Friday, July 31, 2009

Sweet Herbal Preservations: August Blog Party Hosted by Kiva

I am really looking forward to this month's blog party hosted by Kiva. We'll be delving into sweet herbal preservations. To see all of the participating blogs just visit the link above to Kiva's fabulous blog.

This spring I attended the East West Seminar, the school of Michael and Lesley Tierra. At the closing ceremony Lesley led us all in several visualizations. During one visualization for a plant ally, chamomile strongly came to my mind. “Chamomile?!” I thought. “Simple plain old chamomile?!”

This past month at Herbmentor our herb of the month was chamomile. Yep, plain old chamomile and I just had a fabulous time studying the many uses of this plant. I tried drinking a small cup of tea before dinner to help promote digestion and I read with interest about Kimberly Gallagher using it for a wound.

In fact I became truly intrigued with this happy little Asteraceae plant that seemed to do so much. Chamomile’s gentle but profound affinity for the nervous system proves to us that herbs can be subtle yet still powerful and effective. From babies to elders and from teething to anxiety chamomile can soothe us throughout our entire lives.

In the Herbmentor forums one person shared that he and his wife have used chamomile almost exclusively for their baby from teething to colic to diaper rash.

After a month of exploring chamomile I will certainly never look at it as simple and plain again!

One new thing I learned about chamomile is that the fresh plant preparations seem to have more of an affinity for the nervous system while the dried plant has more of a bitter flavor that lends itself more to the digestive system. I don’t feel like I have enough experience with both the fresh and dried to weigh in on this, but it is an interesting concept.

With questions about fresh preparations running through my head I made two lovely sweet concoctions with fresh chamomile that I received from Ancestree Herbals.

The first was a simple chamomile honey. I filled a jar half full with freshly picked chamomile and then filled it the rest of the way with honey. I then stirred this well to mix it in. Each day for about a week I turned the honey upside down to give it another mixing. The result was a delicately flavored chamomile honey. I didn’t bother to strain the flowers – I just ate them along with the honey. I could see chamomile honey being a great way to flavor teas.

I also tinctured a lot of the fresh chamomile. I used 100 proof vodka and almost instantly the mixture turned a beautiful golden yellow. After a month I strained the tincture. The result was a sweet, slightly bitter dark yellow tincture.

I had been recently inspired by Kiva Rose’s fascination with elixirs so I thought I would try something a little different with some of my chamomile tincture. In a 4 oz amber bottle I added enough chamomile tincture to fill it halfway. I then added an equal amount of agave syrup. (I actually prefer honey to agave syrup, but for whatever reason this is what I had on hand.) The result was beautifully sweet chamomile elixir.

A friend of mine has a daughter who I think could become good friends with chamomile. The alcohol taste of the elixir seemed a little too harsh for an adolescent, so I tried a teaspoon of the chamomile in a cup of tap water. The result was a fantastic instant “tea”. I immediately bottled some up and am awaiting a report from my friend and her daughter.

I don’t normally consume sugar myself, but elixirs can be a fun way to share herbal delights with friends who will probably come back begging for more.

I am attending two weddings this month and will be giving both friends a bottle of rose elixir which I made in the same way as described above for chamomile.

Happy Sweet Summer!