That Cough. Yeah, you know the one.

Licorice and Elecampane Cough Syrup


You know the one; the lingering cough that you just can’t seem to kick? Well not me, but my son has had a chesty cough that has been lingering at a low level. He has been taking (with not as much regularity or consistency as I would like) kid-friendly elderberry syrup (for the adult version click here) and fire cider. Every time I think he has kicked his cough to the curb I quit pushing the elderberry and his cough seems to rear its ugly head again. So I brought out the heavy artillery to target deep chest coughs; Licorice and Elecampane cough syrup.


The ingredients are pretty simple and will likely be available at your nearest natural foods store or on-line.


  • 2 Tbsp Licorice Root
  • 1 Tbsp Elecampane Root
  • 1 Tbsp Echinacea Root
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick
  • 2 Tbsp fresh Ginger Root
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups raw honey

So why this combo?

Licorice Root -Licorice is a broad-spectrum anti-viral. The primary antiviral constituent in licorice is glycyrrhizin which gives licorice its sweet taste. Licorice is effective for a long list of viruses which include several strains of influenza, respiratory viral infections, pneumonia and more.  I chose to center this herbal syrup around licorice root for its  expectorant and anti-spasmatic action.  Licorice relieves unproductive coughing, while helping to express congestive mucus from the lungs. Licorice works synergistically with ginger which I also included in this recipe.   For more on the licorice and ginger combo click here.   Just a caution, don’t take licorice long term as it can raise blood pressure.

Elecampane Root – with its unique earthy taste (which takes some getting used to) elecampane is one of my favorite herbs. Elecampane has expectorant, and cough-releaving qualities. Medicinal use of elecampane dates back a millennia; Greeks and Romans considered elecampane one of their most important herbs.  Besides being a great expectorant, elecampane  soothes tissue irritation and inflammation from coughing.

Echinacea Root – Echinacea was my “gateway drug” to herbalism about 25 years ago.  Echinacea is an immune system stimulant and is antimicrobial, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory.  Echinacea seems to work best if taken at the first onset of a cold…none-the-less I included it in this formula because I am an echinacea believer and because this cough syrup will last up to a year in the fridge. I will be better prepared next time.

Cinnamon – Cinnamon has been traditionally taken as a warming herb for ‘cold’ conditions.  Cinnamon works synergistically with ginger as a catalyst.  Cinnamon (along with ginger below) increases circulation allowing the other herbs to be more effectively carried throughout the body and to the extremities.  Cinnamon also aids in digestion again increasing the efficacy of the other herbs.  Plus, cinnamon tastes dang good.

Ginger – like cinnamon, ginger is a warming herb and a catalyst. Ginger has  antimicrobial properties and will thin mucous supporting the expectorant action of the licorice and elecampane roots.   Ginger stimulates the immune system to fight bacterial and viral infections.

Raw Honey – raw honey is soothing to throat irritation and is what makes the cough syrup a syrup and not a super strong tea.  Plus a spoon full of honey makes the medicine go down. Am I right?


Place all dry ingredients including the ginger in a small pot.


Add two cups of water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes until the liquid is reduced by half.  So you have a very concentrated root tea.

Let the liquid cool until you can handle it and strain though a mesh strainer with muslin or multi-layer cheesecloth.


Squeeze as much liquid as you can out of the herbs.

Add two cups of raw honey to the liquid and stir until combined.   If your honey is too thick, warm it gently over a double boiler.  I prefer not to heat my honey if I can avoid it.

Bottle your cough syrup in small mason jars or other small glass bottle.  Due to the high proportion of honey, this syrup should last up to a year in the refrigerator.

For an adult I would take 1 -2 teaspoons several times per day.  For a child reduce portions to a half or quarter teaspoon.  Raw honey should not be given to children under the age of 1.

This recipe was adapted from:  Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health.





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