Hibiscus, Hawthorne Berry, and Strawberry Oxymel (and salad dressing)

An oxymel is an infusion of herbs into vinegar and honey (see also shrubs, kvass, kombucha, switchels and other similar fermented “sodas”/drinks ). Plants easily give up their vitamins and minerals when added to vinegar. The raw honey serves as a powerful antibiotic when not exposed to heat. The yummy result can be mixed into salad dressing, braises or marinades. A tablespoon added to carbonated water or iced tea makes a refreshing drink with added nutrients, medicinal properties, pro-biotics, and acid. If you suffer from bloating, gas, indigestion etc. a shot of oxymel first thing in the morning may help with your symptoms. I love making these in winter. I specifically harvest and save “berries” from my hawthorn or currant bushes and put them in freezer for when I need to move the sluggish energy of the colder months.

Hibiscus and Hawthorn Oxymel

2 cups of honey

2 cups of apple cider vinegar

2 cups of frozen strawberries

2 cups of hawthorn berries

1 cup of hibiscus infusion/tea

Combine all ingredients in a very large canning jar. Put a piece of plastic wrap or baking parchment between the lid and jar lip. Seal tightly. Let sit six weeks in a a cool dark place. Shake and invert weekly. Press and strain to remove any solids or seeds. Divide up into smaller bottles which can be stored or refrigerated. With proper storage an oxymel will last for at least a year.

Hawthorn and Hibiscus Salad Dressing

6 ‘”pickled” strawberries (removed from the oxymel)

1tsp of fresh thyme leaves

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup of olive oil

1 cup of aged oxymel (strained)

Mix all of your ingredients in a bowl then transfer to a bottle. Shake before each use. Refrigerate.

Hibiscus is in the Malvaceae family along with cotton, okra, rose of Sharon, malva, and marshmallow. The plant I prefer to use is not Rosa sinesis, the Asian tropical ornamental we are all so familiar with. In my opinion Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa), which originates from Africa, is more medical. It provides the strong red pigment in “hibiscus tea”. Roselle is an herbaceous/bush like perennial or rapid growing leggy annual depending on the climate. It grows long (3-9ft) red stalks. Young foliage has a single lobe but mature plants have red veined leaves with 3-5 lobes. The large (3 inch), delicate, yellow/cream flowers have 6 petals and a cup like red center. The NUMEROUS “fruit”/red calyces mature in fall. This plant prefers full sun and well drained soil. It can be cultivated in North America in places where winters are mild. It is very drought tolerant.

Historically roselle has been used to treat high blood pressure, diarrhea, constipation, inflammation, parasites, bleeding, respiratory congestion, heart disease, menstrual problems, fever, bladder infection, headaches, high cholesterol, kidney weakness, vitamin C deficiency, and stomach issues. In hispanic cultures it is popular tea during pregnancy due to its high vitamin C content which helps the absorption of iron which prevents anemia and hemorrhaging during childbirth. It is well known for its ability to moisten, clear heat, or eliminate excess fluid from the tissues. Externally it can be used as a wash for eye infections, itchy skin, infected wounds, abscesses and bacterial infection in the vagina. Tea of roselle, made from the calyces, is very tart and refreshing. It is commonly served cold with lots of sugar, ginger, cinnamon and clove. It pairs well mint. The “fruit” can also be used for jam, jelly, juice, wine, and syrup. It needs a lot of sweetener to balance its very tart flavor. The young leaves have been eaten like spinach or put into curries. Roselle is very cooling and soothing for the body with its sour, refreshing taste. It is thought to remove excess fluid from the body bladder and kidneys. It is very high in ascorbic acid and citric acid making it very helpful in treating infections, supporting the heart and strengthening blood vessels. I drink it as tea everyday to stay healthy in these times and to reduce the “heat” associated with menopause.

Energetics-sour, sweet bitter, cool, moist


Emotional/Spiritual Uses– for trauma (especially sexual), loss of connection to the feminine, to restore vital energy.

Contraindications-cold conditions

Published by blackbirdsbackyard

My backyard botanical pharmacy is located in Boulder Colorado. I began studying herbal medicinewhen I was 12 years old. In college I studied subjects like anthropology, microbiology, anatomy and physiology, After graduation I decided to go to midwifery school. I attended births and had a small practice until I retired early in order to be a mother full time. I have always had an herb garden, gathered plants and made my own healing formulas with plants. Over the last 30 years there have been many teachers and I have attended dozens of workshops. I am one of those people who is always reading, studying and learning. In 2019 I was called to practice as an herbalist professionally, using "plant spirit medicine" and bio-energetic ( 5 element)healing techniques. I feel that there is a big need in the community for my skills and talents. I hope to inspire others to start their own backyard pharmacies as a solution to species extinction and the healthcare crisis in America. Healing has also become a spiritual practice and way for me to feel balanced and connected with nature. I consult with clients in person, teach classes (adults and kids), give tours of my garden and offer apprenticeships. Health, joy, meaning, and support are everyone's birthright.

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