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How to Make an Herbal Syrup + Beginner Recipes

Herbal syrups are a delicious, yet potent, natural remedy that make taking something good for you much easier.

Anyone can enjoy an herbal syrup, but children seem to find them especially delightful and may take herbs in a syrup that they would otherwise have nothing to do with.

Here's more about what an herbal syrup is and how to make your own, plus a few beginner recipes to get you started!

What is an Herbal Syrup?

An herbal syrup is a preparation made by adding honey or another sweetener to a strong decoction to both make it tasty and to preserve it.

Before refrigeration, syrups would be kept in a cool location and would remain good and potent for a long while due to their high sugar content. Now, refrigeration helps them to last even longer, and you don't have to use quite as much sweetener.

Making a syrup is one way to drastically increase the shelf life of a decoction and will have many of the same benefits as the decoction itself.

(In case you're wondering, a decoction is a strong herbal infusion made by simmering herbs in water. You can read more about decoctions and infusions here.)

Syrups can be taken as is, and because they are concentrated, you only need a small amount to get the herbal benefit. You can also use them to make other recipes, like adding a spoonful or two to sparkling water for a refreshing summer drink.

Of course, you can also use herbal syrups just like "normal" syrup on pancakes, ice cream, and so on. You'll just be getting extra nutrients and plant compounds that other syrups don't have!

Benefits of Herbal Syrups

We've already mentioned a few benefits of herbal syrups in passing, but here's a closer look at the top reasons to make your own:

  • Tasty and easier for children and picky family members to take
  • Long shelf life
  • More concentrated than a decoction
  • Can be made with almost any herb
  • Helpful for a variety of health issues
  • Raw honey is nutritious and soothing for the throat
  • Very easy to make

Depending on which herbs you use, you can have an herbal syrup on hand to boost immunity, ease a cough, calm digestion, soothe a sore throat, and much more.

How to Make an Herbal Syrup

You can use nearly any herb to make a syrup, and each herb will impart its own unique properties to your concoction.

Of course, there are some classics like elderberry syrup, but much of your herb choice depends on which herbs you are drawn to and what health aspect you want to address with your syrup.

In general, roots, berries, and bark are more suited to syrup-making because they can stand up to the higher heat of a decoction. However, you can most definitely still use leaves and flowers for your syrup, but decoct them over very low heat.

You can also use either fresh or dried herbs for a syrup, but this specific recipe calls for dried herbs.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2-1 cup of dried herbs (the more you use, the stronger the syrup)
  • 1 quart of water
  • Raw honey or another sweetener

Instructions:

  1. Place your herbs in a saucepan and pour the water over them. Half cover the pot with a lid and bring it to a simmer over low heat.
  2. Simmer (still partially covered) until the liquid in the pan has been reduced by half.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and strain out your herbs. Pour the liquid into a measuring cup (you should have about 2 cups left).
  4. Add raw honey or another sweetener of your choice to the liquid while it's still warm in an amount equal to half your remaining liquid. (So if you have 2 cups of liquid left, you would add 1 cup of honey.)
  5. Stir the honey in until completely dissolved. If needed, you can gently heat the syrup to help it dissolve, but don't let the mixture boil.
  6. Bottle your syrup in a clean, glass jar and store in your refrigerator for up to three months.

Be aware that your syrup will not look like the store-bought kind because you don't boil it with the honey. The end result is thinner than regular syrup, but you keep all the live enzymes of the honey intact!

If you use a different sweetener- maple syrup or sugar, for example- you can boil your syrup if desired to make it thicker. However, this will not enhance its herbal properties at all.

Helpful Tips

The standard way to sweeten a syrup used to be a 1:1 ratio of sweetener to liquid. Because of refrigeration, this isn't necessary any longer (and most people find it too sweet), but if you want your syrup to last longer, you can use this ratio. This would mean 1 cup of raw honey for every 1 cup of liquid.

Another way to extend the shelf life of your syrup even more is to add one part of tincture for every three parts of syrup. Or you can simply add brandy or another alcohol to help with preservation (just not in a syrup for children!).

When you first start out, you may want to try a few single-herb syrups first to get the hang of it before moving on to combination syrups (more than one herb).

If you are planning to use your syrup for its health properties, herbalist Rosemary Gladstar recommends 1/2-1 teaspoon of syrup every 2 hours for acute situations and 1-2 tablespoons of syrup twice daily for chronic situations. (Gladstar. Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner's Guide, pg. 46-47)

Recipe #1- Elderberry Syrup

This is a classic immune-boosting syrup to keep on hand during cold and flu season- and the rest of the year.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup dried elderberries
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4-5 whole cloves
  • 1-2 teaspoons chopped or grated ginger root (fresh)
  • 4 cups water
  • Raw honey

Instructions:

  1. Combine all your ingredients in a saucepan and half cover with the lid. Bring to a simmer over low heat.
  2. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Strain out the herbs, measure the liquid, and add raw honey equal to half the liquid amount.
  3. Store in a clean glass jar in your refrigerator.

Recipe #2- Ginger Syrup

This tasty and spicy syrup can be used for motion sickness, indigestion, coughs, colds, and more

Ingredients:

  • 1/2-1 cup grated or chopped ginger root (fresh)
  • 1-2 teaspoons cinnamon chips (optional)
  • 4 cups water
  • Raw honey

Instructions:

  1. Combine all your ingredients in a saucepan and half cover with the lid. Bring to a simmer over low heat.
  2. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Strain out the herbs, measure the liquid, and add raw honey equal to half the liquid amount.
  3. Store in a clean glass jar in your refrigerator.

Recipe #3- Throat & Cough Soothing Syrup

This syrup features wild cherry bark, licorice root, and mullein to soothe a cough or a sore throat and is adapted from Rosemary Gladstar's recipe.

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Combine all your ingredients in a saucepan and half cover with the lid. Bring to a simmer over low heat.
  2. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Strain out the herbs, measure the liquid, and add raw honey equal to half the liquid amount.
  3. Store in a clean glass jar in your refrigerator.

Enjoying Homemade Herbal Syrups

Now that you know the basics of how to make an herbal syrup, you can start keeping a list of your favorite recipes so that you always have a syrup on hand for when it's needed.

Don't forget that you can also make syrups just to enjoy their flavor as well as for their health-boosting properties!

 

Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and should not be substituted for medical advice.  Please consult your health care provider, herbalist, midwife, or naturopathic physician before taking herbs, supplements, etc. Here's the link to our full disclaimer.