Making herbal infusions

Many herb books, and especially some of the classics of the sixties and seventies, were aimed at medicinal users and therefore recommend a very high dose. It is important to separate therapeutic dose from ordinary use as a beverage. Therapeutic dose is often many times stronger than normal use, and can result in bitter, unpleasant taste. In the longer term, herbs could have adverse effects if continually used at high dosage. Herbs such as lemongrass, for instance, can be strongly antiseptic. Repeated use at high rates could harm stomach flora. Lemongrass even has some insecticidal and insect-repellent properties. Its use as an insecticide is mainly due to the methyl heptenone content, and the repellence to the aldehyde citronellal. Like other herbs, it contains terpenes and terpene alcohol.

Lemongrass is an excellent herb and frequently enjoyed by the author, but at domestic use concentration.

A typical dose when using dried herbs is one teaspoon of herb to one cup of hot water, or one teaspoon per person if using a pot. Apply water just off the boil and let it brew until it reaches a drinkable temperature. Cover a pot or cup with a lid if you are drinking herbs where volatile oils are the desired part.

By contrast a therapeutic dose could be 30 grams of the herb steeped in one litre of water for at least 15 minutes.

Normally herbal tea is made with the soft tissue parts of the plant, generally the flowers, leaves or smaller green stems. Sometimes it is made from crushed seeds or powdered roots.

If using fresh herbs, vary the amount of ingredient up to about 3 times as much as the dried herb, depending on taste.

Cold water infusions can also be made. They should be covered and brewed for 5 to 10 hours. If kept for longer, they should be refrigerated.

If using strong herbs, such as lemongrass, consider reducing the concentration even further than above, but drinking more cups, and varying the herbs. Most of us do not take in enough liquids, and drinking more cups allows one to enjoy the benefits of more herbs.

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