As is the arc of many folk herbalists, one of the first revelatory herbal preparations I was introduced to was the nourishing herbal infusion. These herbal drinks are made with “weeds” such as nettle, red clover, oatstraw, red raspberry leaf, chickweed, alfalfa, dandelion, and horsetail that grow freely in meadows, woodlands, and fields and are thus readily available to us all.
When harvested from land and soils not depleted by intensive agriculture, these plants are rich in many of the vitamins and minerals we require on a daily basis to build health, support immunity, and maintain our energy levels.
I embraced the rich nutrition and daily ritual of consuming herbal infusions and found myself craving them. Whether it was the salty “green” taste of nettle, the light, quenching taste of oat straw, the astringent, black-tea familiarity of raspberry leaf, or the sweetness of red clover, I was drawn to each, and I knew I was craving more than just tastes. There is deep nutrition in weedy herbal infusions that can fill a glaring gap in our modern, processed diets.
As herbalist Paul Bergner  points, out, “an ounce of many dried herbs contains far higher mineral content than even three ounces of fruits, vegetables, or other plant foods — sometimes more than ten times the amount.”
As a passionate herbalist and vegetarian who endeavors to pay close attention to the nutrients in my diet, I found myself wondering: can nourishing herbal infusions replace a daily multivitamin?
How to Prepare a Nourishing Herbal Infusion
First, a bit on nourishing herbal infusions. These are prepared a bit differently than an herbal tisane (the name for the preparation we typically refer to as herbal tea). Herbal tisanes use a teaspoon or tablespoon of dried herbs per cup of boiling water, whereas nourishing herbal infusions use roughly 4 tablespoons of dried herb per cup of boiling water (or a cup of dried herb per quart of water).
Nourishing herbal infusions are steeped for considerably longer, too — at least 4 hours to fully extract the vitamins and minerals. I typically prepare an infusion with one cup of herb and boiling water in a quart jar in the evening, leave it to steep overnight, and enjoy 1 to 4 cups of it throughout the next day. This routine establishes it as a daily ritual, much like brushing my teeth or making time for exercise.
Nutritional and Therapeutic Benefits of Nourishing Herbs
Very high in chromium, iron, magnesium, silicon, and thiamine; high in cobalt, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, tin, vitamin A, and zinc 
Burdock also contains inulin, a prebiotic that feeds gut bacteria, and is a mild bitter; it helps improve appetite, maximize digestion, and stabilize blood sugar. It also acts as an alterative to detoxify the blood and normalize metabolic function.
Very high in calcium, chromium, magnesium, and zinc; high in cobalt, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, selenium, silicon, thiamin, vitamin A, and vitamin C 
Nettle’s salty, swampy, slightly seaweed taste hints at its high mineral and chlorophyll content. Nettle nourishes, supports and energizes the whole body and provides iron to counter anemia. Nettle also helps maintain even blood sugar levels [3, 4]. It is alterative and diuretic, detoxifying the body, purifying the blood, and assisting the body in nutrient and protein assimilation, neutralization of acid, and elimination of waste that may otherwise build up and manifest as arthritis, gout, rheumatism, eczema, and skin problems . It helps to flush the urinary system of toxins to relieve cystitis and prostatitis and maintain urinary health. Its anti-inflammatory action helps relieve allergies and hay fever . Read more about harvesting and using nettle.
Very high in chromium, magnesium, silicon, and sodium; high in calcium, niacin, and vitamin A 
Oatstraw nourishes, strengthens, and repairs tissues and muscles throughout the body. Its rich nourishment helps build deep immunity . High levels of magnesium, calcium, and silica help build strong bones and combat osteoporosis. The rich vitamin B, calcium, and magnesium content in oats helps soothe and strengthen nerves in the case of nerve weakness or exhaustion .
Oatstraw infusion helps mellow the mood, ease anxiety, combat the effects of daily stress, resolve sleeplessness, increase libido, support heart health, and lower cholesterol. Learn more the health benefits of oats.
Red Clover Flowers
Very high in chromium and tin; high in calcium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine, and vitamin C 
Red clover is a diuretic and alterative with an affinity for the lymphatic system and liver, helping the body to assimilate nutrients and remove metabolic waste products. It is helpful for conditions resulting from the build up of toxins in the body such as eczema, psoriasis, cystic lumps, and lymphatic swelling .
Red clover contains high levels of phytosterols called isoflavones, the building blocks for hormones which can dock onto receptors that could otherwise be occupied by the unnatural chemical estrogens we are exposed to in our daily lives.
The isoflavones in red clover help balance hormones to alleviate premenstrual and menopausal symptoms. For further reading on red clover, visit Red Clover, Red Clover, Bring Healing on Over.
Red Raspberry Leaf
Very high in iron, manganese, and niacin; high in calcium, magnesium, selenium, tin, vitamin A, and vitamin C [2
Raspberry leaf strengthens the endocrine system and balances hormones, helping to regulate menstrual cycles. Its astringent nature is helpful for relieving diarrhea, while its anti-inflammatory properties soothe mouth ulcers and sore throats. Raspberry leaf is an excellent tonic for pregnant women on two counts: its high vitamin and mineral content is richly nutritive, and the alkaloid fragrine tones and strengthens the uterus in preparation for childbirth. Note: tannins in raspberry leaf bind to minerals, limiting their absorption by the body.
For further study on these herbs and many others, consider subscribing to The Herbarium to gain full access to the Herbal Academy's plant database, including some of the most beautiful and complete monographs to date.
Nourishing Herbal Infusions or a Multi-Vitamin?
After investigating the vitamin and mineral content of these nourishing herbs, which in many cases is considerable, I have an answer to my original question. Nourishing herbal infusions don’t replace a multivitamin persay, instead, they can be a vital component of a well-balanced diet in which you get your RDA of vitamins and minerals from whole foods instead of from a pill.
Nourishing herbal infusions won’t extract fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) and vitamins B-12 and D are not found in plants, so these must come from other sources (ideally food, or, in the case of vitamin D, from a few minutes in the sunshine) or by eating the fresh plant when palatable (e.g. nettle leaf, chickweed leaf, dandelion, and burdock root). However, nourishing herbs are great sources of minerals, the rest of the B vitamins, and vitamin C.
At the end of the day, I’m thinking of Michael Pollan’s adage, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Nourishing herbal infusions are yet another way to incorporate plants into our daily diets to obtain vitamins, minerals, and other important plant constituents from wild sources and rebuild our cells in alignment with nature.
In an ideal world, nourishing herbal infusions could take the place of daily coffee, sodas, or juices. But in an effort not to alienate every coffee-loving soul on the planet (including myself), I like to focus on adding wholesome nutrition to our diets as opposed to taking away the foods and drinks that we love, even out of habit. It’s a mental shift that allows new eating habits to take hold and helps us sustain a more wholesome way of nourishing ourselves without feeling deprived.
Try adding nourishing herbal infusions to your daily sustenance and see how they impact your feelings of health and wholeness!
 Bergner, Paul. (n.d.) The Healing Power of Minerals and Trace Elements.
 Pedersen, Mark. (1998). Nutritional Herbology.
 Hoffman, David. (2003). Medical Herbalism.
 Kianbakht S et al. (2013). Clin Lab. 2013; 59(9-10):1071-6.
 Holmes, Peter. (1997). The Energetics of Western Herbs.>
 Mittman, P (1990). Planta Med; 56:44-47.
 Estrada A, et al. (1997). Microbiol Immunol. 1997;41(12):991-8.
 Berger, Judith L. (1998). Herbal Rituals.
Jane Cookman Metzger is the Assistant Director at the Herbal Academy of New England, home of the online Introductory Herbal Course and Intermediate Herbal Course. HANE recently released its affordable membership program, fittingly called The Herbarium, featuring one of the most complete plant monograph databases to date.
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