, aniseed or bitter herbs, depending on what symptoms a person is experiencing.
Herbs for colds
Elderflower, yarrow and peppermint are combined to create a traditional blend, with echincea leaves and/or root being a more recent addition. The addition of some fresh grated ginger, fresh lemon and honey to the pot enhances the therapeutic value and the taste of this blend. Other herbs such as eucalyptus or spices may also be added as decongestants. Rosehips can add some vitamin C and bioflavonoids to aid recovery.
Herbs for coughs
Herbs that are often prescribed include thyme, hyssop, liquorice, marshmallow leaf, elecampane, and coltsfoot. The type of cough, whether dry, wet, or tickly, and other symptoms a person is experiencing will guide a herbalist as to which herbs to choose.
Herbs for skin
Echinacea, wild indigo, cleavers, dandelion root, nettle, burdock, calendula, sarsaparilla and blue flag are just some of the herbs that may be chosen. The choice of herbal combination is very individualised and will depend on how their skin condition is presenting and accompanying symptoms.
Preparation of herbal teas
Herbal teas are prepared either as a simple infusion, similar to preparing green and black teas or as a decoction, which involves gently boiling the herbs. Flowers and leaves are prepared as infusions whereas barks, roots and seeds are usually decocted, as it is more difficult to reach the active constituents in this part of the plant.
Fresh herbs can also be used. Lemon balm and mint are easy to grow at home, but they do like to wander so you may want to either grow them away from other plants in a separate part of the garden or choose to grow them in a container.
Preparing an infusion:
Infusions follow the steep, strain and drink method.
Steep 1-2 teaspoons or as directed, per one cup (250mls) of boiling water for 3-5 minutes.
Strain the infusion.
Drink. Infusions can be sweetened with honey if desired.
There are many tea-making accessories available today that make this method of preparation fairly straightforward.
Note: Aromatic plants should be covered while steeping so that the valuable volatile oils are not lost to the air with the steam.
Preparing a decoction:
This takes a little longer and involves a decoct, strain and drink method.
Add 1-3 teaspoons of the herb as directed, per one cup (250mls) of water. Bring to the boil, and reduce heat to a gentle simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes.
Strain the mixture.
Drink. The decoction can be sweetened with honey if desired.
Note: Some people like to grind the root, or bark for more efficient extraction of the plant constituents. You may want to reduce decoction time to 15 minutes in this case.
If you think that you would benefit from a more customised blend tailored to your individual needs, please book here for a personal consultation.
Enjoy your herb infused moment.
All content provided on this website is for general information purposes only and is not intended to replace medical or specialist advice.
A qualified Medical Herbalist is always your best resource for information related to herbal medicines.
Registered Dietitians are a reliable and trusted resource for nutrition related information, always up to date and always ready to work with you to realise your goals.