The Herbal Arts Collective of Downtown Greens met for a cup of tea, and a discussion on the upcoming cold season.

We began with introductions, and there were 6 in attendance-YEA!!!!!  After pouring ourselves a cup, we then started an open discussion on what we do to prevent colds coming on.  This then meandered into what we use once we see the signs that a cold has begun.

One participant begins an Elderberry Syrup regimen as soon school season hits as  Elderberry builds the immune system.  Click here for what I believe is her recipe (she also mentioned adding peppercorns!).  I will have to try this as warming the honey will boost what it pulls from the berries.  This year though I took the “simpler” route and filled a jar about 1/3 way with dried elderberries, up to the shoulder of the jar with honey, then brandy to top it off.  The alcohol is not 100% necessary, so if you don’t want that amount to be given to your kids, just leave it out.  I put it in as the honey pulls different constituents out of the elderberries than the brandy.  It was then discussed that the sambucus nigra grows Elderflowers first, then the flowers turn to berries and both are used in medicines and excel in different forms, but could be interchanged for the most part (potency aside).

We then went into more natural forms of avoiding colds in the first place: avoid dairy (depending on your constitution), ensure 8 hours sleep, drink recommended H2O everyday, eat a varied and healthful diet.  All of these are free ways you can improve your health this season.  I noticed recently that after binge eating sugar-laden foods, there was a tickle in my throat and my eyes felt warm: the beginnings of a cold for me.  You are what you eat: feed your engine junk it can’t use and it’ll gunk up the works!

We also discussed the various ways to bring herbs into your body, a topic I hope to cover more in depth at a future date.

  • Simply, you can eat the herb.  Get your body to digest it, that’s the simplest way to intake herbal nutrition.  Add it green to salads, sprinkle powdered form on oatmeal or eggs, just use it!
  • You can also use a liquid to pull out the constitutents and the name of resultant medicine relays what was used: water (infusion, decoction), alcohol (tincture), honey (infused honey), vinegar, or a combination of vinegar & honey (oxymel).  The menstruum (liquid) used determines the strength of the resulting medicine, as well as the shelf life (water will pull more from leaves, but won’t last very long whereas alcohol will pull similarly and last longer.)
  • If you use essential oils, you can dilute in oil and put directly on your skin for absorption or make a hydrosol by diluting EO in water and spray the room (I used a Four Thieves hydrosol on the table before we began).  I have been witness to a teacher spraying Four Thieves lightly on their doorway prior to the class entry and when the same students were hacking and the mucus was flowing the day prior, it stopped for this class.

We then discussed various herbs that we use: cinnamon, garlic, horseradish, cayenne pepper, pepper, tumeric……and noted that all of these are considered warming herbs energetically.  One member relayed that she warms ginger and tumeric in milk and has a cup when she’s feeling under.  Another crushes garlic and ginger in honey and takes by the spoonful daily.  As this strongly tastes of garlic, she follows with a shot of lime, which I need to try!

Things we sampled:

  • Traditional Medicinals’ teas that can be purchased most local places (Weiss & Wegmans!) Gypsy Cold Care & Throat Coat.
  • Sage-infused honey that brewed for about a month that is great for sore throats.  It was brought up that you really should dry-wilt any herb you are planning to infuse in honey ,as water & honey don’t play well and will shorten the shelf life of the medicine.
  • Sage tea with freshly picked leaves from Downtown Greens brewed in water.
  • Respiratory Oxymel made of equal parts hyssop, tulsi, sage, rosemary & ginger steeped in honey & vinegar.  Here is a video for making a simple Hyssop Oxymel.  Mine steeped for over a month and I used more honey than vinegar as I like it sweet.  The one I brought was made with ACV, I have another the same size made with Kombucha Vinegar that I look forward to trying this season too.  As she says: Oxymels are very forgiving.  Don’t worry about following a recipe, and trust your intuition to guide you!  This is called the simpler way.
  • Slippery Elm Throat Balls-drop a small drop of honey on a bed of powdered slippery elm (make sure it’s ethically grown/wildcrafted as this is an “at-risk” herb by United Plant Savers).  Roll around & add more powder until it’s not sticky anymore.  You could pop into fridge at this point, or “bake” at a low heat to really dry out the lozenges for a longer, more versatile shelf-life.  These will use all your saliva to moisten your throat and most other mucosal passages in your body.  Slippery Elm is a great demulcent, soothes mucous membranes and helps rebuild them-perfect after that dry coughing fit!

We also discussed taking a small spoonful of propolis on a daily basis to ward off colds and what propolis is (bee glue).  Someone also mentioned using Neem as a tea and a mustard seed bath to increase body temperature.

Lastly, I brought out my recreation of Rosemary Gladstar’s Fire Cider recipe (#TraditionNotTrademark), spoke briefly of the current controversy surrounding this powerful traditional winter remedy, and invited all to the potluck on Thursday to make our own!

Thank you for reading!

~Pati D.

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