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Mama’s Soothing Homemade Cough Syrup

Affiliate Disclosure | in Natural Remedies | by | with 141 Comments


Got a sore, itchy throat? Honey works BETTER . . .

Than over-the-counter cough syrups! Don’t take my word for it, though. In a study published by the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, researchers found that buckwheat honey works better than dextromethorphan (the active ingredient in store-bought cough syrup) at reducing the frequency and severity of coughing episodes for children. According to the report, both the children AND THEIR PARENTS got more sleep with this simple home remedy than any other way – who doesn’t need THAT? (source)

So what’s so special about buckwheat honey? Made by bees who gather primarily from white buckwheat blossoms, this unique, molasses colored honey is incredibly rich in antioxidants and anti-bacterial/viral substances which promote healing. (source)

When blended with the soothing qualities of extra-virgin olive – which contain natural anti-inflammatories similar to aspirin – and antiseptic lemon juice/apple cider vinegar, buckwheat honey is definitely the way to go for dry, scratchy throats and coughs. It’s so easy to make, too!

Mama’s Soothing Homemade Cough Syrup

Note: This recipe is not recommended for babies under one year old.


Optional Add-Ins:

  • freshly grated ginger
  • onion
  • chopped garlic
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper


Fresh ginger is a natural decongestant, anti-inflammatory, antivirial, and anti-histamine. It can also help with nausea and upset stomach.


Onion, fresh ginger and garlic all increase the anti-viral/anti-bacterial potency of this syrup.


“Garlic is a powerful antioxidant with antimicrobial, antiviral and antibiotic properties. For colds and flus, it also provides decongestant and expectorant effects.” (source)

Cayenne Pepper

Contains capsaicin, which is a warming and circulation enhancing pain reliever.

How To Make:

If you are making the syrup without any add-ins, simply blend all ingredients. To use, simply give it a good stir and serve either room temperature or gently warmed.

If you are infusing the syrup with cayenne, simply add it in and use immediately. If you are adding ginger, onion or garlic follow the steps below:

  1. Place 2 tablespoons chopped garlic or 1/2 cup sliced onion or grated ginger in a clean container. Cover with 3/4 cup honey and allow to infuse for at least 8 hours.
  2. After 8+ hours, add the olive oil and lemon juice to the mixture.
  3. Strain the syrup, pour it  in a clean jar and store on the counter to use through the duration of an illness. (For longer-term storage, place in the fridge. It should be good for 4-6 weeks) To use, simply give it a good stir and serve either room temperature or gently warmed.
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141 Responses to Mama’s Soothing Homemade Cough Syrup

  1. Darla says:

    How much should be taken at a time? And how often for children and adults? Thank you!!

  2. Becky says:

    Great recipe! Too bad it can’t be made to have on hand. I’m okay with making it in small batches, but I’ll just have to make sure that I have buckwheat honey on hand so I can make it when I need it! Otherwise, I don’t know where I would find raw buckwheat honey! We have always done local raw honey in tea to soothe a cough. Honey is amazing at coating the throat. It even soothes a sore throat, too. I don’t know what I would do without honey. Once we get some property, we’re getting our own bees! :P

    • Debby says:

      My hubby is a beekeeper. He talked me into putting some of the hives right in our backyard. We have a tiny little yard…not even 0.25 and as long as the bees have things to eat, they don’t bother us at all. (Right now we have 7 hives in our backyard and the rest in other locations. So you really don’t have to have too much land to have a few hives. Just be sure to keep them happy. :) And then you can have pollen as well. I notice a real difference in the way I feel when I eat bee pollen more than anything else I have ever tried.

    • 5kidosmama says:

      Just an FYI I learned from my Great Aunt. You can keep honey on hand for a long time – it doesn’t go bad! If it does “sugar” or crystalize on you, simply heat it up (sunlight is best but works by putting the bottle in warm water on the stove). It will go back to the syrupy state we all love. :)

  3. Heather says:

    I second Darla’s question. I would actually like to make this today, as I feel a cough coming on.

  4. Yamir says:

    How long will it last if unused?? I have everything in my pantry and would love to make a batch to have on hand for my kids. Thanks!!

  5. Andrea says:

    What is the shelf life for this?

  6. Laura S. says:

    I assume that this would still be unsafe to give to children under one year of age due to the honey. But I too love to use raw honey for sore throat, I’ve just never heard of buckwheat honey. It looks wonderfully rich.

  7. Erin says:

    Can you find the honey in a store such as kroger? I am unable to buy things off the internet and would love to make some of this for my girls as they are sick right now. thank you.

  8. Angela says:

    I am confused by Becky’s comment. . . I thought this could be made and stored in the fridge for future use. Am I missing something?

    Either way, cannot wait to try it! Thanks so much!

  9. Jessica says:

    I am curious about the use of EVOO, 1) what is the purpose of it in this mixture? (I have never heard of using it in this way before.) and 2) I was under the impression that EVOO would get clumpy in the fridge? 3) none of the ingredients necessarily need refrigerating, so would it be okay on the counter?

    • Heather says:

      1) It helps coat the throat and contains a natural pain reliever. 2) It will, the storage recommendations are more for long-term storage if it is not used right away. I will update the post 3) Yes, I leave mine on the counter. I think the lemon juice may have a shorter shelf life than the apple cider vinegar, but in my experience they’ve been fine for at least a week on the counter.

  10. Shaina says:

    Love this! I do something very similar but add organic cinnamon. I’ve heard cinnamon has great healing properties too. What are your thoughts on this? Thanks!

  11. Kaely says:

    My family has Celiac Diseas, so we can’t do buckwheat, but I’m assuming this would work with just raw local honey instead, right?

    • Rachel P says:

      I have a son with celiac disease too, and was alarmed when I first read the word buckwheat. I did a little extra research and discovered that it is gluten free as long as it hasn’t been cross contaminated in a factory.

  12. Kaely says:

    I guess I should read it carefully before posting lol :) I see that your recipe says either one!

  13. Kate says:

    You can also “infuse” the garlic and ginger by heating the oil in a pan, adding the garlic and ginger to it- then let it cool and mix with the honey and lemon.

  14. Caitlin says:

    Two of my boys have terrible barking coughs I don’t have a lemon on hand but have an organic orange – might that work as a substitute? Thanks!

  15. Caitlin says:

    I also have organic limes :)

  16. This is awesome! I can’t wait to make this. I am loving all of your Mama-made remedies!

  17. arwen says:

    My mom would make her own version, with a peppermint candy that would melt in it and a splash of whiskey. That stuff worked better than over the counter meds. She still makes it.

  18. Beverly Bailey says:

    Love this, added as my favorite post!

  19. Mindy W says:

    A cough somehow slipped by our daily dose of homemade elderberry syrup and FCLO…grrr. So, I JUST whipped this up because I could no longer find my favorite all natural cough syrup (made by Maty’s) at my local store, which has a VERY similar ingredient list! So I’m HOPEFUL this will work as well or even better! One question, I used raw buckwheat honey, org evoo, and Braggs ACV, and threw in some organic ground cinnamon just for “fun” ;) I’m confused why this wouldn’t be ok stored in the pantry for a very long time (not just a week/month) all of the ingredients in it have very long shelf lives…does mixing them together shorten their shelf life??? Thanks!

    • MindyW says:

      Y’all, I HAD to share! I think this stuff might be magic!! At least combined with my FCLO and elderberry syrup it is! My son’s hacking cough is GONE after only half a day on this stuff, followed by a goodnight’s sleep!! Chalk another one up for all natural, homemade treatment!! :)

    • Shirley says:

      How do u make ur elderberry syrup n FCLO. There r many receipes out there and I want one that I know works. Thabks so much

  20. Megan says:

    First, congrats on babypotamus #3! Secondly, I just made this with avocado oil because I haven’t yet made the trip to pick up newly-discovered GA-grown organic olive oil (YAY!) and don’t have any EVOO on hand, didn’t want to use the “regular” Pompeiian OO that hubby had hidden away in the pantry. I also didn’t have buckwheat honey per se, but a very dark local autumn harvest honey. Seems to be keeping the throat tickle at bay and I’m keeping it by the bedside. This is by far the most delicious cough syrup I’ve used, and I don’t worry about the honey affecting my teeth (which I’m working on remineralizing/healing gums). Thanks!!

  21. Cheryl Medlin says:

    I use a similar recipe – using coconut oil instead of olive oil, and adding ginger and cinnamon. Really does work well. :)

  22. Jess K says:

    I always used plain buckwheat honey. I will have to try this soon. Knock on wood. If we get sick. :P

  23. Carole says:

    Love this — my daughter has autism and we try put as few chemicals in her as possible. Right now we use straight raw honey, but this sounds great!

  24. Jessie Grinnan says:

    I was wondering if it is a half cup of ginger infused? It says 1/2 cup onion or ginger so I just wanted to make sure. Seems like it would be very spicy. Thanks!!!!

  25. Dioni says:

    Can you recommend something for babies?

  26. Kay says:

    Yes, I’m wondering about the amount of ginger too.

  27. Marilyn Matula via FB says:

    I put cayenne pepper in mine

  28. Wendy Bateman Holm via FB says:

    I used this the last time I was sick and up coughing all night! It worked great. Thanks so much for sharing things like this. I’m nursing so would have just “sucked it up” and coughed all night. But I was able to sleep and get well much quicker.

  29. Karin Fuentes Antigua via FB says:

    Kellsi Foster, cinnamon is also good to add

  30. Warm steam gets nasty mucus flowing outta nasal passages too.

  31. Lorelei Perrault via FB says:

    add garlic and it is a great thing

  32. I’m so glad to hear that, Wendy Bateman Holm!

  33. Elaine Wells Versic via FB says:

    Melissa Ungerer

  34. Amy Best Hannah via FB says:

    Proved this just last week with DIY. My 4-year-old and her best friend(same age, go to preschool together), were sick with coughing, lung congestion and high fevers. Heidi only had a fever for 4 days(never over 101F) and her friend had a fever for 11 days(topped at 103F and took antibiotics after a doctor visit!) also Heidi never passed it on to the rest of us and her friend Elena gave it to the whole family of 4.

  35. Yes, and regular Chiropractic care too!

  36. Garlic, good natural antibacterial. Warm cup of Ginger tea with some honey to sweeten. Soothing for irritated throat & tummy calming.

  37. Beth Czeizinger via FB says:

    Coconut oil tastes a LOT better in this. Also, if you have a sore throat with the cough, the lemon can hurt pretty bad…in these cases, i just take and mix honey with cinnamon and take a teaspoon every time i start coughing. Works like a charm.
    When my 18 month old had RSV and double Pneumonia a couple weeks ago i gave him equal parts onion juice and raw local honey, 1 tsp an hour until better. Knocked it out in less than 4 days. I gave it to my 12 year old son and took it myself at the first signs of congestion and we were both over it in less than 4 days.

  38. Since Hubby and I foresee living in Haiti as missionaries in the next few years, this is the kind of thing I need to find and keep track of for living there but also for our own family! Thank you for sharing this simple recipe.

  39. Tressa Nelson via FB says:

    Teresa Herrington Shoemaker

  40. You can also take crushed garlic, put it on a wort, with yes, duct tape over it…& the wort, magically disappears. Works great on plantar wort, as well as, common wort.

  41. Ginny says:

    My Grandma did this with honey, lemon and whiskey! I don’t know if it soothed our coughs, but it definitely calmed us down and helped us rest! :)

  42. Kristine White via FB says:

    Tina Wolfe maybe this will help the cough? Saw it and thought of you all!

  43. Tina Wolfe via FB says:

    Thank you Kristine! If I can get him to drink it now. Ugh. Definitely keeping it for future use for us though!

  44. Koa Wainman via FB says:

    Jenna Hodak

  45. Karen Viteri via FB says:

    FYI Laura :)

  46. Jennifer Brock via FB says:

    Jennifer Healy Fielding

  47. We do this…and cayenne pepper tea for sore throats. Works amazing.

  48. Donna Donna Hutchinson Detrick Marshall

  49. Anna Slavich via FB says:

    All the ingredients are shelf-stable, so this would be fine to mix and just keep on hand, right?

  50. Kristy Garry via FB says:

    I’d really recommend buying local honey from a beekeeper in your neighbourhood rather than a mass produced product tho. A lot of the mass produced store bought honey’s are mainly sugar syrup with some honey waved over them

  51. I was just thinking last night “I wonder why you are not supposed to give honey to babies? And I wonder at what age it is ok?” I would check into it.

  52. Ferishte Aurora via FB says:

    reminds me of my mother

  53. Rachel Holmes via FB says:

    You can also warm(not cook-only enough heat to melt)raw honey, coconut oil and lemons juice, put them in a small candy mold and refrigerate until they’re solid again and use them as natural throat and cough drops.

  54. Rebecca Starks thought you might find this interesting in case the coughing re-surfaces with Noah.

  55. Laurie Williams George via FB says:

    Penny- it’s 1 yr and the reason is botulism risks. I read way too many pregnancy/baby books these days. :)

  56. Thanks for this, Renee McJimsey Sons! I’m actually home with her today-she woke up with fever-I’ll be going to pick up these items later today!

  57. Susanna Faygenbaum via FB says:

    Eleonora Berger

  58. Petra O'Sullivan via FB says:

    Penny Hilton, the reason you’re advised not to give honey under 1 year is that honey can contain botulism spores that are no danger to us, but in the underdeveloped digestive system of an infant can be deadly. It’s a slim chance of the spores being there, but the consequences if they are is too high to risk for an infant so it’s better to just avoid it altogether until they’re a bit older.

  59. Cara Eckman via FB says:

    April Briggs Goertz is baby girl still coughing?

  60. Awesome Beth Lege!!! I hope she feels better asap

  61. Renee McJimsey Sons, do you know who sells local honey in the vermilion parish area?

  62. If you go to the farmers market on Saturday in Erath I think they sell se there. If not, you can go to fresh Pickens in Lafayette on kaliste saloon. They have a whole selection of honey. Just read the labels and find the one that is least processed and most local. I wish I could spare some of mine (we raise bees), but I can’t until May or so

  63. That is correct, I believe in the old ways first!

  64. Heather Fortna Wise via FB says:

    Coconut oil is preferable.

  65. Thanks, Renee McJimsey Sons.

  66. Mary Catt Wagoner, Heather Pettijohn Daffron – Ladies check this out – you may already have the ingredients and could use this now! :)

  67. Worth a try! Over the counter never worked for us anyway.

  68. Cassi Thomas via FB says:

    Stephanie Ketcham thought of you when I saw this!

  69. Diana Colome Marin via FB says:

    I didn’t know about olive oil GFlove Perez, but I will add it to my mix. I keep a pote of honey, lemon juice and aloe Vera in the refrigerator and we take about four teaspoons a day

  70. Awesome! I could really use this right now.

  71. Trisha Jeanette via FB says:

    thank you thank you!

  72. Mahah El Mais via FB says:

    Thank you for this recipe! Do you warm it u on the stove in case you wanted to? Probably not too much so it does’t lose it’s rawness?

  73. Lauren Doherty Cole via FB says:

    Tanya Shepherd try this.

  74. Cathy Morris Lohan via FB says:

    my mom always gave me honey and lemon when we were coughing

  75. I have never had it with olive oil, BUT am willing to try!! Xoxo

  76. Be careful giving honey to children unless you are SURE they are not allergic to bees.

  77. Could I use manuka honey and pure organic bottled lemon juice?

  78. Elizabeth ProfessorSprout Russell via FB says:

    Esther – Manuka honey has tons of great medicinal properties, so yes! Some people prefer local raw honey, which would also work. Get organic wherever possible to make sure you’re getting the best quality, too.

  79. Melissa Yancer via FB says:

    I thought it was 1???

  80. Amanda Joyce via FB says:

    Mahah El Mais, you don’t have to heat it. The instructions only call for infusing the honey.

  81. Sorena Oberkirsch via FB says:

    I’m 95% sure it’s one year old every source I have come across says no honey before one.

  82. Kristen Green Byers via FB says:

    It before one!

  83. Andrea Kiesling via FB says:


  84. Ioanna Johnie via FB says:

    I really don’t get the under 1 thing. Honestly u wouldn’t give it to a baby, but it’s been used for generations as a medicinal product and in my family and generations before hand we have used raw honey for all sorts of things.
    Food is so corrupt and some ppl really have no common sense so they’ve just covered their butts and put an age down to be on the safe side.
    If you are prepared to give a child under 1 cough syrup then u are better off using the honey. IMHO

  85. This also makes a beautiful make up remover/ face cleanser. Apply and wipe with a warm wet washer.

  86. Bethany Unzicker via FB says:

    Rachel Holmes, do you have a recipe for your throat drops? I’d love to make some – what a great idea!

  87. Rachel Holmes via FB says:

    Bethany I don’t use one. Just eyeball it. You just need to be sure that the coconut oil is a greater ratio then the rest of the ingredients so it solidifies, then store it in the fridge to keep it cool which is nice and soothing.

  88. My Great Grandmother used to use this to cure almost everything. What this didn’t cover her mustard Plasters did… Pass the Cod Liver Oil! LOL!

  89. Shareen Milligan via FB says:

    Do not give honey to a baby, you risk them getting botulism. There is natural bacteria in honey and infants under a year should NOT have it because their immune system is immature. Honey is an excellent food and also has some medicinal properties, just not for babies :)

  90. Tracy Duffield- might be another good one to try

  91. Keshava Das Cavenagh via FB says:

    Look out for the babies!

  92. Kirsten R Wolfford via FB says:

    My mum used to give us honey, garlic, lemon juice & ginger

  93. yea, thank you for a drug free way to stop that nasty cough.

  94. I’m extremely allergic to bees and can have honey, fyi

  95. Shirley Miller via FB says:

    I have done this but used coconut oil in place of olive oil.

  96. Jeanne Barger Laura Russo Bailey

  97. Ivana Curak via FB says:

    Natalie Elizabeth Thomas check it out

  98. Well of course it does, it was made by God, not man. :oD

  99. Melissa says:

    Zarbees is an OTC cough syrup with Honey being the main ingredient. I wonder if its BuckWheat honey? I’ve tried it and it has helped my kids!

  100. […] now know that honey works better than antibiotic cream for burns, and homemade honey cough syrup allows children (and their parents!) to sleep better than over-the-counter meds. And when it comes […]

  101. […] now know that honey works better than antibiotic cream for burns, and homemade honey cough syrup allows children (and their parents!) to sleep better than over-the-counter meds. And when it […]

  102. Meaghan says:

    I can’t find buckwheat honey in Australia. I have replaced it with Manuka honey, which is meant to have healing properties. It has been the best thing so far to get rid of our hacking, post-viral cough.

  103. cynthia says:

    hi my 6months baby girly has been coughing for two days now and im not sure which medicineto give her pls help

    • Heather says:

      Cynthia, I would seek the advice of a qualified professional. This syrup is not appropriate for children under one year. Hope she feels better soon.

  104. qeatta says:

    is it safe to take if you are pregnant?

  105. Looks like a great recipe! I’m going to try this next time someone in my family has a cough. I’m writing a post about coughs (to publish in a few days) and I’m going to link this recipe! :)

  106. Ann B says:

    I have been feeling pretty lousy this week, with a horrible cough. I wrote this recipe down when I first saw it (months ago), figuring I might need it. It’s fantastic! I used 4 TBSP of Bragg’s ACV and added the cayenne for my aches. I’m so happy not to need a chemically-laden syrup. And, thrilled that the cayenne seemed to be enough to take the edge off the aches, so no ibuprofen either! :) Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom.

  107. April says:

    Thanks for this Heather! Two quick questions:

    Where do you find raw buckwheat honey? I’ve never seen it.

    And could you substitute coconut oil for EVOO? I think my son would be more likely to take it that way.


  108. Debbie says:

    Can you combine all the add-in’s at one or should just one add-in be in the syrup?

  109. Monica Fuentes says:

    What is the best way to strain the ginger?

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