Monday, 14 February 2011

Sweet Medicines

Last Saturday's workshop was about honey, our remit was to make an infused onion honey and an electuary.  We started by tasting infused herb honeys, I tried bergamot, mixed flower, angelica, elderberry and onion. My favourite was the bergamot; my least favourite was the angelica which surprised me but it was too perfumed I think.
 Honey has healing properties of its own, it is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. It makes a good medium for herb infusion as it is hydroscopic, which means it absorbs water-soluble constituents and volatile oils.
 We made an onion honey; onion is antimicrobial and is used as a cough remedy. Into my jar went chopped onion, dried bergamot leaves and flowers and the juice of half a lemon, topped up with honey and then “podged” with a chop stick to remove air bubbles. It is ready to use the next morning, it is a matter of personal preference as to whether or not the herbs are left in or strained. It tastes a lot better than it might sound.
 We also made an electuary; I made a longevity electuary using powdered herbs and honey which came to a paste-like consistency. The ingredients were:
3tsp Ashwaghanda powder, ½ tsp. spirulina powder (would have been 3tsp but we ran out), 3tsp slippery elm powder, 2 tsp. Siberian ginseng (eluthero) powder, 1 tsp. cardamom powder, ½ tsp. turmeric powder, covered with local, raw honey.
 This electuary is intended for daily use, I tsp. eaten daily, this can be straight from the spoon, on toast, in a milky drink, in yogurt or in a smoothie. It is said by Ananda Wilson who wrote the recipe to give stamina, clarity, physical and mental energy, good digestion, strong mucous membranes and to be an aphrodisiac.
 Sarah had bought some elecampane root to the workshop. It was a large white root; I had only seen it dried before. Some of us had a taste, it was very perfume-like at first and then the bitterness started, and gradually increased until it was strongly bitter and we all dashed for a drink. Elecampane is one of my chosen herbs to study so I was pleased to see and taste the root. Sam kindly made me up a jar of honey with elecampane root which I have left to infuse for a few weeks; this will be used for coughs. Sarah also gave me a piece of root to plant which I have done and I am hoping to have a beautiful “wild sunflower” in the summer.
Elecampane flowers on an elecampane leaf

 After the workshop Sam and I went to gather our sticky buds for the Horse Chestnut flower essence which is the next task I shall complete. Sarah told us the story of the fairy horsemen which explains there being little hoof prints along Horse Chestnut branches, this helps with remembering how to identify the tree at this time of year with no leaves.

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