As summer starts to wind down and weeding and planting give way to harvesting and processing, I like to begin to think about my winter remedies. I like to make salves, tinctures, and syrups to ensure my health through the long Vermont winter. These medical alternatives help to keep immune systems strong, fight bacteria, and keep us going through the cold, dark days of winter.
There are many products one can make to treat common ailments and ensure a healthy immune system; these include: salves to help keep skin healthy and glowing, tinctures to treat ailments and boost our immunities, cough syrups to help treat Winter colds, as well as honey infusions like Thyme infused honey to help when those colds might move into our chests.
It is important to use organic or wildcrafted flowers and herbs that are free of pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides - you are making medicine after all! You can choose to grow or find your own, or buy fresh or dried herbs from a reputable company. Here in Vermont we have a great little herb farm called Zack Woods, where I buy the majority of my medicinal plants. If there is not a reputable apothecary or flower/herb farm near you, Mountain Rose Herbs out in Oregon and Jean’s Greens in New York state both provide quality products. If you choose to wildcraft your herbs make sure you pick at least 50 feet away from any roads, and always make sure you get the land owner’s permission.
Below are a few of my favorite recipes I make every Fall, including Calendula Comfrey Salve, Echinacea Tincture, Elderberry Cough Syrup, and Thyme Infused Honey.*
Calendula Comfrey Salve
About one month before you plan on making your salve you will want to begin a solar infusion of calendula flowers using the Simpler’s method, by stuffing a jar about ½ to ¾ full of either fresh (but wilted overnight) calendula flowers and covering with the oil of your choice to an inch above the flowers. Calendula flowers should be picked just as or just before opening. Place your herbal oil in a sunny windowsill and shake daily.
You will also want to begin a solar infusion of comfrey leaves and oil of your choice in the same manner. Comfrey leaves should be harvested before the plant has had a chance to flower, as the medicinal compounds tend to disintegrate soon after the plant flowers.
Often my Comfrey flowers before my Calendula starts to bloom, so I will make my Comfrey oil and store it away until my Calendula oil is done a month or so later. Place your herbal oil in a sunny windowsill and shake daily.
Some base oils you can use for solar infusing include olive oil, sweet almond oil, grapeseed oil, or apricot kernel oil.
If you don’t have time to make a solar infusion, you can make a warm infusion by taking your herbs or flowers and putting them in a crockpot or stainless steel double boiler (or a pot within a pot) and warm on low for 3 – 4 hours. This method tends to not pull out as many of the medicinal compounds as the solar infusion, and lacks the magic that the sun and moon impart into earth based medicines, but can be used in a pinch.
- 1 Cup Calendula Infused Oil
- 1 Cup Comfrey Infused Oil
- 1 – 1 1/2 Ounces Beeswax (7 – 10 tsp. – depending on how firm you want your salve)
- 1 tsp. Vitamin E Oil
- 1 – 2 tsp. Essential Oil of Your Choice (I like to use Lavender essential oils due to its antibacterial and healing qualities)
To make your salve:
- Blend the two cups of oil together in a stainless steel double boiler.
- Add the beeswax, a bit at a time (I recommend shredding it on a cheese grater to make melting easier) testing for consistency after each addition.
- To test for consistency, dip a spoon into your warm salve and pop it into the freezer. After about a minute you can pull it out and see what consistency your salve is at. If your salve is still to thin, add more shredded beeswax.
- Once your desired consistency is reached, add your essential oil and Vitamin E oil (for preservation). Mix well and pour into small jars or containers.
Use only topically on small cuts, scrapes, bruises, or dry skin.
High Mowing Organic Seeds’ Varieties for Calendula Comfrey Salve:
- Resina Calendula (noted for its high medicinal resin content)
- Flashback Mix Calendula
- Dark Orange Calendula
- Strawberry Blond Calendula
Echinacea tincture is one of the most widely used tinctures available. Easy to make, Echinacea tincture will unsure a strong and healthy immune system when taken properly. In order to maintain its medicinal strength, Echinacea tincture should not be taken for long periods of time, but in a regimen of two weeks on and two weeks off, or beginning at the first signs of a cold.
Echinacea root should be harvested in the late fall when the plant begins storing the majority of compounds in its roots.
The following Echinacea tincture is made with 100 Proof vodka and should not be given to children. If you’d like to make a tincture suitable for children, you can substitute raw apple cider vinegar sweetened with honey as a substitute for the vodka. Although raw vinegar will not draw out as many of the volatile oils or medicinal compounds from the herbs and flowers, and will not store as long, it is better suited for children and those that wish to avoid alcohol.
- 1/4 – 1/3 Lb. Dried Echinacea Root
- 1 Fifth of 100% Good Quality Vodka or
- About 1 Quart Raw Apple Cider Vinegar (Sweetened with honey)
To make your tincture:
- Place your dried Echinacea root into a Quart Mason Jar and cover with your alcohol, vegetable glycerin, or sweetened raw vinegar so that the alcohol is about one inch above the dried roots. Again, this is the Simpler’s method of measuring.
- Keep your tincture in a dark cupboard for the next 6 – 8 weeks, shaking daily. After 6 – 8 weeks you can rebottle your tincture into small Amber colored bottles with droppers, or you can choose to make a double strength tincture.
- Take 6– 10 drops 3 times per day for 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off.
At the first sign of a cold increase dosage frequency to 6 – 8 times per day.
To make a double strength tincture:
- Take the tincture you have been infusing for the last 6 – 8 weeks and strain it.
- Pour over 1/4 – 1/3 Lb. new, dried Echinacea root and let sit for another 6 – 8 weeks before straining and bottling.
You can take less of the double strength tincture at a time, somewhere around 3 – 5 drops 2 to 3 times per day.
At the first sign of a cold increase dosage frequency to 4 – 6 times per day.
High Mowing Organic Seeds’ Varieties for Echinacea Tincture:
- Purple Coneflower (roots should only be harvested from plants older than 3 years)
Elderberry Cough Syrup
Elderberry Cough Syrup can be taken daily as an immune system enhancer or taken at the first signs of a cold. Even if you choose to take it daily as an immune system enhancer, you can just double your dosage in times of sickness for an extra boost.
- 4 Cups Fresh Elderberries
- 2 Cups Water
- 2 Cups Raw Honey
To make your cough syrup:
- Clean your berries of stems and wash thoroughly.
- Boil down your Elderberries with the water for about 30 – 40 minutes, until reduced by nearly 1/2.
- Slowly blend your raw honey into your Elderberry decoction.
- Jar and keep in the fridge.
Take 1 Tbsp. daily as an immune enhancer, or up to 3 Tbsp. daily in times of sickness.
Thyme Infused Honey
Thyme infused honey is a tasty treat that will help when colds move into your chest. Thyme contains many antiseptic, and antibiotic properties, as well as acting as an expectorant.
- 1 Cup Raw Honey
- ½ Cup Fresh Thyme
To make your infused honey:
- Chop your Thyme and tie it up in a piece of muslin, or a disposable coffee filter.
- Place your Thyme sachet into a jar.
- Cover with honey.
- Let sit 2 – 4 weeks in a sunny window to solar infuse.
- After 2 – 4 weeks, remove the Thyme sachet and rebottle.
- Make sure you squeeze the sachet out well in order to get as many medicinal compounds into your honey as possible.
- If you don’t have time to let the Thyme solar infuse, you can infuse the Thyme and honey in a double boiler, taking care not to let the mixture come to a boil. Heat for 15 – 20 minutes and rebottle. Using this method does kill many of the antibacterial properties of the honey. It is best to use raw honey and solar infuse it.
Take one tsp. of honey 3 times a day when coughs and colds set it. You can eat it plain, or add it to a cup of tea or hot water.
High Mowing Organic Seeds’ Varieties for Thyme Infused Honey
*The information in this article is not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any condition. This is only meant as an educational piece on the traditional healing properties of plants. This information is not meant to replace the care of a trained medical professional.