Healing sweets: herbal honeys, syrups and cough drops - Part 1
Honey has been regarded as a healing substance for thousands of years. Greek healers relied on honey water, vinegar water, and honey/vinegar water as their primary cures. An Egyptian medical text dated to about 2600 BCE mentions honey 500 times in 900 remedies. What makes honey so special?
First, honey is antibacterial. It counters infections on the skin, in the intestines, in the respiratory system, or throughout the body.
Second, honey is hydroscopic, a long word meaning "water loving". Honey holds moisture in the place where it is put; it can even draw moisture out of the air. A honey facial leaves skin smooth and deliciously moist. These two qualities - anti-infective and hydroscopic - make honey an ideal healer of wounds of all kinds, including burns, bruises and decubita (skin ulcers), an amazing soother for sore throats, a powerful ally against bacterial diarrhea, and a counter to asthma.
Third, honey may be as high as 35 percent protein. This, along with the readily-available carbohydrate (sugar) content, provides a substantial surge of energy and a counter to depression. Some sources claim that honey is equal, or superior, to ginseng in restoring vitality. Honey's proteins also promote healing, both internally and externally.
And honey is a source of vitamins B, C, D and E, as well as some minerals. It appears to strengthen the immune system and help prevent (some authors claim to cure) cancer.
Honey is gathered from flowers, and individual honeys from specific flowers may be more beneficial than a blended honey. Tupelo honey, from tupelo tree blossoms, is high in levulose, which slows the digestion of the honey making it more appropriate for diabetics. Manuka honey, from New Zealand, is certified as antibacterial. My "house brand" is a rich, black, locally-produced autumn honey gathered by the bees from golden rod, buckwheat, chicory, and other wild flowers.
Raw honey also contains pollen and propolis, bee and flower products that have special healing powers.
Bee pollen, like honey, is a concentrated source of protein and vitamins; unlike honey, it is a good source of minerals, hormonal precursors, and fatty acids. Bee pollen has a reputation for relieving, and with consistent use, curing allergies and asthma. The pollens that cause allergic reactions are from plants that are wind-pollinated, not bee-pollinated, so any bee pollen, or any honey containing pollen, ought to be helpful. One researcher found an 84 percent reduction in symptoms among allergy sufferers who consumed a spoonful of honey a day during the spring, summer, and fall plus three times a week in the winter.
Propolis is made by the bees from resinous tree saps and is a powerful antimicrobial substance. Propolis can be tinctured in pure grain alcohol (resins do not dissolve well in 100 proof vodka, my first choice for tinctures) and used to counter infections such as bronchitis, sinusitis, colds, flus, gum disease, and tooth decay.
WARNING: All honey, but especially raw honey, contains the spores of botulinus. While this is not a problem for adults, children under the age of one year may not have enough stomach acid to prevent these spores from developing into botulism, a deadly poison.
Herbal honeys are made by pouring honey over fresh herbs and allowing them to merge over a period of several days to several months. When herbs are infused into honey, the water-loving honey absorbs all the water-soluble components of the herb, and all the volatile oils too, most of which are anti-infective. Herbal honeys are medicinal and they taste great. When I look at my shelf of herbal honeys I feel like the richest person in the world.
Using your herbal honeys
Place a tablespoonful of your herbal honey (include herb as well as honey) into a mug; add boiling water; stir and drink. Or, eat herbal honeys by the spoonful right from the jar to soothe and heal sore, infected throats and tonsils. Smear the honey (no herb please) onto wounds and burns.
Make an herbal honey
• Coarsely chop the fresh herb of your choice (leave garlic whole).
• Put chopped herb into a wide-mouthed jar, filling almost to the top.
• Pour honey into the jar, working it into the herb with a chopstick if needed.
• Add a little more honey to fill the jar to the very top.
• Cover tightly. Label.
Your herbal honey is ready to use in as little as a day or two, but will be more medicinal if allowed to sit for six weeks.
Herbal honeys made from aromatic herbs make wonderful gifts.
Make a Russian cold remedy
• Fill a small jar with unpeeled cloves of garlic.
• If desired, add one very small onion, cut in quarters, but not peeled.
• Fill the jar with honey.
• Label and cover.
This remedy is ready to use the next day. It is taken by the spoonful to ward off both colds and flus. It is sovereign against sore throats, too. And it tastes yummy!
(Garlic may also carry botulinus spores, but no adult has ever gotten botulism from this remedy. A local restaurant poisoned patrons by keeping garlic in olive oil near a hot stove for months before using it, though.)
Make an Egyptian wound salve
"I thought at first this would be dreadful stuff to put on an open wound . . . Instead, the bacteria in the fat disappeared and when pathogenic bacteria were added . . . they were killed just as fast," commented scientists who tested this formula found in the ancient Smith Papyrus.
• Mix one tablespoonful of honey with two tablespoonsful of organic animal fat.
• Put in a small jar and label.
Increase the wound-healing ability of this salve by using an herbally-infused fat.
Make a remedy to counter diarrhea
• Fill one glass with eight ounces of orange juice.
• Add a pinch of salt and a teaspoonful of honey.
• Fill another glass with eight ounces of distilled water.
• Add ¼ teaspoonful of baking soda.
• Drink alternately from both glasses until empty.
Make Dr. Christopher’s Burn Healer
He recommends this for burns covering large areas. Keep the burn constantly wet with this healer for best results.
• Place chopped fresh comfrey leaves in a blender.
• Add aloe vera gel to half cover.
• Add honey to cover.
• Blend and apply.
Best to make only as much as you can use in a day; store extra in refrigerator.
Fresh plants that I use to make herbal honeys
Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)
Comfrey leaf (Symphytum off.)
Cronewort/mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
Fennel seeds (Foeniculum vulgare)
Garlic (Allium sativum)
Ginger root (Zingiber officinalis)
Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana)
Lavender (Lavendula off.)
Lemon Balm (Melissa off.)
Lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla)
Marjoram (Origanum majorana)
Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
Osha root (Ligusticum porterii)
Peppermint (Mentha pipperata)
Rose petals (Rosa canina and others)
Rose hips (Rosa)
Rosemary (Rosmarinus off.)
Sage (Salvia off.)
Shiso (Perilla frutescens)
Spearmint (Mentha spicata)
Thyme (Thymus species)
Yarrow blossoms (Achillea millefolium)