This is one of the very first herbal preparations that I remember making and honestly, at the time, I thought it sounded a little disgusting. Needless to say, even though my palate has come a long way in the past decade, it’s actually quite delicious. And when you compare it to those artificially flavored, artificially colored, metallic tasting over-the-counter cough and cold syrups you find at the drug store, this super easy, immune-boosting DIY herbal cough and cold syrup is a damn-near precious gift straight from Mother Nature herself.
why this cough syrup is better for you
I came across an article the other day that explained that cough syrups have actually become one of the most abused and habit-forming over-the-counter medications. Have you ever looked at the ingredients labels on over-the-counter cough syrups?
You’ll likely see a slew of not only artificial flavorings, artificial colorants, and maybe even alcohol, but perhaps some opioids or opioid-like chemicals too. Unlike the conventional over-the-counter cough syrups like Robitussin, this immune-boosting DIY cough syrup has no risk of drowsiness, no risk of impairment, and it’s non-habit forming because it’s made from only real foods, pure ingredients, and the wisdom of the plants (and the bees too).
This cough and cold syrup is made from every day kitchen ingredients that are incredibly nourishing, delicious, and are not only immune-boosting, but bring a whole host of other health benefits as well. And while there might come a time when an over-the-counter cough syrup is a necessary choice for you, reaching for the herbal cough syrups first might just be the act of self-love and self-empowerment you need.
food as medicine
This immune-boosting DIY cough syrup is made with 4 simple ingredients:
That’s it, and every very single one of these ingredients has a long history of immune support that continues today.
Ginger is an incredible medicine. There’s hardly an ache, pain, or ailment that ginger can’t help with. It’s warming, stimulating, sweet, spicy, and while it actually doesn’t contain any significant amount of any vitamins or minerals, it’s wildly medicinal.
The many medicinal actions of ginger include:
- Circulatory stimulant
- Anti-nausea (antiemetic)
Then you have the onions and garlic. These alliums are the quintessential immune-boosting ingredients that make their way into many of our meals. Their immune-boosting properties are largely due to the sulfur-compounds they contain. Both onions and garlic are rich in vitamin C, vitamin B6, and many other vitamins and minerals, which contribute to our overall nutrient status and health, but the sulfur compounds are the star of the show.
The organic sulfur compounds found in garlic and onions are incredibly anti-inflammatory and have been the subject of much of today’s anti-cancer research, but their use has a long history in both folk and traditional medicine. In addition to anti-cancer, garlic and onions are:
- Immune boosting
And let’s not forget the honey. Honey’s high content of beneficial phytochemicals and antioxidants pushes it to superfood status. Typically, the darker the color of the honey, the higher it is in these health-promoting plant compounds.
If you have the option, find local beekeepers who don’t heat process their honey. Most conventional honey that you’ll find in the groceries is heat treated, which destroys much of the beneficial properties of honey. Raw, local honey is always going to be the most medicinal option.
how to use this herbal cough syrup
This syrup is multi-purpose. It can be use for general everyday immune support or to treat an acute cough or cold.
For Everyday Immune Support
Like elderberry syrup, you can use this herbal cough and cold syrup as an every day cold and flu preventative. Add it to your morning or night routine, or reach for it when you feel a little something coming on. Being high in antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial support, this immune-boosing herbal cough syrup can help ward off the seasonal ick before it drags you under.
But if it does drag you under, this syrup can also help lessen the severity and duration of a cold or flu.
To use it as general immune support, take 1-2 teaspoons per day of this herbal cough syrup, or up to 1 tablespoon, 2-3 times per day once you start to feel a dip in your immune system.
For Treating a Sore Throat & Cough
Sore throats and persistent coughs can make life real uncomfortable. I remember traveling last Christmas and sitting in a small airport in Montana with a horribly persistent and lingering dry cough that was kind of embarrassing. It was 6am and my coughing attacks echoed through the entire airport.
To soothe a sore throat, a wet and congested cough, or a dry cough, take up to 1 tablespoon, 2-3 times per day.
Some Other Helpful Tips
I think it’s important to include two other tidbits of information on using this herbal cough and cold syrup:
- Take with food. I recommend not taking this syrup on an empty stomach. While it may not bother you at all, raw onions and garlic on an empty stomach can be a little rough. You may experience mild (but very temporary) stomach upset and/or nausea. Regardless, those are never pleasant, even if short-lived. Instead of taking this syrup first thing in the morning (after fasting all night), consider taking it after breakfast and throughout the day with meals or snacks. On the other hand, it may not bother you at all; every body is different.
- You’ll want to brush your teeth. Trust me on this one. It’s raw garlic and onions. The honey can only mask so much. Depending on when and where you’re using this syrup, you may want to brush your teeth afterwards.
Customize to Your Taste
This herbal cough and cold syrup is so customizable that it feels a little silly to write out a recipe for it. But for simplicity’s sake, this recipe uses equal parts onion, garlic, and ginger. You can always choose to use more ginger and less onion and garlic if you’d like. Or you could leave out an ingredient altogether. While you’ll get the most well-wounded cough and cold care by including garlic, onion, and ginger, each of these ingredients stands alone as a powerful immune-booster.
immune-boosting Difficulty: Easy
DIY herbal cough & cold syrup
This cough syrup is so customizable. You can easily make as much or as little as you like. It only uses 4 ingredients, takes less than 10 minutes to make, and can be ready in as little as a few hours. The size of jar used will determine the ingredient quantities needed. This recipe is for a 12 ounce jar. You may choose to make more or less depending on your family size. If you choose to strain the syrup, save the garlic, onion, and ginger to make a salad dressing!
1/2 cup onion, any variety, peeled & diced
1/2 cup garlic, peeled & diced
1/2 cup ginger, peeled & diced
~ 1 cup of honey
- To a 12 oz. glass jar, add in the diced onion, garlic, and ginger. Pack down lightly into the jar. (After packed into the jar, you should have about 1 inch of space left. You can add more (or remove) onion, ginger, and garlic if needed.)
- Once jar is full, slowly pour honey into the jar. It may take a minute for the honey to find its way to the bottom of the jar. You can use a wooden chopstick to help poke the honey down into the jar, helping to eliminate air bubbles as well. Continue until honey is ~1/2 inch from the top of the jar. Then seal with a tight fitting lid.
- There are 2 options for steeping:
The Short Steep
Within an hour, you’ll notice that the honey has gotten a little more fluid or watery. After resting for about 4 hours, you can being using this syrup. Don’t bother straining out the onion, garlic, and ginger. Just use a spoon to push it back so that it can keep infusing and strengthening the syrup over time.
The Long Steep
If you have the time, I recommend waiting 10-14 days to use the syrup. Just keep the jar in a warm space out of direct sunlight and let it work it’s magic. It may start to ferment a little and that’s 100% okay! You can unscrew the lid daily to let it “burb” or release any gas build-up, and then screw it right back on. Give the jar a few turns upside down every day to maximize the infusion.
- To store this herbal cough and cold syrup:
Whether you’re using the long or short steep method, I recommend moving the syrup to the refrigerator after 10-14 days if NOT straining out the garlic, onion, and ginger. (I kind of enjoy the occasional chunk of ginger or garlic that makes its way to my spoonful of syrup.) The unstrained syrup will store in the refrigerator for up to a year, probably much longer, but I recommend using it before then.
However, you may prefer a strained syrup. In this case, after about 10-14 days, use a fine mesh sieve or strainer to strain the honey. (You may need to use a few layers of cheesecloth to ensure you get any tiny pieces of garlic, onion, or ginger.) Store the strained syrup in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. The strained syrup will store in a dark pantry indefinitely.
The information given in this article is intended for educational purposes only. If you have any concerns at all, it’s always a good idea to check with your health practitioner before consuming certain herbs & medicinal foods, especially if taking any prescription medications.