How to make a medicinal herbal syrup, part 1: the basics
When I was very little, I didn’t really appreciate many of the home-made remedies administered to me. It was medicine that was bitter and far from tasty. I rather coughed up my lungs than take those bitter drinks. However, I could be tempted with a herbal syrup. In fact, some of them were so good that I’d find myself looking forward to the next dose 🙂 .
As most of you know, syrups usually contain a huge amount of sugar. As a wise woman I am, of course, not in favour of eating much sugar. However, that doesn’t mean sugar has no value at all. In ancient times, sugar – in the form of plants, fruits or honey – could be a true lifesaver because it would instantly provide life-saving energy. However, sugar was not abundantly present in nature and therefore never really posed a threat to our health.
The benefits of sugar
That is one of the reasons why we don’t really have a brake on our sugar consumption. We do need a limited amount of sugars, though. Because we did not encounter sugar “in the wild” in excess, we were physically encouraged to take it whenever we found it. That works differently with other macro-nutrients, like protein and fats. We do have saturation signals for those. But not for sugar. So in our current age of artificial sugar abundance, we really have to keep ourselves in check.
That doesn’t mean we can’t still use sugar now and then. We just have to limit it strongly. If we only use sugars in their natural form, fruits, vegetables, a little bit – I said a little bit – of honey now and then, we’ll be fine. One of the uses for which I make an exception to my sugar rule is medicinal syrups. First, with the help of syrups, I can make sure that even the most obstinate of my patients will have the benefits of plants at their disposal. Secondly, sugar can give an extra energy boost which really helps when you’re ill. Thirdly, sugar is a great way to keep things from going off outside of the fridge.
Making a herbal syrup is a precise job
So, yes, sometimes I embrace the use of sucrose, aka pure sugar. Making a syrup is a tricky business though. To make optimal use of the preservative properties of sugar, the ratio of sugar and water must be such that the water is close to saturation with sugar, but not too close to it. If your syrup crystallizes, you know you’re too close to it, but then… you’re already too late.
There are many factors to consider and many tricks that can help us tackle those factors. However, since this blog series is intended for people just starting out with making syrups, we’re going to keep it simple. After all, it is not my intention for winter, and with it the cold season, to be over before we can really get started.
A shopping list for making medicinal syrup
That’s why we will learn in the coming blogs how to make a simple syrup to use as a carrier for yucky medicine and a simple medicinal syrup. You can use the first to hide the taste of the actual medicine. The second is a medicine itself. In a medicinal syrup, the healing herbs themselves have been macerated into the concoction.
I’m going to tell you what you need in this blog. That way you can get yourself kitted out for the next part in this series. Don’t worry, the list is not too bad. For the basic syrup, which we will be making next time, you will need:
- A jar that can be closed tightly
- A funnel
- A cheesecloth
- A well-sealable glass bottle
- White, pure sugar
- Distilled water
- A transparent measuring cup
- If required, an essential oil that is suitable for consumption
After making a basic syrup we will proceed to make a medicinal syrup. We need some extra things for that:
- A pan
- Dried herbs or a dried herb mixture of your choice
- If required, some brandy
Next time we will really get to work. Until then!