I casually mentioned to co-workers plans to make most of my own gifts this year (specifically using bulk herbs). Next thing I knew I was given the task of writing an article on making gifts with herbs. I was less than pleased by this. Now, I don’t want you to think I don’t enjoy writing these articles; that’s not the case. It’s more that I don’t want the recipients of my gifts to know my secrets. Having my gift-giving plans printed and mailed to the recipient’s house before the big day really seems to undo most of the important surprise aspect of opening a gift. It’s the type of damage that no amount of deceptive wrapping really can ever undo. So, rather than giving away all my own plans, I asked for the help of the rest of the Health and Wellness team and offered up one of my own.
One of the recipes I am willing to disclose is elderberry syrup. Elderberries have long been believed to help boost the immune system, and elderberry syrup is one of the tastiest ways to take elderberry. It’s especially delicious on pancakes. Start with one part dried elderberries and three parts pure water and bring to a simmer. It’s best not to boil the mixture, just keep it at a low simmer. Allow the mixture to reduce by about half, then take off of the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. After it’s cooled, strain it through a fine mesh strainer, pressing out as much of the liquid as possible. Lastly, sweeten it to taste with raw honey. The more honey you use, the longer it will keep, but I wouldn’t suggest going over one part. Now, all you have to do is pour it into bottles and decorate however you’d like. Elderberry syrup will typically keep for one to two months refrigerated.
Rishi’s Ginger Tea
Justin suggested giving Rishi’s Ginger Tea. Here’s what he had to say about it: “Out of all the bulk herbs I enjoy Rishi’s Ginger Tea the most. It is strong enough to knock your socks off and will keep you warm for a while. Buying fresh ginger and boiling it for hours won’t even come close to the strength of Rishi’s dried ginger.”
I’d have to agree with Justin on that one. I’m always amazed just how strong that tea is. You can also make ginger syrup by following the same basic instructions for elderberry syrup. Mix a little with sparkling water, and you have your own ginger soda.
Herbal and medicinal tea
Lisa suggested an herbal tea; here’s what she had to say: “I unearthed my first edition copy of Linda Rector-Page’s book titled How to be Your Own Herbal Pharmacist from 1991 to share with you how easy it is to create a tasty herbal—and medicinal—tea that could rival any of the boxed teas for Cold/Flu Care we carry in aisle 2. A large spice jar is a prettier container than a box, too. I began with equal parts (1/2 teaspoon) of the following herbs:
- Echinacea—Lymph clearing / anti-viral
- Rosehip—Vitamin C and bioflavonoids / anti-oxidant
- Licorice—Decongestant / expectorant / anti-bacterial (avoid if there is high blood pressure)
- St. John’s Wort—Anti-inflammatory / anti-viral
- Hibiscus—Enzyme precursors / flavor
- Ginger—Friendly flora and enzyme precursors / catalyst / digestive
- Peppermint—Friendly flora and enzyme precursors / lymph cleansing
From this base one could add more or less of any of these herbs for flavor enhancement—for me that means less peppermint, more ginger, licorice or hibiscus. For nausea, one might add catnip, fennel or lemon balm. For sleeplessness one could add chamomile, skullcap or valerian. You get the idea—experiment!
“Disclaimer: What Linda has written about the medicinal qualities of herbs does not match what most of the medical establishment endorses. Likewise, what I believe herbs are capable of might not make sense to many who read this. Take it all with a grain of salt—figuratively, of course; salt and tea are not tasty.”
Andy also thought an herbal tea would make a great gift. Here’s his suggestion: “I don’t know anyone who couldn’t use some help reducing stress in their lives. That’s why this is one of my favorite teas to give people for the holidays: 1/4 cup lavender flowers, 1/4 cup passionflower, 1 cup chamomile flowers, 1/8 cup licorice root, 1/4 cup peppermint (substitute a pinch of stevia for the licorice in the case of high blood pressure or other contraindicated conditions). It’s both tasty and soothing, and the perfect way to unwind after work or school! This recipe should be enough to make 20-30 cups of tea.”
Jocie suggested an herbal tea, though she uses dragon scales in hers. She also suggests some ideas for bath salts, here’s her suggestions: “For holiday gifts this year I’m planning on making a “signature” tea blend and putting it in decorated containers. My tea blend will start with a green tea like Two Hills Dragon Well, which I call “dragon scales” because that is what it looks like to me. I’ll add some elderberries (immune booster), rosehips (vitamin C) and chamomile (calming). That’s my plan, but the possibilities are endless with our selection of black, green, white, pu-erh, and rooibos teas blended with anything from peppermint to lemongrass to passionflower. Along with my signature blend, I’ll include a reusable tea ball or cotton tea bag.”
Jocie, “I’m also going to make bath salt blends. I’ll start with some epsom salts or sea salt, about a quarter to a half-cup per bath. Then I’ll mix in a few drops of essential oils and other ingredients. I’ll make a relaxing lavender blend with essential oils of lavender, bergamot, and chamomile along with lavender flowers. I’ll also make an earthy blend with essential oils of sandalwood and balsam fir with dried thyme added for texture. The third blend will include rose petals with ylang ylang and lemongrass essential oils. Just a few drops of each essential oil per half cup of salt will do. Again, feel free to follow your nose with essential oil blends to make your own unique combinations. For more information about essential oils and possible skin sensitivities, please see the books and pamphlets near the display in the Wellness department.”
I hope this inspires you to make some of your own herbal gifts this holiday season. Of course, always do your research and learn about the herbs you are using. We have several books on herbs both for sale and available to use for reference in the store. So, get creative, do your research and have fun!