Herbal syrups are a simple way to incorporate natural healing into our wellness routines. They can be drizzled into drinks and desserts—adding flavor and providing healing. While many recipes are available (including those here), syrups are adaptable, allowing for unending creativity. Once you learn the basics, feel free to experiment and develop your own blends, with one rule: Always research contraindications and limitations of ingesting herbs, and use caution.
The Basic Syrup Method
Before beginning, decide how you wish to sweeten your syrup. Herbal syrups can be made with sugar or honey, but there are distinct longevity differences dependent on this. Honey-based syrups can last for up to three months, whereas sugar-based syrups can last for up to six months. This is because sugar is able to lock in more moisture than honey, thereby reducing water — the lead cause of mold production and bacterial growth. Regardless of the type of sweetener, syrups must always be kept in the refrigerator as a safety precaution. To promote longevity, you can also add alcohol or tincture (herb-infused alcohol) to your syrup. This optional ingredient must take up at least 1⁄4 of the bottle space.
Note: You may find varying longevity suggestions for the lifespan of homemade herbal syrups. Always check your syrup before ingesting. If there is any growth or a peculiar scent, or if it simply feels “off,” play it safe and discard it.
Your next decision is the type(s) of herb you wish to use in your base herbal concentrate — which will determine the medicinal effects of your syrup, as well as the method you will use to create your concentrate. Depending on your herbs, you’ll use one of two methods.
Berries, barks and roots require decoction. Start with a 1:1 ratio of herb and water, and allow it to simmer, uncovered, on the stovetop until depleted by half.
Flowers and leaves are made into a strong tea. Boil water in a pot, then add the herb at a 1:1 ratio. Turn off heat, then cover with a lid and allow to steep for roughly 30 minutes.
Note: It’s critical to use the correct method to make your concentrate in order to extract all of the medicinal properties from the herb. Herbs that are considered “highly volatile” such as peppermint and cinnamon may require less than the recommended 1:1 ratio to create a concentrate. The opposite is true for gentler, less aromatic herbs such as plantain and hawthorn.
Once your herbal concentrate is complete, measure the end product so you know precisely how much you have. Then reheat the concentrate over low heat and add sweetener at a 1:1 ratio. Stir mixture until it’s sticky enough to coat the back of a spoon. Turn off heat and allow to cool completely.
If you are adding alcohol or tincture to your mixture, pour it into the bottle, using enough to fill a quarter of the bottle space (adding alcohol to the syrup while it’s still hot negates its stabilizing properties). Finally, pour cooled syrup into the bottle, shake to combine, and label with a detailed description of the herbs used and the date.
Note:Unless a recipe provides specific dosage information, I follow Susun Weed’s herbal syrup dosage suggestions, which can be found here.
Begin by making “simples” — single-herb syrups. This allows you to discover if you have an allergy or other unwanted reaction to any herb. Then, you can begin making combination syrups, such as the recipes included in this article.
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