Herbal medicine and ice cream don’t usually overlap. Ice cream has a lot of sugar and generally isn’t very healthy. But sometimes you’re sick and miserable, and you just need some good comfort food. Plus, the cold of ice cream can really soothe a sore throat.
So if you’ve decided to indulge in ice cream anyway, why not make the most of things by turning it into a delicious, frozen medicine?
When choosing an herb for herbal ice cream, we will need to find something that meets two very important criteria.
- The herb has to taste good. I can’t imagine anyone craving dock root ice cream.
- The herb has to help with your illness or its symptoms.
For this ice cream, let’s choose elderberry.
We’ll even make 2 different versions—elderberry and elder flower. Elderberry ice cream will have a great taste and the flu-battling power that elderberries are known for.1)Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism the Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003. Our elder flower version will have a gentler medicinal effect and flavor. The flowers will also give it an enticing texture.
Elder Flower Ice Cream
Since flowers come before berries, let’s start with the flower ice cream first. For this recipe, you will need:
1 c. heavy whipping cream
3 c. half & half
3/4 c. sugar
1 pinch of salt
2 squirts of vanilla extract
1 c. elder flowers
Be sure to remove any pieces of stem still clinging to the flowers. Stir the ingredients together in a bowl, then pour them into an ice cream maker. Let the machine run for 30 minutes, or until the ice cream starts clumping and building up on itself.
Then, scoop your ice cream into a container and pop it into the freezer to firm up. I should have a picture of my ice cream here, but it was so delicious that we accidentally ate it all up before I took a picture.
Elderberry Ice Cream
Elderberry ice cream follows the same recipe we used above, but we substitute a cup of elderberry syrup in place of the elder flowers. You can buy elderberry syrup or make your own. And let’s be honest. Making your own is a lot more fun. If you’re not sure how to make elderberry syrup, check out this article for instructions:
(Or, check out the Making Herbal Medicine Kit to get the elderberries, bottles, labels, step-by-step video instructions, and everything else you’ll need to make elderberry syrup—plus several other essential home medicines—shipped right to your door!)
Your finished ice cream may have the slightest elderberry color remaining. It’s something like the ghost of pink. If you desire a darker ice cream—more reminiscent of your elderberry syrup—you can add a natural food coloring, such as beet juice. With four kids, I skip the beet juice to avoid the inevitable stains.
Now, let’s talk dosing. With a ratio of 1 part elder to (basically) 4 parts other ingredients . . . taking into account the standard dosage for elder products . . . carry the one . . . convert that to metric . . . .
Okay. Got it. The recommended dosage is to eat it until you feel better. At least that’s how we do it at my house.
Some of you will want real numbers. I can respect that. A lot of people take 1 tablespoon of elderberry syrup four times a day when sick. Assuming that’s you, this would become 1/3 cup of elderberry ice cream, four times a day. But, seriously, who eats 1/3 cup of ice cream?
When I’m sick, I’m not measuring out careful portions. But that’s me. If you’re sensitive to elderberries, or just being cautious, you might opt for the elder flower version. Elder flowers have a much more delicate effect and are often used with children.
What else can you do with this? (I love options. Don’t you?)
Once you’ve had success with elder flower ice cream, why not expand into other edible flowers? It would be easy to replace elder flowers with rose petals, wood sorrel blooms, dandelion petals, or violets. You could even make a wildflower mix. Imagine the reaction that would create at your next get-together!
In place of elderberry syrup, you could use a strong herbal tea.
I emphasize strong. You want the maximum amount of plant extract for the water content.
You’ll want to reduce the water content down as much as possible. The reason for this is that the high water content of an herbal tea can make your ice cream more ice than cream. Elderberry syrup, with its higher sugar content, tends to have less of an effect in this regard.
You can also use tinctures in herbal ice cream. Tinctures and flavor extracts are created in basically the same way. Use them as you would any flavoring. So instead of reaching for that almond extract in your spice cabinet, why not reach into your tincture cabinet (everybody has one of those, right?) and make chamomile ice cream?
I feel that I should probably add just a word of caution here. While the tincture will be diluted through your ice cream, you should still use some common sense caution with plants that you choose. Tinctures are very powerful concentrates of plant constituents. Use good judgment, and consult an herbalist if you are unsure about a tincture.
Herbal ice cream may not be guilt-free, but it certainly is guilt-reduced. Why not give it a try the next time you need a pick-me-up?
Have you ever made your own medicinal ice cream? Do you have any ideas for other wildcrafty ice creams? Let me know in the comments, and we’ll have a virtual ice cream social!
Psst! Our Lawyer Wants You to Read This Big, Bad Medical Disclaimer —> The contents of this article, made available via The Grow Network (TGN), are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice; the Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information provided by TGN. Reliance on any information provided by this article is solely at your own risk. And, of course, never eat a wild plant without first checking with a local expert.
Scott Sexton is a TGN Trailblazer, a highly experimental gardener, an unrelenting weed-eater, and a largely non-profit herbalist (much to his wife’s chagrin). When Scott is not teaching foraging classes, testing out theories in the garden, or grazing in the forest, he can be found at his Facebook page, “A Forager’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse.”
|Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism the Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003.