Juice bars are the new health spas. They supply wonderful concoctions of fresh fruit and vegetables that most of use would not have thought of trying even a few years ago. Yet, they still stop short at offering herb juices.
Dandelion, nettle, fennel, lemon balm, parsley and mint can all be blended to create interesting herbal juices. They are often too strongly flavored or too astringent to be drunk by themselves, but they are a very tasty and healthy addition to fruit and herb juices.
Basil and tomato have a well-known affinity, so basil is the obvious herb to mix with tomato juice, but it also goes well with all vegetable juices that have tomato juice as a component. Thyme juice can be added to all fruit and vegetable juices that have a citrus component. Coriander juice can be added to carrot and orange juice.
Blend your chosen herb(s) with a little cold water until you've got a thick green sludge. Add one to two tablespoons of herb juice to one cup of fruit and vegetable juice and blend well.
Herb syrups are useful when treating children, as their pleasant taste ensures that the remedy is taken without fuss. To make an herb syrup, mix equal quantities of an herbal infusion or decoction with sugar or honey. As in making jams or preserves, place on a low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Then raise the heat a little and boil until the mix has a syrupy consistency. Leave to cool, then pour into a sterilized jar or bottle and cover. Store in a cool, dark place and use as needed.
Herb syrup will store for about six months. Watch out for signs of fermentation (bubbles in the syrup, a hissing sound when uncorking /opening the lid) and discard if noted. Take one to two teaspoons of herb syrup three times a day or as advised.
Tonic wine was very popular during the Victorian era, where numerous recipes were in circulation and many families had their ‘secret' recipes and methods. To make tonic wine, herbs are steeped in wine or port. The traditional method is to fill a bottle or jar with herbs and top with wine until the herbs are completely submerged. This mixture is left to mature for a month or longer before being strained and bottled.
For an herbal tincture, soak 200g dried or 400g fresh herbs in one liter of alcohol (Vodka or Rum). Ensure that the herbs are completely submerged. Please the jar or bottle in a cool, dark place for two weeks, shaking it every day. After the soaking period is over, strain the liquid into a clean bottle and label carefully. Note the alcohol base used, the herb and the date the tincture was prepared. Stored in a cool, dark place, it should last at least 12 months.
Take one teaspoon of tincture in a glass of water, once or twice a day or as advised.
Poultices were very popular in the Middle Ages for anything from toothache to skin rashes. A poultice is a paste of chopped or mashed herbs, applied directly to the skin or wrapped into muslin and used as a compress. Poultices can be hot or cold, depending on the intended use.
A poultice to relieve a wasp sting would be cold, while a poultice prepared to comfort muscle ache, such as a mustard plaster, would be applied hot.
If you have ever strained an ankle or been stung by a bee, you will know what a compress looks like. It's a cloth soaked in water, vinegar or herbal infusion. Held against the injury, it will reduce swelling or bruising.
A cold cloth across the forehead to relieve a headache is also a compress. It's even more efficient if you add two-three drops of lavender essential oil to the water.