Pine Experiments - Elixir, Honey, and Tea
From the archives! Originally posted February 2015.
White Pine is a wonderfully aromatic, resinous, cooling, and energizing tree. Pine needles are full of vitamin C. They combine well with other herbs, as well as making a delicious tea all on their own. Pine can be used both internally and externally. Energetically, Pine is cooling and stimulating. It is often used for afflictions of the respiratory system, and can be a valued expectorant.
I should probably preface this by saying that I've not yet sampled my white pine elixir, so I don't have any commentary to make on how it's turned out. It is still in the herb cabinet, in its jar, just waiting for the right time. For an energetically cold and dry person like me, I probably will need to wait for a summer cold to really test it out.
An elixir is an herbal preparation consisting of plant material, honey/maple syrup/molasses, and alcohol. The plant material is extracted in both the honey and the alcohol, and both assist in preservation and shelf-life too. Best of all - elixirs are delicious! Something like a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down, as Mary Poppins would say. I think of an elixir as a sweet tincture. One of the best things about elixirs as an herbal medicine format (I think, anyway) is that I can pop a dropperful right on my tongue without the alcohol "burn" that I often feel from tinctures. In an elixir, not only is the alcohol content lower by ratio, it is also moderated by the honey, which smoothes out the taste. You can make lots of plants/fruits into elixirs - right now I have separate elixirs of peppermint, wild cherry, elderberry, blackberry, and of course white pine - the subject of this post.
Here's how I make my elixirs:
1. In a mason jar, fill 2/3 of the jar with your main ingredient. Be sure to chop the plant material into small pieces or crush for best extraction. The more surface area to work with, the more is extracted from the plant.
2. Add enough honey to cover the plant material, and stir until it's all well coated. Add more honey, about an inch above the plant material in the jar.
3. Top off with alcohol of your choice (I used Journeyman's organic Michigan vodka for this batch), and stir again, slowly. As the honey is thick and the alcohol is not, it can splash out of the jar much too easily, so stir gently until the alcohol is incorporated into the honey/plant mixture.
4. Cap securely and store in a cool place for at least 4-6 weeks. Every so often, give the jar a good shake to mix it all up.
5. Once you think it's ready, strain out the plant material and store in a cool place.
I think dosage of white pine elixir would depend on what you're using it for, and how severe your condition is. As a preventative pick-me-up, say, I would think a couple drops to a dropperful, up to 3 times a day. In the grips of a stubborn illness with congested, damp mucous, I might say 3-15 drops every couple hours.
Keep in mind that pine can be drying, so if your tissues begin to feel too dried-out, decrease your dosage, add teas of moistening herbs, or stop altogether. Consult your friendly neighborhood herbalist if you have any questions!
I adore honey. I don't know how I would ever live without it. I am so very grateful to all the cute little fuzzy bees who spend their dancing, buzzing, industrious lives making the honey, beeswax, propolis, and other wonderful things we herbalists use. One delicious way to use plants in your daily life is to infuse them in honey. Infused honey can be enjoyed by itself, or used to sweeten tea and foods. If you have time, infused honey is very easy to make.
Here's how I do it:
1. Start by cutting or crushing your plant material into small pieces. Put it all in a mason jar.
2. Pour honey onto the plant material. Allow the honey to settle into all the little nooks and pockets.
3. Poke gently (I use a chopstick) to get out air pockets and evenly distribute honey throughout the plant material.
4. Add more honey, to about an inch above the plant material. You want to at least cover the plant material completely.
5. Cap securely and store in a warm place out of the sun for 4-6 weeks.
I find that wintertime in Michigan is a great time to infuse honey. The plants extract wonderfully well when I place the jars in paper bags just to the side of one of our half-closed heat registers. The jars are exposed to a gentle low heat multiple times per day, using heat that would otherwise be wasted on an empty room.
Though you can also infuse by heating the honey and plant material together in a double boiler or crockpot at a very low temperature for at least several hours, this is not my method. I am a manual style herbalist who prefers to let my concoctions prepare themselves with little or no help from modern conveniences, when it is practical. For example, I chop and cut my plant materials by hand. I infuse oils and honeys in heat provided by the sun (or the heat vents, which I am using anyway). I really like the physicality of working with the plants to make medicine.
I have tasted this batch of infused white pine honey and can proudly say it is delicious. Even I was surprised by how yummy it is. I like it best all by itself, on small espresso spoons!
In my opinion, water-based infusions (aka teas or tisanes) are the best way to enjoy plants. All you need is an herb and some water. You don't even necessarily need hot water, as many herbs extract well in cool water. The nice thing about herbal tea is that it's practically impossible to mess up. There are so many options and combinations of plants to make tea with, and you can make your tea as diluted or as concentrated as you'd like. Sweetened or not, iced or hot, the possibilities feel endless!
For herbal teas (not nourishing infusions, which I will cover at some other time) I prefer using clean water just off the boil, and generally one-two teaspoons of plant material per cup or mug of water. I prefer dried herbs for tea, but you can use fresh ones if that is what you have. Put your tea herbs into an infuser or reusable tea bag, pour the water, and steep for about 15 minutes, covered. Strain and enjoy.
I've been drinking lots of tea this winter, as per usual, and by February have felt the need for a little variety. I invented this blend the other day, starting with a thought of my base herb (white pine) and then mentally rifling through my herb cabinets, thinking what plants and combinations might taste nice. I settled on wild rose hips and evening primrose to round out and sweeten the resinous pine. It ended up being about 3 parts pine to one part each of rose hip and evening primrose. It looked like this in my mortar, all mixed up:
This tea smelled nicely piney while steeping, and when I tasted it, I was so pleasantly surprised! Rich and yet gentle with pine, smoothed out by the sweetness of rose hips and evening primrose. I decided to call this blend Sweet Pine Tea, because that is what it is.
This tea can be enjoyed as an everyday tasty beverage, or multiple times a day (sweetened with pine-infused honey!) if you are feeling under the weather or have a persistent damp cough to be addressed. As always, consult your herbalist if you have questions.
9/26/2019 12:42:52 am
I love doing experiments, especially when it comes to tea. I know that a lot of you do not understand this, but tea is meant to be experimented on. There are a lot of flavors that you can add to your normal cup of tea. I know that it sounds weird, but believe me, it is better to try it out first. I hope that you understand just how great tea is, especially once you start brewing all kinds of it.
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Herbalist plant ramblings and adventures in green medicine, by Linden Tree Herbals potion-maker Ginny.
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