Years ago, I took an online herbal course featuring Rosemary Gladstar (one of my favorite herbalists). In that course, she showed us how to make her recipe for honey onion syrup to help calm and soothe coughs. With cold and flu season fast approaching, I decided to take Rosemary’s advice in using this effective preparation and make a batch on my own.
Because this honey onion cough syrup is so quick and easy, I decided to share the steps with you in this post so you can make a batch too. Feel free to make as much or as little as needed, as often as you like. It doesn’t call for many ingredients or long infusion times so this preparation is perfect for beginners!
How to Make a Simple Honey Onion Cough Syrup
- 1 large onion – sliced
- Raw honey (* use maple syrup or glycerine for children under 1 year of age)
- Slice 1 large onion in half and slice each half into rings.
- Layer the onion slices in the bottom of a small pan and pour in just enough raw honey to cover the onions. Heat the honey-onion mixture over very low heat to preserve the beneficial properties of the raw honey for 30 minutes or so. The goal is to have a nice, warm, liquidy honey that smells like onion. *Note: Your onions will soften and turn a bit brown, and the honey may darken a bit too.
- Pour warm syrup (onions and all) into a jar, seal, and label.
- Refrigerate for best results. Honey onion syrup will keep for about 6 months when refrigerated.
What’s So Great About Onions And Honey?
Despite being used for many years in traditional cough remedies, onion and honey have some scientific backing.
Onion can help to warm the chest, thin mucus, stimulate the cough reflex (so you can cough all that nasty stuff up), and discourage bacterial infections from forming (Wood, 2008), and a 2007 study by Penn State College of Medicine suggested that honey reduced nighttime coughing and improved sleep quality in children with upper respiratory infection better than the cough medicine dextromethorphan (an ingredient found in many OTC cough syrups) or no treatment at all (Paul et al., 2007).
How to Make it Even Better
There are a few other beneficial ingredients that you can add to your honey onion cough syrup if you wish. Grated ginger, minced garlic, and freshly chopped lemon peel are all wonderful additions if you are looking to nourish your immune system. Not only do these ingredients help to soothe tissues in the throat and calm coughs, but they can also enhance the flavor of your syrup, which makes a big difference if you’re giving this to smaller children. You can add extra ingredients in alongside the onion while gently warming the honey. The heat will help release the plant constituents and volatile oils, making your cough syrup much nicer in the end.
As far as amounts go, try a little of this and a little of that and see what you like. Ginger and garlic are strong so maybe start with 1 teaspoon and see what you think. Just taste a little of the honey to see if you can detect their flavors. If you don’t, add another teaspoon and continue to heat it. You can keep repeating this until you have it just right. Be sure to write down how much of which ingredients you add so you can make it just the way you like the next time!
If your kid still refuses to take an herbal cough syrup, have them try my Chocolate Cough Syrup. They won’t be able to resist it!
I’d suggest using fresh ingredients, but if you’re in a pinch dried ingredients still have beneficial properties.
- Paul, I. M., Beiler, J., McMonagle, A., Shaffer, M. L., Duda, L., & Berlin, C. M. (2007). Effect of honey, dextromethorphan, and no treatment on nocturnal cough and sleep quality for coughing children and their parents. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 161(12), 1140-1146.
- Wood, M. (2008). The earthwise herbal: A complete guide to Old World medicinal plants. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.