Updated: May 25
Natural, organic, no artificial flavors or colors, we've all seen these labels on the products we buy for our families and ourselves. In fact, many of us seek out these terms when choosing a product to be sure that we get the highest quality ingredients without any harmful additives or chemicals.
If you want a recipe for an all natural cough syrup, jump to the recipe here.
While choosing to eat and consume organic products is usually best for reducing exposure to pesticides, it can be expensive and time consuming. While eating organic cheaper is always a great option, what about when it comes to medicines?
Many over the counter medicines, like cough medicine, can have many extra ingredients. One study in the journal Lung found that there may be over 100 excipients, in different types of cough medicines.
An excipient is an inactive substance that acts as a medium for the active ingredient in the drug. Examples of excipients include things like coloring and preservatives.
The Lung study found that the most common excipients in cough medicines were sweeteners that mimic the natural viscosity of honey. Some of the most common sweeteners were liquid glucose, sucrose, saccharine sodium, sugar, sorbitol, maltitol liquid, and acesulfame K.
The purpose of the sweeteners were to reduce the perception of the bitter taste of the active ingredients, namely dextromethorphan, an anti cough medication.
While sweeteners may sound like a necessary part of any cough syrup, there can be problems that arise from certain ingredients like sugar or artificial sweeteners. For example, sugar is known to depress the immune system.
Artificial sweeteners like acesulfame K are linked to changes in the gut microbiome and weight gain in mice. Sucralose has been linked to headaches in susceptible populations and saccharine in long-term dosing has been linked to obesity, diabetes, and liver problems in rats.
Then there are excipients that act as thickeners. Some of the most common thickeners were glycerine and propylene glycol. Propylene glycol has been named the allergen of the year by the American Contact Dermatitis Society in 2017.
Then there are flavorings. Flavorings can be natural or artificial. Artificial flavorings can have many different chemicals that can be added together to create a specific flavor profile.
If you want to avoid these chemicals but also give your family a powerful natural cough medicine, then here's an easy to make recipe that your whole family will enjoy.
Read on for how to make an all natural cough syrup:
How to Make an All Natural Cough Syrup
Honey is the perfect ingredient to use as the base of your all natural cough syrup. This is because honey has a perfect blend of sweetness, viscosity, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial properties.
High in vitamin C, lemon is the perfect accompaniment to a honey based cough syrup. It also balances out the sweet flavor with its acidic profile.
Mullein or Verbascum thapsus is an herb that has been used for centuries for lung and respiratory health. There is research suggesting that mullein acts as an antimicrobial.
Elecampane or Inula helenium is an herb that has been used for respiratory health for centuries. Elecampane is also being studied as a powerful antimicrobial especially against bacteria like staphylococcus.
Certain strains of staph are more likely to cause bacterial pneumonia and be resistant to antibiotics. Elecampane may be able to bridge the gap and provide protection against bacterial pneumonia.
Natural Cough Syrup Recipe
1/2 cup honey
1/8 cup of purified water
1/2 ounce of mullein
1/2 ounce elecampane
1/4 cup lemon juice
water to make desired texture (optional)
Mix all ingredients together and enjoy!
Make sure that you consult your local naturopathic doctor for the best dose recommendations for you and your family.
I'm Dr. Candace Mathers, boy mom, girl mom, Down syndrome mom and naturopathic doctor. Life Blossom Wellness will be releasing a NEW self paced online course all about homeopathy! Homeopathy can be a gentle effective treatment for many conditions, especially those that are hard to manage with conventional approaches.
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Eccles R. What is the Role of Over 100 Excipients in Over the Counter (OTC) Cough Medicines?. Lung. 2020;198(5):727-734. doi:10.1007/s00408-020-00390-x
Bian X, Chi L, Gao B, Tu P, Ru H, Lu K. The artificial sweetener acesulfame potassium affects the gut microbiome and body weight gain in CD-1 mice. PLoS One. 2017;12(6):e0178426. Published 2017 Jun 8. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0178426
Jacob SE, Scheman A, McGowan MA. Propylene Glycol. Dermatitis. 2018;29(1):3-5. doi:10.1097/DER.0000000000000315
Mahdavi S, Amiradalat M, Babashpour M, Sheikhlooei H, Miransari M. The Antioxidant, Anticarcinogenic and Antimicrobial Properties of Verbascum thapsus L. Med Chem. 2020;16(7):991-995. doi:10.2174/1573406415666190828155951
Kenny CR, Stojakowska A, Furey A, Lucey B. From Monographs to Chromatograms: The Antimicrobial Potential of Inula helenium L. (Elecampane) Naturalised in Ireland. Molecules. 2022;27(4):1406. Published 2022 Feb 18. doi:10.3390/molecules27041406