February 26th, 2010
One way to boost the nutrition of your smoothies is to use an herbal infusion in place of any other liquid (water, juice, coconut water, etc). Listening to Susun Weed’s interview on the Raw Mom Summit last year, I learned how beneficial herbal infusions are, and that they are significantly more nutritious than herbal teas.
Infusions are super easy to make. Fill a quart jar (8 cups) with 1 oz. by weight (about a cup by volume) of the herb of your choice at night, fill the jar with boiling water, cover to retain the essential oils that would otherwise escape on the steam, and let it sit 4-10 hours. I usually make mine at night so it’s ready when I get up. Strain (I pour the infusion into my french press to make straining easy and mess-free), and drink 1 cup, refrigerating the remainder to avoid spoilage. It is best to drink 2-4 cups a day, so adding some to your smoothie can help accomplish this. The taste will vary depending on the herb of course.
Why herbal infusions instead of tea? Susan says, “A cup of nettle tea has 5 mg of calcium. A cup of nettle infusion contains 250 mg of calcium. Why waste my time with teas?” If you have made the infusion the night before you can heat it up and enjoy it as you would your favorite cup of tea and experience the great nutritional benefits as well.
I have only used infusions of nettle and horsetail at present, but you can find one of Susun’s book through your library, inter-library loan (ILL), or right here in our very own Bodega and see if she’s got something in there for what ails ya. What I like about the infusions is how rich in minerals and vitamins they are — they’re natural supplements! Nettles contain Calcium, chlorophyll, chromium, cobalt, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, protein, riboflavin, selenium, thiamine, zinc, vitamins A, C, E, K.
Drinking a nettle infusion will boost your energy, give you healthy hair and skin and help solve adrenal and urinary tract issues. Alternating with horsetail (Susun recommends getting to know each herb by drinking single-herb infusions, so consume different herbs at different times), which is high in calcium and silica, will increase the strength of your hair and nails.
During the summer, we collect these undervalued plants from our yard and use the leaves as the greens in our smoothie. I find that they have a less “green” taste than kale, collards and chard! And the best part is, they’re FREE and more nutrient-dense than many of the things I can buy at the grocery store.
I recommend that you wear gloves to harvest them to avoid getting stung, but if you do get pricked by the tiny hypodermic needles full of chemicals, the plant itself offers the remedy! Take a leaf and roll it from base to tip and put it between your teeth. Macerate the leaf into a paste and apply this paste to the stung skin. Harvest before the seeds (yellowish wisps in the picture) appear, so that the full energy of the plant is in the leaves.
Frequent harvesting also helps keep them under control, as they will spread easily in lovely loose garden soil. We have permitted them to take over a corner of our garden, but keep them contained to that area by eating them regularly. They have appeared in some of the edges of our yard, but as these are younger patches, we haven’t started harvesting them yet so that they might expand a bit more first. You can cut down the tops once they do go to seed and place in parts of your yard where you wouldn’t mind having a patch. And they’re not limited to infusions or smoothies, either. Dante likes to saute them with salt, garlic and olive oil and serve them as greens for dinner, or put them into sandwiches. Cooking or blending neutralizes the sting, so you can eat them without fear.
I would like to get enough nettles outside to be able to harvest and dry my own as well, but I first bought them from health food stores like It’s Only Natural in Middletown, Foodworks II in Old Saybrook, and Garden of Light in Glastonbury. Now that I’ve been able to sample them, I order in bulk from Mountain Rose Herbs. I really appreciate MRH’s standards concerning the people, land and plants involved in the production of their products.
The infusion is cool by the morning when I’m ready to use it, so I just strain it and add enough to my smoothie to thin it as I would any other liquid. I do tend to cut back on the greens I add when using the infusion, otherwise I find the taste a bit too green for me. But since I’m getting the nutrition from the infusion, it’s all good.
- Add fruit and greens to blender.
- Pour nettle infusion over it.
I forgot to snap the picture before I started the blender, but you can still see that the infusion doesn’t greatly alter the color. Nor with all that fruit, did I even notice the taste, which is pretty mild to begin with, at least for nettles and horsetail.
I didn’t add the chia seeds to the blender, but instead put them on top to have a different sort of crunch to our smoothie. Unless you want it to thicken considerably though, when you add chia to your smoothie either in the blender or on top, you should eat it fairly quickly. If you linger over your smoothie you will end up with more a pudding than a beverage. Not a bad idea, if you’re wanting something of that consistency, but a bit of a shock if you try to drink it, only to have it fall onto your face as a lump of pudding. You can read about the benefits of adding chia seeds to your diet and buy them in our bodega.
Watch Susun and her grandaughter make nettle infusion while you down your next smoothie: