By Daja Gombojav, Contributing Writer
What’s An Elixir, Exactly?
When you take your first excursion into the world of herbs and natural remedies you will hear words like tincture, decoction, tonic and elixir. It’s a whole new world with its own language. And if you don’t know the difference between all these terms, it can leave you in no man’s land. So, here’s some vocab to help:
DIY: Nourishing Elixirs Safe for Pregnancy
If you’re anything like me, you are meticulous about what you eat and drink while you are pregnant. So, when you are attacked by a cold, flu or seasonal allergies, you are understandably skeptical about what you can take. Cough medicines, pain killers, allergy pills are mostly off-limits, except in pretty extreme cases. But this does not mean that you are destined to suffer. There are few great remedies I keep on hand for “cold and flu season” (which really isn’t a season, but nevertheless…) that are safe for everyone–children, pregnant mommies, hard working daddies.
Here’s what you need to have on hand:
- Raw local honey. This must be raw and local. Do not use processed, pasteurized honey commercially available at most supermarkets. The healing power of honey is dead and gone in those cute plastic bears. But, raw local honey is rich in healing properties that you need, right where you live! The closer the better!
- Herbs. Learn which herbs are good for which ailments. For example, thyme is wonderful for coughs–especially wet ones. Lavender is great for relaxing body and mind. Rosemary helps with memory and cognitive function. Red raspberry leaf is a gentle and effective uterine toner. (Always be careful to check that there are no contraindications for herbs you take medicinally during pregnancy and/or breastfeeding!)
- Fruits. The fruit releases water into the honey during the fermentation processes, which is what allows the honey to ferment. Organic berries are excellent choices! If you preserve the abundant summer/fall harvest of berries you will be thanking yourself come December!
Combinations we like: Elderberry and thyme. Great for winter colds! (Elderberries are contraindicated during pregnancy.) Raspberry and lavender. Blueberries, lemon, and ginger.
A common question I get about this method is “Does honey ferment?” We all know that honey is shelf-stable. Archeologists have found honey thousands of years old that was perfectly fine and unchanged. So, how can you ferment with it?
Fermenting in honey involves a slightly different process than other fermentation (such as sauerkraut or kimchi in their natural brine). Honey has no expiration date, but in the presence of heat and/or moisture it can ferment. Although, anti-microbial, honey will not kill off beneficial bacteria. Its anti-microbial properties are largely due to suffocation of bacteria. So, when you add other moisture containing agents, it dilutes enough so that bacteria can grow.
Here’s How To Create Nourishing Pregnancy Safe Elixirs:
- Layer fruit and herbs in a canning jar that has a tight lid. Be sure to leave a couple inches for expansion.
- Pour raw honey over the fruit and herbs. You may need to pour this a little at a time as the honey takes time to filter down through the fruit. I pour some, let it sit. Come back half an hour later, add more, and so on until the jar is fill with about an inch headspace.
- Cap tightly.
- Place on a plate (because sometimes it bubbles over and leaks!) on the counter or on your pantry shelf. Leave for one week. This may need to be burped. Check daily.
- After one week transfer to the refrigerator where it can keep for up to 6 months.
If you would like to see a video of the fermented honey bubbling around the fruit, check out my Instagram video.
We use these elixirs on our toast or yogurt, in our teas, or straight on a spoon when needed. These are ideal for soothing a sore throat, treating a cough, or boosting your energy during pregnancy without any harmful chemicals or pharmaceuticals.