By Jordan Douglas, HHC
Cordials are one of the most delectable and celebratory ways to enjoy herbal medicine. Cordials are herbal remedies from the heart — the name is derived from the Latin cor, meaning heart — making them an ideal herbal preparation to enjoy in the expansive, heart-opening season of summer. Cordials are sweetened herbal extracts, made from endless combinations of herbs, spices, liquor and a sweetener. This type of beverage was very popular in the 15th century, and is still enjoyed today as Cynar, Fernet and Jagermeister. Herbal cordials can be medicinal, supporting specific systems or honoring certain seasons, though the most important medicine is sharing the beverage in joy and celebration with good friends and family.
Hawthorn is of my personal favorite herbs, and is a true heart tonic. It is in the rose family, and the berry, leaf and flower can all be used as medicine. Energetically it is astringent and cooling, making it an ideal summertime herb. The berries are slightly sweet while the leaves are slightly bitter. Hawthorn restores and nourishes the cardiovascular system and nervous system alike. It soothes, strengthens and is incredibly nutritive. Hawthorn has a very long and rich history of use. According to Ellingwood, a physician of the Eclectic medical tradition, it dispels gloomy forebodings, increases the strength, regulates the action of the heart, and causes a general sense of well-being. This description is as accurate today as it was in 1919!
This summertime cordial combines hawthorn with other heart herbs (rose, hibiscus, vanilla) along with gentle spices (cinnamon, ginger, cardamom). The herbs and spices are soaked in brandy along with sweetener of choice. I’ve made this with both raw, local honey and herbal-infused syrups with equally delicious results.
In a quart-sized mason jar, combine:
- 1 cup dried hawthorn berries
- 3T dried hibiscus flowers
- 2T dried rose petals
- 1 pink lady apple, small dice
- 1t minced fresh ginger
- 1 ceylon cinnamon stick
- 3 cardamom pods, crushed
- 1 vanilla bean or 1t vanilla extract
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1/3 cup raw local honey or herbal syrup (lavender and lemon balm are both delicious)
- 1/3 cup cooled tulsi rose tea or pomegranate juice
- 1/5 cups brandy, or to cover
Stir everything well. Cover and label. Let sit in a cool dark place for at least 4 weeks (the longer, the better!), making sure to shake daily. Strain, press and rebottle. Add a couple of ounces of the cordial to sparkling water, and garnish with a bit of mint or lemon balm. Enjoy in love, expansion and celebration with good company!