A classic but often overlooked herbal preparation, oxymels have been used for ages for a variety of respiratory and immune system issues including coughs, mucus, and difficulty breathing (Hippocrates, 400 B.C.E.). Made from vinegar and honey, oxymels are a tasty and simple herbal preparation to make.
Keep reading to learn how to make an oxymel using a few different traditional methods. Note that because oxymels use raw honey, do not give them to children under 12 months old.
Why Use An Oxymel?
You might be wondering: why use an oxymel over other herbal preparations?
Derived from the Latin word oxymeli, which translates to “acid and honey,” oxymel use has been documented since the age of Hippocrates as a means to use and extract herbs that are not so pleasant in flavor when taken through other methods (Hippocrates, 400 B.C.E.). These herbs tend to be the more pungent aromatics, such as garlic (Allium sativa) and cayenne (Capsicum annuum), that also lend a supportive role for the immune and respiratory systems (Green, 2000).
Both apple cider vinegar and raw honey are common kitchen allies that can be used to help soothe the throat, calm a cough, or bolster the immune system through colds and flu. When combined with herbs that carry complementary actions, oxymels offer a potent, yet tasty, support for times of sickness or compromised immunity.
In the words of Hippocrates: “You will find the drink, called oxymel, often very useful… for it promotes expectoration and freedom of breathing” (Hippocrates, 400 B.C.E.).
4 Ways To Make An Oxymel
At its core, oxymels are simply an herbal extraction of apple cider vinegar and honey. In essence, the simplest way to make an oxymel is to combine a vinegar and a honey herbal infusion you have previously made. Although this is not a traditional oxymel preparation, it is an easy and convenient method, especially when you have premade vinegar or honey infusions already on hand.
Time Saver Oxymel Preparation
1 part herbal infused vinegar
1 part herbal infused honey
- Combine infused vinegar with infused honey in a sterilized glass jar. Mix well with a clean, dry spoon until both preparations are fully combined.
- Label and store in a cool place free of moisture for 6 months.
Note: Oxymels should be stored in glass jars with plastic lids as the vinegar in the mixture will corrode a metal lid. If you don’t have plastic lids available, you can place a piece of parchment or wax paper between the jar and the lid.
There are several traditional ways oxymels can be made. Below are three different methods to prepare oxymels as a delivery for tinctures, decoctions, or as a means for extracting dried herbs.
The classic, standard oxymel recipe uses 5 parts honey to 1 part vinegar, but many modern recipes will call for more of an equal balance between vinegar and honey. Feel free to play with the proportions depending on the focus of your formula and your taste palate.
Traditional Folk Oxymel Preparation
- In a clean, dry pint jar, place enough dried herb to fill ¼ of the way full.
- Cover the herbs with the vinegar and honey until the jar is full or slightly less than full (strive for a ratio of approximately 1:3, herbs to vinegar/honey mixture).
- Stir the mixture with a clean, dry spoon, screw on a tight plastic lid, then shake until well mixed.
- Store the jar in a dark, cool place and shake every couple days.
- Strain the mixture after about two weeks and store in a glass jar.
Oxymel Base For Tinctures
- Combine the apple cider vinegar and honey in a pot and simmer to the consistency of a syrup.
- Remove from the heat and add in your herbal tincture using a ratio of 1 part tincture to 3 parts oxymel (Ex: 30 drops of tincture to approximately 1 teaspoon oxymel) as needed or desired. Stir well to combine.
- The oxymel base can be stored in a dark, cool place or in the fridge. Stir or gently shake before using.
Oxymel Using Vinegar Decoction
- Place the dried herb and vinegar in a pot and bring to a boil. (Be careful not to inhale the vinegar steam too much or put your face over the top of the pot!)
- Reduce heat and allow to simmer gently until the liquid is reduced to roughly 5 cups.
- Strain the herbs from the vinegar and allow to cool to room temperature.
- Add the honey to the herbal decoction. Mix thoroughly to combine.
Time to Start Brewing
Making an herbal oxymel is a simple and convenient herbal preparation that creates an ideal balance between vinegar and honey for supporting the immune and respiratory systems. With so many different ways to prepare an oxymel, there is a bit of room for creativity and experimentation with every batch you brew!
Get started making an oxymel today with our recipe for Homemade Fire Cider — just in time for the cool months ahead. Learn more specifics on herbal extractions through our posts How To Make An Herbal Honey and Making Herbal Vinegars.
Green, J. (2000). The herbal medicine-maker’s handbook: A home manual. Berkley, CA: Crossing Press.
Hippocrates. (400 B.C.E.). On regimen in acute diseases. Retrieved from http://classics.mit.edu/Hippocrates/acutedis.html.