The Ancient Art of the Electuary – Medicine in honey

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Electuaries – Medicine in honey

The word electuary comes from the Latin word ‘electuarium’, which is derived from Ancient Greek ἐκλείκτον ‎(ekleíkton). It means “medicine that is licked away”. This is somewhat fitting due to the fact that electuaries are made from powdered herbs and pure honey. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance, electuaries formed the largest group of medicines. However, in later years the use of the electuary started to decline until it disappeared entirely from modern pharmacy. Electuaries are a useful mode of medication because they have an indefinitely long shelf life (provided water is not introduced to the mixture). For example, 5500-year-old honey has been found in the tomb of a noble woman in Georgia. Electuaries were, and still are, used in Unani Tibb (ancient Greek medicine) and they are referred to as ‘Majuns’ in the middle east.


Hakim. M K Karim’s demonstration

On the 10th of July I held a seminar with Hakim. M K Karim at his clinic in Inverness, Scotland. Here, the famous ‘Majun Filasafa’ (Philosopher’s electuary) was demonstrated. It is said that the elders and philosophers would discuss topics for so long that they did not do much exercise and this led them to feeling mentally and physically sluggish. They created the ‘Philosophers electuary’ in order to overcome these feelings. This habit of sitting for hours on end is reflected in the office-job lifestyles of today, and so, Majuns similar to this one may help the modern man!


Majun Filasafa

This recipe was passed down from a Hakim in Pakistan and it contained many herbs.

  • One of the main ingredients was Indian Gooseberry (Emblica Officinalis), which is used for haemorrhage, diarrhoea, dysentery, heart palpitations, biliousness, dyspepsia and anorexia.
  • Long pepper (Piper Longum) is used for nausea, it protects the liver, increases the bioavailability of other drugs and helps to manage GIT infections such a giardiasis and entamoeba histolytica.
  • The ‘well-known’ ginger (Zingiber officinalis) is a heating remedy that improves sluggish digestion. It improves general circulation with special attention peripheral circulation.
  • Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is anti-inflammatory to the digestive system, it is mildly bitter for the liver and it calms the nervous system. A useful ‘cuppa’ for the feeling of butterflies in the tummy.
  • Black pepper (Piper nigrum) relieves hypometabolic or atrophic conditions of the whole body. It stimulates the digestive functions when there is flatulence, distention or anorexia. For vegetarians and vegans, black pepper is an important part of the diet because it helps with the absorption of vitamins, minerals, iron etc from plant foods.

This ancient formula was highly effective and was usually used for men above the age of 60 years.



A modern electuary

Here is a modern and simple recipe for an electuary for stomach ailments:

  • 1-part powdered ginger
  • 1-part powdered mint (you can buy any dried mint and powder it in a coffee grinder)
  • 1-part raw honey

Mix together until it has a peanut-butter type of texture.

This is a particularly good way to treat children with tummy upsets!

(The only caution with honey is not to give it to children under 1-year-old as it can contain spores of Clostridium botulinum, which adults and older children can easily digest but which babies have not yet developed the ability to digest properly).

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