I'm gushing because this is probably my favorite herbal topic perhaps ever. (Well, maybe top five, hehe.)
Nourishing infusions are a simple, easy way to ingest herbs on a regular basis. They're so good for integrating the benefit of herbs into your physical wellbeing, as nourishing infusions work on subtle levels when taken over long periods of time.
I like to describe them as the daily vitamin of ingesting herbs. Steeping herbs for a long period of time in water breaks down the cell wall of the dried plant, releasing all the good water soluble vitamins, minerals, flavanoids, and saponins.
Nourishing infusions are best made with the safest herbs- "superfoods" like nettle, clover, and oatstraw. Herbs like these are best taken in copious amounts to have the best impact on your health, and are typically as safe to drink as they are to eat. They are low in alkaloids, volatile oils, and other compounds that challenge the liver and kidneys, and they actually do much more to nourish tissues (hence the denotation) than to tone or "treat" them. Their actions are gentle and slow-moving, and therefor work wonderfully for correcting imbalances and deficiencies, addressing the physical effects of harm to our emotional bodies, and for complimenting pharmaceutical treatment of chronic disease processes.
All of these reasons are why I rely on nourishing infusions on a daily basis as part of my own self care and why they are pretty much always the first thing I suggest to folks coming to me for herbal education or a recommendation. They are a simple, approachable way to introduce herbs into your self-care.
To make an herbal infusion, take a large handful (or approximately one ounce) of dried herb (dried is important here- it helps break down the plant cells to make everything more bio-available), place the herb in a quart sized mason jar or French press, and cover with boiling hot water. Then cover it (if using a press, just put the plunger and lid over the top of the water line) and let it steep overnight. You can go as little as four hours, especially with more delicate leaves or flowers, but if you're infusing more hardy stuff like nettle or some sort of root, you'll want to steep longer.
When you're ready to drink it, just strain it off, squeeze all the water out of the plant matter, compost that (please), and enjoy it over 1-3 days in the refrigerator. Because most plants that you'll be infusing are safe to ingest like superfoods, you can drink around 3-5 quarts of infusion a week.
I love the idea of experimenting with the subtle effects of different plants, so maybe you want to experiment with, say, oatstraw infusions for 2 or 3 weeks, then switch to nettle leaf infusions for the next 3 weeks. If you do this, I'd love to hear how it goes for you! Let me know in the comments what you find.
Wanna know more about nourishing infusions? Check out master herbalist and wise woman, Susun Weed, and her take on this basic plant medicine. Also, her book Healing Wise is a fabulous introduction to the depth and simplicity of traditional herbal healing. It's a must.