Homemade Honey & Onion Cough Syrup

cough syrupHere’s a recipe for an all-natural cough syrup that is great for adults, and can be adjusted so that it excludes honey when using for young children. It saves money, tastes better than it sounds, and is healthier (and probably more effective) than over-the-counter cough medicine to boot. Using OTC cough medicine is just extra money spent, extra chemicals, and a nasty flavor, none of which you need when you’re already battling a cough.

How to Make Homemade Onion & Honey Cough Syrup- once you make this at home, you will never want to buy store-bought cough syrup again.

Note: If you have a productive cough, as in you’re coughing up mucous, avoid suppressing it. The action of coughing is important to loosen up phlegm or mucous and get it out of your lungs.

Ingredients: Red onion/garlic, honey, brown sugar/white sugar

Why red/yellow onion or garlic: Onion is contains a milder form of some of the active components in garlic, but both strengthen the immune system, work as natural anti-biotics, anti-inflammatories, and expectorants (they loosen up mucous so you can cough it up.)

cutting onions

Why honey: If you have a dry cough, honey is great for soothing itchy and irritated throats.

It’s also a natural anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal wonder ingredient (although hopefully if you have a cough you won’t need the anti-fungal part.)

raw honey

Why brown sugar/white sugar: A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down right? Besides making this syrup a little easier to swallow, it can help thicken the syrup up a bit.

You will need…
-1 red or yellow onion OR 1 head to ½ head of garlic

-Roughly a cup of organic raw honey or roughly a cup OR roughly a half of granulated white sugar or brown sugar*

-A jar or something similar with a tight fitting lid that will comfortably but snugly hold your onion.

*the amounts may vary slightly with the size of container you use*

cough syrup ingredients

Slice the onion evenly. Place the base of the onion in your jar, and then pour honey in a layer over it (or cover in a layer of sugar, if that’s your sweetener of choice.) Continue to alternate layering the onion and sweetener. When you’re finished, cover tightly and let it sit overnight out on the counter, or for 8-12 hours. After it has sat out, there will now be liquid in the jar. Use a spoonful as needed to control your cough (3 spoonful’s an hour, if needed.)You can use both the honey and brown sugar if you like, just adjust the layering accordingly, and remember that it will be sweeter! If you choose to use garlic, unlike onion, there is no exact amount to put in. Start with 9-12 cloves or so roughly chopped and find your flavor balance from there. Just remember you shouldn’t use too little; otherwise it won’t work as well.

how to make it

Directions for kids
If you have a child too young to have honey, don’t despair because every single home cough remedy seems to have honey in it! The above recipe can be safely made for youngsters-just omit the honey and use only the sugar.

Note: This syrup should be used fresh. After you make it, you can store it in the fridge for up to 2 days. After that, just whip up another batch.

Flavor tips

– Red onion lends itself to a slightly milder tasting syrup, and generally goes better with brown sugar (in my opinion) while a regular yellow onion tends to taste a bit stronger, and blends a little more with white sugar.

– Feel free to leave out the sugar and just use honey, or vice versa.

– If onion or garlic sounds scary to you, I promise, it’s so, so, so much better than over-the-counter stuff!

Onion Tip

I get so bleary and teary eyed when I chop onions, I can barely see where I am putting the knife. If already have a bad cough, I really don’t need the stinging eyes, or a missing finger. For a Christmas present one year, my significant other got me a pair of onion goggles. Oh how they have saved my life (and my fingers.) If you find yourself being particularly bothered by onions when you slice them up, I would highly recommend these.

onion goggles

Does cough medicine actually really do anything?

The taste of over-the-counter cough syrup is almost reason enough to suffer through a persistent cough. Taste aside, it turns out they actually don’t do as much as we thought they did, if they do anything at all. In 2006 The American College of Chest Physicians did a study that found that, despite the billions of dollars spent every year on them, cough syrup did not work for people with coughs caused by a virus. Brushed aside by big companies claiming that their products “wouldn’t be so popular if they didn’t work” this study did not get the credit it deserved. In 2010, a review of studies found there really isn’t any evidence over-the-counter cough medicine did anything-even ones with ingredients like dextramoraphane of guafesenin. Those with codeine had such trace amounts they would have no real effect (which makes sense, since they’re selling it over the counter.)

In 2008, the FDA put it out there that because there was no proof of them actually working, and little research on side effects, cough syrup should be avoided in children under the age of 4. The American Academy of Pediatrics took this a step farther, saying to avoid use in children under 6 (thanks, mom, for making me drink nasty syrup out of that silly little plastic cup!)

If they don’t necessarily do anything then, why do we spend so much money on them?  A lot of it is probably because people take comfort in them-and don’t ever, ever, ever, underestimate the power of the placebo effect.

You may also like our list of 22 Sore Throat Remedies

We Want to Hear from You! Let us know which remedies work and do not work for you, ask a question or leave a comment:


  1. Nancy says:

    My mother gently boiled the sugar and onions , then had us children to put a towel over our head and breathe in the misty fumes. We also drank a cup of solution. It worked wonders !!!
    I lost this recipe for awhile, I’m so glad to once more have it ! Thank you….

  2. manjula sant says:

    thank you for sharing…now everyone can enjoy as well ….make it at home…

  3. Jean says:

    When a young child my grandmother would squeeze the juice out of an onion, mix it with honey or sugar and give it to me for cough….that’s all we had and it worked…

  4. Tamirosy says:

    This works wonders – my grandmother has been telling me create this syrup and when I made it I was surprised to see a syrup. I give it to my kids and myself. It really is a true healer!!

  5. Edith says:

    Could you use onions and garlic at the same time? wouldn’t it work better? 🙂

  6. lisa says:

    I made this last year with honey & garlic.. to prolong the life of it I put it in the freezer..
    when we need some I can scoop out a bit & put it back in the freezer..

  7. Anthony says:

    I would personally avoid any kind of sugar while having a cough. Bacteria and virus thrive in high blood sugar and it’s the reason their in your body in the first place. Drinking honey or sugary cough syrup while sick is like covering your body with honey and sitting on an ant hill. Give your immune system the upper hand and starve the germs. Abstain from sugar and starch

  8. Juanita Allen says:

    I was just telling my hubby about one of the older ladies in my church made this for me when I was sick but, I didn’t get the recipe from her. Thanks for posting. I would love some lung strengthening recipes.

  9. Carine says:

    I am at my wit’s end with the cough I have now entertained for 4 days. It started 4 days ago and then has become steadily worse. Nights are worse than days as I am not getting a good sleep. I was told about this onion and brown sugar syrup for coughs by a friend about an hour ago. Then I went to the internet. Every single mention of this “home” remedy insists it works. I am so fed up with the pharmacy and pharmacists that sell you this and that all at ridiculous prices and most of which do NOT work. So am going to give this a try and my wonderful hubby agrees and just made some. So we will wait the fours hours in the fridge as suggested in one mention (with the chopped onion thinking it makes the syrup faster) because the past two over the counter meds suggested by my pharmacists did nothing except make me poorer. I would think that if in fact this is not good for one because of the sugar that should be avoided as suggested by Anthony states, then many, many people who have been commenting from personal experience apparently must be dreaming. I will give this a try cause the other option is not nice at all!

  10. Jean says:

    We used onion syrup at home but only with sugar. Cut the onion (any kind on hand) into thin slices, chop up if you wish, then spoon white or brown sugar over the onion, cover the container with plastic wrap and let it sit on the kitchen counter at room temperature till the juices of the onion mix with the sugar, (usually within 1 hour) stir and use a spoon to drain some of the syrup. It works great! After it starts to make the syrup, then you put it in the frig.

  11. irene says:

    I just made this last night after seeing this article and I was wondering, how do I store this? And for how long is it good?

  12. Amazed 103 says:

    I have been so desperate to find a good medicine for my awful dry cough. I just couldn’t cough the flem out and my nose gave me horrible sinus pressure, I tried steam and tea and cough medicines i was going to give up and see about getting musenex until I found your page for the Cayenne pepper mix . i really didn’t think something like ginger or apple cider vinegar would work, later at night I was having a horrible time sleeping from my irritated throat I ran downstairs mixed up the stuff and drank it. (so spicy) but almost immediately my nose cleared up and I could talk a little bit again. I was so happy and entirely grateful to whomever made this page. thank you so much ! this has helped me so much. thank you

  13. davinder says:

    Honey and Termeric really helps a congested chest. Termeric is a source of Healer for many symptoms

  14. Fareeha says:

    Onion is known to heal cold and cough. I remember being told to cut onion if I had cold. Also putting onion peeled and cut in half to the bedside can relieve the person suffering from cold by clearing the air passage and is really helpful in bronchitis in which dripping of the loose mucus in the back of the throat is the cause of cough almost always at night.thanku for the recipe…

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