There’s nothing quite like fresh mint. I try to keep at least one peppermint plant going in my kitchen herb garden, and I also grow it in out outdoor herb garden. Freezing weather has arrived here in North Idaho, so I recently had to rescue the last of our plants.
There are many ways to preserve fresh mint, and one of them is peppermint infused honey.
My husband disagrees, but I think mint and coffee are a match made in heaven. I add peppermint to my coffee often, (not just at the holidays!) and this infused honey is a perfect way to do that. It’s also a lovely addition to iced and herbal teas. Drizzled on toast… Or anything, really!
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is probably best known as a breath freshener and a remedy for upset stomach or nausea associated with morning sickness. But that’s really just scraping the surface – peppermint is good for so much more. Its latin name, mente, actually means “thought,” suggesting that the Romans considered it to be more than just a tasty addition to a salad – peppermint is brain food.
In aromatherapy, the smell of peppermint is considered simultaneously calming and stimulating. The volatile terpenes in peppermint (including menthol), which are responsible for its minty odor and taste, are useful in relieving anxiety and tension, and also for refreshing and energizing the senses. I’m a long-time fan of Dr. Bronner’s peppermint Castile soap for this very reason… the invigorating smell and cooling sensation of peppermint soap is a beloved part of my wakeup ritual! 😁
As a digestive aid, the bitters in peppermint tone and cleanse the liver, and also stimulate the bile and digestive juices necessary to jump start the digestive process. Peppermint’s antispasmodic and carminative actions can ease cramping of the stomach associated with gas and digestive upset. It’s even been called the “drug of first choice” for IBS sufferers.
Peppermint can provide relief from nasal congestion and its anti-inflammatory and histamine inhibiting flavonoids have been shown to be an effective treatment for allergic rhinitis (hay fever). It’s antitussive (cough suppressing) actions are a match made in heaven paired with honey, which has been shown to be just as effective as common, over-the-counter cough suppressants containing dextromethorphan (DM).
Applied topically, peppermint can have powerful pain-relieving (analgesic) actions, and is useful in easing headaches, earaches, tooth and muscle aches. It’s also a vasodilator and stimulates circulation.
Peppermint is chock full of benefits all by itself, but paired with raw honey it becomes a therapeutic (not to mention delicious) powerhouse.
Raw, unpasteurized, unfiltered honey has a long history in folk medicine as a cough suppressant and a soothing remedy for sore throats. It’s anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties make it beneficial for everything from asthma to UTIs to ulcers. Honey is also a source of prebiotic fructooligosaccharides, which nourish intestinal gut bacteria critical for digestion and health in general. If you opt for a local variety and consume it regularly, it may also protect against seasonal allergies by desensitizing the immune system to the allergens that would normally trigger a reaction.
Please note that we’re talking about raw, unpasteurized, unfiltered honey here… commercial pasteurized honey is NOT the same thing. The heat of pasteurization kills off the beneficial enzymes and damaging many of the vitamins and antioxidants that make honey so nourishing. The ultrafiltration process that makes commercial honey look pretty on the shelf also strips away nutritious pollen that contains a slew of vitamins, amino acids, essential fatty acids, micronutrients and antioxidants.
Hopefully you’re inspired to experiment with a favorite herb or two, or maybe try something new! I make a wonderful jalapeño infused honey for a sweet & savory cocktail recipe I make (will post about this soon!) Lemon infused honey is soothing on a sore throat and makes a killer cough suppressant. Elderberry and elderflower infused honeys also have incredible immune boosting benefits. Cinnamon honey? Yum! Lavender honey? Yes please. Hibiscus? Rose hip? Oh, the possibilities! 🌼🌿
Whenever we think about herbs, one of our primary concerns is how to extract the active constituents in the best manner. We want to get the right constituents out, we want the delivery method to be effective, and we want the extraction to last. We also like to make the extraction practice as accessible as possible, which is where water comes in.
Water extraction, also called infusion or decoction, has been used for centuries. It’s a universal delivery method that almost every person and culture has access to. The one drawback is its short shelf life, which can make it less desirable if you’re someone who wants to prepare and forget it.
However, water does draw out many constituents that we as herbalists are looking for and, as long as you have a few handy tools, making a water infusion can be very convenient.
French press - This allows you to make more than 1 cup at a time and avoid having to use additional strainers. Simply place the herbs in the pot, cover with hot water and secure the lid. Once it’s steeped the right amount of time, simply press the plunger down and drink. You can even use it for making nourishing herbal infusions by following the same directions but putting it in the refrigerator overnight to extract all the nutrients before plunging.
Tea Bags - I make sure to purchase tea bags that are not bleached. I have a large array of sizes from very small to large. Some of my tea bags are cloth, while others are disposable one-off bags for traveling.
Mason Jars of all sizes - Jars make it easy to brew sun tea, make cold infusions or you can use it as a replacement for a mug. The benefit here is the ability to put the lid on and pop it into the refrigerator to consume later.
Fine Mesh Tea Infuser - I tend to stay away from most tea infusers because they leave a lot of finer tea pieces in the cup. This doesn’t really bother me, but most of my friends are not herbalists and they don’t like “floaties.” This particular tea infuser is amazing. I love it because it opens on both the top and the bottom, making cleaning super easy. It has very fine mesh screen keeping everything stays inside, and it’s large enough to put a meaningful amount of herb in the infuser and allow room for expansion.
A hot extraction is another way to infuse your oil, but this process is much faster that a cold infusion.
Hot infusions are generally used for dry herbs, but can also be used for fresh plant material. If you use fresh herbs, you’ll need to keep it in the oven or crockpot until the liquid is evaporated out and the herbs appear crispy (like they get in a fresh plant tincture).
Important to remember: Do not cook the herb! It’s ideal to keep the temperature between 120 degrees and 140 degrees F.
1. Fill jar half full with dried herb (if using fresh herbs, fill to the top)
2. Fill jar to the top with oil
3. Turn on the heat (using whatever method you chose)
4. If using fresh herbs, make sure to cover with cheese cloth or paper towel (use jar lid ring to keep it on) to allow moisture to evaporate out
5. Steep 8-12 hours
6. Allow oil to cool
8. Store in a jar leaving as little headspace as possible and in the dark (cupboard or dark container)
Here are a few ideas for herb-infused oils (these can be made into salves or lotions):
One of my favorite herbal preparations is infused oils!
They can be soothing to dry skin, help with bug bites, stings, abrasions, burns and rashes. Be careful with new cuts or wounds, especially if the wound is deep; oil can trap bacteria and help them spread. Use compresses in this case. You can also use infused oils to make salves, lotions and shaving cream. Each of these preparations help with healing and nourishing the skin.
Herbal oils allow oil-soluble plant constituents to transfer across the oily barrier of the skin, affecting issues on the skin’s surface, as well as internally.
What constituents extract in oil?
volatile oils (aromatic/pungent) – Volatile oils are relaxing to the musculo- skeletal system, invigorating to the nervous system, expectorant, and anti-microbial, giving herb-infused oils many powerful situations for indication.
resins (aromatic, bitter) – Because of its fat-solubility, resin extracts very well in oil. It contains the same powerful benefits of volatile oils due to their aromatic nature.
IMPORTANT NOTE: When you’re first starting out, it is best to begin with dried herbs only. Fresh herbs introduce moisture and can lead to mold issues in the oil.
Types of oils that can be used (cold pressed, virgin):
Herb Infused oil is a great beginner project! Cold extractions are very simple and will give a wonderful result. We teach you how to make a hot extraction our preparations course. For more detailed information on infused oil, and tons of other preparations, sign up for our Herbal Preparations Bundle. It’s 50% off until the end of April! (use coupon code quarantine2020)
Let's talk about herbal tea or "tisanes"! This is one of the most popular and accessible preparations so I think it's a great place to start. Anybody can do it!
Herbal tea or a tisane (tea-zan) is an infusion made from plants other than Camel- lia sinensis (used to make black, green or white tea) which is what we call “tea.”
Water based extractions usually use the leaves, stem or flowers, but you can also use ground berries, roots or bark (cinnamon, marshmallow, dandelion root, licorice root).
Water draws out
• vitamins and minerals
• starches, gums, sugars
• some glucosides and volatile oils
To prepare a regular infusion, place dried or fresh plant parts into a teapot, large Mason jar, or any other container with a tight-fitting lid, and fill with boiling water; cover.
Allow to steep for 10 to 30 minutes. After herbs are strained, drink either cold, hot or at room temperature.
Some herbs that extract well fresh:
• lemon balm
Herbal teas are a great way to incorporate herbs into your life. Inhaling the steam of a hot herbal tea is both relaxing and beneficial! We encourage you to start experimenting with this today. Just pick an herb and get to know it. The smell, the flavor, the energetics. Learning by having an experience with the herb is the best way to cement it into your mind! Let us know what you try.
Health & Joy
Vinegar can be a great way to infuse the medicinal and nutritional constituents of an herb. The one caveat is if you are going for minerals, which it does great at extracting, it will be difficult for you to get enough (unless you REALLY LOVE vinegar), so I recommend sticking to nourishing herbal infusions for mineral needs on a large scale. However, adding minerals to your vinegar is a delicious way to add extra nutrition to a salad dressing or vinegar drink.
Vinegar does a great job drawing out alkaloids and phenols contained in plants like garlic, horseradish, lobelia, cayenne, elderberry, and ginger. I hope this sounds familiar since most of these we use to make Fire Cider :)
Making an infused vinegar couldn't be any easier. We always use raw apple cider vinegar because it has its own healing properties even on its own.
Add your herbs to your jar and cover with ACV cover with a plastic lid and allow to steep 4-6 weeks.