Some herbal medicines go down easy without needing a spoonful of sugar — just stir them into a festive beverage or toss them with a mixed-greens salad.
Vodka, apple-cider vinegar and canning jars are among the few items needed to make basic herbal remedies in the home kitchen. A Nov. 8 class at Ashland Food Co-op offers several simple preparations, yielding enough for participants to take home.
“It’s a way more affordable way to obtain the medicine,” says instructor Sam Roberts Wylder. “It’s also a really nice way to build up your home medicine chest.”
Wylder, a private-practice herbalist, plans to share her “basic first-aid kit for cold and flu season.” Elderberry syrup, “fire cider,” wine-mulling mix, and herbal vapor rub are the remedies that Wylder will demonstrate, using do-it-yourself recipes.
Wylder, who also works at Ashland’s Morningstar Healing Arts, organized the Nov. 8 class based on feedback from several free lectures she’s presented at the Co-op.
“I think people really like doing things for themselves,” she says, acknowledging that a large number of Rogue Valley residents grow some of their own food and culinary herbs.
Growing medicinal herbs is one way to approach home remedies. But Wylder also will discuss the best retail sources of ingredients. Either method, says Wylder, encourages people to become more familiar with plants and their healing properties.
“A lot of people find it to be a really creative outlet,” she says. “You can make it how you want.”
Fire cider, for example, can omit hot chilies. Add honey, says Wylder, to mellow the burn of fresh ginger and horseradish. The vinegar-based infusion also typically includes raw onion and garlic. Sometimes Wylder adds hawthorn berries or burdock root for increased circulation and immunity. A preventative tonic, fire cider also eases a head cold, says Wylder.
“It’s a great decongestant,” she says. “It’s actually a really great base for a salad dressing.”
Also stimulating to the circulatory system, cloves, cinnamon, allspice and cardamom are classic components of mulling-spice blends for red wine and apple cider — Wylder likes to mix the two. The same roster of spices also boasts antimicrobial properties, she says.
Another immune-system stimulant, elderberry syrup is essentially a thickened tincture that, owing to honey, can soothe a cough or sore throat. Or try it as a “really tasty” base for alcoholic or nonalcoholic drinks, says Wylder.
“You can make cocktails or mocktails with it.”
Each of the remedies keeps for about a year at room temperature, says Wylder. And they can be made at home for about $5 per ounce, compared with purchasing them for about $14 per ounce, she adds.
Cost to attend the class is $40, or $35 for Co-op members. The session runs from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8, in the Co-op classroom, 300 N. Pioneer St., Ashland. To register, call 541-482-2237 or see https://ashlandfood.coop/participation/events/diy-herbal-medicine-making-winter-wellness.
1 onion, peeled
1 head of garlic, peeled
3-inch-long piece fresh horseradish
3-inch-long piece fresh ginger root
3 hot peppers of choice, stemmed
1/4 cup honey
Organic, unfiltered apple-cider vinegar, as needed
Chop up the onion, garlic, horseradish, ginger and peppers; mix together in a large bowl. Scoop mixture into a quart-sized, glass canning jar with lid. Fill jar to shoulder. Add the honey. Pour the apple-cider vinegar over herbs until jar is full.
Screw on lid tightly and shake well. Store in a cool, dark cupboard for 30 days. Strain liquid through cheesecloth or a fine-mesh sieve into a glass jar or bottle. Store in a cool, dark place or refrigerate. Use fire cider within a year.
Recipe from Sam Roberts Wylder
Reach freelance writer Sarah Lemon at email@example.com.