Saturday, 19 January 2013

Herbs for Coughs and Colds - Lessons I've Learned!

Last weekend I attended Sarah’s first herb workshop of the year, Herbs for Coughs and Colds.

I set off feeling like I had the onset of tonsillitis and I arrived feeling rather frazzled as my car indicators had stopped working on the way as I tried to work my way through Birmingham. My camera battery was flat but Mr Moon Gazing Hare had kindly lent me his camera that morning and a cup of antiviral sage vinegar tea soon settled me down when I got there. As it was followed by other antiviral teas throughout the morning my feeling of impending illness subsided and by the next day my throat was back to normal.

Sage Vinegar tea:
2 teaspoons sage vinegar, 2 teaspoons honey, hot water

Sage and Thyme tea (antiviral):
Sage and thyme steeped in hot water for 10 minutes, lemon juice, honey

Cooling Tea, specific for colds:
Yarrow, elderflower and mint steeped for 10 minutes in hot water

We split into groups to make Fire Cider Vinegar, Elderberry Cordial and a Cough Syrup.
Fire cider vinegar
Our Fire Cider vinegar is based on a recipe by Rosemary Gladstar with equal amounts of garlic, horseradish and ginger with the addition of other hot herbs that are left in cider vinegar for 4 weeks and then strained. Enough to scare away any bacteria or virus that gets near to you! Actually, it isn't too awful to taste and does work well.

Jo-Ann led the elderberry cordial. Elderberries are a specific herb for the flu virus; they are used to reduce the length of illness and to stop complications. It contained elderberries, ginger, rose-hips  cinnamon, orange peel, orange juice and nutmeg. It was all simmered in a large pan of water for 20 minutes and sugar added in the quantity of 1 lb sugar to 1 pint water. It is taken diluted in hot water and is a lovely warming drink. As I set off to work in the snow yesterday I went armed with a flask of our hot elderberry cordial and a hot water bottle much to the amusement of my work colleagues – be prepared I say!
Hot elderberry cordial drink
I was leading with the cough syrup, luckily Alison was with me as my brain had gone blank on how to make syrup and this became a good refresher lesson. Into the pot went a handful each of hyssop and marshmallow and a small handful of white horehound which is very bitter. Hyssop relaxes the airways and along with white horehound is a traditional cough remedy. Marshmallow is very soothing. We also added crushed fennel seeds and some ginger that are both warming and a little cherry bark that helps with dry, tickly coughs.
White Horehound
Cough Syrup

Here is my syrup recap:

 Put herbs in pan
·         Add water
·         Boil with lid on for 20 minutes to make a decoction
·         Strain off botanicals and add to compost
·         Wash pan and then put strained liquid back into it
·         Simmer until half has evaporated
·         Add equivalent of 1 lb sugar to every 1 pint fluid that is left
·         Put into sterilised bottles/jars

For medicinal syrup you need to reduce the amount of fluid by 7/8ths on the lowest heat but that would have taken longer than the workshop time. Our cough syrup is bit bitter but is palatable. My younger daughter came back from a trip to Dublin on Tuesday with a cough so I offered her the cough syrup which she accepted after tasting it first.

After a really pleasant shared lunch I learnt my next lesson:

·         Always check fire cider vinegar has tight fitting lid
·         Always make sure fire cider vinegar jar is wedged into an upright position in your bag when travelling
·         Always put husbands camera back into camera bag
·         Do not put loose camera in bag with fire cider vinegar

If you can think of a really good imaginative story that might explain how spice infused vinegar could have ended up inside a digital camera please let me know ASAP!

Oops, I’m in trouble!


  1. Oh I am so glad you shared! this is so wonderful. I can almost imagine being part of it all xxx I have no wonderful excuse/story for the camera... ooops! indeed!

  2. I'm so sorry to hear about the camera. Hope you were forgiven! This is a wonderful post - really made me laugh. Thank you for sharing everything.

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