Honey on its own is an incredible medicine. If you’re able to find it raw and local, the numerous health benefits readily blur the line between food and medicine. Plus, it’s delicious! And you’d think it’d be a futile pursuit to make it any more delicious and nutritious than it already is, but there’s a way! Herbal honey is the answer.
Making herb infused honey is such an easy way to enjoy more of the nutritive and medicinal benefits of plants every single day.
HERE YOU’LL FIND:
The Health Benefits of Raw Honey
3 Ways to Make Herbal Honey
Method 1 | Unheated Infusion
Method 2 | Heated Infusion (or Crockpot Method)
Method 3 | “Instant” Herbal Honey
Herbal Honey FAQs
5 Easy Herbal Honey Recipes
Resources & Further Reading
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Honey just might be one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. You take all the nectar from a million different flowers, let the bees work their magic and add their own secret bee ingredients, then let it ripen and mature in the honeycomb until harvest, and you end up with a sticky-sweet golden, legitimate miracle of life on planet earth. No joke.
Adding herbs to honey is an easy way to not only make it even more delicious, but it’s also a simple way to add the medicinal and nutritional benefits of many plants into your everyday. What a delicious way to fight a cold, help with inflammation, or even nourish and soften your hair and skin!
The Incredible Health Benefits of Raw Honey
Honey has long been an important source of carbohydrates and a natural sweetener throughout history. Many traditional cultures used honey as a powerful medicinal tool and to this day, honey remains the easiest (and often the best!) way to soothe a sore throat.
Many studies suggest that the greatest medicinal potential of honey is its topical application on wounds and skin infections. Honey is antiseptic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and has so many immune boosting properties that wounds heal faster and infections clear sooner.
Honey’s medicinal effects are due to its high sugar content, its low pH and acidity (which you can’t taste due to its sweetness), & its ability to produce hydrogen peroxide.
While the medicinal and nutritional content of honey varies and is largely effected by processing methods, at its best, it’s a powerhouse of goodness. For the most potent honey, try to source it from a local beekeeper.
Ask your local beekeeper about their processing methods and choose honey that is minimally processed and preferably unheated. In its natural state, raw honey is full of beneficial and healing enzymes that are destroyed in the heating process. Most commercial honeys that you’ll find in the grocery store have been cooked.
Commercial honey is often pasteurized (heated) to kill any yeasts present & to help prevent or slow crystallization. While the yeasts may cause fermentation, they generally do not pose any threat to health.
The Nutrition Potential of Honey
The nutritional content of honey varies widely. If you consider the range of honey quality, from local and raw honey practically straight from the hive to pasteurized commercial honeys, you’ll see what I mean.
Raw and local honey is always going to be your most nutritious. At its best, honey has a high nutrient profile that includes:
- B vitamins
The Medicinal Potential of Honey
And the same goes for the potential medicinal properties of honey. A high quality honey (ie. raw and locally produced) will likely have more medicinal benefits, which include:
- Wound healing
- Digestive aid (prebiotic)
- Calming & conditioning for skin/hair
For more plant magic and herbal wellness in your life, be sure to follow along on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, or purchase my herbal eBooks Nourishing Herbal Gifts and Holiday Pies from the (Un)Bakery. And if you enjoy this content and/or make these recipes, please be sure to share and tag me in your snaps @_botanyculture_ and hashtag it #botanyculture. I’d so love to see all the plant magic you make happen in your kitchen!
3 Ways to Make Herbal Honey
There are 3 basic ways to make herbal honey. Which one you use will depend on the time you have and the types of plant material you’re using. And there’s also an element of personal preference.
For this method, dried herbs are mixed with honey and allowed to infuse for 2-3 weeks with very little hands-on attention. This method is best used with lighter plant material like leaves and flowers, as opposed to roots, barks, and dried berries.
For this method, dried or fresh herbs are mixed with honey and gently heated for an infusion that generally takes 4-12 hours. While heating honey does destroy some of the beneficial nutrients, this method is often a better choice when infusing denser, heartier plant material like roots, barks, and dried berries.
There are so many ways to do heated honey infusions:
- Crockpot or Yogurt Maker Method: Honey and plant materials in a jar sit in a warm water bath for a few hours.
- Stovetop Method: Honey and plant materials are slowly heated together in a small sauce pan on the stovetop, then left to cool. This heating and cooling process can be repeated a few times until you like the taste of the honey.
- Passive Heating or Solar Infusion Method: Honey and plant materials in a jar are set in a sunny location
I’m going to focus on the crockpot method. It’s my favorite heated method because it’s so simple and hands-off.
Lastly, this heated method is beneficial for a few different reasons:
- If using fresh herbs, the heat will help to evaporate more of their water content. You’ll end up with an herbal honey that has a longer shelf life. (Higher water content means that there is more room for unwanted microbial growth and fermentation.)
- Denser plant material like roots, bark, or dried berries don’t very easily or readily infuse into honey. Heat helps soften everything enough to encourage a better infusion.
For this method, dried, powdered herbs and spices are stirred into honey and ready to enjoy right away!
I learned this method of making herbal honey from herbalist Kami McBride and her book The Herbal Kitchen. In all my years of infusing honey, this is by far the easiest. It’s as easy as taking powdered herbs and/or spices and stirring them into honey.
Unlike the longer infusions, there’s no straining involved with the “instant” herbal honey. As you use the honey, you just eat the powdered herbs too! And because this “instant” herbal honey is so quick to make, I tend to make it in much smaller quantities.
Because you eat the actual herbs and spices when making this kind of herb-infused honey, the more herbs and spices you use, the more “medicinal” your honey might taste. I suggest using less of the bitter spices like turmeric or ashwagandha, unless you’re specifically going for a more therapeutic amount of herbs/spices. (This is also a great way to make not-so-great tasting herbs go down a lot easier.)
Helpful Herbal Honey Making Equipment
Your equipment needs will vary depending on the method you choose. Here’s a general list of helpful equipment:
- Glass Jars with Lids (Pint- and quart-sized jars are the most useful, but 8 oz jars are particularly nice for the “instant” herbal honey. Canning jars are amazing, as are old peanut butter or spaghetti sauce jars that you’ve thoroughly cleaned.)
- Mortar and Pestle or Coffee/Spice Grinder (for the “instant” herbal honey)
- Small Saucepan or Crockpot or Yogurt Maker (for the heated infusion)
- Tin Foil (if using a crockpot for the heated method)
- Fine Mesh Strainer (THESE are my go-to, all-purpose strainers.)
- 4-cup Glass Measuring Cup (for straining)
- Rubber Spatula
- Chopstick (for stirring)
- Dried Herbs and Spices of your choice (organic if possible)
- Honey (use raw and local for the most nutritious option)
Method 1 | Unheated Infusion (or Solar Infusion)
Time required: 2-3 weeks
When to use this method: with delicate, soft, and lighter plant material like leafy herbs and flowers
Dried or fresh herbs? best with dried herbs
Quantity yield: ~1 quart (4 cups)
- Fill a clean quart-sized jar 1/3-1/2 full of the dried herbs and spices of your choice.
- Then pour honey in slowly. Use a chopstick to give the herbs and spices a stir, helping the honey find its way to the bottom of the jar. Fill until jar is full ~1/2″ from the top. It’s not an exact science, but do make sure that the herbs and spices are throughly covered by the honey. Use the chopstick to get rid of any air pockets, then seal the jar with the lid.
- Set the jar on a small plate (in case of leakage) in a warm location, like a sunny window or above the stovetop, for about 2-3 weeks. The longer the infusion, the stronger the flavor. If you’d like, taste the honey once a week to witness the changes in flavor.
- Flip the jar once a day to jostle the herbs and spices around. (In other words, the jar is right side up one day and upside down the next.) This will help create a better, more strongly flavored infusion since you can’t shake honey as you would a tincture.
- After 2-3 weeks, strain the herbs from the honey using a fine mesh strainer. To do so, you’ll actually need to gently warm the honey. Set the sealed jar in a bowl of warm water for ~15 minutes or place on a sunny windowsill to warm it up so that it’s easier to pour, then dry the jar off and strain.
- Be sure to label and date your honey.
Method 2 | Heated Infusion (or Crockpot Method)
Time required: 4-12 hours
When to use this method: leafy herbs, flowers, roots, bark, dried berries
Dried or fresh herbs? fresh or dried
Quantity yield: ~1 pint (2 cups)
- Fill a crock pot 1/3-1/2 with water and turn heat on low. (You may need more or less water depending on the size of your crockpot and how many jars of honey you are infusing.)
- Fill a pint-sized, clean glass jar ~1/4-1/3 full of the herbs and spices (fresh, dried, or a combo) of your choosing. Chop larger pieces by hand or use a food processor. The smaller the pieces, the better the infusion. If you use a food processor, just be careful not to powder or chop the herbs or spices too small. Straining powdered or teeny tiny herbs from honey is nearly impossible.
- Cover the herbs with honey, leaving ~1″ of space at the top of the jar. Lightly cover jar with a piece of tin foil just enough to keep any honey-hungry insects out, but allow room for air to escape.
- Let the covered jar sit in the warm water bath for a minimum of 4 hours and up to 12 hours. The longer the time in the water bath, the better the infusion and the more flavorful the honey. You can taste the honey along the way and pull it when you like the flavor.
- When the flavor is to your taste, remove the jar from the water bath and be sure to dry the jar to prevent any water from dripping into the honey as you strain it.
- Strain the honey using a fine mesh strainer while it’s still warm.
- Allow honey to cool completely before placing the lid on the jar for storage. Be sure to label and date your honey.
Method 3 | “Instant” Herbal Honey
Time required: 10-15 minutes
When to use this method: any powdered herbs and/or spices
Dried or fresh herbs? dried herbs
Quantity yield: ~1 cup
- Fill a clean 8 oz glass jar with 1/4-1/2 cup total of dried, powdered herbs and/or spices.
- Fill the remainder of the jar with honey, using a chopstick to stir the herbs into the honey, until the jar is full to about ~1/2 inch from the top.
- Stir until thoroughly combined.
- At this point, your “instant” herbal honey is ready to enjoy. No need to strain the herbs. The flavor will continue to develop over time.
- Store “instant” herbal honey in a glass jar with an air-tight lid at room temperature. Since this honey is made with dried herbs and spices, there’s no need to refrigerate. Be sure to label and date your honey.
Herbal Honey FAQs + Tips & Tricks
Is herb infused honey safe?
Generally, yes. Honey is naturally antimicrobial. This is another reason that raw and locally produced honey is a better option than mass-produced pasteurized honey products. The biggest factors that make herb-infused honey unsafe is the introduction of water from using fresh herbs and/or improper storage.
Store your herbal honey properly, be extra mindful when using fresh herbs, and always discard if you notice any unfavorable changes in taste, smell, or appearance. I think it’s also important to remember that all honey is considered to be unsafe for infants under 12 months of age.
How long does herbal honey last?
- Herbal honey made with fresh herbs should be kept refrigerated and can last up to 3 months if stored properly.
- Herbal honey made with dried herbs and spices can be kept in a cool, dry location (no need for refrigeration) and can last up to a year.
Always remember to label and date your honey.
What is the best way to store herb-infused honey?
The best way to store herb-infused honey depends on it you’re using dried or fresh herbs in your infusions.
- “Instant” herbal honey made with dried herbs and spices can be stored at room temperature.
- If making herbal honey with fresh herbs or flowers, I recommend storing this honey in the refrigerator. Honey made using fresh herbs should be treated as a perishable food. The water content of fresh plant material will lower the shelf life of your honey and could cause it to ferment. And while it’s unlikely to be harmful to your health, it may not be pleasant. Keeping it in the fridge will help to deter microbial growth, prevent fermentation, and help it last longer.
**Note that there are many herbalists who wouldn’t necessarily recommend storing fresh herb-infused honey in the refrigerator. Instead, they’ll recommend just keeping it in a cool, dry location out of direct sunlight. This is the beauty in practicing herbalism; everyone has their own tips, tricks, and techniques that work best for them. Feel free to experiment on your own. Just be mindful and always discard herb-infused honey if it changes unfavorably in color, taste, or appearance.
What can you do with herbal honey?
So much! Herbal honey has a wide variety of uses and applications that can be driven by the specific herbs you choose to use. Some of the ways in which you can use herbal honey include:
- Enjoy it by the spoonful for a quick burst of energy.
- Drizzle it on anything and everything, from sweet to savory. Try it on these Elderberry & Thyme Corn Muffins!
- Use it to sweeten tea, coffee, and any other beverage needing a lil’ hint of sweetness.
- Treat yourself to a luxurious bath and body experience. Herbal honey can be great as a vitamin-rich, skin-softening face and body mask or a hair and scalp treatment.
- Use herbal honey as a tasty way to take more medicinal (ie. higher) amounts of not-so-great tasting herbs.
- Gift it! Herbal honey sets packaged in small decorative jars make incredible nourishing herbal gifts. You can learn more about making herbal gifts and the art of herbal gift-giving in Nourishing Herbal Gifts.
- Keep it in your herbal first aid kit. Herbal honey can be formulated for use as an anti-inflammatory for burns and skin irritation.
What’s the best way to strain herbal honey?
This is the golden question! Straining honey can be a real messy job. Gently heating it helps a ton, as warm honey pours so much easier than cold honey. In making herbal honey, you’ll become intimately familiar with the expression slow like honey.
Here’s an easy way to strain herbal honey with out the mess and frustration:
- Very gently warm the honey if it’s not already warm (depending on which method you use).
- Nest a large fine mesh strainer fully into a 4-cup glass measuring cup. It’s most helpful if the strainer is large enough so that the edge of the strainer rests perfectly on the edge of the measuring cup, and small enough so that none of the mesh is hanging over the edge of the cup.
- Then, slowly pour the honey through the strainer.
- After straining, transfer the infused honey from the glass measuring cup with the help of a rubber spatula to its final storage jar. Don’t forget to label and date your jar.
5 Easy & Delicious Herbal Honey Recipes
Get creative! Your favorite spice blends will probably be equally, if not more delicious in honey. To get started, try these spice combos:
Pumpkin Spice Honey
Do you have a favorite pumpkin spice blend? Or maybe you make your own? Make “instant” herbal honey by adding 4 tablespoons of pumpkin spice mix to one cup of honey for a fun way to add pumpkin spice flavor to your tea or morning oatmeal.
Or if you don’t have ground spices, do a heated infusion with the whole spices.
Fennel & Coriander Honey for Digestive Support
For an “instant” herbal honey, add 2 tablespoons each of powdered fennel seed and coriander to 1 cup of honey. Add 1 tablespoon of this honey to 1 cup of hot water to help ease your tummy and support healthy digestion.
Or add the whole spices, and maybe even some dried orange peel, and follow the instructions for a heated infusion.
Rosemary, Garlic, & Thyme Honey for Immune Support
To make an “instant” herbal honey, to 1 cup of honey, add 2 tablespoons each of powdered garlic and rosemary, plus 1 teaspoon of powdered thyme. Use this honey in sauces, marinades, salad dressings, or soups to help you and your family stay healthy through the winter.
Or use the herbs fresh out of your garden and make a heated infusion. And if you don’t have fresh herbs or don’t feel like powdering your dried herbs, pour some honey over the dried herbs and make an unheated infusion.
Garlic, Ginger, Cumin & Cayenne Honey
This recipe is inspired by Kami McBride’s recipe for Popcorn Honey in her book, The Herbal Kitchen. Herbal honey drizzled over freshly popped popcorn?? Count me in!
For an “instant” herbal honey, add 2 teaspoons powdered garlic, 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin, and a dash of cayenne to 1 cup of honey. Or use a combination of fresh ginger and garlic with dried cumin and cayenne to make a heated infusion.
Wherever you choose to drizzle your herbal honey, I hope you enjoy these delicious recipes! Wishing you all kinds of nourishing and delicious sweetness in your day!
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Resources & Further Reading
- The Herbal Kitchen, Kami McBride
- Nourishing Herbal Gifts: The Art Of Herbal Gifting & 20+ Simple, Practical, & Delicious Recipes, Sass Ayres
- Sweet Remedies: Healing Herbal Honeys, Dawn Combs
- Medicinal Uses of Honey, Motuma Adimasu Abeshu and Bekesho Geleta (Biology and Medicine, 2016)
- Effect of thermal treatment on physicochemical and antioxidant properties of honey. Mehdi Zarei, Ali Fazlara, and Noushin Tulabifard (Heliyon, 2019)
DISCLAIMER: The information given in this article is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult with your healthcare practitioner before consuming certain herbs & medicinal foods, especially if pregnant, nursing, or taking any prescription medications.