Infusion is a broad term having varying definitions in general application versus particular areas of knowledge. For an herbalist, an infusion may be a way of describing particular tea making, remedies or extractions. Simply, soaking prepared plant material in a liquid makes an infusion. Infusions contain flavors and plant nutrients from the soaking plant material, they can be remedial and/or delicious, and one delight of herbal cookery is when they are both.
Red Root & Co makes a variety of botanical infusions incorporating different liquids and plants, yielding quite different preparations. Differing liquids allow various minerals, flavors, and nutrients to be extracted from plants. In an herbalist’s world, the liquids are often called the menstruum (Green 2000:100). A menstruum can be alcohol, glycerin, vinegar, honey, water, and wine and can sometimes even include molasses or maple syrup. A menstruum is a vehicle for plant nutrients and chemical constituents to be extracted, resulting in a potent, nutrient dense package of herbal goodness.
At Red Root & Co, we mostly use vinegar, honey, alcohol, water and glycerin for our infusions. Alcohol and glycerin infusions are often called tinctures and glycerites, respectively. Tincture or glycerite preparations are typically consumed in smaller doses than other infusions. Different menstruums excel at extracting various chemical constituents of plants. For example, alcohol easily extracts saponins and plant sugars and glycerin is adept at extracting tannins. These plant constituents each bring vital support to our bodies on a cellular level.
Vinegar infusions are prepared a variety of ways with different names, but in the herbal realm common vinegar infusions include Oxymel and Fire Cider. Vinegar is superb to extract minerals from plants. Nutrients such as silica, iron, potassium, zinc, calcium, and magnesium are released as fruits, vegetables and herbs are steeped in vinegar. Minerals are important for health and the functioning of bodily systems.
Syrups can be made from water infusions or decoctions that are then preserved with sugar, honey, alcohol or glycerin. Tannins, proteins, and flavonoids are a few of the plant constituents that extract well in water. Hot water infusions are strong teas; whereby botanicals simmer in water until a desired concentration is reached. These decoctions become the base of a syrup or they may be consumed directly as medicinal tea.
Honey’s sweet taste, inherent nutritious qualities and ability to extract a wide variety of plant nutrients, make it a delicious menstruum. Honey infusions can be consumed as they are, but often honey infusions are combined with other herbal menstruums, such as vinegar or alcohol (Hardin).
Knowing particular plant constituents and the menstruums that extract certain plant properties, herbalist’s create recipes and formulas that produce healthy herbal infusions. Red Root & Co bitters are made with tinctures and glycerites, while Oxymels, Shrubs, Tonics are crafted from vinegar infusions mixed with honey. Elderberry Syrup is a water infusion preserved with honey and glycerin. Our infusions are crafted to fit into different moments of daily life. Whether it’s a sprinkling on dinner veggies, a botanical beverage or daily tonic shots, herbal infusions connect us to the plant world, offer deep nourishment and are a foundation of our kitchen apothecary.
- Green, James. The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook: A Home Manual. Crossing Press, 2000.
- Hardin, KR. “Infused Honeys + Electuaries + Pastilles.” The Enchanters Green, Accessed 7 January 2021