Here is a basic recipe for herbal syrup:
1/2 to 1 C dried herbs
1 qt water
1/8 to 1/4 C honey (depends on the herb and your taste buds)
* Place the water in a large pot; combine any large hard herbs (roots, bark, or berries) and add to water. Lighter leafy herbs will be added later.
* Bring to a simmer (just shy of boiling) and cover partially with a lid. Heat down to one pint liquid.
* Remove from heat and add any leaves or flowers. Return the lid to the pot and let it steep for 20-30 minutes (can go longer.
* Strain the herbs and add the honey, heating very gently to dissolve the honey. Be careful not to boil your new decoction, it will lose the benefits of the honey.
* Store in a glass container in the refrigerator for up to 3 months (this is what we’ve heard; we’ve never had a batch last that long in the fridge because we’ve used it before that!). Or freeze in freezer safe containers - we often do this with elderberry syrup or even just the decocted juice, so we can make a big batch in the fall and have enough for all winter. Be sure to label and date the syrup. You always think you’ll remember, but when you’re under the weather, or even just trying to find what you need, things can look a lot alike once frozen.
We suggested dried herbs in this recipe because that is what we typically have available in the winter months when we are making remedies. However, there is no reason that you can’t make syrups in the summer months and use fresh herbs. Just know that you will use twice the amount of fresh herbs than dry (just like cooking!). You can also use frozen berries, such as frozen elderberries.
Syrups made with honey can be taken by children aged 2 and over. Check with a health care provider or trusted herbalist for dosages for younger children. For younger children, you can substitute maple syrup as a sweetener.
You can add alcohol to your syrup after you make it, which can add time to the shelf life of your syrup and creates an elixir. You can use brandy, vodka or whiskey as the alcohol. We don’t usually do this at our house because we like to freeze the syrup or we just keep it in the fridge to preserve it. Use ¼ cup of alcohol for every 1 cup of syrup.
Herbal Simple Syrups
These syrups are used for culinary purposes and are more of an infusion than a decoction. Start with the same ingredients as in the recipe above. Simmer for 35 minutes and continue the recipe above from that point on. These syrups make a great addition to sparkling water, tea, juice or even cocktails. They also can be used in desserts (glaze anyone?! – use powdered sugar to make a thin frosting or glaze for cookies, cakes, or sweet breads) or toss with fruits and salads. Herbs to use in simple syrups could include any mint, thyme, catnip, lovage, anise hyssop, lavender, rosemary, chamomile or a combination of these or any of your favorite herbs.
This syrup is recommended for coughs and colds. European herbalists also recommend it for constipation. Follow the basic recipe above, we often use dried elderberries and many an herbalist friend adds a cinnamon stick or two to add flavor. Take in 1 to 2 tablespoon doses every 3-4 hours; great at the very beginning of a cold.
Borage is considered to have soothing qualities. To make a syrup from the flowers, which is also tasty, and great for cookies or sweet breads, follow this recipe:
Place 1 cup borage flowers in a small bowl, cover with boiling water and leave to steep overnight. The next day, strain the liquid into a pan and bring to a boil. Pour this boiling liquid over another cupful of borage flowers. Soak for 8 to 10 hours. Strain again and press all the juices out of flowers with the back of a wooden spoon. Then boil vigorously until thickened. Remove from heat and add ½ cup honey for every 1 ¼ cup liquid. Stir until honey is dissolved, skim foam and store in clean bottles or jars. Keep in refrigerator and use within 2-3 weeks.
Herbalists use this syrup as an expectorant. Fresh or dried garlic works; break up the cloves, pulling off the loose skins (don’t work too hard to get the peels off, just go for the easy stuff). Roughly chop the garlic and follow the recipe above, gently heating the garlic and water. Strain and mix with honey. Be warned! This one has a strong flavor, so it may not be for everyone in the family. Our littlest farmer often gets tricked into taking it, so far he’s been falling for it for several years. A bit of ginger can be added to this syrup, as its warming heat can be great for when you’re feeling a little chilly.
Growing and Using Healing Herbs Gaea and Shandor Weiss, Rodale Press, 1985
Some other resources:
Basic Herbal Syrup info: https://theherbalacademy.com/herbal-syrup/
Decoctions & Syrups: http://www.susunweed.com/herbal_ezine/July07/wisewoman.htm
Making Herbal Syrups: https://blog.mountainroseherbs.com/homemade-herbal-syrups