Humans have always connected to the innate wisdom of nature as a fundamental source of physical and spiritual health. Our relationship with plants has supported and healed us through millennia, and although herbal medicine is not well supported in modern Western culture, an awakening in conscious health and lifestyle choices is shifting us back toward holistic, plant based remedies.
Plants contain a wide array of nutrients we need to survive and thrive. They are a direct link to the energy of the sun and the beneficial microbes that support healthy, living soil. We support the health of our bodies when we nourish ourselves with these wise and powerful allies.
Incorporating more fruits, herbs, vegetables, edible flowers and heirloom grains into our diets is the most basic and simplest way to increase our intake of plant nutrient goodness. Consuming plants in their natural form is ideal for the complete assimilation of essential chemical components that allow our bodies to utilize important minerals, vitamins and proteins found in the plant's cell walls.* Although there may be benefits to taking specific dietary supplements in certain situations, we reap the full spectrum of health benefits when the whole plant is consumed, whether enjoyed as a refreshing infusion, blended into a delicious smoothie, or cooked into a nourishing meal.
A timeless and well loved method of incorporating herbs into our diet is by enjoying a nourishing tea. Preparing and drinking tea is considered a sacred practice in many parts of the world. Often, tea is drank slowly and intentionally in a ceremony or ritual where one can connect to the plants, invoking healing energies and sharing in their healing wisdom. Creating this sacredness is possible even in our own kitchens, whether we're entertaining guests or preparing our morning cup: it's all about the intention we set.
The health benefits of regularly consuming herbal tea and infusions are extensive. Whether using a blend of herbs or a single leaf, the benefits are powerful. Drinking tea allows our bodies to easily absorb bio-available forms of vitamins, minerals, proteins, polyphenols and antioxidants that are released by the plants. The terms infusion and tea are commonly used interchangeably, however, an infusion typically steeps for a much longer period of time, usually four hours to overnight. This lengthy steep allows for a much more potent brew, richly concentrated in the plant's healing properties. Infusions are preferable when focusing on supporting a specific system in the body, or as a potent nutritive tonic. Both preparations are incredibly supportive and nourishing and may be enjoyed hot or as a refreshing iced tea.
Similar to infusions, tinctures are concentrated, liquid extracts that are taken orally to support health and wellness. They are traditionally prepared by steeping herbs in an alcohol base to extract the maximum amount of nutritive properties from the plant material, although apple cider vinegar and vegetable glycerin are also commonly used in tincture preparation for those seeking an alternative to alcohol. As they are immediately absorbed into the bloodstream, tinctures can be used as a potent treatment for acute conditions, such as fever, severe chest congestion, menstrual pain, nausea, etc. Tinctures are an effective, convenient and portable way of enjoying herbal medicine as a holistic, preventative tonic.**
So, infuse, experiment and enjoy! Cheers to your health!
*We believe in real, clean food. This means organic and local whenever possible. Grow your own herbs, visit a farmer's market, request more organic variety at your local supermarket. When infusing, always choose organically grown. Plant material that has been sprayed with herbicide and pesticide will not only steep the harmful chemical into the solution, but will concentrate it, intensifying its hazardous effects. The most widely used is Glyphosate (most commonly found in Monsanto's Round Up weed killer) a known carcinogen. As researched by Beyond Pesticides, a non-profit organization protecting public health and the environment to lead the transition to a world free of toxic pesticides, "Glyphosate-formulated herbicides have been linked to numerous health problems including cancer, particularly non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in three separate peer-reviewed studies (1, 2, 3), ADHD, rhinitis, and hormone disruption. Short term health effects include lung congestion and increased breathing rates. Chronic exposures at levels above Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCL) are likely to produce kidney damage and reproductive effects."
**A note on tinctures for pregnant and breastfeeding women, babies, and children under 5: the amount of alcohol contained in one dropper full of tincture is equivalent to the alcohol content in a single banana. Women who are pregnant and concerned with consuming alcohol may choose to add the tincture to a cup of hot water or tea. The alcohol will evaporate, leaving only the plant material. For small children, tincture can also be added to a glass of juice or desired beverage. To treat infants who are breastfeeding, it is advised that the nursing mother consume the tincture, as its properties will be passed to the baby through her milk. As with any health concern, consult with a professional holistic health care provider and do plenty of your own research. You know yourself and your family better than anyone!