The Lord has been very, very good to us. My kids are hardly ever sick. In the rare event that one of them actually gets ill, it usually only lasts until morning, and usually does not run through the entire family. My 3 1/2 year old has only been sick about 3 times in her life. Once, she ran a fever, another time she lost her pickles, if you know what I mean. Both times, she was over it in about a day and a half. This week was her third time to get a bug, but this time it hit her pretty hard. Nothing dangerous, but she has run the gamut of symptoms over the past week. After the fever (and other details you really don't want to know about), she began to cough.
Like I said, we don't get sick much around here. That means that I don't actually own any over-the-counter cough syrup. And we live a long way from the nearest Cough Syrup Shop. But something had to be done. My little munchkin wasn't getting the rest she needed since she was coughing so much. Never fear. I have a good supply of all things herbal around here. So, I began to do some late night research -- you know, since I was up anyway.
I came up with this wonderful cough syrup that not only builds the immune system, but actually stops the coughing and soothes the throat. (Most cough syrups I have tried over the years served only to make me feel like I was doing something. They didn't really do much about the cough. Go figure.) And my Herbal Cough Syrup tastes better than that over-the-counter stuff, too.
Here is a run-down of the ingredients and why they work:
Honey was a no-brainer, to me. It is naturally soothing and can often cure a cough all by itself. It is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. It's sweetness helps mask the herbs and make the syrup palatable. A wonderful herbal concoction still won't do any good if you can't get your kiddo to take it. (A word of caution: I never give honey to a child under 2 years old because the digestive systems of very young children are not developed enough to handle it and can develop botulism. Many sources say it safe after 1 year old, but I like to ere on the side of caution. Do your research and decide whether you are comfortable with waiting until they are 1 or waiting longer, but don't give it to them before they are one.)
Lemon Juice was also high on my list. It is often combined with honey as a two-ingredient cough syrup. Back in the dark ages when I used to sing, we would often take a swig of straight lemon juice before our winter concerts because something like 80% of us had a sore throat for every single concert. It soothed our throats and kept us hitting those high notes. Lemon juice is high in Vitamin C, which is wonderful when you're under the weather. It's acidity will also help knock back a little of the sweetness of the honey.
Wild Cherry Bark is a very traditional remedy that was used by both the Native Americans and the ancient Chinese to relieve coughs and congestion. It contains hydrocyanic acid, which is rapidly excreted from the lungs when it is metabolized (according to Tieraona Low, M.D.). It increases respiration and then calms the nerves that cause coughing. There is one caveat, though. The hydrocyanic acid that works all those wonders can be toxic if you take too much. Therefore, it should not be taken for more than 10-14 days. But then, if you're still coughing after 10-14 days, you need a doctor anyway, sweetie. Also, it isn't safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. But you can just leave it out in that case. Marshmallow Root is good for more than just hair. It's mucilaginous components are very soothing to the bronchial tubes and throat. Chamomile is very calming for your muscles, so it helps get rid of that annoying "tickle" in the back of your throat. It also calms and soothes little ones safely, so that they have more restful sleep. Fresh Ginger helps combat inflammation. It also works as an expectorant. When you cough, your body is trying to expel all that yuck out of there, so ginger actually works with your body to help it do its job. Cinnamon is an immune system booster and of course, makes things taste good. One of my sons tasted this cough syrup and thinks it tastes like liquid apple pie. I think he's nuts, but the cinnamon probably has something to do with it.
So how well did it work?
Frankly, I was amazed. Even knowing about the wonderful ingredients I'd put in there, I still expected it to only half work. But the first time I gave it to my little one, her coughing stopped and she fell asleep within about 5-10 minutes. She didn't need it again until the next day. The second time (this time, during the day), I gave her a dose and again, she immediately felt better and her coughing stopped within 10 minutes. She didn't need it again until the next night. So far, my Herbal Cough Syrup has a far better track record than anything I've ever bought or had prescribed. It's made a believer out of me.
1/4 cup freshly chinger root (I didn't even bother to peel it.)
1/4 cup marshmallow root
1/4 cup chamomile flowers (well, actually, I had run out of chamomile flowers, so I just ripped open enough chamomile tea bags to equal 1/4 cup)
1 TBSP cinnamon (I use ceylon cinnamon, rather than cassia, but that's a whole other post)
1 cup honey
1/4 cup lemon juice
Make the decoction:
Stir together in a pot and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer until the liquid reduces to about one cup. This takes a long time, but it takes time to break down those herbs and transfer their goodies to your water. Allow to cool just enough to handle and strain, squeezing the herbs to get all those rich nutrients out. Discard the herbs. The liquid should equal one cup. (When I made mine, I started straining it after awhile and realized I still had too much liquid, so I just dumped it all back in the pot and let it continue to simmer. Later, I tried again, only this time I didn't have enough liquid. No worries. I squeezed the herbs as dry as I could, then added enough water to my herb liquid to equal 1 cup.)
Finnish the syrup:
While the herb liquid is still pretty hot, add the honey and lemon juice. Stir until well combined. Done. Allow to cool, and store in the fridge. It will keep for about 2 months. You could probably freeze it for about 6 months, but I haven't tried that yet. This recipe makes a little over two cups of cough syrup.