A glass of wine can be a lovely way to unwind after a long day. So can a hot mug of chamomile herbal tea. But what if you could combine the best of both worlds?
Long before tincturing in distilled spirits became standard, herbalists used wine and beer to deliver medicine. Infused wine is an incredibly easy way to prepare a medicinal that most people won’t mind taking… yes, you can drink your wine and take your medicine too!
Best known for its ability to promote relaxation, chamomile (Matricaria recutita) has a very long history of medicinal use, dating back to ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Today, chamomile is included in the pharmacopoeia of 26 countries, including British, French and German. In fact, we have the German settlers to thank (dankeschön, guys!) for chamomile’s introduction to the United States in the 19th century. It’s anti-inflammatory, anti-allergenic, anti-bacterial and sedative properties ensure that it continues to be one of the most versatile plants in our herbal apothecary.
Chamomile’s energetics are neutral and somewhat cooling with a mildly bitter, sweet taste and specific organ affinities for the digestive system, the liver, the reproductive system, the nervous system and the skin. As a mild bitter, chamomile is wonderful for relieving digestive cramping and soothing the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Its anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic and mildly sedative properties are also helpful for relieving menstrual cramps, anxiety, insomnia and other symptoms of PMS.
Of course, you could make homemade herbal wine from scratch, fermenting herbs along with the fruit… but it’s a long, arduous process, and who has time for that? This handy little shortcut harnesses the medicinal goodness of chamomile using white wine as the menstruum, (menstruum = the solvent used to extract medicinal constituents from herbs, such as water, alcohol, vinegar, oil, etc.) It’s also a great trick to jazz up inexpensive wine.
The best part is, it’ll be ready to drink in about a week. (Though I recommend you start taste-testing after two or three days. The longer it infuses, the more of chamomile’s bitter properties will transfer into the wine, so for less bitterness, you may prefer to shorten the steeping time.) I would also add the honey in increments until you reach a level of sweetness that works for you. Personally, I find 4 tablespoons to be too sweet, and I’ve settled on half that amount.
It really couldn’t be easier. And once you get the hang of infusing your own wines, you’ll want to branch out and try other herbs too. How about dandelion blossoms, rose petals or lemon balm? Feel free to mix up the citrus zest too… I’m thinking chamomile and grapefruit zest sounds like a wonderful combo to try next.
So grab a jar and get infusing! The general directions are the same. You’re only limited by your imagination! ??
- 1 liter dry white wine
- 1 c dried chamomile flowers
- grated zest of 1 orange
- 1-1/2 oz light rum (optional)
- 4 T honey (or to taste)
- Pour wine into a clean glass jar or bottle.
- Add chamomile, orange zest and rum.
- Cover and steep for 1 week.
- Strain through a coffee filter, add honey to taste and pour it into a clean container.
- Seal and store for up to 1 year.
Recipe by Leah A. Zeldes