Homemade Cough Syrup for Colds

This tasty homemade cough syrup will help soothe cold symptoms and is easy to whip up, with only three ingredients!
homemade cough syrup Cough . . . cough.

Hack . . .hack.

Cough . . . cough . . . cough!

‘Mom, hab you god someding do make my throad feel bedder?’

Cough . . . cough!

That’s what it sounds like in our house right now.

I was talking to my mom on the phone and she said, ‘Have you got any honey and lemon cough syrup made up?’ 

Well, I had totally forgotten about it. I spied the bowl of organic lemons I had on the counter, and knew I had honey in the cupboard and a bottle of glycerine in the medicine cabinet. ‘I can make some right now!’

This was the homemade remedy my mom fed all of us five girls when we were growing up – the slightest sign of a cough or a sore throat, and out came a spoonful of her special syrup. We didn’t mind at all, because it’s really quite tasty.

And my 16-year-old sniffly baby didn’t mind either. In fact he sighed and said, ‘That feels good, mom.’

I used to have a bottle of this homemade cough syrup ready in our refrigerator all the time when the kids were little, but it had somehow slipped from my thoughts in the last few years. It’s only 3 simple ingredients, and it lasts forever in the fridge. Honey is a natural antibiotic and lemon is full of cold-fighting vitamin C and glycerine is good for soothing sore throats. And it contains a lot less unpronounceable ingredients than a commercial cough syrup.

The best treatment for a cold or flu is lots of rest, lots of fluids, and time. But meanwhile, a spoonful of this medicine will soothe that sore throat and make you feel a little better. It’s Oma’s proven remedy.

Kitchen Frau Note: You can find glycerine in the pharmacy or health food store, and sometimes in specialty cake baking sections (as it is used in keeping icing pliable). I have also found it in the cosmetics section of my health food store. Make sure it is food grade or pharmaceutical grade, or the ingredients say 100% glycerine or vegetable glycerine. It may or may not say it is good for coughs and minor throat irritations on it – as long as it is pure.

bottle of glycerine

Also, do not give this cough syrup to children under one year old, as honey is not considered safe for children until they are over one year of age. The basis for this recipe is equal parts of honey, lemon and glycerine – the ¼ cup amount listed below is just a guideline.

Homemade Cough Syrup for Colds

recipe courtesy of my mom

  • ¼ cup (60ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ cup (60ml) liquid honey
  • ¼ cup (60ml) food grade glycerine

Strain the lemon juice through a fine meshed strainer. Whisk together with the honey and glycerine and pour into a glass bottle with a tight-fitting lid. (I used an empty Orangina bottle in the picture above.)

stirring up the homemade cough syrup

Store in the refrigerator for up to a year. For sore throats and chest congestion take one teaspoonful every few hours. (If it starts to taste so good you want to pour it over ice cream – you are probably getting better and don’t need it any more.)

Gute Gesundheit!

 You might also like:

Remedy for a Cold or Flu – Hot Lemon Ginger Tea, Rest, and a Good Book (or Trashy Magazine)

Earache Remedy – Homemade Ear Drops

Headache Tea – Herbal Relief for Headaches and Migraines

Homemade Natural Deodorant

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16 Responses to Homemade Cough Syrup for Colds

  1. Lois Langdon says:

    I’m looking forward to trying this as I recently found out I’m GF. Gluten was causing my sinus infections for 41 years. I had thought my pregencies had something to do with it. My chiropractor suggested I try leaving the Gluten things out of my diet, and what an amazing difference. from Dec. 2010 through today Dec. 11.2013
    Thank You for sharing!

    • Margaret says:

      It always amazes me to hear how many different symptoms can come from gluten intolerance. What a thrill it must be for you to clear up such a chronic sinus problem. It’s a great story, and life-changing for you! So nice to hear from you.

  2. Kate says:

    This is a wonderful recipe. My mom used to make something similar when i was young though never thought to put glycerin with it. Thank you so much for sharing.

    I imagine putting some ginger with it might also be nice if your stomach’s upset.

    • Margaret says:

      I think you’re right about the ginger – it’s got lots of soothing and healing properties. Good idea. Moms’ tried and true remedies really are the best, aren’t they? There’s a reason they’ve stood the test of time and are passed on through generations! Thanks so much for visiting my blog.

  3. Lsa says:

    Thank you for sharing this great recipe! I remember my Grandmother when we were young and every time we got sick she would bring out the honey and lemon. I didn’t know about the glycerine though I have another ingredient that works amazing she would add in some dry mustard when we had chest colds. Within a good nights sleep it would start breaking up. i think ladies with the combination of all the above we just may be onto a great safe and healthy way to heal our babies!
    Best Regards
    Lisa G

    • Margaret says:

      Dry mustard! That’s a new ‘old’ remedy for me. I will definitely have to try adding that! I know my mom used to make a mustard poultice for my dad’s back when it was sore, I imagine it must penetrate well, so would be great for colds, too. There’s a whole interesting world of old remedies out there to discover – thanks for sharing yours! It feels so much better to use ingredients from nature, rather than the long list of unpronounceable chemicals in drugstore remedies. Wishing you a lovely New Year!

  4. Vicki R. says:

    My mom made this as well and added some kind of mint to the batch when I was nauseous. Maybe real mint, maybe mint candies… I don’t really know, but it worked for me! When I had a high fever adult libations were added to “break” the fever. That too was a success… as far as I can remember! LOL!

    • Margaret says:

      I love your family’s version! Mint would add a nice freshness, too. And the adult ‘libations’ sound like a unique medicinal fever-busting remedy. Those old remedies really have some merit – or they wouldn’t have stuck around so long! Happy New Year to you!

  5. Claire says:

    I just whipped up a batch of this and threw in liquified fresh garlic and ginger (I have blender with what seems to be a jet engine). It seems pretty potent and after taking it my hub and I felt like the garlic was a little rough on the system so I may add some more honey to it. I thought about using agave syrup instead of honey for under one year olds but then I remembered that citrus may also be a problem… Poor little ones will just have to deal with the dreaded suction and a milk hangover.

    We tried to give our 16 month old straight honey and he spat it out. He really hasn’t had anything sweet yet and honey has a bit of an astringent-ish taste as well. He may like the bitter sweet heat of this recipe.

    I wish you all quiet nights – cough free!

    • Margaret says:

      Thank you so much. I would think the garlic and ginger would hugely raise the cold-clearing potency and effect of this cough syrup. What a good idea! And it’s not a bad thing that your 16 month old hasn’t had any sweets yet. Congratulations for feeding him so healthily. I’m sure that will make his immune system strong enough to get over a cold fairly quickly anyway. Hope your house is cough-free soon, too!

  6. Anne says:

    Is there a way to make this recipe into a lozenge? I have dry mouth/burning mouth syndrome and glycerin is the only thing that helps, but I don’t like to keep eating the Pine Bros drops as they have sugar. I’d leave out the honey, too- I think. Agar or something natural to firm it up?

    I’m at my wits end looking for something to use that will not hurt my teeth.

    • Margaret says:

      I feel for you – that must be so uncomfortable and painful. The agar might work, but wouldn’t last a long time in your mouth. The only thing that comes to my mind, would be to try to turn the glycerin into a lozenge by boiling it until it reached the soft crack (270 degrees F) or hard crack (300) stage on a candy thermometer and then pour it onto a greased metal pan and breaking it up when cold, like a brittle (or pour it in little puddles or candy molds). I don’t know if glycerin would do that, but if it is used in commercial lozenges, it might.
      I wish you luck.

  7. Ray Bynum says:

    Some years ago whilst in the U.K. I had an annoying cough, the pharmacist at a “chemist shop”mixed this up for me and to my surprise it worked. I truly back this up 100%.

    • Margaret says:

      That is so great to hear – I love to know that this simple cough syrup is used in other countries – and by professionals, too! You’d never see a pharmacist make up a mixture like that here – it’s not a proper ‘drug’. But we regular folk know that it does work. Three cheers for homespun remedies!

    • Laura says:

      WOW! Do you remember which chemist shop and what area of the UK exactly you were in please? The chemists I know around here will only give out the horrible synthetic chemical laden bottles on the shelf or prescribed cough syrups/linctus. Infact a GP has just prescribed one for me today but I am trying this first with the help of a friend who has given me glycerine and lemons!! 🙂

  8. Jeanne says:

    Can anyone recommend a sugar free cough drop? When I say sugar free I mean without honey too, as to me that is also sugar. A healthier sugar for sure, but still a sugar. I’ve been trying in vain to find a cough drop recipe without any sugar. Yes, it can be sour, or even taste bad, I just want to avoid all sugars, and sugar substitutes.
    I would appreciate it if anyone has any ideas.

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