by Joanne Kewageshig
Honey itself is a wonderful health enhancing food! Adding herbs to honey enhances both the health benefits of honey, as well as the taste. Honey makes an excellent dressing for wounds and has been used throughout 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. By carefully selecting herbs suited to you, your child or whoever is taking the herb honey, you can enhance the benefits of taking honey.
So how do you make a herbal honey at home? It’s really simple! 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 pasteurised. 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. Also 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 looking 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!
Dried herbs in the pan.
Here we have White Pine (Pinus Strobus) and Cherry Bark (Prunus virginiana)
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 to 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.
Here the herbs and water have come to a boil. At this stage I will turn the heat down, take the lid off and allow it to gently simmer for an hour or so minutes. 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. The herbs have been strained out, the tea simmered down and now to add the honey
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. Melting and mixing the honey and strained tea over low heat. 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.
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. You can always research 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.
About Joanne Kewageshig:
My name is Joanne Kewageshig. I am a settler in Anishnaabe Territories and live with my husband and four children at Stoney Point First Nation, aka Aazhoodena. I have studied and worked with herbs for over 20 years, completing the Dominion Herbal College course, “Chartered Herbalist” in 2000. Our family seeks to live a traditional Anishnaabe way of life; we hunt, fish, gather and grow food and medicine and attend powwows and ceremony. We run our family herbal business- Honey Pot Herbals- from home. www.honeypotherbals.ca