Looking for a fun and heartwarming activity to get you through these long, dark winter months? This is a great time of year for brewing up herbal teas and syrups to keep the house and your spirits warm and toasty. We plant people cultivate our daily lifestyle and wellness practices to emulate the natural cycles of the seasons. Making winter remedies with hawthorn berry and ginger root is the perfect way to honor seasonal traditions.
In this article, we’ll discuss how to brew tea for syrups, share our warming Hawthorn Ginger Honey Syrup recipe, and learn how these herbs support healthy circulation and a strong heart.
As fall transitions to winter and the deciduous trees become bare, the ripe red hips of the hawthorn tree beckon to be harvested. Hawthorns trees typically grow with branches springing from a central trunk but are often referred to as shrubs in older European texts. Of the several hundred species of hawthorn growing in temperate thickets across the globe, all hawthorns produce an edible fruit that is the perfect nutritive winter food.
A member of the rose family, hawthorn hips and rose hips are very similar, becoming ripe, red, sweet and ready to harvest in late fall. It seems there are no accidents in nature, as the hips of both these Rosaceae plants are packed with pectin and vitamin C. In the pre-grocery store era of human history, vitamin and nutrient packed hips like hawthorn were critical fall harvest foods. In winter, when the edible foraged foods went dormant and meat game went into hibernation, these stores of hawthorn and wild rose hips provided the essential vitamins and minerals needed to ward off scurvy and survive until spring.*
Making herbal remedies using hawthorn berry will impart this nutritive vitamin complex into your tonic creations. The high pectin content in the hawthorn berry is a rich source of nutrients for the body, and especially the immune system, and the flavonoid content visible in the bright red skin of the berry is what is especially good at supporting a strong heart and cardiovascular system.*
Cold weather can have a way of getting stuck in the body. This is when warming herbs like ginger root (well, technically it’s a rhizome) are beneficial to stimulate blood flow and increase heart rate. Ginger, a member of the Zingiberaceae family with turmeric and cardamom, is native to humid, partly-shaded habitats in moist tropical and subtropical forests of Southeast Asia. This means that for those of us in temperate zones it will only grow in a greenhouse, or in containers that can be brought inside in the winter.
“Ginger plants grow shoots 3-4 feet tall from the rhizomes, gradually spreading outwards to eventually form a dense clump if not harvested. The shoots are actually pseudostems formed from a series of leaf sheaths wrapped tightly around one another. The blades of the medium green, alternate leaves are long and narrow (7 by ¾ inches), arranged in two ranks on each stem (Wisconsin Horticulture).”
Both dry and fresh ginger are easy to come by as this root is a culinary staple worldwide. The constituent responsible for ginger’s heat is gingerol, scoring 60,000 SHU on the Scoville scale. Fresh ginger is loaded with water which dilutes the gingerol content and makes it much cooler than dried ginger...Something to consider when making your hawthorn ginger syrup – for folks with cold extremities, go for dry ginger, and for folks that run hot, make your syrup with fresh ginger.
Ginger is often added to herbal formulas for its heat. Known in the flavor world as pungent, ginger stimulates blood flow and increases heart rate generating movement in the body and delivering or directing the herbs in a formula to their affiliated organs and tissues. This is a very common way to develop herbal formulas, and one that Dr Morse uses often in our cellular botanicals blends.*
Being high in aromatic (essential) oils, ginger is what's known as a carminative herb, a category of herbs including peppermint, chamomile, and thyme, whose aromatic qualities are traditionally employed to support healthy digestion. Unlike cooling bitter herbs that are great at stimulating digestive secretions all along the GI tract, the warming essential oil content of carminatives plants relaxes smooth muscle along the GI tract and dispels gas and bloating. Ginger is particularly good at calming stomach upset and occasional nausea.*
Hawthorn berry and ginger rhizome are the perfect combination for an herbal remedy that supports healthy circulation and strengthens the heart. Energetically, this herb blend is also indicated for developing courage and warming a cold constitution (cold extremities, numbness and tingling, pallid tongue).*
Making An Herbal Syrup
Making herbal syrups is super simple and satisfying and as mentioned earlier, a fun indoor activity for stormy days. To make an herbal syrup you start by making an herbal tea; an herbal decoction to be exact. There are 4 ways to make herbal tea:
- Hot infusion: steeping herbs in hot water. Used with leaves and flowers.
- Cold infusion: steeping herbs in cold water. Used for herbs high in mucilaginous polysaccharides (marshmallow, flax, chia, cinnamon, fenugreek).
- Decoction: simmering herbs in water for 15 minutes or more. Used for barks, roots and hard seeds.
- Tisane/sun tea: specifically for infusing fresh herbs in water.
ALWAYS cover your herbs as they steep to retain the aromatic oils in the plant.
When making an herbal syrup, the traditional method involves simmering your herbs for an hour or two, regardless of whether they are leaves, flowers, roots, or barks. This is because you not only want to infuse the water with the herbs, but you also want to cook off some of the water to make a more concentrated tea.
The only difference between tea and syrup is lots and lots of honey. Any tea can be transformed into a syrup by adding equal parts honey to tea; a 50/50 split or 1:1 ratio. You can use less honey if you don’t like your syrups to be overly sweet, but honey is the only preservative in your syrup so as soon as you start reducing the amount of honey, you’ll need to remember to keep it in the fridge and use it up in 3 months.
Another option for stretching the shelf life of your home-made syrups is by fortifying them with alcohol. Brandy is the traditional spirit of choice, but feel free to play with other flavor profiles. Adding 25% alcohol to the total volume of your syrup will extend the life of your syrup tenfold.
Hawthorn Ginger Honey Syrup Recipe
1 cup hawthorn berries, pitted (fresh or dry)*
¼ cup ginger root (fresh or dry)
4 cups water
2-3 cups local honey (calculated based on the final volume of your strained tea)
Brandy or spirit of choice (optional)
- Start soaking your herbs the night before you make your syrup: In a large saucepan, bring the 4 cups water to a boil and then turn off the heat, add the hawthorn berries and ginger rhizome, cover and infuse overnight.
- If using fresh hawthorn berries, we suggest removing the seeds with a cherry pitter. Any seeds left in your pot could potentially damage the blade of your immersion blender.
- In the morning, use an immersion blender to break down your softened herbs a bit more - this will make an even stronger brew.
- Turn on the heat and simmer the water and herbs (partially covered so that the water reduces without losing too much aromatic flavor) for 1-1.5 hours. A simmer is not a boil, adjust the heat on your stove so that you are seeing minimal bubbling (usually around medium-low).
- The pectin in hawthorn will naturally thicken the water. Keep this in mind as you cook off your water, as the more water you cook off, the thicker your syrup will be. Too thick and you end up having to spread it on toast instead of taking it by the spoonful! You won't know how think your syrup is until it is cooled to room temperature.
- After 1-1.5 hours at a simmer, turn off the heat and allow the tea to cool a bit before straining out the herbs.
- Straining tip: strain your herbs using a metal strainer and fine muslin cloth (not cheese cloth). Once all the tea has passed though the cloth, gather the cloth by the edges and do a final squeeze with all your might to get the last bits of water out of the strained herb material (aka marc). This is some of the most potent tea as it has been gathering phytochemicals from deep inside the herbs.
- Note the final volume of the strained herbal tea.
- Add the honey:
- Option 1 | For a 1:1 ratio of tea to honey, add the same volume of honey to the tea as the volume of the strained tea. For example: if your strained tea measures 2 cups, add 2 cups honey to the tea. This will have a 6–12-month shelf life when kept in the fridge.
- Option 2 | For a less sweet syrup, divide the total volume of your herbal tea by 1.28. This number will be the amount of honey you add to your tea. This will have a 3-month shelf life if kept in the fridge.
- Once the tea and honey are combined, use your immersion blender on low to homogenize your ingredients completely.
- Optional alcohol step: To prolong the shelf life of your syrup, fortify it with your favorite alcohol spirit. Measure the final volume of your tea + honey preparation and add 25% alcohol to the total volume. For example: of your final volume of tea + honey is 4 cups, multiply 4 x 0.25 = 1 cup alcohol.
Your finished syrup can be stored in a mason jar or amber Boston round and kept in the refrigerator. Syrups are more diluted than tinctures, so the dose is higher. For supporting a healthy heart and strong circulation, take 1 teaspoon^ of your homemade warming Hawthorn Ginger Honey Syrup 2-3 times a day. Pour your syrup over ice with some sparkling water for a fun mocktail or add it as a sweeter sweetener to teas.*
^Dose is for a 150-pound adult. To determine a child dose, use Clark’s rule:
Child’s weight in pounds (÷) 150 pounds = the fraction of the adult dose
This product contains honey meaning that it is not suitable for children under 1 year old. Consult your health care practitioner before taking this or any other supplement.
*FDA warning: This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.