By Chef Centehua:
It’s that time again. The winds have changed, so I celebrate and welcome fall with medicinal elixirs that are nourishing to my body and warming to my soul. Elixirs are great vehicles, driving the medicine in plants into the systems of the body.
The kids are back in school, and that means it is also the season of germ sharing. Gratefully, there is a multitude of wonderful herbs to boost our immune systems. During this flux, viruses aren’t the only things that move in cycles: our bodies also have internal rhythms and cycles. Herbs, roots and mushrooms can help our bodies stay strong and healthy during environmental changes. Adaptability is key for maintaining a strong immune response to the environment and all those microscopic threats. In fact, we need the exposure to bacteria and viruses so that our bodies develop antibodies to help fight back.
To help us combat bacteria and viruses, elixirs (medicines made from plants) can help support the immune system. There are a few ways to prepare medicines and get the beneficial properties of the plant. Some compounds are water-soluble and some, alcohol-soluble. Alcohol will extract most alkaloids and volatile oils from the herbs, and will preserve the tincture for a long time. Alcohol also acts as a carrier, driving the medicinal properties right into the blood stream. You can add the desired dose of medicine to a cup of boiling water and evaporate some of the alcohol. My favorite tinctures this time of year are burdock root, dandelion, nettle, echinacea, chaga, maitake, turmeric, and chamomile. You can make delicious, powerful elixirs — it’s easy.
I recommend making your medicine with fresh herbs; however, I do use some dried herbs and mushrooms because some don’t grow here in my area of San Diego. A friend recently gave me a big chunk of chaga mushroom, a mushroom that grows in birch trees in northern climates. Chaga is called the king of all herbs and the mushroom of immortality because of its unique and potent phyto-nutrients. A powerful adaptogenic herb, it is a very high antioxidant. It has been safely consumed for thousands of years with no side effects other than vitality, health and balance.
Here are the steps for the double extraction method for chaga:
- Fill up a jar with the mushroom and 100 proof organic vodka;
- Leave it alone to sit for about two months, shaking it daily;
- After two months, strain the chaga from the alcohol;
- Measure, then pour the leftover alcohol into a jar and set it aside;
- Place the chaga in a ceramic pot with twice as much water as there is (jarred) alcohol;
- Bring it to a boil, then let it simmer and rest for a night;
- Add more water the next day and repeat last step for a total of 3 decoctions.
- Once cooled, strain and pour the chaga and decoction into the alcohol saved in the jar.
- Allow 2 more months to tincture. Strain off the chaga.
- This is powerful medicine and an excellent daily supplement.
Making elixirs is an effective way to share medicine in a delicious way. Start by choosing your herbs, roots and/or mushrooms.
For a relaxing, immune boosting elixir — passionflower, chamomile, echinacea, and dried maitake mushroom
- Put herbs into a boiling pot of water and let simmer for about twenty minutes;
- Let it sit for fifteen more minutes, then strain and pour tea into a high-powered blender. Add some of your favorite milk or a few raw cashews or raw almond butter, and a teaspoon of holy basil, He Shou Wu, mesquite pod meal, a few pinches of cinnamon, nutmeg and a couple tablespoons of raw honey;
- Blend slowly, then process on high for a few seconds until it’s nice and frothy;
- Pour and enjoy one of the most comforting medicines you’ll ever taste.
Elixir time is a ritual in my home. The kids ask for their teatime elixir every evening while doing homework. Plant medicine is often bitter, so raw and unfiltered honey really helps the medicine go down. Raw honey also contains anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory properties. You can also use dates to sweeten your elixirs.
Making elixirs can be lots of fun and empowering. I recommend finding out what plants are native to your area. Of course, do your research and make sure you find out when to harvest, and make sure you can identify the plants correctly. One tip is to plant your own herb garden so you can have fresh medicine available right at home. I grow calendula, chamomile and ashwagandha in my garden.
Herbal tinctures are easy to make. Here is how you do it:
- Place the herb in a mason jar;
- Top it off with vodka, close the lid and let it sit for a few weeks;
- Remember to shake it daily;
- Strain and transfer into dark glass bottles with droppers.
This tincture can also be added to your elixirs. One of my favorite elixirs is rose tincture with honey in a rooibos red tea. It’s absolutely divine.
Cold season elixir —
This is the only antibiotic my kids have ever taken. I blend it into a tea for them. I do not recommend this one on an empty stomach. Add a little honey to the finished product for a more forgiving taste. Garlic and onion have tremendous antibiotic qualities.
- Chop an onion, five garlic cloves, one Serrano chili, one cinnamon stick, and a piece of fresh ginger, turmeric and elderberries.
- Place in a mason jar.
- Top it with apple cider vinegar.
- Let it infuse under the sun for a couple days.
- Keep it in the pantry for five more days.
Take a shot a day to keep the virus away.
As soon as I see a little sniffle, my kids know it’s garlic teatime —
- Bring water to boil.
- Add a few cloves of garlic.
- Reduce to a simmer.
- Add chamomile, calendula, and
- Let it simmer for 10 min.
- Add nut milk and raw honey.
Kids can actually enjoy this tea and crave it … takes a little time, but taste buds adjust and the body craves what it needs.
Stinging nettle is the herb I forage the most during the winter months. Its medicinal profile is really under-appreciated. It helps regulate blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, balances hormones, regulates blood flow in menstruating women. And, because it has an amazing iron content, it also helps blood to flow to the fetus in pregnant women. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, it’s widely used to treat arthritis, urinary tract infections and inflammation of the prostate.
I make nettle water infusions and also alcohol tinctures which then easily can be added to a warm cup of tea or nut milk with honey.
I recommend checking with your practitioner if you are on any type of medication, as some herbs can interact and have negative effects.
Here’s a list of plants I suggest researching:
- Pau D’Arco
- Dandelion root
- Holy basil
Happy medicine-making, elixir-blending alchemical sessions.
Recipe for one of my favorite medicinal elixirs: