Mon. Oct 21st, 2019

How To Make Herbal Infusions


So you’ve been making some changes in the health and well being of your best friend and herbs have played a big part, kudos to you! Herbs have been used medicinally for tens of thousands of years. Archaeological evidence dates plants being used medicinally all the way back to the Paleolithic time period, roughly 60,000 years ago. As humans progressed they also domesticated animals as companions and beasts of burden, often treating they animals with plants as well. Using herbs and other natural substances found in their environment helped our ancestors overcome various maladies and has helped herbalism evolve into what we have today.

There are many ways to use herbs, from using fresh to dried, tinctures to poultices, teas to infused oils and everything in between. Today I thought I cover how to infuse herbs.

To infuse an herb you need a base or carrier liquid. The three most common ways to infuse are in water, oil, and alcohol or glycerin. The water or tea method is the easiest and doesn’t take a lot of preparation. Simply place some of the chosen herb in a heat proof cup or mug, pour some boiling water over the herb and allow to steep or infuse for 15-20 minutes. The second method is making an infused oil. This method is done by placing the herb in a carrier oil such as almond oil, grapeseed oil, olive oil, and hemp oil just to name a few. The third method is called a tincture. Tinctures use an alcohol base(the most common ones used are vodka or rum 80 proof) or a glycerin base for those that don’t want to use alcohol or if it’s not appropriate to use an alcohol base. A Calendula tincture for example, is just the herb infused for a period of time in either of those bases. You can also infuse herbs in in vinegar as well. I’m sure you have seen the various flavored vinegar’s in your grocery store or specialty food stores.

There are many ways to treat your dog with infused herbals. I most recently used both infused oils and herbal teas(along with other natural medicinals) to treat my dog Kippah who had a bad case of the Dreaded Doggy Diarrhea! For those that have had the unfortunate occasion to fail victim to the DDD you know how bad that can be! I treated her with a simple Calendula and Plantain tea and added Colloidal Silver(a subject for another future post!) for good measure. There are other herbs like Slippery Elm and Marshmallow that I could have made into tea, but at the time I didn’t have any on hand.

With the different methods covered, now I will go into more detail on how to infuse herbs.

How To Make An Herbal Tea

I’m sure at some point in your life you have had some type of tea. If you haven’t yet you need to. Teas, depending the herb used can help you sleep, soothe a sore throat, or relax you after a hard day. Even making the plain old black tea in those little bags with a string is infusing.

To make an herbal tea

  • Use 2 teaspoons of dried herb or 1 oz of fresh herb per cup of water.
  • You can use a glass or ceramic mug, cup or tea pot.
  • Once the water boils, pour it on the herb making sure to cover with a lid or plate right away. The healing oils of the herb are released into the air so it’s very important to cover it asap.
  • Allow to steep for a minimum of 10 minutes, but 15 is optimal.
  • Pour the infused water into a cup. You can strain the herb if you wish through a tea strainer. I just use a small metal mesh strainer I bought at the dollar store.

Most but not all herbal tea infusions are made with boiling water. Some herbs such as Marshmallow and Comfrey need to be cold infused because the hot water destroys their medicinal properties. Make sure to do your research and know which herbs work best in either hot or cold infusion.

How To Make An Infused Oil

Infusing herbs in oil can be a time consuming process depending on what method you choose to infuse your oil. Don’t be intimidated by this! It’s just a choice between cold or solar infusion, or heat infusion using either the stove top, the oven or a slow cooker. The easiest way by far, although not the shortest is cold or solar infusion.

You will need:

I usually just eye ball the amount of herb to oil, but if you prefer you can measure. The general rule is 1 ounce of herb to 10 ounces of carrier oil. As mentioned before there are a several different choices for the carrier oil. I prefer organic extra virgin olive oil because it resists oxidation, and rancidity. It’s best to use dried herb because fresh herb has at least some level of moisture content which can make your herb/oil mixture spoil. Always make sure your jar, lid and the spoon you use to stir with are completely dry.

Solar or Cold Infused

  • Place your herb in your jar
  • Pour in your oil of choice
  • Gently stir to make sure all the herb is covered by the oil
  • Cut a small square of wax paper and place it on the top of the jar. This prevents any chemicals that might be on the lid from contaminating your oil.
  • Tightly screw on the lid
  • Gently roll the jar back and forth in your hands to make sure the herb is completely covered
  • Place the jar in a warm spot but out of direct sunlight
  • Leave the oil to infuse for 4-6 weeks
  • Check on it every few days and roll the jar back and forth in your hands to further release the herbal properties and to keep everything covered
  • After the time is up strain the mixture through a cheesecloth into a bowl making sure to squeeze out as much as you can.
  • Discard the herb, I compost mine.
  • Place the oil into bottles or jars, add a few drops of Vitamin E(helps to preserve the oil), label with ingredients and date, store in a cool, dark place
  • Most infused oil have a shelf life of a year or more. Oils can go rancid so make sure to discard any oil that smells “off”.

Heat Infused

Stove Top Method

  • Place the oil/herb filled jar(see above) in a saucepan fill about ¼ of the way full
  • Simmer for 4-8 hours checking the water level often and adding as needed.
  • Remove the jar from the water and allow to cool
  • Strain, bottle, label and store in a cool dark place

Oven Method

  • Place the oil/herb mixture in an over proof dish
  • Preheat oven to 250
  • Place oil/herb mixture in the oven and turn off
  • Leave uncovered in the oven for 24 hours
  • Remove the dish from the oven
  • Strain, bottle, label and store in a cool dark place

Slow Cooker Method

  • Place a hand towel in the bottom of the slow cooker. This serves to prevent the jars from being on the direct heat.
  • Fill the slow cooker about halfway with water
  • Turn the slow cooker on and set to the warm setting
  • Place the lidded jar into the slow cooker and infuse for 8-12 hours
  • Ideally the temperature should be between 100-120 degrees. Check the temperature often and turn off the slow cooker for short periods of time if need be
  • Shake the jar a few times throughout the process
  • After the mixture has infused turn off the slow cooker and allow to cool
  • Strain, bottle, label and store in a cool dark place

I personally think the cold infused method is the best way to get the biggest bang for your buck. But if you need some infused oil quickly the other two methods will do.

How To Make A Tincture

Making an herbal tincture is similar to making infused oil.

What you will need:

  • Suitable glass jar with tight fitting lid. NO metal or plastic containers.
  • Small funnel
  • Cheesecloth
  • Herb of choice.
  • Consumable alcohol. Vodka is most commonly used because of its colorless, odorless and mostly flavorless. Make sure it’s 80-90 proof, or 100% food-grade, vegetable glycerin.
  • Small dark colored glass bottles to store the tincture.

Depending on your comfort level, just like the infused oil you can eye ball for the amount of herb to alcohol(or glycerin), making sure to cover about an inch above the herb or use the general guidelines below. Some people have differing opinions on whether to use powered herbs or not. I have only used dried or fresh herbs so it’s up to you whether you want to use powdered herbs, but here are the guidelines.

  • Add enough fresh chopped herbs to fill the glass container. Cover with alcohol
  • Add 4 ounces (113g) of powdered herb with 1 pint (473ml) of alcohol or glycerin
  • Add 7 ounces (198g) of dried herb material to 35 fluid ounces (1 liter) of alcohol or glycerin

Steps

  • After adding the herb to the alcohol stir gently with a wooden spoon making sure to stir around the edge to release and potential air bubbles
  • Screw on the lid and label with ingredients and date.
  • Infuse for 6 weeks, shaking the jar occasionally.
  • After the 6 weeks is up, strain, bottle, label with ingredients and date, and store in cool dark place.

Tinctures made with alcohol have a long shelf life, up to five years if store properly and have a greater potency than tincture made with glycerin. If you use glycerin the shelf life is anywhere from 14-24 months. Something else to consider when choosing either alcohol or glycerin is the taste. Glycerin has a sweeter more pleasant taste. Another thing to consider is what you will be using the tincture for. For instance if you will be treating a liver or kidney illness an alcohol based tincture might not be wise. I personally would rather use glycerin based tinctures on my dogs, but that’s just a personal choice.

Infused Vinegar

Last but not least is infused vinegar. Infusing herbs in vinegar has thousands of years. The Babylonians used vinegar as a food and a preservative or pickling agent. Evidence also shows that vinegar was used in ancient Egypt and China. Vinegar in itself has wonderful health benefits, so adding herbs to the mix only make sense! Just about any type of vinegar can be used. I give my dogs organic apple cider vinegar for it’s many health benefits anyways, so that’s what I use.

How To Make Infused Vinegar

Although tinctures made with alcohol have a greater potency, infused vinegar is a great alternative for those who prefer not to give their dogs an alcohol based tincture. The ratio of herb to vinegar doesn’t have to be precise, however the general guideline is 1 part dried herb to 7 parts vinegar. Dry herbs are preferred because they allow for a longer shelf life(up to 6 months) and a greater potency than fresh herbs. If you choose to make infused vinegar with fresh herbs that’s ok too, but ideally it will need to be stored in the fridge.

What you will need:

Steps

  • Mix the herb of choice and the vinegar together in the jar
  • Place a piece wax paper on top of the jar. This step should not be skipped as it protects the metallic lid from the acid/corrosive effects of the vinegar
  • Tightly screw on the lid
  • Shake to ensure everything is mixed well
  • Place in a cook dark place like a closed cabinet for 2-3 weeks
  • Shake daily
  • After the infusing time is up, strain, bottle, label with ingredients and date, and store in cool dark place.

Making herbal infusions is another way to keep your dog healthy and to treat illnesses. Whether you choose a simple tea, or a more involved tincture give it a try, it’s fun and easy plus your dog will reap the benefits!

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