Mother Earth's Medicine Cabinet: Elixirs 101

 An elixir may sound like something concocted in a magical realm of some fantasy movie or video game BUT they truly exist and provide healing. Elixirs are actually some of the sweetest medicines provided by Mother Nature and concocted by healers all over the world. These clear, sweet, and aromatic drinks are considered Hydroalcoholic, meaning they contain both water and alcohol. Elixirs are made using water, consumable alcohol, medicinal plants and herbs, and different flavors and spices. An elixir, in my opinion, is basically a tincture with some added flavors, spices, herbs and honey. One of the differences between the elixir and tincture is the consumable alcohol in an elixir is usually something like brandy with high alcohol content; the tinctures generally have some sort of rum or high percent grain alcohol, such as Everclear.

One of my favorite things about making elixirs is the variety of medicinal and aromatic plants that can be used. Almost ANY aromatic plant that is safe for consumption can be used in elixir recipes, and you’re not limited to plants, either –  spices are often added as well. Some of my favorite -- and very useful -- plants, flowers, and herbs to use are Lavender, Juniper Berry, Bee Balm Flowers/Plant, Sage, Roses, Ginger, Mullein Flowers, and Evening Primrose.

The honey used in an elixir adds to the preservation of the medicine -- it provides its own healing benefits, and it draws out a lot of the core healing properties of the herbs used. The sweet flavor of the honey also seems to bring out more of the aromatic scents and flavors. Herbs that produce nervine effects are also enhanced by honey in a really big way due to the strong flavor and aroma combinations. Nervines are the substances in certain plants that help calm our nerves. As I mentioned, honey provides a wealth of health and wellness benefits such as antimicrobial, antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties, just to name a few.

Today I want to share with you how to make your own Elderberry Elixir. Elderberries are full of healthy vitamins and minerals, as well as boasting preventative medicinal properties and healing properties. This specific elixir is great for the cold and flu season. It is full of antioxidants, boosts immunity, takes care of bacterial and viral infections, and it works for tonsillitis and several other health issues. The Elderberry Elixir is easy to make and store.

Elderberry Elixir

  • Pint Size Canning Jar with Lid
  • Fresh Elderberries
  • 1 Pint of Brandy – The higher the quality, the better it seems to taste.
  • 1/3 of a Pint of Raw Honey
  • Wooden Spoon for Mixing
  • Small funnel

Fill the jar with Elderberries, but make sure to not fill it too full – you’ll have more ingredients to add before topping the jar with the lid.

Slowly add the honey and mix well so all berries are coated.

Pour in your brandy. It is important at this step to stir as you pour so you get ALL of the air out before you close it up. Any air getting in could lead to bacteria growth and a batch of bad medicine.

Screw on the lid as tightly as you can, and give it one good final shake.

Store the elixir in a cool dark place for 6 – 8 weeks. When your elixir is ready, strain the fruit and bottle the elixir in a sterilized dropper bottle.

When you begin to feel a little sick or like you’re coming down with a cold, take ¼ – ½ a dropper full every 2 -3 hours. It shouldn’t be long before the elixir starts working its magic. The trick to an elixir is small amounts over a long period, rather than large amounts over a short time span – the medicine works better this way and also keeps your tolerance to medicine low. You can use the elixir for 2-3 days, but some people feel much better after a day.

If you cannot or would simply rather not ingest alcohol you can make a simple Elderberry Elixir, which is basically a syrup that will work just as well for the same symptoms. The alcohol adds some preservative properties but also helps the healing process.

Elderberry Syrup

  • 1 Cup Fresh Elderberries
  • 3 Cups Water
  • 1 Cup Raw Honey
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick
  • 2 Fresh Cloves

In a saucepan add the elderberries, water, and spices and bring them to a boil. Reduce heat and slowly simmer uncovered for about half an hour.

When you notice that the liquids have reduced, mash the berries down, set aside and let cool.

When syrup is cool enough to handle, strain the mash and pulp and toss it in the compost bin.

Add and mix in the honey and then bottle the syrup. Store the syrup in the refrigerator and it should keep for about 3 months. Take a teaspoon of the syrup when symptoms of the cold or flu arrive, and again about every 3 hours.

Elixirs can be made using so many components that sometimes it does feel like you’re working a little magic – the magic of healing. Elixirs are a wonderful medicine to know how to make. Have fun mixing and matching your herbs and plants and see what elixirs you can come up with!