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Making healthy herbal vinegars

We are used to the idea of herbal and floral vinegars in cooking but their use as preventative medicine has largely been forgotten. In fact they are one of the earliest medicines – the vinegar itself is full of amino acids, vitamins and minerals and it also extracts these from any herbs and flowers you use. All through my 20s I suffered recurrent bouts of tonsillitis. Since beginning to take a shot of apple cider vinegar every time I felt my throat begin to tingle I haven’t had a single episode.

Here there are recipes for two kinds of herbal vinegar…

The first is a floral one which can be taken every day, the elderflower helps build immunity to colds and the rose is anti-inflammatory and also makes the vinegar a beautiful colour.

The second is a cold fighting one, full of warming and bug fighting things – possibly not as nice to taste, but much better than a cold!

You need:

  • Wide necked sterilised jar with a non-metallic lid. I find it is better to make small amounts of things before you work out whether you are going to use them up, rather than going into full production and ending up with things that don’t get used.
  • These instructions are for large jam jars/small Kilner jars. You can scale up or down the ingredients, as there is no need to be precise.
  • Weight of some kind (small saucer, washed stone) to keep everything under the liquid.
  • Apple cider vinegar – preferably unpasteurised.
  • Fresh or dried ingredients.
  • Sterilised bottle to decant into; label.

Elderflower and rose vinegar


  • 10 elderflower heads – all stem removed
  • Petals from 3 full red unsprayed roses
  • 500 ml apple cider vinegar (or as much fits in your jar)


Put the flowers in layers into your jar.

Pour in enough vinegar to cover.

Put a weight on top to keep the flowers under the liquid.

Put the lid on top – if your jar has a metal lid, use waxed paper/beeswax wrap and an elastic band instead.

Put in kitchen cupboard for 4-6 weeks (put note on calendar) check every no wand again that the flowers are under the vinegar.

Strain out the flowers with muslin.

Decant into bottle and label.

I keep mine in the fridge and use it for cooking as well as for medicine – if you don’t have a sweet tooth, it works well with fizzy water and some ice as a refreshing drink.

Cold busting hot vinegar


  • 2 red chillis split vertically
  • 2 cloves garlic sliced
  • 2 inches ginger grated
  • Rind from unwaxed lemon
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • I sliced onion (optional, as I find that adding in the
  • onions reduces the number of people who will drink this, as it then smells of onion)
  • 500 ml apple cider vinegar (or as much as will fit in your jar)


Layer up all the ingredients in your jar.

Pour in enough vinegar to cover.

Put a weight on top to make sure everything stays under the liquid.

Put lid on top – if your jar has a metal lid use waxed paper/beeswax wrap and an elastic band instead.

Put in kitchen cupboard or fridge for 4-6 weeks.

Strain through muslin and decant into bottle.

This can be mixed with honey as a cough medicine or drunk neat. A shot glass amount should be taken three times a day at first signs of a cold/sore throat.

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I am a bit of a womble.  My Studio is a layering of things that have been found, things that have been saved, things that have been given to me - I like to be surrounded by a bit of history. ⁠⠀
I am known as an avid skip diver so people kindly keep me things.  This weekend I am off to pick up 13 sash windows rescued from a skip.⁠⠀
This is my dye cupboard - the mordants and other powders, the piles of fabrics and yarns, my newly started record book and the glue to paste the swatches in.⁠⠀
It has had a hard life - the back is patched with hinges as plates, there are many, many layers of paint and a door has gone missing along the way.  It is perfect.⁠⠀
Back when I grew flowers commercially the area that is now ‘the orchardy bit’ was rows and rows of spring bulbs.⁠ In the years where the deer didn’t eat the tulips they looked magnificent, stripe upon stripe of pure pigment. ⠀
When I turned my back on growing for money, we simply took out the beds and levelled it, turning it back to grass.⁠⠀
The tulips quickly gave up - never brilliantly perennial here anyway, they took the opportunity to fade out fast.⁠ Well if you don’t want us . . . ⠀
The narcissi loved it though and every year appeared back in their serried rows through the grass. ⁠There was something disturbingly grave like about them.
My planting  ever since has all been an attempt to disguise that - feathering the edges, making little islands, trying to make it all look haphazard.⁠⠀
Gradually it is working - this is the edge of what would have been a bed of Narcissi geranium (best vase life, along with best scent) - now happily interspersed with a pheasants eye and a little lemon coloured one I have lost the name of.
And the hedges beginning to vibrate with that gloriously specific spring green.
This week has been about experimenting.⁠⠀
Experimenting with all the ways to dye with daffodils, experimenting with the new e-course part of my website, experimenting with shooting and editing videos on my phone.⁠⠀
My business hero is @sethgodin and his mantra is 'ship it' - a way of saying that the best way to learn is to make things and get them out in front of people before they are polished and 'perfect'.⁠⠀
So I took his advice and combined all three experiments. Today's newsletters will have links to a free e-course all about dyeing wool with daffodils.⁠⠀
I have been absolutely amazed by the colour you get from faded daffodil flowers (see the second photo). It is a bright, yet somehow soft, golden yellow which is now adding an amazing zing to my pile of plant dyed fabrics.⁠⠀
I am prone to obsessions.  My brain hones in on topics and rabbit holes away, a constant background chatter to my life.⁠⠀
It annoys the people I live with as my world shrinks to one topic. ⠀
My camera roll shows me it is three years ago this week that I returned to natural dyeing with plants, concentrating on using only the plants growing within a couple of miles.⁠⠀
Three years of experimenting with plant after plant, three years of googling and reading obscure articles and piling up samples. ⁠three years of conversation about mordants and modifiers. ⠀
Three years is a short time in such a slow craft. A blink of an eye. ⁠⠀
But already I can see a difference in my skill.⁠⠀
This is a corner of the cupboard where I stash my fabrics and yarns building up enough for a project.  These have all been dyed this year - with barks and cones. ⁠⠀
This week I am dyeing with bright deadheaded daffodils and the golden yellows will join these soft terracottas and pinks while I dream up something to make.
I grow very few white flowers. ⁠⠀
White summer flowers tend to mark in the rain - white roses look like discarded tissues, white dahlias spot brown.  Even cosmos purity - which I do grow - goes droopy and grey in a way that the coloured versions don't.⁠⠀
The petals of spring bulbs however seem rain resistant - so I can indulge my love of white flowers and enjoy them backlit by the morning sun on the Studio window shelf.
Bright and light and pretty.
I am spending a lot of time in the greenhouse at the moment - playing an endless game of jenga with my seed trays.⁠⠀
Many of the seedlings are for the community gardens - being planted out gradually under fleece. We are biding time, taking the cautious route so that we minimise the risk of everything being wiped out by a very cold night.⁠⠀
We still have a full month of frosts to go here - little ones of -2 or 3 are manageable, an extra covering of fleece, some bricks to act like a storage heater.  Most hardy seedlings will recover from getting their tips nipped a bit.⁠⠀
Last year though we had a really cold night in mid May, when growth was going well and sappily. It blasted the blossom and killed many of my hardy veg too. Slightly too late to resow.⁠⠀
Speak to the older generation of gardeners and they all sowed and planted out much later than is the fashion today.  They perhaps had a point.
I wrote in my Friday letter this week about the sudden lifting of the uncertainty and inertia that had been dogging me for a few months.⁠⠀
It's always easier to write about these things once they are resolved - do you find that?  Once I am unstuck and lolloping along happily again, I can look at it all and not get sucked down.⁠⠀
Of course all this talk of getting going again, of new plans and exciting things . . . . it all actually means hard work. ⁠⠀
Head down, working through an actual written plan kind of hard work.  Not always my natural strength.⁠⠀
So yesterday I rearranged the studio window shelves and cleared the working table, ready for an uninterrupted start today. ⁠⠀
An attempt to keep momentum.

About Snapdragon Life

At Snapdragon Life I gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.


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