Herbal tinctures have been used throughout the ages for preserving and administering the healing properties of herbs. Traditionally, herbal tinctures are made using brandy or vodka, which gives them high potency and long shelf-life. Yet, many of us may want to avoid using alcohol due to its high cost or because we don’t want to consume it. This is where medicinal vinegar tinctures come into play.
Vinegar is capable of drawing out beneficial minerals and vitamins from plants, creating extracts that will make a great addition to your herbal medicine cabinet. Vinegar tinctures, such as aceta (vinegar extract) and oxymel (sweet and sour syrup), although not as strong as alcohol-based herbal remedies and requiring a slightly higher dosage, are easy to make and economical and, most-importantly, they are very effective.
How to Make Your Own Aceta (Medicinal Vinegar Herbal Extract)
The standard formula for making a vinegar extract is 1 part dry herbs to 7 parts vinegar, although making aceta isn’t an exact science so don’t stress out if your measurements aren’t absolutely precise. Place your ingredients in a jar with a plastic lid, cover tightly, and shake well. If you’re using a jar with a metal lid, place a layer of plastic wrap between the jar and the lid, so the vinegar does not eat away at the metal and ruin your aceta. Store your mixture in a cool, dark place for about three weeks, shaking it daily.
You are welcome to use fresh herbs when making aceta, although dry herbs are known to make a stronger extract that will last for up to 6 months. If you are using fresh herbs, store your vinegar extract in the refrigerator and consider that it may not last as long.
Once your medicinal vinegar extract is ready, you can take it in a variety of ways. If you are ok with drinking straight vinegar, you can take up to 3 teaspoons (1 tablespoon), followed by a glass of water, ensuring that your teeth are rinsed. You can repeat this dosage up to five times per day. If you prefer to dilute your tincture, mix your preferred dosage into a cup of water or juice and then drink. You can also dilute aceta with an equal part honey…which brings us to the next section about oxymel.
How to Make Your Own Oxymel (Herbal Vinegar/Honey Syrup)
The difference between aceta and oxymel is the honey. Oxymel is a sweet-and-sour herbal syrup that is usually used to soothe symptoms of respiratory conditions. It’s made from vinegar, honey and herbs, particularly ones for respiratory health such as oregano, elder, sage, ginger and garlic. You can also add lemon peel to your oxymel for flavor.
To make your oxymel, fill a small jar a 1/2 to 3/4 full of herbs. Pour in honey about 1/3 of the way, and fill the other 2/3 with vinegar. You can always create sweeter syrup but using half honey and half vinegar. Stir the contents, and continue to stir or shake the contents for about 2 weeks, keeping the jar in a cool, dark place. Over the term of 2 weeks, the contents will blend nicely to where to you can strain out the herbs, and store the syrup in a glass bottle in your refrigerator or cool place.
If you prefer not to wait 2 weeks, you can use the hot method for making oxymel by simmering your herbs in the vinegar for about 20 minutes. Then strain the herbs out of the vinegar and blend with the honey while the vinegar is warm.
Similarly to other syrups, take oxymel by the teaspoon, as needed, to combat various respiratory ailments, including sore throat and cough, or to alleviate general cold and flu symptoms. Oxymels have a shelf life of about 1 year, due to the preservative properties of both honey and vinegar.
For more about making herbal tinctures, check out one of these great books:
Making Plant Medicine by Richo Cech
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