Mama’s Medicine Chest: Making Cough Syrup


October 19, 2012 by currbell

 Again, I’m not a professional medical provider, I’m a professional Mom.  This is not medical advice. I’m simply sharing with you the things I have done. You need to do your own research and prayerfully decide what is right for you and your family.

The first step in making a cough syrup is to make a tincture. A tincture is “an alcoholic solution of a medical substance” according to my Webster’s. A tincture can be made with food grade glycerine, honey, vinegar, vodka or whiskey, witch hazel, rubbing alcohol, and probably a few other elements. The liquid you use to make a tincture should be decided by how you will use it, topically or internally for example. You can read about making a glycerine tincture here, (use the same directions for creating a honey tincture) which requires a short (comparatively) heating period. To use any of the other liquids I have listed, simply put the herbs in a glass jar, cover with your liquid, and keep it in a cabinet for 6 weeks, shaking it every once in a while. If you really need it, it can be used as soon as 3 weeks, but 6 weeks is ideal, because then you know all the herb has been broken down. If you are using any woody herbs or roots be sure to leave extra room for them to expand as they absorb the liquid. At the end of six weeks take a bowl, line it with a thin piece of clean fabric, like flour sack or t-shirt material, and dump the content of your jar into the fabric. Gather up the fabric and the herbs and let all the liquid drain out. I do a lot of squeezing to make sure all of the liquid is out. This liquid is your tincture. Bottle it in dark glass if you have it, and label it with a name and date. Keep in a dark cool place, like the back of a lower kitchen cabinet. Depending on what liquid you use to make your tincture it can use it for one (glycerine) to three or four years (alcohol). You can read more about tinctures here.

I’m currently making two tinctures for this winter. One to be used as a cough syrup and the other for immune boosting. The cough syrup is made with a mixture of the following herbs in a whiskey tincture.

licorice root (don’t use this if you’re pregnant)

I plan on mixing a small amount with local raw honey for a syrup or with hot water and honey for a tea. I decided on whiskey since it is good for a cough all by its self. If you are uncomfortable using a small amount of alcohol in your cough syrup you could make a honey tincture with the same herbs. I thought about using honey, but since you loose a some of the health properties of raw honey with a long heating period I decided to keep my honey raw. You can read more about these herbs and why I chose them here which I recommend you do.

The second tincture I am making is to boost the immune system. I looked for ingredients that actively do this and also for herbs that are very high in vitamins and minerals to support these functions. These are the herbs I’ve decided on:

Dandelion root
Elder berry
Rose hips

I think I may add some lemon peel to this concoction next year, for extra vitamin C. I’m making this tincture in raw apple cider vinegar, since it works on its own to promote health. I didn’t do it this time but after giving it some thought this year, I think next year I will make a vodka tincture for the Dandelion  and Echinacea root, since they are woody and will break down better in alcohol, and a vinegar tincture with the other herbs. I’m also wondering if I might get more health properties out of this if I took the vinegar, elder berry, rose hips, nettle tincture and blended it all up into a smooth purée instead of straining it, or if that would make it too hard to get little ones to swallow.  I guess I will have to wait until next year to find out *smile*. I plan on mixing this also with raw honey before taking. If you wanted to make this , but can’t afford all the supplies I would recommend investigating Elder berry and Echinacea.  These two herbs work amazingly well. You can buy tinctures and syrups for both of these herbs, but will save a LOT of money of you take the time and do it yourself, and it really is very easy. We used an Elderberry syrup from Beeyoutiful last year and it was VERY effective and we all enjoyed the taste of it, though I have heard some people don’t. As a side note, elder berries grow in much of the US, so you can think about planting some bushes or looking for it wild in your area. I will warn it is often hard to beat the birds to these berries though.

Now you may be thinking this is nice information but where are the recipes? How much do you use?! There is some very good advice here about figuring out dosages and how to work with herbs safely. How much did I use? I can’t tell you, I just poured some of this and some of that into a jar, covered it with as much liquid as it would take and let it brew. And the girls even helped me pour. You probably don’t have the things you need to make these syrups into a science at home. Each batch of herbs can have differing potencies, the temperature of the room can change things, the number of times it’s shaken, etc. So since I know it’s impractical for me to try to make this into a science, I just look at as an art, like cooking a meal, give it my best shot, according to the things I know today, and change it tomorrow when I have learned more. It would have been a good idea for me to measure and make some notation on how much I used, so maybe I would get more effective each year. But it all honesty I was at a place where I needed to just do something and get it in a jar or it was never going to happen. I put both of these tinctures together in about 15 before bed one night. But even with this wing-it attitude the things I have done to care for my family have worked well enough that they have never needed any medical care beyond me. And that’s my whole goal, to keep my family in the best health possible. My brain has felt a little scattered writing this post, if you have any questions or feel I have left something out, feel free to ask.

May God bless you with good health! c


One thought on “Mama’s Medicine Chest: Making Cough Syrup

  1. Lisa says:

    I love making tinctures! And I spotted the baby belly button tincture that I used for Solomon and passed onto your new baby in the picture. 😉 I can verify that mullein is great for getting mucuous out. I used to make infusions with it and give it to Lilly through her g-tube. 🙂

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