Vinegar cuts through grease and mucous giving things a good clean out. Sage does the same at the back of your throat by clearing the mucous which the nasties causing your sore throat live and thrive in.
Using pastilles and other sore throat lozenges are usually full of sugar and whilst that feels soothing and lovely, it provides lots of juicy food for those bugs to thrive in.
So, using a vinegar to cut through the mucous, with the reputed anti microbial properties of sage is a double winner. Add into that the traditional use of rowan berries for sore throats and tonsillitis and we have a trio of triumph in your throat!
To make this joyful medicinal vinegar, alive with complex flavours, I cooked the berries and sage in vinegar before steeping it for a few weeks. Cooking the berries renders the toxic components harmless. After straining, I bottled ready for use.
Use in conjunction with the soothing sage and rowan syrup I have also made and keep your tonsils singing with joy.
As far as I know, this medicine is entirely unique to me. The joy of creativity and experiments. Join my journey of discovery.
Foraging for making has become a prfound new joy of mine. I had had some lurking doubts about the pillaging of nature and whether I had the right to do this. But, they are now gone and I am loving that connection, the creativity of making things and the new recipes to trial.
What’s on the go right now?
I’ve made rowan berry and sage syrups and vinegars.
Research showed me that raw berries are really not a good plan due to potentially toxic components. So, I stewed a few berries with some sage in water. Then I let it sit for a few weeks (the hot liquid sealed the jar keeping it good) before straining and re-heating, dissolving sugar into it, turning it into a syrup.
And, what does it taste like?
The flavour is frankly AWESOME! I haven’t ever tasted anything else like it. It’s sharp, it’s sweet and fruity but there’s something else which I am yet to put a word to.
Well, the traditional medicine from rowan berries is for sore throats and tonsillitis. Sage also has a great reputation for healing throats because it has the power to cut through the mucousy substrate keeping all the gremlins alive causing your symptoms. So, it seemed like a match made in heaven.
Fancy a go?
Do you get recurrent sore throats and/or tonsillitis? If you do, you might like to give these beauties a go.
It’s September and the hawthorn berries are looking glorious. Plump and juicy. Time to get picking.
History and folklore
Hawthorn is ominous and magical, holy to Pagans and Christians. Scottish farmers traditionally harvest 13 weeks after the blossom scents the air. It’s gorgeous and heady. ‘Cast ne’er a clout til the May be out’ – refers to remaining dressed for winter until the mayflower (or hawthorn) blossoms. Rather wonderfully, if you have hawthorn in your perimeter hedging, it will ward off the bad faeries. And, who doesn’t need a bit of protection from them in their life!?
But what about the berries? There are a few types of hawthorn and one way to tell the difference is in the stones inside the fruit. Crataegus monogyna has a single seed, Crataegus leavigata has more and the cross between the two plants, Crataegus oxyacanthoides usually has more too. However, for once, this distinction is more important to botanists than herbalists as we can use them all. Hurrah!
Some of the best medicine comes from mixing the flowers, leaves and berries together. In order to do that, you have to pick them at different times. So, in September, it is the time of the berries. You can allow them to dry by laying them on a sheet of paper in a very dry, warm place such as an airing cupboard or use a dehydrator.
The flowers have a distinct almondy taste to them. This indicates the presence of constituents which are known to be active on the heart. Harvest these with the new leaves in May. Herbalists generally like to make two hawthorn medicines (leaf and flower / berries) and sometimes blend them together.
Why use hawthorn?
Herbalists use hawthorn for heart conditions in order to encourage a greater flow of blood through the heart, to strengthen and slow the heart beat without raising blood pressure. It is said that sportsmen use it as it may enhance exercise duration. It has a very low incidence of side effects and has no known contraindications. Always preferable in a medicine.
There are many more ways to use hawthorn which are best done with a medical herbalist. Those conditions range through arteriosclerosis, atheroma, thrombosis, angina, tachycardia, atherosclerosis and intermittent claudication. If you suffer from any of these get in touch with a herbalist and see if you work well together.
Just for fun
I made a rather tasty Hawthorn vodka (as per Sloe Gin) which has the distinct notes of almonds which indicate the presence of constituents which work with your heart. However, this is purely an occasional drink, not a medicine – there’s way too much sugar which is renowned for damaging the cardiovascular system.
Notes: None of the information included here is intended as medical advice. Please seek help from a medical herbalist when using herbs for serious, life affecting conditions. Foraging is fun so don’t forget to leave plenty behind. Pick only what you will use and pick no more than 10%. Wildlife depend on wild foods to survive.
Wonderful weather and despite the dry months, plentiful medicines.
We started right outside the Trust centre with the only remaining green on the lawn – the trusty dandelion. In herbal medicine, we use all parts of the dandelion, the leaves are good bitters which are also diuretic, enabling the body to rid itself of excess water. The roots stimulate the production of bile which acts as a natural laxative. The medicine of the flowers is a recent discovery for me and when infused in oil, they make a great rub for sore muscles and arthritic joints.
The next stop was the elder, a folklore fantasy and medicine maker’s dream. Medicines can be made from every part. Flowers for toning the nasal mucous membranes, the berries as a powerful anti-viral to keep you well all winter and the leaves an ointment for bruises and sprains.
The dreaded thug, the bramble delivers a tannin-y tonic tea from the leaves and when taken strong and frequently, can assist with diarrhoea. The berries deliver a fruity punch when added to elder and rose hips for winter elixirs.
Broad leaved plantain growing along the centre of the track up the lane (it likes a grubby spot!) as an anti-histaminic allergy reducer and a poultice to draw out snakebite venom!
A couple of sprigs of St John’s Wort still with its bright yellow flowers, radiating the suns rays.
Hawthorn, the bread and cheese plant which used to feed travelling wayfarers and a stalwart of the herbal apothecary with medicines in leaves, flowers and berries.
I had a great audience from the Box Moor Trust and interested listeners. It was great to see plenty of new faces and greet some familiar ones. Thank you to all who came along. A thoroughly enjoyable meander up the hot and dusty lane.
Make an appointment to see Lucy Blunden, Medical Herbalist by visiting the contact page