The Electuary: A Sweet and Shelf-Stable Herbal Delivery Method

If you are seeking creative methods for sticking to your herbal regimen, consider the easy solution of a homemade herbal electuary. This concept has been used for centuries (since the Middle Ages!) to make herbs more portable, palatable, and long-lasting. Electuaries combine the healing properties of an herb or herbal formula with the benefits and tastiness of honey to make following an herbal regimen a simple and yummy process. (Source)

An electuary is simply an herbal powder mixed with honey, or another sweetener, to create a paste. The texture of the paste can range from runny to thick, depending on the ratio of herbs to honey. The paste can be taken by the spoonful or rolled into tablets for easy storage and long-term preservation. Electuaries may have been the first form of candy, served as desserts at opulent banquets long ago. The natural sweetness of honey can help make even the least tasty herbs easy to get down. (Source)

Electuaries have a long shelf-life as they are made with dried herbs ground into a powder with the added preservative properties of honey. This benefit makes this herbal form great for keeping around the house for emergencies and when access to your favorite fresh herbs is limited. The process of creating an electuary could not be more straightforward, making homemade herbal remedies accessible even to those with little time or experience with DIY projects.

How to Make an Electuary
Use a high-quality honey (raw honey offers additional health benefits).

Any herbal powder can be used, a single herb or your favorite combination. You can easily grind whole dried herbs in a coffee grinder, spice grinder, or food processor to create a powder. A more finely ground powder makes a smoother electuary paste.

  1.  Place the herbal powder in a bowl.
  2. Add enough honey to create a thick paste, stirring thoroughly. Feel free to add a bit more honey to create a thinner paste if a sweeter blend is preferred. (A good rule of thumb to get started is ¼ cup honey to 2 tablespoons of powdered herbs, then adjust from there.)
  3. Store the paste in an air-tight container to be consumed by the spoonful as needed, or roll into small balls to store as tablets.

Common Examples and How to Use Them:

These recipes can be taken as a paste by the spoonful or rolled up into tablets to take 1-3 times per day. The paste can also be dissolved in hot water to make a tea or added to foods, such as smoothies or as a spread on crackers. You can even apply skin-benefiting and wound-repair formulas topically.

Warming Spice Honey: For a warming and spirit-lifting treat, try combining honey with a few familiar spices you are likely to have in your cupboard. Add cardamom, cinnamon, and a dash of nutmeg to ½ cup honey. This tasty combination can easily be added to foods or mixed into hot water to make a tea. It is great for warming up a cold or sluggish body and for lifting the mood. This is a good one to have on hand for the winter months, especially if you tend to run a little cold.

Honey Ginger Combo: Combine powdered ginger with honey to create a paste. Use this to make a great warming tea that fends off chills by adding about 1 teaspoon of the electuary to hot water. It is also ideal for various stomach issues including nausea, vomiting, cramps, motion sickness and gas. It helps to reduce phlegm. This is another good one to keep around for winter and to bring along when you travel.

Digestive Aid: Use the Honey Ginger Combo listed above as a base for this formula. Add ground fennel and/or anise seeds to your honey-ginger electuary. All of these herbs help to encourage harmonious digestion and relieve gas. It’s nice to take this one following a meal, as needed, by adding 1 teaspoon to a cup of hot water.

Immunity Boost: Wellness Mama offers the following two electuaries for immunity support whenever needed. They can be taken separately or together to ward off illness.

  • Vitamin C: Combine equal parts powdered rose hips, hibiscus, and sumac or camu-camu with enough honey to make a thick paste. This can be consumed by the spoonful (or however you prefer) to offer a generous dose of Vitamin C.
  • Echinacea: Simply add powdered Echinacea root to honey to create a paste. Take as a tablet, by the spoonful, or in hot water as a warming tea to prevent illness or at the first signs of a cold or flu

Precautions

While combining herbs with honey is a great way to make herbal medicine more palatable to kids, honey should not be given to children below the age of 1year old. Honey contains spores of Clostridium botulinum which is digestible for kids and adults, but not babies.

While herbs are all-natural, they are also potent medicine. Always consult with your health care provider to make sure the herbs you want to take are safe for you.

Conclusion

Electuaries offer a practical method for incorporating herbs into your health care routine. Their portability and long shelf-life make them a great option for busy folks, families with kids, and people on the go. The compact, drier texture makes them less messy and easier to travel with than herbal syrups. They can be taken as a tablet for those who just want to get their herbs down quickly, yet they are versatile and tasty enough to be enjoyed in combination with food or dissolved in water as a tea. And they are one of the simplest herbal delivery methods to prepare. Try one of the above recipes, or another useful herbal formula combined with a delicious honey, to make your first electuary. This is not only a useful option for herbal storage and delivery, it is also a fascinating piece of medicinal history available for our benefit.

Other sources consulted in preparing this article:

Herbal Remedies Magazine (Farmers Almanac Special Edition)

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