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Make your own Christmas gifts: herbal hangover kit

by Rhiannon James

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What greater gift could you give anyone at Christmas than a potential free pass to enjoy the excesses of the season? Lucky recipients of this present can put aside the paracetamol and try out some of the weird and wonderful herbal helpers used by boozers across the ages.

Things you’ll need

1. Your selection of hangover herbs. Since the thrills of fermenting things were discovered, just as much effort has gone into looking for ways to alleviate the unpleasant after-effects so there are plenty of possibilities, both ancient and modern, to pick from. These are the ones we’ve used:

  • Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium): Author and naturalist Pliny the Elder tells us in his Natural History that donning a wreath of pennyroyal was a popular way to try and alleviate a headache in the Roman period. There’ll certainly be no flies on the wearer – pennyroyal is a good insect repellent.
  • Sweet violet (Viola odorata): both the Greeks and the Romans were fans of these sweetly-scented violets and wore garlands of them to ward off hangovers. The blooms appear in late winter and early spring and also make lovely cut flower posies.
  • Rosemary tea (Rosmarinus officinalis), made by steeping a teaspoon of chopped leaves in a cup of boiling water for a few minutes, is said to clear the mind and calm a torrid stomach. Seventeenth century herbalist Nicholas Culpeper attributed the flowers with an even more uplifting effect. He said in his book The English Physician: “The floures made up into plates with sugar after the manner of sugar roset and eaten, comfort the heart, and make it merry, quicken the spirits, and make them more lively.”
  • Thyme (Thymus) tea is recommended by Jekka McVicar as an effective way to banish the boozy blues. Thyme is also good for getting rid of any lingering fumes as it can be made into an antiseptic mouthwash.
  • Marjoram (Origanum) tea is thought to be good for dealing with day-after demons as it’s meant to have a tranquilizing effect on the nerves. And if you’d rather go for prevention, you could even try the Roman technique of wearing a wreath of marjoram around your head to ward off drunkenness.

2. Pill pots or other containers to plant into

3. Potting compost

4. Horticultural grit

5. First aid box stickers (available from Amazon)

6. A box or tin to fit all the containers / herbs you’ve selected – we’ve used a small bread bin but a white cardboard box would also work

Care should be taken when ingesting herbs as some can be harmful. Expert advice should be sought before taking any herb medicinally. Applying pennyroyal to the skin can sometimes cause dermatitis and rosemary tea should be drunk in moderation as it can be harmful in large quantities.

Step-by-step

1. If necessary, make drainage holes in the bottom of each container.

2. Then, plant each herb into John Innes compost or equivalent mixed with plenty of horticultural grit. Water in well.

3. When you’re ready to present your gift, apply the first aid stickers to the top and sides of your box. If you’re feeling really enthusiastic, you could even print growing instructions for each herb on medicinal-looking labels and stick them on to each container. Pack your plants into the box and you’re ready to go. Even if the recipient doesn’t use any of the herbs for their hangovers, they’ll have a lovely selection of evergreen and semi-evergreen plants that will produce pretty flowers from late winter through to late summer.

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