Infused Honeys and Elixirs make delicious and potent herbal preparations. I was skeptical about all this, but after spending last summer experimenting with honey and honey/alcohol blends as the infusing medium, I am all about making more of these wonderful and delicious herbal remedies. What a joy to take medicinal herbs in such a pleasing form. And so effective!
Fresh herbs far outshine dried herbs in both taste and potency. You will feel the effects of a well-made herbal honey or elixir, even if it is incredibly delicious.
Common herbs that infuse well with honey are: chamomile, lemon balm, lemon verbena, rose petals, rose hips, violets, valerian flowers, mullein flowers, mints, sages, thyme, oregano, echinacea, yerba mansa, lavender, and holy basil to name a few. I also infuse garlic in honey – mostly for my little dog, who eats it right off the spoon. Gives her a noticeable energy boost! Use garlic intermittently with dogs – 5 days on, 2 days off when treating for any type of infection, and then several times a week when your dog is feeling good, just for good measure. This garlic honey is delicious as an ingredient in salad dressing.
Most of these herbs are very easy to grow.
When making an infused honey, fill a jar about 2/3 of the way with the herbs/flowers and cover completely with honey. Even fresh herbs can expand during the infusion process, so leave about 1 inch of space above the herbs. If the flowers or herbs float, that’s ok. If they get a good coating of honey to begin with, and you turn or shake the jar every day or so, your infusion should progress with no spoilage or problems. Remember to label your honey with the herbs and the date, and then let the tightly closed jar sit in the sun for 5-10 days, preferably in a location where you will see them on a daily basis, like on the garden fence. Decant immediately when smelling and tasting deems they are finished, straining and pressing the honey from the herbs through a strainer while the honey is still warm from the sun. Some herbalists leave the herbs in the honey and consume it like floral or herbal jam. Herbal honey is great for children and also for dogs, who often don’t like the taste of alcohol. Instead of a sun infusion, you can also do a warm water bath infusion in a crockpot or yogurt maker. Ideally, the temperature should never go above 114 degrees to preserve the enzymes in the honey.
An elixir consists of fresh flowers or leaves infused in a solution of 1/2 brandy and 1/2 honey (or 1/3 honey, 2/3 alcohol). You can also use Everclear, Vodka, or Rum. Because you are using alcohol, you do not have to apply heat at all, but, again, you do need to completely cover the herbs with the solution you are using. I usually premix the honey and alcohol in a separate container and then pour over the herbs. Let sit in a dark cabinet for 10-14 days for delicate flowers, 14-28 days for tougher leaves or stems. Chop larger leaves, stems and flowers into fairly small pieces to expose as much of the plant material to the honey or honey/alcohol mixture as possible.
Lemon Balm is highly anti-viral, so an infused honey or an elixir is a valuable medicine to keep on hand. Lemon Balm is a pleasantly vigorous plant. If grown in the garden, allow some space for it to spread out from year to year. I’m sure it would grow well in a large pot. It’s a very relaxing herb, so is especially good to take at night. Delicious in either honey or elixir form. An infused oil of lemon balm with some St. John’s Wort tincture added makes an amazing lip balm for those who want to prevent or treat cold sores. Or add some St. John’s Wort tincture to any anti-viral elixir to boost it’s efficacy. Really works! Cautionary note: St. John’s Wort should not be combined with any prescription drugs.
For children over the age of 2, using honey as the extraction solution is a wonderful and safe way to administer medicinal herbs. For the flu season, I chop up a variety of herbs and flowers and infuse all of them together in a quart jar. Favorite herbs to use for this purpose are: echinacea flowers, leaves and stems, elecampane root, yerba mansa leaf and root, thyme and oregano leaves, bee balm flowers and leaves, ginger root, and a little cayenne pepper. This honey isn’t delicious in the same way as the infusions of rose, lemon verbena, lemon balm or chocolate mint, but has it’s own culinary qualities and is incredibly effective and healing for those flu like illnesses that are bacterial. Addresses pretty much all the symptoms of any cold or flu – sore throat, coughing and general malaise. Strengthens the immune system.
By the way, Cannabis is not the only plant that contains cannabinoids. Echinacea stems have a very high cannabinoid content, which could explain why Echinacea is such a powerful healing agent. The medicinal properties of the endangered Echinacea tennesseensis become very apparent as you harvest the leaf, stem and flowers, as the entire plant emits a potent and earthy medicinal fragrance.
Rose petals infused in honey are incredibly delicious, balancing to hormones, and excellent used externally for burns, abrasions and other inflammations. Rose infused honey is also very beneficial for complexion care – as a cleanser and a facial. Even though I made a couple quarts of rose-infused honey last summer, I started using it in my twig tea every morning, in a couple of natural cosmetic formulations, and also used it as a facial once a week, so I ran out. Will hope to make more this coming season.
Chamomile honey for sleep, calming, and digestive support. This is great for children and dogs. Also excellent as a facial cleanser. Add alcohol and other flowers, such as Valerian, Rose and Mullein to make a very calming, relaxing elixir.
Chocolate mint elixir – so amazingly healing for digestive complaints, and incredibly delicious. This is one remedy I will never be without. Super easy to grow in a pot. In the garden, it’s good to give mints their own space, as they do spread by root runner. This particular mint is so delicious and helpful, I give it a space outside my more organized garden, and often grow it in a pot as well.
Lemon Verbena elixir has an amazing flavor. This plant has an affinity for the mouth and throat, so this elixir or honey comes in handy for inflamed gums or a sore throat. Lemon Verbena is one of my all time favorite plants. I grew it for years just for the intoxicating fragrance, and would often stuff pillows with the dried leaves, as it retains it’s fragrance for years. Now I know it’s flavor matches it’s fragrance! A delicious addition to any tea blend. I grow at least four of these plants every summer. They like full sun and evenly moist, rich soil. Each plant will grow 4-5′ tall, and 3′ wide, so give it room. You will have to find it at a nursery in early summer. You can grow it in a large pot, but it gets much larger in the garden.
Of course, none of this would be possible without bees.
Please be sure your yard and gardens are all organic. If you live in a city where pesticides and herbicides are used in public spaces, call or write to your city council and ask them to stop the madness! Go to town hall meetings, start a petition or write a letter to your local newspaper. In my town, at least two apiaries lost 80% of their bees last year. This simply cannot continue, or we will all become extinct.
I’ve been to city council meetings, emailed and written letters to city council and the local paper, and have sent out extensive info to all of my social media contacts. Finally, I resorted to designing this t-shirt which will be sent to Longmont City Council with a letter and other info. On the back it says, “Why not larvicide? Safe for gardens, bees and other pollinators.” I hope they get the message. Before it’s too late.
Blessings to you, your gardens,
and all of our beloved pollinators,
Find images for pollinator houses here.