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A dry, ineffective cough may result from an irritant like smoke, dry air, allergies, or pollution, or it may appear during a respiratory infection. The worst part is that it can be quite painful and produce headaches or persistent sore throats, which can interfere with sleep, work, school, travel, and other activities. A sore throat and a dry cough are mutually reinforcing. I'll show you how to quickly make your own homemade cough syrup recipe that includes moisturizing, inflammation-soothing, and demulcent herbs for soothing relief.

When natural defenses like good mucosal production are absent and the throat feels dry and scratchy, these herbs can help with a dry cough. Hence, this herbal cough syrup aids in reducing the irritation that causes a cough rather than suppressing it, making coughing fits less uncomfortable and more effective. In many circumstances, the demulcent property can also aid in natural healing!

Finished recipe for dry cough syrup with dried herbs and honey

Alternative Medicine for a Dry Cough

Demulcents include the roots of licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), marshmallow (Althaea officinalis), plantains (Plantago spp.) (leaves and seeds), and hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa) calyces. Demulcents' slick properties influence the quality of mucus even after it has dried out, adhered, and become sticky. They also aid to thin and unstick the natural mucosal layer, increasing its protective and functional properties. Demulcents are effectively made expectorant as a result! This is especially helpful if you have a dry cough or a coughing urge but no actual cough. In certain situations, mucus may be present, but it is either too thick and sticky to be efficiently expelled by coughing, or it is too thick, hardened, and inactive to trigger a cough. Moreover, these herbs can be used to lessen the effects of various irritants and airborne allergens, such as smoke or pollution, which are frequently present in highly populated places.

Glycyrrhiza glabra, or licorice (root)

Greek words glykys, which means "sweet," and rhiza, which means "root," combine to form the name of the genus Glycyrrhiza. A suitable moniker for this herb!

Licorice is a root that repairs, calms, and softens. It is sweet, neutral, and moist. The root's polysaccharides help to give it its calming, demulcent properties. Licorice is excellent for hot and dry ailments like sore throats caused by bronchitis and dry coughs because it also has anti-inflammatory qualities.

Licorice has the potential to function as a broad-spectrum antiviral that either blocks the entry of viruses into cells, directly kills them through a number of methods (such as halting replication or inhibiting growth), or provokes an immune response against them.

Its most well-known antiviral component, glycyrrhizin, is also 50 times sweeter than sugar and gives licorice its sweet flavor. (2013) Buhner

Safety: Long-term (greater than 4-6 weeks) or excessive doses of licorice should be avoided (Buhner, 2013). Licorice can cause a decrease in potassium, which can cause weakness and high blood pressure. You shouldn't consume whole licorice if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, liver, kidney, or heart disease.

jar of herbal infusion used to make cough syrup

Marshmallow: Althaea officinalis (root)

Long used to relieve inflammation and sore throats, marshmallow has demulcent, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, and emollient qualities (Whelan, n.d.). This demulcent is still valued by herbalists today for maintaining mucous membranes. Moreover, marshmallow root has been authorized by the German Commission E, a scientific federal medical advisory council, for the treatment of dry cough and irritation of the mouth and pharynx (Hoffmann, 2003).

Plantago species, especially P. lanceolata and P. major (leaf)

This small, unassuming plant that grows everywhere in disturbed and compacted soils has a surprising number of benefits. Among its various applications, plantain is a potent ally for lung health, reducing inflammation and irritating airways (Gray, 2011).

The hibiscus is the sabdariffa variety (calyces)

The sweet hibiscus plant's calyces are both tonifying and astringent, making them juicy and strengthening our natural barriers in a balanced way.

In addition, it has a delightful fruity flavor and a wealth of antioxidants, such as polyphenols, rutin, and anthocyanins, which nicely completes the syrup formula (Groves, 2016).

Recipe for dry cough syrup on a table with dried herbs.

Dry Cough Homemade Cough Syrup

By combining a concentrated decoction and/or infusion with honey, a herbal syrup is created. Any type of cough responds well to the honey, which also lengthens the decoction's shelf life. Moreover, honey makes less flavorful plants more palatable. Syrups are extremely tasty in the eyes of kids!

Ingredients: 2 tablespoons dried licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra).

2 tablespoons dried marshmallow root (Althaea officinalis)

2 tablespoons of fresh or dried plantain (Plantago spp., especially P. lanceolata and P. major) leaf/seed

2 tablespoons dried hibiscus calyces (Hibiscus sabdariffa)

1 gallon of water

1 cup of local, raw honey


Using a mortar and pestle, grind the herbs.

Using the licorice and marshmallow root, make a concentrated decoction as follows:

In a saucepan, combine the dried roots with a quart of water.

Stirring frequently, cook at a simmer until the liquid volume is cut in half.

Watch the decoction carefully to make sure it maintains a mild simmer, and be sure to turn off the heat as soon as the mixture starts to thicken or burn.

Using the finished root decoction (should be around 1-2 cups), prepare an infusion with the plantain and hibiscus: Over the hibiscus calyces and plantain leaves, pour the hot, filtered decoction.

Steep for at least one hour but no longer than eight.

French press, cheesecloth, or a tea strainer can be used to remove the solids and return the liquid to the saucepan.

To the liquid in the saucepan, add the honey.

To facilitate mixing of the liquid and honey, slightly warm the mixture.

(Not exceeding 110 degrees Fahrenheit in heating)

Using a sterile funnel, transfer the syrup into one or more clean, dry, sterilized glass bottles or jars (preferably, a dark-colored bottle or jar to prevent from light exposure).

Put a label on it and keep it in the fridge.

To Use: For adults, take 1 tablespoon every 4 hours; for older kids, take 1 teaspoon every 4 hours.

Up to a year in the refrigerator for shelf life.

This sweet syrup is a terrific accompaniment to a variety of dishes and drinks. It also tastes well enough to be consumed on its own. Be creative and enjoy this herbal cough syrup with a nice cup of tea, sparkling water, or sweets!

Getting Ready for Allergy Season

It's always great to make as much preparation as you can in advance so you feel supported through all of the difficulties the upcoming allergy season may bring, even if you feel in balance right now. For relaxing throat tissues during a dry cough or sore throat, this syrup with demulcent herbs works wonders. If you want to spend time in a location with a lot of pollution or other airborne irritants, you might also want to think about creating a batch in advance.

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