Category Archives: Herbal syrup

Horehound Herbal Candy. Cough Drops. Plant Medicine and Confection.

Marrubio vulgare

Family: Lamiaceae



It is fall and I deleted all my other horehound pictures. drat!

But, horehound is hearty. It has many green leaves still as well as sticky seed pods that orbit between leaf growth on stems. I have been picking up seeds, stuck on my clothes.

Horehound wants to grow other places and maybe I helped deliver some.

One of my favorite places to walk our dog, Fella, is here. Covered with patches of horehound. I have admired the plant for a few years in this beautiful locale, where it grows wild.


I knew it must be horehound although I think it looks less silvery than I have read described, and decidedly more frosted looking.

So, sometimes it takes time to decipher descriptions you read of a plant but, makes it all the more interesting a journey.

Horehound feels fuzzy, like wrinkled, crinkly velveteen. It has these beautiful, crenulate leaves, square stems and beautiful discs of seed pods.


And, it is in the mint family. Although more bitter than minty.
A good bitter for digestion.
I liked the taste though and would like to try horehound beer sometime. A traditional beer.



I always was curious about horehound candy as a child and on Western shows, children were sure to suck on a stick of hard candy, often horehound candy.

My grandmother, mother and aunts would get together around the holidays when I was growing up and make a type of rock or hard candy called beach glass candy. My mom grew up in an ocean town and I always enjoyed the baby food jars or other small jars filled with the bright, snipped bits of multicolored beach glass candy inside. All different flavors. yum.

My life is a little bit homesteading, off grid, work in an herbal shop and slowly I am teaching myself. All about plants, a bit of gardening, jelly and jam making, salt preserving food and bits of old time skills here and there.

I went through a sewing phase a few years back and would really love to find an old time Singer Sewing machine complete with treadle and hand wheel. The original off grid kind. 🙂

I’ve always been fascinated with candy making but haven’t done much. I’ve made chocolate truffles which were a blast and one batch of jelly tasted reminiscent of cotton candy. sugar, sugar sugar to bring it to gel.

But, horehound cough drops are my second attempt to make hard candy a.k.a. herbal candy…cough drops. The first time around I did not use a candy thermometer or the cold water test method so ended up with a taffy like syrup made with elderberries, which was frankly, delicious and gooey, but not hard candy. And, the second time was like a caramel! Maybe my thermometer was touching the side or bottom too much and the reading was off…

So hopefully, 3 times a charm!

With my second attempt, all that foam got downright daunting.
(I’ve read not to stir too much as air can get into the mixture and make it cloud over.) Maybe my pan was not deep enough or I stirred too much as it was foaming to the top so, I scooped some out at the syrup stage, all is not lost. The caramel or taffy consistency cough drops just don’t make it. But the cough syrup I scooped out of that batch is great.


Trial and error with herbs and candy. hard candy making…
guess they don’t call it hard candy for nothing! ha ha ☺

I have found and tried a simple, easy recipe that worked great.

I haven’t bought this much sugar, maybe ever but I had fun making hard candy. Herbal hard candy.
A cooking accomplishment for me.

It works best if you have a thick bottom pot. A thin bottom can scorch your sugar.

A greased baking tray is helpful.

Here is a fairly fool proof recipe:


and art piece ☺


Herbal Candy!

2 Cups white sugar
1/2 Cup strong herbal tea
1 ounce tincture (optional)
powdered sugar to coat candy when done (optional)
3/4 Cup light corn syrup.

A candy thermometer isn’t always foolproof but once I angled it and kept it off the bottom it worked best.

Cold water test:

Also drop mixture when you think it is done in some cold water. If it forms a hard ball it is done. It will be in thread form if not done.

Time to make the Candy a.k.a. cough drops if you like…
They taste good too, and, depending in what you add, room for creativity here!

Pour granulated sugar in pan
Add strained herbal tea and one ounce herbal tincture if you have it.
Whisk together off heat
Then turn on heat to medium using a thick bottomed pan if you can.
Add corn syrup, use wooden spoon
and stir too incorporate.
Don’t stir too much, lower heat if you need to to avoid scorching.
Angle thermometer to avoid hitting the bottom as this throws off the temperature…(yep)
listen to some good music 🎶…. wait a half hour or so, watch pot it can get foamy and unruly.
Eventually thermometer will rise to 300°
Some recipes say to bring it to 305°
but, I found 300° works better, so recommend that.
Add any food grade essential oils for flavor when temp reaches 275° fahrenheit. If adding color, add at this stage as well. Non toxic food coloring can be found too. Be careful of steam/reaction when adding essential oils or colors at these high temperatures. Some colors maintain better when removing heat at 290° but candy may be more sticky at this stage. I haven’t tried adding colors or essential oils since the cayenne, ginger and cinnamon added good flavor. And, I like the amber colored candy.

I tried transfering to a pyrex pitcher but the mixture hardened quickly off heat.
Yay! I broke the code but it was challenging. A helper would be good.

I made depressions in powdered sugar to act as a mold and also greased and lined a pan with a heap of powdered sugar too.

The powdered sugar also helps the mixture not to stick.



And it kind of worked. I broke the lozenges out of the thinner parts of candy. With the other pan I just broke the candy into bite size pieces. fun again!

Eventually I had more success pouring the mixture all at once instead of trying to fill each depression with the hot mixture.

That is where the greased baking tray would come in handy.

In the old fashioned way to break up hard candy, in about an hour just break it with the handle side of a butter knife.

Fun and satisfying.

Coat with powdered sugar by tossing it in a pan lined with the sugar or use a bag with powdered sugar in it and shake, if you want. It’s optional.

I mixed in powdered ginger too.

These cough drops…a.k.a. herbal candy contain many goodies….
grindelia, horehound and thyme tincture, and these herbs in the tea: red root, horehound, cayenne, cinnamon, ginger, thyme, and osha!



sugar sugar sugar how about minus sugar recipes… here goes!

You can also make Sugarfree Lozenges!

Use slippery elm powder as the flour. Or marshmallow root powder. I wasn’t sure if marshmallow root powder would work but it worked great.

Slippery elm is on an herbal watchlist. Due to overharvesting and elm diseases.
An herbal friend has used Siberian Elm that worked well.

Look for cultivated Slippery elm or try marshmallow root powder. It worked well for me too.

Make an herbal tea, strain and
let the tea cool. Licorice tea or other herbs such as red root or osha would work well here.

Add enough tea to form a dough.
Mix and pat the dough into a ball.


Press or roll into shape.
Use small cookie cutters or a bottle cap or just cut strips into small pieces, lozenge size.


Dusted with powdered ginger, soothing to sore throats.

Slippery elm powder mixed with a strained herbal tea made from horehound, licorice, osha, red root.

Have fun with this! You can use the slippery elm as a method to mix lots of herbs.

Consider a happy mood lozenge.
Or a soothing tummy lozenge…
Possibilities are happily endless here.

Slippery elm, alone, has many health benefits: mucilage, soothing to gastric tissues, in combination with licorice can heal ulcers, helps heal mucous membranes -throat, etc.

Slippery elm lozenges are a fun activity to do with kids of all ages!

Try other herbal powders too!


This is the marshmallow root dough


And, the marshmallow lozenges cut into shape.

*A tip for drying lozenges. Mine molded. Even when dried for a few days. I recommend purified water, and drying on lowest setting of an oven til completely dry. Air dry first if you like.

Also honey or tiny amounts of stevia can be added to sweeten.

Lemon balm, elder berry and mints make nice flavor additions to counteract bitter herbs.


Hard Candy Cleanup Tips!

Clean up works best with very hot water. It dissolves the candy. Some people suggest adding vinegar to the hot water. Soap and a scrubby sponge helps. But hot water is the trick.

Careful not to immerse the thermometer into cold water after cooking with it, as it could break!



And the cough drops in a fun, recycled jar.

The herbal hard candy looks metallic but is a deep amber brown topped with powdered sugar and ginger.

They taste mildly spicey too. Not bad for medicine afterall.

And, horehound in a happy autumn field.


Fun with cough drops and lozenges, who knew?


The circle of life. The Little Elder Tree Mother. Elderberry syrup and Tea!

Elder tree
Sambucus nigra
Sambucus spp
Family: Caprifoliaceae


berries still green…. these will ripen to a blue/black color


woodland, near streams, fields, gardens

more info

Common Names: Lady Elder, Frau Holle, Pipe tree, Sambucus spp, American Elder, Common Elder, Black Elder, Bour Tree, and European Black Elder.

Parts Used: Flowers and Ripe Berries only.


Potassium nitrate, sambucin, sambunigrin, sugars. The complex sugars of the berries are the immune-active fraction.

Elderberries are high in Vitamins A and C. Also Quercetin, an anti-oxidant. Elderberries are also anti-inflammatory and anti-viral.

They are diaphoretic, make you sweat and help a fever to spike and then lower it. Elderberry syrup, for instance, can prevent a flu and if you have one it will shorten the duration. See dosage amounts toward end of the post.

See: Mountain Rose Herbs

Harvest and storage: Harvest berries when black. Pick flowers early on a dewless morning. Spread flower heads on clean kitchen paper and leave in a warm, dark dry place for several days.

Leaves are used as a pesticide only.
Herbal insecticide:

The Elder tree is resistant to honey fungus. To repel aphids, mites, leafhoppers, whitefly and cabbage loopers from the garden: make a strong infusion of the leaves.

Leaves and Branches are Poisonous!!!

See my post about harvesting milkweed. I tell a story about my friends goats. You cannot feed goats cut off leaves or branches from the elderberry tree!
my friend’s story

But the ripe berries and the flowers are so healing and make delicious preparations!


I sweetened a homemade Elderberry Syrup with Raw, Wild Desert Honey! And I will show you how. Like the Elder Mar or mother… I will take us on a circular journey through fairytales, herbal wisdom and folklore.

To start with, please meet Little Elder-Tree Mother!


Little Elder Tree Mother


Hans Christian Andersen wrote a charming tale, the Little Elder-Tree Mother, of the circle of life and the gracious spirit of the Elderberry tree. In the story a little boy gets sick with an illness and his mother makes him an elder flower tea. (Elderberry syrup would be a sweet cure too.) Sick, in bed and recuperating because of the healing elder flower tea…a young boy seeks entertainment through stories.

Elder flower heals

And a delightful tale is woven for him, by an elderly man who is his neighbor. The young boy sips the healing nourishment his mother made for him and he slips into the world of dreams and stories of the Elder tree and its spirits.


Everyone in the little boy’s village appreciates and loves the Elder tree. And with time, so does he. It begins as he peers into the teapot and is “read the promise of elder tea flowers.”

more of the story here

I really love this story as the old woman is looked at as kindly and a keeper of the magic healing and cycle of life. All as it unfolds under the keeping sanctuary of the Elder tree.

The elder tree was revered in ancient times as sacred but, the association of the elder tree went through a tainted time. Being associated with the cross in Christianity and tragic forebodings.

elder tree and folklore

However, the undercurrent remains. That regardless of history and the attempted overthrow of one culture to another such as pagan, to monotheism… the undercurrent of pagan knowledge and subsequent knowledge and remedy remains.

I think herbal folkways here.

The healing power of elder flowers and elderberries has remained with the traditional use and remedies such as: cordials, teas, vinegars (like a balsamic,) syrups, lozenges, wines and candies, and food.
Even oxymels. Probably as many uses as can be thought up.


image source

Folklore and folkways can be so healing.

The Elder tree has always been revered, with healing remedies and recipes, treasured and passed on.

Tradition of use, that remains today… indicates so.

Rosemary Gladstar, a well known herbalist talks about the Elder tree. That it is known as Elder Mar. The Elder Mother. It often has been planted on the edge of gardens and I have also read that if an Elder tree grew on the land, it was considered auspicious to build a home and make a life there. Due to the protective nature of the Elder tree and the healing that it gives.



Rosemary talks about plants as our elders and teachers since they were on the planet before us and have served us in our ability to be here too.

She also inspires me to make elderberry blossom fritters. Yum!

Watch Rosemary and the Elder Tree


How to Make Delicious Homemade Elderberry Syrup!

I do not have Elderberry trees growing near me but many of you do! Harvest your berries in the late summer and early Fall when they are dark. In this case black berries. I bought my elderberries at a local Herb shop in Santa Fé, New Mexico. Otherwise I would have gladly foraged them!

You can buy dried Elderberries from Herbs etc. or Mountain Rose Herbs above. Do you have an Herb store nearby? Or an Elderberry tree?… 🙂


I jotted down some notes but had to revise my recipe. I used 1 Cup dried Elderberries and the original 4 cups only simmered to less than 1 cup of syrup. Even adding honey would not equal as much as I hoped. So I added 6 Cups water to 1 Cup elderberries. I got a full sized pint glass plus a bit more for my little syrup pitcher for tomorrow’s pancakes. Yum!


I added raw honey to this little pitcher of syrup but my phone died waiting for the elderberry decoction to cool! So it is a full pitcher now! Can’t wait to try it!

I made a syrup using dried berries but fresh or frozen work great too! You can also dry or freeze your excess berries for future use!

What You Need:


Elderberries, dried or fresh. 1 Cup dried or 2 Cups fresh.


Ground cinnamon… 1 teaspoon or 2 cinnamon sticks



Raw Honey

6 Cups water


A mesh strainer and/or cheesecloth and funnel


A kitchen thermometer can help

Use a non-reactive pot. Not aluminum!

And syrup jars 🙂


This is an easy recipe and one you can keep on hand!
One batch lasts a month in the refrigerator or freeze the syrup in trays. Keep dried or frozen berries on hand to make more. Make a yummy soda using elderberry syrup and bubbly water. Add frozen elderberry syrup cubes for a very yummy soda. Use the syrup on icecream, in yogurt or as a healthy flu preventive or remedy!

It’s easy to make!

Take 1 Cup dried or 2 Cups fresh elderberries
Add 1 tsp ground cinnamon
6 Cups water
Bring to roiling boil (important, kills yeast on berries)
Simmer for 1/2 hour.

Strain into jars. Make sure mixture is not too hot. Glass jars are best and too hot of liquid can crack or break the container!

Use thermometer and wait for the juice to be 100°

Any hotter is not good because you want to add the raw honey when it won’t get killed off because of the heat. Raw honey is one of the reasons this syrup is so healthfilled!

Raw Honey is Healthy!

Honey Bees!

Also bees try to maintain their hive to around 100° also. Isn’t that amazing?!

small steps can help the life of bees!

Mix in the honey and refrigerate. Keeps for 1 month.
Also brandy increases shelf life of this syrup and other ingredients like apple cider vinegar, cloves and ginger can be added.


Desert Garden Spaces


Speaking of Bees… my friend grows a lovely flower garden every year. I think his neighbor wonders why there aren’t more vegetables. But flowers are so beautiful. And flowers heal, smell wonderful and are just gorgeous. So the next time someone wrinkles up their nose to you when you say you want to grow flowers… remember…

An organic flower garden…

Really makes the life of bees!

Here are my friend’s beautiful flowers from his garden and some very happy bees… on their way to make that health yielding honey.

Lucky Us! Explore this thriving desert garden for a while. And a bee’s perspective!





And many thanks to my friend the gardener, for this lovely garden and bee tour!



Elderberry syrup… you keep us healthy and here is how:

I found Dosage Recommendations in a helpful site posted below.

Check it out!

(excerpted below)

“Dosage Take 1 Tbs. 2 – 3 x/day as needed to boost the immune system. I usually take elderberry syrup if I feel I might get sick and continue to take it until all symptoms have cleared. If you do get sick or are already sick, continue to take elderberry syrup through the course of illness. Elderberry syrup is an excellent remedy for children. Children under 10 should take half the adult dose. Children under 5, one quarter the adult dose. Children ages 1 – 2, 30 drops. Children under 1 should not have honey and therefore should not have elderberry syrup made with honey.”

Nurses make Elderberry syrup too!


Cinnamon and Elderberries getting ready to boil then simmer


Mashing the juice out of the cooked berries


A fun and useful Herb book that gave me some good info about Elder.

And finally,

Still Life with Strainer meets up with


Elderberry healing and yummy syrup for pancakes tomorrow. And thank goodness I added the honey when it cooled. Yum!



Thankyou for taking this journey with me and Enjoy Your Elderberry Syrup. A tradition for years to come and to pass on!



This pancake mix rocks! And elderberry syrup!

pretty elderberries in silhouette…