Cultivating Calm: The Herbal Infusion for Stress
As we are forced to come to terms with the end of summer and return to our “regular programming,” so too are we ushered back into our hectic lifestyles. It’s no news that taking care of ourselves is essential to good living — at work, at home, and with our colleagues, family and friends. But managing work, relationships, and time for yourself can be taxing on the body. I’ve found that the best way to take care of myself and stay healthy amidst the chaos is by incorporating herbs into my daily routine. Plants can be deeply healing, and one of my favourite ways to use them regularly is both simple and effective. Cue: the herbal infusion.
A daily herbal tea infusion can be a wonderful way to not only stay hydrated, but nourish your body with the healing power of plants. What I love about herbal infusions is that the process for making an infusion is so beautifully intentional, extracting every last vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant from the chosen plant matter. I also like that infusions are easy to consume; you can literally sip them throughout your day as a means of hydration with so many added benefits.
(Photo by Heather Schwartz)
I recommend infusions for most of my clients, for various healing properties. For some, I’ll even curate and prepare them myself. The recipe I’m sharing with you today is one of my favourites for managing stress and cultivating a sense of calm (something I think all of us can use a little more of). It’s also really versatile and user-friendly. I find that everybody I’ve shared this recipe with — from family and friends to clients and colleagues — not only enjoy the taste of this infusion, but how it makes them feel within minutes of taking their first sips, throughout their day, and for its longer term benefits. Here’s the herbal line-up.
/tul·si/ a type of basil, Ocimum sanctum
Also known as tulsi, holy basil has been valued for its medicinal qualities in India and as a part of Ayurvedic practice for thousands of years. Most commonly revered for its adaptogenic properties, tulsi helps the body adapt to and cope with stress by nourishing the adrenal glands (these glands regulate our cortisol, the stress hormone). In addition, this herbal powerhouse is also antiviral, antibacterial, and functions as an immunomodulator, strengthening and balancing the immune system. Best of all, holy basil can help you feel calm and grounded. On its own or as part of a tea blend, holy basil is great to enjoy as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up or at the end of a long day of work.
/mo·rin·ga/ a genus of East Indian and African trees, Moringa oleifera
If there ever was a queen of superfoods, this might be it. Native to parts of Asia and Africa, the moringa tree is celebrated for its intensely nutritive properties as a health food and a medicinal plant. The leaves of the moringa tree are rich in minerals and antioxidants, such as vitamins A (more beta-carotene per gram than carrots!) and E, magnesium, iron, and potassium. It’s a potent source of calcium and functions as a strong blood purifier, removing toxins from the body and nourishing our cells on the deepest level. Perhaps best of all, due to its mineral-rich content that is so valuable to every function and mechanism in the body, moringa can provide us with sustained energy, helping us take on the day.
(Image by Genevieve Kang)
/lav·en·der/ a Mediterranean mint, Lavandula angustifolia
Known for its calming properties, lavender is as healing as it is aromatic. Michael Tierra, L.Ac, O.M.D., defines lavender as antispasmodic, helping to nourish the nervous system, especially in times of emotional upset, anxiety, and even cases of depression. The cooling, anti-inflammatory characteristics of lavender also make it wonderful for supporting the respiratory system, regenerating the skin from the inside-out, and as a pain reliever.
/rose/ a woody perennial flowering plant, Rosa
The rose is a flower with many healing properties. As an astringent and antispasmodic, rose can help to relieve spasms in the respiratory system with both asthma and coughs, and in the digestive tract with cramping and constipation. For anyone living in a polluted city, rose is great for regularly nourishing the respiratory system. This flower is also antiviral, making it an excellent multi-purpose herb for the colder months. Despite its cooling astringent properties, rose emits an uplifting warmth — perhaps having to do with its sweet scent — which makes it particularly lovely in herbal infusion blends.
/lic·o·rice/ the dried root of a European leguminous plant, Glycyrrhiza glabra
Licorice has been used throughout history as a demulcent, to soothe the digestive tract, as well as to reduce inflammation and support the immune system. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) — which relies heavily on herbal medicine — the body can create heat (and inflammation) when we are under a great deal of stress. When ingested, licorice root can help to create a cooling effect in the body, reducing this heat and instead soothing inflammation. This woody plant has a subtle sweetness, which makes it great for adding to teas and infusions.
Make your own herbal infusion:
To keep and store your very own herbal blend: combine equal parts of each herb and store in a large sealed glass jar.
To prepare an infusion, add 3-4 tbsp of your herbal blend to a 1-litre mason jar. Fill the jar with hot water and loosely cover with a lid. It’s important to cover the infusion during the extraction process. This will help to retain all of the volatile oils within the plant matter which is essential for the greatest health benefits. You can leave the infusion to sit for overnight or for short as 10 minutes. The longer you let the infusion sit, the more healing properties you’re going to extract from the herbs and therefore, reap the most benefits. Enjoy your infusion warm or at room temperature. You can drink it as is, or depending on the strength of flavours and your desired taste, you may wish to dilute the infusion with some filtered water.
What I love about herbal infusions are the endless possibilities for combining herbs. I encourage you to learn more about what herbs might benefit you and your body, whether from consulting with a holistic nutritionist or seeking out a certified herbalist.
(Header image by Genevieve Kang)