3 minute read

Plant and Flower Based Infusions

Written by Sophie Grant from El Karama Lodge in Laikipia

Tisanes are ancient in origin; now possibly best known and consumed in Southern France and the Mediterranean where herbs grow wild on rocky mountainsides and can be harvested fresh from the stem and where the sun is always shining! But this country is also rich in ethno-botanical traditions and from Tharaka to Kakamega, Laikipia to the Karisia Hills, Kenya is full of people who still retain deep tracts of knowledge pertaining to indigenous flowering herbs and plants and their associated medicinal properties.


Ethno-Botany is the connection between plants and their uses; this gathering or foraging activity taps into the huntergatherer tradition in us all. A deep reality that still echoes through us whether we tap into it or not. I’ve talked about this to other growers and homesteaders the world over and we all came up with the same theory; the mental and spiritual benefits of growing food outdoors are manifold, but there is nothing quite as magical and mystical as that feeling that we are doing something ancient and fundamental. It is like an old love letter to our past and moreover these activities are good for us, they ground us, they force us out of our minds and into our bodies and they have tangible results that virtual realities will never allow.


A botanical infusion where the leaves of specific aromatic herbs and edible flowers are steeped in boiling water to produce a light and flavoured infusion said to carry medicinal properties. Not to be confused with herbal tea that can contain tannins or levels of caffeine.

I have grown herbs for Tisanes since I was a child; For me, it is as much about the gentle ritual as well as the function. I start by going out into my garden and picking the leaves fresh off the plant. I dry the leaves and flowers in a shallow basket in a window sill bathed in strong sunlight: two days is usually enough. Once dried, I store them in glass jars out of the sunlight ready for use.

You can make single leaf Tisanes or mixed varieties depending on what you prefer. The routine for a Tisane is the same, place the dried leaves in a teapot, pour boiling water over the top and cover allowing the steam to build inside. Leave steeping for 10 minutes and then pour. Tisanes can also be taken cold with ice cubes. Some people like to sweeten with honey – I prefer them unsweetened, it’s up to you! *N.B. Not all flowers are edible, in fact, some are extremely toxic, all Tisane makers should do their own research to ensure

that what they are using does not have contraindications that will adversely affect their health * All Tisane herbs should be grown organically with no chemicals or pesticides.



Hibiscus is grown in Kenya and may create a calming effect when consumed. Pick the flowers straight from the plant, when the petals are new and have not dried out. Place the flowers on a shallow rack in the window sill and dry thoroughly. These purple or magenta flowers will give your Tisane a strong red colour with a tangy taste, but it works really well hot or cold with ice cubes and a spoon full of raw organic honey.


Mint grows anywhere and is said to aid digestion. Scented rose petals not only bring a touch of gentle colour and aroma, but also may have anti-inflammatory, anti-parasitic properties. *as long as your roses are homegrown and free of chemicals you can eat the petals. Scented roses with more delicate petals are best for eating.


Hippocrates the Father of Western Medicine offered Thyme as a natural remedy for chest ailments in 370 BC, the herb made its way to Ancient Egyptian and into the palate of every Mediterranean to date! In Kenya, the most common form of Thyme is French Thyme and Lemon Thyme, both can be used in Tisanes - best when dried on the stem.

Borage is a European variety of flowering plant, that produces blue purple flowers, which have a clean cucumber-like taste. The flowers, edible, bright and bouncy blue, are great for decorating salads, cakes and desserts, but they also make a colourful ingredient to a mixed leaf Tisane.

Lemon Verbena – this waxy, strong citrus green-leafed plant produces delicate, lacelike flowers too. Both the leaf and the flower can be dried and used for Tisanes (as well as for flavouring baking, desserts, sorbets and ice creams). It is so versatile and in the Mediterranean local people use it for helping sleep after heavy meals!

Dried Fennel Seed and Flower- Fennel, like Dandelion, is said to act as a natural diuretic and a Tisane made of the dried seed and flower, even the frothy leaf top, is not only cleansing in flavour – it tastes a little like aniseed – but can be effective for reducing water retention.