Holistic Cough Syrup Recipe

Making homemade natural cough syrup is easier than I thought it would be using organic herbs from the Apothecary Shoppe. This recipe is from a class I am taking on Herbal Medicine at the American College of Healthcare Sciences. There are many herbs that can be used to make a cough syrup but this combination is the one I tried because it was assigned in my class. As luck would have it I had a bad cough that could benefit from experimenting with this recipe. My cough wasn’t cured with this syrup; however, the symptoms improved and I had similar results compared to a generic bottle of DayQuil I had in my bathroom cabinet. My daughter had a sore throat and she said the syrup helped soothe it. I will definitely prepare this recipe again but I may experiment with additional herbs (stay tuned for future recipes).Herb set up

Necessary Equipment – Sterilize all equipment:

Stainless steel medium sized saucepan

Mortar and Pestle

Kitchen Scale

Straining Cloth

Large mason jar or container to store syrup


1/3-oz licorice Glycyrrhiza glabra root

1/3-oz slippery elm Ulmus rubra bark

1/3-oz flaxseed Linum usitatissimum

1/3-pint molasses or 1/6 lb. honey or raw sugar (if possible use local organic honey)

1-pint water


  1. Using a kitchen scale measure .33 ounces of each herb separately. If the licorice root is larger than a ½ inch cut into smaller pieces. Use mortar and pestle to crush each herb – this releases the active constituents.
  2. Prepare a decoction (instructions below) with the licorice using 1/3 oz of herb to 1/3 pint of water.
  3. Strain and cool the decoction, add the remaining 2/3 pints of water to the cool liquid, and pour over the remaining herbs – the slippery elm, and flaxseed.
  4. Infuse for 20-30 minutes. We infuse mucilaginous herbs in a cold infusion to ensure the highest extraction of the mucilage constituents. Mucilage extracts more efficiently with cold water.
  5. Once infused and the resulting liquid is thick, strain carefully to ensure no plant
    Straining out plant material
    Straining the infusion with a sterilized cheesecloth.


    remains. Sterilized cheesecloth or nut milk bags are ideal for straining but you can use a clean sock if needed. The mixture will be thick and you will need to squeeze it through the material. Use gloves if you would like to keep the mixture completely sanitary. No plant particles should remain.Once strained, add the honey or raw sugar and stir thoroughly.

  6. Bottle the mixture when cool. Label and store in a cool, dark place; the refrigerator is ideal.
  7. This formula is useful to prepare in a large quantity at the beginning of the winter months as it keeps well in the refrigerator. You can double or triple the recipe ingredients to make a larger quantity.


finished cough syrup
Final product!



Administration and Dosage:

Use one tablespoon three to four times daily.

Preparing a Decoction:Licorice root mortar and pestle

Decoctions are used on plant parts like bark, stems, and roots. Use 1/3 oz licorice to 1/3 pint water. Cut or crush your herb using a mortar and pestle right before adding it to the pot. This helps with releasing all the active constituents. Simmer the decoction until approximately 25% of the water has evaporated. This should take approximately 15 minutes.

About the herbs – emphasis on how they pertain to this particular formula

Licorice Root

Latin NameGlycyrrhiza glabraLicorice Root

Family – Fabaceae

Relevant therapeutic actions – Antimicrobial, demulcent, expectorant, emollient, antitussive, anti-inflammatory

Active constituents – Saponin, glycyrrhizin, flavonoids: liquiritin, iso-liquiritin, and coumarin, bitter principles, tannins, and terpenes. If alcohol extraction is used the following compounds are found: prenylflavonoids and dehydroglyasperin D.

Indications (as applicable) –May help with upper respiratory tract infections

Contraindications (as applicable) – Should be used with caution by diabetics or persons with hypoglycemic issues, persons with high blood pressure, kidney and liver disorders or hormonal issues; however, use of licorice root extracted in alcohol may be used in these cases. Large doses may interfere with potassium and sodium absorption. Do not use when pregnant or nursing. Take licorice either 1 hour before or 2 hours after medications. May interfere with the absorption of certain medications such as birth control, hormone, blood thinners, and glucocorticoids.

Slippery Elm Bark

Latin NameUlmus rubra or Ulmus fulvaSlippery Elm

Family – Ulmaceae

Relevant therapeutic actions – Demulcent, anti-inflammatory, emollient, expectorant

Active constituents – polysaccharide mucilage, tannin, and minerals including potassium, calcium zinc, vit. C and manganese

Indications (as applicable) –May help with a sore throat and ease inflammation of digestive tract. May also help with coughs, bronchitis, and pneumonia.

Contraindications (as applicable) – Generally considered to be safe but should not be used when pregnant due to the chance of contamination with the whole bark which may contribute to miscarriage risk. May decrease absorption of nitrogen-containing drugs.


Latin NameLinum usitatissimum –Flax Seed

Family – Linaceae

Relevant therapeutic actions – Demulcent, anti-inflammatory

Active constituents – Lignans (phytoestrogens), mucilage, and an oil containing linolenic acid and Omega-3 fatty acids

Indications (as applicable) – May help with upper respiratory infections

Contraindications (as applicable) – As used in this recipe there should be few contraindications; however, an allergic reaction is possible. When flaxseed is taken in seed form in excess, there is the potential for intestinal or esophageal blockage. Avoid flaxseed if you have a history of high triglycerides. Use caution if you have diabetes because it may increase blood sugar levels. Flaxseed may interfere with the absorption of some medications, and it may increase the risk of bleeding for individuals taking blood thinners. Because of the high mucilage content of flax seed, take one hour before or two hours after other herbal supplements. Flaxseed may interact with hormonal or cardiovascular supplements.

Disclaimer: The statements indicated herein have not been evaluated by the FDA. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always consult a physician or pharmacist if you have questions about drug interactions.



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