Sweet, rich and strong, elixirs make excellent medicines from a wide variety of plants for myriad situations and are one of my very favorite preparations for general use. The combination of alcohol and honey extract a large number of constituents and also do a great job with long term preservation, better than high proof alcohol in some cases.
A sweet herbal preparation usually made with alcohol and honey (although vegetable glycerine or other sweeteners may sometimes be substituted), taken in similar doses to tinctures.
Elixirs make excellent, food-like medicines and can be prepared from a variety of herbs, especially aromatic plants or tasty berries. Generally made with the folkloric method, elixir recipes can be considered more of a culinary art than a precise science. They are very useful in helping children (and picky adults) adjust to the taste of herbal medicines, especially where repeated doses of a tonic or preventative remedy is needed.
They also lend themselves very well to many nervine herbs, and the honey seems to contribute to the extraction or potentiating of relaxant plants in general, and especially in aromatic flowers such as Rosa, Lonicera and Oenothera. Elixirs make an excellent alternative to syrups in many situations because they are more concentrated and thus require a smaller dose (and thus less sugar intake), they are more easily preserved and they don’t damage delicate herbs with the extensive heating process usually required for creating syrups.
• Fresh or dried herbs
• Brandy, Vodka, Scotch or similar alcohol, which one depends on what you have on hand and the plant(s) you’re working with. You’re going for good taste here, so it can be beneficial to invest in an extra good cognac or scotch for certain elixirs.
• High quality honey
• Appropriate sized jar with airtight lid
• Something to stir with
1. For fresh plants, add enough coarsely chopped plant matter to fill the jar. For dried plants, fill the jar about a third of the way.
2. Fill the jar about a third of the way with honey.
3. Stir well so that plants are well coated with honey.
4. Fill jar with alcohol.
5. Stir well.
6. Taste and adjust honey/alcohol ration as desired. It will taste a bit sweeter in a couple of weeks so keep that in mind with tweaking the proportions.
7. Cover with airtight lid.
8. Allow to steep in a cool, dark place for about 4 weeks.
9. Strain, reserving liquid. Often, the plant matter can also be reserved and used in cooking or as a confection.
10. Store elixir in cool, dark place.
Rose Elixir Recipe
• For your elixir, it’s helpful to have on hand: A pint canning jar (or other glass jar that seals well)
• Fresh rose petals (the more aromatic the better, and either wild or domestic varieties will work, you can also use a mix of colors and types for the beauty and taste)
• About a pint of high quality brandy (the better the brandy, the better your elixir will taste)
• Appr. 1/3 pint of raw honey (preferably local, and of a lighter wildflower type since darker honeys can muffle the rose taste a bit)
• A good stirring spoon
Step by Step
1. First, fill your jar all the way to the top with Rose petals, you don’t have to pack them in but push them down a bit to minimize the air space in the jar.
2. Don’t forget to stop and smell the Roses! Take a deep breath of the healing scent and revel in the gorgeous colors and textures of the petals.
3. Now, pour the honey in slowly, stirring as necessary, until the petals are well coated.
4. Next, fill to the top with brandy, against stirring as necessary to remove air bubbles and fill the jar evenly.
5. Now cover the jar with a tight fitting lid, and shake carefully to finish the mixing process.
6. Let macerate in a cool, dark place for four to six weeks (or as long as you can stand to wait.
7. When straining, reserve both liquid and the Rose petals.
8. The petals will be infused with honey and brandy and make a tasty treat to top a cake or fruit salad, or just to be eaten plain and with great relish.
* Warming spices such as fresh Ginger, Beebalm (Monarda spp.) flowers, Orange peel, Cinnamon powder/sticks or Cardamom pods can add flavor and zing to the elixir, especially if you find Rose too cooling for your temperament. It’s easiest to add small amounts (to taste) after you add the honey and before you add the brandy.
* Hawthorn or Cherry flowers can be mixed with the Rose petals for a formula that’s extra effective in the treatment of cardiac weakness, heart palpitations, high blood pressure as well as grief and heartbreak.
* Evening Primrose flowers contribute a delicate floral taste, enhance the nervine and anti-spasmodic effects as well as making the elixir more effective for external treatment of burns and bug bites. Because Evening Primrose blooms later than Roses in most places, you may wish to simply leave you elixir to macerate until the Evening Primrose is in bloom and just add them in. Or, you can go ahead and strain it and just macerate the Evening Primrose directly in the Rose Elixir.
A Few Medicinal Suggestions
As a medicine, Rose is cooling and drying, and is a classic anti-inflammatory for any part of the body, but with special emphasis on the digestive, reproductive and circulatory systems.
Rose Elixir is relaxing and uplifting at the same time and can be used in almost any case of trauma, grief, depression, anxiety, heartbreak and chronic stress and fatigue to good effect. I carry a small bottle with me at all times and us it very similarly to Rescue Remedy for its soothing and recuperative effects.
This aromatic and tasty flower is also known for its ability to help restore a healthy balance of flora in the gut, and to resolve many gastric disturbances. It is especially useful in cases of excess heat where the tip of the tongue (an extension of the digestive tract, after all) is red and there are sensations of heat or burning in the belly.
The whole rose family is quite effective in the treatment of viruses, especially eruptive childhood viruses like chickenpox and any bug that manifests with abundant heat and inflammation and the Rose is no exception to that.
Externally, Rose is a superb wound and burn healer, and the honey reinforces its ability to resolve or prevent infection, to lessen inflammation and assist in the regeneration of new tissue. It also works great on itchy bug bites of all kinds and can even be very helpful for many venomous stings and bites.
There are so many potentials for tasty and healing herbal elixir, but here are a few of my favorites
Cinnamomum spp. bark (Cinnamon)
Crataegus spp. flowers or berries (Hawthorn)
Foeniculum vulgare seeds (Fennel)
Lonicera spp. flowers (Honeysuckle)
Matricaria spp. flowers (Chamomile)
Mentha spp. leaves (Mint)
Monarda spp. flowers and leaves (Beebalm)
Oenothera spp. flowers and leaves (Evening Primrose)
Prunus persica leaves, bark and flowers (Peach)
Prunus serotina, P. virginiana and similar spp. leaves, flowers, bark (Wild Cherry)
Rosa spp. flowers or hips (Rose)
Salvia spp. leaves and flowers (Sage)
Sambucus nigra and similar spp. flower and berries (Elder)
Smilacina spp. roots (False Solomon’s Seal)
Zingiber officinalis root (Ginger)