The Earth never ceases to amaze me with all the abundance surrounding us each and every moment. Even at the end of November, I still wander out in the forests and fields in search of medicine.
I believe that everything we need shows up if we are open. After coming down with a cold last week while grieving the death of my Grandfather, I asked, “What medicine will help soothe my worn out lungs and weepy sinuses?”
While resting in the discomfort of not knowing (ironic how an herbalist can’t remember how to take care of herself when she’s sick), an image came to me. I saw red and frosty blue berries mixed with pine needles. They were soaking in vinegar and honey. I mustered up enough energy to grab my basket and clippers and headed out to the backfields behind my house. Within a few hundred feet, of course there were all three of these plants growing together: wild rose, juniper, and white pine. It was as if they were calling to me!
While gathering wild rose hips and juniper berries, I felt a reddish pink color of hibiscus tea washed over my body. I knew after filling my jars I would have to top them off with dried hibiscus flowers adding this brilliant color to the liquid. All the medicines that went into this cordial recipe are loaded with Vitamin C. A cordial is a mix of herbs, honey, and either raw apple cider vinegar or alcohol to extract the medicinal properties. Try it on your own so long as you can positively I.D. the ingredients.
1) Loosely pack an empty mason jar with:
1/3 Wild Rose Hips (Rosa multiflora)
1/3 White Pine Needles (Pinus strobus)
¼ Juniper Berries (Juniperus virginiana)
¼ Hibiscus Flowers (Hibiscus sabdariffa)
2) Fill the jar ¾ of the way with raw apple cider vinegar and top off the last ¼ with raw local honey. I use Red Barn Honey, which I buy from Dick at the local farmers markets in Northampton. You can also substitute apple cider vinegar for brandy.
3) Cover the mouth of the jar with wax paper before screwing on the metal cap. Shake it all up with intentions of immune support and anything else you want to infuse into this cordial!
4) Label your jar with the ingredients, date, and location where it was made. Shake weekly as you let the jar sit for at least 6 weeks, then strain out the plant material through a sieve or cheesecloth. Take 1-2 tablespoons up to 4 X daily whenever you need an extra boost of vitamin C.
Rose hips (Rosa multiflora) are high in vitamin C and their sweetness is said to heal a wounded heart. When I sit with the plant, I feel its protective boundaries from the thorns, yet the sweet smell of the flowers and divine taste of the hips draw me in closer. Wild rose invites us to be gentle and easy on ourselves while also holding up boundaries that keep us from giving over our power to others.
Juniper berries (Juniperus virginiana) dry out damp congestion in the lungs. They are carminatives, therefore warming to the digestive system. Contraindicated for ulcers, gastritis, and inflammatory kidney disease. Do not take while pregnant.
White pine needles (Pinus strobus) are higher in vitamin C than citrus and very abundant in the Northeast. I like to imagine them as the citrus trees of the north, though I can’t say they will ever replace my love for a juicy orange in the dead of winter. We are fortunate to be surrounded by all the vitamin C in white pine needles! Like I said, everything we need is already here!
Hibiscus flowers (Hibiscus sabdariffa) are widely grown in sub-tropical climates. The flowers are sour, therefore cooling and astringing to the body. They get their wine-red color from anthocyanin constituents. Rich in vitamin C and high in antioxidants, hibiscus is a great addition to tea blends. It is often served in Mexico as a highly sweetened tea called “aqua dejamaica.” The red color is also indicator of it being a cardio tonic and may reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels.