How to Make Homemade Herbal Cough Syrup

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by the author of Prepper’s Pantry and Three Miles

I’ve been making my own cough syrup for years to support my family with anything from a little tickle to a full-on cough. The recipe has changed a bit over the years, especially once I began traveling internationally. I’ve taken a little bit from my Southern mountain upbringing, the Balkan Peninsula in Europe, and Mexico and combined it into a very useful mixture.

(Please excuse the awkward wording in this article – the FDA has extremely strict rules about how one can write about remedies that have been around for centuries.)

This being said, I’m not a doctor, and this isn’t medical advice.

I’d been making honey-lemon cough syrup for years. You can find that recipe here. It’s pretty effective and soothing.

Then I got sick when I was living in Europe. I went to the pharmacy determined to purchase a familiar-looking bottle of purple cough syrup for the deep, bronchial cough I’d developed right before arriving in Montenegro. The pharmacist persuaded me to give their thyme cough syrup a try first. I was stunned at how well it worked. As someone who has suffered from chronic bronchitis and asthma for years, I have tried all different types of cough medicine, and this was incredibly effective.

I added and took away from my former recipe, played around with other ingredients, and came up with the one we use now, which I’ll write about today. The thing I like about this new-and-improved adaptation is that you can easily grow all the ingredients and make it as long as you have alcohol and honey.

If you want to learn to make your own herbal medicines, you absolutely MUST take our Herbal Skills Intensive course.

It’s very easy to make this on your own. You may have all the ingredients on hand already, as there’s nothing exotic. You need to start your batch now to have it ready for winter colds and influenza. The mixture sits for six weeks before the final steps.

(Want to learn what to eat when the power goes out? Check out our free QUICKSTART Guide.)

How to start your homemade cough syrup

Here’s what you’ll need for the first steps.

  • Vodka, Everclear, or another clear alcohol
  • Thyme (fresh or dried)
  • Ginger (fresh)

I don’t measure any of this. I just stuff the jar and then fill it with liquid. This is the easiest thing you’ll ever make.

  • First, stuff a large jar full of clean, fresh thyme or half full of highly-scented, strong dried thyme. I used the final harvest from my potted thyme on my patio along with the thyme I’d dried in the dehydrator over the summer.
  • Next, take a hunk of fresh ginger. I like to cut it into junks, then squash it with the side of the knife to release more of the juices. Add this to your jar.
  • Finally, fill the jar up with vodka or your choice of alcohol. I usually go with whatever is cheapest when making medicines, but some folks prefer to use organic alcohol.
  • Put the lid on, place it on the counter, and give it a shake every day for the next six weeks.

I like to mark on my calendar when I begin the batch and when my six weeks are up. Here’s what my concoction looks like:

After a few days, the liquid will take on a brownish tint. Don’t worry – it’s supposed to do that.

How to finish making your homemade cough syrup

Your six weeks have passed. Now, it’s time to finish your batch of cough syrup. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Your thyme/ginger/alcohol concoction
  • Honey (raw is best)
  • More thyme

First, strain your thyme/ginger/alcohol concoction. I line a mesh sieve with a flour sack towel. Place that in a large bowl or cooking pot. Pour the mixture into the sieve and let it drain while you prepare the honey.

  • Using a double boiler, fill the top container with raw honey. Because I’m not big on measuring, I generally eyeball this. I like to use approximately a 3:1 alcohol to honey ratio. This isn’t an exact science. You want to make it sweet enough that your family will take it without complaint, and you also want to get enough honey in there to soothe your throat on the way down.
  • Add fresh or dried thyme to the honey. I just use whatever amount I have on hand. I just started another thyme plant on my patio garden and hope to have it ready to harvest by the time I need it. If I had to go and buy it, I’d get a bundle or two of fresh thyme from the produce section of the grocery store.
  • Put a lid on the double boiler and bring things to a simmer. Do NOT boil it. Keep the heat low enough that you can simmer this for about 2 hours.
  • When you’re finished simmering, you should also have well-drained alcohol in your other pot. I always give a big squeeze to get the last drops of thyme-ginger goodness from my floursack towel.
  • Your honey will be liquid. Pour it through your colander to get the big pieces of thyme out of it, but don’t use the floursack towel. You want as much honey as possible to get into your alcohol concoction.
  • Stir the alcohol and honey well to combine them.

That’s it! Now, decant it into bottles to take as it’s needed. I prefer to use amber glass bottles to protect the contents from light. Once I finish off my current batch, I’ll add more photos.

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How do you use Honey Thyme Ginger Cough syrup?

I’ve used a version of this for my family for years. You can administer it in different ways. You can give it to the person by the spoonful, just like a pharmacy cough syrup, or you can add it to hot water to make a tasty, beneficial tea. Due to the alcohol content, this isn’t suitable for children.

Always check with your doctor before using this or any other home remedy. 

Do you have a homemade cough syrup that you make? Are there ingredients in yours I didn’t include in mine? Please share your method and secrets in the comments.

About Daisy

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, adventure-seeking, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty; 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived; and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. Her work is widely republished across alternative media and she has appeared in many interviews.

Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books, 12 self-published books, and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses at SelfRelianceand Survival.com You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

How to Make Homemade Herbal Cough Syrup
Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

Leave a Reply

  • I’ve made other tinctures in the past and as long as you’re using at least 80 proof alcohol you should be good with this. I would guess brandy would be very tasty for this!

  • Actually if you pour very hot water to turn your syrup into a kind of tea, and wait a few minutes for it to go down to a drinkable temperature, all the alcohol content (very volatile) will have evaporated and it will be suitable for children.

  • Its not that I avoid alcohol, but I have 8 & 9 year old grandsons to consider. Use your search engine of choice to find “fire cider” or “fyre cider”. Essentially various aromatics including crushed fresh garlic, onions, cloves lemon slices (or juice) … and apple cider vinegar & honey. I don’t know if there is a single “right” way to make it. Back in December 2019 I was having some breathing issues and a cough. I had the foresight to make a quart of this in advance. The problem went away in a week.I quit taking it. February 2020 full blown symptoms of what we now know as Covid. Had I continued with this concoction, who knows?

  • We lived in France for six years, decades ago.
    When we developed the “rhume”, a cold, we immediately bought a box of suppositories, fastest way for absorption, with eucalyptus. The kids didn’t like it but didn’t object either because it was so effective.
    I like your syrup recipe and will use it this winter. Reminds me a little of Kabasura Kundineer from India.
    Plants hold such powerful benefits for our bodies.
    Your web site is deeply appreciated.

  • When you don’t have time to wait, chop 1/2 of an onion. Put it in a jar. Cover with honey. After just a few hours a liquid will come to the top. Take that for cough and sore throat. You don’t have to wait 6 weeks.

  • I second the fire cider and the onion honey. We take (my version) of fire cider year- round and haven’t been sick since before covid. My honey syrup has onion, garlic and thyme – let it sit until very runny then strain. I just use it as an extra immune booster since we haven’t needed cough syrup. I make and sell fire cider and elderberry syrup as an added bonus for friends and family.

  • Thank you for this great recipe! I’ve been looking for an old-school cold remedy. Greatly appreciate your website and all the time you put into helping us out.

  • Do you put the alcohol Thyme mixture in the bottom of the double boiler and the honey on top and do it that way? Easnt sure from your instructions exactly where the alcohol mixture goes?

    • Sorry about that! No – the alcohol and thyme mixture does not get heated up. 🙂 Just the honey and thyme.

  • We raise bees and are blessed to live in an area that produces Sourwood honey. Raw and organic at its best but it’s important to know that when you heat honey, at a certain point/temperature, you kill off some of the most important attributes that honey provides like anti microbial properties, etc.

    Infusing herbs, etc at room temperature would take longer, but it also would preserve the raw benefits honey offers.

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