herbal remedies

Oxymels, Elixirs, Shrubs: What's the difference?


what is an oxymel?

Oxymel is a sour, herbal tonic. It is always made with honey, followed by vinegar and herbs making it the perfect mixture of sweet and sour. Gaining in popularity in the non-alcoholic cocktail world, the most common oxymel known by most is the herbal remedy Fire Cider (we have a great fire cider recipe here).


Oxymels are recommended for out, insomnia, coughs, congestion, sore throats, ears and backs. They can also be rubbed on vegetables prior to eating to ease digestion. 


Cold infusing or heat infusing, these oxymels are a quick stuffing of a jar with herbs, honey and warmed (not boiled) apple cider vinegar. Screw on a plastic top (or if using metal, use plastic wrap in between to avoid corrosion), watch it infuse on your counter for 2 to 6 weeks. Strain the oxymel, then store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one year. 


Oxymels are great to cook with as a vinegar or brine replacement, used as a dressing on a salad, or added to a herbal tea. They are a great side-kick to a mean gin and tonic, and arguably add a healthy twist; or at least I will keep telling myself that.


What is a shrub?

Shrub is a refreshing summer drink that’s a combination of vinegar, fruit, and sugar. Shrub can be made two ways: with heat by simmering fresh fruit in simple syrup or the cold approach by tossing fresh fruit in sugar and letting it sit for a few days. Shrub purists may say that using heat is a cheating and not a TRUE shrub; either way is delicious. 

To make a shrub, start by gathering your fruit, sugar, and vinegar in a 1:1:1 ratio. 

Cold process:
1 pound chopped fruit
2 cups sugar
2 cups vinegar

Heat process: 
1 pound fruit
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup vinegar

When picking a vinegar for your shrub, think about what will pair well with your fruit. Plain white vinegar has a very sharp flavor and not used as much; whereas apple cider vinegar is much more common. White or red wine vinegar, champagne vinegar, and coconut vinegar also work well. A splash of balsamic has been known to add a blast of flavor to a berry shrub, but only a little is needed and the rest can be a cider or wine vinegar. 

For the sugar, white and brown sugar both work; brown sugar will add a flavor element while white sugar will allow the fruit to be the main flavor profile.  Some experiment with using honey, maple syrup or agave.


what is an elixir?

elixir = tea + medicinal extracts + calories (fats, carbs, protein)


There are different categories to include when making your own unique health elixir blends:

Tea: The liquid portion can be any herbal or caffeinated tea, or even just hot water. My favorite tea bases, which are pretty versatile, are Holy Basil and Gynostemma. Holy Basil is prized in Ayurveda and has a nice, robust, balanced flavor. Gynostemma has many of the medicinal nutrients of ginseng but is brewed easily in leaf form with a natural sweetness.

Medicinal powders/extracts/tinctures: Cacao, Maca, Reishi, Ashwagandha, Shilajit, Lucuma, Matcha, Turmeric (see expanded list below)

Fats: Coconut oil, MCT oil, Ghee, Flax oil, Grapeseed oil, Nut milks/creamers, Cacao Butter

Proteins: Collagen, Nut milks, Chia seed, Coconut manna, Vegan protein blend

Carbs/Sweeteners: Stevia and Monk Fruit extract are good options for people trying to avoid sugar completely. Other options are small amounts of maple syrup, honey, agave, dates, berries (goji), or licorice tea.

Spices: Cinnamon, Cardamon, Ginger, Vanilla extract, Chai spices, etc.


Adaptogens: ashwagandha, maca, ginseng, eleuthero, holy basil, rhodiola, reishi, schizandra, cordyceps

Anti-inflammatory: ginger, turmeric, boswellia, cloves, devil’s claw, cat’s claw

Antioxidants: raw cacao, cloves, matcha, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, blue butterfly pea

Calming: lavender, passionflower, vanilla, catnip, chamomile, lemon balm, CBD

Cleansing/detoxifying: milk thistle, lemon, ginger, turmeric, dandelion root, schizandra, cayenne

Digestive support: anise, cardamom, lemongrass, peppermint, slippery elm, marshmallow root, fennel, chamomile, gentian, ginger

Energy/Focus: cacao, bacopa, rhodiola, chaga, green tea, cordyceps, ginkgo, ginseng, shilajit, gotu kola, lion’s mane 

Hormone balancing: ashwagandha, shatavari, black cohosh, maca, schizandra, mucuna

Immune boosting: astragalus, reishi, cat’s claw, lemon, rose petal, turkey tail chaga, echinacea, elderberry

Let’s connect! Follow along on InstagramFacebook, and Pinterest. If you make this recipe, I’d love to see! Tag your instagram versions with @homestead.onthehill and #homesteadonthehill.