Late summer is in full bloom as these words are being written. Life is still pulsing with the energetic pace often filling our days during this fruitful time of year. Those who are called to the sweet song of herbal medicine are blissed out at their overflowing apothecary. Wild harvested and cultivated plants are lovingly dried, carefully infused in oils, dripping in honey, macerating in menstruum, and whatever else our wild hearts’ desire.
Week by week and day by day unfolds a wellspring of new growth. As the lovely story of time quietly floats by, our green friends are eagerly awaiting for us to join them in their mystery so we may delve deeper into ourselves. From the moment untamed spring greens emerge from a cozy winter, and through the late summer goldenrods and thistles, right into precious root harvesting, I have savored each fleeting moment while excitedly looking forward to what is still yet to come.
In autumn, after a period of chilly days touches the ground, we may with profound respect, go to where plant meets earth and gently spread away some leaves and dirt, dig up the roots of our favorite abundant “weeds” so willing to honor us with their life force. As I look around my own plentiful apothecary I realize I need to restock on medicinal vinegars and oxymels! What a perfect way to utilize the storehouse of vitamins and minerals that are available to us in these fresh roots. Vinegar alone has a long history for use since the days of Hippocrates and especially in folk herbalism that most likely our grandparents used as a nourishing medicine and way of preserving safe and nutritive plants for their health. Vinegar alone in its purest, naturally fermented form is non-toxic and safe for any age. Any type of vinegar, excluding white, may be used as a menstruum for extracting certain constituents out of plants. For the purpose of these ramblings apple cider vinegar is the star of the show. A few fascinating facts about our fermented friend: it is a superb tonic for the digestive and nervous systems; it plays an important role in metabolism, respiration, and assists the body in regulating its acid/alkaline balance. On top of these attributes it also has a high mineral content. So stock up on some raw apple cider vinegar -- some herbalists prefer pasteurized, however I have only used the latter with the “mother” for I feel it otherwise loses some of its health promoting qualities. Research, experiment and ultimately decide for yourself.
In the fall I plan on visiting my favorite side streets, fields, and family’s yards—who love that I “weed” for them--to respectfully dig up burdock, yellow dock, and dandelion roots to have on hand a nourishing, mineral based, daily tonic. Two of my favorite vinegar based combinations include dried hawthorn berries, ginger and cherries, and an oxymel made with anise hyssop, sage, and honey, and of course our beloved Fire Cider. For a detailed look at the history and preparations of medicinal vinegars I highly recommend reading The Herbal Medicine-Makers Handbook by James Green.