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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

  1. 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.
    Decoction - chopstick is used as a guide for reduce by half
  2. 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.
  3. Strain herb out of the menstruum, squeezing it to get all the liquid out. Compost the strained herb.
  4. 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.
  5. Pour syrup into jars and allow to cool to room temperature, then label and refrigerate. Enjoy!




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