Nourish - How to Make a Herbal Syrup
I’m sure you’ve heard me mention herbal syrup on multiple occasions throughout my blog posts, and I assure you, it’s for good reason. Herbal syrups are absolutely marvellous to have on hand during the colder months of the year. In fact, they’re great all throughout the year since the flavour of them can be varied according to what is growing at the time.
Since I’m such a fan of herbal syrup, it seems remiss of me not to offer a few tips and recipes to help you support your health even further.
I hope that you enjoy learning the basics of how to make herbal syrup and that you soon feel confident to create your own delicious blends with what you have at hand 😊
What is Herbal Syrup?
First up, let’s actually define what a herbal syrup is. Essentially, it’s a concentrated herbal decoction combined with either honey or sugar. Occasionally it also contains alcohol.
Almost always, the base of a syrup is a strong herbal decoction, which you can learn more about in my previous blog post here.
Then, this decoction is mixed with honey or sugar which helps not only to thicken the decoction into a syrupy texture but also to help preserve it. Alcohol is commonly used to extend its lifespan further.
The sweetener offers benefits such as helping to soothe a sore throat, a cough or any dry irritated tissue. Unsurprisingly, it also helps to make some herbs more palatable. This is especially the case with children.
In general, raw honey is the preferred option, however, if you’re vegan, raw organic sugar is an option too.
How Do You Use Herbal Syrup?
You may be surprised how versatile herbal syrups actually are and how easy it is to add them into your diet. Try:
- Taking it off the spoon directly
- Adding it to a secondary ferment of water kefir or kombucha
- Mixing it with carbonated water
- Adding to a smoothie
- Drizzling over pancakes/porridge/chia pudding etc.
- Adding to hot water or tea
- Adding to homemade ice pops or ice cream
Choosing Your Herbs
Pretty much any herb can be used to make delicious herbal syrup though naturally some work better in some cases than other. For example, dandelion, ginger and cinnamon are great herbs to help with digestive troubles, but elderberry and rosehips are amazing for the common cold and flu.
Here are some herbs to consider when making a herbal syrup, but please note these sub-sections are just to aid your choice. Most of these herbs have multiple actions for your health and are not limited to their placement.
For Cold and Flu
For Respiratory Health
- Lemon Thyme
For the Nervous System
- Lemon Balm
- Tulsi (holy basil)
How to Make Herbal Syrup
The hardest part about making herbal syrup is deciding which herbs you want to use! There are so many fantastic herbs, all with special abilities, so don’t feel you need to pick one and stick to it. Weekly or monthly, try out a different recipe and get creating your own herbal syrup at home.
There’s no actual rule when it comes to the proportions for a herbal syrup, so you’ll want to experiment which the ratios to see what works for you.
As a starting point, use this recipe to make your own herbal syrup choosing the herbs that suit you best.
- ½ cup to 1 cup of dried herbs
- 2-3 cups water
- ½-1 cup of honey or sugar
- optional: Brandy or herbal tinctures (roughly ¼ cup)
A mention about alcohol:
The addition of alcohol is an option mostly for its preservative function. Obviously, it’s not suited if you’re making syrups for children or anyone struggling with alcohol addiction.
Alcohol can be added in the form of a herbal tincture which then gives the additionally beneficial properties associated with it. Equally, it will help preserve your syrup for longer. Brandy is a very popular choice for syrups.
Let’s begin by making your herbal decoction.
Depending on the herbs you’re using, the decoction time may vary. If you’re using harder parts of the plant such as berries, barks and roots they will go first. Then any leaves or flowers will be added later in the process. These don’t need as much cooking as the harder parts of the plant.
- Combine any berries, barks or roots with the room temperature water in a pot. Bring to a simmer and partially cover the pot with a lid.
- Let your brew simmer until the liquid inside is reduced by half. This generally takes about 30-45 minutes, but do keep an eye on it.
- If you’re using leaves or flowers, remove the pan from the heat and add any them now. (If you are not using them, skip the next step.)
- Place the lid back on the pan covering it fully and let the leaves and flowers steep for at another 20 minutes or up to a couple of hours.
- Once you’re done extracting the goodies from your herbs it’s time to strain them. Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer and/or piece of muslin and then compost the herbs. You can use the back of a spoon to help the squish the herbs to extract more juice.
- Now we have a lovely strong decoction for the syrup base we can get started on turning it into a syrup. Return the liquid to the pot and add your honey or sugar.
- If using honey, be careful not to expose it to too much heat, otherwise, you’ll kill off the beneficial properties and naturally occurring enzymes in the honey. VERY gently heat the decoction a little until the honey just dissolves. It should never be so hot that you can’t leave your finger in it without it being too hot.
- Similarly, if using sugar, reheat the syrup enough to easily dissolve the sugar.
- Remove your syrup from the heat and let it cool down to room temperature. Now is the time to add your tinctures or brandy. Use up to ¼ cup of brandy or tincture total for each cup of syrup you have.
- Finally, pour your syrup into clean bottles and pop on a label with the ingredients listed and the date.
Store in the refrigerator for up to 1-3 months. (If you used higher quantities of honey/sugar or included alcohol your syrup may last longer!)
This tends to depend on the herbs used in the syrup and the reason behind the chosen herbs. In general, anywhere between ½ teaspoon to 1 tablespoon taken 1 to 3 times a day is advised.
If for example, you’re taking elderberry syrup to prevent a cold, 1 teaspoon – 1 tablespoon once a day is advised. If you feel like a cold or flu is coming on, take a tablespoon every 3-4 hours until symptoms subside.
Herbal Syrup Recipes to Try
To help get you started, here are 2 of my favourite herbal syrup recipes.
Sweet Lemon Honey & Thyme Cough Syrup Recipe
This recipe comes from Reformationacres.
- a handful of fresh thyme sprigs
- 1 pint of water (2 cups)
- 1/2 cup raw honey
- 1/2 lemon chopped
- Place the lemon in the pint jar and cover with the honey. The honey will macerate the lemons and draw out the liquids which taste so delicious!
- Meanwhile, toss the thyme leaves into a saucepan and cover them with the water.
- Bring the water to a gentle simmer and reduce it to half, about a cup of tea.
- When the tea is reduced and cooled a bit, strain the sprigs & leaves, add it into the pint jar and stir it well.
- Give it a shake and use a spoonful as needed.
- Store your homemade cough syrup in the refrigerator for about a month.
- ½ cup dried elderberries
- 2 cups of water
- 1 tablespoon of ginger (minced or finely sliced)
- A teaspoon of cinnamon
- ½ cup raw honey
Follow directions as directed in the How To Make a Herbal Syrup.
I hope you’ll enjoy playing the witch and making up some delicious herbal syrups to support your health.
If you’re interested in learning more about herbs for different ailments, have a read over these blog posts:
- 7 Supportive Herbs for Your Respiratory System
- 6 Helpful Herbs You May Not Have Heard Of But Should
- East to West, Tea’s the Best: 9 of our Favourite Health Benefiting Teas
- What’s the Scoop on: Reishi Mushrooms
- 5 Essential Pantry Ingredients to Support Your Health This Change of Season
If you want to make more things using herbs, have a read over these:
- How to Make a Herbal Vinegar
- How to Make a Herbal Infusion
- and of course, How to Make a Herbal Decoction
Any questions? Drop into your local Nourish store to chat with our expert team and explore our full range of foods, supplements and skincare. You can also find our full product range in our online store.
*Please note that while we are knowledgeable about our products and nutrition, this blog should never be a substitute for medical advice and attention.
Please remember that you should always obtain the all-clear from your doctor before starting any new supplement plan or diet if you’re on any medication