What is an elixir?
If you are new to herbal medicine making, you might be wondering what is an elixir?
Basically, elixirs are liquids that can be ingested for their health benefits and have been used for centuries to treat various ailments. Making a herbal elixir is usually done using the folk method and involves steeping medicinal herbs in honey or maple syrup, and sometimes combining them with alcohol, vegetable glycerin, or apple cider vinegar.
Elixirs are one of my very favorite preparations for general use. I love that the preparation of elixirs don’t require exact scientific measurements and is more of a culinary adventure than a precise formulation.
They can be made from a wide variety of herbs and are sweet, rich, and strong. The combination of alcohol and honey extracts numerous constituents and also does a great job with long term preservation.
The sweet taste of an elixir is generally so pleasing that most people do not mind drinking it. For this reason, it helps kids and other resistant individuals take their herbal remedies without complaint.
Basic directions for making a herbal elixir
- Fresh or dried herbs
- Brandy, Scotch, Vodka or even cognac, which one you use depends on what’s available and the plant(s) you’re working with. The best results will come from using good quality alcohol for your elixirs—so if possible, invest in some top-shelf brandy or scotch!
- High quality honey (I like using local wildflower honey)
- A Mason jar (or other glass jar that seals well).
- A mixing spoon
- If using dried plant material, fill a jar about a third of the way with plant matter. For fresh plants, add enough coarsely chopped material to fill your jar.
- Fill the jar about a third of the way with honey.
- Stir well so that plants are well coated with honey.
- Fill the rest of the jar with alcohol.
- Stir well.
- Taste and adjust the proportions of honey and alcohol as desired. The mixture will taste sweeter in a couple of weeks, so keep that in mind when making adjustments.
- Cover with airtight lid.
- Label your jar with the ingredients and date,
- Place the jar in a cool, dark place to steep for about 4 weeks.
Strain the plant matter through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth. Reserve the liquid.
- Elixirs should be stored in tightly closed, light resistant containers away from direct heat and sunlight. I like amber glass bottles (like these).
- Elixirs can remain shelf-stable for 1-2 years.
Where to buy Herbs
If you don’t have access to local or homegrown herbs, then I recommend purchasing them from Mountain Rose Herbs. They’re my favorite place to buy high-quality, organic dried herbs and herbal products. They believe in people, plants, and planet over profit and are dedicated to ethically sourcing or growing all of their herbs. They’re a great company to buy from.
Winter Elixir recipe
Pine and rose hips are strong sources of vitamin C. Pine is also warming and immune stimulating, while yarrow and calendula stimulate the immune response in different ways. Calendula is a good lymphatic clearing herb and in addition to being strongly antibacterial is also antifungal, helping the body to manage many types of microbial overgrowth and imbalance in the system. Yarrow is also powerfully antimicrobial, and it is a diaphoretic herb. Chamomile helps with insomnia, anxiety, and digestive upsets. Ginger is warming and diaphoretic as well, so works nicely in this blend.
- Honey (preferably raw)
- 3 parts fresh ginger or 1 part dried
- 1 part black peppercorns
- 1 handful of pine needles and twigs
- 3 parts dried rose hips
- 3 parts dried calendula petals
- 2 parts dried chamomile flowers
- 2 parts dried yarrow flowers
Rosemary Memory Elixir
Here’s a recipe for a rosemary memory elixir. It can be used daily to support your memory health, or whenever you need a memory boost.
If you have heart disease or are on cardiac medications, please consult with your doctor before using this elixir. If you are pregnant, please consult with your obstetrician or midwife before using.
Emotional Support Elixir
I often turn to herbal elixirs when I want the energetic, spiritual and emotional support of the plants. Depending on the plants used, elixirs can be helpful for grounding, anxiety, depression, grief, soothing anger and rage and uplifting the spirit in heavy times. The herbs recommended in this elixir are particularly good for emotional support.
For this recipe, you can use either fresh or dried herbs. This is a fun elixir to craft, as you can feel free to experiment with the ratios of herbs to use depending on your own taste preference.
- Brandy or apple cider vinegar
- Raw honey
- lemon balm
- st John’s wort
- hawthorn berry (in late summer)
If using dried plant material, fill a jar about a third of the way with plant matter. For fresh plants, add enough coarsely chopped material to fill your jar. Fill the jar 1/3 of the way with honey and stir well. Fill the remaining space in the jar with a high-quality brandy or apple cider vinegar, and stir again until everything is well combined. Place in a cool, dark place for about a month. Strain off plant material with some cheesecloth and squeeze out all the liquid. Put the liquid in an amber glass bottle for long term storage.
We hope that this article has been helpful in explaining what is an elixir, and how to harness the healing power of plants that people have used since ancient times.
The information provided throughout this site is for educational purposes only and is not to be regarded as substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. The information provided is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the guidance of your qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.
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