Healing Sweets: Part Two
Herbal syrups are sweetened, condensed herbal infusions. Cough drops are concentrated syrups. Alcohol is frequently added to syrups to help prevent fermentation and stabilize the remedy. Cough drops and lozenges, having less water, keep well without the addition of alcohol.
Bitter herbs, especially when effective in a fairly small dose, are often made into syrups: horehound, yellow dock, dandelion, chicory, and motherwort spring to mind in this regard.
Herbs that are especially effective in relieving throat infections and breathing problems are also frequently made into syrups, especially when honey is used as the sweetener: coltsfoot flowers (not leaves), comfrey leaves (not roots), horehound, elder berries, mullein, osha root, pine, sage, and wild cherry bark are favorites for "cough" syrups.
USING HERBAL SYRUPS
A dose of most herbal syrup is 1-3 teaspoonfuls, taken as needed. Take a spoonful of bitter syrup just before meals for best results. Take cough syrups as often as every hour.
MAKE AN HERBAL SYRUP
To make an herbal syrup you will need the following supplies:
* One ounce of dried herb (weight, not volume)
* A clean dry quart/liter jar with a tight lid
* Boiling water
* Measuring cup
* A heavy-bottomed medium-sized saucepan
* 2 cups sugar or 1½ cups honey
* A sterilized jar with a small neck and a good lid (a cork stopper is ideal)
* A little vodka (optional)
* A label and pen
Place the full ounce of dried herb into the quart jar and fill it to the top with boiling water. Cap tightly. After 4-10 hours, decant your infusion, saving the liquid and squeezing the herb to get the last of the goodness out of it.
Measure the amount of liquid you have (usually about 3½ cups). Pour this into the saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat until the infusion is just barely simmering. Continue to simmer until the liquid is reduced by half (pour it out of the pan and into the measuring cup now and then to check). This step can take several hours; the decoction is not spoiled if it is reduced to less than half, but it is ruined if it boils hard or if it burns. Keep a close eye on it.
When you have reduced the infusion to less then two cups, add the sugar or honey (or sweetener of your choice) and bring to a rolling boil. Pour, boiling hot, into your jar. (Sterilize the jar by boiling it in plain water for a few minutes just before filling it.) If desired, add some vodka to preserve the syrup.
Allow the bottle of syrup to come to room temperature. Label it. Store it in the refrigerator or keep it in a cool place.
EXPERIMENT NUMBER ONE
Make a simple syrup, using only one plant. Make it once with honey, once with white sugar, and once with a sweetener of your choice, such as barley malt, agave syrup, molasses, sorghum syrup, or maple syrup. (See list for suggestions of plants to use.)
EXPERIMENT NUMBER TWO
Make a syrup with three or more plants. Choose plants that are local to your area, or ones that you can most easily buy.