One of the biggest struggles of our modern society, despite all our marvelous technological advances, is the ability to get enough nutrients into our bodies to not only sustain us, but to heal us and protect us from all that we are exposed to in our daily lives.
“Essentially, all life depends upon the soil ... There can be no life without soil and no soil without life; they have evolved together.” - Charles E. Kellogg, USDA Yearbook of Agriculture, 1938
The issues lies within our own soil. Over the decades of modern farming, our soil has become deplete in key nutrients.¹ Nutrients that are transferred to our crops and on to us, or to our livestock then to us. As our soil grows increasingly poor, our crops do as well, requiring higher levels of chemical intervention, genetic modification, and other man-made treatments in an effort to meet the food demands of the population at large. With the overall decrease in nutrients, we are struggling to meet our own nutritional requirements, even on a whole food, high quality diet.
It is virtually impossible to meet our nutritional requirements by food alone today.
While much of the world still battles malnourishment in the form of starvation, advanced nations battle malnourishment in the form of obesity, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases. Truly, these modern diseases are a result of malnourishment. How can a person be obese and malnourished? The reason we struggle with obesity is BECAUSE we are malnourished. The body isn't getting the nutrients it is seeking, so it never feels satisfied. It never turns on the FULL signals, so the individual continues to eat in an effort to get that nourishment the body so craves. This is a drastically simplified explanation and of course there are other factors that come into play, as each person is unique in their needs and biomakeup, but in general, the principle is sound. The body is simply trying to protect itself, do it's various jobs, and be as healthy as possible.
Given the state of our food supply, how can we possibly remedy malnourishment?
Well, we basically have two options. 1. Supplementation in the form of vitamins, minerals, and herbs or 2. Seek out the most nutrient dense foods we can find.
The government has attempted to correct malnourishment by fortifying popular processed foods like cereals, breads, and beverages with synthetic vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately synthetic vitamins and minerals are not readily used by the body.² Still, this plan has had limited success in that we rarely see issues like scurvy or rickets today. I do use some supplementation in my center, as many people prefer the convenience of it, with a focus on whole food sources, and non-synthetic versions, but I do prefer to use nutrient dense food sources primarily. And one incredibly easy (and inexpensive!) food source is by making nourishing herbal infusions.
You can think of nourishing herbal infusions as being similar to brewing herbal tea, but the brewing time is much longer, to allow all of the available nutrients to go into solution in the water.
There are many plants in particular that are especially high in nutrition and make excellent nourishing herbal infusions. They include Alfalfa, Hawthorn leaves, Nettles, Oatstraw, and Red Clover blossoms to name a few. Each plant has different properties that, depending on the needs of the individual, can be focused on for a period of time over other plants. I plan to do a more detailed showcase of each plant's profile down the road, but those details are beyond the scope of this particular post. In general, these plants are especially high in bioavailable calcium, potassium, magnesium, and other minerals, vitamins, essential fatty acids, proteins, micronutrients, and other healing nutrients. The body readily and quickly takes up these nutrients and uses them in a synergistic manner, making them even more powerful healers.
Not all plants do well with the extended brewing time required for a nourishing herbal infusion, and will release bitter agents and other unwanted properties, making them unpalatable and possibly toxic, so stick to the tried and true, like those listed here, and referenced in the herbal communities.
Making a Nourishing Herbal Infusion is very simple.
1. Weigh out 1 ounce of dried plant material. Drying the plant before infusing allows the nutrients to be released more effectively while brewing.
2. Put the one ounce of dried plant material in a quart-sized glass jar and fill it to the very top with boiled water.
3. Put the lid on tightly and leave the jar to cool on the counter overnight or for anywhere between 6 and 12 hours. No need to stir, shake, or mix it; as it brews, the plant material will settle to the bottom of the jar.
4. The next morning, simply strain out the plant material, squeezing as much liquid as possible out of it. I use my coffee maker and a cheesecloth that I rinse and reuse for nourishing herbal infusions only, letting it hang to dry in between batches. I store the filtered liquid back in it's (rinsed) brewing jar.
5. Store your brew in the refrigerator and enjoy between 1 and 4 cups a day, cold or rewarmed. Enjoy the infusions individually for maximum potency. If you have any left after 3 days, use the remainder to water your plants, and brew a fresh jar.
I find some of the Nourishing Herbal Infusions to have a stronger flavor than others, but for the most part they are quite mild and palatable and don't require any sweetening. If you are new to herbal teas and infusions though, and prefer yours to be sweeter or more flavorful, a bit of honey would be a good addition, or a squeeze of lemon juice or crushed mint leaf.
Herbs are potent medicine and can elicit responses in the body that may not currently be sought by the user. I highly recommend doing your research on the properties of each plant you plan to infuse before ingestion, especially if making them for children, the elderly, or if you are nursing, pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or do not want to become pregnant (I'm looking at you, Oatstraw!). You may want to seek out the advice of an herbalist or Naturopath like myself, if you prefer, but the plants used in Nourishing Herbal Infusions are generally mild in their action and can be taken at great length.
Enjoy your Nourishing Herbal Infusions and the wonderful boost in nutrition they offer!