The word oxymel is an ancient Greek word based on the Latin word oxymeli. An oxymel is a medicinal mixture of vinegar, honey and herbs. Oxymels were used by the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Persians (who referred to it as serkangabin)and are still enjoyed in Iran today. Over the last few years, oxymels have been gaining popularity in the west, both as herbal remedies and as cocktail ingredients. They are commonly used to administer herbs that may have an unpalatable taste. Over the last three years, I have been making lots of oxymels, mostly with flowers. There is something about the aroma and visual appeal of floral oxymels that is sumptuously appealing!
Beyond their delightful appearance and smell, edible flowers are packed with nutrients and biologically active compounds. Researchers have identified phytonutrientsincluding antioxidants, polyphenols, carotenoids, flavonoids, anthocyanins, essential oils, dietary fibers, vitamins such as A and C, riboflavin and niacin, and minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, iron and potassium.
Although you can make oxymels out of all different kinds of herbs, this article focuses on floral oxymels. Even though the flowers listed here may fit into more than one type, I have broken them into three main categories: floral, savory and nutritive.
Additional Botanicals can be added in smaller amounts to enhance flavor or add other medicinal actions. Although many herbs and spices have more than one flavor, I have simplified their categories here and listed them in either sweet, savory or bitter categories. Although bitters are excellent for digestion, I reco0mmend going light on them to start, and adding more to appeal to your taste and tolerance.
Warning: Please make sure to properly identify flowers (and all herbs) before you eat them. Growing your own edible flowers is a great way to have access to fresh flowers and to make sure they are clean and unsprayed. If purchasing flowers, look for the word “edible” on the packaging, which indicates the flowers are safe to eat. Especially if you have allergies, make sure to introduce new flowers to your diet in small quantities to be sure they don’t cause an allergic reaction or stomach upset.
Honey: I have been keeping bees for five years now, and I love it! I think honey is made of magic: small insects all working together for a common cause, visiting thousands of flowers throughout the spring and summer to gather nectar. Their tiny wings beat, over and over, dehydrating the nectar into honey. Honey is a gift from the flowers and the bees! I recommend raw, local honey as it contains more pollen, enzymes and other micronutrients. Honey is anti-bacterial, humectant and anti-inflammatory, making it soothing to sore throats and respiratory irritations. It is full of anti-oxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Due to risk of botulism, children under one year old should avoid honey.
Vinegar: Although other vinegars are available, I prefer to use organic apple cider vinegar. It aids digestion, contains antioxidants, and may be helpful in supporting immune function. It has been studied for its anti-glycemic effect, making it useful for balancing blood sugar levels. It is antibiotic, antiseptic and soothing to a sore throat. I recommend raw apple cider vinegar, which is high in potassium, phosphorus, and some trace minerals.
All floral oxymels should be made at room temperature (as opposed to cooking as you might with roots or barks). Flowers are delicate and heat can destroy some of the properties such as volatile oils. I never weigh the herbs, but do tend to use different amounts for fresh or dry flowers. With fresh flowers, I use as many flowers as I can pack into a jar and then cover them with either vinegar, honey, or both. With dry flowers, I like to fill the jar about half way full of flowers before adding my honey or vinegar. I generally like to end up with equal parts honey and vinegar in my oxymels, but there are no fast rules. Play with your ratios and see what you like best. Here are the four ways I have made oxymels:
There are many other fun ways to use oxymels. Here are just a few:
I’d love to hear your ideas about using oxymels! Please leave your comments below.
© Elaine Sheff, Clinical Herbalist, RH (AHG) 2019
About the Author:
The author of several books on herbal medicine and healing, clinical herbalist Elaine Sheff has been passionate about sharing herbal knowledge for over 25 years. Her latest book is Naked: Botanical Recipes for Vibrant Skin and Healthy Hair. Elaine is the Co-Director of Green Path Herb School, located in Missoula, Montana, where she strives to inspire and empower students and clients to remember their connection to the earth, the plants and their own healing process. She is a professional member of the American Herbalist Guild and teaches workshops, and at conferences, both nationally and internationally. As a certified Instructor of the Natural Family Planning and Fertility Awareness Methods, Elaine has helped many couples to avoid or achieve pregnancy naturally. She has written numerous articles about her family’s journey with epilepsy and a special needs child. Elaine has written for publications including the Journal of Medicinal Plants and their Applications, Mamalode and AromaCulture magazine. Elaine’s workshops have been featured at conferences including the Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference, Montana Herb Gathering, Northwest Herb Symposium, Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference, Spokane Herbal Faire, the Ecoexpo, Mountain West Herb Gathering, Inland Northwest Permaculture Convergence, and the Pacific Women’s Herbal Conference. You can often find her bent over an herb in her garden or marveling at small flowers in mountain meadows with her husband and sons. If you’d like to learn more about medicinal plants, you can connect with Elaine, and Green Path Herb School via the Green Path Website or through social media: Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter, or Instagram. You can find out more about Elaine and her life work at GreenPathHerbSchool.com.
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