I've had an interest in the idea of traditional healing ways for as long as I can remember, but it wasn't until 2008 that I began my path to understanding what that kind of healing really is. One of the first herbalism classes I took was the Art of Herbal Medicine Making with Robin Rose Bennett, Wise Woman herbalist based in NJ. (If you're curious about making your own herbal medicines, I highly recommend this class.) Before meeting Robin, I don't think I realized I could make my own medicine – at the time I relied on whatever I could get from a health food store.
Making your own herbal medicine has a multitude of benefits. It's empowering, it's cost-effective, and it really comes in handy when you're suffering from an easy-to-ease ailment (minor wounds, muscle aches, colds, sunburn, etc.). And it's also really darn simple to do. One of the simplest ways of getting healing herbs into your body is to cook with them. Another way to do this is to make an herbal vinegar.
Super simple herbal vinegar recipe
1. Figure out how much vinegar you'd like. But don't worry too much. If you have extra you can share it with friends.
2. Get your ingredients: good quality organic vinegar (I like apple cider vinegar best), herbs (fresh or dried).
3. Get your equipment: a clean glass jar with a plastic lid or some waxed paper if you've got a metal lid. A clean bottle to store your finished product in. A narrow funnel.
4. If you're using fresh herbs, fill the entire jar with small bits of your herb of choice (below is a list of good ones to start with). The best way to prepare the herb is to tear it up with your hands, so you get good and familiar with it. And if you want to put good energy into your medicine, sing while you make it. Or at the very least hum. Or think happy thoughts.
If you're using dried herbs, fill the jar about halfway.
5. Now fill the jar all the way up with your vinegar. Give the mixture a few stirs with a chopstick or spoon to be sure all the air bubbles are out. Then put on your cap. If it's metal, put some waxed paper under the cap to prevent corrosion. Give the jar a couple of good shakes. Do this daily if you can, for at least 2 weeks (and up to 6 weeks or more).
6. You can taste the vinegar periodically to see if it's to your liking. When it's all good and infused, strain off the vinegar and use a funnel to pour the finished product into a lovely glass bottle. You could also use the vinegar with the herb bits in it – it's up to you.
Herbs to infuse
Here's a short list of herbs you could infuse in vinegar, along with some of their actions. Stick with one if this is your first time. If you're feeling adventurous, combine 2 or 3.
- Dandelion leaf (Taraxacum officinale) – diuretic, digestive
- Nettles (Urtica dioica) – nourishing, tonic
- Mugwort* (Artemisia vulgaris) – digestive, emmenagogue
- Parsley* (Petroselinum crispum) - nourishing, digestive
- Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) – digestive, antimicrobial
- Lavender† (Lavandula spp.) – calming, antimicrobial
*Not recommended for use in pregnancy. Parsley is generally okay in small doses in food, but not large medicinal doses.
† Use lavender sparingly, it can be overwhelming. Fill the jar only about 1/8 of the way with lavender buds and infuse for 1 to 2 weeks.
You can also use herbal vinegars topically, as a skin toner or hair rinse. Some herbs that are great for this application are: chamomile, rose, lavender, rosemary, and nettles.
Make a spring tonic vinegar with Gathering Ground!
This coming Sunday, January 31, we're hosting a gathering in Prospect Park to celebrate the midway point between winter and spring. Yes, winter is almost half over! We'll be making an herb-infused vinegar that makes a great spring tonic. Just bring a jar and join us!