Two for Tuesday: Making your own medicinal herbal honeys and elixirs.

This post is a part of the two for Tuesday blog carnival.

Making your own herbal medicines is ridiculously easy, and a nice little pharmacopeia can usually be put together from plants that you can find around where you live. A few of my favourite gentle herbs to make medicines with are the following:

Note: all dosages are reeeally small. If using a dropper bottle, 3-5 drops should do it.

Holly-leaf cherry

Cherry: Blossoms and bark. Use the most fragrant ones you can find– they should smell slightly sweet, slightly almondy. Usually the wild cherries are much better for this. All species usually work very similarly– I use Prunus ilicifolia (holly-leafed cherry) which grows wild around here. Most people use choke-cherry which grows wild everywhere else. It relieves cough. Relieves pressure in the chest. It can be unbelievably relaxing– enough to knock you out, so don’t try it for the first time before driving. It’s a fantastic heart tonic for people with heart problems. And is fantastic for anxiety. Keep in mind that this herb is fantastic for heat issues. If the symptoms present are all cold symptoms, try ginger or something warming.

Elder: Hands down my favourite herb for flu season. I have not had a full-blown flu since I started making my own elixir. I use a combination of berries and flowers (70% berries, 30% flowers). Elder helps your immune system to work harder and smarter. It is also fantastic for infections.

Ginger: Stomach soother, nausea reliever. Fantastic in any kind of cold situations, where digestion is poor, or where there’s lots of mucus. Don’t use if there are heat symptoms present– it’s easy to tell: if your headache feels better when  you put a cold towel on it, try peach or cherry instead. If the thought of cold is repugnant to you, try ginger.

Lemon Balm (melissa officinalis): Melissa is a fantastic anxiety-reliever. A few drops of the elixir before bed helps to relieve that “I can’t sleep because I can’t stop thinking and stressing out” feeling. It lightens the load on the heart, emotionally speaking.

Peach: Twigs, pits (undamaged), flowers. One of my favourite plants for nausea. I get nausea a lot, but ginger is WAY too heating for me. Peach elixir works wonders, and fast. It’s also fantastic for both constipation and diarrhea. A relaxing, divine smelling nervine that, when needed, can actually put people to sleep :).

Rose (all spp. use the most fragrant one you can find): Clears heat from the upper body. Anti-inflammatory. Astringent. I use it when my nerves are a bit agitated (or inflamed), like after being stuck in LA traffic for hours. It relieves that kind of stress that gets stuck in your heart and makes everything feel constricted and tight. It’s good in situations where inflammation occurs unnecessarily– whether that’s emotional (anger flaring up) or physical (immune reactions, rashes, joints swollen and sore). I use the elixir for almost everything. The honey tastes delicious and is lovely in herbal teas or on yogurt or on toast.

Sage (garden sage (salvia officinalis), though almost all spp. can be used– I use salvia melitus, salvia clevelandii, salvia officinalis, and salvia apiana): A deeply nourishing restorative nervine. When your fried nerves are fried to the point of exhaustion. When your heat is burning up your body fluids. Sage helps you to conserve fluids, resores nerves, and calms the spirit. It can stop excessive menstrual bleeding, and also stimulate menses. Works fantastically WITH rose elixir, to both calm and nourish.

Thyme: Another one of my favourite herbs to use come flu-season. Thyme works fantastically for coughs with thin white phlegm. It promotes sweating, reduces fever, and opens the sinuses. It also stimulates and harmonises digestion.

Herbal Honeys:

1 clean (sterilised) pint jar with a lid

enough herb to stuff the jar full

1 pint of honey (try to use a local raw honey– it’ll greatly add to the therapeutic effects. If you’re in Southern California, I get mine from Pacifica Honey).

Chop the herbs up into small pieces. Stuff them into the jar, leaving an inch of space at the top. When you can’t fit any more herbs in, start pouring in the honey. I pour it, then slide a chopstick around the edge to let it sink down, and then go do something for five minutes or so, and keep doing that until it’s full. Once the herbs are covered with honey, put the lid on it, label it, and leave it somewhere cool and dark for 4 weeks. When it’s done, hang a cheesecloth over another jar, pour the herby honey into it, and wait– it’ll eventually strain out into the jar. Depending on what herb you use, it can add the most wonderful nuance to dishes. Sage, beebalm and thyme honeys on chicken. Rose honey on fruit. The possibilities really are endless.

Cherry, thyme, and hawthorne.

Herbal Elixirs:

This is my preferred method for making medicines. Maybe that’s just because I love brandy…

1 clean (sterilised) pint jar with a lid

enough herb to stuff the jar full

1/2 pint brandy

1/2 pint honey

As before, chop the herbs up and stuff them into the jar, leaving an inch of space at the top, until they can no longer be stuffed anymore. Pour in the brandy until it’s half-filled, and then fill the rest up with honey (you might have to pour it and wait, repeatedly, until the honey sinks down enough). Screw on the lid, label, and place somewhere cool and dark for 4 weeks, giving it a shake every few days, to mix up the brandy and honey. After 4 weeks, strain into a clean bottle (I use bottles with droppers, so that I can administer 5 drops without over-doing it).

13 Responses to “Two for Tuesday: Making your own medicinal herbal honeys and elixirs.”
  1. Bekkkk!!! whooo hooo! this is one of the BEST articles I have seen on herbal home made remedies in a long long time! I still make some of my granny’s herbal infusions (aka teas according to her), but i am totally going to go out foraging in the right seasons and collect and make these. I bookmarked the link to this page for future reference. Very cool and thank you so much for sharing it on the two for tuesday recipe blog hop! 🙂 alex

  2. girlichef says:

    Oh, I am totally in love with this post!! Thanks for all the great info…and also, good to know my herbal honeys are good for more than just adding awesome flavor to things 😉 Thanks so much for sharing with Two for Tuesdays this week!

  3. shelly says:

    I’m going to have to try these out! What is the shelf life of these?

    • fairybekk says:

      Hi Shelly,

      I’d say that, for most of them, the potency starts to decrease after a year. But they are shelf-stable for years. I’d probably make fresh after 2 years, just for the medicinal benefit, but I think as far as mold goes, they’re almost indestructible (it’s a biochemistry thing– honey is a super-saturated solution, which means that it has such high sugar content that no bacteria can actually survive next to it– it literally just sucks the life out of them).

  4. This is really fascinating. I’ve never really tried making my own, even though so many of these items grow close to home. Are the chokecherries you are referrring to a true cherry? The fruit I know as a chokecherry is more of a bush. And darn it, I just cut down a heart-rotted cherry tree from my yard this spring, and pulled up all of the lemon balm because it was taking over! Sigh. Thanks for sharing this great post at the Two for Tuesdays blog hop.

    • fairybekk says:

      Chokecherries are a true cherry– it’s a slightly different sub-species, but still a member of the prunus family, with the same medicinal properties. Wild plants are often MUCH stronger medicinally (I think anything that has to fight to survive is). Although, with each variation, there will be slight differences in properties, I always think that if you get them close to where you are, then the differences will probably be more suited to local diseases. Kind of like local honeys can treat local allergies.

      The good thing about lemon balm, and most of the mint family, is that it’s REALLY hard to kill them off ;). I’ve a patch of wild mint in my garden that my neighbour has been trying to pull up for years, to no avail. And she’s tried to kill my nettle patch a few times, but it keeps springing back. Clever little weeds…

  5. Christy says:

    Wow, how very interesting. I am super new to something like this. If I were to make the ginger one would I just peel the ginger and slice it? And you put enough in to fill a whole jar? Can you make this in smaller quantities? I am so glad you shared this at Two for Tuesdays!

    • fairybekk says:

      Hi Christy,
      Yes, you can make smaller quantities. As small as you want actually– it’s not absolutely necessary to fill the jar. The most important thing is to have the honey or honey and brandy as saturated with the herb as possible, to make it as strong as possible.
      A ginger honey tastes absolutely fantastic….

      • Christy says:

        Thanks! I would love to try this – but on the smaller scale – yea! Off to the liquor store. (Words I have only said 2 or 3 times )

  6. I haven’t seen the lemon balm re-emerge yet, but I’ve got a ton of catnip. Is that good for anything? How about wild currants or plum?

    You left a comment on my cattail pollen harvest about blood stagnation. I’ve been tormented by menstrual pain my whole adult life – it’s even affected my work. What wild elixers could I tap into to help with this?

    • fairybekk says:

      Catnip is brilliant at calming: Soothes cough, calms digestion, a mild sleep-aid, and can be effective in helping some menstrual cramps. It really depends on what is causing the cramps though.

      Email me: fairybekkgmailcom with more information about your cramping: is it relieved by pressure or worsened? Do you crave heat or cold? Better with exercise or not?

  7. More q’s. Good honey is so expensive. Can I get an equal effect from just making a tincture using brandy? Maybe add a touch of honey upon dosing?

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