Tisanes, infusions and decoctions: wellbeing and warmth
When the weather turns cold, any excuse is good enough for just lying back on a sofa, under a warm blanket with a good book to keep you company (or perhaps your favorite TV series) − and a hot, fragrant, flavorsome, healthful tisane.
Tisane or tea? Where’s the difference?
Hot drinks made up of water and herbs may divided into two major categories − tisanes and teas.
Tisanes are drinks in the form of infusions in boiling water of a blend of spices and officinal plants, rich in healthful properties and with no theine (which means you can enjoy your tisame whenever you want).
Tea, too, is an infusion. However, it is prepared from the leaves of Camelia sinensis, or the tea plant, which, while pefectly healthy, includes theine (a stimulant also known as caffeine).
Choosing your tisane: ingredients and extraction methods
How do we prepare infusions? Pour boiling water onto the plants, dried and triturated. Leave to soak for a few minutes (times vary from plant to plant). Then strain the infusion with a strainer. While waiting for your infusion to cool down sufficiently to be drunk, cover your cup (perhaps with a saucer), in order to prevent release and loss of precious active ingredients. Now, just ‘chill’ − i.e. wait until the infusion is ready to drink!
Actually, infusion isn’t the only way you can extract active indìgredients and aromas from plants. Another method is termed decoction. The term, decoction, also refers to the tisane itself.
So, how do we prepare decoctions? Place the parts of the officinal plant in water (generally speaking, only one type of plant is used, unlike tisanes). Bring the water to the boil. Then simmer for the required time (generally between 2 and 15 minutes). Leave the decoction to settle for about 10-15 minutes. Cover with a lid in order not to lose the volatile parts. Then strain the preparation with a strainer. At last, ready to drink!
The ideal sweetener for infusions and decoctions is honey. Honey is also endowed with healthful properties. It also enhances flavours delicately without modifying them excessively Honey is preferable to sugar (above all, white sugar).
From #teatime to “Wonderful Time”
Taking your tea or infusions in your favourite mug at any time of the day, and not just according to the classic five o’clock afternoon tea tradition, as enjoyed by Queen Elizabeth. Internationally, this habit (at any time of the day) is the trend, as we see from the growing number of Instagram messages dedicated precisely to this topic.
Enjoy your evenings at home before a warming hearth, or relaxing sprawled across a sofa amid a sea of cushions and blankets, with a good book for company and, by your side, not a glass of whisky but an excellent tisane.
Tisanes of all shapes and sizes
The list of infusions and decoctions out there is endless! There’s something that will appeal to all tastes and meet all needs! Herborists can recommend the tisane that’s right for you, whatever you may want it for − whatever the condition for which the tisane might be indicated, or mood. The following is just a quick overview of some of the major wellness herbs and spices:
• Cardamom: detoxing and more
Tummy ache, colic, indigestion? If you need a depurative agent that will remove that sensation of bloatedness, try a decoction based on cardamom seeds. Cardamom is an excellent spice that is extraordinarily efficacious against digestive and intestinal problems. It’s also an antiseptic, to be used for sore throat and respiratory complaints. Cardamom is also an amazing stimulant. It combats depression. Great not only when you’re feeling down, but also when bearing up against the fatigue that accompanies influenza.
• Ginger: boosting immune defenses
If you want to get rid of a cold or influenza, try thus decoction! Boil diced ginger root, to which you add fresh lemon juice (of a single lemon or half a lemon). Ginger is endowed with marked antibacterial and anti-inflammatory proprerties. Indeed, it is a potent natural antibiotic, efficacious against fever, sore throat, and even toothache and rheumatic pain, as well as digestive complants.
• Angelica and lavander: plants that love women
Angelica root will provide relief from menstrual pain or generic abdominal cramp. It also combats fatigue and asthenia. Take your angelica root as a tisane or decoction. Lavender relieves headache, whether cycle- or stress-related. Need calming down? Cheering up? As its very fragance suggests, lavander is amazingly effective as a means for calming the nerves. It is also endowed with anti-inflammatory action. Try it as a tisane based on dry flowers.
• Lemon-balm, valerian, hawthorn, mallow: “sweet dreams are made of this”
Relaxation for body and mind, putting anxiety and nervousness behind one, combating insomnia and getting an excellent night’s rest. Over and above camomile and lime-blossom, these officinal herbs, too, are hugely effective as infusions to be sipped hot after dinner or at bedtime.
• The olive: a natural antibiotic
This plant is endowed with very many properties. Not only in its fruit but also in its leaves. Endowed with antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant and anti-infiammatory actions, the olive also benefits the cardiovascular system. It also efficaciously prevents osteoporosis and certain degenerative diseases. Now’s the time to try out a decoction made from olive leaves.