Saturday, January 15, 2011

Herbal Ally Challenge #2: Infusions

Hopefully you've done a bit of research by now and know whether or not your herbal ally is safe to consume in large quantities. If not, take a moment to research it.

If your herb is safe, start by making 1 infusion a day for a week to drink. To make an infusion you will need:

1 quart jar with lid
a metal knife or spoon
dried herbal ally
boiling water

Note: if you can use more than 1 part of your ally (ie. aerial parts, roots, flowers), try this exercise with each part individually and combined to see which experiences work best. You may need to space this out over the course of the next month to complete it, if so, that's perfectly fine.

To begin, place a handful of your dried herbal ally in the jar and add the knife or spoon (this will keep the jar from shattering from the heat of the water). Pour boiling water in to fill to the top. Let it sit for a few minutes then remove the knife/spoon and put the lid on.

Let this sit for 4-8 hours. Some herbs don't need to infuse as long such as chamomile. If you are unsure how long your herb should steep for, ask me in comments and I'll let you know. For the majority of the herbs, 8 hours or overnight is perfectly fine. I like to make my infusions right before bed and then they are ready to drink the next day.

Once the herb is infused, strain out the infusion and drink within 24 hours. You can chill it, heat it or drink it as is. Try to drink it straight, at least for the first day just so you can really taste the flavors and feel the reactions. After the first day, you can add a bit of honey to sweeten or other herbs (peppermint and licorice are great at masking bitter flavors) if you need but do so in moderation. You are wanting to get the full effect of your herb. Try it hot, chilled and room temperature to see which flavor you like best.

Each day as you drink this infusion (you don't have to drink it all at once, you can drink it over the course of the day), pay attention and write in your journal about the following:

1. how you feel before you drink it
2. how you feel while you are drinking it
3. how you feel 30 minutes after drinking it
4. what your herbal ally tastes like
5. any after tastes
6. what it feels like going down, if you can feel any part of you opening, such as your chest, lungs, heart,  or more peripheral
7. notice if it is drying (think banana peels) or moistening to your mouth...does it make you pucker or make you drool?
8. does it warm you up (think ginger, cinnamon, cayennes) or cool you down (think cucumbers, avocados)

Don't worry if you have troubles identifying these things at'll be doing this exercise over and over periodically throughout the year. The idea is to get yourself familiar with your herbal ally.

Continue doing this every day for a week and record your experience every day. At the end of the week, review your past 7 days' experiences and write a summary of your experience with your ally.

Did anything change for you over the course of the week?
Did you find a bad tasting herb start to taste better?
Did you find your senses sharpened over the course of the week to your reactions?
Did you notice any changes in your body such as energy changes, appetite changes, digestion changes, etc?

If your herb is generally regarded as safe to take long term, you can continue to do this exercise daily as you see fit. Otherwise, try to do it once a week or every other week throughout the course of the year. You can also add your infusions to soups as part of the broth if your herb is a nourishing one such as burdock, dandelion, comfrey, chicory and nettles. adjust for taste as some infusions are more bitter than others. Susun Weed lists several herbal allies and their safe dosage amounts here.

Post your experiences on your blog and leave a comment here and I'll add your post to the end of my post on January 22.

If your ally is not safe in large dosages, do this exercise in moderation, 1/4 - 1 cup of tea a day, infused 30 minutes - 2 hours depending on the herb. If you are doing an extreme low dose botanical such as poke, do a dilute portion of tea, say 1 teaspoon of tea to 1 cup of water. Proceed with caution.

If you have any adverse effects at any time during this exercise, STOP. This goes for any type of herb, not just the low dose botanicals. You may be allergic if you are having a reaction. If you are, you may choose to switch to another ally or continue observe the herb without consuming it. You can still learn a lot about your ally without ingesting it.

Please also note that not all challenges may pertain to your herbal ally. If you find a challenge to be too extreme for your herb, skip it or adjust it as necessary. The point is to fully immerse yourself in your ally and learn all you can about him. Since different herbs have different healing methods, these challenges are not a one size fits all. On challenges that you don't feel you can do with your herb, spend the week doing alternate challenges such as:

-writing poems and/or songs about the ally
-drawing the ally with all types of mediums and all styles you can: colored pencils, water colors, pastels, ink, cartoon, impressionistic, realistic, etc.
-reading about the ally
-writing a story about the ally
-meditating with the ally

If you do not have your ally growing nearby for observation, you might want to consider purchasing some seeds to start some to grow in your garden or a pot. I've had great luck with these seed sources:

thyme garden
horizon herbs

Although you can also get some plants to start growing, seeds are the best to watch the growth cycle from the beginning since we'll be observing the growth cycle of our allies.

To get ready for the next challenge, gather as many herbals as you can that have information about your plant including field guides, wild food cook books and herb books. Go through your library loan system, they are often a wealth of book collections.

PS. When you are writing in your journal, you can make it extra special by adding borders, sketches of your ally and anything else that strikes your fancy. Also, creating elaborate fonts for your titles or journal entry headers makes it extra special too. For great tips and help on creating beautiful journals, check out Irene Brady's ebooks. I have purchased a few in the past and really like them for helping to spark my creative side.


JoyceAnn said...

Hi Kristine ~ I'm a littel behind on the Herbal Ally Challenge due to the snow and ice last week , had the grands most of the week , they kept me busy.
I made my journal cover and posted about my herbal ally today at my Herbal Spirits blog. Tomorrow I hope to get some Dandelion root infusion brewing , will try to finish this challenge on time (LOL).

~ Dandelion Blessings ~

Comfrey Cottages said...

I am not digging the overnight infuse of white pine, at all! lol Especially without adding a bit of lemon of something. I am hoping to harvest some bark, to try that one as an infusion, to see if I like it any better. Any ideas for me on white pine infusion? thank you.
sorry to be late starting. journal cover, vinegar, post soon:)

tansy said...

leslie, you may not need to infuse it as long. i bet a 2 hour infuse would be perfect for pine...experiment with different lengths of time and see which seems most appropriate.

Comfrey Cottages said...

good idea. I tried overnite. blech! same with 6 and 4 hour. so trying the 2 hour next then. I was about to say nevermind! lol thanks

Yzzy said...

Kristine, can you tell me where to look to find infusion time for ground ivy? i can't seem to find it anywhere!! ugh. lol.

~Creepin Round!~

tansy said...

yzzy - since it is in the mint family, i would go with the general recommendations for mint which i believe is around 4 hours.

Yzzy said...

Thanx bunches, buddy!!! :o) I have no clue why ui didnt think to look at the infusion time for the mint family!! he he. All i can say is i'm the dodo that's still living and learning. I love it.

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