DIY Kitchen: herbal immune syrup
When I was in my 20’s and so unencumbered that I’d routinely walk 30 minutes to downtown and back to mail a letter and buy a carton of rice milk, I began apprenticing at Hummingbird Herbals.
I gave five hours a week to the herb shop, chopping finger-thick roots, pouring the dark, forest brews called tinctures from mason jars into one ounce bottles for sale, and mixing up shredded herbs in a five gallon bucket until I had sneezing fits. For this, Melanie, the herbalist, gave us a weekly class on the principles of healing with herbs.
Classes were held in the illegal backyard shack in which Melanie lived, and where we all worked, without the benefit of running water. Leading by example, Melanie taught us first and foremost that to separate personal life from business life was folly, and furthermore too much trouble, so the night Melanie taught class in a gelled up mohawk, fishnets and leather mini was all par for the course. “I’m going to an eighties party after class,” she explained, silver bangles rollicking around her arms as she showed us on her own body, through ripped Pat Benatar shirt, where the liver, stomach and gall bladder could be found.
Every six months there was a new batch of apprentices. Like all those that came before, they’d stand on the step stool, pulling down mason jars of sloshing dark tincture, praying that this was not the moment when the whole bookshelf crammed with jars containing liquid worth thousands of dollars came crashing down.
True to my disposition—committed and deep-digging—I stayed for four years as an apprentice and then eventually became the shop’s first manager. The shop moved out of the clandestine shack into a sliver of a room in the back of a coffee shop and then finally into it’s own retail space.
Melanie eventually left town to try out the more lucrative job of sex therapist, and the business changed hands and returned to its wholesale origins. I stopped managing the business when Col was born, but still turn to plants for my family’s medicine as often as possible.
Herbal Immune Syrup
From the top, clockwise: licorice, astragalus, elderberries, rose hips, nettles
This immune syrup is our first defense against coughs, sore throats and sniffles. It has knocked back many creeping viruses and is working its magic on our household right now.
elderberries 2 oz
astragalus root 2 oz
licorice root 2 oz
rose hips 2oz
the gorgeous herb shop, Dancing Willow Herbs, where I buy my herbs these days
Add one quart of water into a large pot for every 2 oz of herb. For this recipe you’ll use 5 quarts water. Simmer (don’t boil) for 2-4 hours uncovered into a concentrated tea. Liquid will significantly reduce. If you have time (ie: no one’s sick yet), let the herbs sit in the water overnight in the fridge. In the morning strain the liquid off the herbs and warm up liquid (should be 2-3 quarts now). Turn heat off and while liquid is still warm, add 1 cup honey (don’t cook honey), stir until dissolved. Store in fridge if you’ll use within 2 weeks, otherwise store in freezer. (These herbs are naturally mild and sweet, but if your kids need it sweeter, add another 1/2 cup of honey).
Dosage for children is 1 oz (2 tbsp) of syrup every 2-3 hours. Double that for adults. We also use it as a preventative, especially if anyone else in the house is sick, at 1oz/day.
the long simmer
straining the herbs
bottled syrup, which will make you feel particularly awesome to be dispensing to your people. Leave couple inches headroom if freezing.
What herbs do you and your family use?
*DIY Kitchen is a new feature, which will appear on most Mondays, mostly.