Monthly Archives: July 2010

IMG_4469

Make your own medicinal herbal honeys and elixirs.

Making your own herbal medicines is ridiculously easy, and a nice little pharmacopeia can usually be put together from plants that you can find around where you live. A few of my favourite gentle herbs to make medicines with are the following:

 

Holly-leaf cherry

Cherry: Blossoms and bark. Use the most fragrant ones you can find– they should smell slightly sweet, slightly almondy. Usually the wild cherries are much better for this. All species usually work very similarly– I use Prunus ilicifolia (holly-leafed cherry) which grows wild around here. Most people use choke-cherry which grows wild everywhere else. It relieves cough. Relieves pressure in the chest. It can be unbelievably relaxing– enough to knock you out, so don’t try it for the first time before driving. It’s a fantastic heart tonic for people with heart problems. And is fantastic for anxiety. Keep in mind that this herb is fantastic for heat issues. If the symptoms present are all cold symptoms, try ginger or something warming.

Elder: Hands down my favourite herb for flu season. I have not had a full-blown flu since I started making my own elixir. I use a combination of berries and flowers (70% berries, 30% flowers). Elder helps your immune system to work harder and smarter. It is also fantastic for infections.

Ginger: Stomach soother, nausea reliever. Fantastic in any kind of cold situations, where digestion is poor, or where there’s lots of mucus. Don’t use if there are heat symptoms present– it’s easy to tell: if your headache feels better when  you put a cold towel on it, try peach or cherry instead. If the thought of cold is repugnant to you, try ginger.

Lemon Balm (melissa officinalis): Melissa is a fantastic anxiety-reliever. A few drops of the elixir before bed helps to relieve that “I can’t sleep because I can’t stop thinking and stressing out” feeling. It lightens the load on the heart, emotionally speaking.

Peach: Twigs, pits (undamaged), flowers. One of my favourite plants for nausea. I get nausea a lot, but ginger is WAY too heating for me. Peach elixir works wonders, and fast. It’s also fantastic for both constipation and diarrhea. A relaxing, divine smelling nervine that, when needed, can actually put people to sleep :).

Rose (all spp. use the most fragrant one you can find): Clears heat from the upper body. Anti-inflammatory. Astringent. I use it when my nerves are a bit agitated (or inflamed), like after being stuck in LA traffic for hours. It relieves that kind of stress that gets stuck in your heart and makes everything feel constricted and tight. It’s good in situations where inflammation occurs unnecessarily– whether that’s emotional (anger flaring up) or physical (immune reactions, rashes, joints swollen and sore). I use the elixir for almost everything. The honey tastes delicious and is lovely in herbal teas or on yogurt or on toast.

Sage (garden sage (salvia officinalis), though almost all spp. can be used– I use salvia melitus, salvia clevelandii, salvia officinalis, and salvia apiana): A deeply nourishing restorative nervine. When your fried nerves are fried to the point of exhaustion. When your heat is burning up your body fluids. Sage helps you to conserve fluids, resores nerves, and calms the spirit. It can stop excessive menstrual bleeding, and also stimulate menses. Works fantastically WITH rose elixir, to both calm and nourish.

Thyme: Another one of my favourite herbs to use come flu-season. Thyme works fantastically for coughs with thin white phlegm. It promotes sweating, reduces fever, and opens the sinuses. It also stimulates and harmonises digestion.

Herbal Honeys:

1 clean (sterilised) pint jar with a lid

enough herb to stuff the jar full

1 pint of honey (try to use a local raw honey– it’ll greatly add to the therapeutic effects. If you’re in Southern California, I get mine from Pacifica Honey).

Chop the herbs up into small pieces. Stuff them into the jar, leaving an inch of space at the top. When you can’t fit any more herbs in, start pouring in the honey. I pour it, then slide a chopstick around the edge to let it sink down, and then go do something for five minutes or so, and keep doing that until it’s full. Once the herbs are covered with honey, put the lid on it, label it, and leave it somewhere cool and dark for 4 weeks. When it’s done, hang a cheesecloth over another jar, pour the herby honey into it, and wait– it’ll eventually strain out into the jar. Depending on what herb you use, it can add the most wonderful nuance to dishes. Sage, beebalm and thyme honeys on chicken. Rose honey on fruit. The possibilities really are endless.

Cherry, thyme, and hawthorne.

 

Herbal Elixirs:

This is my preferred method for making medicines. Maybe that’s just because I love brandy…

1 clean (sterilised) pint jar with a lid

enough herb to stuff the jar full

1/2 pint brandy

1/2 pint honey

As before, chop the herbs up and stuff them into the jar, leaving an inch of space at the top, until they can no longer be stuffed anymore. Pour in the brandy until it’s half-filled, and then fill the rest up with honey (you might have to pour it and wait, repeatedly, until the honey sinks down enough). Screw on the lid, label, and place somewhere cool and dark for 4 weeks, giving it a shake every few days, to mix up the brandy and honey. After 4 weeks, strain into a clean bottle (I use bottles with droppers, so that I can administer 5 drops without over-doing it).

IMG_1067

Lavender-honey ice cream

I kinda have a thing for lavender.

It started when I was at university in Santa Barbara. I was a junk-food vegan. That is, a person who is vegan who eats nothing but vegan junk foods– vegan cookies, vegan muffins, vegan pasta dishes– and assumes that they’re healthy because of the vegan label. On one of my health-food store trips, I discovered these vegan lavender shortbread cookies, and I was hook line and sinkered. I mean really, I’d eat about a box of them every two days. Something about that lavender flavour infused with a bit of sweetness just makes me crazily happy. It still does– I’m a sucker for anything with lavender.

Yesterday morning, as I was wandering around the garden in pre-dawn bliss (being up at that time of night/morning when the rest of the world is asleep makes me really happy… probably because it’s the only time it’s remotely quiet in Los Angeles) I walked through this cloud of lavender and was so inspired that I picked all of the flowers and ran inside to make ice cream. I don’t know how my poor neighbours tolerate all of my crashing and clanging first thing in the morning :).

Lavender-honey ice cream

2 cups cream

2 cups milk

1 cup lavender flowers

1/3 cup honey

5 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

a pretty sea salt, for garnish

Place the lavender flowers in a saucepan, and cover with cream. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and then remove from heat and allow the lavender to infuse for an hour. Don’t leave it for any longer than that or it will go bitter. Bring cream back up to a simmer, then strain out the lavender flowers.

Whisk egg yolks together in a bowl. Ladle in a few scoops of the lavender-infused cream, while whisking the egg yolks, then pour the whole mixture back into the saucepan. Add the honey, salt, and vanilla. Cook on low-medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens to a custard– about 10 minutes usually.

Remove from the heat. Pour in the milk and incorporate it fully.

Taste the mixture– since lavender flowers vary in strength and flavour, yours might need more milk or honey (if it does, add them a tablespoon at a time until it tastes right).

Put in a bowl and refrigerate until fully cold (I actually put mine in the freezer because I’m always in a hurry to make it. Well, to eat it.).

Once fully cold, and I mean REALLY cold, pour into ice cream maker and freeze according to instructions.

Serve with a sprig of lavender on top, and a sprinkling of black sea salt. The salt really brings out the flavour.