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HEAL: Oxymels as Respiratory Remedies

HEAL: Oxymels as Respiratory Remedies

I enjoy living with four distinct seasons but seasonal changes can be tough on our bodies. In the autumn,  we feel the cold slowly moving in and the amount of daylight is reduced. Our food cravings and menus change: thick soups and stews replace the lighter fare of summer salads and grilled vegetables.  Our routines change: we move inside from the outside world. Our sleep patterns may change; waking at 6:00 am in the dark and back to bed at 9:00 pm. Many of us feel more tired than usual; some suffer with headaches and body aches when the temperature drops and cold, rainy weather raises the humidity. Loss of daylight and increasing cloud cover afflicts many people emotionally with increasing darkness and the dullness of gray and drizzly days.

We stay inside more, often in close quarters with those who have been infected with a virus. Families with children who attend schools know this cycle all too well: the virus merry-go-round moves slowly through family members, often re-infecting members who thought they were healed.

Respiratory viruses find many opportunities in autumn and winter. In our seasonal confinements, they spread easily. We know the symptoms intimately: inflamed and tender throats, sinus headaches, copious congestion and fits of coughing. If it’s an influenza virus, our body’s temperature rises as our immune systems kick into overdrive to fight the viral invaders. Body aches and exhaustion complete the influenza experience.

Herbal Remedy for Congestion and Coughing

An ancient remedy that dates back to the Greeks, the word oxymel comes from the Latin word “oxymeli,” and means “acid honey.”  Hippocrates recommended a syrup of honey and vinegar to help with congestion. Over the centuries, herbalists used oxymels as a base for extracting and preserving medicinal herbs, making this remedy a powerful medicine.  One of the more well-known oxymels is the hearty Fire Cider (recipe here), used to support our immune systems as well as for respiratory complaints.

Fire Cider

Fire Cider

Benefits of Oxymels

  • Oxymels soothe respiratory symptoms and are especially effective with congested coughs.

  • Oxymels are safe to use for anyone over the age of one.  

  • Oxymels are free of the alcohol and synthetic chemicals often found in commercial cold and flu products.

  • Both the vinegar and honey have preservative properties so oxymels will last a long time when properly stored.

  • Oxymels can be used in the kitchen to make salad dressings, marinades and splashed on to steamed vegetables.

  • Oxymels can be added to sparkling water, offering a healthy alternative to commercial sodas and can also be used as an unusual flavoring in mocktails or cocktails..

How to Make An Oxymel

Oxymels are easy to make and take less than 15 minutes to put together. You will be thankful to have this herbal remedy ready for use when the uninvited virus comes for a visit.  

The ingredients are basic:

Raw honey  

Avoid buying honey from grocery stores. Find a local beekeeper or a store that sells unpasteurized/raw honey.  Honey has its own medicinal properties that are destroyed when heated. Honey helps to soothe a sore throat and has antimicrobial properties, limiting the growth of pathogens.

Raw/organic Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)

Raw and unfiltered ACV will look cloudy which is caused by the inclusion of the “mother,” the acetic acid bacteria that is responsible for the sour taste.


If you grow a few culinary herbs, you have a source for herbal medicine!

Fresh herbs are preferred over dried but use what you have. Dried herbs are concentrated so I recommend using half the amount of fresh herbs.

Thyme - Strong tasting with antimicrobial properties

Rosemary - A pungent herb with a bit of a pine taste and with antimicrobial properties

Rosemary (Rosmarius officinalis)

Rosemary (Rosmarius officinalis)

Lemon Balm - Subtle lemony mint taste with calming, antispasmodic and antiviral properties

Lemon balm  (Melissa officinalis)

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)

Sage - An earthy taste with astringent and antiseptic  properties

Common Sage  (Salvia officinalis)

Common Sage (Salvia officinalis)

Ginger - Spicy and warming

Elderberry - A slight sour taste with strong antiviral properties (see my Elderberry Plant Profile)

Elderberry  (Sambucus spp.)

Elderberry (Sambucus spp.)

Bee Balm leaves & flowers - A delightful spicy taste with antimicrobial and antispasmodic properties

Beebalm  (Monarda fistulosa)

Beebalm (Monarda fistulosa)

Berries - Add raspberries, blackberries or blueberries to enhance the oxymel’s flavor and to add vitamin C. Mash fresh berries slightly before adding to oxymel.

Glass jar with a plastic lid (vinegar corrodes metal)


Amounts of each ingredient depending on the jar size so I am using the eyeball method with this recipe.

  1. Be sure your jar is clean (you can sterilize in boiling water if desired.

  2. Add your minced fresh or dried herbs loosely to fill the jar about ¾ full. If using dried herbs, fill the jar to ⅓ full.

  3. If using, add mashed berries and their juices to the jar. I use a handful for a pint-sized jar and three handfuls for a quart.

  4. Add enough honey to coat and cover the herbs. Add apple cider vinegar to fill the jar and stir thoroughly.

  5. Cover with plastic lid (vinegar will corrode metal lids) and place on a counter or shelf where you will see it so that you can gently shake the mixture each day for 2-3 weeks.  

  6. Strain and store in a clean bottle. Oxymels are shelf-stable but can be stored in the fridge which helps to extend its usability for a year.

Medicinal Dosage: 1-2 teaspoons each hour for wet cough or sore throat (adult). 1/2-1 teaspoon for children over the age of two. The FDA recommends that children under two not be given honey.

This simple but potent herbal remedy is safe for use by everyone.

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