One of the things I get asked about a lot, by the readers of this blog, is my herbalism practice. Almost daily I get emails, comments, or instagram messages about how to make this, what is that, and what does one do with the other thing...
Inspired by these questions, I decided when I opened my shop, that I would try to combine shop announcements with little herbalism lesson. This way, I could offset the commercial aspect of sharing my goods, and still contribute something for my readers to enjoy for free.
For me, folk herbalism, hedge witching, and cooking with medicinal foods is all about empowerment, and DIY-spirit. Ultimately, I think the goal of the movement to make things ourselves, with good ingredients, to consume more local goods, and get back to the land, should be that of declaring independence: making everything ourselves. To that end, I feel that I'd love to share a little bit of my process.
Of course, I understand, that not everyone is going to be able to benefit from these recipes. Whether it's lack of time, available ingredients, or some other reasons, I understand that perhaps these posts may have a limited audience, but I also want to discuss in them, a little bit about how to take herbal medicine, and how to integrate it into your your self-care routine. That should be beneficial for all, myself included.
These posts will mostly focus on a single ingredient, or medium, and a single way to prepare it.
Star of lesson number one: Rosehips.
They are an unbeatable, free source of vitamin-C, which they contain twice as much per pound as oranges do. They also have plenty of vitamin-A which is wonderful for your skin, are rich in iron and calcium, and have a number of other constituents. During cold season, rosehips are my go-to for preventative care, as well as warding off early symptoms of flus, colds, or an otherwise compromised immune system.
I use them in tea, elixir, syrup, and tincture formats and the elixir I have for sale in my shop combines three of these processes in one. However, both elixir-making (infusing the herb in honey, or some other medium) and tincturing, are long processes (up to six weeks), so I thought I'd offer a simple way to use these lovely fruit.
A word on wildcrafting practices: while to my knowledge, all roses have edible, medicinal hips, and there are very few dead-ringers, please make sure to always use a field-guide to correctly identify the plants you are gathering. Prudent practices involve knowing what environmental toxins might be present in the area you gather. Roses like open spaces like roadsides and the ornamental varieties often exist in places where pesticides might be present. Take this into consideration.
In the Northern hemisphere rosehip-season is sometime in the fall/ early winter. Most folks will tell you to wait until the first frost to pick them at their sweetest, but frankly at least in the Pacific Northwest, the rains will have usually ruined a lot of the harvest, if we even get a frost. As long as the hips are good and red, you can pick them. Interestingly, our native Rosa Nutkana, the Nootka Rose, seems to withstand the moisture better than its imported cousins...
The hips you will see in this post are from Rosa Nutkana, a native plant, and Rosa Canina, a more recent transplant. Like I said, you can use any variety. The small hips of these roses work great for this syrup, as well as elixirs, tinctures, and teas, but if you'd like to make jam, or jelly, Scandinavian style, many ornamental roses have bigger, fleshier hips.
What you'll need:
Ingredients: Rosehips/ honey (raw/ organic/ local/ as best you can)/ hot, preferably boiling, water/
Tools: a pan or pot/ a mason jar/ cheesecloth/ a masher of some sort (preferably wood)
Clean the hips by taking off the plant matter on both ends. Rinse under warm water. Mash up in your pot or pan.
Pour the hot water over the hips. About a cup-and-a-half of liquid for every cup of hips. Let it simmer on the stove for just as long as it takes for a lovely rose-y liquid to emerge. The most you should ever let them cook is about 7 minutes. You can continue mashing the hips as this process is happening. Heat destroys the vitamin-C inherent in these little jewels. By keeping all the liquid you generate you will only loose about 10-15% percent of that vitamin-C.
Once you can tell the hips have yielded a healthy amount of liquid take them off the heat. Put your cheesecloth over your mason jar (sterilized etc. you're not a kid;) and strain. Let cool for a moment, then add honey: little under 1/2 of the amount of hip-juice. Put the lid on your jar and shake. Adjust to taste. Package and keep refrigerated. You can also add a little alcohol, a 1/4 of the original amount of liquid before combining, or less. Brandy and whiskey go nicely in this mix.
While the syrup is wonderful by itself, or dissolved into a cup of warm water with ginger and lemon, you can also use it in the kitchen, just like you would use any other syrup; on pancakes, ice cream, in salad dressings,oh my! I'm sure I've told you kitchen medicine is my favorite...
I know I said I'd only tell you one way to prepare it, but I will say that an elixir, or a tincture is ridiculously easy to make with the hips as well. They are also great in tea mixes, fresh or dried. Just remember that as an infusion, they are a mild diuretic and laxative.
Should you find yourself wanting hips, my shop does feature a few bottles of triple-threat rosehip elixir. This time around I'll donate 15% of the proceeds of my holiday sales to Planned Parenthood, a provider of affordable, and essential healthcare to millions of American women, and in fact, my most long-term allopathic healthcare provider.
Thank you everyone who bought from the shop in the last two months, helping me donate more than $200 to Migrant Offshore Aid Station!
Questions? Comments? Check out more herbal posts under the tag "herb magic" and please remember: Don't poison yourself. Be responsible when wildcrafting and taking medicine, 'cos I can't be held responsible for you. You're a grown-up, wheeeee!!!!
...and one more thing m'dears: a huge thank you to everyone who commented on my last post. Frankly I'm still reading through the comments and pondering them. I know it's the internet-age, but I will respond in due time, and the slowness of that is in no way a reflection on how much I appreciate each and every one of them.