How to Make Your Own Herbal Syrup

2013-02-22_20-52-31_147Dried herbs begin losing their potency anywhere from six months to a year after storage, and exposure to sunlight accelerates their decline. I thought about that as I looked through my herbal pantry today at the unused stash of wildcrafted stinging nettle, pineapple weed (wild chamomile), lemon balm, and pine needles. And at my store-bought jars of slippery elm bark and oatstraw. I considered how it good it would be to take all of these herbs regularly.

Lately I’ve been fraught with digestive troubles and adrenal fatigue, which I recognize as the result of working too hard and taking on too much stress in a life-long, chronic sort of way. I have since changed my lifestyle, and under the guidance of my naturopathic physician, even radically changed my diet. (My vegetarianism is on hiatus after 14 successful years, which after developing an intolerance to soy and trouble digesting beans, has been exchanged for an experiment in conscious pseudo-paleo omnivorism). And yet my stomach troubles and fried nerves remain.

Fortunately, these herbs will support my recovery tremendously. Consider these incredible benefits:

Oatstraw via Wikipedia

Oatstraw via Wikipedia

* Stinging nettle: Contains fatty acids and protein, B vitamins, and many minerals, especially magnesium, calcium, and iron. Nourishing for the entire body and considered a “tonic,” an herb to strengthen, the adrenal system.

* Oatstraw: Strengthens nervous system and is especially useful for exhaustion and depression. Rich in calcium.

* Wild chamomile: Calms the nervous system and relieves indigestion and inflammation in the stomach.

* Slippery elm: Nourishes and soothes inflamed mucus membranes in the digestive system. Edited to add: This plant is in danger of over-harvesting. You could substitute mallow root.

* Lemon balm: Relieves tension, anxiety and depression, and relieves gas and spasms in digestive tract.

I could prepare these herbs in various ways. I thought about drinking lots of tea. But that would be a lot of tea, and a lot of time spent mixing the herbs together into a tea ball and then washing said tea ball. Then I thought about turning the herbs into a tincture, an alcohol extract. But the tincture recipe for dried herbs is 1 part herb to 5 parts solvent, which would get expensive in terms of alcohol. It’s also not the most pleasant-tasting way to take herbs on an ongoing basis. So then I had a better idea: Herbal syrup!

2013-02-22_23-26-34_254If you make a strong decoction and reduce it, and then add in some glycerin and honey, you are left with an herbal syrup that lasts for up to a year in the fridge. And it tastes much sweeter and therefore more palatable than plain tea, too. You can then enjoy it straight or add it to a flavorful herbal tea as a sweetener.

The recipe for making an herbal syrup is very easy:

1) Gather together whatever herbs you would like, using the ratio of 1 cup of dried herbs per 1 pint of water. Bring them to a boil. If you can use a glass pot, that is ideal, because metal can interact with herbs and alter their chemistry. But use whatever you have.

2) Simmer until the water level is reduced to one-half or even down to one-quarter of what it was. This is your herbal concentrate.

3) Let it cool, and then strain the herbs out. You could use a coffee filter or a mesh screen or a handkerchief. Squeeze the herbs to get any last bits of medicine extracted in the water.

4) Add 8 tablespoons each of honey and vegetable glycerin per quart of herbal concentrate. Stir it in. Refrigerate it. Voila!

Warning: This recipe is incredibly delicious.

Suggested dose: 1 to 2 tbsp per day.

***
Learn to make herbal medicines with me at my upcoming Herbal Medicine 101 class 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, March 10, at HARP, 1611 SE Bybee Blvd., Portland. $40, including medicine to take home. Space is limited and advance registration is required here.

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20 thoughts on “How to Make Your Own Herbal Syrup

  1. Rebecca.. you might want to consider testing for lyme disease.. especially if you are an outdoorsy type of person, have digestive issues, fatigue. Many folks have no idea their symptoms point to lyme. Many never get a bulls eye rash or remember getting bitten by a tick. Thanks for this recipe.. I bought a ton of herbs for my husband, who has a resistant infection, and we are going to make him some syrups with them now.

    • Thanks for the tip but it was indeed adrenal fatigue…and I have long since overcome this through meditation and Reiki! Good luck with the syrups!

  2. Wonderful article – thanks, Rebecca! I’m wondering, though – can I used fresh herbs instead of dried? I have a field full of nettles that would be perfect for syrup-making!

  3. Rebecca, Loving your site. Trying to figure out how to get my two year old to take tumeric. going to try the syrup with honey today.
    Just wanted to acknowledge your stomach situation.
    same as me…14 years vegetarian (three years avegan), became allergic to soy first, then nuts, then seeds, lactose intolerant, unable to digest beans and finally grains. A nutritionist told me I had to eat meat. There was nothing left to provide protein (except eggs which I did not want to over eat.) I cried and cried at having to go back to my meat eating past!
    same thing happened to my husband (this was all before we met) . Seems to be a common happening!
    Bone broth, lots, spirulina (finally able to digest), well cooked vegetables, and getting off grains.
    Also realized I was having trouble metabolising fructose. Caused all kinds of problems, hence no honey for me…for now. Check into Fructose malabsorption. My body is healing slowly. Yes, stomach pain and horrible bloating daily until I got off grains. Finally pain is at about 1/2 to 1/4 what it used to be. Yeah!
    Yes very complicated!
    Thanks to all the beautiful vegans and vegetarians. I believe they are lightening the load on the planet. So much gratitude to you. Hope fully someday I will join you again!
    Cant wait to try the syrup today.

  4. Pingback: How to Make Herbal Syrup Recipe - Amazing Herbs and Oils

  5. Sorry you weren’t feeling 100%. I have to take a look at my own health lately. Will take a look at the herbs you mention for digestion, which is one of the messages my body is tootin at me ;P. Thanks for the inspiration, Lerner!

  6. Wonderful tip- thanks! I wonder about boiling the herbs though- I know that most leafy/flowery herbs should be infused and roots, resins, and barks should be decocted (more or less)…what do you think?

    • The idea is to bring them to a boil and then reduce the light to a low simmer. You’re right that you wouldn’t want to have them at a rolling boil the whole time. You need to reduce the water though and I don’t know how you’d do that without having the water at a simmer. The directions I posted come from the classic book by James Green, “The Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook.”

  7. I’m going to give this a try. I’ll admit I’m a little lazy and sometimes I don’t want to make a cup of tea because I don’t want to clean up the teaball after! What purpose does the glycerin serve in the forumula? Could this be made entirely with honey?

    • The glycerin is an additional preservative and sweetener that makes the solution less viscous than using honey alone and that keeps the honey from separating. But yes, you could use honey alone. You could even make an herbal honey rather than a syrup by mixing honey with a tincture or a powdered herb.

  8. Quick question… when you explain to use the ratio of “1cup herbs per pint of water”, and you have several herbs, would you end up several pints of water?

  9. Such a great idea! I am guilty of having herbs on hand that really need to be used up before the next growing season. I’m so going to make a nutritional syrup now.

    I was vegetarian for 14 years, also. Starting at age 14…. And I also lived through 10 years of digestive issues, like not knowing what it felt like to not experience pain in my gut on a daily basis, weak peeling nails, dry hair that split like crazy, adrenal fatigue, and eventually acne, cracks at the corners of my mouth that would not heal and receding gums that were turning black and for the first time in my life, dental cavities.. I could not allow myself to think my heartfelt vegetarianism was not nourishing me.

    Yes, I knew about soaking, sprouting, avoided GMO’s, heaps of organic veg and fruit, water, lots of exercise, did not drink alcohol very often and when I did it was a single drink… Still ended up malnourished because my digestive tract was so damaged I could not absorb minerals. :(

    The morning my son was born my body spoke up so loudly to me, I literally herd these words in my head- “I have created life, now I must consume life.” And it was not weird or uncomfortable, it was not dark or scary, it was a universal truth that all life creates life and all life consumes life. Plants are sentient beings in my reality, as much as animals. It makes no difference what form of life we are consuming in the grand scale of life on Earth. It is perfect and beautiful and I am at peace knowing one day, my body will feed the earth that nourished me.

    I am an omnivore now, a very conscious, grateful omnivore and I choose my meat farmer carefully when buying meat for my family, which we don’t actually eat very often. (I despise how animals are factory farmed here in North America. All meat and dairy is from ‘pastured’ animals in NZ.)

    I cannot sing praise for nourishing herbal bone broth and daily nettle infusions enough for restoring gut health, strong hair and nails and adrenal function! Thank goodness for bones, they are sacred. And nettles.

  10. Great article! I have to say please DONT let others make you feel guilty for eating meat occasionally. Veganism and vegetarianism are not for everyone, and they are not the “final solution” for supreme health. There is a balance to life and therefore should reflect a balance in your system. There are responsible, respectful ways of eating meat just like there are responsible respectful ways of eating vegetables. One persons “truth” about their diet doesn’t mean that it works for everyone or anyone. I spent many many years of my life stressing my mind, body, and emotions feeling socially pressured to be Vegan. It wasn’t until I stopped listening to the vegan police that I regained my body back. No more digestion issues, no more hunger and no more crappy attitude about meat eaters.

  11. So sorry that you have given up being vegetarian. I know it is hard to decipher all of the conflicting reports, but I hope you will reconsider. I really feel that not eating meat is so very important, not only for your health, but also for our planet. So many problems in our health stem from eating the flesh of animals. I have been vegetarian for 42 years total. The last 5 have been mostly vegan. But I do realize that vegetarian is no magic answer. Some vegetarians have worse diets than meat-eaters. And watching out for GMO’s is even more important than eating meat.

    I wish you the best as you sort it all out for yourself.

  12. Thanks for sharing! I can relate on not wanting to clean out a tea strainer any more than “necessary” :)

    I’ve been eying my stinging nettle & pineapple weed and thinking I really need to use it up before it starts growing again… I have most of these items in my dried goods pantry so I think I’ll make a syrup this weekend as I’ve been having digestion issues too.

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