Preparing for Cold and Flu Season – How to Make an Herbal Oxymel and Herbal Cough Medicine
Learn how easy it is to make an herbal oxymel and your own herbal cough medicine.
Are you prepared for your next cold? Do you want to make your own herbal medicine but feel overwhelmed at finding the ingredients or preparing the medicine yourself? Don’t wait until the next time you aren’t feeling well to try an herbal remedy! There are simple yet powerful medicines you can make easily at home with common kitchen ingredients. Start now with this easy, yet incredibly effective honey vinegar cough medicine.
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What is an Oxymel? Making Your Herbal Cough Medicine
Oxymels were used during the time of the Renaissance, and is the simple practice of combining herbs with vinegar and honey. Vinegar helps to concentrate and direct the herb’s medicine to the respiratory tract, and honey is an excellent antimicrobial and soothing for coughs and sore throats. Oxymels are a tasty way to take your medicine!
The Latin translation for oxymel is literally “acid and honey”. Combining the health benefits of raw honey, apple cider vinegar, with herbs creates a highly effective remedy.
I make an oxymel early each fall, using fresh herbs from my garden. But you can make yourself a batch right now with fresh, dried, or a combination.
This simple oxymel is a wonderfully effective traditional recipe. My other seasonal favorite is a simple herbal honey using the collective power of sage, ginger, garlic, and raw honey to stop a cold when it is starting. You will love making this simple and delicious cold and flu medicine.
How to Make an Oxymel
There are several different methods for making oxymels. The simplest method, and the one I use, is to simply combine the herbs with vinegar and honey, and allow the plant medicinal properties to infuse. This is the best method for aromatic herbs, such as rosemary, sage, and thyme, as it preserves the aromatic oils.
I fill a pint-sized canning jar 1/3 full with herbs, 1/3 with honey, and 1/3 with vinegar. Place the lid, give a shake, and let it sit! After a week or two, strain off the herbs and bottle your honey-vinegar mixture.
The herbs I chose for this oxymel recipe offer benefits for upper respiratory infections, relieve cough and sore throat, and are immune-boosting.
Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)
Hyssop has been shown to have antiviral properties, excellent for relieving symptoms associated with cold and flu season. Hyssop has a warm spicy energy, and has a long history of use as remedy for treating upper respiratory symptoms.
Hyssop has a pungent flavor, said to be similar to camphor. I don’t care for the strong flavor, so I combined my hyssop with the aromatic sage and thyme, both of which have medicinal properties to complement the hyssop.
Sage (Salvia officinallis)
Sage is my favorite kitchen medicine! Sage is a plant used as food and many kinds of medicine for thousands of years. For colds and flu, research demonstrates antiviral and antibacterial properties – killing the virus and bacteria responsible for our respiratory infections. Sage relieves our cough and sore throats, and because sage has astringent properties, it’s excellent for treating drippy sinus. *Should not be used medicinally when pregnant or breast-feeding.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Thyme is another mint family (Lamiaceae) herb known for its antimicrobial properties. It helps to relieve fevers and sore throats, and has expectorant qualities, helpful in relieving coughs. In fact, thyme has a long history of treating coughs. Dioscorides, an ancient Greek physician and pharmacologist, wrote of the healing benefits of thyme in his Materia Medica, a text that was widely read for nearly 1,500 years. Clinical studies are indicating the benefits of thyme (dried or extract) in treating bronchitis.
Thyme has a hot, dry energy, and a wonderful aroma and flavor. (It’s another one of my favorite kitchen herbs.)
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)
Elderberry has been used in folk medicine for centuries to treat colds and influenza, and research shows it has powerful antiviral properties. (source) In addition to antiviral properties, elderberries have a direct effect on the immune system, and elderberries have been shown to be a safe and effective treatment for both cold and flu (source).
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Honey Vinegar Cough Medicine
To make this recipe you’ll need…
- Hyssop (fresh or dried)
- Sage Leaf (fresh or dried)
- Thyme Leaf (fresh or dried)
- Dried elderberries
- Raw Honey (local is best)
- Organic raw apple cider vinegar
- Jar with a plastic lid (If you use a metal lid, place waxed paper to prevent the vinegar from eroding the metal)
To make your oxymel, you want a good ratio of herbs to vinegar and honey. The easiest way to do this is to fill your jar 1/3 with the herbs and add equal parts honey and vinegar to fill the jar. Label and place lid. Although you can begin using the medicine within a day or two, it’s best after it sits, preferably a week or more.
When you are ready to use, strain the herbs and take by the teaspoonful. If dealing with an acute issue it is generally better to take smaller amounts more often, rather than larger doses only a few times a day. For my congested cough I took this oxymel 2 teaspoons every 2 hours for the first few days. Once my cough improved, I took 2 teaspoons three times a day until my cough was resolved (about three days.)
Oxymels will keep for a long time.
Let me know if you have any questions!
In good health,
If you want to learn more about making and using herbal medicine for you and your family, I highly recommend The Herbal Academy online courses. Last year I thoroughly enjoyed their Intermediate Herbalist Course. They offer all levels of classes, from beginner to advanced, and their coursework includes plenty of recipes!
Please Note: the information provided here is not intended to replace professional medical advice and care. It is simply my perspective for you to consider as you make good choices for you and your family’s health. The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and maintaining health. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care. The information provided has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not meant to diagnose any disease, nor is it intended to treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Seek the support and care of a physician and/or complementary care practitioner you trust, and above all, listen to and trust in yourself. Be well!
Alyssa Spring says
Thank you so much! I love natural healing … have never tried Thyme yet! I will definitely try this recipe out … which you had a button so I could Pin it!
Seeking Joyful Simplicity says
Thank you for taking the time to comment Alyssa. You are right, I should have a pin button, sorry about that. I do hope you give it a try, it is empowering to make our own medicine, and despite my constant skepticism, I am almost always impressed with the effectiveness of the simple remedies.
Katy SkipTheBag says
Interesting recipe! I’ve not heard of hyssop before. Thanks for sharing on the #wastelesswednesday blog hop!
Carol L says
Hi! You sent me the link to this post in a subscriber email. In that email, you mention Astragalus and echinacea tincture. Do you have a recipe for that as well? I’m in the process (yes, a bit late!!) of making several things for winter: Fire Cider, elderberry syrup, this recipe and the other one you gave a link to, Sage, ginger, garlic, honey. I usually run out of both my fire cider and the elderberry syrup, so I thought I’d add a few more, and I’d really love to have the Astragalus and Echinacea tincture as well.That should put me through the winter season.
Seeking Joyful Simplicity says
Sorry for the late reply Carol, yesterday was a travel day for me and then trying to catch up on work (airport travel always makes me so darn tired!) Thank you for reminding me of the Fire Cider – I haven’t made a batch in a long time (no one uses it but me, so I try to make things the family will take!) I typically make things without much measuring – the “wise woman” way that was shared with me by my teachers. I purchase astragalus root and make a basic tincture – filling a pint-sized mason jar 1/2- 2/3 full (my experience with dried root herbs is they absorb A LOT of alcohol and expand a lot) and covering with 80-proof alcohol. Allow to sit and then add more alcohol as needed to keep the herb covered. I do the same for the Echinacea – you could combine them into one tincture, but I generally prefer to make simples – I feel it allows me to experience the individual plant remedies better as I continue to learn and experiment. Did you read the research article I shared? I love it when science validates the herbal traditions!
Do you have any thoughts on using kombucha vinegar for oxymels?
I’ve been messing around with the concept and the issue I’ve run into is that it continues to “grow” when given the new nutrients and sugars. Do you think that’s an issue? Any thoughts are appreciated!