Resiliency Through The Flu (and a cough syrup recipe)

Make Your Own Medicine

Making your own herbal medicines is easy, relatively inexpensive, and requires minimal equipment.

The key ingredient in both recipes below is Elderberry.

Elderberries are known for their remarkable antiviral activity. During H1N1 2009 they were studied and found to be effective against the virus; to-date  they are shown to be effective against 8 different influenza viruses.

Elderberry Oxymel 

I love Oxymel's because they are so quick to make. The vinegar and honey act as solvents, extracting important vitamins, minerals and plant compounds. Both apple cider vinegar and honey are medicinal all on their own. Apple cider vinegar is a naturally fermented product. The good bacteria working their magic on the elderberries.


apple cider vinegar

1 litre or 1 pint canning jar with a lid
measuring cup
wax paper to line the lid of the jar


Place one cup of elderberries into a wide-mouthed jar.

Warm (but don't cook) 2 cups of vinegar to 1 cup of honey until well combined.

Pour over the elderberries.

Mix, and taste it.

If it tastes too sour for your liking then add more honey by the half cup.

Some people even prefer equal parts honey to vinegar. I like sour things so I tend to add less honey. Adjust the ratio to your personal preference.

Place the piece of wax paper over the opening of the jar to avoid contact between the metal ring of the canning jar and the vinegar (otherwise it’ll rust). Fasten the lid.

Shake vigorously. Label. Let it sit in a dark cupboard or tucked on the kitchen counter for a minimum of 10 days. Shake daily.

The oxymel is ready to use within 10 days though some like to let it macerate for a full month.  When it is finished, strain, bottle, label, and enjoy.  Oxymels do not need to be refrigerated although you can store it in the fridge for a longer life.  Either way, ideally consume within one year.

Use your Elderberry oxymel daily by the Tablespoon for a wellness shot, in a base of salad dressings or added to water (it's great with soda water!)

The beauty of herbal medicine is it's delicious, as well as nutritious.


Seraphina's Cough Syrup 

Syrups are a great way to deliver bitter herbs in a sweet formula. The first step, simmering the herbs down to a thick decoction, is a superb method of extracting valuable plant constituents. Honey is soothing for the throat, and has its own medicinal value.


A pot with a well-fitted lid

 1 cup of the following dried herbs: elderberries, rose hips, elecampane root, burdock, thyme, marshmallow, and a small amount of licorice root
(if you cannot find all of these herbs, then you may use just one or more. Whatever you do, only use a small amount of licorice because it's so overpowering).

Kitchen scale 

Measuring cup

Wooden spoon 


Brandy (optional)

Clean bottle for finished product


The first step in preparing a syrup is to make a strong tea by simmering your choice of herbs. This is called a decoction. This decoction, once reduced and mixed with a sweetener, is called a syrup.

The ratio of herb to water for a syrup decoction is 1 part herb to 4 part water.

It is important to begin a decoction with cold water in order to ensure complete extraction of all soluble constituents from the herb.

  • Place 1 cup of dried herbs into a saucepan
  • Cover with 4 cups of cold water
  • Cover the container and bring your brew slowly to a boil
  • Once brought to boil, remove lid
    Decrease the heat and simmer it for 1-2 hours
  • Strain, and place the liquid back in the pot to simmer, and reduce to 2 cups
  • Once reduced, pour the decoction into a measuring cup to see exactly how much liquid you have.
  • Place it back into the saucepan, and now add that exact amount of honey. For example, if you liquid measure to exactly 1.5 cups, add 1.5 cups of honey.
  • Add the honey to sweeten, stirring to combine well
  • Traditionally, most syrup recipes add the sweetener to the decoction at the ratio of 2:1 (so 500ML honey to 250ML decoction). This makes for a VERY sweet syrup, however it also makes it shelf stable.
    I prefer my syrup recipes at a 1:1 ratio, so 250ml decoction to 250ml honey. The consistency is fairly nice, and I've never had a bottle spoil.
  • Taste it once combined. If you'd like it to be a little sweeter, go ahead and add honey to taste.
  • If you want a really thick syrup, GENTLY heat it further until you reach the desired consistency.
  • Take it off the stove and add 6 TBSP of brandy (optional but encouraged for shelf-life stability).
  • Brandy is added for flavour and further preservation action.  It’s also a gentle muscle relaxant which is helpful if you are making a cough syrup
    * Please avoid alcohol if you are in recovery
  • Pour syrup into a clean jar with a lid, label it with ingredients and the date.
  • Dose: For adults use 1 TBSP 3 times a day for prevention, or up to 8 times a day when illness strikes. For children, 1 tsp  twice a day for prevention or 1 tsp 6 times a day while sick. Please consult with a qualified health practitioner before giving to children under 5 years of age. Always consult with a qualified health provider if you are on medication.



Will you make these recipes? Please share your results in the comments below, I'd love to hear from you!

Want to deepen your herbal studies?
Join my Online Herbal Apprenticeship here! 

Hope to see you soon,


  1. Victoria Stahl on December 14, 2017 at 5:56 pm

    Hi Seraphina, Can you please give me an idea of how long it will take to reduce this decoction to half while covered? I feel like it will take days! Thanks so much. Thanks for all you share.

    • Seraphina Capranos on December 14, 2017 at 9:43 pm

      Hi Victoria!
      It usually takes about 7-8 hours! If you have an enamel pot and gas stove, perhaps longer!
      You are so welcome! I’m glad you enjoy 🙂

  2. Brooke on August 25, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    How much syrup does this recipe make? I am definitely going to make some this week and wondering if I should do a double batch to last over winter. And how long does it keep when using brandy and full amount of sugar?

    • Brooke on September 7, 2015 at 10:29 am

      Sorry more questions as I am making this – is this 25g of herbs in total? Or each herb 25g? Thank you!!!

      • Brooke S on September 7, 2015 at 10:31 am

        And one more! Is this safe during pregnancy? Thank you!!!!

        • Seraphina Capranos on January 7, 2016 at 11:34 pm

          No, in pregnancy I would make the cough syrup with just elderberries and rosehips!

      • Seraphina Capranos on January 7, 2016 at 11:34 pm

        25g total.

    • Seraphina Capranos on January 7, 2016 at 11:36 pm

      It makes about 700ml, give or take. It can keep a few years if you’ve added all the sweetener and brandy. Make as much as you can store!

Leave a Comment