Friday, December 14, 2012

Natural Cough Syrup... that really works!

It's that time of year... when Little Girls get colds, and then after the cold, they cough and hack for a few more days. And as mothers, all we want to do is soothe that poor throat and give them a break from the nasty cough. We want them to have a chance to sleep at night (and we want to sleep, too!) That's when it gets tempting to buy an over-the-counter cough syrup.

But have you ever looked at what's in store-bought cough syrup? It's made primarily of Red Dye 40 and high fructose corn syrup. I'm not sure what moron decided that feeding our children carcinogens when they are sick would make them feel better, but I find it frustrating.

Thankfully, a friend relayed a recipe for homemade cough syrup... all natural, not all that bad-tasting, and it really, really works. My poor girl, who spent the night before last coughing and hacking through the night, slept like a baby last night, with nary a cough to be heard.

I'm sure this recipe is posted somewhere online already, but as it was passed to me verbally, I thought I'd post it here for any friends that want to give it a try.

Natural Cough Syrup
2 oz dried thyme
2 oz dried marshmallow root
1 oz dried peppermint
2 oz dried licorice root
1 oz dried wild lettuce
8 oz fresh ginger, grated
1 lb honey
2-ish quarts of water

In a large pot, boil the dry herbs and the water for about 30 minutes. I ended up adding another two cups of water because it just got too thick. Expect your whole house to smell like this boiling mixture of herbs. When my five year old looked in the pot, she said, "Ew! It's the Bog of Eternal Stench!"

When it's done boiling, let it sit until it's cool enough to strain. Ladle the herbs into squares of cheese cloth, and squeeze like heck. It's sticky, gooey, and kind of nasty looking, but that's where the good stuff is.

Once it's strained, add the 8 ounces of ginger to the pot and boil for another 10 minutes or so. Ginger is amazing stuff - will soothe a tummy, and kick a cold almost instantly.

Take the pot off the burner and stir in the honey. Yes, it uses a pound of honey. Honey coats the throat, stopping that tickle that leads to constant hacking. Once the honey is stirred in and dissolved into the liquid, strain out the ginger. Ladle the syrup into jars. I'm storing mine in the fridge... I'm not sure if that's necessary or not, but it feels safer to me.

To administer - I used a teaspoon for my five year old. It was plenty - stopped the cough in it's tracks and let her sleep soundly all night.

A general disclaimer: I'm not a doctor, and I can't diagnose your kid. I'm just a mom hoping to do my best by my own children, and sharing what I learn. I can't tell you if this is the best option for you or your child. Use your best judgement. If a cough persists for too long, you should seek medical advice. If you are aware of any allergies to any of these herbs, or herbs in these families, don't use them. And don't give honey to children under one year of age.

A note about finding the ingredients, and cost:
All of these herbs can be found in the bulk section of my local health food store. A 4 ounce bag is usually about $2. Do try to use local honey, as it is more beneficial to your body than honey farmed in China. Most stores carry fresh ginger root. One good-sized root is 4-6 ounces.
The total cost for the ingredients to make this was about $25. While that does seem expensive, do realize that it makes 3 pints of cough syrup. A bottle of herbal or homeopathic honey-based cough syrup is usually $10-12 for less than one cup. So it's actually really inexpensive to make. And if you're lucky, this will probably be enough to last the year.