The National Academy of Medicine recommends that adult women and men consume 2.7 liters and 3.7 liters per day, respectively. And more if you live in a warm environment or exercise. But it can be hard to get your daily fill.
One way to make hydration a little easier is to flavor your beverage. And chances are, you have healthy flavor enhancers in your kitchen at this very moment. Fresh herbs are an easy way to boost the taste of your water and sneak in some additional health benefits along the way.
Does herb-infused water have health benefits?
“Herbs aren't just a flavor booster for dishes and drinks,” says Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD, Charleston-based registered dietitian. “Many contain important nutrients that support many aspects of our health.”
According to New York City-based herbalist Ezza Valdez, “Herbal remedies, such as infused water, can be used to support mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.” The right blend of herbs in your water may reduce symptoms of stress and improve mood. In fact, Valdez notes that “many herbs contain compounds that can improve cognitive function and memory, enhancing learning and mental performance.”
The best herbs for infusing water
The good news is that you don’t have to search high and low for these medicinal ingredients. Many common herbs at the farmer’s market and grocery store are packed with micronutrients. According to Manaker, “parsley is a source of lutein, a carotenoid that supports eye and brain health. And fresh basil contains vitamin A, which can help support skin health.”
According to Manaker, “parsley is a source of lutein, a carotenoid that supports eye and brain health. And fresh basil contains vitamin A, which can help support skin health.”
Valdez specifically recommends holy basil for its adaptogenic properties. “It reduces the effect of chronic stress by reducing cortisol levels,” she notes. Rosemary also brings some notable medicinal benefits. “Rosemary can improve blood circulation and research suggests that it acts as a cognitive stimulant for improved concentration and focus,” says Valdez.
Dill is a great source of antioxidants, which fight against oxidative stress in the body. “Dill may also help manage blood glucose levels among those with type 2 diabetes, although more data is needed to draw firm conclusions,” says Manaker.
For further benefits, think outside the leafy green box. Fresh turmeric may offer anti-inflammatory benefits, and ginger is great for easing digestive distress.
Tips for buying herbs for infusing water
Fresh herbs will give your water a refreshingly light-and-herbaceus floral flavor, with minimal bitterness compared to dried herbs and spices. Of course, you will need to use more fresh herbs to get the same flavor and potency, and dried herbs do have the benefit of convenience. Your spice cabinet is a great option in a pinch.
At the store, don’t be shy about giving your produce a sniff. Herbs should be fragrant, bright in color, and firm enough to stand up on their own. Avoid wilty, moldy, or yellowing produce, which may be old or have been stored improperly.
“I would like to say go organic to minimize exposure to chemicals, but don’t let the price tag or a lack of organic options stop you from buying herbs in general,” says Valdez. And as much as possible, support local farmers by shopping at a farmer’s market.
How to make the most potent herb-infused water
There are a few different ways to prepare an herbal tonic with water in order to extract the maximum potency from your herbs and roots. Valdez recommends steeping more delicate flowers and leaves in hot water for five to seven minutes. You can drink this warm, or let it cool in the fridge. “Or, for a more potent brew, steep the herbs in cold water for 24 hours,” like cold-brew coffee.
Valdez recommends steeping more delicate flowers and leaves in hot water for five to seven minutes. You can drink this warm, or let it cool in the fridge. “Or, for a more potent brew, steep the herbs in cold water for 24 hours,” like cold-brew coffee.
If you’re working with heartier products like roots or even barks, you’ll want to simmer them in water for 25 to 45 minutes to extract the most flavor and medicinal benefit, says Valdez.
Potent herb combinations
Once you’ve gotten the hang of brewing up a simple one-ingredient water infusion, experiment by pairing different herbs for new flavors and enhanced health benefits. Here are a few combinations that Valdez is especially fond of:
- Ginger and turmeric together support healthy inflammation levels and can reduce pain associated with arthritis and menstruation.
- Lavender and chamomile are a powerful duo for relaxation and reduced stress and anxiety.
- Peppermint and fennel support healthy digestion and can relieve digestive discomfort.
How much infused water do I need to drink for the health benefits?
“We need to consume enough of the herbs to reap a true health benefit,” says Manaker. During infusion, some of the nutrients will leach into the water you drink, which is a great first step in the right direction. However, Manaker notes, “You will reap the most benefits if you eat herbs whole,” so go ahead and snack on that basil sprig when you finish your water. Or better yet, toss it on a salad.
“One alternative benefit to drinking herb-infused water is that it improves the flavor of your drink, which may encourage you to drink more water,” says Manaker. “Since most people are chronically dehydrated, anything that motivates people to drink more water is a good thing.”
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