Oh, the many ways to make tea!
Cold infusions are steeping plant matter in non-boiled water. The water need not be cold in temperature to make a cold infusion, it can be anywhere from lukewarm from the tap to icy cold spring water.
Directions for making a cold infusion:
- To make 2 cups, put 3 heaping tablespoons of dried herb to a large tea strainer/infuser or muslin pouch.
- Add water to a pint jar, then suspend the herb in the pouch or infuser in the water.
- Let sit overnight. squeeze or press the marc (the herb in the infuser or bag) into the tea to strain.
- Drink and enjoy!
Why do we make cold infusions, you may wonder. If hot water aids in extracting the medicinal qualities from herbs, then wouldn’t steeping herbs in cold or room temperature water hinder the extraction of important chemical constituents? Not necessarily. Richo Cech explains;
“Some herbs, like marshmallow and blessed thistle, lend their active principles better to cold water than to hot. This is usually due to the presence of mucilage or bitter principles that are denatured, to a certain extent, by boiling water” (68).
Here is a list from James Green of herbs that can be extracted well in a cold infusion (110). You may notice they all have either bitter properties or are mucilaginous:
- Burdock root
- Comfrey root
- Uva Ursi
- Slippery elm
- Blessed thistle (Cech, 68)
There are a few surprises for me on this list. I have never thought to cold infuse cleavers, crampbark or uva ursi, but now that I think of it these are all bitter and cooling. The herbs that I cold infuse the most are marshmallow, chamomile, and comfrey. Before I knew about cold infusing I prepared marshmallow as a regular decoction (it’s a root, so it should be decocted, right?) every time I made it. After hearing that marshmallow should be cold infused, I tried it and noticed a significant difference. The room temperature finished product was much smoother and mucilaginous, making it even more adept to aid the digestive tract or dry throat and respiratory system. I also think it tasted a bit sweeter.
A note about slippery elm while I’m at it: this is an herb that I use mostly as powdered. Mix slippery elm powder into a finished tea to add a moistening and soothing quality. This kind of qualifies as a cold infusion, except you don’t strain the powdered herb out of the finished product, it is mixed in (best mixed by transferring the tea to a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shaking it well). I don’t measure, rather I start with a half teaspoon and work my way up to a tablespoon if I am particularly dry. The longer you leave the slippery elm in your tea, the thicker and more mucilaginous it becomes. When I am going into the hospital with a doula client, I always add an extra-large pinch or two of slippery elm to a quart of marshmallow tea to counteract the extreme dryness of the institutional forced air heating, and I bring a little jar of honey, bee pollen and slippery elm paste to suck on for a dry throat and lungs. Works like a charm every time. Read more about slippery elm and other herbs for dry environments at The Medicine Woman’s Roots.
Cech, Richo. Making Plant Medicine.
Green, James. The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook.