Honey itself is a wonderful, health enhancing food. Adding herb extracts to honey combines the sweet goodness of honey with the medicinal properties of herbs. Honey makes an excellent dressing for wounds and has been used through history on open wounds and ulcers on the surface of the skin. You do not need to use a herb infused honey for this. It has also been shown that honey can help soothe coughs in young children and even the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends giving honey to children to soothe coughs. Adding herbs that soothe coughs, help break up and bring up phlegm and soothe inflammed tissues adds to the effectiveness of the honey. .
So how do you make a herbal honey at home? Its really simple, read on to learn to make your own! Before we proceed, however, a word about what kind of honey to use. A lot of commercial honey that you can purchase in stores has been pasteuzied. This means it has been heated to kill bacteria. Although this may sound like a good thing, the pasteurization process also kills or removes many of the healthy, natural compounds found in honey – the good bacteria, enzymes, micronutrients and small amounts of pollen which can help alleviate allergy symptoms. To get the full health benefits of honey you want to use raw, unpasteurized honey. And, you don’t want to boil it or raise the heat too high when making syrup. If you do, you will be pasteurizing the honey and loosing the health benefits. In Canada, any honey that you see in a store that says “Pasteurized” has been, well, pasteurized. If it doesn’t say pasteurized on the label then you have raw honey!
What you need:
2oz dried herbs or 3-6oz fresh herbs
4 cups water
2 cups honey
A strainer basket
Cheesecloth or other cloth to line the strainer
Coffee filter (optional)
Put your herb mix in a pot and cover with 3-4 cups of cool water. Cover with a lid and turn heat to medium low. When the water and herbs just begin to boil you can the turn the heat down – and take the lid off- and allow it to simmer at a very low heat. Now we want to let the herb and water mixture simmer or steam very gently until about half or more of the water has boiled off.
After simmering, turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool for a few minutes. Next, strain the herbs out through a strainer lined with cheesecloth or other light material. I strain the tea a second time through a coffee filter. This ensures that you have removed all the tiny herb particles, but is not necessary if you are making syrup for your own or your family’s use.
Next, pour the tea back into a clean pot and put it on a burner over low heat. In this step you want to evaporate some of the water until you have approximately one cup of tea left. This will give you a really concentrated herbal tea. Turn off the heat and allow the tea to cool again for a few minutes. Now you can add 2 cups of honey to the tea in the pot and stir gently until the honey and tea are completely mixed together. Turn off heat and pour the honey into a jar or bottle.
So now that you know how to make a syrup, what herbs should you use? That depends on what you want to use your syrup for. Herbal honey’s are great to sweeten and flavour tea. One of my favourites to use this way is a syrup made with Ginger, Cinnamon and Elecampagne which you can learn to make here. This not only adds flavour to your tea, but is also good to warm you up and support your lungs and sinuses during a cold.
The possibilities for herb combinations for syrups is really only limited by your imagination and what you have on hand, so go ahead and be adventurous! Elderberries (Sambucus sps) are very popular for making syrups and Elderberry Syrup is excellent to have on hand during cold and flu season. Other popular herbs for treating coughs and colds include: Mullein (Verbascum Thapsis), Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), Horehound (Marrubium vulgare), Ginger (Zingiber officinalis), Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), Wild Cherry Bark (Prunus virginiana, P. serotina), New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae,) Evergreen species and more. Over time I will add more information (Monographs) about individual herbs. In the meantime, you can always ask about what herbs may be suitable for your situation or look up the individual herbs. There are different kinds of coughs, and different herbs are suited to treat each individual person and their own particular circumstances.