In mid-summer, when fresh herbs and flowers are plentiful, try making some oxymel. When combined with some cold seltzer water, it makes a tasty and refreshing tonic. Plus, it offers some great health benefits. It's so easy to make and so nutritious that you will want to keep a jar on hand for everyday use.
What is Oxymel?
Oxymel is an herbal or floral extraction using vinegar and honey as the liquid needed to draw out the flavors and nutrients from the plants. In Ancient Greece, it was called "oxymeli" which translates as "acid and honey." In ancient times, nearly all medicines came from plants -- typically in the form of either fresh or dried leaves and flowers. Dried and crushed bark and roots were also part of an herbalist's medicine box. Some of these items were bitter and rather nasty tasting. When combined with honey and vinegar, it was easier to make the medicine go down.
The basic recipe calls for some vinegar (raw apple cider vinegar is best), some raw honey and a handful or two of some fresh herbs and/or flowers. The extraction method is "cold infusion" meaning that the mixture is left to brew at room temperature. Heat is avoided as it can degrade some of the phytonutrients in the raw ingredients.
To make oxymel, just mix everything together in a clean class jar and then allow the herbs or flowers to steep for several weeks. Shake the jar a couple times every day or two. After 4 to 6 weeks, strain out the solids, pour into a clean glass jar and it's ready for use.
In a clean jar with a tight fitting lid, oxymel can last up to 6 months in your cupboard, or up to 1 year if stored in the refrigerator. But once you get into the habit of a drinking a daily tonic of oxymel, it will never last that long and you will need to make a fresh batch every month or two.
What are the health benefits of oxymel?
The benefits of oxymel are three-fold. First, you have the health and wellness benefits of raw, unfiltered honey. Raw honey contains important enzymes, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. These compounds have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Next, raw apple cider vinegar is packed with vitamins and minerals that fortify your immune system. Then, we add a third layer of wellness benefits from the additional phytonutrients that seep from the herbs and flowers used to make the oxymel. Some common herbs and flowers, along with their respective wellness benefits, are listed below.
As an added benefit, a glass of oxymel seltzer can help to curb your appetite. So a couple glasses each day of this tasty brew can help to bolster your diet plan. Try one glass mid-morning and a second one mid-afternoon.
common herbs and flowers for making oxymel
There are many different herbs and flowers that you can use for making oxymel. Here are a few common ones that can be found in many North American gardens.
Basil. Full of antioxidants and helps to reduce inflammation.
Bee Balm. Helps to treat sore throat, cough and fever.
Chamomile. Promotes more restful sleep.
Elderberry. Promotes a stronger immune system.
Lemon Balm. A mild sedative with a calming effect; helps to reduce stress and anxiety.
Mint. Helps to calm an upset stomach; aids with digestion.
Rosemary. Increases energy and improves circulation. (Slices of fresh ginger are also good for better energy and circulation.)
Sage. Anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial
You can use these ingredients fresh or dried. If you do go with dried herbs or flowers, then use just about 1/3 of the amount of fresh. We much prefer using fresh herbs and flowers as it makes for a better tasting elixir. Some recipes for oxymel call for more pungent ingredients such as chopped raw garlic, chopped horseradish, cayenne peppers and black peppercorns. This makes a rather strong brew called "fire cider" that is used to treat bad colds and the flu. We much prefer a tamer and tastier version of oxymel.
How to make an oxymel
In the past, recipes for oxymel had a higher ratio of vinegar to honey -- as much as 4 or 5 parts vinegar to 1 part honey. But that was when raw honey was not as easy to come by. For modern tastes, a ratio of 1:1 is much more palatable.
Step 1: Gather your herbs and/or flowers. If you are using fresh herbs and flowers, pick enough to loosely fill about half of the container you are using. Carefully wash and then air dry the herbs or flowers.
Step 2: Clean and sanitize a wide mouth glass jar (a Mason jar works well) and also clean and sanitize a plastic lid for the jar. A metal lid can react with the vinegar, so you should use plastic. If all you have is a metal lid, then use a piece of parchment paper between the top of the jar and the lid.
Step 3: Add the herbs and/or flowers to the clean jar and then add equal parts of raw honey and raw apple cider vinegar. One cup of honey plus one cup of cider vinegar is a good place to start.
Step 4: Stir until the honey and vinegar is well blended and then screw the lid on tight. Place the jar in your cupboard. Agitate the jar several times a week.
Step 5: After 4 to 6 weeks, strain out the solids and then return the oxymel to the jar. It's now ready to use and can be safely stored for up to 6 months in the cupboard, or up to 1 year in the refrigerator.
How to use oxymel
While you can take oxymel by the spoonful in undiluted form, it is rather strong flavored. Plus, the undiluted vinegar can erode your tooth enamel (not good). So we recommend either a cold tonic or a hot tea. For a cold tonic, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of strained oxymel into a tall glass. Then add a 12 ounce can of chilled seltzer water (plain or flavored) and gently stir. It's a very refreshing summer beverage. One or two glasses per day is recommended. During winter, just brew a cup of your favorite herbal tea. Once the tea cools a bit, add a tablespoon or two of oxymel and stir to blend.
Best Honey to use for making oxymel
Just about any quality raw honey will make a good oxymel. But most of the flavor notes will be lost in the blend, so we recommend a less expensive honey variety for making oxymel.