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Intelligent waters: unfolding the healing power of herbal "teas"

Knowing how the plants interact with the water, heat, Sun, and the Moon is crucial to obtain the best of the plant's intelligence transferred to the "tea". The temperature of the water and the length of exposure of varied plant parts will impact the flavor and the action of your preparations. In this post, I am sharing some of the methods I use when preparing herbal concoctions. I have first heard the expression "intelligent waters" from Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar, author of the book "Change your schedule, change your life" and from whom I have learned about the importance of living in alignment with our circadian rhythm, an idea that permeates all aspects of Ayurveda.


Infusion and decoction: what is the difference between the two?

An infusion is made by steeping herbs in hot, warm or room temperature water. Infusions can be enhanced by exposure to lunar and solar vibrations. Infusing is the best way to extract the medicinal benefits of delicate parts of the plants, such as leaves and flowers as they tend to release their properties quickly when in contact with water.

A decoction, on the other hand, is made by simmering tougher plant parts, such as rhizomes, roots, barks, or seeds, in water for a given period of time. This method is used to extract the healing properties from hardy plant parts that require more heat to release their benefits.


Hot water infusion

The most common way to make an infusion is by simply pouring boiling water over the herbs and letting them steep for some time before straining. Usually, 1 tsp of the herb or herbal synergy of choice will be infused into 8 oz of very hot or boiling water and let steep for 3-5 min, or until desired strength. The tea is then strained and enjoyed hot or cool. This method is great when preparing teas from plant leaves (Rosemary, Sage, Lemon Balm, Lemongrass, etc.)

In Ayurveda, it is also common to see “teas” made of plant synergies presented in a powdered form. Yogis and Ayurveda practitioners often take them infused in water without straining.



Warm water infusion or "overnight" slow-infusion

This is my favorite method of preparation. By using warm or room temperature water, the plants are allowed to diffuse their properties progressively into the water. The result of this gentle method is an infusion loaded with delicate flavors. This method is great when preparing teas from flowers (Chamomile, Rose petals, Calendula, Elder flowers, etc.) or when you wish a particular outcome from certain leaves (Mint, Nettles, etc.)

Two examples of plants that I love preparing in this way are rose petals and stinging nettle leaves. When rose petals are infused in slightly warm water and left for a couple of hours or overnight, the tea obtained has subtle flavors that would be lost if using hot water. Roses prepared this way will taste sweeter and slightly astringent, instead of presenting bitter notes as when infused in hot water. For nettles, infusing the dried leaves into slightly warm or room temperature water overnight, will provide a beautiful translucent green tea that is refreshing, cleansing, and nutritive. This method is simple and in my opinion invites us to relate to time in a slow paced way that connects us with the Earth.

Lunar infusion

To prepare a moon infusion, fill a glass jar with the chosen herb, pour room temperature or warm water over it, and let it steep overnight. This process allows the herb to release its essence into the water under the lunar vibration, creating a moonlight infusion. The next day, strain the mixture, separating the herb from the water, and serve. Full moon nights of clear sky are the best condition for this type of preparation and jasmine flowers are wonderful prepared this way.

Solar infusion

The process is similar to that of the moon infusion, but instead of steeping the herb overnight, you will fill the jar with the herb and water, then place it in direct sunlight for several hours. During this time, the Sun's energy infuses into the water transferring the herb's qualities to it. Once infused, strain the mixture that can be used topically or ingested as a tea. This is a particularly beautiful way to prepare Saffron water for example, or to infuse luminous vibrations of plants when we are lacking clarity or a sense of joy and purpose.

Decoction

To make a decoction, you can simply add your herbs to water, bringing it to a boil, then lowering the heat and allowing it to simmer for some time as the qualities of the plants get transferred to the water. Plant seeds can be boiled for 5 to 10 min, while barks, roots, and rhizomes may need to boil for up 20 minutes. This method is used for Ginger, Cinnamon, Cardamom,


Combined Method

When you are preparing a concoction that combines roots, rhizomes, or barks, with arial parts like leaves and flowers, it is ideal to first decoct the dense plant parts, then turn the heat off and add the aerial parts letting it infuse for a few minutes. Examples of this preparation method could be a Ginger-Tulsi tea, where the Ginger is decocted than the Tulsi infused; or a Classic Chai where all spices are decocted, and then the black tea is infused to it.


A rule of thumb

When making an herbal tea, make sure you use the right method for your herbs. Infusions are great for delicate parts of the herbs, while decoctions are better for tougher plant materials.



 

About the author: Carol Jamault is a Certified Health and Life Coach (CHC), Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT), and Yoga Instructor (RYT-200) with extensive training in Ayurveda and Herbalism. She focuses on supporting her clients with stress management tools and self-care routines through an integrative approach to wellness. She guides those in a quest for personal growth and better health, by providing curated information and teaching a therapeutic lifestyle that naturally allows to restore balance, improving wellness and fostering longevity. Carol has been studying alternative healing, ethnobotany, circadian medicine, Ayurveda and herbalism since 2001. She is the founder of Hridayam Bodywork & Apothecary and partners with corporations and wellness studios to provide therapeutic bodywork, private coaching, workshops, and lectures.

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