DIY Respiratory Syrup + bonus recipes

After nearly two and a half years without even a cold, I finally found myself stuck at home last week with a sore throat, chest congestion, and a positive covid test. Going through my homemade medicine cabinet, I found some honey I'd infused last summer with fresh mullein and horehound leaves, and decided to put it to use by whipping up a respiratory syrup!


Here's the basic recipe I used:

2 cups raw, local honey

2 cups herbal decoction

1 cup vodka, brandy, or alcohol of choice

I happened to have honey on hand, already infused with herbs that worked perfectly for this application, but plain honey will do just fine! For that matter, you can use sugar, or the sweetener of your choice. I personally love honey for it's host of medicinal benefits. For a sore throat, I eat it by the spoonful, so for me it was a no-brainier to add it to this syrup! 

For the alcohol component, I used homemade echinacea tincture. You can add any type of tincture or alcohol to serve as a preservative, or make your syrup alcohol-free. The shelf life of your syrup will be much shorter without the addition of alcohol, but works great for a small batch meant to be consumed quickly!

For my decoction, I selected fresh herbs I had growing outdoors in my garden. Oregano is valued for fighting off infections and viruses. Sage is also anti-viral, and works as a gentle expectorant. Horehound (the main herbal ingredient in Ricola cough-drops!) is also an expectorant, and helps to soothe a sore throat. 


I also raided my dried herb stash, and included cinnamon - mainly for flavor but with its own antiviral properties, mullein leaf - a demulcent that soothes irritation and inflammation,  licorice - a go-to for bronchial health, and fresh ginger - also for flavor, but a potent anti-inflammatory and congestion reliever. 

Your decoction can consist of fresh herbs, dried herbs, a combination of the two, or even just a single herb! The point is to make a strong tea, where the hot water gently extracts medicinal constituents from the herb(s) you're using, which will be preserved in the syrup with the addition of honey and/or alcohol. Many of these medicinal herbs (I'm looking at you, horehound!) can be very bitter in flavor, and a syrup provides a more pleasant way of incorporating them into your body than gulping down an acrid cup of tea. 


  • To make your decoction, add 2x's the amount of liquid you wish to render. If you want to use 2 cups of decoction in your recipe, add 4 cups of water to your herbs. Cover herbs in water, and bring to a boil. Once water is boiling, turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes to an hour, or until amount of liquid is reduced by half. Once you've simmered off half the liquid, strain out your herbs, reserving the remaining liquid for your syrup. 
  • While your decoction is still warm, it's time to add the honey. If your honey has crystalized, it can be made more pourable by heating gently in a pot of water before adding to the decoction. My honey was pretty fluid, so I just added 2 cups directly into a bottle with my decoction and shook vigorously to mix it up. This step can be done either by stirring into a pot on the stovetop, or by adding directly into a bottle, as I did. Old apple cider vinegar bottles make excellent containers for herbal syrups, in my opinion!
  • The last step is to add your alcohol, should you chose to. I had some homemade echinacea tincture on hand, which I decided to use to include the benefits of this immune-stimulating herb. You can also use vodka for a more neutral flavor, brandy to add some sweetness, or any alcohol over 80 proof. If you chose to omit the alcohol, your syrup will last about 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Adding alcohol will extend shelf life to 3+ months! 
While making my syrup, I realized I'd harvested more herbs from my garden than I wanted to use in the decoction. Because I had everclear on hand, I decided to make a fresh herb tincture out of the sage, horehound, and oregano, effectively preserving this trio of viral-fighters which I can use next time I begin feeling sick....or implement as the alcohol component of my next syrup!
A dosage of syrup can be taken as a preventative daily measure, depending on the intended function, or about 1 tablespoon every 3 hours for acute conditions, which is what I did. Within 12 hours of making and taking my syrup, I started coughing up a considerable amount of phlegm for a couple hours, after which all my symptoms subsided. It felt like the herbs gave me a jump start in kicking this infection out of my body! My partner came down with covid a couple days after I did, and had a similar experience with a bought of expectoration directly following initial syrup consumption, proceeded by general relief from symptoms. 
Important to note, this is all my personal experience. In no way am I a medical professional, nor am I attempting to make any medical claims. But, brewing yourself up a delicious, medicinal syrup out of herbs from your yard or personal apothecary is just as much emotional medicine as it is physical! In my perception, our herbal friends contain knowledge and information that communicates with our cells, and I love creating the space for them to interplay. 

Bonus Syrup Recipes: 

  • Happy Heart Syrup
    • 1 cup honey
    • 1 cup decoction of hibiscus, ginger, and garlic
    • 1/2 cup hawthorn berry tincture

Take 1 tablespoon daily for circulation and wellbeing!

  • Anxiety Soother Syrup
    • 1 cup honey
    • 1 cup decoction of ashwagandha, tulsi, and chamomile
    • 1/2 cup lemon balm tincture

Enjoy 1 tablespoon three times a day, or as needed

  • Nightcap Syrup
    • 1 cup honey
    • 1 cup decoction of passionflower, hops, and lavender
    • 1/2 cup milky oats tincture
Enjoy a tablespoon before bed. Better yet, add it to your Sweet Dreams Tea!

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