Medicinal honeys week 4: I tried my hand at making herbal pills, also called pastilles. I searched through many recipes online & in books on technique and of course ingredients. This recipe was kind of a flop in my opinion, but I have nothing as a comparison. I debated whether or not to share & decided that I will in hopes that someone may have some pointers for me to try next time. I'm gonna keep it real here, not everything works out. I'm on the fence about trying this one again to try tweaking it a bit & see if it'll be a better go. All the recipes I saw used powdered herbs & honey. Sounds easy enough, right? Mix, roll into a ball. Dry & keep in a jar or don't dry & store in fridge. Some roll the ball in an extra herb powder or something more decadent like cocoa, cinnamon or roses. A few mentioned using mucilaginous herbs to help bind the pills. After pouring through all the information, I selected echinacea because it's one that I need at the moment & has mucilaginous properties. Honey & some cocoa powder because why not?!
At first my honey ratio was way to high & it turned into an herbal paste (electuary). Meh, ok I can still use that. On the second try I was much more sparing with the honey, being slow to drizzle it in & mix. By the time the herbs & honey were forming a ball on the dry side, I tried to pinch a marble/pea size as most recipes instructed only to have super sticky, gritty fingers. I switched to using two spoons to scoop & drop the pills into cocoa powder & then transferred to a cookie sheet for drying in the oven with residual heat. More about that in the recipe.
I started these on Wednesday & finally was able to sample one this morning. Bleh - not my favorite method of ingesting medicinals. The pills are not bad while chewing... yeah, they were dry but still chewy. The cocoa was a nice coating on the outside & not nearly as bitter as I thought it'd be since it kinda melted into the pill. Once the cocoa was gone, I chewed up the pill. Again, not so bad. Don't get me wrong, it was bitter because echinacea is bitter but the honey helped on that front. Swallowing the chewed pill was not pleasant. Kinda felt like swallowing sandpaper. This shouldn't have surprised me, but it did because many recipes talk about doing pastilles as sore throat lozenges. Maybe if I'd been patient enough to let it slowly dissolve...? Somehow I'm not sure that would've mattered. I will probably try my hand at these one more time in hopes of better results. Worst case for this batch is just swallowing the pills whole so they aren't wasted. If you make herbal pastilles and have different results, I would love to hear from you!
To make you’ll need: ~ 1/4 cup dried echinacea leaves ~ local raw honey
~ cocoa powder Grind dried echinacea leaves in a herb grinder (coffee grinder dedicated to herbs) or food processor. Sift powder with a fine mesh strainer into bowl. Pour in honey slowly - start with a tablespoon of honey & stir in with a fork. Add more in small amounts until the mixture is balling up. Then pinch off pea/marble size pieces & roll into a ball. I ended up using two spoons because they were sticking to my hands too much. I used the tip of one spoon to pull off enough to make the size I wanted. With the back of the second spoon, I pushed the mixture off the first spoon so that it would drop into the bowl of cocoa powder. With fork, toss the cocoa powder over ball &/or gently shake bowl to cover ball. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Heat oven to lowest temperature, mine is 170°F. Turn off oven & turn oven light on. Put cookie sheet in oven & leave until the pills are completely dry. It was really humid here & took mine 3 days to dry out. I ended up taking the pills out of the oven daily to reheat & then placed them back in. Once dried, wrap individually in parchment/wax paper. Since they are dried there is no need to put in the fridge.
Ways to use: Depending on the size, pills can be swallowed or sucked on like a lozenge.
Some benefits of echinacea: boosts immune system, soothes sore throats, relieves upper respiratory issues, reduces chronic infections, anti-inflammatory, eases pain, can improve dental health, helps maintain blood sugar levels, diuretic, carminative, laxative and can soothe the digestive tract.
Caution: While echinacea is considered well tolerated for short term use by most people, side effects have been reported (PubMed article). Adverse reactions are more common in people with allergies to the Asteraceae botanical family (ragweed, daisy, sunflower, etc.). People with auto-immune disorders or taking immunosuppressive drugs should consult with their physician before using echinacea since it stimulates the immune system.
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