The simplest herbal preparation is an infusion, which uses water as a menstrum to extract the active chemical constituents of the herbs. The best-known herbal infusion is herb tea. Be aware that the herbal infusions indicated throughout this blog are made with a greater quantity of herb and steeped for a much longer period than the common cup of tea, which makes them much stronger and more concentrated. These strong herbal infusions are used as ingredients in baths, creams, hand and foot soaks, deodorants, facial toners, shampoos, hair conditioners, mouth rinses and more.
Directions for Herbal Infusions
In general use 1 pint of water per handful of whole dried herb, which is equivalent to approximately 1 oz. of herb by weight. Note that barks, roots, seeds and berries weigh more than leaves and flowers, so adjust your handfuls or volume measures accordingly. For example, a large handful of calendula flowers is equal in weight to a palmful of fennel seeds. When using powdered herbs, use about 3 tablespoons per pint of water. If using herbs that have been cut and sifted, often referred to in herb catalogues as c/s, use about 6 tablespoons per pint. When a recipe calls for a quart or gallon of herbal infusion, just multiply the proportions accordingly. It is important to remember that some loss of liquid through absorption will occur when making infusions with dried herbs expect about a 20-30 percent loss. In some cases, such as in baths and soaks this loss is ,not important. However, in creams and other formulas this loss must be compensated for with more infusion, as you will notice in various recipes. If you are employing fresh herbs, use about 4 times the amount that you would the dried herb. No loss of liquid should occur. Keep in mind that dry herbs release their chemical constituents into water more effectively than fresh herbs, since their cell walls have been broken through dehydration.
The amount of herbs you use for an infusion does not need to be exact. The proportions provided here are a guideline. The potency of the herbs which will vary according to how old they are, how they were grown, dried, and stored and how concentrated the herb is can alter how much of it is necessary for attaining the desired therapeutic results.
Place the herbs in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and pour boiling water over them. To prevent the jar from cracking you can either place a metal object such as a spoon in it or initially pour only an ounce of the boiling water over the herb, allowing it to sit for a minute before pouring in the rest. Place the lid on the jar and let the herb steep for a minimum of 1 hour. I like to steep most herbs for 8 hours. The longer you steep an herb, the stronger your infusion will be. Bear in mind that roots, barks and berries are denser than flowers and leaves and thus may take longer to release their properties into the water.
After the herbs have steeped for the desired amount of time, strain the infusion through a colander or strainer lined with a thin cloth that is not too absorbent. I like to save old cotton/ poly sheets and cut them into 12-by-12-inch squares for lining the strainer. Tightly woven cheese cloth is also very good, though sometimes difficult to come by. Place the cloth-lined strainer over a bowl that is large enough to catch the liquid and pour the contents of the jar into it, allowing the liquid to seep through. If you are making a gallon of infusion for a bath, you may need to use a bucket or to strain the infusion in two parts. Squeeze out the remaining liquid left in the herbs by gathering up the ends of the cloth and twisting them together. Note that for certain preparations, you don’t have to strain the infusion. When I prepare a footbath, I like to leave the herbs in the infusion.