The basic core of improving mood and wellbeing starts with daily habits of taking in the most nourishing and nutrient dense foods available to us and turning away from quick fix single constituent refined foods and beverages. The key habit that I encourage is taking in daily infusions of herbs in long infusions and broths.
A long infusion is a tea that is made with large amounts of herbal material infused in hot water for many hours. The hot water extracts a lot of vitamins and minerals out of the herb and is one of the best daily tonics one can take. It is far superior to taking a multivitamin because the nutrients in the infusion are far more easily absorbed in the gut. Recent research showed that one could absorb 7 times more nutrients from broccoli than from capsules containing broccoli constituents.
Drinking a few cups of infusion also means that we are hydrating our bodies more adequately. Dehydration damages our body’s ability to regenerate and heal itself. Finally, one drinks the infusion when it is warm or at room temperature. We tend to take in too many cold beverages in this society and in many traditions, cold foods and drinks are avoided because they slow down digestion and absorption. Essentially you can think of your digestive tract like a great big cauldron and cold beverages douse the flames and ruin the stomach’s ability to process food properly. Warm food and drink help to gently stoke the digestive fire and improve our body’s absorptive capacities.
So how does one make a long infusion and what herbs should you use?
There are 4 herbs that I rotate when I make “long and strong” infusions. These are nettles, oatstraw, raspberry leaf and red clover. I take a cup of one of these herbs and add it to a quart mason jar. I then add hot water and fill the jar. I then leave this overnight and in the morning, I decant the herb and drink the tea (about 3 glasses) throughout the day. If you forget at night you can make it in the morning and just wait a couple hours before drinking it.
Lets look at each one a little more closely.
Nettles: 1 cup herb to one quart hot water- infuse for 2-12 hours.
Properties: This is a deeply nourishing herb filled with vitamins and minerals. I call it forest milk because a good strong infusion of nettles has a delicious rich flavor. When collecting this herb it has loads of tiny hairs that deliver formic acid if your skin brushes across them. This causes a little itchy and painful rash. This gives a clue to nettles’ power. It is a warrior plant, good for building strength and vitality. When taken as a long (and strong) infusion, it contains a large amount of calcium, iron, chlorophyl, A and B vitamins and protein.
In terms of effects, I think of it as gently strengthening and stimulating, helpful for people who feel tired, deficient, anemic and run down. It is one of the most helpful “anti-depressants” I know because it goes to the root of the problem, deficiency and depletion, helping to restore us at a core level. Some people find nettles a little too stimulating and “zingy” and it can be a little much for people prone to anxiety.
Oatstraw: I cup herb to one quart hot water- infuse 2-12 hours.
Properties: Oatstraw is one of the best herbs to take when one is feeling constantly anxious, wired, burned out from nervous exhaustion and in need of deep nourishment. Oatstraw is known as a trophorestorative (specific tonic) for the nervous system. This powerhouse contains a high amount of B vitamins, silica,calcium, magnesium and trace minerals. Its gentle soothing nature is wonderful for someone who is overheated and appears deficient and tight.
Oatstraw helps soothe and bring increased fluidity and flexibility, is helpful for osteoarthritis, menopause, insomnia and overall stress. While nettles is the premier herb for the depressed anemic pale type, oat straw is best for the anxious, wired, depleted type.
Raspberry Leaf: 1 cup herb to one quart hot water- infuse 2-12 hours.
Properties: One of the most popular infusions to take when pregnant is raspberry leaf. Pregnancy is a fragile time and a time to receive optimal nutrition to pass on to the newborn. In utero the fetus needs an enormous amount of nutrition to build organs, skin, bones and nerves. This can pull energy away from the mother and pregnant women can often feel tired and depleted, especially if they are not nourishing themselves optimally.
But this herb is not just useful for pregnant women, it is useful for anyone who wants to strengthen themselves with mineral and nutrient rich tonics. Raspberry leaf is especially high in B and C vitamins as well as calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron. Raspeberry is tannin rich which gives it an astringent quality helpful for managing spells of diarrhea or excessive menstrual bleeding. Raspberry leaf is also useful for alleviating cold and canker sores, leg cramps, muscle spasms and morning sickness.
In terms of mental health, I find raspberry leaf helpful for those that feel heavy, flaccid, lethargic, soft and washed out. That person needs a little shoring up, a little strengthening and toning, a little bit of juice to get them moving and flowing.
Red Clover: 1 cup herb to one quart hot water- infuse 2-12 hours.
Properties: Red clover has long been esteemed for its “alterative”properties. That term means an herb that improves organ functioning, helping us to metabolize and excrete waste while retaining nutrients more efficiently. Red clover has long been a part of anti-tumoral formulas and recent research points to red clover’s isolflavones as potentially stopping cancer cells from growing and is likely preventative because of its high content of phytoestrogens.
Like the other herbs in this category, red clover is deeply nutritious with high levels of calcium, magnesium potassium. trace minerals as well as B and C vitamins. Red clover is particularly known for its high content of phytoestrogens that can be helpful during menopause for “deficient heat” symptoms such as hot flashes, insomnia and night sweats. Red clover actually has ten times more phytoestrogens than soy milk per cup. And while soy estrogen is implicated in numerous heath problems, likely due to the refining process, red clover is not linked with any deleterious effects.
Red clover is deeply helpful for those who are overheated, dry, brittle, burnt out, sad and depleted.
Burdock Coffee: One of my favorite nutritionally dense beverages is what I call burdock coffee. Its actually a range of root herbs that are not only deeply nutritious, but also have a bitter and sweet flavor that helps to improve digestion and act as a metabolic tonic to improve energy, stamina, clear the skin and strengthen the nervous system. There are a number of variations on this recipe but heres one I use:
2 tablespoons of burdock root
2 tablespoons of dandelion root
1 tablespoon of chicory root
1 teaspoon of licorice
Mix these ingredients together and then place in a pot. Add quart of water and bring to a boil. Then simmer the herbs for forty minutes and strain out the herbs. The burdock absorbs a lot of water and some of it evaporates so you are left with about a pint of coffee after that.