Spicebush, Lindera benzoin, the namesake of this business and blog, is clearly one of my favorite shrubby friends. Right now, if you live here in WNC, you'll notice the brilliant red berries dotting the female Spicebush shrubs you encounter. People ask me what to do with the berries frequently, and I wanted to quickly share a few ideas with you. But first from Monticello:
"American Indians made a tea from the bark of Lindera benzoin or spicebush as a “blood purifier” and for sweating, colds, rheumatism and anemia. Settlers used a twig tea to treat colds, fevers, worms, gas and colic and bark tea to expel worms, for typhoid fevers and a diaphoretic for other fevers. Stem bark extract strongly inhibits the growth of Candida albicans, a yeast organism normally found in the mouth, vagina and anus but which can grow out of control with a change in environment. The berries were used by the American Indians to make a tea for coughs, cramps, delayed menses, croup and measles and by the settlers to prevent gas and flatulence and colic. Fruit oil was applied to treat chronic rheumatism, bruises, muscles and joints. Leaves contain a small amount of camphor and can be used as an insect repellent. (Foster and Duke, p. 283)."
"Lindera benzoin was not mentioned the first edition of the United States Dispensatory (1833), an early official compilation of plant drugs and their preparations. The fact that it was omitted indicates that Indian applications were slow to catch on among European settlers who evidently preferred to use the hard honeycomb-like berries as an allspice substitute rather than as medicinal remedy. Spicebush was only briefly mentioned in the Dispensatory’s 2nd edition. (Lloyd and Lloyd)."
Spicebush Tea: Keepin' it Simple
Simply boil water, and pour over twigs and leaves of fresh or dried spicebush. The berries can be used as well, yet because of their oil content they go rancid if stored at room temperature. Store them in the freezer or fridge and use as needed.
Spicebush is a diaphoretic, meaning it promotes sweating and is useful for colds, flus and of course fevers. It was a popular remedy for fever among Native folks and european settlers alike. One of it's folk names is "feverbush".
Take well dried berries (never use wet material in honey infusions, it can spoil and promote mold. If you want to use fresh berries, check out this more recent post). Gently warm honey, not to boiling, in a double boiler and add 1/4 c. berries to 1 quart of honey. Allow to warm and infuse on the stove top, occasionally stirring for 15-20 minutes. Pout into a clean jar and lid, allow to sit one week, occasionally stirring with a clean spoon in the jar. Strain out the berries after one week, and store honey out of direct sunlight in a cool, dry place. Use 2 tablespoons of this honey in combination with other herbs for cold and flu like Bee Balm, Boneset, Mints, etc.
Other Awesome Recipes from Around the Blogosphere:
Spicebush Acorn Jelly
Spicebush Ice Cream with Sour Cream
Mugwort Spicebush Stout Recipe
Making Spicebush Flavored Milk or Cream for Custards and Desserts
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