Onion Cough Syrup is a simple, traditional remedy you can make in minutes. It’s two ingredients (onions and sugar) and no cooking.

Here’s how you make this natural cough syrup:

  • Slice onions
  • Layer them in a jar with sugar (like making an onion and sugar parfait!)
  • Cover the jar
  • Leave it at room temperature for a few hours. Syrup will naturally form in the jar.
  • Eat by the spoonful.
  • Store in the fridge and make fresh after 2 days!

It really IS that simple to make the classic all natural cough syrup for kids and adults!

If you want more detail and photos showing how to make onion cough syrup, read on…


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Onion Cough Syrup is a Simple, Effective Natural Remedy to Make at Home

You might be curious about home remedies, but aren’t sure how to get started. Will you need lots of strange ingredients? Maybe you’ll need to know how to cook, or have tons of empty bottles and jars around. And if you did make something, would your family actually try it? It can feel easier just to buy a natural remedy in a shop. 

Onion cough syrup is my very favorite remedy for natural remedy newbies, and an essential part of any natural health lover’s repetoire.

It uses two ingredients you already know and likely always have in your kitchen: an onion and sugar.
There’s no cooking required.

And because Onion Cough Syrup is best used fresh, you can just make it when you need it – so you’ll immediately be able to test it’s effectiveness yourself! 

Onion Cough Syrup is Ancestral Medicine

Onion Cough Syrup is an ancient remedy. There’s a good chance your great-grandmother used this herself!

In 1653, herbalist Nicholas Culpepper described using onions with sugar (or honey) for coughs in his book Culpeper’s Complete Herbal. So there’s a long, long history of using this cough syrup. 

I was introduced to this simple remedy in an herbal medicine class in London. Of course I made some that evening, and was enchanted by how quickly the layered sugar and onions turn into syrup, and how good the syrup tastes! 

Ingredients to make onion cough syrup

My mother is also interested in herbal remedies, so I told her about the syrup. She wasn’t familiar with it. But then she spoke to HER mother on the phone…

Grandma’s immediate reply? “Oh yeah, my mother used to give us that as children when we had colds.”

Growing up in rural Iowa in the early 1900’s my Great-Grandmother used simple remedies to keep her large family healthy. But what happened to this wisdom? Why didn’t Grandma continue it with her own children?

By the 1950s, the trend was to purchase pre-made foods, medicine, beauty products – any kind of ‘technological shortcut’ to show you were really living well – cake mixes, instant dinners, canned soups, and all kinds of medicines. Although Grandma also raised her children on the farm and did make many things herself, she’d lost the habit of making medicine (and much to my disappointment, sauerkraut) which her own mother had done.

This widespread abandoning of simple, effective herbal remedies occurred in many families, all around the world.

But now it’s our turn – and we can choose to rediscover and reclaim these remedies to support our health (and keep the traditions and wisdom alive!)


Why do onions help a cough or cold?

Onions (and their stronger counterpart, garlic) are part of the Allium family of plants, which are traditionally known for their immune-boosting properties, including being natural antivirals and antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and expectorants.

Peeling an onion to make cough syrup

Onion Cough Syrup is really known as a children’s remedy because it’s gentle and sweet. Of course, it can also be used for adults or elders – anyone who wants a gentle cough remedy.

If you’re up for something stronger, make the more potent version of a natural cough syrup – garlic in honey. No recipe needed here, just crush and chop garlic (crushing is important, to activate it), and then cover with honey. Let it sit for an hour, and then take by the spoonful. 

You can also just add more onions and garlic to your diet during the winter months, to keep yourself healthy. 


How do I use onion syrup?

This onion syrup is traditionally used as a children’s cough syrup.  Simply give a spoonful as often as needed to soothe coughing (1-2 spoonfuls per hour, if needed).

You MUST use this syrup fresh.  It is ready in 6-8 hours (overnight), so just make some fresh every 2 days.


How does onion cough syrup taste?

I made this syrup myself last week when I caught a cold on a plane flight.  I was eating it for a whole day and thought it tasted lovely and sweet.

A few hours later my nose unblocked.

Then I realized, wow, this really smells of onions!

In the process of making onion cough syrup.

So, my advice is:

  • If your child has a stuffed up nose, take the syrup straight.
  • If they can still smell (and taste), you might want to have them hold their noses as they eat it.

We had my 3 year old nephew hold his nose while taking the syrup and he thought it was fun and tasted yummy.  My 5 year old niece went for a straight spoonful and wasn’t too happy about it.  Experiment and see what works.

As an adult, I actually think it tastes really nice. Yes, it’s oniony, but also very sweet. Give it a try.


How to Make Onion Cough Syrup

Onion Cough Syrup Directions

You need:

  • Glass container with lid
  • An Onion that fits into the container
  • Granulated sugar (white or brown)


  1. Peel your onion. Slice it into rounds (which will fit into your jar.)

Peel and chop your onion to make onion cough syrup

2. Layer onion and sugar in the jar. It’s like making an onion parfait! 

Layer onion and sugar in the jar to make onion cough syrup

3. When the jar is full, cover it and set at room temperature for 6-8 hours until a syrup forms.

Layered onions and sugar waiting to become onion cough syrup

4. You’ll see a syrup start forming within an hour or two. Leave it until it’s fully liquid, approximately 6-8 hours.

Onions and sugar turning into onion cough syrup.

5. Ready to use! Simply eat a spoonful of this syrup as needed to soothe your cough. Store in the refrigerator. Discard after 48 hours.

Homemade onion cough syrup ready to use.

That’s it! It’s that simple to make your first home remedy.


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