Tag Archives: Aniseed

Herbal Vapours

In the winter I often enjoy burning herbs and recently the spicy scents of Frankincense and Myrrh have been wafting around our apartment.  All of the senses are emotive and can conjure up long forgotten memories but for me the sense of smell is most potent.  The scent of a particular time of year, the plants in bloom, humidity levels and so on, can combine and take me straight back to a unique event or emotion.  Frankincense and Myrrh resin, burned over a candle on a dark winter day, do just that and they make useful room fumigants.  I also enjoy the smell of good quality incense and of several dried herbs as they are directly warmed or gently burned.  I am not a smoker but enjoy the smoking blend mentioned below by adding a little to the top of an aromatherapy oil vapouriser.  In this case and when burning resins, I first cover the top of the vapouriser/burner with a little aluminium foil, it prevents cracking of the ceramic and makes cleaning much easier.

Inhaling herbal vapours allows them to enter the bloodstream and reach the brain quickly.  Care should be taken to select herbs for this purpose wisely and it is best to begin with a very small amount, to see how you react.  Some herbal vapours can quickly lift your spirits, such as Fennel seed.  Others can be relaxing or overstimulating.  If you are feeling exhausted or stressed out, you are more likely to react strongly to inhaled herbs.  Be cautious and respectful of them.

There is a lot of folklore associated with burning herbs. Smudge sticks to cleanse spaces, moon lodges & sweat lodges where herbs are heated over hot stones, herbal fumigation in Chinese traditional medicine and herbal smokes to induce visions in spiritual aspirants are but a few uses for burning herbs.  Sage commonly features in recipes; it burns well and in many cultures is believed to ward off evil. It is often used to “smudge” or cleanse spaces. Some communities burn it in the presence of new born babies, to prevent evil spirits from entering the child’s body via the cut umbilical cord.  Other commonly used herbs are Frankincense, Myrrh, Artemisia spp., Fennel seed, Aniseed and Thuja (Cedar).  I find that gently inhaling the vapours of herbs, feels more healing and natural than using concentrated essential oils.  I am interested to know of your experiences.

If you are interested in making your own incense there is a lovely book by Scott Cunningham which details dozens of recipes. You can see an extract here: Scott Cunningham’s Incense Book
Several years ago I bought a few kilos of hand made incense sticks from Mysore market.  They were apparently rolled from a blend containing honey and sandalwood. They smell absolutely divine, very clean burning with no hint of chemicals (which many commercial versions seen to contain). I only have a few sticks left so will try to find a recipe in the Cunningham book to match it.

Honey cured herbal smoking blend
This is a simple recipe which works well. Just preparing the herbs makes me feel good, warming or burning them feels soothing and a sprinkling of the mix goes well with a few grains of Frankincense and Myrrh.

  1. Powder some fennel seeds (this is tricky without a spice grinder). I do this with a food processor but always end up with two grades of fennel – fine powder and bruised seeds (which is good for tea or bread).
  2. Add 2 teaspoons of fennel powder to 12g of chopped dried sage.  Mix together.
  3. Separately, mix one teaspoon of honey with 4 teaspoons of water.
  4. Gradually add the honey water solution to the herbs.  You will need to rub the solution into the herbs so that they really soak it up evenly.
  5. Stop adding the solution when you feel all of the herbs are damp.
  6. Spread out the damp herb mix in a bowl.
  7. Leave the bowl uncovered (or perhaps covered with a muslin or clean tea towel) for about 48 hours.  Turn the herbs now and then.
  8. When you feel the herbs are almost dry transfer to an airtight container and label.
  9. If you find the mix is too dry for your needs you could add a little more water and shake up in the container OR add a potato peeling or two a few hours before use.  The herbs will absorb the water from the peelings.

Cough Syrup

This cough syrup recipe was kindly sent to me by Louise from Thornbury, South Glocestershire, UK.  She has been making it since attending a herbal remedies course in Bristol a few years ago. The recipe is taken from Hedley & Shaw’s book, Herbal Remedies: A practical beginner’s guide to making effective remedies in the kitchen

Louise says that… “It’s really good stuff and clears a heavy cold in a matter of days.  I always keep a bottle handy in the fridge and it keeps for ages.  I have even given some to colleagues in work.”

The combination of herbs is said to be soothing, antiseptic, antibiotic and expectorant.  The aim of the syrup is to thin out mucus and help open up the bronchi.  It is recommended by Hedley & Shaw to help relieve deep restless chesty coughs, tightness from colds and sore throats.

I made a batch this week, it tastes wonderful. There are several ingredients but all are easy to obtain and the method is really quite simple.  Some of the ingredients contain strong volatile oils so this syrup should be taken in small quantities for a short period of time and should not be used by pregnant women.

Sterilising storage bottles

Remember that your storage bottles need to be sterile, to prevent contamination and prolong the life of your potion.  This is best done just before you set to work with the herbs as if left until the last minute there may no time to do it properly.

  1. Clean the bottles/jars thoroughly with hot soapy water and a bottle brush,
  2. Let them drip dry
  3. Sterilise them (with lids/caps off and the openings facing upwards) in a warm oven (about 110 oC) for about 10 minutes.   Beware that plastic caps or lid liners will melt and burn if left in too long.
  4. Turn off the oven and leave them in there whilst you make the potion and get ready to pour.  If you need to leave them waiting in the oven for a long while, loosely fit the caps/lids when cool enough to handle, to prevent contaminants getting in.Some people find that cleaning them on a hot dishwasher cycle also does the trick.

Cough Syrup
(Makes approximately 350ml)
Not suitable in pregnancy or for babies

15g dried thyme (NL: Tijm)
8g dried sage (salie)
8g dried chamomile (kamille)
2 teaspoons fennel seeds (venkelzaad)
1 teaspoon aniseed (anijs)
20 cloves (nagelkruiden)
2 garlic cloves (knoflook teentjes)
Pinch cayenne pepper (cayenne) or ground ginger (gember)
900ml water
450g locally sourced honey


  1. Put water and chopped herbs into a pan and bring to the boil.  Cover with a tightly fitting lid.
  2. Turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Cool a little, strain through a fine mesh seive, pressing with a clean wooden spoon to extract the goodness.
  4. Discard the herb and keep the liquid.
  5. Return to the heat and simmer slowly, uncovered until reduced to 200ml (making a decoction).
  6. Add 450g honey, dissolve and simmer for a few minutes, stirring all the time, until of a syrupy consistency.
    DO NOT OVERHEAT as the syrup will burn.
  7. Cool a little before pouring into sterilised bottles.
  8. Label (date made and contents) and keep refrigerated to avoid fermentation.
    Best kept in a corked dark glass bottle, as a screw topped bottle may explode if fermentation takes place.

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