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I’ve been studying and practicing aromatherapy for years and have always appreciated the healing potential of plant medicine. Lately, I’ve been adding herbal remedies to my repertoire. I truly believe that the Earth provides solutions for most of what ails us, and I’m excited to be expanding my knowledge in this field.*

One of my recent and successful herbal creations has been homemade cough syrup. Making this syrup was so fun and easy! And I love having an all-natural remedy for coughing on hand (have you ever read the label on a pharmaceutical cough syrup bottle? yikes.) So, I just have to share this and spread the beauty of natural healing. Now, I think the recipes listed below are easy and fun, but I understand that not everyone wants to keep jars of medicinal herbs on hand. If this is you, be sure to scroll down to the bottom and check out my super easy version of this cough syrup.

I learned how to make this syrup during a winter wellness herbalism class at Rebecca’s Herbal Apothecary in Boulder, CO. This is a wonderful, locally owned herbal shop with a focus on quality and sustainability. I highly recommend a visit if you’re in the area. And as a side note, I also recently took an herbal aphrodisiac class at Rebecca’s, so get ready for some Valentine’s Day posts ;)

English: Promethazine-codeine cough syrup

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Supplies

  • large pot
  • large glass/ceramic pitcher or bowl
  • glass bottles (for the syrup)
  • mesh strainer
  • muslin
  • measuring utensils (for liquid, kitchen scale)

Ingredients

  • dried herbs
  • water
  • liquid sweetener, such as honey
  • brandy (optional)

Ingredients can be flexible, and I’ve listed a few recipe ideas below. Basically, you’ll want to use about 2 oz. dried herbs per 4 cups of water and 2 cups of liquid sweetener. However, there is a bit of wiggle room here. If you’re unable to weigh out ounces of herbs, a general rule of thumb is 1 Tbs herbs to 1 cup water.

Most cough syrup recipes call for equal parts reduced herbal liquid and sweetener at the end of the recipe; however, if this seems too sweet and calorie-ridden, feel free to cut back on the sweetener a bit.

Adding a bit of alcohol, such as brandy or vodka, can extend the shelf life, but this is optional.

Directions

  1. Place the herbs in a large pot with the water.
  2. Mark the water level (perhaps with a wooden spoon).
  3. Bring the mixture to a low boil.
  4. Simmer the mixture down to half its original amount, which is 2 cups if you’re using the ratios above (this is why you mark the original amount on the spoon!). It’s best to simmer the liquid covered, as this keeps in those valuable essential oils. However, this version also requires 2 or more hours of simmering. If you’re short on time, simmering uncovered still produces an effective brew, and your kitchen will smell amazing.
  5. Once the liquid is at the halfway mark, remove it from the heat and strain the herbs into a large glass pitcher or bowl. It’s best to use a mesh strainer lined with muslin in order to ensure that no plant particles sneak through the straining process. Leaving plant matter in your syrup will shorten the shelf life and may lead to molding. Also, using muslin allows you to squeeze out all the excess liquid and potent medicine from the herbs.
  6. Stir in the sweetener. Add brandy or vodka if desired.
  7. Pour the syrup into bottles, label, and refrigerate.

Congratulations! You’ve just made cough syrup. The syrup should keep refrigerated for about 6 months.

Suggested Herbs

There are several herbs that you can use for your cough syrup, depending on the type of cough you have and your flavor preferences. Here is a list of just a few. I’ve included a few notes on the properties of these herbs, but if you have additional questions, an easy internet search or book on herbs should provide more information.

  • Osha: Also known as “bear root” because bears rub it all over themselves when they awaken from hibernation. Osha is wonderful for respiratory ailments; however it is also highly over-harvested and must be treated with respect. One way to use osha in a sustainable way is to use the same root again and again. Just rinse and allow the root to fully dry after each use. You can continue to use the same root until it is no longer potent.
  • Elecampane: A wonderful expectorant–meaning it will help you cough up all that gunk in your lungs!
  • Pleurisy: Also an expectorant, but especially good for dry coughs.
  • Licorice: Helps synergize all the other herbs and adds nice flavor.
  • Thyme: A great all-purpose germ killer.
  • Elder berries: Good for the immune system and antiviral.

Other recommended herbs: rose hips, marshmallow root, cinnamon, ginger, orange peel, fennel, garlic, coltsfoot, and peppermint. And there are plenty of others!

A Sample Recipe

This is the ratio of herbs we used in our class cough syrup:

  • .75 oz elecampane
  • .75 oz elderberry
  • .25 oz licorice
  • .25 oz thyme
Cough Syrup. made in class

cough syrup, made in class

When I later made more cough syrup at home, I replaced the elderberry and licorice with osha and ginger. And I got a little creative in my use of bottles . . . .

cloudy tequila? no, homemade cough syrup!

cloudy tequila? no, it’s homemade cough syrup!

Dosage

These recipe produces a fairly safe cough syrup. Take a few spoonfuls per day as needed, perhaps slightly less for children.

The Easiest Cough Syrup Ever

So, if buying up a variety of herbs to test your skills at making cough syrup doesn’t appeal to you, feel free to try out my super easy version!

Instead of purchasing a variety of herbs, let the experts do the work for you and simply buy some cold care tea. I like Gypsy Cold Care by Traditional Medicinals. The herbs are already blended for you, and tea bags replace the mesh and muslin strainers. Use one tea bag per cup of water, and follow the directions above. How easy is that?

Gypsy Cold Care tea

Gypsy Cold Care tea

*DISCLAIMER

I am not a certified herbalist, and all information here is to be followed at your own risk. I am a passionate amateur with growing experience, and I simply report here what I’ve learned and what works for me. That said, enjoy the healing power of plants!

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During the past year, I have had some “issues” with yoga. After years of regular practice and deep immersion in the yoga world, I began to realize that the yoga community can be a little too extreme, as well as how a yoga practice can easily be taken in what I feel are unhealthy directions–physically, mentally, and spiritually. These feelings and changes in my relationship with yoga came about from a variety of experiences, and in order to fully process them, I found myself needing to take a complete break from my yoga practice, and eventually, from any type of spiritual practice at all.

Though losing what I thought had been a solid foundation in my life was difficult at the time, I now realize what a gift this past year has been. By gaining distance from the yoga world, from spiritual extremism on one hand to pop culture fads on the other, I gained the perspective needed to reintroduce various practices and ideas into my life with greater discernment. As a result, I am now creating a more sustainable practice (physically and spiritually), rooted in experience, balance, and a deeper understanding of myself and my subject matter.

During my years of practice and trainings in the yoga world, I studied many techniques and philosophies related to coming into balance and finding optimal health in mind, body, and spirit. As I begin to reintroduce the practices that I find most healing into my own life, I would like to begin sharing them here, with all of you. Take what works for you, forget what doesn’t (or come back to it later). Ultimately, the greatest way for any of us to reach wellness is to follow our own intuition.

Pink Lotus © 2007, Juniper Stokes

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