You can grow medicinal herbs easily in your garden and use them to protect yourself against common ailments. Learn how to make medicinal syrups from those herbs with author Rosemary Gladstar’s recipe. This excerpt is taken from chapter 1 of Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs (Storey Publishing, 2012).
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Children and the elderly seem to prefer syrups, as both age groups are more inclined to down their medicine if it’s sweet. “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down” was a ditty most surely written about herbal syrups.
Syrups begin with a very concentrated decoction. Combine an herb or herb blend with water in a pot, using 2 ounces of herb per quart of water. Set the pot over low heat, bring to a simmer, cover partially, and simmer the liquid down to about half the original volume.
Strain the herbs from the liquid (compost the spent herbs). Measure the volume of the liquid, and then pour it back into the pot.
For each pint of liquid, add 1 cup of honey or other sweetener, such as maple syrup, vegetable glycerin, or brown sugar. Most recipes call for 2 cups of sweetener (a 1:1 ratio of sweetener to liquid), but I find that far too sweet for my taste. (Before refrigeration was common, the extra sugar helped preserve the syrup.)
Warm the mixture over low heat, stirring well. Most recipes call for cooking the sweetener and tea for 20 to 30 minutes over high heat to thicken the syrup. This certainly does make a thicker syrup, but I’d rather not cook the living enzymes out of the honey, so I warm the mixture only enough that the honey combines with the liquid (not over 110°F; lower is better).
Remove from the heat. If you like, add a fruit concentrate for flavor, or a couple of drops of aromatic essential oil such as peppermint or spearmint, or a small amount of brandy to help preserve the syrup and/or to aid as a relaxant in a cough formula.
Pour the syrup into bottles. Store in the refrigerator, where it will last for several weeks.
Excerpted from Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide © Rosemary Gladstar, photography © Jason Houston used with permission from Storey Publishing. Buy this book from our store: Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs.