Every year, I make what I call a winter support syrup (yes, that is to differentiate it from other types of syrups, cordials, and elixirs!). Winter support syrup is a remedy that can be taken regularly to help support the body systems that are challenged most by the cold, dark, and wet season of winter. In this blog, I will be discussing the types of herbs that synergize to form blends that support colds, flus, respiratory ailments and those that help us adapt to the stress put upon our body this time of year.
Balancing the Body
During the winter, our bodies crave circulation, warmth, movement (or lack there of), sleep and sunshine. I'm going to share my recipe, the energetics and actions of each herb added, as well as alternatives for those who have specifically hot, cold, dry, or wet constitutions/tissue states. We want to shy away from using ALL immune modulating and stimulating herbs, thus having variety is key. Though, it is important to note that most ingredients may have immune supporting qualities of some degree.
Adaptogens might very well serve as the main or primary function of your syrup. You will want to consider adaptogenic herbs such as Reishi, Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng), Schizandra Berry or Licorice Root. These herbs help to combat the way in which stress settles in the body, provide us with more energy, support healthy sleep patterns, regulate the mood, boost or regulate the immune system and strengthen our vital force. My adaptogens of choice for Winter Support Syrup are Reishi Mushroom slices and dried Schizandra Berries. Both Reishi and Schizandra are warming in nature. Schizandra is a drying herb while Reishi remains more neutral.
Warming herbs such as ginger, cinnamon, anise seed, and cardamom can be added as catalysts to your syrup. These herbs provide a warming, circulating, and stimulating effect. This allows the other herbs to become more active in the body while also balancing cold and stagnant conditions. Think of these herbs as the messengers, the plants that provide the vehicle for which the primary herbs are delivered. My warming herbs of choice are both cinnamon and ginger.
For those of us that suffer from consistent ailments of the respiratory system, there are many herbs that can support and balance those tissues. Respiratory support herbs are typically demulcent (soothing inflammation, irritation, and heat), mucilaginous, expectorant (dispel mucus), aromatic, anti-catarrhal (thin mucus), and anti-spasmodic. Depending which ailment you suffer most from...
- heat, inflammation, dry cough, tightness
- cold, phlegm-like coughs, congestion
You will need a specific balance of herbs added to your syrup. For example, mullein is a wonderful herb that helps to ease inflammation of the lungs, remove excess mucus and ease muscle tension as a moderate antispasmodic. Marshmallow root, elecampane root, licorice root, and plantain support hot conditions of the lungs. For cold, heavy and and spastic coughs wild cherry bark can do wonders. My respiratory herbs of choice are marshmallow root and elecampane root.
Formulating Your Syrup
Once you've chosen the herbs, it is time to formulate your syrup. When determining the measurements, we want to think in terms of ratios and the main action we want the syrup to have on our body. As an everyday tonic, this syrup will have a higher dose of adaptogenic herbs as we are supporting the body's everyday resilience during the winter months rather than a specific ailment.
We want to choose our adaptogens, warming herbs, and respiratory support herbs. For this recipe, I've chosen dried Schizandra berries, Reishi Slices, Elecampane Root, Marshmallow Root, Ginger, and Cinnamon. I also add Elderberries for taste and some immune support. Below you will see the ingredients, how much you will need of each, and the process for making your syrup at home!
Recipe for Winter Support Syrup
This recipe makes about 1 quart of syrup.
4 cups water
1 cup raw honey 1 cup Schizandra Berries (Adaptogen) 1/2 cup Elderberries (Immune support) 1/2 cup Reishi slices (Adaptogen/Respiratory) 2 tbsps Marshmallow Root (Respiratory support) 2 tbsps Elecampane Root (Respiratory support) 2 tbsps Ginger Root (Warming Herbs)
2 Cinnamon Sticks (Warming Herbs)
Ratio: 3:2:1 (3 parts adaptogens, 2 parts immune herbs, 1 part respiratory and warming herbs)
If you'd like to be precise, you can weigh the herbs to determine measurements in terms of ounces. This helps to increase the potency of you syrup.
Below are step by step instructions for making your syrup.
Add water and your herbs to a deep simmer pot.
Leave uncovered and lightly simmer the herbs for up to 45 minutes. You will notice that some water has evaporated which is what we want! Evaporation is natural and actually enhances the process as we want less water molecules and more medicine.
Remove from heat and let the herbs continue to infuse for another hour. Let the syrup cool to room temperature.
Strain the herbs from the liquid and compost (if you can).
Add the raw honey, stirring well until fully dispersed in the liquid. Feel free to add more if you'd like to thicken the syrup.
Taking 1 tablespoon every day, either added to water, tea, or another aspect of your routine will be perfect for supplying the body with the syrup's herbal benefits. Children can take this syrup as well. Depending on age and weight of your child, you will have to consider the best dose. Typically for children ages 2 to 10 a dose of 1 teaspoon is just fine.
Storing Your Syrup
You syrup can be stored in a glass jar or bottle in the fridge for up to six months. Make sure to label your jar with all ingredients as well as the date it was made.
I hope this blog inspires you to experiment with making herbal syrups at home! Don't forget to join in on the next Herbalism Through the Seasons Course at Derti Development in Northwood, New Hampshire. Expect to go even deeper into learning herbalism for supporting the body during the last of these winter months. Click the photo below to learn more and sign up today!