Herbal Liqueur or Tincture for Coughs and Colds?

Across Europe there are a range of liqueurs that are flavoured with herbs. These include Fernet and Centerbe in Italy, Pelinkovac or Pelinkovec in Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia, Pelin in Bulgaria, Unicum in Hungary, Chartreuse and Benedictine in France, Becherovka from the Czech Republic, Demänovka from Slovakia, Gammel Dansk from Denmark and  Kräuterlikör from Germany of which Jägermeister is the best known example.  Some of these drinks can be traced back several hundred years and some to the middle ages where they began life as a medicine.  

Infusing medicinal plants in alcohol is a common way of storing and preserving their properties and is generally referred to as a tincture. This recipe came about as an experiment a couple of years ago. On our Hedgerow Medicine and Medicinal Wild Plant course amongst other things, we make a blend of a selection of dried herbs which when  infused in hot water can be taken as a general cough, cold, ‘flu, and sore throat remedy. We had some of the plants left over so we decided that a tincture would probably be just as effective……the resulting drink was so nice we decided we couldn’t wait until we had a cold to drink it!!

To have a go at making this tincture you will need to collect the following;-

  • Two handfuls of Honeysuckle flowers
  • Jar of runny honey
  • Holly leaves
  • Self-heal (collect in full flower)
  • Yarrow
  • Meadowsweet Flowers
  • Ground Ivy leaves

Place the honeysuckle flowers in a clean jar and fill up with runny honey and leave on a sunny windowsill for a couple of weeks.  All the rest of the plants need to be dried in a dark airy place (see earlier blog on drying herbs)

IMG_1877Fresh honeysuckle flowers ready to be infused in honey – they contain salicylic acid and are antiseptic


IMG_2054Meadowsweet flowers also contains salicylate salts and is also a relaxant

IMG_2059Holly leaves alleviate fever and stimulate sweating

IMG_2055Ground Ivy is anti-inflammatory 

IMG_2057 Self-heal stimulates the immune system and is also anti-viral

IMG_2058Yarrow relaxes the skin and opens the pores as well as lowering blood pressure.

Once dried, place a good couple of handfuls of each dried plant (roughly equal quantities of each) in a kilner jar  and cover with 1.5 litres of neat vodka, cheap vodka is fine. Leave for at least a couple of weeks for the vodka to extract all the flavour and medicinal properties from the plants.


Then strain out the herbs and sweeten to taste with the honeysuckle honey, we added about 200ml of the honey to the 1.5 litres of tincture.

You can experiment with other plants that are also traditionally used to alleviate colds, coughs and sore throats such as;- elderflower, cherry bark, coltsfoot, willow bark, as well as vitamin C rich berries like elder berries, bilberries etc. You could also use the spruce syrup from an earlier blog instead of the honey to sweeten it. All will add different flavours to the liqueur.

For medicinal use, take a tablespoon of the tincture in a glass of water three times a day to ease the symptoms of colds, influenza, coughs and sore throats. Or simply drink as an aperitif or liqueur……remember to drink sensibly.


Kev Palmer

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