Disclaimer: The following information has not been approved by the FDA. This information should not be interpreted as medical advice and is not a substitute for a visit with a medical care professional. Always speak to your doctor about any health concerns.
Medicinal Honey is one of the simplest botanical medicines you can make. It requires no special skills, and little in the way of kitchen equipment. If you’ve ever doubted your ability to make an herbal home remedy, this is one you should try!
Honey’s Historical Use
Honey is a sweet substance produced by honey bees from the nectar of plants. It contains trace enzymes, minerals, vitamins and amino acids. Most people don’t know that the medicinal qualities of honey have been documented in ancient Greek, Roman, Christian and Islamic texts. Its use has also been traced as far as the Xin dynasty period of 2,000 B.C. European history records honey’s use in treating wounds and amputated limbs by the Saxons in 1,000 B.C., as a therapeutic cure in Medieval Europe, and treating soldier’s wounds in 1913 Second Balkan War. It is currently used to treat resistant bacterial skin infections in UK hospitals.
Honey is a powerful tool for the Home Medicine Cabinet because of its antibiotic, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. In his book Herbal Antibiotics, Stephen Buhner calls honey a “potent antibiotic against all known forms of resistant bacteria that infect the skin and wounds” and cites clinical trials performed in the UK where it has “become a significant medical treatment for surgical wounds, wound healing and burns in hospitals”. It is currently used to treat resistant bacterial skin infections in UK hospitals.
Dr. Tieraona Low Dog promotes honey’s use as “one of the best treatments we have for wounds and burns. When applied topically, honey is able to pull out debris, infection, and bacteria from wounds while drawing in white blood (immune) cells.” (Healthy At Home)
It is important to use organic, wildflower honey, preferably raw and minimally filtered. The best honey will contain some pollen, giving it a cloudy appearance. Manuka honey, from New Zealand, is very potent. The honey available in most grocery stores is generally not suitable for medicinal use as it can contain pesticides and bee antibiotics. The Healthy Place has several medicinal honeys available.
Practical Applications for honey
- Burns, Wounds, Ulcerations and Bedsores: It may be applied directly to the cleaned wound and then covered with a sterile bandage. It may also be placed on a gauze pad which is then applied to the cleaned wound. Make sure the wound and the surrounding skin are completely covered with a thick layer of honey. Dr. Low Dog recommends covering the first bandage with another, somewhat larger, bandage and securing it with first aid tape. Change the bandage and reapply the honey once or twice a day. Make sure to watch for any signs of infection.
- Night Time Coughs: Just before bed take 1 to 2 teaspoons and hold in mouth. Let honey melt slowly and run down your throat. Don’t drink anything to wash it down! It coats the throat to soothe your cough. A study involving 139 children found that honey beat the cough suppressant dextromethorphan and the antihistamine diphenhydramine in soothing night time coughing and improving their sleep.
- Immune Boosting: Manuka honey has been found to stimulate immune cells according to a study published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology. Take up to three tablespoons each day, undiluted or in tea, to prevent illness and increase muscle tone.
- Stimulate Digestion: Start your day with a spoonful of honey and half a juiced lemon mixed in warm water.
What Is Medicinal Honey?
It is the combination of honey with fresh or dried herbs to draw the therapeutic properties out of the plant material and create a product that is delicious, as well as medicinal. This simple process enhances the healing properties of honey and herbs to address specific health conditions.
What Can Medicinal Honey Do For You?
The following are some examples of herbs that can be used in medicinal honeys and what areas they address:
- Chamomile: calming, sleep aid
- Elderberry: immune booster
- Ginger: increases circulation, digestive aid, immune booster
- Lavender: calming, relieves anxiety, encourages deep and restful sleep
- Lemon Balm: relieves anxiety
- Mint: digestive aid, relieves congestion
- Sage: coughs, sore throats, wound dressing, fever reduction, calming
- Thyme: upper respiratory infections, coughs, fever reduction, relieves sinus pressure, stimulates digestion
As you can see, medicinal honey’s uses are varied. Do you have a favorite herb? Use it to make medicinal honey and receive its therapeutic benefits.
A Basic Recipe for Medicinal Honey
The following instructions apply to any herbs you choose to use. Increased strength and flavor may be achieved by chopping fresh herbs more thoroughly.
When purchasing honey don’t go to your typical grocery store. Local bee keepers, farmer’s markets, health food stores and other businesses that sell raw, unprocessed honey are where you want to shop!
- 1/2 cup fresh or 1/4 cup dried herbs (do not use powdered herbs)
- 1 cup raw, unprocessed honey
- 1 pint glass jar than has a tight fitting lid (canning jars are ideal)
- stainless steel mesh strainer
- funnel (a canning funnel works well for this)
It may be helpful to place your container of honey in a bowl of hot water to thin it before you begin. Do not heat honey on a stove.
STEP 1: Chop fresh herbs. Dried herbs can be rubbed between your fingers. Powdered herbs should not be used because you won’t be able to remove them from the honey later.
STEP 2: Pour a small amount of honey into the jar. Add your fresh or dried herbs and top off with the remaining honey. Cap tightly. Roll the jar in your hands to distribute the herbs throughout.
STEP 3: Place the jar in a sunny windowsill or a warm place for 2 weeks. Turn the jar at least once a day. I placed my jars on the window sill behind my sink. Whenever I was at the sink I would give them a flip. That convenient location helped me to remember to complete this important step numerous times each day. The movement of turning is important because it helps draw out the medicinal qualities and flavor of the herbs.
STEP 4: After two weeks you are ready to strain out the herbs. It helps to do this when the honey is warm from the sun or you can warm the honey as directed above. I like to use a canning funnel placed in the neck of another clean jar with my strainer resting inside the funnel. Pour the honey into the strainer, letting it stand until all the honey has dripped through.
STEP 5: Make sure to label and date your finished product.
Please Note: Honey may crystallize over time, or when stored under cool conditions. This does not mean it has spoiled. You can use it in the crystallized form or dissolve the crystals by placing the container in hot water until the honey has become liquid again.
How to use
Here are four basic ways to use your medicinal honey:
- Hot Drink: Combine 1 teaspoon of medicinal honey with 1 cup hot water. Stir until dissolved. Especially enjoyable when combined with fresh lemon juice.
- By the Spoonful: Place one teaspoon of medicinal honey in your mouth. If you are trying to quiet a cough or sore throat it helps to allow the honey to slowly dissolve, letting it coat your throat.
- With Food: Drizzle medicinal honey over food. This is particularly delightful way to encourage children to “take their medicine”.
- Wound & Burn Dressing: Spread a thin layer of medicinal honey over the affected area (make sure to clean wounds first) and cover with a gauze bandage. Secure in place. Change as daily or more often if necessary.
Here are some some ways that medicinal honey may provide therapeutic benefit. Use the methods outlined above for application.
- Calming: chamomile, lavender, sage
- Stress & Anxiety Relief: lemon balm, chamomile, lavender
- Sleep Aid: chamomile, lavender
- Congestion: mint, thyme
- Coughs: sage, thyme
- Sore Throats: sage
- Fever Reduction: sage, thyme
- Sinus Pressure: thyme
- Digestion: mint, ginger
- Burns: lavender
- Wounds: sage, lavender
- Immune Booster: ginger, elderberry
- Honey should never be given to children under the age of 12 months due to the risk of infantile botulism. The chances of this occurring are very unlikely, but certainly not worth the risk. If you have children in this age range, you can substitute maple syrup for the honey.
Medicinal honey can be the perfect replacement for over-the-counter medications. As a society we have become dependent on the medical community and drug stores to provide answers and products to deal with common ailments. Making the mental switch to gentle botanical remedies is the first step. There is an increased level of personal investment when the product you are using is one you made yourself!
It was a lovely coincidence that the week I wrote this article a local beekeeper approached The Healthy Place’s owner, Tim O’Brien, about carrying his honey in our stores! Stop at our vitamin and supplement stores, located in Fitchburg and Sun Prairie, WI, and check out this new addition!
The Healthy Place team hopes making and using medicinal honey is another step in your journey to “Find Your Healthy Place”!
This is written as an informational guide. The treatments described are not meant to replace professional medical care.
*Disclaimer: All information and recommendations given on this site, in email correspondence, newsletters or other materials provided by The Healthy Place is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice nor be viewed as a substitute for a face-to-face consultation with a healthcare provider. Consult a licensed healthcare practitioner before modifying, stopping, or starting the use of any medications, health programs, diets, and/or supplements, as well as regarding any health concerns you may have. Our statements and information have not been evaluated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration. As with any health-related program, product, or service, your risks and results may vary. We expressly disclaim responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or damage caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the information provided to you here.”
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