This was my year to experiment with honey as a medicinal base. I have used it in a burn ointment, to make floral infusions, and as electuaries. What is an electuary? It is a powdered herb mixed with raw honey. The texture can vary from more like a syrup when less powder has been added and the honey used is warmed and runny. Or it can be thick paste that can be rolled into pills or lozenges. Infused honey is usually made with fresh flowers or aromatic herbs that are later strained out. With an electuary you can leave the herb mixed in and consume it together. Electuaries are a great way to consume dried roots, barks, seeds or berries that can be quite coarse and starchy. I like them as daily “tonics” for things like digestion, thyroid issues, or menopause. Honey makes a fantastic preservative. I can store a large amount of product in my refrigerator for months without spoiling.
My electuaries tend to contain herbs that are course and don’t make a fine powder. I often prefer ingredients that are high in volatile oils. Often “taste” is an important part of an herb’s action, especially when it serves to improve digestion or move stagnation. My base powder for this formula contains herbs known to support the healthy function of heart, liver, kidney, and spleen/stomach/intestines. It provides minerals to maintain bone density. There are herbs that are a source of vitamin C or improve immune system function . Lastly there are plant allies to smooth the journey of menopause as hormone levels change and adjust to a new normal.
Make a base powder first.
You need 1 heapingTBSP each, finely powdered, of the following dried herbs. I like to use a standard coffee/spice grinder for this.
burdock root, hyssop tops (leaves and flowers), hibiscus flowers, fennel seed, hops “flowers”, echinacea tops (flowers and leaves), horsetail, sage, and nettles. Once measured, add all to a small bowl and set aside.
2 TBSP dried chaste tree berries. Make these into a fine powder and add to your bowl.
Lastly you will need to make 2 TBSP of powder from dried, whole, red clover blossoms. Add to your bowl.
Fill a very clean 4 oz. canning jar 1/2 full of very clear , room temperature, runny honey.
Add two TBSP of your base powder to the jar. Mix well to remove lumps and create a smooth, evenly mixed product. Top the jar with more honey and mix. Seal tightly.
Store the jar and any unused powder in a cool, dark, place. Avoid crystals in your electuary by using very clean utensils to dispense. You can whip it if it separates.
Chaste tree/Vitex does not thrive in my Colorado garden zone. I can’t buy a bush here and actually had to bring one up from New Mexico where it is commonly grown. In my yard it is a very late bloomer. By the time that berries could be ripe, drying, and ready to harvest they have already been damaged by low temperatures. So while I can enjoy it aesthetically, I can’t use my bush for medicine. I have to order the dried berries from a on-line supplier. Chaste tree is typically consumed as a tincture. An electuary provides another option.
This perennial, ornamental, shrub/bush can grow up to 9 feet high. Aromatic leaves are opposite, palmate with 5 spade shaped, fully separated lobes/leaflets on long stems. These have smooth margins, prominent veins, and are a bluish green. Tiny purple/blue flowers (irregular, tube shaped) grow as long clusters/racemes/spikes at the end of stems. Numerous, “spicy” red berries mature into blue-gray seeds that are similar to peppercorns.
Vitex is thought to regulate the menstrual cycle. Its action on the female hormones has been used to treat PMS (migraines, acne, herpes outbreaks, breast tenderness, fatigue, anxiety, mood swings), water retention, excessive/irregular/prolonged menstrual bleeding, painful menstruation and fibroids. It has a history of milk stimulation when breastfeeding or for organ support in the case of liver and spleen. It tonifies the blood and improves circulation. Herbalists have used this plant for pituitary disfunction, respiratory infection, nausea, indigestion, constipation, stomach cramps, cysts/tumors, endometriosis, infertility, threatened miscarriage, menopause symptoms (depression, hot flashes, irritability, vaginal dryness), rheumatism, arthritis, and fibromyalgia, As a poultice it has been used to treat pain, spasms, weakness and poor circulation in the limbs. Very few of my herbals discuss the use of vitex as medicine. I think it is worth exploring the historical use of this plant more in detail.
Latin name: Vitex agnus-castus
Botanical Family: Verbenaceae/Vervain or Mint/laminaceae
Parts used: the berries/dried seeds
Energetics: bitter, acrid, cool, sweet
Spiritual/Emotional uses: to relieve emotional tension. To restore balance and rhythm in life after disruption or change.
Contraindications: none but discontinue use if odd symptoms or reaction occurs. Not recommended during pregnancy or lactation these days.