Oxymel: An Ancient Ambrosia

*written for Crose Nest

 An oxymel is a remedy from ancient Greece and Persia; the most simple version is made of equal parts vinegar and honey. The word oxymel means acid (oxy) and honey (mel). Oxymels were used to treat a wide, nearly never-ending variety of complaints, from digestion and respiratory dis-eases to circulation, fevers, sore throats, and more. Its companion remedy was the "hydromel" (water and honey), more commonly known as mead, or honey wine. 

Modern Uses

Today, herbalists like to use vinegar as a menstruum (solvent) for extracting minerals from herbs. Other menstruums include alcohol (to make a tincture), (water to make a tea), honey, etc. Before the invention of the still (and thus refined spirits), vinegar, wine, and water were the more common ways to extract herbal medicines Each menstruum is suited to extract different properties from a plant. Vinegar is excellent at extracting minerals, as well as a range of other plant constituents.

Herbalists also use vinegar to make non-alcoholic extracts ("tinctures") safe for children and folks who are alcohol-free.

Rosemary Gladstar, fondly referred to as the "Godmother of American Herbalism," coined the term 'Fire Cider' for a panacea-like folk remedy specifically used for building immunity and aiding during cold/flu season. Guess what? This famous folk remedy is an oxymel!

Formulating + Uses

So, if you want to be clever, you could take into consideration the mineral-extracting power of vinegar, and the traditional uses of oxymels (respiratory, digestion, circulatory, etc), and choose herbs that excel in these areas to make a super formula! Or, you could simply formulate it to be delicious. 

Oxymels are a wonderful example of "food as medicine", and can be used to flavor teas, water, or whip up into vinaigrettes! Oxymels can also be used as a base for cough syrups, a sore throat gargle, or to make hydrating switchels (a natural electrolyte drink).  


  • Nutritive Oxymel with nettles, dandelion, seaweed + fresh parsley

  • Garden Oxymel with sage, rosemary + thyme (could turn this into a lovely vinaigrette)

  • Digestif Oxymel with fresh tarragon (my favorite!)


    Herbal Oxymel Recipe

    you'll need:

    • raw apple cider vinegar or other fruit vinegar (do NOT use distilled white vinegar)

    • raw honey

    • fresh garden herbs, or dried herbs from Crose Nest!

    • a wide glass jar

    • a plastic lid OR wax paper + any lid


    1. Choose your herbs. If you have culinary herbs growing or in your spice cabinet, use them!, draw inspiration from the ideas above, or come into the shop for ideas.

    2. If using fresh herbs, loosely pack the jar full of herb. If using dry herbs, fill jar 1/3 full of herb.

    3. Add vinegar to 1/2 full mark on jar.

    4. Fill the rest of the jar with honey.

    5. Mix well. If using fresh herbs, tamp down to make sure plant material is completely covered.

    6. Cover with a piece of folded wax paper + metal lid to prevent rusting, or with a plastic lid.

    7. Let sit for 2-6 weeks. Strain, cover tightly, and store in a cool, dry place (or the fridge!) Use within 6 months.

    note: When I make homemade herbal or fermented products for my own use, I rely on my senses of sight, smell, and taste to make sure they are still good and not "expired." Since vinegar and honey are already shelf-stable, an oxymel should last for quite a while! If I taste or smell something that is foul and not vinegar-y anymore, or off-putting in any way, I will put it in the compost. If I notice surface mold growing (though unlikely in a vinegar!), I just scrape it off carefully with a spoon, and continue to use as long as it smells and tastes right. 

    another note: When you're making straight infused vinegars - especially with fresh plants and very raw vinegar - you might start to grow a vinegar mother! (This is happy news.) If you're familiar with kombucha, they resemble a SCOBY. You should search online for pictures of vinegar mothers if your jar is growing something kind of scary looking, as well as how to preserve a vinegar mother and use one to make your own homemade vinegar. I've done this in a simple way once, making basic apple cider vinegar and it was delicious!

Dear reader: This blog is intended for sharing general health information that I feel confident and safe using in my home and everyday wellness routine. The information presented here is not intended to treat, diagnose, or cure any illnesses or diseases, and should not be used in place of medical advice. Please use caution, wisdom, and respect when adding anything new into your own wellness routines, and consult with your trusted medical practitioner - especially if you are taking pharmaceutical medications. 

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