Lemonbalm (Melissa officinalis) is springing up from its perennial roots. This little patch, which will become half a meter tall in a couple of months time, has a treepit as its home.
Many people know how refreshing and uplifting a pot of Lemonbalm tea can be. Not so many use it as an antiviral. It’s very easy to make an infused oil from this herb and then to turn a little of that into cold sore healing lip balm, just with the addition of a little beeswax.
I recently bought a wonderful second hand copy of Herbal Remedies: A practical beginner’s guide to making effective remedies in the kitchen. It contains instructions on several traditional herbal remedies that many modern herbals omit. One, which I read with interest, is Vinegar & Brown Paper, as featured in the nursery rhyme Jack and Jill. Apparently it is quite an effective remedy for sprains, bruises and sore joints. It made me think more about the virtues of vinegar. So here are few preparations which you may like to try.
If you like investigating this sort of thing, you may be interested in the Urban Herbology Apprenticeship Course. The course covers foraging, crafting herbs, fermentation and nature celebrations, among other topics!
Vinegar and Brown Paper This traditional remedy (taken from Hedley & Shaw’s book) is said to relieve swollen aching joints and limbs. I have not yet tried it and am very interested to hear from anyone who does! Why not let me know in the comments or contact boxes below.
1. Cut 5 or 6 pieces of brown (packaging) paper, just big enough to fit over the affected area.
2. Place in a saucepan and cover with Sage vinegar (read on for how to make this).
3. Simmer very gently for about 5 minutes, until the brown paper becomes soft and has absorbed some vinegar, yet is not broken down.
4. When cool enough to safely handle, place the brown paper on the affected area and hold it in place with cling film (not too tight).
5. Cover with a roller bandage and leave in place for 4 hours. Hedley & Shaw recommend reapplying fresh vinegar and brown paper twice daily.
These are prepared in a similar way to tinctures but vinegar is used as a carrier for the herb properties, rather than alcoholic spirits. Many herbs can be easily preserved in vinegars, a few favourites are Rosemary, Sage, Tarragon, Chamomile and Parsley but why not try wild herbs such as Chickweed, Catnip, Lemonbalm, Motherwort, Ramsons or Hyssop? Dried or fresh herbs can be used but vinegars are a great way to preserve a glut of fresh herbs so that they can be used throughout the darker months.
Vinegar, particularly apple cider vinegar, is beneficial in its own right. It helps to build bones and has the ability to extract more minerals (such as calcium) from herbs than water. So preserving herbs in vinegar can provide a mineral rich preparation which is also very tasty and can be used in a variety of ways. They can be used in salad dressings, taken a tablespoon daily in a glass of water as a tonic, added to green vegetables and beans whilst they cook, used a flavouring in food or used in specific remedies. Adding a splash of vinegar to the cooking water of green vegetables dramatically increases available calcium.
To prepare, completely fill a glass container of any size with chopped fresh herb and then fill it completely again with vinegar. Seal (not with a metal lid), label and allow to sit (macerate) out of direct sunlight for between 2 and 6 weeks. After this time strain and bottle the herb vinegar in sterile dry containers. Use plastic lids or waxed paper held in place with strong rubber bands. For advice on sterilising see the post on Cough Syrup.
If you prefer to measure your herbs and vinegar there is a traditional recipe which recommends adding approximately 25g dried chopped herb or 50g chopped fresh herb to every 600ml of vinegar. Pure malt vinegar, apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar can be used.
Herb Vinegar Hair Rinse When my sister and I were children, my mother would add a little lemon juice to our final hair rinse. It makes hair shine beautifully and is a natural conditioner (shampoos are slightly alkaline, conditioners slightly acidic). Vinegar hair rinses work in the same way and can be very beneficial to the scalp. I like to use apple cider vinegar when my scalp feels overloaded with hair products; it feels cleansing, cooling and calming. Surprisingly it doesn’t make hair smell of vinegar.
To prepare simply add 1 tablespoon herbal vinegar, apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice to about 250ml water. Pour the rinse over washed hair and massage into the scalp. Leave on for about 5 minutes and then rinse with plain water.
Sage vinegar is thought to darken hair,
Chamomile vinegar to lighten hair,
Parsley vinegar to relieve dandruff,
Rosemary vinegar to condition dry or falling hair
There are dozens of other uses for vinegar, I’d love to know of any which you or members of your family have used. Get in touch through the comments or contact boxes!