French infusion, or immediately < Latin infūsiōn-em, n. of action < infundĕre to pour in:
- 1. The action of pouring in (a liquid), or fact of being poured in; that which is poured in. Now chiefly fig., as in ‘the infusion of new blood’, which passes into
- 2. The action of infusing some principle, quality, or idea, into the mind, soul, or heart; esp. the imparting of a priori ideas or of divine grace
- 3. The process of pouring water over a substance, or steeping the substance in water, in order to impregnate the liquid with its properties or virtues.
- 4. The action of infusing or introducing a modifying element or new characteristic; an infused element, admixture, tincture.
The first recorded use of essential oils was in the 10th or 11th century by the Persian polymath Avicenna, possibly in the Canon of Medicine.
An infusion is very similar to a decoction but is used with herbs that are more volatile or dissolve readily in water, or release their active ingredients easily in oil. Boiling water (or water of the appropriate temperature) is poured over the herb and allow to steep for a time. The amount of time the herbs are left in the water depends on what purpose the liquid is being prepared for. Usually 15 to 30 minutes, or until the mix cools, will create a beverage for enjoyment. Four (4) hours is the appropriate time for full herbal potency, if health benefits are the priority. The mix is then strained, bottled, and refrigerated for future use. Quantities of the herb/water or oil mix will vary according to the herb or how strong the infusion is required to be. A common proportion used is one ounce of herb to one pint of liquid.
Dried herbs or other plants are placed in boiled water for a few minutes, then discarded, and the water drunk as a beverage. A common example is tea. Many other drinks (herbal teas) are prepared in this way. Lemon, chamomile, senna, apple, ginger, rooibos, and a great many other plants are used individually or in combination. Infusions of this type are sometimes drunk for pleasure; others for health. A longer time before straining results in a bitter-tasting infusion. Herbal remedies and herb-infused oils are prepared with dried herbs, flowers or berries, infused in oil or water. The herb/botanical is then removed from the oil and the oil is used in herbalism in those preparations that require short-term infused oils. Plants with desirable flavours may be steeped in an edible oil or vinegar for an extended period; the infused oil or vinegar is often sold still containing the plant, and is then used as flavouring. Chillies, lemon, garlic, and many other plants may be used. There can be ambiguity: for example, what is described as sesame oil may be oil extracted from sesame seeds, or an inferior quality vegetable oil infused with sesame.