Recipes / Sips & Syrups

Natural Bourbon-Chamomile Cough Syrup

Mix bourbon, lemon, and hot chamomile tea to make a natural cough syrup

We’re heading into cold season right now, and with a child in preschool, I’m hearing grumblings of a mystery bug that’s “been going around.”

Apparently this bug gets around quite a bit, as it’s all over Central Oregon, Northern California, Southern California, and everywhere else we have friends who are under the weather.

Thankfully this bug and I have yet to meet, and I’ve been fortunate to not catch anything even remotely resembling a cold for the last several years (knock on wood).

But I feel for my friends. Being sick — especially with little ones at home — is a drag.

So, I’m going to share my secret weapon for fighting the winter sniffles!

A Better Tasting and More Natural Cough Syrup

I’ve never liked taking medicine, and I’ve especially never liked the Nyquil that I saw my friends chugging as if it was life-giving elixir.

It wasn’t until I was well into my adult years that I realized cold medicine didn’t actually cure a cold. The only true “medicine” was rest and hydration, and all the other ingredients in your average cold medicine were only meant to help relieve congestion and sore throats.

My mother realized this too, so she always opted for holistic remedies that helped to make me more comfortable while the virus ran its course. She commiserated with my distaste for cough syrup and would send me to bed with a hot mug of tea made with Vietnamese preserved lemon and honey.

The combination of salt (for relieving sore throat), lemon (for boosting immunity), honey (for fighting infections), and hot water (for easing congestion and soothing inflamed nasal membranes) is a natural powerhouse for combating cold symptoms. I still make a mug of this concoction after a long period of travel or work when my body feels worn down.

Lemon is a natural immune booster with antioxidant, antiviral, and antifungal benefits

Salty and sour preserved lemons are somewhat of an acquired taste though, so this Vietnamese home remedy isn’t for everyone.

But no one can say no to bourbon, right?

This is the original nighttime sniffling sneezing coughing aching stuffy head fever so you can rest medicine… only it tastes much, much better than the green stuff in the bottle.

It starts out rather innocuously with the usual characters: hot water, honey, lemon, and chamomile. But then you add a stiff shot of bourbon and take it to bed as a nightcap.

Besides the calming, soothing, and immune-boosting properties of this natural cough syrup, a dose of bourbon will help knock you out so you can sleep soundly through the night.

If you read the label on many off-the-shelf cough syrups, you’ll find that alcohol is a major component in them… this just happens to taste better.

You can use another whiskey or even rum if you’d like, and in much smaller doses (say, a couple of spoonfuls), this natural remedy is even appropriate for children. (But please, consult with your doctor before giving this to your child.)

My ever-resourceful parents sometimes gave me a version of this cough syrup with cognac when they didn’t have preserved lemons on hand. I never appreciated it until I was old enough to know what cognac was!

You might recognize this recipe resembling my Honeylicious Hot Toddy, and you’d be right. Both of these boozy drinks work wonders for general under-the-weatherness, and you can stir in some antioxidant cinnamon to your “cough syrup” if you’re so inclined.

Natural Bourbon-Chamomile Cough Syrup

Makes 1 serving

Ingredients

1 bag chamomile tea
2 ounces bourbon
1 tablespoon honey
Juice from 1/2 lemon

Instructions

Bring a kettle of water to a boil.

Add all of the ingredients to a mug. Pour hot water to fill the mug and allow the tea to steep for about 5 minutes. Stir, sip, and sleep tight!

Yield: 1 serving

Natural Bourbon-Chamomile Cough Syrup

Mix bourbon, lemon, and hot chamomile tea to make a natural cough syrup

Feel a cold coming on? This is the original nighttime sniffling sneezing coughing aching stuffy head fever so you can rest medicine… only it tastes much, much better than the green stuff in the bottle!

Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 2 minutes
Additional Time 5 minutes
Total Time 9 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 bag chamomile tea
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon

Instructions

    1. Bring a kettle of water to a boil.
    2. Add all of the ingredients to a mug. Pour hot water to fill the mug and allow the tea to steep for about 5 minutes. Stir, sip, and sleep tight!

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

1

Serving Size:

1 cup

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 335Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 149mgCarbohydrates: 53gFiber: 1gSugar: 47gProtein: 1g

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This post updated from an article that originally appeared on January 13, 2014.

About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring — all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »

25 Comments

  • Gena
    February 17, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    I forgot about this! When I was a kid my dad, now a healthy 95, gave us kids that very same drink with whisky, and it definitely worked. My husband and I did get the mystery bug and it’s too bad we slugged down Nyquil. Never again : ) BTW…LOVE your blog!

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      February 17, 2014 at 4:31 pm

      Thanks Gena! And hope you get over your bug soon!

      Reply
  • Tina @ GirlwithaNewLife2.com
    January 21, 2014 at 11:42 am

    This is right up my alley. I’ll never drink Nyquil again…

    Reply

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