I could so easily write a book on herbal tonics so it is quite tough to only recommend 5 recipes to get you through the colder months, plus I have been asked not to have any alcohol in them – however, I’m not great at listening to instructions so let’s get this one out the way first – my favourite Winter Tonic is:
!. Echinacea and Elecampane Tincture.
We always have a lot of Echinacea and Elecampane growing on site here at the Secret Herb Garden, one, because we need the Echinacea for our gin and, secondly, they look so strikingly beautiful. Of course, if you haven’t got access to these, you can visit Neal’s Yard or Napiers and buy pre dried Echinacea and Elecampane roots.
This is a wonderful tincture, the Echinacea is an immune stimulant, assisting the body to resist infection more efficiently; it is anti-microbial and increases cellular resistance to virus while the Elecampane is amazing for all ailments of the chest and lungs, including pneumonia, bronchitis and asthma. It is a must-have protective over the winter months.
1. Harvest (clean well) or buy your roots and place in a jar – depending on the size of the jar fill with one third dried plant material.
2. Using a 40% plain vodka (you could use gin but a bit of a waste!) fill the jar short of the top and then screw the lid on tightly.
3. Shake the jar frequently (I leave ours in the kitchen and just when walking by I will give the jar a quick shake) and keep for 10-14 days, you will see a dark lovely colour develop.
4. Then strain out the liquid and discard the roots and re jar the Echinacea and Elecampane Tincture, label and take a teaspoon every evening.
2. Elecampane and Chamomile Honey
This is a great herbal remedy and is beautiful to use a teaspoon of it to sweeten your favourite herbal tea.
As I’m sure you are aware, honey is created by the honeybee, Apis mellifica, our planet’s premier herbalist and medicine-maker – we have 30 hives on site here and farm continuously to make sure we give the bees as much nectar and pollen as possible from our herb garden.
Medicinal Qualities: Again, we are extracting all the chemical components from the Elecampane to use as a supportive role for your chest and lungs, plus the Chamomile is a wonderfully soothing and cleansing tonic. Honey is the most amazing natural medicine – it is an antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal to name but a few – it is an immune boosting powerhouse!
1. Herbs should be dry - place them in the bottom of a jar and fill the jar almost to the top with honey – I love to use our own honey but any light honey will do - screw lid and clean jar.
2. Let the herbs infuse for at least 2 weeks.
3. Strain the honey into a clean jar, label and store.
3. Lemon, Honey & Garlic Soup
I know this may sound strange as a soup, but we are looking at herbal tonics to heal over winter and this is one!
Medicinal Qualities: You can’t have a home medicine chest without the power of garlic! Garlic is pretty much useful in all disorders of the human body, it acts powerfully on the mucous membranes in all parts of the body and penetrates the bloodstream from the feet to the brain. Only matched in its power by lemon itself which is also amazing for most ailments from cleansing the blood to expelling that cold mucus.
1. Add 1 Tbsp each finely diced yellow onion, celery, and carrots; 1 minced clove garlic; 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice; and 2 tsp grated lemon zest to soup bowl. Cover with 1½ cups hot vegetable broth and drizzle with honey.
2. Stir to combine.
4. Sage Leaf Decoction
This is the easiest one to make if you are new to herbal tonics, and I use it regularly. If I or anyone in else in the family feel a sore throat or ulcers coming-on we use this as a gargle or take in a small shot glass for fighting against colds.
Medicinal Qualities: Sage’s name comes from the Latin salvere, ‘to be well’ and ‘to save’ it is believed to exert a beneficial influence over the entire human spirit – it has many medicinal qualities, but I use it primarily for sore throats and colds as mentioned.
1. Place dried or fresh leaves in a saucepan (so difficult to tell you the amount – I always go on what ‘feels’ right) making sure there is a layer of herb then fill to three times the height of plant material with cold water.
2. Bring the water to boiling point and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the amount is reduced to at least half the original.
3. Allow to cool and strain off the liquid and pour into a clean bottle.
4. Put the bottle in the fridge and use as a mouth wash/gargle 3 to 4 times daily or more if you wish – this will keep for up to three days in the fridge.
5. Secret Garden’s Wild Herbal Tea
This is a delicious tea all grown here with no chemicals etc whatsoever, hand harvested, dried and bagged on-site – pure plant medicine. It is made with Nettle, Yarrow and Cornflower petals.
Medicinal properties: Nettle and Yarrow are ancient healers and the colourful blue cornflower is a nervine. Nettle also cleanses the blood, tones the whole system and is great to help get ride of mucus. Yarrow is famous for its use against colds and headaches, especially if fighting fevers.
1. Brew the herbal plants in a tea pot and adjust temperature and time according to your preference but as a guide, 1 teaspoon infused for up to 3 – 5 minutes (per mug)
2. Use a strainer to catch the plant debris.
3. Drink as a normal cup of tea – also delicious when served cold.
If you want the best herbal books to start with, in my opinion you can’t go wrong with my herbal heroine, Juliette de Bairacli Levy ‘Common Herbs for Natural Health’ or James Green ‘The Herbal Medicine-Makers Handbook’.