There’s No Such Thing as a Weed: Making Herbal Cough Syrups

ColumnsThere's No Such Thing as a Weed: Making Herbal Cough Syrups
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By Dorje Root, RH (AHG).

When I was a kid, my mom used to make lemon honey syrup.  It’s very simple: you mix approximately equal parts of honey and lemon juice together.  The trick is to have enough lemon juice to cut the cough, and enough honey to soothe and slide.  Too much lemon and it is too cutting and thin, too much honey and it’s just lemon flavored sweet goo.  Another home remedy cough syrup is onion honey syrup.  Slice an onion in a bowl or cup and just cover it with honey.  Let it sit overnight and in the morning strain out the onion.  Again, balance is important.  I also remember my grandfather making a cough syrup for my older sister out of “rock candy” (crystallized cane sugar) and whisky.  I would not personally recommend that for kids!

My favorite cough syrup for myself (with an herbalist’s taste buds) is ¼ part chokecherry tincture, ¼ part oshá tincture, and ½ part honey.  I put it in a dropper bottle and keep it in my purse for those tickly coughs that make you leave meetings early.  

Herbal cough syrups usually consist of an infusion, decoction or tincture of specific herbs with some sweetener—honey, glycerine, sugar, molasses, barley malt or maple syrup.  The sweetener keeps the herbs in contact with the throat for longer.  They should be kept refrigerated and discarded after 6 months.  Usual dose is 1 teaspoon.  Herbs to consider are horehound, chokecherry bark, oshá, echinacea root, marshmallow root, and hibiscus, among others.

Here is a recipe for a basic horehound syrup:

1 oz. dry horehound (aerial parts), 2 cups water

Break horehound up into small pieces, put in water, and cook down to ½ volume

Strain and press, compost used herbs

Add 2 cups honey.

To this you can add tinctures (echinacea and oshá work well), very fine herbal powders such as marshmallow root, or flavoring herbs.  One half cup brandy can be added as a preservative for syrups for adults.

Just a few notes about horehound (Marrubium vulgare):  horehound is in the mint family and does grow wild locally.  Gather it before it flowers; it’s bitter then but even more bitter after!  Horehound is a respiratory sedative, expectorant, diaphoretic (makes you sweat), and a stomach bitter.  Because it’s so bitter, use twice as much honey as tea (infusion or decoction) in syrups.  As a hot tea it’s good for fever and feverish coughs.

Enjoy the recipe and if you know herbs, experiment with other recipes and variations.  To your health!

Dorje Root, RH (AHG) is an herbalist and natural healer, also working with Plant Spirit Medicine, Intuitive Energy Healing and ‘The Journey’ cellular healing. 

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