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What are oxymels and how do I use them?

Oxymels are one of my favourite ways to make medicine! They are an old fashioned way of taking medicinal herbs and one that I feel should make a revival!! In order to call this medicine an oxymel it has to have honey as one of the 3 main ingredients. Oxy means acid and mel means honey. And that’s precisely what it is. A deliciously acidic and sweet herbal decoction or infusion.
Oxymels have been used since 400 B.C.E and Hippocrates was a big fan of them for respiratory difficulties such as coughing, excess mucous as well as its immune boosting properties.
Since originally oxymels were used to treat respiratory, immune or digestive complaints it makes sense to use herbs that support these issues as well. However oxymels can also be made solely to use as a cocktail mixer, salad dressing or a delicious herbal drink.

Raw apple cider vinegar:

This is a fantastic menstruum (solvent) for extracting minerals and vitamins, in fact that’s what vinegar is known for- drawing out the minerals from nutritive plants. Vinegar is also a probiotic and eases digestive issues.

Raw honey:

Honey is antibacterial and anti-allergenic. It is full of enzymes and antioxidants that promote digestion, healing and health! The perfect partner to vinegar.

How to make an oxymel:

There are a few different methods for making an oxymel. Here I go over the quick method, the heated method and the traditional folk method.

  1. Quick method:
    This method requires you to buy ready made infused ingredients. This method is my least advised as it takes all the fun out of creating your own medicine.

1 part herbal infused honey
1 part herbal infused vinegar

Combine the honey with the vinegar in a clean glass jar for up to 6 months. Remember to label and add the date of creation. 

2. Heated method:
I love this method if I want to make a delicious oxymel for dressings or drinks as the heat will kill off some of the medicinal value but it will also enhance the flavour.

1 part  apple cider vinegar
1 part raw honey
1/2 part dried herbs of your choice

Add the herbs and the vinegar to a saucepan or pot over a low flame and warm until just below boiling (it should be steaming not boiling) with the lid on. Turn the heat down and allow it to simmer for 10-20 minutes. Let sit for another 10 minutes with the lid on. Strain the herbs out and let it cool until it’s warm to the touch just above room temperature. Add your honey and mix well then pour into bottles and label.
*You can add in an extra step by heating your honey gently over a double boiler and adding more dried herbs to your honey. Be careful not to heat too much as this destroys the benefits of the honey. Do not heat above 50 deg C. Once you have done this, allow to infuse for an hour or two before straining and adding this to your vinegar mixture. Give a stir and a shake and decant into your clean bottles and label. Your oxymel is ready to use immediately.

3. Traditional folk method:
This is my preferred method of making medicinal oxymels.

2 parts raw apple cider vinegar
1 part raw honey
Enough dried herb to fill jar half way
Wax paper or plastic lid for jar

In a clean glass jar place enough herbs to fill the jar ¼ way. Cover the herbs with the vinegar first and make sure to stir well covering all of the herbs with vinegar and then fill the rest of the way with your honey. Again stirring well to incorporate your honey with the vinegar and herbs. If you prefer you can mix your honey and vinegar together first and then pour this onto your herbs. Do not pour your honey in first as this makes it hard for the vinegar to coat the herbs and could leave air pockets causing your oxymel to go rancid.
Store in a cool dark place for up to 6 weeks making sure to shake your bottle every few days. Strain and decant your oxymel into a clean glass jar anytime after 2 weeks. Make sure to label and date your jars!

BONUS RECIPE: Elderberry and thyme oxymel

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2/3 cup dried elderberries (or 1 1/3 cups fresh or frozen)
  • 1/2 cup fresh thyme sprigs, chopped finely.
  • 2 TBSP ginger (grated)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup raw honey
  • 1 mason jar about 500ml (your oxymel must fill the jar to the top)

Instructions

  • Place your elderberries, clove, ginger, cinnamon and thyme into a mason jar with a screw top.
  • Gently warm the AC vinegar on the stove for a few minutes until warmed but not hot.
  • Add the honey so it mixes into the vinegar.
  • Pour into the mason jar and stir well to make sure it covers all of the herbs
  • Once you have mixed it thoroughly place the lid on
  • Store in a cool place away from direct sunlight.
  • Try remember to shake it once a day for the first week
  • Store for 4-6 weeks before straining out.
  • Store in the fridge after 3 months (if you haven’t finished it by then) and take daily for its immune boosting properties.
    It can be taken orally one spoonful at a time. Add to salad dressings. Add a tablespoon into your tea or water. You can also add this to cocktails because it is so delicious! Enjoy <3