This is really something to do in the summer when there’s a glut of honey and fresh herbs, however, we are in the midst of cold and ‘flu season and I’d like to have something in the cupboard to use preventatively, as a general winter elixir and also just in case I need something to soothe a sore throat or ease a cough. These herbal honey’s will be really great in some herbal tea or just with some hot water or even porridge.
The best honey to use (the only honey to use really) is a local, raw honey. Raw because it’s only strained and not pasteurised before it’s added to jars and therefore retains most of its incredibly beneficial nutrients and antioxidants. Local because it contains pollen that has been sourced from local plants (which many find helps with seasonal allergies). Pollen is a complete food i.e. it contains nearly all nutrients required. It’s rich in protein, free amino acids which the body can easily assimilate and vitamins (including B-complex and folic acid). In terms of winter health, a good quality honey contains antioxidants which can have an anti-inflammatory effect on the respiratory system. The active enzymes in a raw honey aid digestion too ensuring that we get all the nutrients we need from the food we eat. It also enhances gut flora which has been shown to increase immune function. It is antimicrobial and offers protection from bacteria and viruses.
The World Health Organisation stated in 2001 that current accumulating evidence suggests honey might have a role in treating coughs and colds in children. In a study by Paul et al, (published in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine Journal, 2007) honey was found to be more effective than cough suppressants in reducing the frequency of coughing in children. In another study by Cohen et al (published in Pediatrics Journal, 2012), honey was shown to be an effective remedy for coughs. The study found that young children with colds who were given a tablespoon of honey about 30 minutes before bedtime had less severe and less frequent night time coughing. The researchers also noted improved sleep quality for the parents and children.
Please note that children under 1 year should not eat honey due to a risk of a serious bacterial infection called botulism. For children older than age 1, honey is a safe, affordable treatment to relieve a cough related to a simple cold. A cough is usually due to the common cold virus and will resolve itself after a few days. If your child has difficulty breathing, wheezing, barking, a fever, rapid breathing or a cough that last for more than 2 weeks please seek emergency medical advice.
I experimented with three different herbal honeys:
1: Organic orange, clove, cinnamon and cardamom
2: Organic lemon, ginger, turmeric
3: Thyme and sage: fresh herbs plus tinctures and food grade essential oils, lemon and food grade organic lemon essential oil
As well as tasting really good and creating great flavour combinations, the ingredients in my herbal honeys are packed with medicinal qualities. Below are my reasons for using those herbs and fruits:
Citrus fruits contain vitamin C which can help to reduce the duration and severity of colds, flavonoids which have an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect and can help to thin and drain excess mucus.
Thyme has long been used as a respiratory antiseptic and antibacterial that helps to break down mucus and relieve coughs.
Sage is another commonly used herb for the common cold as it also has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic effects which can soothe sore throats and help to reduce fevers.
Clove is a warming herb that contains mild antiseptic and anaesthetic properties. and is thought to be antiviral and ease coughing spasms.
Cinnamon has a lovely warming anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial action and can have a soothing effect on the throat.
Cardamom extracts may be effective against bacterial infections and contain antioxidants that may have an anti-inflammatory effect to aid recovery. Furthermore, compounds in cardamom can help to improve breathing and airflow to the lungs.
Ginger is a powerhouse of bioactive ingredients including gingerol which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects thereby reducing the risk of infections caused by viruses and bacteria. It increases sweating which can reduce fever and is also an expectorant so it can aid in the removal of mucus from the airways.
Turmeric contains bioactive compounds with powerful medicinal properties. It is anti-inflammatory and antioxidant especially when taken with black pepper and healthy fats to increase bioavailability.