Homemade Honey Lemon Cough Syrup

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Look at me, with all the posting this week! Why do I suddenly have time to write stuff, you might ask?

Well, it’s mainly because I have 3 children, all suffering from various degrees of illness, sprawled out on the sofa and in recliners, and they want me to sit in the living room with them all day to keep them company.

Yesterday was a LONG day. Cakes was still running a low-grade fever, and she and DJ seemed to be taking turns coughing constantly. Bee was also coughing, and complaining of being cold. I took her temperature and it was 97.5, and her face could best be described as a sort of greenish-gray. They all drank tons of water and juice, but no one ate a single bite of food the entire day. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve seen the two little kids eat an actual meal since Friday, and as skinny as they are, they can’t really afford to lose weight.

I feel unsettled and anxious when my children are sick, but non-stop coughing really drives me insane. I know they can’t help it, but listening to it all day is pretty hard on the nerves. Unfortunately, OTC cough remedies are rarely effective, and they aren’t safe for young children anyway, so what can you do? I’ve tried the Vicks-on-the-feet trick with no luck, and we run humidifiers in their rooms at night. I make sure they drink lots of fluids, and I give them throat lozenges, and in really severe cases, nebulizer treatments, but I’ve never found anything that had a long-term soothing effect on a chronic cough….until yesterday.

By 3:00 P.M., the coughing had become unbearable (for all of us) and in desperation I turned to a recipe for homemade cough syrup, which I’ve been meaning to try for a long time. I had miserable children who looked like this,

and though the original recipe called for organic raw honey, 5 fresh, organic lemons, and organic extra-virgin olive oil, none of which I had, I decided to make the recipe with what I did have – bottled lemon juice and EVOO from Aldi, and bulk honey from Costco.

The 32-ounce bottle of lemon juice boasted that it contained the “juice of 21 lemons!” so I got my calculator out and determined that 5 lemons would equal approximately one cup of juice. So, in a small saucepan over medium heat, I combined the following:

1 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups honey

I whisked it together, and heated it until it was steaming, but not boiling.

I transferred the warm syrup to a clean mason jar, and gave my children one tablespoon every hour. That’s what’s so great about this safe, natural remedy – you can administer it as often as needed, without worrying that you’re overdosing your children with drugs.

To say they liked it would be an understatement. DJ tried to lick every last drop from the medicine cup.

It tastes good, yes, but the best part is how well it WORKS. After two doses, Bee wasn’t coughing at all, and Cakes and DJ were coughing significantly less. I also noticed that their cough had gone from dry and barking, to actually sounding productive. Today, DJ isn’t coughing anymore (seriously – not at all), and Cakes is down to only a few minor bouts of coughing every hour.

Honey has long been a home remedy for sore throats, but according to the Mayo Clinic, its effectiveness as a cough suppressant has been proven in recent studies:

“In one study, children age 2 and older with upper respiratory tract infections were given up to 2 teaspoons (10 milliliters) of honey at bedtime. The honey seemed to reduce nighttime coughing and improve sleep.

In fact, in the study, honey appeared to be as effective as a common cough suppressant ingredient, dextromethorphan, in typical over-the-counter doses. Since honey is low-cost and widely available, it might be worth a try.

However, due to the risk of infant botulism, a rare but serious form of food poisoning, never give honey to a child younger than age 1.

Lemon juice has a high concentration of vitamin C, which boosts the immune system, and the olive oil acts as a lubricant to soothe the throat, and is a source of powerful antioxidants. The syrup has additional soothing properties when warmed.

If kept in the fridge, this homemade syrup will keep for several months – long enough to get you through cold and flu season. And, if you have 3 kids hacking constantly, it might also save your sanity.

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35 comments… add one

  1. Shelly March 6, 2013, 7:00 pm

    Wow – I wish we would have had this one month and three colds ago! Honey worked fairly well for us, but it didn’t cut the cough completely. Thank you, also, for providing clear-cut, down-to-earth instructions for all your recipes.

  2. Zoe March 6, 2013, 8:57 pm

    Ooh that’s exciting. Husband keeps telling me I cough through the night (it doesn’t bother me!) So I think i’ll whip this up tomorrow! Thank you as always for being so inspiring. I just adore your blog! Zoe xxx

  3. Janel March 7, 2013, 2:23 am

    As soon as I read your post, I went out and bought the honey and lemon juice (I didn’t have either one)…I want to be ready for the next person in my house to have a cough. Thanks for sharing this!

  4. Laurie March 7, 2013, 3:13 am

    Thanks so much for this. My kids just got over a cold that had a terrible cough that lasted two weeks. Now I have it and am battling this very annoying cough and driving my husband crazy each night as I have been coughing a lot before I finally fall asleep. I will have to make a batch of this to see if it helps me and will definitely try it on the kids the next time they get a bad cold with a relentless cough.

  5. Tara March 7, 2013, 11:48 am

    wow! I am going to try this today as I have a terrible cough! Thanks for posting :)

  6. Ashley March 7, 2013, 2:40 pm

    Thanks for sharing this recipe! I know how the coughing starts to drive you crazy after awhile! I make elderberry syrup with honey and ginger for my family. I also use a olive oil and garlic rub on their feet and nose. Works great!

  7. Tessa March 7, 2013, 5:07 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing what worked for your kiddos. This will be so helpful in my house! I sure do hope your babies are better soon.

  8. Nicole March 8, 2013, 12:08 am

    This is a great recipe! We have been working really hard on preventing the cold and flu in our house by taking doses of elderberry syrup and have been successful so far, but I am going to save this in case we get sick.

  9. Gayla March 8, 2013, 6:38 pm

    Thank you for sharing. I made it last night. I actually halved the recipe because that was about how much honey I had but it still made a pint.

  10. Melissa March 11, 2013, 4:44 pm

    Thanks so much for posting this – I had my mother make it (she’s had a horrible cough since December and can’t get rid of it) and she loved it!

  11. Ginny March 11, 2013, 9:29 pm

    I’ve had a hard time using honey in the kitchen because it gets so very thick, nearly solid, even in the cabinet? Any suggestions? Any do you have to warm it before giving the dose or do the other ingredients prevent that in the fridge? Thanks a bunch!

    1. Heather March 12, 2013, 4:06 pm

      Ginny, natural honey does crystallize and get thick, but you can return it to its liquid state by leaving it sit in a bowl of hot water until it’s completely liquified. This cough syrup, when kept in the fridge, will separate, as the fat from the olive oil rises to the top, so I warm it the same way so that it can been shaken well to combine all the ingredients. To administer a dose, I transfer a tablespoon of syrup to a coffee mug, and then microwave it for about 5 seconds.

  12. Jenna March 12, 2013, 12:45 am

    We make a variation of this too. Hope everyone is well!

  13. Kerry March 12, 2013, 7:55 pm

    Thanks for this recipe! Although I hope I don’t *need* to use it, I look forward to trying it out sometime. For your information, another thing that works really well to relieve coughs is those multi-coloured (usually red, green and yellow) cone-shaped corn-syrup lollipops. 7-Eleven used to sell them here in Canada, but I’m not sure if they still do. I imagine any corn-syrup based candy would work just as well.

  14. jamie May 9, 2013, 7:30 pm

    very good! made small batch w/ tbs. instead of cups. 1tbs-oil, 2 tbs- juice, 3 tbs- honey. thank you for this post, no more cough syrup with god only knows what in it!

  15. dawn May 20, 2013, 6:14 pm

    Have just made some as I have a cough that is driving me demented! Two spoonfuls gave instant relief! Thank you!

  16. ana July 4, 2013, 1:11 am

    does it work? about to try ti

  17. ana July 4, 2013, 1:15 am

    Everyone said they we’re going to try it, but did they?

  18. Kathy August 19, 2013, 7:10 pm

    I made some today for my 3 year old grandson. It sure seems to be working!
    Thanks for sharing this recipe.

  19. Sarah September 21, 2013, 2:38 pm

    I made this tonight for my 5yr old with a barking cough. The first 10ml he gagged and cried to take and I didn’t notice much of an improvement. However I gave him another 10ml before bed (more gagging) but he went to sleep only coughing twice and has coughed only twice since – 3.5hrs since taking it. Will keep it up tomorrow and see if we can knock this cough out.

  20. Dara November 2, 2013, 12:30 am

    Made it, added a lil extra honey, and cinnamon. Turned into a gel overnight in the fridge and works amazing. Now I got kids pretending to cough to get some lol

  21. Stephanie November 6, 2013, 2:47 am

    My 4 year old gets a persistent cough with nearly any mild cold she catches throughout the year. I was hoping I finally found something to help her get better sleep throughout the night. Unfortunately, this hasn’t done anything for her:( We’re on day 3 and her cough is getting worse.

    1. Heather November 7, 2013, 3:03 pm

      Stephanie, I had this same problem as a child, and I had undiagnosed asthma. I was finally given a bronchodilator when I was in college, after a respiratory illness left me with a lingering cough for over a month. Cough syrups will not help asthmatics because airway constriction – not mucus irritation – is the reason behind the cough. I don’t know if your daughter has been screened for asthma, but I just thought I’d mention it. My oldest daughter has mild asthmatic symptoms, and she is greatly helped by the use of an albuterol nebulizer.

      1. Stephanie November 8, 2013, 2:51 am

        I never thought of asthma being a issue. I’ll have to keep an eye on it and bring it up with her ped. Thanks for mentioning it to me.

  22. Tia December 10, 2013, 7:06 pm

    I use raw honey often, but I never thought to mix it with EVOO. My son’s baby sitter told me to try the honey and lemon. Glad I Googled everything, and even happier I found your blog. I really don’t want to give my son cough medicine. There are alot of ingredients I do not like. Wholefoods has cough medicine with sodium benzoante in it. That stuff can be found in every bottle of soda! Thank you so much for sharing this information!

  23. Erin December 13, 2013, 10:23 pm

    The olive oil didn’t mix into it and it was quite thin, I didn’t think oil would mix but i don’t know if it might’ve if I had cooked it for longer? Did I do something wrong with it? Should you leave it in the fridge for a certain amount of time?

  24. Erin December 13, 2013, 10:23 pm

    Thanks for the recipe though!

  25. Renee December 24, 2013, 5:54 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this homemade version of cough syrup! My son can barely breathe without coughing. This gave him some peaceful breathing time immediately . I used the tablespoon suggestion another person mentioned – thank you as well!

  26. Maggan Quist January 23, 2014, 3:32 pm

    I know this is an old post, and I have tried to wing this recipe with my girls with not much luck. But today I cut the recipe in half, cleaned out an old glass jar from the fridge and have successfully made some wonderful cough syrup! Works like a charm!! Thanks, yet again, for the wonderful tips!!

  27. Brandy March 19, 2014, 11:51 pm

    G. said to scope this out, and I’m stoked b/c I have all the ingredients.

    Thank you!

    I’ll try it tonight!

    Brandy from DSA

    1. Heather March 20, 2014, 3:47 am

      I hope it helps, Brandy. I hear you’ve had a bad sore throat, and it’s great for that.

  28. Miesha May 27, 2014, 1:26 pm

    My one year old came home from her dad’s yesterday with a cough and it’s gotten worse. She’s sleeping now but coughing through her sleep. I’m about to make her some and pray it works for her. Thanks!

  29. Bles September 24, 2014, 3:48 pm

    They look really cute

  30. M H February 19, 2015, 9:11 am

    Made this this am at 3:30… Worked beautifully… Finally, slept… Thank you!

  31. Angela February 26, 2015, 6:17 pm

    I found your recipe and made only half the amount since I only have one teenager and it made a 16oz bottle at half the recipe. My 13 year old does not like taking medicines because of the taste and because most of them upset her stomach and due to her small stature pills seem to be too much. We had a liquid cough suppressant that I could only give her every 6 hours but after the first 3 it would quit working. I made this just a couple of hours ago using local honey but also added cinnamon (saw on other recipe sites that cinnamon is also an immune booster) and used half EVOO and half Walnut oil (is an anti-inflammatory, great for swelling or tightness in the throat due to cough) and she drank the first tablespoon while still warm (said it reminded her of apple cider) and she hasn’t coughed yet!


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