Like the one we're experiencing right now!
Seriously, right up until the end of spring I was surrounded by the mumbly grumblings of summer lovers convinced that our June here in Toronto had been too chilly (no complaints here - can't.handle.the.HEAT) but literally, LITERALLY on the summer solstice the temperature jumped to the muggy mid-20s and has been on the rise since. Summer has arrived! And I don't know about you, but I am in serious need of ways to keep cool in this old apartment of ours.
Lately one of my favourite things to listen to while working at my very excellent job mixing and pressing (and tasting and smelling) herbal tinctures is Susun Weed's new call-in radio show. You can download an mp3 after the fact, a la your average podcast, and it's a pretty entertaining and educational adventure into Weed's world. She means BUSINESS. And I respect that, she's one knowledgable herbalist/educator and I've really been enjoying her no-nonsense and very feisty approach to addressing the concerns of her callers.
One of her go-tos for improving overall health and vitality for what seems like nearly everyone is what she calls the Nourishing Herbal Infusion (it deserves capitals). According to Susun, the infusion is the most medicinally potent water-based herbal preparation available and should not be confused with your regular old tea. Oh, no no no. An infusion uses a lot more (so much more!) herbal matter and is steeped for a very long time - from 4 hours to overnight. The result is both darker and thicker than a tea which, as she says, leaves you with no doubt that you are dealing with medicine, chock full of minerals, and not a breakfast drink.
One of the herbs Susun regularly infuses is Red Clover a.k.a. Trifolium pratense. A very easy one to spot, you can harvest Red Clover (sustainably, of course) flower tops along with the first few leaves under it, beginning in May and through early summer (i.e. right now!). Red clover is what's known as an alterative, or roughly a "blood cleanser" For this reason, it has traditionally been used in the treatment of acute and chronic skin disease such as acne, eczema and psoriasis. It is a very gentle and safely used herb, reportedly high in chromium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium & thiamine and thought of as a help to the body in removing metabolic waste products. Studies have shown that certain constituents have phytoestrogenic effects, making it a popular herb to help treat menopausal complaints - as with most phytoestrogens, these estrogenic effects are not so strong as to act estrogenically in those who don't need it but rather to modulate and mitigate the symptoms resulting from either a deficiency or excess of estrogen. Recent research also suggests that Red Clover and other phytoestrogen containing herbs may also play a significant role in combating dyslipidemia and metabolic syndrome - pretty good for us, all around.
Maybe this most important thing about Red Clover for us this week - from a Traditional Chinese Medicine energetic perspective it is a cooling herb.
Susun Weed's Nourishing Herbal Infusion: Red Clover Edition
1 L canning jar with lid
1 L boiling water
30g dried flowers/leaves (this, if you don't have a scale, is something around 2 good-sized handfulls)
Put herbs in jar, fill jar with boiling water, cap and let sit for 4 hours-overnight at room temperature. Preparing the herb in a closed jar helps to keep the water-soluble special stuff from evaporating out.
I've especially enjoyed this infusion with a splash of homebrewed kombucha, which makes me think that it would be delicious with a squeeze of lemon as well.
Happy summer, everyone!
Cech, Richo. Making Plant Medicine. 2000. Horizon Herbs, Williams, Oregon.
Godfrey A, Saunders PR. Principles & Practices of Naturopathic Botanical Medicine. 2010. CCNM Press.
Romm, Aviva. Botanical Medicine for Women's Health. 2010. Churchill Livingstone.
Weed, Susun S. Healing Wise. 1989. Ash Tree Publishing, Woodstock, NY.