Make your own Herbal Wines

July 18, 2011

herb Infused wine
Herbal wines
date back thousands of years. Egyptian wine jars have been found with residues of herbs and resins. It makes sense, as we now know that alcohol breaks down the medicinal constituents of plants, making it more bio-available to the body. That’s why we make alcohol extracts as herbal tinctures to deliver botanical chemicals to our body. The famous 12th century German mystic, Hildegard of Bingen, recommended herbal wines such as lungwort wine for emphysema, honey-parsley wine for heart pain, and unsweetened lavender wine for congested liver.

Bitters infused in alcohol have been used in Europe for several hundred years. They usually contain bitter herbs that help with digestion by stimulating bile juices. Bitters have also been traditioanlly added to beer for the same reason.  Angostura Bitters are a famous member of this category and are well-used in hundres of cocktails for a splash of complexity, and to this day only 5 people in the world know the well-kept secret of the herbs used in this special recipe. Though this mexture was hoped to help soldiers in WWI suffering from severe fevers and digestive disorders, it now serves to enliven many of our most special happy hour drinks today. Bitters are usually made with alcohols other than wines, but it might be fun to experiment with bitter herbs when making a more medicinal wine.

There are lots of super tastey concoctions that can be made in your own kitchen. I often make herbal simple syrups to add to gin or vodka drinks for something herbaceous, but it’s really fun to go directly to the source and create an alcoholic beverage that is lively and compex all on its own! This is why going the herbal wine route is worthwhile. Most people can afford a decent white or red wine to start with.

Making Herbal Wines

1. Place Herbs in a bottle (1 oz herbs to 1 pint wine)
2. Pour wine over herbs to fill the bottle (generally a ‘sweeter’ wine w/ about 12% alcohol)
3. Cap tightly and shake well
4. Store in a cool, dark place
5. Shake well every day for 2 weeks
6. Strain herbs.
7. Add sugar or honey to taste (optional), particularly for liqueurs
8. Some liqueurs need maturation time, in which case you might wait a month or more.
NOTE: herbal wines should last about a year. Herbal liqueurs may last longer.

rose infused vodka Rose Petal Wine
(Medicinal Uses: for headaches, heart disease, stomach pain & fever)
600 g rose petals (Rugosa preferred), dried and unsprayed
10 liters combination grape juice and young wine OR all young wine

1. Tie rose petals in a small bag & place in a container with the liquids
2. Infuse in a dark place (covered) for 3 months
3. Filter, pour into a sterilized bottle or jar and store again.

Ref: adapted from an article in The Herb Quarterly by Barbara MacPherson.


A word about the divine Body Polish

March 16, 2009

I’d be remiss in not at least once bringing up the pure luxury of a simple salt or sugar scrub. First of all, you don’t have to pay huge amounts of money for this kind of product, as it’s something you can easily make in your own home! That said, of courseit’s worth the $12 to buy my beautiful essential oil blended scrubs with premium dead sea salts, a diverisity of high quality therapeutic oils, and nice packaging. (I had to say that, I’m running a business) But seriously, $12 is a totally reasonable price. Many companies charge upwards of $25 or more for such a product. And again, you can do this yourself!

Salt or sugar scrubs are absolutely marvelous. There are many versions out there, some which contain soap or ‘whipped’ soap, some that are emulsified with other oils and waxes (such as my brown sugar scrub) and many that are simple combinations of salt or sugar and oils. Cheap versions –such as some chain bath & body stores that I won’t name outright–use petroleum-based oils as the primary ingredient in these products. Not helpful. The point of a body scrub is to provide exfoliation to slough off the outer dead skin sells and thus ‘polish’ the skin into a healthy, revitalized glow. Not only does this get rid of the dull outer skin cells, but it also increases circulation and invigorates the tissue. The oils then sink into the fresh layer of skin to provide nourishment, moisture, and protection from the elements. Indeed, oils not only provide SPF protection against UV rays, but the oil also acts as a natural barrier to keep the skin from getting too dry or chapped. Scrubs are great in the summer because they keep your skin glowy and fresh, and somehow, even more necessary in the winter because they keep your skin protected and well-moisturized. I find that I don’t need a moisturizer when I use a polish towards the end of a shower or bath, and my skin doesn’t get that winter itchy, dry feeling that is the norm.

For those who don’t like applying oils directly to the skin in this way or like something a bit smoother in texture, an emulsified scrubis ideal. This is a bit more high-tech to make and so it’s better purchased, but emulsified scrubs do eliminate the slippery oils that can often coat the floor of the bath tub in the former. Some people hate those oils and also find the salts a bit too harsh if they have extra sensitive skin. The oils are actually in a solid state, adhered to the fine sugar crystals, so the texture is like fine breadcrumbs. A handfull of this can really do the trick in gently exfoliating and moisturizing the skin.

So how do you make something like this at home instead of spending a lot of cash on the so-called ‘upscale’ spa version?
Well, it’s simple.
DIY – Simple Sugar or Salt Scrub.
1. Find a nice container – plastic or glass – and make sure it is clean and dry. It’s very important that you keep the container as dry as possible and try to avoid getting water in the scrub unless you intend to use it up quickly, as the introduction of water can create a potential for mold growth, especially if the scrub sits around with water in it.
2. Fill the container with salts or sugar – it doesn’t matter what kind, though an extra course texture of salt or sugar will be more ‘scratchy’. I find that the finer the texture, the better, in most cases. Leave a little of room on the top but not more than 1/2″ – 1″.
3. Add a little Vit E (squeeze out one capsule or add 1/2 tsp oil) to prevent rancidity (if you have it on hand).
4. Add the fragrance. Start with 20 - 30 drops of your favorite essential oil. I generally advise away from most fragrance oils because of the presence of pthalates and because only true essential oils offer aromatherapeutic benefit. That said, some essential oils are extremely expensive, so you might have to use a fragrance oil to get the scent you want. For true essential oils that are readily available and affordable: Try ylang  ylang for intense, heady floral notes; orange for a lovely citrus fragrance: peppermint & rosemary for something zesty and refreshing (don’t overdo the e.o.s on this); lavender for its beautiful, relaxing qualities; or patchouli for it’s earthy, sensual scent.
5. Fill the container with a skin-nutritive, natural oil or blend of oils. Jojoba, Sesame, Olive, Grape seed, or other oils, many of which you may be able to find in small quantities at your grocery store. Do NOT use mineral oil, J&J “baby oil” (How can J&J actually market this for babies?), or other petroleum-based oils, as these are equivalent to putting saran wrap on your skin. The petroleum oil creates a barrier but doesn’t provide any true moisturization or nutrition for your skin cells. It’s basically a useless oil slick, as far as I’m concerned.

Voila! Pure luxury for the bath time ritual and an absolute must for regular skin exfoliation and moisturization.
See my store for various salt scrubs, including my Ayurvedic Healing Scrub for those who suffer from skin conditions such as psoriasis.


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