Everyone loves honey and with good reason too! Honey is full of nutrition, a rather complete profile of vitamins and minerals. If we are speaking of completely raw honey, it is so much more than a simple carbohydrate. But what if you could take the benefits of honey one step further? This is where an herbalist gets very excited.
There are ways to infuse honey to gain the benefits of added nutritional components, flavors, tastes, or even health containing properties of plants. What I am speaking of here is taking a select food or plant and infusing it into the honey. This is typically done by combining the two and slowly heating the honey. A longer method also works without heat and preserves much more of the health properties of the infused honey. The plant matter can be strained out or sometimes left and the remaining honey is now considered an infused honey. It is rather straight forward and gives a person infinite possibilities for unique honey.
Let the Bees Infuse Their Own Honey
Here is another angle to this matter. We all know of commercial beekeepers who move their hives to differing locations according to the pollination schedules/contracts of big monoculture farms. An example everyone will recognize is the almond trees. There can be thousands of hives located within the orchards of the almond growers for a very short season each year. The beekeepers can remove that particular honey from their hives and label it as Almond Blossom Honey. There are others such as Orange Blossom and Clover, and multiple others specially marketed for their particular flavors and other characteristics. People seek out these specialty honeys for various reasons, usually taste. One notable exception would be Manuka honey, which people often rely on for specific health aiding properties.
As an herbalist, I keep a rather large and assorted herb garden. In addition to what I grow on purpose, there are many naturalized herbs that grow both on my property and the surrounding meadows that the ranchers pasture their cattle on. As a beekeeper, I am assured abundant honey with every blooming plant I can get to grow. I have a pretty sitting garden, orchards, and vegetable gardens, but I concentrate the bulk of my efforts on medicinal herbs. They serve as food and medicine for the bees and me.
Medicinally Infused Honey
If you take this picture a bit further, you will see the conclusion of what I share. When the bees forage throughout my medicine gardens, they end up taking nectar, pollen and propolis from these valuable plants, bushes, and trees back to their hives. Medicinal plants properties benefit the bees just as they do the people and I am convinced this adds to strong and healthy hives in ways that cannot be measured. We have been totally treatment free for six years now and have grown from two hives to six. However, I and all those who consume my honey also receive the wonderful benefits of the herbs infused in their honey!
While I cannot isolate their work to just one type of plant at a time, I think there is wisdom in not attempting this. You see if they could only feed on my rather large patch of St. John’s Wort, the honey would be rather imbalanced and missing the benefits of all the other plants. In addition to this, there are cautions to be considered for the use of St. John’s Wort when used by certain people or in certain quantities. By diversifying their choices the medicinal benefits are also diversified and any concerns for safety are greatly diluted.
There are large commercial herb growers that are able to isolate and specialize their honey–lavender fields come to mind. My early honey will always contain an unusually large concentration of dandelion flowers as often that is their only food source for a number of weeks.
At any one time the honey in my hives could contain the naturally infused, medicinal properties of multiple herbs. As we consume the honey throughout the year we may be gaining the benefits of any assortment of herbal actions from antiseptic, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, carminative, expectorant, emollient, vulnerary and many more. The great thing about this is that we are consuming them naturally in small but continuing doses which are capable of slow, steady health building.
I see a growing number of herbalist growing their own medicines and it makes me overjoyed to see this. More and more I am seeing my fellow herbalist taking on the additional step of keeping bees. I would encourage all of you to expand your horizons of gardening with medicinal herbs, then be brave and add a honeybee hive to your life. The combination of the two is a marriage you will never regret!