Tisanes + Infusions + The Standard Brew

Water Based Remedies



Water based herbal preparations are some of humankind’s most ancient remedies and remain popular throughout the world in traditional medicine. It can be done by anyone anywhere there is water and plant matter. It is simple, widely available, usually free and can be easily taught to even children. 


Tisanes, infusions and standard brews are all prepared by steeping an herb in either cold, room temperature or just boiled water for varying amounts of time. In these preparations, no plant materials are boiled at any time.


Distilled or rain water is often preferred for all of these processes as it tends to facilitate the most complete extraction process. Hard water, including most well water, is less suitable and can cause precipitation or incomplete extraction of plant constituents. Water-based preparations should generally be used within 24-48 hours, depending on climate and individual plants (for example, Urtica infusion often spoils much more quickly than say, Avena infusion).

This method is especially appropriate to non-woody, green leafy  plants, flowers or herbs (any part of the plant) with high volatile oil or other constituent content that might be destroyed or lost through boiling. This will be discussed in further detail below. 


  • Infusions and decoctions are a widely accessible method of medicine making for almost all people. 

  • Water and plant matter are highly affordable and in many cases, even free.

  • Unlike alcohol based preparations, infusions and decoctions are effective ways of extracting minerals and a more complete array of the plant’s nutrients.

  • Infusions and decoctions are appropriate in many cases where alcohol based preparations are not, as in recovering alcoholics, very sensitive individuals, some infants and small children and certain other cases. 


  • More plant matter is required for an effective dose of medicine than with tincturing. Because so much more plant is required per dose of medicine, it may be an unsustainable preparation for some plants. 

  • The taste is not always pleasant and the dosage is often large enough to limit compliance with some herbs.

  • Infusions must be used within a few days in most cases, and does not have the long term stability of tinctures and some other preparations.

  • Infusions must be made anew quite often, and are therefore not as convenient for some people as tinctures.

A tisane is essentially what most of us think of as a beverage tea. It is a small amount of plant matter (usually around a 1 tsp, but exact measurements are rarely used) steeped for a short amount of time (usually 1-5 minutes) in hot (generally just boiled) water. Tisanes are appropriate when a tasty, non-medicinal beverage is desired or when the herb being used is extremely strong and can only be used in small or dilute amounts. Dosage is usually based on taste preference. If potent herbs are used, dosages will vary according to plant and person. 

An medicinal infusion is a more concentrated and potent preparation than the tisane discussed above. It is most often 1 part (by weight) dried herb, or 2 parts (again, by weight) to 32 parts (by volume) water. This will vary with the plant and preparation. Spicy herbs such as Capsicum or mucilaginous herbs like Ulmus or Althea (and its close relatives such as Malva) will require less plant matter than milder or less specialized plants like Tilia or Avena. Hot infusions are usually steeped from 20-45 minutes. Cold infusions 6-8 hours or overnight.

Dosages vary a great deal depending on the plant, person and effect desired but a standard dose is about 1 Cup, 3 times per day. 

What nomadic healer Juliette Levy referred to as standard brews are strong herbal teas taken as daily nutritive beverages. Mild, nutrient dense herbs are usually best used for these, rather than strong or quick acting remedies. These nourishing infusions specifically refers to infusions made with nutrient-rich, food-like dried herbs that can be taken on a daily basis. They are usually made with hot water. Standard Brews are somewhat less strong than the medicinal infusions discussed above and because they are nutritive in nature, the measurements tend to be less exact. In general though, the standard recipe is 1 oz of herb in a quart jar, and then the jar is filled with hot water and covered (amount of water will vary according to what plant is used). Standard Brews are steeped for 4-6 hours or overnight. Dosage is usually the whole quart, after straining, over the period of a day. 

These infusions are an excellent way to incorporate herbs into our daily lives, and to gently yet effectively rebalance the body. I have personally used these infusions as a daily nutritive base for many years, and have them invaluable in the healing process. Women who regularly drink herbal infusions are much less likely to need vitamin or mineral supplements, more able to maintain a higher level of health and likely to recover from stress, illness or injury much more quickly.

Directions: Tisanes are highly variable, and explicit directions will not be included here.

Medicinal Infusions:

Cold Infusions:

• 1 part (by weight) dried plant. If using fresh plant, it will be 2 parts by weight.

• 32 parts (volume) water

• Appropriate sized jar/container with airtight lid

1. Premoisten dried herb, wrap in cloth or place in cotton tea bag and place in water. 

2. Cover, and let sit overnight at room temperature. 

3. Then, thoroughly squeeze out as much liquid as possible. 

4. Now add enough water back to container to bring the liquid back to 32 parts.

For example, we could take 1 oz (by weight) of dried Ulmus (Elm) bark, wrap in muslin and place in 32 ounces (by volume), this is a quart, of water overnight. In the morning, we squeeze out the bag and add enough water back to make it a full 32 ounces. 

Hot Infusions:

•1 part (by weight) dried plant. If using fresh plant, it will be 2 parts by weight.

•32 parts (by volume) water

•Appropriate sized jar/container with airtight lid


1. Cover herb with just boiled or boiling water. 

2. Let steep for anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours, depending on plant. Average time is around 20-25 minutes. 

3. Strain, being sure to thoroughly squeeze all available liquid from the marc. 

4. Now, add enough water back to equal the full 32 parts.

For example, add 1 ounce (by weight) of dried Verbena (Vervain) to a container, then cover with 32 ounces (by volume) of just boiled or boiling water. Let sit for 20 minutes, then strain. Add back enough water to make a full 32 ounces of infusion. 

Note: To extract the maximum therapeutic benefits, including minerals, the marc (plant matter) must be thoroughly squeezed out. Pouring or drinking the liquid off the top will leave a significant amount of medicine in the herb.

The Standard Brew


• 1 quart jar with lid

• 1 oz of dried plant material (about a cup of leafy material like Nettles, more for light flowers like Red Clover and less for heavy roots and barks)

• enough boiling water to fill jar


1. Place plant matter in jar, fill jar with just boiled water, cover with airtight lid. 

2. Let steep 4-8 hours, preferably overnight. 

3. Strain out plant matter and reserve liquid (you can give the plant matter to your garden or compost). 

4. The rest of the process is really determined by personal taste. Some people like their nourishing infusions warmed up, some like them cold. Some like them with a bit of honey, some don't.

Note: To extract the maximum therapeutic benefits, including minerals, the marc (plant matter) must be thoroughly squeezed out. Pouring or drinking the liquid off the top will leave a significant amount of medicine in the herb.

Appropriate Herbs:

Almost all herbs are at least somewhat water soluble and useful as infusions. Notable exceptions include highly resinous herbs such as Populus (buds of resinous species), Pinus and Myrrha. Other commonly used herbal medicines that may be difficult to extract in water include Usnea, Salvia apiana, Hydrastis, Mahonia, Berberis

Additionally, as mentioned above, most roots and barks(exceptions being made for mucilaginous roots and barks such as Ulmus and Althea), mineral rich, woody parts or otherwise structurally dense plants may need to be decocted rather than infused. Decoctions will be discussed in a future section. 

Dried plants are generally preferred for water based preparation because the drying process breaks down the cell walls, causing the nutrients and constituents to made more readily extracted by water. Some herbalists assert that fresh plant infusions or decoctions are not worthwhile, but fresh plant teas are an essential part of many herbal traditions. Additionally, I find that they can be a very effective way of ingesting many herbs that lose their primary healing activity when dried, such as Melissa (Lemon Balm). They are most useful with aromatic and bitter tasting plants, perhaps especially for Lamiaceae members. However, fresh plant infusions of mineral dense or woody, tough herbs are probably fairly counter-productive in most cases, and dried material should be used if available. 

Cold infusions are most appropriate for herbs that contain delicate constituents that would be damaged or eliminated by hot water. This includes many aromatic herbs such as Matricaria, Lavendula, Prunus and Tilia, as well as mucilaginous ones such as Ulmus, Althea, Malva and again Tilia. Additionally, cold infusions can be desirable where a plant contains an abundance of tannins that we do not wish to fully extract but are instead looking to utilize some other attribute. This is especially true with Arctostaphylos spp. where we want to extract the arbutin and related constituents but not enough tannins to impair absorption in the gut.

In many cases, whether to make cold or hot infusion will great depend on the effect desired from the specific plant and the individual constitution involved. Many herbs are useful in either preparation, even if one is slightly more preferable for some reason. In some situations, somewhat different medicines are made from the same plant part depending on whether a cold or hot infusion is made. 

Some Primary Herbs for The Standard Brew

Avena fatua and A. sativa (Oatstraw or Oat tops) - A wonderful restorative for the nervous and endocrine systems, jam packed with magnesium and other wonderful minerals. Strong infusions of of Oats can be relaxing and soothing for the stressed or burnt out. 

Urtica (Nettle) leaf - Rich, green and overflowing with an abundance of minerals, vitamins and even protein, this vibrant plant has the ability to restore the kidneys and adrenals while assisting in the rebuilding and maintenance of the whole body. Many people discover whole new storehouses of energy after indulging in the infusion for a few months. Nettle leaf can be drying for some people, and some Mallow or Elm may be added to offset this tendency while still reaping the benefits of the Nettles.

Sambucus nigra and allied spp., (Elderflower or Elderberry) - The berry makes an aromatic and rich drink that tastes amazing with a pinch of fresh Ginger, Orange peel and honey added. Both berry and flower a very useful ally during time of immune system stress or viruses that are threatening to settle in. They also increase general health and well being, assisting the kidneys in the body’s natural cleansing process, relaxing an uptight liver and acting as a tonic for all the mucus membranes, from the sinuses to the lungs to the gut to the urinary tract. Elderflower is also a classic relaxing diaphoretic during unproductive, tense fevers. 

Rubus spp., (Raspberry) leaf - A tasty tonic for the uterus that can assist in facilitating an easy childbirth and also provides welcome healing to reproductive organs hurt by miscarriage, abortion or other trauma. Raspberry is rich in calcium and many other minerals, making it an ideal tonic throughout a woman’s life. Like Nettles, this plant can be a bit drying for some individuals and in some cases should be moistened up a bit with some Mallow, Linden or Elm. 

Verbascum spp. (Mullein) leaf - Primarily thought of as a lung tonic, this plants is also relaxing to the nervous system and healing to the joints. A gentle lymphatic, it helps the healing process keep in motion and assist the body in the rebuilding and restoration process of recovery from illness or injury, all while often relieving pain, swelling and other discomfort. True to its reputation, Mullein is a useful and effective remedy for dry coughing, wheezing or other lung inflammation. 

Oenothera spp. (Evening Primrose) bud, flower, seedpod, leaf and root - A wonderful nervine, anti-spasmodic, digestive tonic and overall mood enhancer. This delicate flower is wonderfully nutritive and nourishes the health of the whole body. Especially recommended for women recovering from an eating disorder, depression or anxiety. For some, this plant can provide welcome relief from menstrual or ovulatory cramping while calming irritability, depression or nervousness associated with hormonal shifts. 
Plantago spp. (Plantain) leaf - A great healer of any hot, inflamed gut including ulcers and esophageal erosion. Plantain also has a generally soothing action on all mucus membranes and is very helpful in healing urinary tract infections, bronchitis, irritable bowel syndrome and other inflammatory states of the mucus membranes. It also has a wonderful cleansing effect upon the entire body that can help bypass or quickly heal mild to moderate allergic reactions and food poisoning.

Secondary Brew herbs

These are best in used in pinches or small amounts to enhance the flavor or provide additional healing.

Ulmus spp. (Elm) bark or leaf - Elm is mild, bland, neutral in temperature, very moistening and incredibly slippery and slimy. This is the perfect ally for those who tend towards dryness. Use in moderation if you already have abundant or excess moisture or phlegm in your body. It’s quite safe in larger amounts, but the slime factor can be off putting for many palates. 

Althea, Malva, Sphaeralcea, etc., leaf, fruit, flower or root - Marshmallow, Mallow, Hollyhock, Globemallow  or other closely related species can all be used. The Mallows are quite similar to Elm, but cooler in temperature with more of a tendency towards being a diuretic. This makes it especially appropriate for those with feelings of overheatedness, inflammation, hot flashes or very red tongue. 

Rosa spp. (Rose) petals - These calming and heart opening flowers are also strongly anti-inflammatory and rejuvenative, especially to those with hot, easily irritated constitutions. Roses are a useful adjunct in healing irritable bowel syndrome or ulcers in many people. I also have found them to be relaxing and mood elevating and a soothing brew for pre-menstrual discomforts and irritability or depression. Roses are especially beneficial to those recovering from sexual abuse or betrayal of some kind. A powerful medicine when used over time, it remains one of my most used and most effective remedies. 

Scutellaria spp. (Skullcap) flowering tops -  Add in small amounts for a calming, antispasmodic effect but beware of the bitter taste. This dream-inducing herb is a wonderful nerve tonic and can help rebuild the nervous system after extreme stress, amphetamine use or alcoholism. For some people, it is an extremely effective treatment for insomnia caused by tension or a busy mind. 

Melissa officinallis (Lemon Balm) budding tops - Sour-sweet and mildly relaxing, Lemon Balm has a multitude of applications, including being a mild anti-viral, belly soother and calmative.

Monarda spp. (Beebalm, Wild Oregano) flowers and leaves - Beebalm comes in many colors, all of which are aromatic, spicy and slightly sweet. Strongly healing and anti-infective, I often suggest a pinch or two of Beebalm to women dealing with a urinary tract or vaginal infection. It’s also very useful during fevers and colds when combined with Elder flower or berry. It can also calm an upset belly and relax the nerves.

Achillea spp. (Yarrow) flowers and leaves - Bitter and aromatic, Yarrow is an incredibly multi-purpose plant, with applications ranging from treating infections to digestive upset to fever to cold/flu prevention to allergy and poison ivy. It’s also a very effective medicine for sluggish circulation and resulting heart issues and high blood pressure. In fact, I include Yarrow in almost every heart formula I create.

Bidens spp. (Spanish Needles, Beggar’s Ticks) flowering tops - Another plant with myriad uses, Spanish Needles is especially good at juicing up dried out or boggy mucus membranes. In fact, I feel that it is a mucus membrane tonic on par with Yerba Mansa and Goldenseal. It is capable of both moistening tissues while tightening them to their proper state, which decreases inflammation, discharges, infection and vulnerability to future infection. I recommend Bidens to those with chronic sinus infections, gastritis, ulcers, allergies, UTIs, vaginal infections or dryness, asthma and sinus headaches. 

Zingiber spp. (Ginger), fresh root - A few slices of fresh Ginger can perk up any infusion, adding element of warmth that is often welcome during the cold winter months. It helps to soothe a troubled or nauseous belly, can assist in menstrual or stomach cramps and even help encourage a delayed or scant menstrual period to resume normal 

Salvia spp. (most Sages, especially aromatic spp.) leaves or flowering tops - A nerve tonic par excellence, this common garden plant and native to the Western parts of North America can be used to calm deeply and chronically traumatized nerves that result in trembling, shaky hands, an inner feeling of rapid vibration, along with a hyper-sensitivity to physical stimuli of any kind. It is also an effective mood elevator for many people and can also increase focus and mental recall. Sage is also a great astringent for mouth infections, sore throats, diarrhea and vaginal discharge. Very useful during nearly any stage of flu or cold if taken as a hot infusion, it can help diaphoresis, prevent chronic infection and is wonderful for the lungs if they become inflamed or infected. Sage is very calming to many kinds of gastritis, and aids in the digestion of oily or potentially rancid food. Be aware that Sage is quite adept at drying up breast milk, this can be useful for weaning but may not be helpful if you aren’t ready to stop nursing.