Monthly Archives: November 2015

Horehound Herbal Candy. Cough Drops. Plant Medicine and Confection.

Marrubio vulgare

Family: Lamiaceae



It is fall and I deleted all my other horehound pictures. drat!

But, horehound is hearty. It has many green leaves still as well as sticky seed pods that orbit between leaf growth on stems. I have been picking up seeds, stuck on my clothes.

Horehound wants to grow other places and maybe I helped deliver some.

One of my favorite places to walk our dog, Fella, is here. Covered with patches of horehound. I have admired the plant for a few years in this beautiful locale, where it grows wild.


I knew it must be horehound although I think it looks less silvery than I have read described, and decidedly more frosted looking.

So, sometimes it takes time to decipher descriptions you read of a plant but, makes it all the more interesting a journey.

Horehound feels fuzzy, like wrinkled, crinkly velveteen. It has these beautiful, crenulate leaves, square stems and beautiful discs of seed pods.


And, it is in the mint family. Although more bitter than minty.
A good bitter for digestion.
I liked the taste though and would like to try horehound beer sometime. A traditional beer.



I always was curious about horehound candy as a child and on Western shows, children were sure to suck on a stick of hard candy, often horehound candy.

My grandmother, mother and aunts would get together around the holidays when I was growing up and make a type of rock or hard candy called beach glass candy. My mom grew up in an ocean town and I always enjoyed the baby food jars or other small jars filled with the bright, snipped bits of multicolored beach glass candy inside. All different flavors. yum.

My life is a little bit homesteading, off grid, work in an herbal shop and slowly I am teaching myself. All about plants, a bit of gardening, jelly and jam making, salt preserving food and bits of old time skills here and there.

I went through a sewing phase a few years back and would really love to find an old time Singer Sewing machine complete with treadle and hand wheel. The original off grid kind. 🙂

I’ve always been fascinated with candy making but haven’t done much. I’ve made chocolate truffles which were a blast and one batch of jelly tasted reminiscent of cotton candy. sugar, sugar sugar to bring it to gel.

But, horehound cough drops are my second attempt to make hard candy a.k.a. herbal candy…cough drops. The first time around I did not use a candy thermometer or the cold water test method so ended up with a taffy like syrup made with elderberries, which was frankly, delicious and gooey, but not hard candy. And, the second time was like a caramel! Maybe my thermometer was touching the side or bottom too much and the reading was off…

So hopefully, 3 times a charm!

With my second attempt, all that foam got downright daunting.
(I’ve read not to stir too much as air can get into the mixture and make it cloud over.) Maybe my pan was not deep enough or I stirred too much as it was foaming to the top so, I scooped some out at the syrup stage, all is not lost. The caramel or taffy consistency cough drops just don’t make it. But the cough syrup I scooped out of that batch is great.


Trial and error with herbs and candy. hard candy making…
guess they don’t call it hard candy for nothing! ha ha ☺

I have found and tried a simple, easy recipe that worked great.

I haven’t bought this much sugar, maybe ever but I had fun making hard candy. Herbal hard candy.
A cooking accomplishment for me.

It works best if you have a thick bottom pot. A thin bottom can scorch your sugar.

A greased baking tray is helpful.

Here is a fairly fool proof recipe:


and art piece ☺


Herbal Candy!

2 Cups white sugar
1/2 Cup strong herbal tea
1 ounce tincture (optional)
powdered sugar to coat candy when done (optional)
3/4 Cup light corn syrup.

A candy thermometer isn’t always foolproof but once I angled it and kept it off the bottom it worked best.

Cold water test:

Also drop mixture when you think it is done in some cold water. If it forms a hard ball it is done. It will be in thread form if not done.

Time to make the Candy a.k.a. cough drops if you like…
They taste good too, and, depending in what you add, room for creativity here!

Pour granulated sugar in pan
Add strained herbal tea and one ounce herbal tincture if you have it.
Whisk together off heat
Then turn on heat to medium using a thick bottomed pan if you can.
Add corn syrup, use wooden spoon
and stir too incorporate.
Don’t stir too much, lower heat if you need to to avoid scorching.
Angle thermometer to avoid hitting the bottom as this throws off the temperature…(yep)
listen to some good music 🎶…. wait a half hour or so, watch pot it can get foamy and unruly.
Eventually thermometer will rise to 300°
Some recipes say to bring it to 305°
but, I found 300° works better, so recommend that.
Add any food grade essential oils for flavor when temp reaches 275° fahrenheit. If adding color, add at this stage as well. Non toxic food coloring can be found too. Be careful of steam/reaction when adding essential oils or colors at these high temperatures. Some colors maintain better when removing heat at 290° but candy may be more sticky at this stage. I haven’t tried adding colors or essential oils since the cayenne, ginger and cinnamon added good flavor. And, I like the amber colored candy.

I tried transfering to a pyrex pitcher but the mixture hardened quickly off heat.
Yay! I broke the code but it was challenging. A helper would be good.

I made depressions in powdered sugar to act as a mold and also greased and lined a pan with a heap of powdered sugar too.

The powdered sugar also helps the mixture not to stick.



And it kind of worked. I broke the lozenges out of the thinner parts of candy. With the other pan I just broke the candy into bite size pieces. fun again!

Eventually I had more success pouring the mixture all at once instead of trying to fill each depression with the hot mixture.

That is where the greased baking tray would come in handy.

In the old fashioned way to break up hard candy, in about an hour just break it with the handle side of a butter knife.

Fun and satisfying.

Coat with powdered sugar by tossing it in a pan lined with the sugar or use a bag with powdered sugar in it and shake, if you want. It’s optional.

I mixed in powdered ginger too.

These cough drops…a.k.a. herbal candy contain many goodies….
grindelia, horehound and thyme tincture, and these herbs in the tea: red root, horehound, cayenne, cinnamon, ginger, thyme, and osha!



sugar sugar sugar how about minus sugar recipes… here goes!

You can also make Sugarfree Lozenges!

Use slippery elm powder as the flour. Or marshmallow root powder. I wasn’t sure if marshmallow root powder would work but it worked great.

Slippery elm is on an herbal watchlist. Due to overharvesting and elm diseases.
An herbal friend has used Siberian Elm that worked well.

Look for cultivated Slippery elm or try marshmallow root powder. It worked well for me too.

Make an herbal tea, strain and
let the tea cool. Licorice tea or other herbs such as red root or osha would work well here.

Add enough tea to form a dough.
Mix and pat the dough into a ball.


Press or roll into shape.
Use small cookie cutters or a bottle cap or just cut strips into small pieces, lozenge size.


Dusted with powdered ginger, soothing to sore throats.

Slippery elm powder mixed with a strained herbal tea made from horehound, licorice, osha, red root.

Have fun with this! You can use the slippery elm as a method to mix lots of herbs.

Consider a happy mood lozenge.
Or a soothing tummy lozenge…
Possibilities are happily endless here.

Slippery elm, alone, has many health benefits: mucilage, soothing to gastric tissues, in combination with licorice can heal ulcers, helps heal mucous membranes -throat, etc.

Slippery elm lozenges are a fun activity to do with kids of all ages!

Try other herbal powders too!


This is the marshmallow root dough


And, the marshmallow lozenges cut into shape.

*A tip for drying lozenges. Mine molded. Even when dried for a few days. I recommend purified water, and drying on lowest setting of an oven til completely dry. Air dry first if you like.

Also honey or tiny amounts of stevia can be added to sweeten.

Lemon balm, elder berry and mints make nice flavor additions to counteract bitter herbs.


Hard Candy Cleanup Tips!

Clean up works best with very hot water. It dissolves the candy. Some people suggest adding vinegar to the hot water. Soap and a scrubby sponge helps. But hot water is the trick.

Careful not to immerse the thermometer into cold water after cooking with it, as it could break!



And the cough drops in a fun, recycled jar.

The herbal hard candy looks metallic but is a deep amber brown topped with powdered sugar and ginger.

They taste mildly spicey too. Not bad for medicine afterall.

And, horehound in a happy autumn field.


Fun with cough drops and lozenges, who knew?


Trementina. The Power of Pine Pitch Resin.

Pinus edulis
Family: Pinaceae

Names: Trementina, Pine Resin, Pine Pitch, Pine


This year the piñon pine trees bore a lot of pinecones. And, last year I gathered jewelled globs of pine pitch resin. I knew there were uses for this resin but the incentive did not inspire me til now to make salve from it. The stickiness of pine pitch daunted me… but, it wasn’t the problem I thought it would be.


First snow of the year and trementina from a nearby piñon tree.

As some of you have read, I wrote a post about pine needle tea. It is high in vitamins C and A and is a fresh lemony tasting tea. It is an accessible tree to many and a health giving, refreshing tea that can be easily foraged.

pine needle tea

The Piñon tree is well known for its delicious piñon nuts (pine nuts) which are 15% protein, high in thiamine and oils. Delicious and used in many Southwestern dishes and often used in pestos. Pine nuts are still gathered by local families all over the Southwest as a happy ritual, gathering the plentiful harvest of nuts. And it is a huge economic crop as well. Bumper crops of nuts cycle through every seven years or so and this past fall was such a year.

Picture of ripe cones and nuts below:


Whereas, the immature, female cones can be roasted and are delicious and syrup-y in the center.

Make an easy and delicious syrup.
Gather green pine needles. Chop or grind slightly in a mortar and pestle to release herbal properties. Add to raw honey and keep in a warm place for a few weeks. Strain and now you have an easy made raw honey pine syrup!

The inner bark, or cambium, is sweet and good, cut into strips and boiled like spaghetti. Or the cambium can be dried and ground into a flour and used to thicken stews or added to other flours in recipes.

The piñon pine has been a revered staple for centuries as well as gracing the landscape of countless canyons and foothills in the Southwest and other areas on the fringe.

more piñon info here: PFAF

The pine tree was used by the Aztecs for its herbal uses.
An Aztec Herbal was compiled in 1552 and is definitely something I want to learn more from. Here is an informative site about the Aztec Herbal.


a young tree emerging:



the pitch about pitch…

Pine Pitch/Resin can be made into an all-purpose salve.


The pine tree produces this resin as a protective measure against invasian of insects, bacteria, fungus or injury.


Last years find of resin has dried to a taffy consistency.

I prefer to use resin that has dropped from the tree, rather than scraping some off of the tree.
I feel the tree needs what pitch is on it as a natural defense and protection.


From what I gathered last year,
I flipped the front piece over to show the dirt and debris stuck to the bottom of the resin. The jewelled, amber colored globs have mostly dried. I need to slowly and gently heat the pitch in a pan that I will call my pitch pan. Then I will strain the pitch through a sieve. (the pitch sieve)
I’ve read that the debris will sink and the resin can be cast off and separated. But, only experience will tell! Experience coming up shortly!

According to Michael Moore, herbalist, Pine pitch remedies are:

To take a small, currant sized piece of pitch and chew and swallow it. If expectoration of the lungs is needed, the pitch can help.
This method also softens bronchial mucus.
And, this remedy is especially useful for children.


The pitch can also be disinfectant for urinary tract problems but only when kidney inflammation is not present.

Also, Moore notes that pine needle tea, which is a pleasant tea, has a mild diuretic function and can help expectoration also.


If greater expectoration is needed, boil the inner bark and sweeten the tea with honey.

Trementina salve can also be rubbed on the chest for lung troubles and congestion.

It is a well known and often used remedio to get rid of splinters. If warmed and slathered on, then left to set and adhere, it can bring a splinter to a head and then it can be easily removed. It may cause an increase in inflammation, but this is a productive stage, indicative of the body’s activation response to dislodge the splinter faster.

I enjoy and respect this herbalist’s articles and feel encouraged by her words on using pine pitch as a remedy. Check out Kiva Rose:

With chagrin, Michael Moore talks about using the pine pitch remedy to remove a splinter for the first time. And, says he blistered his skin when he tried this… zoinx!

So, care and technique is the key here.

A salve of pine pitch could help here too. Warmed by sunlight or just as is, since salves are blended with wax and oils, etc.
Repeated applications may be needed to bring a splinter to the surface but this is a trusted method.

I’ve also read that trementina salve can heal boils, bug bites, scrapes, cuts, rashes, and even ease sore and achey muscles.


Pine pitch/Trementina salve I just made. It soaks into the skin nicely and is not sticky at all!

Pine is: antiseptic, diuretic, antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, and rubefacient… just to list a few properties!

And, I’ve used this soap before. Pine soap!


Pine Tar Soap!

Recipe to make your own pine tar soap here!

Thanks to the!


I did not grow up seeing my elders use and apply trementina salve to soothe scrapes or remove splinters… so, I give my thanks to this tradition and all those this tradition has been a mainstay. And, I am improvising on this remedy. Adding Osha I have heard is traditional and using oil instead of tallow and skipping lanolin, made from sheep’s wool. I have enthusiasm but lack the experience tradition and elders teach us.

But, piñon and juniper are all around me and I feel intimately connected with the landscape. So feel encouraged to craft remedies by hand.


As a child, I could see huge pines swaying outside my bedroom window and felt fear for them during dramatic lightning storms.

I remember playing beneath huge white pines and counting their needles by spelling the word white.
w h i t e, five letters for five needles in a bunch equals white pine. The piñon pine in my area is known as two needle pine so my word game and maybe language would have been different here in the beautiful land of enchantment. Or entrapment if your luck has turned…or sarcasm has taken sway.

I also remember the eventual pine pitch stuck to arms, clothing and hair. Hard to scrub off but now I know that oil helps!

How to make Trementina Salve… Pine Pitch Salve!

1) Gather your own pine resin/pitch
usually plenty on ground below, rather than scraping off tree that needs it

2) let semi-dry like I did, if you want.
It was pretty easy, with oiled hands to remove debris. Brush off surface debris and/or with oiled knife cut or lift debris out of fresher sap. Fully dried trementina may take longer to dissolve, unless powdered… not sure on using fully dried resin.
I have read it takes longer.

3) Add to herbal oil (optional)
Add to oil and sun infuse tiny/small pieces or break up dry resin into small pebble sizes.

Here is the Osha oil I made for the base of the oil. Osha only grows in the Rocky Mountains. It is anti viral and anti microbial. It helps with infections especially good with lung problems. It helps heals wounds and relieves achiness. Quite a revered remedio on its own! Roots infusing in oil.


4) Sun infuse or bury in sand if weather is hot enough to melt resin in the oil… or double boil method… of oil in one pan above another pan filled partway with water. Try not to get water in the oil.

Here is the pine resin/pitch a.k.a. trementina that I cleaned of debris and lightly grated to remove debris. Then I oiled my hands, like for taffy making, and tore off small pieces of the pitch and I oiled the bottom of the pan first too.



5) Because the pine pitch I used was taffy like, it melted in the double boiler heated oil very quickly, I stirred often. Some residue sank to the bottom.

6) For every 8 ounces volume of oil, add approximately 1.5 ounces weight of beeswax… or 1/3 Cup by volume (measuring cup) to the 8 ounces of oil.

7) Melt beeswax completely.
I ended up casting off the oil/wax mixture, leaving any residue at bottom of the pan. But you can use a sieve at this point. (I was going to use a thin cotton dish towel as a sieve, but this was cumbersome for me. Perhaps a helper next time ;))


8) Pour into your jars and voila be proud of the useful, healing salve you made from pine resin from your backyard, favorite woods or even a park nearby.


An alchemical feat and accomplishment! 👑

9) And, use oil to clean out your pans and utensils quickly with a rag or paper towels. This works well if you are quick to not let the pitch set. Use oil to clean your hands of resin too, counters, etc.

Spruce pitch and other resins can be used to make a healing salve.

We also have been having fun using charcoal, to light our incense. You just need a small piece. The resin would probably would make a good fire starter too.


pine resin, a pretty arroyo rock and some incense charcoal above

And, the trementina- pine pitch resin makes a lovely fume of smoke. I enjoy the sweet smell infused with pine and other fragrant notes. It also soothed my headache.


I am fighting off a head cold and the pine resin used as incense was a helpful and pleasant remedy. We even put some pine resin in our tea strainer for a healing tea mixed with osha, red root, thyme and elderberry to soothe our cold. You can even tincture the resin if you want to.

Some other cool folks who work with trementina:

Milagro Herbs Trementina Article in

And, sometimes it takes a cold to remember, last months foray into medicinal, herbal vinegar making…

I broke out the fire cider and it really helped! It is spicey and warming.I am using the vinegar with food too and it is great flavor to add in.

Fire cider, pine pitch remedies and pine needle tea do the job!

fire cider here!


Good times with pine resin!
Keep me posted on your journey and Trementina Blessings to You.

Now I have the breath of pines in a jar. And so will you!


With gratitude posted links

and this wonderful book by Michael Moore, who never ceases to inspire or amuse.



Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West. by, Michael Moore. Museum of New Mexico Press. Santa Fe, N.M.,


Chunks of resin found on a tree that was chopped down many years ago. Grateful for the resin I found today.



lichen nearby.