Herbal Cough Syrup Recipe

Homemade Herbal Cough Syrup Recipe for natural cough relief Herbal Cough Syrup Recipe

We don’t get sick often, and when we do, I prefer to let the body fight the illness naturally whenever possible. I don’t immediately turn to medicine, (or even to large doses of herbs or vitamins), since I prefer to support the body in fighting the infection rather than take something that bypasses this natural process.

That being said, illnesses that include coughing (like the strain of the flu going around this year) can be exhausting and uncomfortable because they limit the ability to sleep restfully. In those cases, I use this homemade syrup to ease the coughing so the afflicted can get some rest (also very important to illness recovery!).

Honey naturally soothes cough by itself. In fact, I’ve heard of doctors recommending a spoonful of honey to children (over a year) for cough. Ginger is naturally anti-inflammatory and has an expectorant action. Chamomile soothes muscles, making it useful in relieving the “tickle” in the throat, plus it promotes restful sleep. Marshmallow Root has one of the highest mucilaginous contents of all herbs and coats and soothes the throat. Cinnamon helps boost immune system and improve taste.

The combination of herbs helps sooth the throat to ease coughing and promote restful sleep. I only use this remedy on children over 1 year of age due to the honey, though you can substitute maple syrup in place of honey.

4.6 from 7 reviews
Herbal Cough Syrup Recipe
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Homemade herbal cough syrup that soothes the throat to ease coughing and promote restful sleep.
Recipe type: Remedy
Serves: 8+
  1. Pour the water into a medium saucepan and add the dried herbs.
  2. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
  3. Simmer until the volume is reduced by about half. (You will need 1 cup of liquid after herbs are strained off)
  4. Pour through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth to remove herbs (compost the herbs!).
  5. While liquid is still warm (not boiling) mix with lemon juice and honey and stir well.
  6. Store in airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 months.
I give 1 teaspoon to children and 1 tablespoon to adults as needed for symptoms.

Have you ever made cough syrup? What herbs did you add? What natural remedies do you use to ease coughing? Share below!

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Reader Comments

    • Mary says

      I use a turnip and some brown sugar. There are 2 ways I’ve learned. 1….select a large firm turnip or rutabaga, clean it, cut the bottom so it will stand well, cut the top off (save it to use as a cover), scoop out a apx 2″x2″ hole, pack this with brown sugar, cover with the top, place in a bowl, refrigerate overnight, there’s about 1 serving made.

      or the one I use now…. again choose large firm heaviest turnip or rutabaga, peel it with a carrot peeler (so easy), chop it into french fry like strips, place on a plate, use 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and stir into the turnip strips, cover with plastic wrap, set on the counter for an hour (so fast), the sugar pulls all the nutrition out of the turnip and makes syrup. It is the best cough syrup I’ve ever experienced.

      The first recipe was an old German one, the 2nd I go from the internet about 5 years ago. They produce the same product, the 2nd just faster!

      Northern Europeans have historically used this recipe to keep the bronchials and lungs healthy! Who knew??

  1. says

    I need this for my kids right now as they have had a persistent cough for going on 3 weeks now! I don’t have marshmellow root or chamomile flowers (am trying to grow it with not much success) – but I do have chamomile oil…. can I substitute the oil and how much would I use please? and can I by pass the marshmellow root as I have found it difficult to source in New Zealand. Cheers.

        • Marti Robinson says

          As long as they are from a reputable source, you can take SOME* internally. I use doTERRA and take them internally all the time with great success – but I know which ones are safe and which ones are not and have a great understanding about what certain oils do and how they work in your body, etc. I would never recommend taking just any brand internally though.

          • Deanna Keir says

            Certified aromatherapists actually do not recommend taking essential oils internally – both DoTerra and YL have trained in methods that are unsafe.

          • Christy says

            *Some* aromatherapists do as Deanna keir states. Others, as well as myself, are comfortable making client specific and oil specific recommendations

    • emily says

      Marshmallow root in dried form can often be found in health food shops around NZ, or you may be able to order it directly from companies that distribute dried herbs such as Clairidge’s out of Christchurch or Phytomed in Auckland. I would be really cautious about using Chamomile oil internally (I’m assuming you mean essential oil?) unless you have an aromatherapist that you trust…

  2. Mia says

    My little one is just 6 months, and he seems to have a scratchy voice and a little sniffle. Do you recommend any natural remedy, or is just breast milk best at this age? I was wondering if a little oregano oil on his feet, mixed in some coconut oil, might be helpful?

    • jae says

      you can use a couple drops of Eucalyptus oil in Olive oil on the bottoms of feet, put socks on baby after and it helps a lot. I use on my kids and clients

        • Erin Riggs says

          Put shower on straight hot until bathroom is all steamy then put a few drops of eucalyptus, peppermint or camphor in the tub with the plug in. Take baby into bathroom to nurse. Nursing can be tough with a stuffed up nose and the milk actually produces more flem so try to steam him a few times a day to break that up.
          Good luck!

          • Suzanne says

            I always heard peppermint isn’t good to use while you are nursing and eucalyptus is iffy around infants

          • Christy says

            Processed, pastuerized dairy products *can* increase phlegm in SOME people. Human breast milk does not. If dairy-related mucous is a problem in your family, nursing mom would do well to cut processed dairy out of her own diet

      • Layla says

        I know this is old, but for anyone who is looking for something else, Wellness Mama has a homemade vapor rub recipe on this site that I use. I put in on my kids’ feet when they are sick. They usually get over it pretty quickly.

    • katie holm says

      I used to squirt breast milk in their nose when it was stuffy, seemed to help! Sore ear? Breast milk in it. Yucky eye? Breast milk! Rash? Breast milk! Good for everything!

      • Elysia says

        I wonder…would it last longer if you made the base, omitting the honey, then just stir in a little honey at the time you take it?

        • Aday says

          It is the sugar in the honey that helps it keep longer. That is how jams in canning stay preserved for so long. (The sugar amount)

          • Elysia says

            Oohhhhh. I thought Katie was saying *only* 2 months because of the sugar. Thanks for clarifying!!

          • Holly Grossman says

            Actually…honey doesn’t go bad, and acts as a preservative itself. The honey is also anti-bacterial. We use a garlic honey syrup that we just store on the shelf that is about two years old…works great! This sounds like a great syrup we’ll add to our arsenal!

    • says

      I got whole chamomile flowers at my local herb store. They sell whole chamomile flowers that have not been processed. You probably have a natural health store in your area. Call them and see if they have it, if not, ask them where you can find it. If all else fails – you can always buy some online.

    • ladyjae says

      make sure its pure chamomile if using a tea bag as many teas in a bag are a mix of chamomile and others often green or black tea, but not always pure chamomile.

  3. says

    I have been sick with a cold for a few days now: stuffy, tickle in my throat, and then I started to cough. I saw this recipe and decided to give it a shot. However, I did add slippery elm bark to it (as I have heard of it’s great healing powers for colds) so my syrup turned out a little like jelly in the end – but I have to tell you – I drank about a half of a cup before I went to bed, and today I feel much better!

  4. ML says

    I add a good splash of brandy to mine as it is a cough suppressant and a good preservative too. Mine lasts quite well And I use licorice root and red clover tops, might try some marshmallow root next time!

      • ML says

        I really don’t do exact measurements, but it’s probably about 1/8c to 1/4c of brandy per 2cups of cough syrup. I have given it to my 5yr old (since she was about 3yrs old) and so far she hasn’t become a raging alcoholic! As a European I’m probably a bit more relaxed about things like that though!

        • Jennifer Coates Drayer says

          Mom used to give me honey water and whiskey when I had bronchitis as a child. usually around a thimble full is what she said she would use… so Tsp? maybe 1-1/2 tsp tops.

    • ladyjae says

      Dont use Maple Syrup. the reason honey is used is the healing properties it has, maple syrup has none. Agave syrup would be better than maple syrup.

      • Andrea says

        Maple syrup has trace amounts of minerals, and it is much healthier than agave nectar. Agave has more fructose than high-fructose corn syrup and is highly processed. It is NOT a healthy thing to eat.

      • Melony Bradish says

        Actually, maple syrup has lots of healthy benefits! Obviously not as much as the honey, but for the little ones it is a great substitute, as Katie said. Um, obviously not pancake syrup, like Aunt Jemimas! Hahah

        • Dawn - Naturally Texan says

          also organic black strap molasses has minerals including magnesium that most sick people are depleted. I might use that instead if I had an infant. otherwise this looks excellent with the brandy addition mentioned. thanks!

  5. Alison says

    My daughter is 19 months old and I made a “simple” version of this syrup yesterday for her developing wet cough…I had to leave out the herbs due to limited resources in the small town. I used raw honey, lemon and cinnamon only – it seemed to work well. She couldn’t nap prior to her first dose due to the coughing…after the dose, she napped 2 hrs with no coughing. I was so pleased! HOWEVER, now I am wondering what type of honey you recommend – especially for toddlers. Should I have used something other than raw honey – do you use recommend a pasteurized honey?

  6. Brianna Wolterman says

    I must not have cooked it down enough. I’m sure it’ll be ok though! I just got in my MRH order with elderberries so I threw in a handful as well! Smells great!

  7. Kelly Killeen says

    I’ve always tried to stay away from artificial ingredients and medications. I was the weird teen who (despite my parent’s eye rolls) would not even take aspirin for my frequent migranes. My favorite cough remedy was simple, half honey and half lemon juice. I would just put it in a cup and microwave for a few seconds until warm. Works best when sipped slowly over a few minutes. Lasts for an hour or two. My recipe works great for me, but my husband and daughter are not too fond of the taste. Next time a cold works through the house, I’ll give this recipe a try. Thanks!

  8. Steph says

    Posted this comment in the wrong post before so reposting here, sorry. I’m going to give this a try! Quick question, what do you think of anise
    seed? I read it is an expectorant herb and since I have some at home I
    was wondering if I could add it to this recipe, if so, is it [anise
    seed] okay for toddlers.Thanks!

  9. Dhampir Raven says

    Is there anything I can use in place of the Chamomile? I cannot use die to allergies and would like to use it as well being as it is mostly for my daughter.

  10. Michelle says

    I just made this and added dried elderberries and a few eucalyptus leaves as well. The finished product is a bit runny but very tasty! I’m wondering if I could add brandy like another commentator asked to better preserve it? Also, can you use this syrup on teas as a sweetener?

  11. Theresa McDermott Cassidy says

    I’ll have to try ths one. I usually make my own using:
    1 tablespoon honey (non pasturized)
    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    grated garlic clove
    grated ginger root
    1 tblsp squeezed fresh lemon juice.
    Add hot water and stir well.
    I usually keep stirring in between drinks as the good stuff tends to settle on the bottom.

  12. Terry Ann Stevens says

    gargle apple cider vinegar and salt. you wont be able to stand much, but it doesn’t take much. It will kill the cough for a couple of hours

  13. L Hultgren says

    Hi Katie! I made this recipe today because my husband and I have not been able to shake a cough for a couple of weeks. Love it!
    It took a couple of hours to cook down the mixture. I hope that’s ok.
    I made a couple additions that I had on hand: 1/4 cup red clover flowers, 1/4 cup blue violet leaves and 1/4 cherry brandy with the ingredients used after the mixture cooled. Oh, and I added another cup of raw honey (we keep bees, so why not?).
    Here’s what I love about natural remedies – they don’t work like store bought! You just start to feel healthier, symptoms subside, you can take as needed and as long as there are no allergies, no dopey side-effects.
    Thank you for all you do <3

  14. Devan De Lynn Bounds says

    Thank you so much Katie for your wonderful and helpful remedies!!! From one mama to another mama I greatly appreciate them all :)

  15. Timea Krausz says

    may i ask, how often do you need to give this to a child? also, how do you give this to a child who refuses taking i? my daughter is avery stubborn child.. ;)

  16. Vivian Ledford says

    Word of warning! If you are allergic to ragweed, you should avoid chamomile! Ragweed and chamomile are from the same family!

  17. Kaz says

    I found your web site through Facebook and really appreciate all of the information you share here. I just made this syrup, according to the recipe, last night. I made it for my 21-month old who is obviously too young for OTC cough remedies. She loved it and did seem to sleep a little better–not as much coughing overnight, either. What a relief (for her and me!). I am wondering, though…do you think the efficacy of the syrup would be the same if my reduction ended up as 2 cups and not 1? I did increase the amounts of honey and lemon to 2 cups honey and 1/2 cup lemon juice so as to maintain the same ratio of these items to the amount of herb reduction. (I inferred from the recipe that I would need to simmer-boil for about 30 minutes before the reduction would yield about 1 cup of liquid, but even after 45 minutes of simmering (on med/low heat) my reduction was at 2 cups! Did anyone else have this happen to their reduction? Should I have simmered on a higher heat, perhaps?)

  18. Lenah says

    I used mint tea instead of water and 1T spoon of Honey, and 1/8 cinnamon, and ginger since that is all i had on had and just smelling the concoction i started to breath better and my throat seemed to ease up on my deep chest cough, i love the taste of it! i only made enough for one cup so i hope i did the honey and cinnamon in good amounts! but it taste great and seem to be working! Bottoms up!! Thank you Wellness Mama *Katie (also isn’t mint a healing herb as well, do you know exactly what it does, i knew but i have forgotten what they where:)) And by the way i just drank it, it was delicious! the only thing i had a problem was since i didn’t stir it a lot and just sipped the ginger and cinnamon dropped to the bottom and it was yummy but had a texture in stead a smooth tea AT THE END. But like i said i made it as a tea with some herbs and spices added in:)

  19. Yulia Pantyukhova says

    Hello! My daughter is 16 months and has cough for more then two weeks now. Can you please recommend the dosage of this syrup? I tried a few homeopathic remedies, but it did help much.:( Thank you!

  20. Kathryn Constantini says

    made this the other day, very good! it made a lot though for the short shelf life, especially that we get one cold a winter, but very much worth it ;)

  21. Mika says

    Hello, great recipe!
    My son is 15 months old, after a bad coold he had he has bern coughing for 2 months. Not sure if it’s due also to teething as he just cut 4 molars each a day apart! I would like to try this recipe but I have no idea where to find the marshmallow root (powder?) and chamomille flowers?

  22. Lisa says

    Hi. I’m confused by the recipe. You say boil it down to half the amount or one cup, but half one quart is two cups… ?? Please clarify this for me. Thanks! Your website is very helpful to me!

  23. gary says

    has anyone used manuka honey in this recipe? which honey will be better manuka or usual raw honey?
    My twins are coughing slightly (probably about 4 times a day) (wet cough) for last 2 months. We went through homeopathy, garlic syrup, onion syrup, steam baths with tea tree oil, pine oil and lemon oil, one of them even had antybiotic prescribed for chest infection. I’m also giving them 1 teaspoon of manuka honey a day but they are still coughing!!! I’m going to try this recipe this time but maybe someone has any idea what else I can do. My boys are 19 months old.
    many thanks

    • Layla says

      I know this is old, but I always prefer local raw honey. To me, it makes more sense to help them heal using organisms from your area. Manuka is supposed to be great, but for sickness, especially allergies, local is best.

    • Lori says

      Need to figure out what is causing the cough in the first place and remove that allergen(s). Could it be allergy to housepets, hidden mold, dustmites? I am allergic to all three. If the allergen source is not removed, the cough will never go away and eventually it could turn into asthma.

  24. Michelle says

    If Agave is not good (same as sugar) and honey is not an option do you have a suggestion for a replacement that is safe for a diabetic?

    • Marina says

      I’ve been struggling with bronchitis for the last 2 weeks. Finally did some reading and am trying a recipe using Turmeric, ginger, garlic, black pepper and cinnamon similarly simmered then adding lemon and raw honey at the end. Supposedly these ingredients in the simmer are anti inflammatory, so should alleviate the bronchial congestion. I’ll let you know how it works. :0)

  25. niki says

    Thank you so much for posting this. I only had 1/8 cup of marshmallow, so I also added goldenrod since it is also good for colds and its pretty much everywhere right now. And I used the raw honey from my mom’s bees :). I love the taste. We will be using this and elderberry tincture this winter if we have lingering colds or flus.

  26. Jamie says

    Sadly I do not have marshmallow root (or most other mucilaginous herbs like slippery elm) and I just placed my last online herb order for a while and I don’t have access to marshmallow root locally, except in powder form in a capsule from WFs. I do however have fenugreek seeds, which I believe is also mucilaginous), so would it work to sub a 1/4c of fenugreek seeds instead? Or would somehow using the powdered form of marshmallow root from a capsule be suitable? Thanks!! :-)

  27. Tonya says

    My daughter is high functioning on the autism spectrum. She was diagnosed when she was 3, but when she was 2 we removed gluten, dairy, soy, artificial colors and flavors from her diet. Through therapy and diet changes you have a hard time believing me that there is anything different about her. But I would struggle when she gets sick (which is not very often thankfully, but she also has a bleeding disorder that she takes meds for several times a week. My new project is to come up with a tincture to help stop the bleeding when she starts). It’s so hard to give her anything full of things I know are bad for her. All that to say, I made this yesterday. I did add a tablespoon of horehound to it because I know how good of an expectorant it is. I probably need to add more of it next time but I was worried about the flavor of it. Thank you for sharing what you do. It’s incredibly helpful.

    • Layla says

      For stopping the bleeding once it starts, I know that Helichrysum is supposed to stop hemorrhaging after childbirth. It would be worth looking into. I have no idea if it is safe for children, but it is supposed to stop bleeding. As I said, it can’t hurt to ask your doctor about it.

      • Layla says

        I got this information from “Reference Guide for Essential Oils by Connie and Alan Higley”. I just looked it up online though and some sources said it could actually speed up bleeding. I don’t know which one is right. I was just throwing out ideas. If your doctor doesn’t think it’s a good idea, I hope you find something that works. Good luck.:)

  28. Lori says

    Need to figure out what is causing the cough in the first place and remove that allergen(s). Could it be allergy to housepets, hidden mold, dustmites? I am allergic to all three. If the allergen source is not removed, the cough will never go away and eventually it could turn into asthma.

  29. Lori says

    Hi Katie, Can you buy lemon juice concentrate or do you have to squeeze lemons and use fresh juice? Thanks for the recipes and enjoyed hearing your interview with Sean.

  30. Natasha says

    Love what you do!!! My 2.5 yr old has a dry cough. How many times a day can I give this to him??? One more question I want to make elderberry syrup for this season and heard if you give everyday as preventative it will loose effect. What’s the best way to use for max effect?? Thank you:)

  31. Rachel says

    I apologize if this is a silly question….Why is the amount of ginger to be used the same whether you’re using fresh or dried? I thought dried was more concentrated, meaning you would use less of it than fresh?

    Also, the directions say to use as needed. Regarding children, how often would “too often” be? I don’t want to give them too much….

  32. Tanya says

    I make my cough syrup from black Spanish radish (can buy it in coops) and honey. You can cut it in very thin layers and add honey to cover it or make a hole in black radish and put in honey in that hole. Wait a few hours. It works amazingly. Kids love it. There’s a little bit of strong smell, but works fast. After a few hours of waiting for the juice, you have to keep it in refrigerator.
    You can keep it for 2-3 days in a refrigerator.
    1 table spoon 3-4 times a day.

  33. Shannon says

    I always add cherry bark extract to my cough syrups. I make my own using dried ground bark steeped in some gin or vodka. You could substitue vinegar instead of alcohol as the steeping agent if needed. It won’t be quite as strong but will still be effective. Strain and add after cooking the rest of the syrup. I also add unpasturized honey, a few drops of lemon extract, lemon juice, turmeric, marshmallow root and licorice root*. And, if I have it on hand I will sometimes add horehound. If the patient has a fever I will add aspen bark tincture. Shake well to incorporate the lemon oil before dosing.
    *If the patient has elevated blood pressue, is pregnant or on a blood thinner do not add the licorice. Also do not take licorice for longer than 4 weeks because of lowering potassium. Why then add it? Because the Chinese have found it to be more effective against against flu infections then any other compound. http://aac.asm.org/content/41/3/551.short Lots more info is available using google scholar and Glycyrrhizin.

  34. Rose says

    You NEVER give marshmallow root to children first of all! It’s very dangerous and can cause death or at the very least damage their intestinal lining. And heating marshmallow root destroys the properties. This recipe is careless.

    • Mia says

      Can you please explain why you believe marshmallow root is dangerous to children? And where you got your information? Thanks

  35. Mia says

    FYI to anyone who reads this recipe. It is AMAZING. I made two batches this winter. Our house was so dry this winter and my 2 and 4 year old would get a dry cough occasionally. It did wonders and the chamomile helps them sleep. I gave some to my brother for his kids. Everyone loves it. I even used it when my throat started to feel funny. It tastes great too. I will never go back to the store bought poisons. Thank you again Wellness Mama for making healthy DIY recipes easy for anyone who wants to live a healthier happier life!

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