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  • Writer's pictureLinda Conroy

Cranberry Oxymel: Healing and Festive!

When you look at the healing qualities of this unique fruit, it is easy to see that it is an example of food as medicine.

About Cranberries

Cranberries are small, hard, round, red fruits with a flavor often described as both bitter and sour. They grow on vines in freshwater bogs, mostly in the northern United States and southern Canada. They’re related to blueberries and wintergreen.

The North American variety (Vaccinium macrocarpon) is one of the only commercial fruits native to North America. Native Americans use them for food, fabric dye, and medicine. Sailors used to eat them to prevent scurvy while at sea. Today, they grow on about 40,000 acres in the U.S. each year.

Healing qualities

Many might not immediately identify cranberries as an herb, yet when you look at the healing qualities of this unique fruit, it is easy to see that it is an example of food as medicine. Cranberries contain a wide spectrum of antioxidants, including: quercetin, myricetin and phenols. They’re also high in anthocyanins. These are the compounds that give cranberries their dark red color. Studies have shown that these compounds have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects. Cranberries have also been shown to help with urinary and cardiovascular health.

There are many ways to ingest cranberries, and my favorite way is to make an oxymel. An oxymel is a combination of honey and vinegar with an herb or fruit steeped in it. The herb or fruit is strained after a few weeks, and the resulting liquid is a sweet and sour syrup, that can be ingested by the spoonful on it’s own, or it can be added to other beverages including a fermented carbonated beverage, for a delicious shrub. The shrub makes a delicious celebratory drink and is perfect for New Year or any other celebration.

How to Make an Oxymel

  • Fill a small jar about half to three-fourths full of fruit (in this case cranberries) or herbs. Pour honey over them, then vinegar.

  • Use about 1/3 of the jar filled with honey to 2/3 of the rest vinegar OR for a sweeter syrup, try 1/2 jar honey and 1/2 jar vinegar. It’s a very flexible amount.

  • Both honey and vinegar act as preservatives, so you’re not going to ruin the mixture by altering the ratios.

  • Stir it all together; it might not blend well at first, but it will settle and blend over time. Just stir or shake it regularly for about two weeks. Then strain the plant material out, bottle it up and store in a cool place or the refrigerator.

How to Enjoy Your Oxymel:

  • Take oxymels by the spoonful for sore throats, thick congested coughs or as a general treatment to combat cold symptoms or to promote overall health.

  • Add to other beverages, as mentioned above to create a delicious, nourishing, and festive beverage.

Other herbs recommended for use in oxymels:

  • Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa): sore throat, antibacterial, helpful for thick congested coughs, fever

  • Elder (Sambucus sp) flowers, buds and/or berries: specific for sore throats, immune-stimulating

  • Ginger, Garlic & Onion: to make a tonic to fight cold and flu Lemon Peel: can be added for flavor.

  • Mint: stomach-soothing, digestive aid

  • Oregano: antibacterial, antiviral, useful for upper respiratory infections

  • Rosemary: Useful for low energy and poor circulation, good for digestion and nerves. *Raspberry Leaves: general tonic for women

  • Sage: antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral.

  • Thyme: for upper respiratory infections, coughs, bronchitis, antiviral and antibacterial.

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