Saturday, October 30, 2010

Preparing winter tonics - all natural sage & horehound cough syrup

Plenty of herbs have been harvested all summer long, and now is the time to start preparing tonics and home remedies to have in place for the coming winter months.  We've already been steeping echinacea and astragalus roots in food grade alcohol as tinctures, both wonderful herbs used for building the immune system.  Annually we also make sage cough syrup, a tasty blend of herbs and water steeped into a strong tea to which we add honey and simmer it down into a syrup.  Food grade alcohol such as brandy or vodka can be added to help preserve the syrup, but it will also keep well in a cool temperature room or the fridge.  Syrups last for a few weeks unrefrigerated, and can last a few months if kept in the fridge.  Fruit juice or maple syrup can be used in place of the honey, but it will result in a thinner syrup - still wonderfully medicinal.  Our cough syrup this season included a new herb from our garden, horehound - our horehound plant was large enough to take a good cutting, and believe me, this herb is strong!  It is earthy, almost tasting like soil or dark deep roots such as goldenseal.  You don't need to add much or it will overpower the sage, but medicinally horehound packs incredible strength for symptoms of coughs, colds, and flu.  It is often made into a cough candy as well.

Here is the recipe for making your own all natural herbal sage and horehound cough syrup:

1. Use 2 ounces of dried herbs or 3 ounces of fresh herbs (e.g. sage, horehound) per 4 cups (1 quart) water.  Simmer over low heat until the liquid boils down by half.  This will give you a very strong medicinal tea (decoction).

2. Strain the herbs and put the tea back into a pot.  Add 1 cup honey (or other sweetener) to every 2 cups liquid (1 cup honey: 1 pint liquid).  Some recipes call for a ratio of 1:1 but this is quite sweet.

3. Warm the honey and liquid tea together, simmering until you achieve desired consistency as a syrup.  This usually takes 20-30 minutes.  You may choose to just heat enough to blend the honey into the tea, so as not to cook the living enzymes out of the honey.

4. To flavour add fruit concentrate, a couple drop of essential oil (such as peppermint), or small amount of brandy or vodka to help preserve the syrup.  Bottle, label, date and store in cool dark place, or refrigerator.

Adult dosage:
For chronic problems and tonic therapy take 1/4 to 1/2 tsp two times/day.
For acute problems take 1/8 to 1/4 tsp every 2 hours until symptoms subside. 

Children's dosage (this varies by age so read up in an herbal book for more details):
When adult dosage is 1 tsp generally a 1-2 year old takes 7-8 drops; 2-4 year old takes 10-12 drops; 4-6 year old takes 15 drops, etc.


  1. oh, we've needed this herbal concoction over at our place. thanks for posting the recipe!


  2. where do you get your bottles? I made a tincture from a local ginkgo tree's leaves in late august... but use a mason jar wrapped in brown paper.