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Mary Poppins had it right when she said, “Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.” Not that I advocate eating sugar by the spoonful, but a bit of sweetness does make it easier for children and those adults with pickier palates to take the often-bitter herb. Syrups generally use a strong tea decoction as a base, mixing in honey for sweetness and its innate preservative action. When kept in the refrigerator, this simple medicine will last a long while. If you add a touch of brandy, it’ll last even longer.
So make your own cough syrups or immune boosting syrups! Not only are they easy to take by the spoonful, I frequently mix the tastier syrups like elderberry into mineral water or drizzle over oatmeal.
Here are the general guidelines for making a syrup for your home apothecary:
2 oz. herb (eleuthero root is shown in the pictures)
1 quart (4 cups) water
1 cup honey (or less)
Brandy – optional
- Start with a decoction: place your herb and water in a saucepan and measure the water level with a chopstick. Use a pencil to mark on the chopstick so you’ll know when the liquid is reduced by half, as shown in the picture below – the top mark is the starting level, the lower level is the halfway mark for the finished level.
- Bring water and herb to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer till liquid is reduced by half, according to your handy dandy chopstick. Remove from heat.
- Strain herb out of the menstruum, squeezing it to get all the liquid out. Compost the strained herb.
- Return the decoction to low heat and add honey – generally 1 cup raw organic honey per pint of tea, although I usually use less. If you started with a quart (4 cups) of water, reducing by half should give you about a pint (2 cups) of tea. Stir honey into the tea till completely dissolved. Remove from heat.
- Pour syrup into jars and allow to cool to room temperature, then label and refrigerate. Enjoy!