I love this time of year. I love shifting gears from that excited, extroverted holiday energy to a space that is more quiet, calm and introspective. But as you might know, less pleasant things can arise when we finally do slow down — it seems the minute we come down from any energetic high is precisely the moment we're hit hard with a bout of sickness.
To help us take on those winter woes the traditional way, Natassia Brazeau — proprietress of Northlore — shares her recipe for the ultimate herbal cough syrup and immune booster to get us through these cold, winter months.
Wild Cherry Cough Syrup
Words + recipe by Natassia Brazeau, Northlore
Taking the time to wildcraft and prepare medicine is a deeply satisfying practice that connects us to the land and can remind us of our place within the cycles of the earth.
Herbal medicine making was widely practiced in North America until the beginning of the twentieth century when drug companies began introducing expensive, synthetic drugs. With cheap, readily available herbs as their main competition, they began an effective marketing campaign convincing people that herbs were ineffective and old fashioned, only used by those who could not afford commercial drugs.
As I have been replacing my medicine cabinet with natural herbal remedies, I admit I’ve been surprised to find that they actually, truly work! I shared in the collective skepticism that has been waged against wild, healing plants until I discovered first hand that there is powerful medicine growing outside my back door. It goes without saying that modern medicine is effective and necessary, but when it comes to the common cold and other minor symptoms, the plants are our allies and offer up their healing properties to nourish and support us.
To honour this season of medicine making, (and bring power back to the people!) I’m sharing my recipe for an effective herbal cough syrup and immune booster, made from the pervasive wild chokecherry trees of the prairies.
Wild Cherry Cough Syrup
- 2 cups wild chokecherries (or other cherry variety)
- Local honey
- Vodka or brandy
- 2 TBSP inner bark from a chokecherry branch (Note: Scrape the outer bark off of a cherry branch with a sharp knife and discard. Shave off scraps of the fresh, inner bark until you have approximately two tablespoons.)
Optional additions for medicinal support and flavour:
- 2 TBSP dried licorice root (soothes sore throats and coughs)
- 2 TBSP dried rosehips (prevents and treats colds, loaded with vitamin C)
- 1 cinnamon stick (fights bacterial infections, anti-inflammatory)
- 2 dried star anise (supports the respiratory tract and aids lung inflammation)
- Combine chokecherries, bark, and other optional ingredients in a saucepan and fill with water until the cherries are fully submerged. Bring to a boil and then gently simmer on low-medium heat, uncovered, until the liquid reduces below the cherries (about 45 minutes).
- Strain the mixture through a sieve or cheesecloth, squeezing out as much precious liquid as possible from the cherries. Compost or discard the pulp.
- Return the liquid to the saucepan and simmer on low-medium heat until the liquid is halved, meanwhile savoring that warm, spicy fragrance!
- Once reduced, add ¼ cup of local honey for every cup of syrup and stir until dissolved. Taste and add more honey if you desire sweeter syrup. Let cool to room temperature.
- Add ¼ cup of vodka or brandy for every cup of syrup. (Alcohol kills bacteria and acts as a counter-irritant in the throat.)
- Bottle in a sterile bottle and keep refrigerated. Good for 3-4 months. Take one tablespoon every 2-3 hours as a cough suppressant, or take the occasional shot as a general immune booster.
To your health!