Hello Herbstalkians!…? Herbstalkites? Herbstalkers? ….Oh, just Hey You!
Welcome to the Herbstalk blog where we’ll be presenting posts from the folks who run Herbstalk, the vendors, and the teachers.
Last year, I had the privilege of teaching one of the first classes taught at Herbstalk, on honey, and by popular demand I’ll be teaching an expanded version again this year. And in the year in between I’ve been having a blast teaching, writing and exploring all kinds of herbal wonders including tree medicine, essential oils, and salves – and of course even more about honey. But one of the things I’ve been having the most fun with lately is Oxymels.
Sometimes I think the name Oxymel sounds like 50’s children’s show puppet. (“Oh, Oxymel when will you learn?”) But what it is actually is a mixture of honey and vinegar that has its roots all the way back in ancient Greek medicine.
A plain Oxymel can be as simple as mixing 4 parts honey with 1 part of vinegar (apple cider vinegar being the preferred one in most herby circles) or just 1 part of each and take that as a simple tonic. It’s refreshing, energizing, and good for fevers and respiratory issues. You can gargle with it for sore throats and coughs. Or use it as a base for cough syrups.
But Oxymels can also be used as the menstruum (solvent for extracting) for plant medicines just like tinctures but with Oxymel instead of alcohol/water mixtures. They are great to use for folks who can’t have, or don’t want, alcohol. Even though I work with alcohol-based tinctures regularly (and make some pretty amazing ones) I tend to philosophically like the non-alcohol ones better. The body as a whole treats alcohol like a toxin and the notion of not adding to that toxic load when healing has a lot of appeal to me.
I’ve been focusing lately on make nourishing Oxymel tonics like these:
The one on the left with the lovely dark color is brewing a seaweed mix of digitata kelp, alaria, and longicruris kelp. Seaweeds are just amazing nutritional powerhouses packed with vitamins and minerals. But frankly, I find most seaweed (other than dulse) pretty unpalatable. Straight up seaweed vinegars are great for extracting that nutritional goodness, but are very much an acquired taste that I haven’t yet acquired…. but an Oxymel is another matter and should make for a wonderful nutrient-filled health tonic.
The one on the right with the lovely golden color is brewing a mix of Red Clover, Dandelion leaf and Nettles which I’m thinking of as a spring cleanse tonic. Red Clover and Dandelion are classic spring herbs to cleanse the system and Nettles are a classic bit of nutritional support with some cleansing power as well – making this a great spring cleansing tonic.
How I made these was to mix equal parts of honey and apple cider vinegar in a big measuring cup and stir until well blended. Since I was working with dried plants, I filled each pint jar about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way full with the respective plant materials, added the Oxymel to the top of the jar, and stirred well to get out any air bubbles. You can make larger sizes of course, but I like using pints for my first round of experiments. Then I put some wax paper over the top and screw the lid on – because the wax paper will help protect the metal from the vinegar and prevent rusting. And of course I label them with the ingredients and the date they were made. Now I’m letting them sit for about 4 to 6 weeks, shaking gently every day. Then in early May I’ll press out the liquid and enjoy the magic.
I hope this is wetting your appetite a bit for the wonders of Herbstalk in June. I’m looking forward to seeing you all there!