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Holiday Fun with Herbs [plant medicine] Mironova (Follow)/cokemomo (Follow)

The holidays are the perfect time to play and create with herbs. Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, peppermint, orange and sage are just a few of the amazing tastes and smells that permeate our homes and bring smiles to our faces this time of year.

Cooking and crafting with herbs are wonderful ways to share time with your children or grandchildren. An easy holiday craft for younger children can be something as simple as wrapping some aromatic mulling spices (about 2 tablespoons) in a square of cheesecloth or into a muslin bag and tying it up with some baker’s twine. Kids can color a little instruction tag to tie on the bag, and they now have some nice holiday gifts for everyone.

Speaking of mulling spices, here are some ideas and variations you might like to sample. The combinations are many, just a matter of your preference. Typically, we use herbs such as cardamom, ginger, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorn, nutmeg, vanilla beans, orange or lemon peel, and anise stars. There is no specific recipe or ingredient amounts to this blend; make them according to your liking.

Once you mix up your desired recipe, you can add them to a nice red or white wine. Pour your wine into a stock pot and add your herb blend. Let it simmer for 30 minutes. Depending on the wine chosen, you could also zest a bit of lemon or orange peel for an extra kick. Because this is a busy time of year, we like to make this in our slow cooker before a family event; it makes the entire house smell just like the holidays. It’s a two-for-one: great drink and a house that smells divine. This will definitely set the festive tone for your family affairs. Oh, and because this is the holidays … if red wine isn’t enough for you, try adding a cup or two of brandy to your mix. Heavenly.

Mulled wine is great, but what about the kids? They will love a spiced apple cider (or juice) and can help in the making. This can be made on the stove or slow cooker, just like your wine recipe. Use apple cider as a base and then add your herb blend to it. Let it brew all day and then enjoy. It’s fun to serve this spiced cider with a nice, long cinnamon stick the kids can use to stir it with, or maybe an orange slice, or one or two anise seeds floating on top.

Ever heard of a pomander ball? This is a perfect activity for young hands this time of year when the kids are so antsy and excited for the big day. It simply involves piercing an orange (or any citrus fruit) with whole cloves to be used as a tree ornament, a centerpiece for your holiday meals, or as an air freshener. The young ones like to add as many as they can until you can’t see any of the fruit peel, but as they get older, you can see patterns, name initials, and stars being made with the cloves. It is fun to watch their imaginations blossom as they mature. Sometimes it is hard to pierce that tough skin of the orange for the smallest of hands, so using a toothpick to pierce the skin first helps those little ones not get too frustrated. The history of pomanders is interesting as well. Herbalists and healers used to make these to ward off sickness or to bring good fortune, and they were hung at entryways of homes to make sure everyone entering was of “good energy.” So, if you are doing it for pleasure or for healing, we hope you enjoy the experience with family gathered around the dining room table.

These activities are fun and provide good family time, but let’s not forget all the amazing healing and nutritional properties of our beautiful botanicals. May your holidays be filled with laughter, love, and lots and lots of delicious herbs!

Madalyn Johnson (left) and Kathleen Gould (right)
Kathleen Gould, registered herbalist, and Madalyn Johnson are proprietors of SW Herb Shop and Gathering Place. Gould has been an herbalist for 30-plus years and has extensive experience in herbal medicine. For more information, call 480-694-9931 or visit or

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