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January 21, 2002

Herbal Infusion (Medicinal Strength Tea)
Sarah Holmes, Clinical Herbalist

If you are reading this article, you have probably read or heard about drinking herbal teas. When you see this in literature, they are referring to the process outlined below. Putting an herbal tea bag in a cup of hot water and letting it sit just long enough so that you are not going to scald your tongue is pleasurable, but not medicinal.

Once herbs are dried they lose their stability after one to two years - this varies from plant to plant. When buying loose dried herbs check for freshness. They should have some color to them, some smell. Old dried out herbs have no life. Even if you don't know what the plant is supposed to look or smell like, you can get a sense of whether the herb has some vitality to it.

If you are going to use your herbs in a timely manner - within a couple months - store them in a covered glass jar in your cupboard. If you buy a large quantity and/or do not use them readily, put them in a plastic freezer bag and store in your freezer. Storing herbs in your freezer will help them to maintain their freshness.

You can dry them yourself, buy them at your local herb or health food store or order them from an herbal specialty store. These instructions are for making an herbal infusion, or medicinal strength tea in the tradition of Western Herbalism. Making tea with Chinese herbs is a different tradition which has a different method of infusing the herbs.

- start with a clean, empty quart jar (mason jar or large mayo jar)
- put 1 to 2 handfuls of dry herb in the jar (or about two to three inches deep, this will vary depending upon the fluffiness of the herb)
- heat water on stove to hot (preferably using a glass pot, next best is enamel covered metal)
- pour water into jar filling it, cover with the lid to the jar (do not tighten it however, or it will be difficult to unscrew once it cools)
- allow to steep for a minimum of 4 hours to overnight
- once the tea has steeped, strain out plant matter (if you are able, it is nice to put the plant matter, called the mark, in your garden under a tree or plant, so that it can return to the earth)
- drink and enjoy your tea; drink at room temperature or gently warm on the stove (do not boil and do not microwave)
- store tea in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days; if you haven't finished it by this time pour it out, it will start to grow things
- if you want to make a smaller amount of tea, use one table spoon dry herb to 8 ounces of water and follow the previous steps.

Additional tips:

If you are making a tea combining several herbs, it is easiest to mix the dry herbs together in a large bowl and store them already mixed. Then you can simply grab a handful of the mix and make your tea.

If you like to make your own blend each time, still follow the above guidelines for herb to water proportions. In other words, if you are combining three herbs into one tea, do not put two handfuls of each herb in the jar. Also, it is easier to brew them together, rather than having three separate jars going if you are planning to drink them together anyway.

Sarah Holmes, Clinical Herbalist and Educator

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