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Nourishing and Tonifying Herbs: The Hidden Keys to Health - Infusions - by Susun Weed

Most herbalists, throughout history, have been fascinated with poisonous plants. This fascination, along with careful study, experimentation, and observation, has given rise to pharmacy - the use of concentrated poisons - on one hand, and to homeopathy - the use of diluted poisons - on the other.

While respecting the ability of plants to stimulate and sedate, I have focused my studies elsewhere, specifically on the nourishing abilities of plants. The main premise of the Wise Woman Tradition is that health is inherent in each being, with nourishment being the key that unlocks it. Thus, I have spent the past 30 years recommending the use of nourishing herbs to a wide variety of people with a wide variety of problems.

Because nourishing plants, by definition, can't kill, they are scorned by many herbalists. Their effects are said to be slow and weak. Yes, poisonous plants do create instantaneous results, and I do use them when I need that immediate reaction. But they always undermine health.

Nourishing plants always build health. Their effects are slower, but still rapid - with significant improvement in well-being seen in 10 days or less - and powerful, often life-changing.

I call the nourishing herbs "people's herbs" because they are safe for anyone to use for any reason. And the use of nourishing herbs is "people's medicine," our birthright of health. People's medicine is a direct threat to hierarchy medicine, whether mainstream or alternative. It returns the power of health to the hands of the individual, out of the hands of the elite.

Nourishing herbs are powerhouses of protein, minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals that counter cancer and prolong life. The best ways to extract this richness are those that rely on water and dilute acid as solvents: that is nourishing herbal infusions and mineral-rich medicinal vinegars.

 

Nourishing Herbal Infusions

Tea for You?

Teas are a favorite way to consume herbs. Made by brewing a small amount of herbs (typically a teaspoonful to a cup of water) for a short time (generally 1-2 minutes), teas are flavorful, colorful drinks.   

Herbs rich in coloring compounds - such as hibiscus, rose hips, calendula, and black tea - make enticing and tasty teas. They may also contain polyphenols, phytochemicals known to help prevent cancer. Since coloring compounds and polyphenols are fairly stable, dried herbs are considered best for teas rich in these.

Herbs rich in volatile oils - such as ginger, chamomile, cinnamon, catnip, mint, lemon balm, lemon grass, lavender, bergamot, and fennel, anise, and cumin seeds -  make lovely teas which are effective in easing spasms, stimulating digestion, eliminating pain, and inducing sleep. Since much of the volatile oils are lost when herbs are dried, fresh herbs are considered best for teas rich in these, but dried herbs can be used with good results.

I enjoy a cup of hot tea with honey, which has its own medicinal value. But teas fail to deliver the mineral richness locked into many common herbs. A cup of nettle tea, for instance, contains only 5-10mg of calcium, while a cup of nettle infusion contains up to 500mg of calcium. For optimum nutrition, I drink nourishing herbal infusions every day.

 

Infusion for Me!

An infusion is a large amount of herb brewed for a long time. Typically, one ounce by weight (about a cup by volume) of dried herb is placed in a quart jar which is then filled to the top with boiling water, tightly lidded and allowed to steep for 4-10 hours. After straining, a cup or more is consumed, and the remainder chilled to slow spoilage. Drinking 2-4 cups a day is usual.

Since the minerals and other phytochemicals in nourishing herbs are made more accessible by drying, dried herbs are considered best for infusions. (See experiment 2.)

I make my infusions at night before I go to bed and they are ready in the morning. I put my herb in my jar and my water in the pot, and the pot on the fire, then brush my teeth (or sweep the floor) until the kettle whistles. I pour the boiling water up to the rim of the jar, screw on a tight lid, turn off the stove and the light, and go to bed. In the morning, I strain the plant material out, squeezing it well, and drink the liquid. I prefer it iced, unless the morning is frosty.

I drink the quart of infusion within 36 hours or until it spoils. Then I use it to water my house plants, or pour it over my hair after washing as a final rinse which can be left on.

 

My Favorite Herbs for Infusion

Any herb that is free of poisons - that is, any herb that contains little or no volatile oils, resins, alkaloids, or glycosides - is a good choice for infusion. Additionally, I prefer to use herbs that are exceptionally high in protein, minerals, and vitamins for my daily infusions. See Chart 1.

Nourishing herbal infusions cost me less than a dollar a day. (I buy them by the pound at wholesale prices from Frontier Herb, and so can you.) A quart of infusion a day completely replaces all vitamin and mineral supplements, giving me a saving of at least $75 per month. (The average supplement buyer spends $100-$150 a month on pills, though some customers spend more than $300 monthly on nutritional supplements of various kinds.)

I use these five nourishing herbal infusions regularly, drinking at least a quart a week of each one:

  • nettle leaf (Urtica dioica): nourish and rebuild adrenals, kidneys, blood vessels, skin, hair
  • oatstraw (Avena sativa): longevity tonic, rebuilds nerves
  • red clover blossoms (Trifolium pratense): my anti-cancer ally
  • linden flowers (Tillia americana): anti-flu, anti-cold, lovingly soothes lungs and guts
  • comfrey leaf (Symphytum officinale): heals, nourishes brain, bones, mucus surfaces, skin

 

I also use, for excitement or for specific reasons, these nourishing herbal infusions:

  • chickweed (Stellaria media)
  • mullein stalk and leaf (Verbascum thapsus)
  • raspberry leaf (Ideaus sp.)
  • hawthorn berries, leaves, and flowers (Crateagus sp.)
  • elder berries or flowers (Sambucus canadensis)
  • burdock root (Arctium lappa)
  • violet leaves (Viola sp.)
  • plantain leaves (Plantago sp.)
  • marshmallow root (Althea off.)
  • slippery elm bark (Ulmus fulva)

I only use one herb at a time in my infusion. I keep it simple, so I can really get to know the plants - and myself.

How Do Infusions Taste?

Generally, great! Most people like the taste of nourishing herbal infusions, but here are a few hints to get you started. Remember you can add anything to like to your infusion, from instant coffee to whiskey, as well as honey, cream, lemon, or your usual seasoning choices.

  • Nettle infusion is improved by the addition of salt or miso when you drink it hot; I like it iced.
  • Comfrey leaf infusion heated, with honey, is wonderfully soothing; great iced too.
  • Oatstraw is mild and easy to drink hot or cold, sweetened or plain.
  • Linden flower infusion is great cold, but even better heated and taken with honey.
  • Red clover, especially flavored with mint, is so like iced tea you can fool your friends.

The tannins in red clover and comfrey make me pucker my lips, so I add a little dried peppermint (Mentha piperata) or bergamot (Monarda didyma) to my jar when I make the infusion, just enough to flavor the brew slightly. You can add up to a teaspoonful per quart of any aromatic herb without poisoning yourself. Or you can heat the completed infusion, a cup at a time, and pour it over an aromatic herb to make a tea infusion. Sage, ginger, lavender, thyme, marjoram, shiso, oregano, rosemary, lemon balm, hyssop, and basil are all wonderful choices.

Notes:   Is comfrey safe for internal use? The roots of wild comfrey, Symphytum officinale, are known to contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids which can cause venous liver congestion. Two neonatal deaths are ascribed to ingestion of comfrey root. The leaves of cultivated comfrey, Symphytum uplandica, do not contain these alkaloids and appear to be safe for all women, even pregnant and lactating women. Four generations of people living at the Henry Doubleday Research Center have eaten cooked comfrey leaves regularly, including during pregnancy and lactation, and no liver problems have been seen in this population. See:  Awang DVC. Comfrey. Canadian Pharm Journal 1987: 101-4. Also see:  Gladstar R. "The Comfrey Controversy." Journal of the Northeast Herbalists Association. 1994

 

Chart  1: Vitamins and Minerals in Herbs Used As Nourishing Infusions

per 100 grams dry weight

  • Chickweed: calcium (1210mg), magnesium (523mg), manganese (15.3mg), phosphorus (448mg), and zinc (5.2mg); vitamins A, C, K; protein (2% of total)
  • Stinging nettle: calcium (2900mg), magnesium (860mg), phosphorus (447mg), potassium (1750mg), and zinc (4.7mg); vitamins A, B, C, D, E, K; protein (10% of total)
  • Oatstraw: calcium (1430mg), phosphorus (425mg), and potassium (352mg);  vitamins A, B, C, E; protein (15% of total)
  • Red clover blossoms: calcium (1310mg),  magnesium (349mg), and  potassium (2000mg); vitamins A, B, C, E, K;  protein (20% of total)
  • {Comfrey leaf: calcium (1130mg), chromium (0.8mg), manganese (7mg), phosphorus(211mg), potassium (1590mg), selenium (0.57mg), and zinc (0.28mg);  vitamins A, B, C, K; protein (10% of total)

 

Chart 2: Minerals in Herbs Used Mainly As Vegetables

  • Kelp: calcium (3040mg), magnesium (867mg), manganese (7.6mg), phosphorus (249mg), potassium (2110mg), selenium (1.7mg), silica (7.6mg), and zinc (0.6mg)
  • Amaranth greens: calcium (1210mg), phosphorus (324mg), and potassium (1864mg)
  • Dulse: calcium (632mg), chromium (2.7mg), magnesium (593mg), potassium (2270mg), selenium (3.3mg), silicon (36.8mg), and zinc (3.9mg)

 

For Curious Minds

 

Experiment Number One      Compare herbal tea and nourishing herbal infusion    

Weigh out 1 ounce of dried stinging nettle, oatstraw, red clover, raspberry, or comfrey leaf. Put it in a quart/liter jar. Boil water and fill the jar. Stir until the herb is completely wet. Add a little more water if you can, until the jar is completely full. Cap tightly and let it sit for four hours.

When your infusion is ready, boil more water. Put a teaspoonful of the dried herb in teaball or directly into your cup and fill the cup with boiling water. While it steeps, strain the plant matter from your infusion, squeezing the wet place to release all the liquid it absorbed. Heat a cup of the infusion; put the rest of it in a tightly-lidded jar in the refrigerator.

Sit down with your cup of infusion and your cup of tea. Taste them just as they are, then, if you wish, add honey. Compare and contrast the colors, flavors, and sensations.

 

Experiment Number Two      Compare fresh and dried herbs for infusion.

Weigh out 1 ounce of dried stinging nettle, oatstraw, red clover, raspberry, or comfrey leaf and make an infusion, as above, in a quart jar.

Weigh out 4 ounces of fresh stinging nettle, oatstraw, red clover, raspberry, or comfrey leaf. Use the same plant for both brews. Cut the fresh herb up so it fits in your quart jar and make an infusion by filling the jar with boiling water. (Herbs lose about 75% of their weight when they dry, so 4 ounces of fresh herb dry down into 1 ounce of dried herb.)

After one hour of steeping, look at both jars, taste and compare/contrast. Repeat three more times at hourly intervals.

Minerals are released slowly into water. They darken the color of the water and give it a dense, rich taste. Oil-soluble vitamins float to the top and make a thin glaze of swirls.

 

Experiment Number Three   Compare fresh and dried herbs for teas

Buy or grow a tasty, aromatic herb, like ginger, peppermint, or rosemary. For this experiment you will need one tablespoon of fresh herb, and one teaspoon of the same herb dried.  Place the fresh herb in a cup or mug and the dried herb in another. Fill both to the top with boiling water. After one minute, taste, smell, compare the teas. Wait another minute and compare again. Then wait five minutes and try each one again.

 

Experiment Number Four     Using seeds for infusions and teas

Make a tea with aromatic seeds - anise, caraway, coriander, cumin, fennel, or fenugreek. Use a teaspoon of seeds in a cup of boiling water. At the same time, brew a seed infusion using a quarter-ounce of seeds per cup of boiling water. After a minute, taste, smell, and contrast the tea and the infusion. Repeat in five minutes, then in thirty minutes, then after an hour, then after four hours.

Teas of dried seeds are usually best, as the longer brewing time of the infusion releases volatile oils that taste bitter and can damage the kidneys and liver.

 

Further Study

1.        Drink 2-4 cups of nourishing herbal infusion for a month and see if your health changes in any way. Best if you don't drink coffee or tea during this month.

2.        Choose a green ally to focus on this year.

3.        Read Healing Power of Minerals by Paul Bergner.

4.        Read about stinging nettle and oatstraw in my book Healing Wise.

5.        Make vinegars at different times of the year and compare them.

6.        Unpasteurized vinegar can form a "mother."  In a jar filled with herb and vinegar, the vinegar mother usually grows across the top of the herb, and looking rather like a damp, thin pancake.  Kombucha is a vinegar mother. Does your local health food store sell mothers? Kombucha? What is a vinegar mother? Is it harmful?

7.        What is an ionic form of a mineral?

8.        What is a mineral salt?

9.        How do our bodies uptake and utilize minerals?

 



Susun Weed, green witch and wise woman, is an extraordinary teacher with a joyous spirit, a powerful presence, and an encyclopaedic knowledge of herbs and health. She is the voice of the Wise Woman Way, where common weeds, simple ceremony, and compassionate listening support and nourish health/wholeness/holiness. She has opened hearts to the magic and medicine of the green nations for three decades. Ms. Weed's four herbal medicine books focus on women's health topics including: menopause, childbearing, and breast health.

 

Visit her site  for information on her workshops, apprenticeships, correspondence courses and more or contact her at:


Susun Weed

PO Box 64

Woodstock, NY 12498

Fax:  1-845-246-8081


For permission to reprint this article, contact us at:
susunweed@herbshealing.com

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Legal Disclaimer: This content is not intended to replace conventional medical treatment. Any suggestions made and all herbs listed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, condition or symptom. Personal directions and use should be provided by a clinical herbalist or other qualified healthcare practitioner with a specific formula for you. All material contained herein is provided for general information purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or consultation. Contact a reputable healthcare practitioner if you are in need of medical care. Exercise self-empowerment by seeking a second opinion.

 

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Browse the publishing site - Ash Tree Publishing - to learn more about her alternative health books.

 

Venture into the NEW Menopause site to learn all about the Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way.

Or Join the Forum! Susun Weed’s Wise Woman Forum - an open space for discussion. Make yourself at home, post a message or start a discussion. This place is for you to share your questions, concerns, and comments with other wise women like you. Take a moment to register and become part of the community. Enjoy!
 

 

Susun Weed’s books include:

 

Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year

Author: Susun S. Weed. Simple, safe remedies for pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, and newborns. Includes herbs for fertility and birth control. Foreword by Jeannine Parvati Baker. 196 pages, index, illustrations.

Retails for $11.95 Order at: Ash Tree Publishing

 
Healing Wise 

Author: Susun S. Weed. Superb herbal in the feminine-intuitive mode. Complete instructions for using common plants for food, beauty, medicine, and longevity. Introduction by Jean Houston. 312 pages, index, illustrations.

Retails for $17.95 Order at: Ash Tree Publishing

 

New Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way

Author: Susun S. Weed. The best book on menopause is now better. Completely revised with 100 new pages. All the remedies women know and trust plus hundreds of new ones. New sections on thyroid health, fibromyalgia, hairy problems, male menopause, and herbs for women taking hormones. Recommended by Susan Love MD and Christiane Northrup MD. Foreword by Juliette de Bairacli Levy. 304 pages, index, illustrations.

Retails for $16.95 Order at: Ash Tree Publishing

For more great info on menopause, visit the site.

 
Breast Cancer? Breast Health!

Author: Susun S. Weed. Foods, exercises, and attitudes to keep your breasts healthy. Supportive complimentary medicines to ease side-effects of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or tamoxifen. Foreword by Christiane Northrup, M.D. 380 pages, index, illustrations.

Retails for $14.95 Order at: Ash Tree Publishing

For more great info on Breast Health, visit Susun's Breast Health site.



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