Tag Archives: tincture

Sweet Melissa: A Simpler’s recipe.

11 Jan

About a year ago, I wrote a post on Carmelite water, an herb-infused spirit that has many variations, but who’s defining herb is lemon balm.  Lemon balm is also known as sweet melissa.  My first crack at Carmelite water resulted in a spicy brew where I tasted much more clove than lemon balm.  The clove had a numbing effect on my tongue as I drank it– clove oil is known as a good herbal remedy for tooth aches, as it is both antiseptic and analgesic.

Lemon_balm_2

Alas, I don’t have a personal photo of my own lemon balm. Here’s a public domain shot via wikimedia commons.

 

Lemon balm, or Melissa officialis, is a perennial herb.  It’s calming, cooling, uplifting, and mildly astringent.  Used in formulas for belly aches, anxiety, hyperthyroid, colds and viruses.  (source: Dina Falconi’s Foraging and Feasting: a Field Guid and Wild Food Cookbook.)  Lemon balm is also a great ally in the garden.  Its lemony scent is supposed to repel various pests.

For my second try at a Carmelite water, I decided to go with the fresh herb, and only melissa: no other herbs to distract the taste buds.  In the herbalists’ terms, a one-herb infusion is called a “simple.”   Last summer, I planted a lemon balm that flourished in the high sun of my fire escape.  In June, I took an ounce of the leaves and put them in a jar, and I covered them with about 1 1/4 cups of 80 proof Stoli vodka.  Then, I forgot about it.  Here it is:

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Today, over six months later, I rediscovered the jar in the back of my fermentation cabinet.  I decanted the vodka into a glass measuring cup, squeezed out the extra fluid from the leaves, and then tasted some.  The taste is decidedly herbaceous, decidedly the taste of lemon balm, and of course strongly alcoholic.  The alcohol has quite a bite to it.  Last time I made carmelite water, I skipped the part where you add sugar to the mix.  This time around, I heated up a tablespoon of water, added two tablespoons of honey to it, and mixed that into my brew.  This softened the taste, but it is still sure to put some hair on your chest!  Interestingly, I just found a recipe for lemon balm schnapps, apparently  a Danish recipe.  The author only infuses hers for 48 hours and uses significantly less lemon balm.  I supposed my version is really more like a tincture in its herbal strength.

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The infused alcohol is a deep emerald green, although the lighting doesn’t quite tell you that here.

I would call this experiment a success, although I’ve come to the conclusion  that I like the way fresh lemon balm leaves smell way more than I like the way they taste.  I would call picking a fresh leaf from my homegrown plant and smelling the aroma of it crushed between my fingers a kind of ‘peak experience.’  Eating that same leaf or drinking it in vodka hasn’t done it for me.  Perhaps using my original recipe and reducing the clove will create a more balanced blend that incorporates the taste of sweet melissa but makes it more delicious than this simpler’s recipe.  I’d like to call out to my readers:  do you have a favorite use for lemon balm?

 

 

Alewife gets a cold, engages with Osha root: Monica’s tincture.

13 Mar

Brooklyn Alewife has a cold.  I thought I got through this winter without getting  sick at all.  Till now.  I do recall some time in mid-January, I almost got sick and warded it off with plenty of sleep, elderberry brandy, herb teas, and an amazing Osha root-based tincture from my friend Monica.   She discovered the root via her now ex-boyfriend, who left a bunch of it behind, and she began chewing it straight-up to help her overcome a lingering illness.  Liking it a lot, she found that she particularly liked it in combination with both red root and cherry bark.  Periodically when I got a threatening tickle in my throat this year, instead of taking cough drops I took a half-dropper of Monica’s tincture.  It soothed my throat as well as warding off whatever germs were attacking me.

hallsgood.preview

These halls ads were all over the subway a coupla years ago. I feel like this lady right now.

Osha root (Ligusticum porteri)  is an herb that Monica introduced me to last year.  It’s native to the Southwestern US and Mexico, and my herbal books seem to have a blind spot for it.  My wellness wall chart in my kitchen sites it for sinusitus, because of it’s anti-viral and anti-bacterial qualities.  A quick google search led me straight to Wikipedia, and the picture of Osha looks much like poison hemlock, which is not too surprising because both plants are in the parsley family.  The plants are easily distinguished by smell, however.  Hemlock has a mousy smell when the leaves are crushed, whereas Osha has a celery smell to it.  This celery smell and taste is noticeable to me in consumption of the dried root.   Osha is sometimes called bear root, because brown bears are attracted to it, both eating the roots and rubbing it on their fur.

Researching Osha today, I find via both Susun Weed’s website  and on the Mountain Rose herbs website an advisory that Osha is an at-risk species, to use sparingly.  Guilt rises in me, as I just bought two ounces of the root yesterday (okay, that’s not that much).  Because of the scarcity of the root, you should be mindful of your herbal sources:  Do you get your supplies from someone who harvests sustainably?

English: Ligusticum porteri variety porteri (o...

English: Ligusticum porteri variety porteri (osha, Porter’s lovage, Porter’s licoriceroot, loveroot, etc.), showing flowers and part of seedhead, Winsor Trail, Santa Fe National Forest, near Santa Fe, New Mexico. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Weed sites Osha as a very powerful herb that helps to prevent against anaphylactic shock and other extreme reactions to both allergens and venoms.   She also refers to it as “singer’s root,” because of its soothing effect on the throat.  I have noticed it listed as an ingredient in prepared herbal remedies such as “Singer’s Saving Grace,” and “Old Indian Wild Cherry Bark,”  two remedies that I have used over the years when I am sick.  The good news is, a little goes a long way.  I was not sparing in my use this winter, and an ounce of diluted tincture lasted me the entire season.

Here’s what Monica did.  Keep in mind, neither Monica nor I are trained herbalists, but amateurs dabbling in herbal crafts, experimenting researching, and having conversations.  Do your own research.  Check out the resource linked, for instance in this article.  Take your herbs with respect and caution.   Via Weed, 2 oz. of dried roots should be combined with 10 oz. of high-proof alcohol.

Monica’s Osha tincture:

In a glass jar, combine

2 oz coursley chopped osha root

2/3 oz cherry bark (read more about it here)

1 and 1/3 oz red root. (read more about it here)

Cover the roots with 20 oz. 100-proof vodka.  Cap the jar tightly, and let it sit for a year.  If some of the alcohol evaporates, you can top it off.

Tinctures are generally consumed  a few drops at a time in a glass of water.  Monica chose to dilute her master tincture with distilled water to a still strong but more directly ingestable level (Dilute yours to taste if you go this route:  she just said, “I put a lot of water in there.” I’m going to guess my bottle is half distilled water).  If you dilute the whole tincture, you will shorten the shelf life, but is a nice way to carry it around and apply at will on the bus, on the road, whatever, even if you don’t have a bottle of water with you.

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Happy Equinox! A boozy remedy recipe for cold season.

21 Sep
English: Ripening elderberries

English: Ripening elderberries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

September is almost gone, and I’m not sure where it went!  As we hit the fall equinox, we move into true autumn:  my favorite season.  I can tell by the farmer’s market stands that the harvest is in full swing, and yesterday was cool enough in my kitchen that I could enjoy making french onion soup.

In my yoga classes recently, I’ve noticed people showing up with stuffy noses. Allergies are starting to flare up, and so is cold season. A while ago I posted an old wive’s remedy for colds that I got from my mom: raisins in gin. Stretching farther back into my feminine ancestry: we always knew when my mother’s mother had a cold because she would take some brandy in the evening to treat herself. I don’t recall her drinking besides this, and Baba always got a little silly when she drank her brandy. In honor of Baba, I created an elderberry infused brandy for my own cold prevention. Elderberries are one of the most beloved folk remedies for the common cold. This recipe is basically a tincture that I concocted out of my own mind.  Here’s another blogger’s take on it, using fresh elderberries:  www.loveandwildhoney.com/archives/455.  She uses a higher ratio of elderberries, vodka which is more traditional for tinctures, and she filters them out after a few months.  Mine have been in the bottle all year, and I just strain them out as I pour it.  The brandy is stronger in taste than the elderberries, and it is sure to put a bit of hair on your chest if nothing else!  I only make a cup at a time because I really don’t consume very much of the stuff, but feel free to play with quantities and ratios.

Elderberry infused brandy

Take a cup of brandy and put it into an appropriate sized container. I used Sljivovica, a plum brandy.

Add 2 TBS of dried elderberries to the container. mix.

Let the mixture sit for at least a week. It will turn a deep, satisfying purple.

Consume in small quantities, straining out the berries when you pour.  I usually sip the infusion straight-up from a little sake glass.

If that way of consuming is too harsh for you, you might add a small shot of your infused brandy to hot water with honey, hot-toddy style.  Add some freshly grated ginger to enhance the flavor and the cold-fighting qualities!

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Elderberry brandy before and after infusion: this batch has had the opportunity to infuse all year.

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