Making Syrups (honeys and elixirs)
One of my favorite ways to work with herbs is to make syrups, honeys and elixirs. A syrup is simply a concentrated infusion or decoction mixed with a sweetener (usually honey, maple syrup or raw sugar.) An herbal honey means you infuse your dried herb in honey. An elixir means you infuse herbs in a mixture of honey and alcohol (usually brandy). All of these are ways to get the awesome nutritional and medicinal value out of the herbs in a way that is super yummy. Honey is medicinal in its own right so the medicinal value is actually increased. These preparations also allow you to make medicines that last for a long time.
Dried leaf/flower: Infuse 1 cup of leaf/flower (about a ounce) in a pint of water for 20 minutes. Strain out herb. You should have about 8 ounces of infusion left. Mix with an equal part of honey and gently bring them together over low heat.
Root: Decoct (simmer over a low flame) a 1/4 cup of root (about an ounce) in a pint of water for 30 minutes. Remove herbal material. You should have about 8 ounces of decoction. Add 8 ounces of honey and gently bring them together over a low heat.
Take your preparation and place it in a pint jar and cap and label it. Add an ounce of brandy if you want to extend the shelf life. Refrigerate.
This is really simply. Fill up a jar loosely with fresh herb or a 1/3rd the way up with dried herb. Fill the jar the rest of the way up with honey. Mix the honey and herb together so it is fully integrated (a chopstick works well for this.) Cap and label it and leave it in a cool dark spot for 4 weeks.
You can also do this quicker by adding the herb to the honey in a double boiler and then gently heat the mix over the next 48-72 hours over the stove. Make sure the herbs and honey are mixed well and don’t stick to the bottom. Stir frequently and make sure the heat is pretty low.
Then strain the honey out (cheesecloth works well) into another jar. Herbal honeys are awesome with herbs such as lavender, sage, rose and thyme. Kids love this stuff.
This is really a variation of the above using equal parts alcohol (again usually brandy) and honey. Again not only does this taste awesome, and preserves the herb for a long period, its a nice way to offer herbs to people who are iffy on taking them.