Forget the idea of holding your nose while taking some unpleasant medicine.

One of the many reasons I love natural health and herbal remedies, is that you can usually get beneficial foods and plants into your body AND have them taste good!

(Not all of the time of course.  Hello, valerian!)

You can make herbal infusions, infused honeys, fermented veggies … and of course, infused alcohols.

In the past I’ve experimented with infused hard alcohols (like brandy and rum) with tasty results. (See: chocolate temptation liqueur and winter warmer rum.)

This week I’m experimenting with tonic wines.  And in particular, making a traditional iron tonic that tastes a lot like a wintery spiced wine.  Yum.  To enjoy in moderation of course.

What’s a tonic?

I love the concept of ‘tonics’.   tonic is a refreshing, invigorating or restorative substance.  Something that gives your body a boost.  But not a fake boost that you get from caffeine or sugar.  A truly restorative boost.

Taking tonics is such an old-fashioned concept.  Now we take supplements and vitamins!   But in a way, taking a tonic serves a similar purpose.  To replenish our bodies and give us a little extra in a certain area.

It seems much more fun to sip a small cup of tonic wine than swallow a handful of vitamins, no?


Why would you want an iron tonic?

Traditionally, iron tonics were used for people with tiredness and low energy due to anemia.  There is a similar product on the market now in the UK (without the wine!) called Floradix.

The challenge with homemade remedies, of course, is that you don’t know the exact quantity of iron (or other vitamins etc) that you’re getting.  It will differ based on your recipe, and the exact bunch of plants that you happen to use.  It’s just not standardized.

So, I always suggest that if you have a specific health issue,  or if you intended to use a remedy over the long term, you should really work with a qualified herbalist and your doctor, to find a solution that is right for you!

The rest of us, however, can use tonic wines as an occasional treat – with an added health boost.


Wild Weeds Iron Tonic

I got this recipe from one of my very favorite herbalists, Christopher Hedley (his book is available here almost for free – this recipe not included, but lots of other good ones are!)

He suggests making enough in the spring or summer when nettles are rampant, to last for the entire year.

As a bit of a wine snob, I’m curious how long this tonic wine will actually keep … although I have a feeling that we will finish the bottle long before it goes off!



Handful of fresh or dried nettle leaves

Handful of dried apricots, chopped coarsely.

Zest from 1 orange

Red wine

Jar with a lid (size depends on how much you want to make!)



  • Put the nettle leaves, orange peel and chopped dried apricots in a glass jar.
  • Fill the jar with red wine, covering the leaves and apricots entirely.
  • Put a top on the jar, and let it sit for 2 weeks.
  • Strain off the liquid and store in a pretty bottle with a label (presentation is half the fun!)

To use: Drink half a small wineglass full per day (maximum 1/4 cup or 60 ml per day).  If you drink this as an aperitif 20 minutes before a meal, it will also stimulate your appetite and help your digestion!


Have you ever taken a tonic?  What part of your health could use a ‘tonic boost’?   Let us know in the comments!

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