It’s getting to be the end of the growing season so more than likely you are busy making herbal remedies, especially ones for the immune system. (if you aren’t you should be!)

It also signals the last push to harvest before winter and I have a fun way for you to preserve some of your herbs. 

Make an Herbal Oxymel

An oxymel is a drinking vinegar and it literally means “acid honey’. I know that sounds kind of dangerous but trust me it’s a handy way to make the medicine go down. 

It’s a honegar or something like that. 

Drinking and cooking vinegars have been around for a really long time. Literally for thousands of years. 

Vinegar was used as a way to preserve herbs, fruits, and vegetables, especially the bitter-gross-tasting ones. 

Vinegar at its core is actually soured alcohol and vinegar and probably came from a moment when someone realized… oh shit, my wine has gone bad now what? I can’t waste it. And drinking vinegar was born. At least that’s my theory 🙂

I know vinegar is good for you but I’m not much of a fan of vinegar neat. Oxymel and its cousins Shrub and Switchel make vinegar much more palatable. 

Let’s take a quick side trip since I mentioned Shrub (not a bush) and Switchel. 

Shrubs use vinegar and almost always have fruit in them. And Switchel has roots in the Caribbean and is mainly made with vinegar, ginger, molasses, and probably rum. 

Okay back on the main road. 

Why not try making an Oxymel? You can do it. It’s super easy!

Making a Sage (salvia officinalis) Oxymel

You probably already have both apple cider vinegar and raw honey in your kitchen. 

Just add herbs and you have a remedy that can be used to help soothe a throat, calm a cough, help with respiratory issues, reduce mucus and boost the immune system to help you through cold and flu season. 

The sweet and sourness of an Oxymel make it a specific ally for the respiratory system.

Okay, another side trip (what’s a road trip without a few side trips). 

Apparently, back in the 1800’s physiomedicalist William Cook preferred vinegar as a menstrum (what you are using to extract the medicine from the plant) for respiratory issues. He felt it kept the herbs actions in the respiratory system. 

So, basically, vinegar is really good for the respiratory system.

And we are back on pavement or as my grandma used to say back on the hard road. 

If you have ever made Fire Cider then you’ve made an Oxymel.

Here is Rosemary Gladstar walking you through how to make Fire Cider. She is famous for it you know.

There are of course many different ways to make your Oxymel. Honey, vinegar, and herb ratios are really a matter of personal taste. 

You can make an Oxymel with just honey and vinegar and no herbs if you are in a pinch. Make it a 1:1 ratio. One part honey to one part vinegar. 

If you have any tinctures around you can add about 1 full dropper of tincture to 1 tsp of your honey/vinegar Oxymel to make it more medicinal. 

Here is a basic method for making an Oxymel: 

What you’ll need…

  • Quart jar
  • Fresh herbs (if using fresh herbs let them wilt for a day to get some of the moisture out)
  • Or dried herbs (you may need to adjust measurements if your plant material sucks up the liquid)
  • Apple Cider Vinegar (preferably organic, with the mother)
  • Raw Honey (preferably local)
  1. Fill a quart jar about ½ full of dried herbs or ¾ to all the way full of freshly wilted herbs (chopped a little).
  1. Add the vinegar until the liquid comes about halfway up the jar then add the honey to fill the jar. (leave a little space at the top of the jar)

Try starting with equal parts honey and vinegar or 2 parts honey and 1 part vinegar. 

If you want a sweeter Oxymel add more honey. Ideally, how you want it to taste is up to you. 

Try several smaller batches and see what you like best. Go ahead and get creative. 

  1. Put a PLASTIC lid on the jar or wax paper between the jar and a metal lid so the vinegar doesn’t corrode the lid. (it makes it a mess if you don’t because there is a reaction between the vinegar and the metal)
  1. Shake the mixture or stir it all before putting the lid on. 

Check it every day for a few days to make sure it’s all mixed together and the herbs are submerged. 

5. Let it sit for 2-6 weeks shaking or stirring it often. 

  1. Strain the mixture and discard the herbs.
  1. Transfer to another container with a nonreactive lid. Label it so you remember what the heck kind of concoction it is. 
Sage Oxymel

So, about storing your Oxymel…Mountain Rose Herbs suggests the Oxymel will keep about 6 months if stored in a cool dark place. Other herbalists say you can store them in the frig for a year. Others say differently. You know herbalists. 

I think they are the strongest if you use them within 6 months. I have stored them at room temp in a cool dark pantry for a year.

Use your best judgement

You may be wondering what herbs might be good to make into an Oxymel. 

The choices are endless but let me suggest a few herbs you might like to play with. You can also combine herbs (like Fire Cider)

Remember not all herbs are appropriate for Oxymels. And if you are wildcrafting please positively identify the plant.  

  • Sage- sore throats and coughs
  • Bee Balm- immune system, respiratory issues, antiviral, antifungal
  • Elderberry- support for the immune system
  • Lemon Balm – antiviral, stress, sleep
  • Elecampane – respiratory system, coughing
  • Tulsi – lung health, stress, mental clarity
  • Marjoram – respiratory and digestive complaints, 
  • Mullein – respiratory tonic
  • Rosemary – antimicrobial, digestion, memory
  • Thyme- respiratory support (this is good with blackberries which I think technically makes it a shrub)
  • Evergreens (Spruce, Doug Fir, Pine…) – warming, chest congestion, coughs
  • Ginger – practically everything

How to use your Oxymel

As a morning tonic – 1 Tbsp. In warm water

Add it to food like salad dressing and marinades. Take it straight, mixed with water, or with ice and sparkling water.

You can take 1-2 tsp every couple of hours if you find yourself in the midst of having some respiratory junk.

Try 1 or more tablespoons a day for your immune system, especially in the winter. 

Oxymel Contraindications

Oxymels are generally considered a mild, gentle, and safe herbal preparation. Just make sure the herbs you are using are appropriate and regarded as safe. 

A note of caution. Please don’t give honey to kids under the age of one to avoid the risk of botulism.

That’s it. You just made an Oxymel!

Let me know how it turns out. I would love to hear about what you created.

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