Lagundi — scientific name Vitex Negundo — is one of the herbal plants that my husband bought for my garden. It has been growing for more than a year before I finally got around to using it in treating those nasty bouts of cough and sniffles that seem to afflict my family whenever typhoon season or cold weather is around.
Lagundi is one of the herbal folk remedies that the Philippine Department of Health has documented to be effective in treating respiratory ailments. I will be writing on the evidence for Lagundi soon (Update: here’s the clinical evidence for lagundi) but for now, I will just be showing you how I transformed bitter lagundi into a quite-delicious juice that my 3-year-old enjoyed drinking to the point of ridding his cough.
Disclaimer: I am not, in any way, dispensing medical advice as I am not a medical doctor (though I almost got to be one). I have seen how this lagundi juice of mine has stopped the first signs of coughing right on its track but I have not experienced its effectiveness for late or serious stages of cough. Based on my family’s experience, lagundi is effective when used to treat the very early states of cough.
This is how lagundi looks like. I highly recommend every Filipino family to have this herb planted in the backyard. Most plant nurseries in the Philippines sell this herb and it grows profusely under the full brunt of the sun.
The sites I have seen recommend drinking the bitter lagundi decoction straight up. I could not imagine how in the world my kids would do that without gagging or throwing up. And so I decided to take matters into my hands and brew something more kid-friendly.
To make lagundi juice, strip off enough leaves that would fill a cup. Wash the leaves in running water, drain somewhat, strip off the leaves from the stalks and then rough chop them. Measure a cup of chopped leaves.
Put the lagundi leaves in a non-reactive pot (I used stainless steel). For every cup of lagundi leaves, add in 4 cups of water. Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. This is your lagundi decoction or tea. Let it cool down a bit, about 10 minutes. Cooling it down makes handling so much easier during the next steps of the process.
Run the decoction through a metal strainer (not plastic, please), catching the liquid at the bottom with a glass jar (again, not plastic).
The proportions I gave you will yield about 3 ½ cups of lagundi tea which can then be turned into juice.
Sweeten the tea using a ratio of 1 tablespoon sugar for every cup. In this case, I measured 4 tablespoonsof muscovado sugar. You can use other healthier sweeteners such as coco sugar, molasses (this strangely gives a bitter aftertaste in lemonades though) or honey.
The key to making bitter lagundi delicious is lemons. Use the ratio of 3 lemons for every cup. In this case, since we have 4 cups, I used the juice of 12 lemons. Take note that by lemons I mean the small, dark green ones that are common in the Philippines. Western lemons may need a different ratio per cup.
Pour in the lemon juice to the lagundi tea and then add in the muscovado sugar. Stir the juice well with a non-reactive stirrer. I used a wooden stirrer made of bamboo.
Chill the juice in the ref for at least an hour. You will be amazed at how refreshing and so non-medicine this tastes. I then let my coughing, barking child drink it. The DOH advisory is to drink half a cup of this juice 3 times a day but I asssure you, my 3-year-old Jacob drank way more than that without any untoward effects.
Here’s the punchline: Lagundi juice really cures cough. I’ve seen it with my 3-year-old’s cough, with my 7-year-old’s colds, with my 13-year-old’s sniffles, with my own cough, and with my husband’s cough.
Do try this the next time you have a bout with respiratory maladies. Just don’t wait for it to worsen, though. Drink lagundi juice at the first signs of respiratory ailments.