An oxymel is a medicinal preparation made up of a sweetener (honey, sugar, etc.) and vinegar. From there, lemon juice, herbal decoctions, or other ingredients may be added to add to it's medicinal properties.
The word oxymel has it's origins in ancient Egyptian, from those same canny herbalist's that brought us things like brain surgery and dentistry. The word was originally "oxalme" and was the word for a mixture of salt brine and vinegar that was used for a variety of ailments, and to which they would often add honey. The Romans and the Greeks (of course the Romans and the Greeks-the usual suspects) took this word on, and it was morphed into 'oxymel' from which it has remained remarkably unchanged to this day.
But What the Heck is it For?
Oxymels are often used to make taking your medicine, well, a little less like taking your medicine. Honey, lemon, vinegar, why, with a little heat and it's just about a hot toddy! Okay, maybe that's going a bit far, but it can still be a great tasting medicine. It's not all just about taste though. It's also has a medicinal value all it's own.
The vinegar provides astringency. If you can imagine biting into a lemon, you'll have a good idea of what that action can feel like. What that puckering feeling is doing on a cellular level is creating more highly functioning mucosa (which lines quite a bit of your body). Along with a host of other positives, this strengthens your immune system through promoting barrier functions (think of it as shoring up the walls of a fort).
Honey all by itself can act as a quite good antibacterial and demulcent. As a demulcent, it acts to sooth inflamed tissue, especially mucous membranes (think sore throats, gastritis, etc.). It also provides a medium for coating the mucous membranes of the mouth, throat, and stomach. In the context of the oxymel, this means that the other actions stick around longer in the places you want them to (think of honey like the bandage in the herbal formula-internally and externally).
Both honey and vinegar can act as expectorants. To put it simply, an expectorant is something that helps the body evacuate phlegm. This may sound a bit on the gross side, but expelling mucus is an important part of natural recovery from most respiratory ailments.
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