Upgrade your glass of white wine with some herbal goodness! This lemon balm wine is a new take on an ancient cure-all called Carmelite water. And while it has long lost its reputation as a miracle potion, Carmelite water can still be enjoyed today just as you’d enjoy any glass of wine. But maybe you’ll enjoy it just a little bit more knowing it’s full of nutritive and medicinal herbs.
This recipe uses herbs like lemon balm, angelica root, clove, and nutmeg, but could also be made with just lemon balm. The choice is yours!
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I’m a sucker for ancient herbal potions. There’s something so intriguing about the old uses of plant medicines, something so full of mystery and magic.
I’m constantly humbled by the human process of figuring it all out before science was as advanced as it is today. Many of these old herbal potions survived times when science was even silenced as evil or sin. Can you imagine?!
Come storytime, tell me about how our ancestors lived in relationship to the plants and this planet. I’m all ears.
What is Carmelite Water?
Carmelite water is an alcohol extract of lemon balm and other herbs and spices. In a time before modern-day medicine and all the amenities of science, these herbal alcohol extracts were often the backbone of the medical system.
They often served as panaceas for all kinds of ailments, everything from digestive complaints to the plague and leprosy. A little sip could make all your worries go away, sending you on your way to a long and healthy life.
The Origin of Carmelite Water
Carmelite nuns in France developed the original recipe for this lemon balm wine in the later 1300s for King Charles V of France. With the enthusiastic support of the aging king, Carmelite water garnered a reputation as an elixir of life or miracle water.
While the exact original recipe of Carmelite water is somewhat of a coveted secret, the star ingredient is consistently lemon balm.
Also called Eau de Melisse (as in lemon balm’s genus Melissa), Carmelite water also contains a varying combination of other herbs and spices, including chamomile, sandalwood, cinnamon, mugwort, sage, angelica, and fennel. Most typically, Carmelite water contains a mixture of anywhere from 9 to 14 different herbs and spices.
Traditional Uses of Carmelite Water
Interestingly, Carmelite water was also traditionally used as a perfume due to its unique combination of highly aromatic herbs. It’s strong in scent and bold in flavor. Accordingly, Carmelite water was traditionally sipped in small quantities as you would a bitters cordial or digestif.
>>Wanna learn more about herbal bitters & how they can help your digestion? Check this out: The Beginner’s Complete Guide to Herbal Digestive Bitters
“It causeth the Mind and Heart to become merry, and reviveth the Heart fainting to foundlings, especially of such who are overtaken in their sleep, and driveth away all troublesome cares and thought…”
Nicholas Culpepper, 15th century English botanist & physician on Carmelite water
About The Herbs In This Lemon Balm Wine
This recipe for Carmelite water is a variation on a recipe from Mountain Rose Herbs. The original recipe calls for the use of cinnamon chips. However, as a nod to ancient tradition, this lemon balm wine recipe is really open for interpretation. In fact, you could skip the other herbs and spices, just use lemon balm, and call it a day!
As you’ll read below, the herbs and spices in this recipe come with a whole bunch of anti-‘s, including anti-fungal, antiviral, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory. It’s no wonder Carmelite water was once considered a panacea for all the ills of the times.
However, the collective nutritive and medicinal properties of the ingredients in this recipe lend towards a calming, anti-inflammatory herbal wine high in antioxidants that may also be beneficial for your digestion.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
This herb of happiness and sunshine is full of antioxidant flavonoids! Lemon balm is a beloved medicinal herb that not only tastes as good as it smells, but is equally as gentle as it is powerful.
In herbal medicine, lemon balm is often used to help soothe nerves, ease stress and anxiety, and even has anti-depressant properties.
Lemon balm is high in volatile oils (the smell good oils) that can help to support healthy digestion. Plus, it’s also known for its antiviral activity, especially against herpes viruses.
Angelica Root (Angelica archangelica)
Angelica root is a member of the carrot family and has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years.
Its primary medicinal uses include helping to balance hormones and support the liver‘s natural detoxification processes. Furthermore, also considered a bitter herb, it’s an excellent tonic to the digestive system.
Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
As perhaps one of my favorite culinary spices, coriander gets a lot of use in my household. Not only is coriander is a good source of minerals like copper, iron, and magnesium, it also has many medicinal uses.
Like lemon balm, coriander is also known for its ability to help support healthy digestion and soothe nerves. It’s high in anti-inflammatory antioxidants and has antimicrobial properties as well.
Clove (Eugenia caryophyllata)
It’s so easy to forget that many of our common herbs and spices also have such amazing medicinal properties. As another great source of vitamins and minerals, clove is such a great spice to include in our day.
Clove is also antiviral, anti-fungal, antibacterial, and pain-relieving. It’s full of anti-inflammatory antioxidants and like all the other ingredients in this recipe, clove is known to help support digestion.
Nutmeg (Myristicum fragrans)
And last, but not least, we have nutmeg. This ultra-fragrant spice is also incredibly supportive of healthy digestion, in addition to being anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and more.
How to Make Carmelite Water
Here’s a quick overview of how to make Carmelite water (aka lemon balm wine). You’ll find specific measurements and methods in the recipe card at the end of this post.
Equipment You’ll Need
Fortunately, this incredibly simple lemon balm wine recipe requires very little equipment. You will need:
- Quart-Sized Glass Jar (like a canning jar or recycled jar)
- Small Funnel (small enough to fit into the neck of the wine bottle)
- Fine Mesh Strainer + Cheesecloth or Muslin -or- Nut Milk/Strainer Bag* (I use these strainers for everything! And here’s my favorite nut milk bag.)
- 4-Cup Glass Measuring Cup (or something your funnel can nest into)
- 1 bottle dry white wine, organic if possible
- Lemon balm, dried or fresh
- Angelica root, dried
- Coriander, whole seeds
- Clove, whole
- Nutmeg, fresh grated or shaved
- Fresh lemon zest
This recipe literally couldn’t get any easier. Here’s the quick-and-dirty of how to make this version of Carmelite water:
- Add herbs and spices to a quart-sized glass jar.
- Pour in wine.
- Infuse for 4 hours in the refrigerator.
Other Botanical Beverages You Might Enjoy
Tips, Tricks, & FAQs
What is Carmelite water used for?
Traditionally, Carmelite water was used for everything! It was a cure-all herbal tonic. The use of fragrant herbs and spices also made it a great perfume back in the day.
Today, Carmelite water makes for a delightful sipper on a warm afternoon. Or sip on a glass before or after a meal for a calming, anti-inflammatory herbal elixir with digestive support.
Can I make lemon balm wine with fresh herbs?
Yes, you can! Using fresh lemon balm in this recipe works really well! I actually prefer using fresh lemon balm. Lemon balm (and many of the mint family plants, in general) can quickly lose its potency. If your dried lemon balm is old or has been improperly stored, you’re better off using fresh if you have the option.
To know if your dried lemon balm is still good, just look at it and take a whiff! If it has turned more brown than green and hardly has any delicious lemony smell, it’s time to toss it.
Can I just throw the herbs and spices right into the wine bottle?
Yes, you could. However, you may have to drink a few sips of wine so that they’ll fit. Plus, sometimes it’s difficult to get all of the herbs out of the slender bottleneck when straining time comes.
My personal preference is to infuse the wine in a quart-size glass jar. After straining out the herbs and spices, you can then use a funnel to help pour the infused wine back into the original wine bottle.
What if I don’t have whole spices? Can I infuse wine with powdered herbs?
You absolutely can infuse wine with powdered herbs and spices! However, I do NOT recommend it. Powdered herbs and spices can be incredibly difficult to strain out of liquids. Your lemon balm may end up with powder in it. And who wants to sip on powdery wine!?
If powdered herbs and spices are all you have, when straining, try using a coffee filter or a double layer of clean cloth to help catch as much of the powder as possible.
Where is the best place to find high quality herbs?
The first best place to find high-quality herbs is to either grow them yourself or get them locally from someone who does. However, I know that not all of us have that option.
You can find the spices in this lemon balm wine recipe at conventional groceries and local food cooperatives. If you have a health food store near you, you may be able to find dried lemon balm and angelica root there. If it’s an option, always opt for organic herbs and spices.
And once you’ve exhausted those possibilities, the next best place to get high-quality herbs and spices is from reputable online retailers. I’ve purchased so many herbs online over the years. Without a doubt, I can tell you that Mountain Rose Herbs consistently outshines the others. The quality of the herbs, vast selection, and awareness and ethics around harvesting and environmental impact make them my medicinal herb go-to.
For more plant magic & herbal wellness in your life, be sure to follow along on ➡️ Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter, & snag my herbal 📚 eBooks Nourishing Herbal Gifts & Holiday Pies from the (Un)Bakery. 🌿 And please don’t forget to tag me in your snaps 📸 @_botanyculture_. I love to see all the plant magic you make happen!
Carmelite Water Course: DrinksDifficulty: Easy
(aka Lemon Balm Wine)
This botanical infused wine recipe is based off of Rosalee de la Forêt’s Carmelite water recipe. It’s fragrant, dry, slightly astringent, & there’s just something extra special about its ancient roots. I particularly love Rosalee’s suggestion to get lost in reveries of mysterious and ancient herbal potions while enjoying a sip of this infusion on a hot summer’s eve.
- Into a quart-sized glass jar, combine all herbs & spices.
- Pour the wine into the jar, seal with a lid, & give the jar a shake to start the infusing process. Let the wine infuse for 4-5 hours in the refrigerator.
(I do not recommend infusing for longer than 4-5 hours. The longer you let it infuse, the more medicinal the wine will taste.)
- After a 4 hour infusion, use a fine-mesh strainer layered with several layers of cheesecloth, a coffee filter, or a nut milk bag to strain the herbs from the wine. Compost the herbs.
- Return the infused wine to the jar (or use a small funnel to pour it back into the original bottle).
- Enjoy within 3 days. This wine is best enjoyed chilled.
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DISCLAIMER: The information given in this article is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult with your healthcare practitioner before consuming certain herbs & medicinal foods, especially if pregnant, nursing, or taking any prescription medications.