Syrups have been around for quite some time, and I believe that they have been ‘around’ since ‘ever’, but I do know that Mr Nicholas Culpeper wrote of them back in 1653 in his book, “Culpeper’s Complete Herbal and English Physician”. In fact, I think he says more than some, (not all) more modern writers do, in his short section on them.
And so, I also hope to give you my reader, lots of good and useful information too. Just remember I am very happy to take any enquires or questions.
Most of us remember in our childhood receiving cough medicine, and nearly every time it was a syrup of some form, but sadly most of us don’t remember it tasting so good, in fact, I can remember wanting to vomit at times. But if there is one way of getting that ‘it’s-good-for-you’ medicine down your child, it is a syrup.
So I know from Culpeper’s time till now, they have made syrups from both sugar and honey.
Most would prefer honey over sugar and so do I, but for some people, the amount of honey is very expensive. So I do understand why so many still choose sugar. As it seems that most people who often get sick, are often the poorer folks.
But there is a way around some of the costs, when you have a sore throat and it doesn’t take too long to get your ‘meds’ for a sore throat either, its a simply recipe that I have included in the Variations section of this post below.
Reasons why to make a Herbal Syrup
The first and foremost reason for making a syrup is honestly the taste, yes I know medicine is good for you, but it tastes disgusting. And if there’s one group it is hard to get medicine down, its children. But here, there is one solution that works, and many of us have heard the line from that song, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”.
Infusions and decoctions are very good for you and are simple and quick to make and I advise them to those who ask me for simple yet very beneficial helps. But they come with a very short ‘shelf life’, as teas should be used within the same day, and decoctions you will get sometimes 48hours. But syrups get around this problem.
With alcohol based tinctures, which can often last up to two years, the need for preservation is not necessary, but frankly most of them taste just awful, although some are used to improve flavour. So here Captain Sweetness come to the rescue, and down the throat it goes, and another poor child is saved from the evil Mr Yucky.
Glycerine extracts are an alternative to alcohol extracts, but don’t last as long, but here you can still add them to syrups getting around the shelf life problem, saving you money and time remaking them. Glycerine extracts are for very young children due to better taste and are not as potent as the alcohol, as for babies and infants the potency must be greatly reduced, as with all forms of medicine.
A syrup made from glycerine should be kept in the fridge and last about six months, say for the cold and flu season.
Glycerine extracts are also good for those who are needing to abstain from alcohol for medical reasons, such as allergic or have a liver disease, needing an abstinence due to reforming or religious reasons.
How to do a Herbal Syrup
I have given recipes in both sugar and honey, because as I said before, not everybody can afford large amounts of honey, and honestly they are usually interchangeable, in both weight and volume. And I want to help everyone, not just those who can afford the ‘better’ stuff.
As a general rule, most syrups are made in a ratio of 1:2, as in, 1 part herbal and 2 parts honey or sugar.
Ingredients and Method for a Basic Syrup
- Infusion, decoction or tincture/extract 300mls / 1 1/2 cups
- 450g / 2 cups / 1 lb of sugar or your preferred sweetener
Once you have made your infusion, decoction or tincture, place it in a saucepan and heat it up, but do not boil or burn. Add the sugar and continue stirring until either the sugar is fully melted or until all ingredients are fully blended and smooth. Add to clean/sterile jars or bottles, label with the date and contents and store out of the light and away from heat. It should last several months, but longer in the fridge. But if you see any mould, then do not use it and throw it away.
Syrup via Infusion
- Take 85g / 3oz of your chosen herbs
- Crush, bruise, grind or finely chop your herbs
- Pour 290ml / 1/2 pint of boiling hot water over the herbs
- Cover and allow to steep until cold
- Strain out the herbs
- Reheat the infusion till warm
- Add 113g / 4oz of sugar
- Continue heating and stirring until fully dissolved
- And continue until it becomes a syrupy consistency
- Allow to cool slightly
- Pour into clean sterile glass jars, label and store in a cool place
Purple Marshmallow Cough Syrup
(Marshmallow is great in syrups due to its natural demulcent abilities) And this one doesn’t require any cooking.
- Three handfuls of purple Marshmallow flowers (Purpler the better)
- 5cm / 2″ of a stick of cinnamon (optional)
- Enough honey to completely cover the flowers
- Place the flowers and cinnamon in a glass jar or bottle
- Cover the flowers and cinnamon completely with the honey
- Put the lid on and allow to stand for approximately two weeks
- After standing, strain and store in a glass jar (You may need to warm it just a little)
- Label and store out of sunlight in a cool place
Dosage is simply 1 to 2 teaspoons for a dry, sore or irritation cough
- Place 1 cup / 100g / 0.22lb of dried berries into a suitable bowl
- Cover with 2 cups of boiling hot water
- Cover with a lid and allow to soak for 8 hours / overnight
- Place the berry mix into a blender and finely mash
- Sieve or filter out ‘all’ the particles. Pressing in a good press will push out more
- Put this into a saucepan and simmer and stir until reduced down to 1 cup
- Add 1 cup of raw honey and stir in
- Pour into clean sterile jars and label and date and store in the fridge
- Should last for 1 year
Should work both as a preventative and treatment for colds and flus. Dosage is simply 1 to 2 teaspoons for a dry, sore or irritation cough
Variations of a Herbal Syrup
There are several different types of sweeteners you can use, the most common are white sugar and raw honey, but you could try brown or raw sugar, or rapadura, or Jaggery, if your in India or Sri Lanka for example. But what about others, there is Coconut sugar, Maple syrup, and I have heard of Stevia being used, but I haven’t tried that one.
As I suggested above in my introduction, this is such a simple recipe for sore throats and mouth infections, but the ‘essences’ do travel throughout the rest of the body too.
- Finely dice a small onion
- Finely dice two cloves of garlic
- Put them into a small jar of Manuka honey
- Allow the onion and garlic to steep in the honey
- At first it won’t change much, but as time goes by the honey will become more runny
- Try to mix and shake up the mix at least once an hour
- Optional: After 5 to 6 hours, strain out the onion and garlic and reuse the same jar
- This will last easily two or more years, as the jar is full of things that kill the baddies, therefore it lasts and lasts and true or raw honey never decays
This was made over a year ago and is still safe and potent and I stored it in the cupboard and made it in the same container the honey came in. I didn’t choose to strain it as I thought it would be stronger as time went on. It has no mould and still has that oniony/garlicky flavour and still sweet.
Yep, this is just so easy and affordable, Manuka honey is not cheap, but occasionally it goes up for sale and buy it then, I do. But you may find different brands and alternatives in your own country.
Another idea for variations can be to add juices, this can be from citrus fruits, such as, oranges, lemons and limes, and also from berries such as Elderberries, Blue berries and Hawthorn berries, but also from ‘Succi’, that is, ‘plant juices, from fleshly and juicy herbs.
Choice of Herbs for a Herbal Syrup
Any herb or combination could be used in a herbal syrup, but when it comes to syrups, it is usually chosen for respiratory issues, such as colds and flus and sore throats and is obviously used internally. But in saying this, I do not see why you could not use it for other issues, such as tummy bugs, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, travel sickness, some pains, worms and Urinary tract infections.
I do believe that a syrup can be made to treat infections and ulcers for example on the skin. This would be made out of Manuka honey with added herbal healing properties such as, Ribwort and Comfrey, so instead of using a cream, you use a syrup.
On the whole, syrups are very safe, but if there were a few possible cautions that should be taken they would be:
- The amount of sugar content, (honey and table sugars) could affect those with diabetes
- Not matter what medicine you use, there is always a chance of an allergic reaction
- Due to its wonderful sweetness, keep it out of reach of children, as they may want to consume the whole jar
Please remember, this blog cannot and should not replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment, and no cure is implied in anyway. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.
Russell a.k.a Herbal Panda
“Sweetness has heat, as it seems to melt so many things”Herbal Panda