I’m so grateful that honey is still available to us. Some bees are managing to survive the unbelievable onslaught of herbicide and pesticide use in this country. They continue pollinating our fields and gardens, gathering food for the next generation of bees. I believe we can help them survive and thrive by providing organic gardens with medicinal flowering herbs, offering well-tended beehives and learning from people such as Paul Stamets, who talks about the healing power of mycelium for our pollinator friends.
As I walk around the garden, I notice each day which flowers and herbs are ready to harvest. I gather some flowers, like roses and chamomile, almost every day. Other plants come into bloom all at once, and then bloom again later after the first blossoms have been gathered. Some plants, like Wood Betony and Thyme, are best harvested prior to bloom. I try to plan ahead to make my favorite infused honeys and elixirs: rose, chamomile, chocolate mint, lemon verbena and lemon balm. All of these herbs and flowers have wonderful, health-enhancing properties. Rose infused honey and elixir are incredibly delicious while supporting digestion and gut health; Chamomile and Chocolate mint are both great digestive herbs, and each one benefits the central nervous system; Lemon Verbena smells and tastes like Heaven on Earth, and is also considered a nervous system tonic; Lemon Balm is highly anti-viral and very relaxing. I recommend starting out by making single-herb infusions to learn how each herb works for you. Later you can combine herbs and flowers to make combination infusions. Medicinal Honey is one of the best multi-herb infusions to have on hand.
This week, I noticed Echinacea tennesseensis is blooming in several locations, as is Echinacea pallida. My favorite oregano is just coming into bloom, and the Yerba Mansa just sent up a few flowers and is looking very robust. Prunella is blooming like crazy. Bee balm is blooming, too. Lucky me! Time to make a quart of medicinal honey – a must have for cold and flu season.
Here we have Echinacea, oregano, yerba mansa and Prunella’s purple flowers and deep green foliage. Other herbs that would also work in this formula are angelica root, lavender, elecampane and thyme.
Oregano is a common herb and there are many types. The one growing in my herb garden came from Tammi Hartung’s Desert Canyon Farm in Canyon City, Colorado. This oregano is referred to as “hot and spicy.” It really is!!! That’s the kind of medicine I want in my honey! I stripped the leaves and flowers from about 9 stems of this delicious oregano directly into my quart jar.
The Yerba Mansa goes in next. I use the whole plant, including roots:
I used my garden clippers and chopped it right into my quart jar – cutting it into 1/2″ size pieces. Same for the Echinacea flowers, leaves and stems, and the Prunella flowers, leaves and stems.
And then I pour on the local, raw honey.
Since my honey was room temperature and I packed my herbs pretty tightly, the honey kind of sat on top of the herbs. I could have stirrred it, but an easier way to allow the honey to travel through and around the herbs is to cap tightly, label and place the jar outside in the sun. Keep an eye on it, and add more honey if needed to completely cover the herbs. I added more honey to this jar after it sat in the sun for about 30 minutes. Always cover the herbs completely.
The herbs might float to the surface even if they are completely covered in honey, so I check on them several times a day – I’m always walking by – and shake or invert the jar to allow the herbs to move through the warm honey. This is my favorite way of making infused honeys or elixirs. Infusing time is about 10 days. I think sitting in the sun encourages the herbs to release their fragrant medicinal properties.
This remedy is invaluable for coughs, colds, sore throats. It can be used externally as well – honey is amazing for external use. The “action formula” for this medicinal honey is as follows:
Oregano contains thymol and carvacrol, two constituents which have remarkable bacteria-fighting power. It is anti fungal, and has been used to treat Candida. Oregano contains iron, vitamin E, vitamin C, copper, magnesium, calcium, vitamin B6, niacin, thiamine and riboflavin.
Echinacea is useful for stimulating the immune system. When taken intermittently over time, it may help prevent a cold in the first place. Because echinacea stimulates the overall activity of infection-fighting cells, it is helpful in treating a wide range of infections including viruses and bacteria. Echinacea should be avoided by those with autoimmune imbalances, according to some sources.
Prunella is highly anti-viral, and is well known for it’s ability to heal cold sores, improve oral health and resolve receding gums. It is also has many benefits for the digestive system, and can be used externally to treat skin conditions.
Yerba Mansa is an anti-microbial, antibacterial and anti fungal herb that has been used for hundreds of years to treat swollen gums, or used as a compress to treat wounds, boils and burns. Infusions of Yerba Mansa can yield therapeutic relief for arthritis and rheumatism by easing joint pain, swelling and increasing mobility.
Bee Balm is useful for nausea, sinus or lung congestion, general stomach upset, insufficient circulation, headache, depression, and anxiety. Bee balm enhances immunity at the body’s surface and invigorates any cold, understimulated tissues.
These same herbs could also be made into a tincture by covering them in Everclear or Vodka and steeping for six weeks.
Or they could be dried together to make a medicinal tea.
Honey is my favorite, though. And my friends all agree. I sold out of medicinal honey last year early on, so I’m making several quarts this season. It’s not just honey once it has been infused.
Always label your infusions!
Always remember to label your medicinal honey, or any infused oils, elixirs or tinctures. Put ALL of the ingredients on the label, including which type of alcohol you used (brandy, vodka, Everclear), and the date.
Other combination infusions I have made that have been very successful:
An elixir of Valerian flowers, Chamomile flowers, Alpine Skullcap flowers and Rose petals. This is a fabulous sleep aid, and quite delicious! Valerian flowers are more gentle than Valerian Root, and are quite a bit tastier, too. Very fragrant! I love fresh Valerian Root tincture, but the floral elixir is heavenly! I infused the above flowers in 50% honey and 50% brandy. Some herbalists use 30% honey, 70% alcohol, or other ratio. Do what works for you!
Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena and Rose Petal Elixir is very calming and delicious. Also anti-viral, so a great elixir to take at the beginning of a cold, or as a preventative. Wonderful at bedtime. This would make a delicious infused honey, but I added 50% brandy to make it last longer, and for a more potent extraction.
Experiment with infused honeys and elixirs! Always used organically grown herbs or flowers. Make 1/2 pint jars to start out with to discover which herbs make the most delicious or useful honey for you.
I use Rose-infused honey in my tea every morning, and I just discovered a great vegan pancake recipe – perfect to serve with rose-infused honey! Chamomile honey is fabulous for skin care as a cleanser or facial. Also incredibly delicious in tea, or right off the spoon by itself.
I used to keep a jar of Chamomile infused honey on hand for my German Shepherd, Ozzie, who was not a fan of his acupuncture treatments, even though they helped him dramatically.
Giving Ozzie 1/2 tsp of Chamomile honey in a small amount of food prior to his treatments made everything easier for him and for us.
Infused honey is an excellent remedy for dogs, at 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dosage for medium and large dogs. Much easier to give than a tincture or capsule. Use sparingly with dogs who have Diabetes.
Honey is a magical, healing substance that should never be taken for granted. Keeping our gardens and neighborhoods organic is super important right now. We have to stop the madness of pesticide and herbicide use! Without bees and other pollinators, there will be no honey, no rose hips, no berries, and the world will be a much sadder and much less delicious place to live.
Blessings to your and your gardens,
Great resources for learning how to make your own medicine:
Gibbons, Euell. Stalking the Healthful Herbs. New York: D. McKay, 1966. Print.
Gladstar, Rosemary. Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health: 175 Teas, Tonics, Oils, Salves, Tinctures, and Other Natural Remedies for the Entire Family. North Adams, MA: Storey Pub., 2008. Print.
Green, James. The Herbal Medicine-makers’ Handbook: A Home Manual. Freedom, CA: Crossing, 2000. Print.
Hartung, Tammi. Growing 101 Herbs That Heal: Gardening Techniques, Recipes, and Remedies. Pownal, VT: Storey, 2000. Print.
“Hedgerow To Kitchen.” The Herb Society. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Aug. 2014.
“Herbal Honeys & Pastes for Blood Building, Burn Dressings & More.” The Medicine Womans Roots. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Aug. 2014.
“How to Make Herbal Oxymels « The Mountain Rose Blog.” The Mountain Rose Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Aug. 2014.
Kidd, Randy. Dr. Kidd’s Guide to Herbal Cat Care. Pownal, VT: Storey, 2000. Print.
Kidd, Randy. Dr. Kidd’s Guide to Herbal Dog Care. Pownal, VT: Storey, 2000. Print.
“The Medicine Woman’s Roots.” The Medicine Womans Roots. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Aug. 2014.
Pedersen, Mark. Nutritional Herbology: A Reference Guide to Herbs. Warsaw, IN: Wendell W. Whitman, 1998. Print.
Shababy, Doreen. The Wild & Weedy Apothecary: An A to Z Book of Herbal Concoctions, Recipes & Remedies Practical Know-how and Food for the Soul. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2010. Print.
“Sweet Medicine: Healing with the Wild Heart of Rose.” The Medicine Womans Roots. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2015.
Tilford, Gregory L., Mary Wulff-Tilford, and Mary Wulff-Tilford. Herbs for Pets: The Natural Way to Enhance Your Pet’s Life. Laguna Hills, CA: BowTie, 2009. Print.
Weed, Susun S. Wise Woman Herbal Healing Wise. Woodstock, NY: Ash Tree Pub., 1989. Print.