Lime and Honey Cough Syrup

Lime and Honey Cough Syrup

We’re having a blizzard* in London today.

* in London, this means about 2 inches of snow.   I know all of you New Englanders are laughing right now.

So I’m taking advantage of this snow day to post one of my favorite discoveries from the past few months.  Since the craziness of late-December, almost everyone I know has come down with a scratchy-throat, sniffly cold.  But it seems like it’s not just my circle of friends, given the recent surge in visitors to my recipe for traditional Onion Cough Syrup.

Today I’m sharing a slightly sweeter version of a homemade cough syrup and general winter health-booster.  It’s a Vietnamese recipe, taught to me by my sister-in-law’s mother during our visit to Hanoi last Autumn.

Why is this recipe a keeper?  It’s delicious!  Seriously, this citrusy honey is a burst of vitamin C and sunshine during a gloomy winter.  Stir some into your tea.  Make it into a hot toddy.  Drizzle it into yogurt.  Or do like the Vietnamese, and take a spoonful everyday to sooth a scratchy throat and stay healthy!

It was a big few months for my brother and his wife.  They moved into their first home.  And they had their first child.  So of course, my family went over to visit!  (Nothing like a new baby, new house, and the in-laws visiting all at once!)

new baby
My new nephew!

During our visit, I noticed a suspicious looking-jar in the kitchen.  It looked like a homemade concoction that you might find lurking in one of my own cabinets.  I was instantly curious.  (One of my very favorite parts of travelling, besides trying the food, is learning traditional remedies!)

This is the actual jar of limes in honey in my brother's kitchen.
This is the actual jar of limes in honey in my brother’s kitchen.

This jar of limes and honey was made by my sister-in-law’s mother, especially for the new baby.  In Vietnam, they don’t like to give medicine to newborns, so instead they use this lime and honey mixture whenever the baby is sick.  I found this really interesting since in our Western culture, we avoid giving honey to babies under the age of 1 year!

But it’s not only for babies – she told me that everyone can use this mixture.  Just take a spoonful as needed if you have a cold or sore-scratchy throat, or mix with hot water as a tea, or cool water for a refreshing drink (this is hot, humid Vietnam, after all.)

She made this mixture by taking whole, pink limes (anyone know what these are?), washing them well and scoring the skin with a knife.   Put them in a jar and cover completely in honey.  Put on the lid, and let it sit for 2-3 weeks.  The honey will go slightly liquidy as it is infused with the lime juice.  Take a spoonful of this liquid as needed.  She said you can also eat the limes (just bite out the flesh, which is now sweet from the honey!)  It lasts for several months on the counter, although she said they usually finish the jar before it would go off.

Back in London, I had to try this recipe for myself.  Of course, I don’t have pink limes.  Nor do I need a huge jar of honey-lime syrup, as it’s just me and Zak at home!  So I adapted the recipe for my kitchen.

limes in honey step 1

One risk of cutting up the limes is that the syrup would become ‘too’ juicy.  The honey is the preservative, so if you get too much juice, and not enough honey, the mixture could go off.  So make sure to really cover the limes completely with a thick layer of honey – fill up that jar!

My own limes in honey

Vietnamese Honey and Lime Cough Syrup

  • Several limes ((I used 3))
  • Honey
  • A jar, very clean.

The traditional method

  1. Wash the limes well. Using a thin skewer, poke holes all over the whole limes.

  2. Place whole limes into jar.

  3. Cover COMPLETELY with honey, making sure the honey gets around all of the limes.

  4. Add the lid. LABEL (always, always label with the product & date). Let it sit on the counter or shelf (out of direct sunlight) for 2-3 weeks before using.

My speedy method

  1. Wash the limes well, and cut into halves or quarters.

  2. Place in the jar.

  3. Cover COMPLETELY with honey, making sure the honey gets around all of the limes.

  4. Add the lid. LABEL (always, always label with the product & date). Let it sit on the counter or shelf (out of direct sunlight). Start tasting the honey everyday. If you have juicy limes, you should start tasting a strong citrusy flavor in the honey after 1-2 days. Just keep using until it’s gone!


Storage & how to use:

You can store in a cool, dry place for 1-2 months as long as the honey always covers the limes.

Use your senses (and common sense!): if it grows mold, smells funny, or if the lid ‘pops’ or ‘hisses’ when you open it, throw it out and make a fresh batch.

How to use: Take a spoonful to soothe a scratchy throat.  Mix a spoonful or two with a mug of hot water for a soothing drink (add whisky or brandy for a hot-toddy!).  Add to your tea.  Drizzle on yogurt or over fruit or cake.  Eat the flesh of the lime straight from the peel!


There have been so many interesting comments on the Onion Cough Syrup post – I’d love to hear from readers about this recipe too!  Did you grow up with Limes in Honey?  How did you use it at home?  I’d love to hear your stories!


About the author

Amanda Cook is an author, entrepreneur, and alchemist. She helps successful women create lives of meaning & magic by connecting with the seasons. Her work has appeared on BBC Radio 4, The Sunday Telegraph, Natural Health UK Magazine, and more. Learn more at

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  1. I’m Vietnamese. When I have a cold, my dad used to boil ginger in a pot with honey for me to drink. Also this lime concoction, my mom uses it when she’s got a sore throat. Guessed it worked. I like your blog. I’ve been over eating kale and learned from your blog to back off.

    1. Raw, wildflower honey is always best … but just use what you have available. Don’t stress about it. 🙂

  2. My ones leave 3 months in the fridge n I opened it , there is one or two white spot..if it safe to eat..

    1. Hi, it’s hard to say, but a white spot sounds like mould. I’d be safe and throw it out. It will be most effective if it’s fresh anyway! Maybe make a smaller batch next time so you can use it faster? (Just one lime?)

  3. Thanks for sharing! I just made this today so I`ll be waiting 2-3 weeks (if I can possibly wait) to give it a try. I just know this is going to be wonderful!

    1. Hi! You know, my limes were so juicy that the syrup was ready after just a couple of days. I’ve updated the recipe … but start tasting yours after a day or two to see how you like it!

      1. Thanks.
        I really wanted to try it right away. I did today and it was great. I blogged about it I loved it so much. Thanks for sharing.

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