The Difference Between Elixirs and Tonics


This weekend I happened to be rummaging through some of our bookshelves, and I came across a book I wrote entitled Wise Concoctions. It’s a guide to wonderful elixirs and tonics that heal, rejuvenate, energize and balance.  And I thought sharing these treasured recipes here at EcoSalon would be fun. I’ll be posting a weekly recipe, as well as sharing nutritional tips and healing wisdom based upon what I’ve gleaned over the years. I hope you’ll find this weekly feature to be useful – and the recipes both delicious and nutritive!

When I was writing my book, the question I found people asked most was simply: "What is the difference between an elixir and a tonic?" There is a very significant difference, and it’s nice to know that when you’re setting out to treat a headache or perhaps soothe a frazzled spirit.

Elixirs and tonics are words that are often used interchangeably, but in fact they’re very different. Elixirs are healing remedies; they address situations of imbalance and symptoms of illness. Tonics, on the other hand, promote overall good health and balance; they fortify your system and keep you feeling fit and well. An elixir is used to treat a headache, or cold, or cramps. A tonic, meanwhile, might be used to improve immunity, boost energy, or relieve chronic stress.

Both elixirs and tonics can be decoctions or infusions of various herbs, twigs, berries, roots, spices, flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Both are delivered to our bloodstreams in liquid form, making them efficient vehicles for healing and restoration. But elixirs and tonics have other tangible benefits missing from tablets and capsules: the heft of a hot ceramic mug, the smoothness imparted to our fingers as they cup around it, the tactile security of a familiar object for the hands to hold as the mind roams all contribute to the creature comforts these wise concoctions offer through taste and touch. How many of us have moved our faces toward the steam of a hot cup of tea and inhaled its rich fragrance or pressed a frosty glass of lemonade to a perspiring cheek? Juices, infusions, smoothies, brews, teas, broths, liqueurs – it hardly matters what form the liquid takes.

Elixirs and tonics are wise because they repair our ailments and bolster our strengths. We drink or sip them, hot or cold, late at night or shortly after waking, for any of a hundred reasons. Through them we experience and enjoy an intimacy between our senses and the natural world that has provided us with its bounty. And we feel better, as we should, for they allow us to pause for a moment to minister to our own individual needs and in doing so to pay gentle and respectful attention to ourselves.

Image: QuintanaRoo
Source: Wise Concoctions (reprinted with permission)