THE WINTER SOLSTICE
According to the Herbal Academy, “the winter solstice is an astronomical event caused by the tilt of the earth on its axis and its orbit around the sun. The result in the Northern Hemisphere is the longest night and the shortest day. In ancient times, the winter solstice marked the midpoint of winter, but in modern times, it represents the first day of winter.”
“The winter solstice has been the inspiration of many ceremonies since man first realized the significance of the event. The Ancients celebrated the winter solstice as the time for the Holly King, the king of darkness, to do battle with the Oak King, the king of lightness. This happens twice every year. At the summer solstice, the longest day and the shortest night, the days begin to shorten and the Holly King defeats the Oak King and reigns supreme in the dark times. In December, following the winter solstice, the days begin to lengthen and the Oak King conquers the Holly King and reigns during the light times.”
WHY A WINTER HERBAL APOTHECARY?
Our work as herbalists involves tuning in to the seasons, and for those of us who garden or wildcraft, this includes paying attention to the growing cycles, and when to harvest plants. Another core part of our seasonal preparations involves thinking ahead so we can plan for the winter. It’s essential to have the winter home apothecary stocked with herbs that can provide support when it’s needed most. When illness sweeps through a household in the dead of winter, it’s ideal to have herbal preparations already made and ready to use. Stock the winter home apothecary with essential herbal allies for colder months. Remember to always research each herb thoroughly for any personal safety concerns or contraindications before using them.
IMMUNE STIMULATING SYRUPS
Always ensure that at least one immune-stimulating herbal syrup is on hand before cold and flu season hits. Although herbal syrups are relatively fast to make in a pinch, it makes life so much easier to have them on hand when a sore throat hits or when immune support is needed. Stock the winter home apothecary with a classic immune-stimulating elderberry syrup and add an antioxidant syrup such as Astragalus or Rose Hips. Families or individuals who are exposed to colds and the flu regularly may choose to use elderberry syrup daily throughout cold and flu season, use it only when exposure is suspected, or when signs of colds or flu are experienced.
ASTRAGALUS (Astragalus membranaceus)
Astragalus is an adaptogenic herb that helps protect the body against diseases such as cancer and diabetes. It contains antioxidants, which protect cells against damage. Astragalus is used to protect and support the immune system, preventing colds and upper respiratory infections, lowering blood pressure, treating diabetes, and protecting the liver. Astragalus has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties, and it stimulates the immune system helping to prevent colds and flu. Astragalus is also a mild diuretic that helps rid the body of excess fluid.
ROSEHIPS (Rosa rugosa)
Rosehips are the fruits found on the Sweet Hips Rose. They are the most bioidentical and bioavailable form of vitamin C that can be found. They are also high in vitamin A, calcium, & zinc which can help prevent many chronic diseases, boost immunity, and help ease the pain of menstrual cramps. Rosehip tea has a tart, fruity flavor and is packed full of nutrients that help ward off colds and flu.
- Six 8-ounce canning jars and fresh lids, and cheesecloth over a fine mesh sieve. Do not use aluminum or cast iron to cook the rosehips; use stainless steel or non-reactive cookware.
- 2 quarts rosehips
- 6 cups water
- ½ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1 package Sure Jell pectin
- ¼ teaspoon butter
- ½ cups sugar
- Rinse the rosehips thoroughly. Cut off the scraggly ends and discard. Place rosehips in a large pot. Add 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 1 hour, or until rosehips are soft and mashable. Use a potato masher to mash up the rosehips into a rough purée. Set up the cheesecloth over a bowl or large pot.
- Transfer the rosehip mixture into the cheesecloth. Let strain into the bowl for at least an hour. Squeeze the cheesecloth to get more remaining juice out. Sterilize the jars by either running them through the dishwasher right before canning. To sterilize the lids, bring a kettle of a couple cups of water to a boil. Place lids in a shallow bowl and pour the boiling water over them. You
- You will need 3 cups of juice for this recipe, so if you have less than 3 cups, add more water to the mixture.
- Place 3 cups of the rosehip juice in a large, wide pot. Add the lemon juice and pectin. Bring to a boil, dissolving all of the pectin.
- Add the sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the butter. Bring to a hard boil. The mixture will bubble up considerably. Boil for exactly one minute. Then remove from heat and pour off into prepared canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space from the rim. If any jelly falls on the rim as your pour it into the jars, wipe the rim with a damp paper towel. Place sterilized lids on jars and rings to secure. To ensure a good seal, and to guard against mold, process the jars in a water bath for 10 minutesr.
- To process, place the jars on a rack in a large, tall stock pot. Cover with an inch of water and bring to a rolling boil for 10 minutes. Then turn off the heat, remove the jars from the water, and let cool. As the jars cool you should hear a popping sound as the lids seal. The lids should seal; if not, store in the refrigerator.