Thursday, December 22, 2011

Early Winter Medicine Making

Rosa species
Today begins the paradox of early winter:  The days are getting longer but colder and the medicinal plants scarcer but more needed  - for colds and coughs from close quarters, joint stiffness and pain from lack of movement, and injuries from getting about in snow and ice. The birds turn from bugs to berries and seeds and so can we for home medicine making. Wild rose hips, elderberries, and bilberries have dried on their woodland vines.  Fennel and burdock seeds are ripe for the picking in gardens and fields.

And then there’s plain old winter blues, just the ticket for a fragrant berry cordial to share with friends and family at Solstice, Christmas, or New Year’s.

HERBALIST’S NOTES: 1) A cordial is an herbal beverage made for social well-being while an elixir is one made for healing, though in many cases this distinction has more to do with intent than ingredients; 2) Rose seeds can cause headache, vertigo, and lethargy and should be removed before medicinal or culinary use of rosehips.

WINTER BERRY CORDIAL – a delightful aperitif for winter blues and general well-being. (adapted from master herbalist and cordial expert Teresa Boardwine’s “Framboise Cordial” in her book Cordially Yours available at

Rubus idaeus

rose hips (Rosa species) – a handful crushed with seeds removed
bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillus) – 1 lb fresh, dried, or frozen (substitute blueberries)
blueberry or raspberry jam – 1½ cups
raspberries (Rubus idaeus) – 1 cup fresh
water – 4 cups
brandy – 8 oz
Champagne (substitute sparkling grape juice)

1. Crush rosehips, remove seeds, and place in a medium pot;
2. Add blueberries and water and simmer uncovered on low for 2 hours, pressing the berries occasionally to squeeze out the juice;
3. Strain off the juice and return it to the pot on low;
4. Stir in the jam until well mixed;
5. Pour it over the fresh raspberries in a nice bottle;
6. Add the brandy and swirl to mix;
7. Cool and serve in a clear cordial glass half-filled with berry cordial and topped off with chilled champagne.

DOCTOR’S NOTE: Persistent winter blues should be evaluated by a healthcare professional because it can be caused by a number of illnesses better treated with accurate diagnosis. 

1 comment:

  1. This sounds wonderful for a cold snowy afternoon. And the recipe seems so easy to do.