Beyond Tea: Aromatic Herbal Infusions for Health and Immunity | New York Institute of Aromatic Studies
Let’s get right to it. We know we need to stay hydrated and incorporate botanicals (aka “herbs”) into our lives, especially when feeling depleted, sick, overwhelmed (and so much more….). Go over and say hello to your tea kettle: it’s all about drinking botanical infusions.
I often like to pretend I’m fancy and use the word “tisane” when talking about “herbal tea.” Fancy or not, herbal tea = herbal infusion = tisane. Regardless of what you call it, this is about putting herbs in water, applying gentle heat and then enjoying the benefits of this simple but effective way to work with plants.
Every morning when you wake up, have a glass of water to bathe your tissues. Doesn’t that sound FABULOUS? So…decadent! Not so. It is VITAL. Drinking water “…stimulates elimination and acts like an internal shower waking up the body and preparing it for activity” (Catty, 2001). “Internal shower.” Isn’t that beautiful and inspiring? That sentence has stuck with me since I read it years ago and I hope it sticks with you too.
Drink Your Medicine
Medicine and self-care need not be complicated. Any amazing herbalist will tell you to drink your medicine. I’ll never forget learning this from Jim Mcdonaldand I try to share this wisdom as much as possible. Many herbal teas give you hydration plus put botanical components (i.e., secondary metabolites) in direct contact with places where help is often needed: your entire GI tract, down to the urinary tract, and can easily interact with the lungs, and of course, components go into the bloodstream and need to be metabolized. Effective yet simple.
An Herb Trio for Overall Health
Following is a blend I’ve been enjoying the past few days and have made for guests at a soup kitchen I volunteer at. Overall it supports digestive and respiratory health with herbs known for their antimicrobial nature. The beauty of this blend is that most of us have easy access to fresh Ginger and fresh Thyme at near-by food stores. Melissa may be harder to find. It grows in my garden and I harvest and dry it so I have a large stash on-hand. Check your local health food stores or the tea section of your favorite grocer for prepared tea bags.
|Plant/Botanical||Part of Plant||Key Therapeutic Actions||How Much & How to Prepare|
|Ginger||fresh rhizome||Digestive health (tonic). Stimulates digestive secretions, immune-enhancing promotes blood flow, notable antiviral and antibacterial||15 grams (~1 inch of Ginger), peeled and finely sliced|
|Thyme||Fresh leaves & twigs||Powerful antimicrobial, stimulating, warming, affinities for the respiratory, alimentary and urinary systems
*Note: Thyme can be a bit drying on the mucosal tissues.
|10 grams Thyme twigs and leaves (10 to 12 sprigs)|
|Melissa (aka “Lemon Balm”)||Dried leaves||Antidepressant, local antiviral, digestive health support. Indicated for when stress is upsetting bodily processes (e.g., digestion). Nervine tonic.||5 grams of dried leaves (~1 cup)|
- Fill a small saucepan with 1 liter (4 cups) of filtered water.
- Place the cut Ginger into the water and put a lid on the saucepan.
- Bring the water to a low simmer, do not boil, and keep the Ginger on a low simmer for 15-20 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat and shut off the heat.
- Place the Thyme and Melissa into the pot, stirring to incorporate.
- Cover the pot and steep the herbs for another 10 to 15 minutes.
- Once steeped, strain and press out the herbs as you transfer the tea to a lidded container, such as a mason jar.
Notes and Tips:
- “Medicinal teas” such as this one are a far cry from the little teabag that we steep in a cup of water for 3 to 5 minutes. Medicinal teas use more botanical material and are steeped longer.
- A general guideline for most hot infusions is too steep 30 grams of the herb in 1 liter of filtered water for 30 minutes.
- Preparing your herbs (e.g., crushed, sliced, etc.) increases surface area, allowing the water to pull out more of the amazing secondary metabolites.
- Keep the lid on! Otherwise, the aromatic, volatile oils will go into the air instead of getting in contact with your tissues.
How to Enjoy:
- Drink: 2 to 4 ounces 3x daily; especially when you’re feeling down.
- Each batch made as described in this article will last 24 hours in the fridge. You may choose to make a huge batch, portion out servings and freeze. Defrost your portions as needed.
- Enjoy for 5 days then check in to see how you’re feeling—do not over-consume herbal teas.
- Enhance your tea with the juice of a lemon wedge and some honey for further health-promoting benefits.
I hope you wake up every morning, take an “internal shower,” and enjoy a tisane 2 to 3 times per day for a week or two, then take a break from the tea and just enjoy water throughout the day. Stay hydrated! Enjoy!
Catty, S. (2001). Hydrosols The Next Aromatherapy. Rochester: Healing Arts Press.