How to make a medicinal herbal syrup, part 2: basic syrup

How to make a medicinal herbal syrup, part 2: basic syrup

Last time we went over some theory about the use of medicinal herbal syrup. This time we will get to work. We’ll start, logically, at the beginning: the basic syrup. For a basic syrup you need the following:

  • 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

Hygiene is essential

It is extremely important to make sure that all your materials are clean and dry and that your materials are pure. As we discussed last time, the dosage of a syrup is critical. Too much sugar and you get crystallisation, too little sugar and shelf life will be compromised. In either case, you get spoilage and your work is wasted. That is why there should really be no residual moisture in any of your jars, funnels, et cetera, because that can lead to an incorrect ratio.

Materials that aren’t clean can contain organisms which will subsequently cause fermentation. All of this may sound logical, but it goes wrong often enough. To spread risk, it is better to keep your syrup in smaller bottles, so that you only expose part of your preparation to the air, and thus oxidation.

Distilled water and pure sugar

We prefer to use distilled water to make syrup, for the above reasons. If there’s no other option, you can also use “normal” water. In either case, just to be on the safe side, we boil it just before using it. We’ll add refined white sugar to that water. This is the purest form of sugar which, again, is best for our purposes.

You could use brown sugar, but it makes the process more difficult, because brown sugar contains all kinds of other tiny particles which we’ll have to remove. Since we’re going for simple, we’ll stick to white, pure sugar for now. Simplicity is also the reason why I’ve chosen the following recipe. You don’t need anything for this preparation but water, sugar, clean materials, your muscles and possibly an essential oil if you’d like a specific flavour. Even a refrigerator isn’t necessary, because this syrup can be stored outside the frig.

Start with the basics of a medicinal herbal syrup

You can also make absolutely delicious syrups with juices and fruits. But that requires a different menstruum as well and often additional techniques such as cooking or heating au bain marie. Don’t worry, we will probably talk about this in the future. However, I’d rather first discuss the basics of all kinds of different ways of using herbs – tinctures, infusions, decoctions, syrups, oils and ointments – rather than teaching you to create all kinds of gems at this point, before having mastered the simplest things.