Monday, October 30, 2017

Black Strap Syrups



Black Strap Syrups 
Adrian White ~ www.deernationherbs.com
originally published in The Essential Herbal Magazine, Jul/Aug '14

Spring time does not have to be all about "spring cleaning" for our bodies; nor does winter time have to be about fighting off the sporadic illness with acute cold remedies.  Year-round, whether it be spring, summer, fall or winter, we can also focus on keeping our immune system on its toes.  There are several immune-boosting tonic herbs out there you can turn to, like the popular Reishi, Astragalus and Licorice, while pulling out your plants high in Vitamin C like Elder, Rose hips and Sumac berry give you an added edge.  But generally, it is good to get as much nutrition in as you can.  Some of us struggle with getting enough of any vitamins and minerals in our diet, especially Vitamin D, which we principally receive through sunlight, or magnesium which is painfully absent in a large part of our western diets.  As someone of the above ilk, and also tending towards the more wan and iron-depleted “Vata” disposition (and also being pretty poor), this is something I have to think about seriously, whether it’s spring or winter.  For people like us, this can drastically effect our immune systems as well as our sense of general well-being and health.  Really, we can take all that we can get.

What can we depend on, from season to season, when herb availability fluctuates and some are growing at one time, and fast asleep at others?  How can we keep our spring-tonic and nutritious herbs with us no matter the climate or weather?  Some may suggest tinctures or other preparations, but truth be told, alcohol extracts do not succeed in macerating and preserving minerals as well as we would like to.  Vinegar aceta have their virtues, but still fall short.  This is why I am fond of herbal syrups—and not your average syrups, but Black Strap Molasses syrups.
 
Not all herbal syrups have to be cough syrups, and honey has been found to be one of the best mediums for holding and preserving vitamins and minerals.  Not to mention– honey (raw or organic) in small tablespoon doses is high in its own mineral content.  Think of it this way: instead of making your big pot of Nettle tea and trying to down the wonderful green sludge throughout your entire day, you instead make a more concentrated infusion and fix it into a syrup.  Then you are just taking that amount as a tablespoon supplement, bit by bit, throughout your day.  You can mix it into your coffeeor tea.  Also– it is sweet!

But what is so great about adding Black Strap Molasses into the mix?  Well, it is one of the highest sources of minerals, is affordable, and has a very long perishability.  In even teaspoon amounts, you can get a substantial part of your mineral intake in: Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Manganese, Selenium, and Copper are found in amazing amounts.  The downside to Black Strap?  I am sure if you have tasted molasses, you would understand what the downside is.  Some love its taste, but to the vast majority, molasses is overwhelming to the taste and smell, which can be discouraging to so many who may sorely need it.
Which is why I have come up with a general “Herbal Black Strap Syrup” recipe.  It takes away the intensity of the molasses, bringing it a sweeter palatability; but it also allows you to infuse your syrup with herbs chock full of vitamins which the molasses does not represent.  The product you get is an herbal medicine that is full of Vitamins AND minerals (sometimes more), lasts throughout the year, tastes good, and is quite convenient to use whenever you wish to take it.  If you already have your own herbal syrup recipe, well, it’s quite simple—craft your syrup, then add in Black Strap Molasses in at the end.  I will also provide my own recipe for starters at the end of this article.

IDEAL BLACK-STRAP HERBS.  Think of any highly nutritious herb, and you can easily craft it into this beautiful syrup.  Practically any classic spring tonic herb may apply, but the possibilities (and combinations) are many, and quite thrilling to think about!

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica, Urtica urens).  
The feared and overlooked super-food of our time is perhaps the most ideal candidate for a black syrup.  There is a big stigma on this plant because of its name and its sting, and yet Nettle’s nutritional value has been compared to that of spinach, kale, and most seaweeds and kelps.  It grows everywhere in thick clumps, and yet we struggle with poor diets in this country!  Nettles are the highest land-bound source of protein from wild plants in the U.S., but also incredibly high in iron, calcium, vitamins A and B, iodine and magnesium.  Coupled with black strap, you have here an herbal remedy that will fix most nutrient deficiencies.  Practically every base is covered, except Vitamin B12.  To boot, a black nettle syrup helps with spring respiratory infections, allergies, and even minor asthma issues.

Chickweed (Stellaria media).  A popular spring tonic, Chickweed has its own nutritional assets to offer.  Calcium, potassium, Vitamin C and Iron are fairly plentiful in this little herb.  It can’t compare to Nettles but it makes up for it with the ability for cleansing after a long winter.  To fix this one into a black syrup, Chickweed must be cold-infused a day or two beforehand, juiced, or made into a succus.  I prefer juicing it, straining it out, putting the infusion on a low heat (lower than simmer) and then adding the honey and black strap until it blends to dark emerald-green perfection.

Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus).  Traditionally, the root of this plant was thought to be high in iron, but this has since been debunked.  It is still arguable that it contains a marked amount of nutrients, since it has been used traditionally to treat anemia for so long, and with success.  Most of all, it helps the gut assimilate nutrition exceptionally well.  Yellow Dock is also an alterative and spring-cleaning herb that corrects imbalances of the digestive system, and it will certainly ensure that what’s available in the black strap has the most beneficial impact it can have.  Perhaps it would be most suitable for those who need nutrition but lack the digestive strength to fully absorb it!

Burdock (Arctium lappa).  Burdock is well-known for how perfectly it lends itself to syrups and glycerites.  This makes it the ideal candidate for a black syrup, having many significant nutrient sources such as Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, and Manganese.  Combined with a more nutritious herb, you’ll have quite the daily supplement.  It is also a favored spring tonic, especially for liver and bowel problems, but has been known to clear up acne and other skin issues.

Horsetail (Equisitem arvense).  This ancient and ubiquitous plant grows practically anywhere where marshy, watery habitats can be found.  Why it may be so desirable for a syrup is its availability, as well as high amounts of minerals not found in abundance in other plant sources: Silica especially, but also Vitamin E and several others.  The more young and tender it is, the more nutritious.  Combined with Nettles, a Horsetail black syrup would cover a lot of your nutritional bases and be incredibly helpful for seasonal allergies, arthritis and joint issues!

Medicinal Mushrooms!  Incorporating medicinal mushrooms successfully into a blackstrap syrup may be a bit more for the advanced herbalist.  What needs to be said, though, is that many mushrooms are not only medicinal, but also have amazing amounts of nutrients consistently lacking from our diets!  Notable mushrooms of this ilk are shiitakes, oysters, lion’s mane, turkey tails, reishis, chaga, even morels and boletes.  Vitamin B6, Vitamin D, Protein, Fiber, Zinc, and Magnesium can be found in significant amounts, some more so than others.  I was surprised by the high amounts of iron found in most gourmet varieties!  Some people just cannot get over the taste, or texture, of mushrooms, in spite of what they have to offer.  Which makes a robust black syrup perfect.  On a more remedial level, these mushrooms have proven to help against viruses, HIV, Cancer/Post-Chemo, Allergies, while boosting immune function.

Getting the full benefit of a mushroom black syrup is more difficult than herbal syrups made with plants.  You must double-extract medicinal mushrooms, as all the different constituents yield themselves to different mediums.  The typical double-extraction method states that you must tincture one half of your mushrooms in a high-proof alcohol, then decoct the other half—there are recipes for double-extracting, so go looking for one.  While doing the decoction portion of the recipe, simply turn that into your syrup!  After adding black strap molasses and letting the syrup cool a little bit, then you slowly add your mushroom tincture half, and you have your mushroom syrup.

Finally- the recipe itself!  I use Stinging Nettles most often with this, so it will be my main example.

Black Nettle Syrup
What You’ll Need:
•    Dried (or Fresh) Stinging Nettles (at least 1 cup OK)
•    20-30 oz. honey (preferably organic; raw is ok)
•    15-20 oz. Black Strap Molasses
•    Water
•    A few hours of your time
-Fill a small to medium pot with water on stove top.  Bring water to a gentle simmer, then add your nettles to create initial “infusion”.  Cover.  Let this go for a time, until water is a very dark green.  You can leave it to simmer, or just leave it on low heat.  The sludgier looking the better (more vitamins/minerals).  You may add more water if too much evaporates, and infuse as long as you prefer.  It may take a while.
-Once you have created your desired infusion, strain out herb from the infusion and put in a new clean pot.  Add your honey and bring up to a simmer again.
-At this point, you are “simmering down” your syrup to the consistency you like.   This may also take  a while.  Stir a bit here and there if you want.  Some syrups can be runnier with more water content, others can be simmered down more to be a bit thicker.  It just depends up on the length of simmering.  A couple notes: syrups are runnier at a higher temperature, so it will be a bit thicker when it is cooled down.  Also, you have yet to add Black Strap Molasses, which may also add thickness.
-Final step: once you have simmered down to your desired syrup consistency, add the Molasses to the mixture and stir while it is still hot.  Let cool.
-Add cooled Black Nettle Syrup to desired container, preferably glass and amber-tinted.  Make sure to store syrup in fridge when not in use.

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