THE RECIPE BOX - Horehound cough syrup: a natural alternative to over-the-counter medicine

THE RECIPE BOX - Horehound cough syrup: a natural alternative to over-the-counter medicine

CUMBERLAND - "One of the basic rules in working with herbs, or any living thing for that matter, is to know that your intentions matter and they are the most important part of the ingredients," said Mary Santoro, of Hazel Mae's Herb Shop.

She is a certified Holistic Health Practitioner, from Millville, Mass., specializing in health consulting, herbal remedies, plants and jewelry. She creates necklaces, rosary beads, earrings and more, using Job's Tears - an herb that drops tiny teardrop-shaped beads. They are thought to spread good energy when touched and have been used medicinally for centuries. Job's Tears is a grain-bearing tropical plant but has been naturalized in the southern U.S. as an annual plant.

Mary held a class at the New Dawn Earth Center in Cumberland last Wednesday evening where those in attendance learned how to make horehound cough syrup and took home a sample as well as a pot of seeds to grow and plant in the home herb garden, once the snow clears.

But before we began, we all had to clear our energy. Mary instructed us to take a few deep breaths, first in and then letting it out through the mouth. With a motion of stretching the arms wide apart and bringing them back to center, as if holding an invisible ball. I could feel the stress dissipating while thinking to myself, "Maybe I should breathe like this more often?" "Focus, focus," I admonished myself.

"Horehound is a happy little plant," Mary shared. Their white flowers grow around the stems, which are sturdy and almost squarish, while the leaves are textured and feel "like lace" she said. Bees love them too.

"Even though they are not very aromatic, they are so pretty and will spread marginally, not crazy like mint," she assured. Horehound is used in teas, cough syrup, hard candies and even in a hot bath to promote perspiration to sweat out a fever.

"This cough syrup calms a cough instantaneously," Mary said. "After a few doses, it breaks down mucus associated with colds and has no side effects. Your head doesn't get foggy like with some over-the-counter cold medicines," she said. "It really calms things down and will keep in a sterile jar for about three to four months."

Remember, this has no high fructose corn syrup or preservatives added. In fact, she urges if you are suffering from a cough and cold, continue drinking lots of fluids, especially water. "You still need to flush mucus and toxins out of the body," Mary said.

Her products are made with very simple ingredients, not chemical names you can't pronounce. The horehound can be harvested a couple of times a year. Just cut them to length, tie the bundle together and place in a paper shopping bag. Mary pointed out that the bags with the little paper handles work best.

Put the herb into the bag, make several slits into the sides before hanging in a closet or place to dry. We watched her hand-strip some stalks, flowers and all, by sliding her hand up the stem. Her next step would be to place both leaves and flowers directly into a 16-ounce size sterilized Mason jar. "I have found that this size jar when full of the dried herb will weigh out to the 1 ounce you need for a batch of cough syrup," she said.

While her students must now wait for their own horehound seeds - a tiny little black seed no bigger than a poppy seed - to grow and be planted in their herb gardens this spring, there are local places that sell herbs, such as Seven Arrows Farm on the Attleboro/Seekonk, Mass. line, when not available in season.

Mary offered a suggestion about where not to plant as well. "Keep medicinal herbs away from the road," she urged. Toxins such as salt, oil and fumes will compromise the herbs. "Herbs will work for you if you're willing to do the work," Mary said.

A holistic approach to health issues involves awareness. Consider the whole being; body, mind and soul. The philosophy is simple, one can attain optimal health by gaining proper balance in life.

"The body really does have the ability to heal itself," she said. "Just look at a river's ability to clean itself." Mary learned firsthand (through being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia) that many doctors are too quick to prescribe a pill to fix you without consideration of the other problems that causes.

Products and health consulting through Hazel Mae's are available through her e-mail Hazelmaes@aol.com or by phone at 774-276-2309. She sells lip balms, gourmet herb-infused oils, horehound cough syrup and Mary's own handmade Job's Tears jewelry.

But most of all she teaches a centuries-old philosophy and uses mother nature's own advice. I always come away from the local classes and events with something very valuable, knowledge. Watch for more classes at The New Dawn Center listed in The Valley Breeze.


Horehound Cough Syrup

Ingredients:

1 pint spring water

1 oz. dried horehound (herb)

2-4 cups pure honey

cheesecloth (for straining)

small Mason jars for packaging

Directions:

1. Bring the water to a boil, remove from heat and add 1 ounce of dried horehound. Let steep for 10 minutes.

2. Using cheesecloth, strain the leaves off into a dish or bowl that has a pour spout. Next measure the amount of liquid into a measuring cup.

3. Whatever the amount of horehound liquid is, add twice as much honey and that liquid to the pot. You must stir in the honey while the liquid is still warm, but do not place on heat as it will break down the honey too much.

4. Pour the "syrup" into sterilized jars, small Mason jars work well.

5. The dosage for an adult is 1 tsp. every four hours, about half as much for children, up to four times a day.

(This is a natural remedy and there are no known adverse side effects or interactions with medications, according to Mary Santoro, Holistic Nutritionist)

Flavored Organic Olive Oil

Ingredients:

34 oz. Organic extra virgin olive oil

a handful of each; fresh basil & parsley

1/3 oz. each; oregano, rosemary and thyme

cheesecloth for straining

Directions:

1. In a double boiler place the olive oil in top pan and add the herbs. Heat for 45 minutes, do not boil the olive oil/herb mixture, keep the water in lower pan at a slow boil.

2. Cool and strain through cheesecloth. Pour into decorative bottles or Mason jars that are sterile.

3. If using as a dipping oil for fancy bread, just before serving, add some minced garlic. The gourmet flavored oil will keep longer if you add the garlic this way.

Mary A. Santoro, of Hazel Mae's Herb Shop, left, and New Dawn Earth Center class participant, Diane Berthelette, of Millville, Mass., display jars of homemade horehound cough syrup made during the class.