Homemade Cough Syrup for Kids and Adults!

If you are like me and every other mama of littles, you’ve probably had your fair share of sick kids. One of the very worst feelings is when your poor little darling has a bad cough. Usually a cough is nothing major, but try telling yourself that when you hear them hacking their lungs up all night, and you can’t give them anything other than cuddles and love!

I’ve begged the doctors for cough medicine (they won’t even recommend ANYTHING), and I’ve tried some of the “herbal” concoctions on the market for little ones, but they just didn’t work. And when my little boy Dexter recently ended up with a fever of 105 and a bad cough, I took matters into my own hands.

Now, please PLEASE remember that any fevers need to be treated separately from a cough. Dexter had an infection that required antibiotics, and we gave him Children’s Tylenol for the pain, fever and discomfort. Doctors will be able to advise you on the best course of action. BUT – I’ve not had a doctor yet who would suggest anything for a cough. 

I’ve always used this particular recipe for coughs since my mom taught it to me when I was about 7 or 8 years old. As I got older, I got really into home remedies and holistic medicine, and I researched into it to find out why it works so well. It turns out that onions are active against some microbes, including Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Klebsiella, Pseudomonas and Candida. These are pathogens commonly found in the throat or pharynx and often associated with sore throats or infections that cause cough. In fact, another great common household ingredient that does the same thing is raw honey. Unfortunately, honey is not to be given to children under a year of age, so I use sugar in this recipe to make it useful to everyone. If you have older children, though, or you are making it for yourself, substitute honey for the sugar for more oomph!

This is a super simple recipe. Simply start with an onion and some regular granulated sugar. I use Vidalia Onions, as they are naturally sweeter, and I think they appeal to kids more. You can use any type of onion you want, though some will have a stronger flavor. Similarly you could use fresh minced garlic instead, but I always use onion.

Onion and Granulated sugar to make kid's cough medicine via @amotherthing

First, peel the onion so that all of the outer skin is removed. It doesn’t have to be perfect – you won’t be eating it! Then, slice it up into disks.

sliced onions to make homemade cough syrup

Next, take a bowl and lay a slice of onion in the bottom. Sprinkle it with sugar, liberally. I use about a teaspoon per slice.

Onion slices with sugar to make homemade cough syrup

Stack another slice of onion, and sprinkle with sugar. Continue layering onions and sugar until you have filled the bowl.

Layers of onions and sugar in a bowl to create homemade cough syrup

Then, cover the bowl tightly. I use a strong Tupperware bowl with a lid to make sure it doesn’t leak. Leave it out for an hour or two, allowing the sugar to draw out the liquid within the onions. It is this liquid that will become the cough syrup.

A bowl of layered onions and sugar creating a homemade cough syrup that is safe for kids

You can use the syrup right away, and it is safe to use as often as needed. After it has juiced a bit, it is best to put it in the fridge, where it can stay for up to two days safely. Of course, because of his bad cough, ours was gone in 24 hours. But since it takes no time at all to make another batch, it’s no problem!

The flavor was a big hit with my kid, and it TRULY helped his cough. It didn’t take it away by any means, but it gave him instant relief that lasted for about two hours at a time. As soon as he started to cough, he’d look up at me and say, “Mommy, I need more medicine.”

The greatest part is that you can give them more than one “dose” at a time. It won’t hurt them because it’s natural. The only warning I would give is that because it is very sugary, you’ll want to make sure  they rinse their mouth or brush their teeth so that the sugar doesn’t do any damage.

I even made this for Daniel when he was still a baby, and it worked just as well for him. Use a small medicine syringe for easy dosing.

What are YOUR favorite home remedies?


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Katie Reed

Katie Reed

Katie Reed is a 38 year old mom blogger from Salt Lake City, UT. She is married to the man of her dreams and together they have four beautiful boys. Dexter is 9, Daniel is 7, Chester is 5 and Wilder is 2. She writes about living with mental health issues while navigating motherhood. Her blog focuses on tips and tricks for moms, information and parenting news, kid-friendly recipes and crafts. She loves to reflect on the humorous side of parenthood and shares the reality of her life, with a "warts and all" attitude.

6 Responses

  1. What would you recommend as a dose? I have 2 kids that have bad coughs right now, one is 10 and the other is 11 months.

    1. I usually give about 5mL at a time. You can give as much as you want (my kids ask for more because they like the taste), but I reckon 5mL is about the minimum dose to be effective. At 11 mos, 5mL should be plenty. Also, I have found that putting Vicks on their feet and a pair of socks will really help, too. My 4 year old calls it “magic socks.” 🙂

      Really hope your kids feel better soon!

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