Saturday, March 30, 2013

5 Natural Honey Citrus Syrups For Cold, Sore Throat & Flu

Here are 5 easy-to-make, no cook, naturally flavored honey syrups that can be a home remedy to soothe a sore throat or cough. They're also a tasty way to add natural, nutrient-rich flavors to hot tea or water.
A home remedy that works! Combinations of honey, lemon, and tea are age old remedies for soothing a cough or sore throat. Turns out there's actually some science behind them; these old remedies can really work! What luck that they taste good, too--way better than those drug store cough syrups.
Studies have shown that honey can calm a cough as well as, or even better than, over-the-counter cough medicines. Honey has antimicrobial and antioxidant properties and can fight bacteria. Combine it with the nutrients in lemons & other citrus, herbs, and spices, and you've got a natural, delicious way to treat cold and flu symptoms. Blends of honey and citrus can be swallowed straight from a spoon or stirred into hot water or tea. The steam and warmth of hot tea and water are also soothing to sore throats and can relieve stuffiness.
  • Warning:  Never give honey to a child younger than age 1 due to the risk of infant botulism, a rare but serious form of food poisoning.
Honey, lemon, & cinnamon may help with weight loss, too. There is so much conflicting information out there about using honey vs. sugar as a sweetener. It's hard to sort it all out. I have heard & read frequently that honey is metabolized in the same way as sugar, and that they have basically the same effect on the body. However, some recent studies in Nutrition Research and Scientific World Journal conclude that natural, unprocessed honey can help with weight loss. They recommend honey as a healthier sweetener than sugar. Lemon and cinnamon have also been found to contribute to weight loss. Combining the 3 in a honey lemon cinnamon tea can be a winner for both weight loss and calming a cough or sore throat.    Source: Livestrong
A great gift for a sick friend or tea lover! I always want to do something for a friend who is under the weather, but never know how to help. A jar of one of these syrups is just the thing. They are such delicious stir-ins for flavoring hot tea or water, that they make a great gift for tea loving friends, too. I have a printable gift tag you can attach to the jar. You'll find it further down in this post.
My kitchen laboratory. After seeing a variety of honey and sore throat concoctions on Pinterest (see links at bottom of this post), I've spent some time over the past couple of months experimenting with infusing honey with different blends of citrus, herbs, and spices. My goal was to create combos that taste good and are thought to have healing powers. 
  • Disclaimer! I have absolutely no training in nutrition or medicine. My syrups are all based on information I've gathered on the internet. Of course, if you are experiencing severe cold or flu symptoms, or have diabetes or other health conditions, you should consult a doctor. 
Here's a peek at some of the samples that have been hanging out in my fridge that combine a variety of citrus, herbs, spices, and honeys:
I settled on 5 favorite flavor combinations that I'm sharing today. Truth is, they're not just for soothing a sore throat or cough. These syrups taste fabulous stirred into hot water and tea even if you aren't sick. I've loved having them on hand for flavoring my afternoon cup of tea.
Step-by-step photos for making
5 Honey Citrus Syrups 
Ingredients (all chosen for their nutrient-rich qualities, along with good flavor):
  • honey -- I used regular pure, unfiltered honey and buckwheat honey. I initially purchased both at Whole Foods, but found a better bulk price on Amazon.
  • citrus -- lemons, limes, oranges, and clementines
  • herbs -- fresh rosemary & mint
  • spices -- ginger (fresh or dried/ground), whole cloves, ground cinnamon, ground cardamom
Here are links to information about nutrition and healing benefits of:
fresh or dried/ground ginger, cloves & cardamom, cinnamon, peppermint, rosemary, citrus
Organic, washed citrus recommended. Because the fruit isn't peeled, I highly recommend using organic citrus in these syrups. Wash it well, too, to remove any possible contaminants.
What you should know about honey. Well, there's a lot. You'll find a good summary here. For the purpose of making these syrups, here are some tips:
  • Unprocessed, local honey is best. There are various degrees of processing available. Raw honey is the least processed and has the most nutrients. It is however more expensive and less widely available. If using regular honey (not raw), look for 100% pure, unfiltered, unheated varieties. I found some at my grocery store.
  • When honey is exposed to high heat it loses many of its nutrients and benefits. Avoid pasteurized honey that has been exposed to high heat. Microwaving honey is not recommended.
  • Honey comes in many varieties with different flavors depending on where the honey bees collected their pollen. The darker the honey color, the stronger its flavor, and the higher its nutrients and antioxidants.
  • Buckwheat honey is among the most nutrient rich honeys and has been found to be an effective cough suppressant. It is very dark and has a strong molasses flavor. Some like it, some don't. I prefer to mix it half and half with milder honeys for the best flavor & nutrient combo, and to save money (buckwheat honey is more expensive than lighter honeys).  You can read more about buckwheat honey here and here.
  • Honey should be stored at room temperature to avoid crystallization. It has natural preservatives and will not spoil. If it does crystallize, set it in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes to restore its consistency. This amount of heat will not compromise its nutrients. (Note: The honey syrups in this post should be refrigerated, because they contain citrus and herbs. The combination of ingredients keeps them from crystallizing in the fridge.)
view on Amazon:  regular pure organic honey, 5 lbs. pure orange blossom honey (value priced),  1 lb. buckwheat honey, 5 lbs. buckwheat honey (value priced--if you plan on using a lot, this is the best price I've found)
Slice the citrus into rounds. I quarter the rounds of larger citrus like oranges, and half the rounds of limes, lemons, and clementines.
Using ginger. I tested these syrups using both fresh and ground dried ginger, and ended up preferring the ground dried version for the best & easiest flavor punch. Plus, I didn't have to worry about the dried ginger spoiling. (You still get the nutritional benefits of ginger in it's dried form.) If you prefer to use fresh ginger, I recommend grating it rather than slicing it. In my samples using sliced ginger, I could hardly taste the ginger--grating it helped.
  • Fresh ginger tips: Peel it easily with the tip of a spoon. Grate it with a Microplane.
view on Amazon:  Microplane (I also use this for grating garlic and Parmesan cheese; and zesting citrus)
How to stack and mix the syrup ingredients. I'm assembling a lemon ginger honey jar in the illustration below:
  • Add half of the lemon slices, then half of the ginger, then half of the honey; give it a stir with a chopstick, table knife, or other long thin object. Move the lemon slices around to make sure the honey runs between them.
  • Repeat with the remaining lemon, ginger, and honey; stir and top off with more honey, if needed, to fill the jar.
  • This can be done in any size jar. I used half-pint (1 cup jars). The jars should be approx. 3/4 full with citrus. This allows room for at least 1/2 cup of honey per jar.
  • Hint for assembling prettier jars (if you care about that): place some of the lemon slices vertically down the sides of the jar so that full slices are visible from the outside. They tend to stack horizontally otherwise.
view on Amazon: 1/2 pint jars, reuseable plastic lids for jars
From thick to thin syrup. Within 3-4 hours the syrup is ready to use. The honey draws the juices out of the citrus, so give it a stir to combine the honey and juice. The result is that the thick honey transforms into a thin syrup consistency. If you prefer a thicker consistency, increase the ratio of honey to citrus in your jars.
  • Another way to thicken this is to heat & simmer the mixture for approx. 15 minutes; the honey and pectin in the citrus will naturally gel as it cools. However heat destroys many of the nutrients. Personally, I'm happy with these in a thinner syrup consistency so that I benefit from as many nutrients as possible.
5 Citrus Honey Syrup Flavor Varieties:These are my favorite combinations of the ones I tested. 
1. Lemon Ginger Honey
2. Clementine Cardamom Honey
3. Lime Mint Honey. (Note: After about a week the delicate mint leaves begin to darken and should be removed to avoid decay and spoilage. The mint flavor remains infused into the honey.)
4. Lemon Rosemary Honey
5. Orange Clove Honey(cinnamon may be added to this one, too, if you like)
3 honey combos. Below are the Orange Clove Honey Syrups made with different honey combinations.
  1. all regular light honey (mine was an orange blossom honey)
  2. half regular honey and half buckwheat honey -- a nice blend of mild and strong flavored honeys; this is my personal favorite for enjoying good flavor along with the nutrients in buckwheat honey
  3. all buckwheat honey -- honestly, I didn't like the flavor of this one at all--way too strong for my palette. 
Storage and shelf life. These should be covered and stored in the refrigerator. As you use the syrups, you may continue to add more honey to the jars to keep them full.  They are good for at least 2-3 months, maybe longer. Honey is a natural preservative; and citrus has a low pH (high acidic) level that gives it preservative power, too. If you add other more fragile fresh ingredients (like mint leaves), the syrup may not keep as long. I haven't tried using food-grade essential oils in these, but that may be another option for adding flavor and nutrients that won't spoil.
How to use these syrups:
  • Swallow a spoonful or two of honey syrup to soothe a cough or sore throat.
  • Stir a heaping tablespoon (or more to taste) into a cup of hot water.
  • Stir a heaping tablespoon (or more to taste) into a cup of hot tea.
A great gift for an ailing friend or tea lover! 
Print a sheet of these tags for adding the finishing touch to a gift jar of honey citrus syrup.
To use the tags:
  • Print these on card stock, cut them out with scissors, punch a hole in the corner, and hang them from a ribbon or string. 
  • Print them on sticker paper and stick them to your gift. Or, stick them on with tape.
If you don't have a printer or specialty papers, you can have a store with printing services download and print them for you.
Click on this image to download a printable sheet of tags:
These make a unique, thoughtful get well gift. Or, an "any time" gift for tea lovers.
I've been fortunate not to have caught the flu that's been going around. Nevertheless, I've been stirring these tasty syrups into my hot tea regularly. They give it just enough flavor and sweetness.
Make it a Yummy day!

Link directly to this recipe Print this recipe
Honey Citrus Syrups
By Monica
  • honey -- pure, unfiltered, unheated
  • buckwheat honey (optional)*
  • citrus: lemons, oranges, limes, Clementines
  • herbs: fresh rosemary & mint
  • dried spices: whole cloves, ground ginger, ground caramom, ground cinnamon
GENERAL DIRECTIONS FOR FILLING JARS: (see specific ingredients for flavor combinations below)
Slice citrus into rounds. Cut rounds into halves or quarters so they will easily fit inside jar. In half-pint (1 cup) jar, add half of citrus, herbs/spices, and honey; stir gently to mix. Add remaining half of ingredients; stir gently. Top off with more honey, if needed, to fill jar. Cover and store in refrigerator. After 4 hours, stir to combine honey with citrus juices that have released. Syrup is ready to use.  Will keep in refrigerator for up to 1-2 months. As syrup is used, may continue to top off jar with additional honey.

RECOMMENDED FLAVOR COMBINATIONS (These are approximate measurements, since citrus sizes can vary. As a guideline, jar should be approx. 3/4 full of citrus, leaving room for approx. 1/2 cup or more honey.)

--LEMON GINGER HONEY: 1-2 lemons, 1 teaspoon ground ginger (or 2 tsp. grated fresh ginger), 1/2 cup honey (or enough to fill jar).
--ORANGE CLOVE HONEY: 1/2 orange, 16 whole cloves, 1/2 cup honey (or enough to fill jar). Optional: 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon also may be added.
--CLEMENTINE CARDAMOM HONEY: 1-2 Clementines, 1 teaspoon ground cardamom, 1/2 cup honey (or enough to fill jar).
--LIME MINT HONEY: 1-2 limes, 6-8 fresh mint leaves, 1/2 cup honey (or enough to fill jar). Remove mint leaves from jar after 1 week to prevent spoilage.
--LEMON ROSEMARY HONEY: 1-2 lemons, 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, 1/2 cup honey (or enough to fill jar).

*May use all regular honey, all buckwheat honey, or a mixture of half of each. Many find the buckwheat honey flavor to be too strong, so combining it with regular honey is a good compromise.

How to grow a lemon tree from seed

Things you’ll need:
1. A lemon. Make sure you purchase an organic lemon since some non-organic lemon seeds may be “duds”, incapable of germinating. Any organic lemon will do, but if you have climate or space restrictions, you may want to try looking for a specific variety called a “Meyer” lemon. Meyer lemons are a smaller type of lemon, often grown for ornamental purposes, and are thus better suited for indoor containers. I chose Meyer seeds for these reasons, but you can use any seed that makes sense for your situation.

This is a Meyer lemon!
2. Potting soil. I would guess that any potting soil will do, but I suggest using one with a blend of peat, perlite, vermiculite, and organic fertilizer. Every single one of the seeds I planted in this type of certified organic potting mix have sprouted beautifully, so I think it’s fair to say that it works.
3. Container/pot. A container (with drainage holes) that is 5-6” deep and a few inches in diameter will be sufficient for sprouting; however, the seedling will need to be re-potted into a much larger container. Mature lemon trees prefer a container that is wider rather than deeper, so I suggest planting your seedling in a pot that is 10-16” deep and 12-18” in diameter. Your baby tree will happily make itself at home in this larger container for the next few years, at which time you may want to upgrade again.
4. A grow light or lots of sun. Lemon trees need a lot of light, especially when they are sprouting and require 10-14 hours of it each day. If you don’t have a consistently sunny window (like me), get a grow light. They don’t cost much and will prove their worth in healthy green foliage.
Method for sprouting the lemon seed:
1. Pre-moisten your potting soil. Put some soil into a bucket and mix in some water until the soil is damp all the way through.
2. Fill your container with the pre-moistened soil. Leave about an inch of space below the rim of your container.
3. Slice open your lemon and choose a seed that looks completely full of life. Pop it into your mouth and suck on it until all the flesh is removed and the lemon flavour is gone. Do not allow the seed to dry out at any time. It needs to stay moist in order to germinate. I suggest keeping it in your mouth until you’re ready to plant.
4. Plant your seed! While it’s moist, plant your seed about 1/2″ below the soil level. Cover it completely with soil and water well with a squirt bottle or gentle watering can.
5. Cover your container with breathable plastic to keep your seeds warm and moist. I used a piece of clear garbage bag with holes poked into it and a rubber band to securely hold it in place.
6. Place the container in a warm location and observe for the next few days. Keep in mind: your seed needs warmth and moisture in order to germinate. Don’t allow the potting soil to dry out completely. Also take caution that you don’t cook your seed in its little greenhouse. Too much heat and moisture could lead to a rotten seed! You’re aiming to achieve a nice balance, so if you feel like the soil is warm enough without the plastic then it’s probably safest to remove it.
7. In about two weeks you may notice a sprout emerging from the soil. Once it appears, remove the plastic (if it’s still on) and place the little guy in a warm location with plenty of direct sunlight. Supplement sun with your grow light if needed.

Here are my little guys one month after planting.

At a little less than two months old, this little guy is upgrading to a larger home.
8. Care for your new baby and watch it grow! Provide it with:
  • Water. Ensure that the soil is damp at all times, especially when your lemon tree is young. Do not allow it to sit in a puddle of stagnant water though; those drainage holes are there for good reason.
  • Sunlight. Place it in a warm sunny window where it will receive eight hours of direct sunlight each day, or supplement some sun for a grow light. Since Toronto rarely seems to get any sun in the winter, my sprouts reside in a well-lit window under the warm rays of a grow light for 12 hours each day.
  • Food. In order to keep your lemon tree healthy and growing the soil will eventually need to be replenished with nutrients. I suggest feeding it an organic fertilizer, such as compost or vermicompost, once it has developed a nice little set of leaves. Dig a little trench around the base of your tree, fill it with compost and water it well. Or, serve it up as compost tea. Try feeding it twice a year or as needed, but do not overfeed! When it comes to fertilizing, less it best; so if in doubt, put it off a bit longer. (Another option is to start your seed in potting soil with vermicompost or worm castings mixed into it).
  • Love. Spend some time looking at your new citrus friend. Pay attention to its growth. Feel it, talk to it, sing to it, but don’t try to dance with it. Get into the habit of watching for browning leaves and checking the underside of leaves for pests. Just like us, our plants can fall victim to bugs and disease and may sometimes require some extra love and affection.