Thursday, July 5, 2012

Honey Medicine

Pure, raw, local honey is good medicine all by itself. It is anti-bacterial, soothing and healing, great for use all by itself on wounds, infection, ulcers and burns, as well as many internal conditions. Combining honey with healing herbs makes for a lovely combination of sweet medicine and the possibilities are endless. Every year I make a few herbal elixirs, using honey and alcohol as my menstruum to extract herbs for a sweet and effective remedy. These are especially helpful for treating children. But I also extract herbs directly into honey. Who can resist when your medicine is a teaspoon of herbal honey?

This year the flowering thyme just seemed to be calling out to me to infuse it in honey. Thyme is wonderful for digestive complaints, as well as colds and flu.

To make an infused honey, harvest your herbs at the peak of vibrancy. You can chop them up or, if the parts are relatively small, you can leave them whole. Fill a jar, but do not pack, with the plant material. Then pour your pure, raw honey over the herbs. I like to use a chopstick to stir the honey into the herbs and make sure they are completely saturated. Top the jar off with honey and cap and label. Allow the herbal honey to infuse for six weeks or more. If you want to strain it at this point, you can heat the honey gently so that it strains easily (careful not to cook your honey). I tend to not strain most often. The plants are fine in there, if you don't mind eating plant bits.

As the honey infused the will tend to rise to the top of the jar (as shown by the monarda honey on the right). Just give the jar some gentle shakes to move things around every now and then.

I have been so inspired by other honey medicine posts over the years, but there are two that stand out as my favorites. The first is Kiva Rose's post about Monarda Honey, where she describes how wonderful this preparation is for the treatment of burns, among other things. I make monarda honey every year. Whatever is not used as medicine is eaten on toast or just off the spoon. Yum!

The second is Susan Hess's post about herbal electuaries. Here the dried herbs are often ground up to a powder and warmed in the honey over a double boiler. It is a little more work, but yields a more concentrated medicine. Two years ago I followed Susan's recipe, though I failed to strain it out. The result was a very thick, dark and spicy paste that I occasionally used in a cup of black tea for an instant chai. The rest of the time it sat on a shelf in the pantry. Last week, however, I received complaints of belly aches from two different boys on two different nights. I grabbed my warming electuary and offered a teaspoonful each time. Twenty minutes later, no complaints.

I also like to tell the boys that their medicine was even used in ancient Egypt. I love how our homemade medicine connects us to the earth and to historical cultural traditions.

Happy medicine making!

1 comment:

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