Relieve coughs and soothe a sore throat with natural homemade cough drops. These DIY cough drops with herbs are a wonderful homemade remedy to calm a cough as it may occur with a cold, minor throat irritation and scratchiness. The ingredients for these yum all-natural drops include herbs, honey, lemon juice, and spices. You can easily customise the recipe to your specific needs. I have created a list of different herbs and spices that provide effective relief from coughs and share tips for making natural cough drops at home. Read on and get cooking!
What are the benefits of homemade cough drops?
I have a very sensitive respiratory system and easily catch a sore throat or cold. And this doesn’t happen exclusively in winter either. No summer passes without me getting a scratchy, irritated throat at least once. London and the south of England can be very windy at times, and even a light breeze can give me a chill. This is why I always -, and I mean ALWAYS – have a scarf with me, even in 25°F/77°F weather. What’s a girl gotta do, amirite? I also make these cough drops quite often. The ingredients consist of pantry stables that you most likely have at home and will cost you only a fraction of store-bought products. Another benefit is that you can use various herbs and customise the recipe according to your needs. These homemade cough drops are gluten-free, can be vegan if you skip the honey, and contain no artificial flavours, colours, sweeteners, or preservatives.
What ingredients do I need to make cough drops at home?
The recipe is prepared with 2 parts sugar to 1 part liquid. The main ingredient is sugar, and you can’t skip this ingredient. I found that regular (granulated) sugar gives the best results. Cane sugar works fine, too, but brown sugar contains more moisture than regular (granulated) sugar so it can make the cough drops a little softer. I have tried making drops only with honey, but they stayed very soft and sticky and never really set. As for the liquid, you could use just water and add dried herbs when cooking the syrup. Personally, I prefer to prepare a strong herbal infusion by steeping sage, thyme, and ginger in hot water for a few minutes.
What are the best herbs for homemade cough drops?
As I said before, you can customise the recipe and choose between different herbs and spices to make the cough drops. Below is a quick overview of the herbs and natural additives you can use in this recipe and their benefits.
You can either use a handful (approx. 1/2 cup) of fresh herbs, 3 tbsp dried herbs, or 5 tea bags of the following herbs:
- Sage can relieve from a dry cough and is anti-bacterial. Its essential oils have an anti-inflammatory and abirritant effect on the mouth and throat.
- Thyme is very decongestant and mucolytic. It’s an excellent herb to treat productive coughs. Thyme also reduces the proliferation of bacteria and disinfects the mouth and throat.
- English plantain, also called lanceleaf or ribwort plantain, is an effective expectorant and promotes the immune system to regenerate.
- Peppermint is rich in menthol and has a soothing, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory effect. I also love the refreshing flavour.
- I don’t recommend to use chamomile since this herb has a very drying effect and therefore isn’t a good choice to remedy a dry cough or irritated pharynx.
The following spices and additives are also beneficial to ease the symptoms of a cough and sore throat:
- Ginger strengthens the immune system, clears mucus and congestion, and is pain relieving. Add 3 to 5 slices of fresh ginger or 1 tsp ground ginger when cooking the herbal infusion.
- Cloves sooth inflammation, are anti-bacterial and contain strong antioxidants. You can add 5 to 8 cloves to the herbal infusion.
- Cinnamon warms from the inside and has anti-inflammatory properties. Add 1 cinnamon stick when preparing the herbal infusion.
- Honey coats the throat and eases the scratchy cough feeling. Honey is a time-honoured way to soothe a sore throat and may even be an effective cough suppressant. For the best effect use raw honey.
- Lemon juice adds a boost of vitamin C, eliminates bacteria and gives the cough drops a refreshing flavour. If you want a little variation, use orange juice instead.
Safety tips for cooking homemade cough drops
Sugar becomes extremely hot when it’s caramelising. To avoid burns, be extra careful when boiling the syrup. Never touch or taste the syrup while it’s hot. It’s best to keep your children and pets away from the kitchen while you make the drops
Store and gift homemade cough drops
Keep the cough drops in airtight containers in a dry and cool place. Moisture and heat will cause them to soften and become sticky. I like to put the drops in small clip-top jars, and I made printable labels to decorate the jars. The labels come with 3 different inscriptions (“Cough Drops”, “Get well soon” and “For you”) so you can gift the drops with a sweet message that the recipient will appreciate.
Homemade Cough Drops
Prep Time: 40 min
Cooking Time: 20 – 30 min
Yields: 40 – 50 cough drops
You can make the cough drops with a herbal infusion. Alternatively, use just water and add 1 tsp finely ground, dried herbs once the sugar syrup starts to bubble. In any case, you need 100 ml (1/3 cup + 1 1/2 tbsp) liquid.
For the herbal infusion
- 250 ml (1 cup) water
- a handful of fresh herbs or 3 tbsp dried herbs or 5 tea bags of herbal tea
- spices (optional, e.g. 3 ginger slices, 5 cloves, 1 cinnamon stick)
For the cough drops
- 100 ml (1/3 cup + 1 1/2 tbsp) herbal infusion or water
- 200 g (1 cup) caster (granulated) sugar
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp lemon or orange juice
- icing (confectioners’/powdered) sugar or cornstarch for coating
- airtight jars or containers
- labels (download below)
1) Prep work
Line two baking trays (sheets) with baking (parchment) paper or silicone baking mats. Fill cold water in a tumbler. Measure out the ingredients.
2) Prepare the herbal infusion
Bring 250 ml (1 cup) water to a rolling boil. Add the dried herbs or tea bags, ginger and spices and let steep for 10 minutes. Pour through a strainer to remove the solids and measure 100 ml (1/3 cup + 1 1/2 tbsp) of the liquid. Set aside.
3) Cook the sugar syrup
Place the sugar, herbal infusion, and lemon juice into a wide, heavy-bottom saucepan. Heat on high flame until the sugar starts to dissolve and the mixture begins to bubble, which usually takes approximately 7 to 10 minutes. Stir constantly. Reduce the heat to medium-high and continue cooking for 7 to 10 more minutes until the mixture reaches the hard crack stage (150°C/300°F on a sugar thermometer).
Tip: If you don’t have a candy thermometer, test the consistency of the syrup the following way: Drop a little of the sugar syrup in the cold water. Once you hear a crackling sound and the sugar forms hard, stop the cooking process and take the pan off the heat. To avoid burns, let the sugar syrup cool in the water for a few seconds before touching it.
4) Form the cough drops
Drop small amounts of sugar syrup on the lined baking trays (sheets) and allow to cool, which takes 15 to 20 minutes. If the syrup becomes too sticky to pour drops, carefully re-heat over a low flame until the consistency is pourable again.
5) Coat the cough drops
Once the cough drops have hardened and are cool to the touch, generously dust them with icing (confectioners’/powdered) sugar or cornstarch. Transfer the homemade cough drops into airtight containers.
6) Extra tip: clean the saucepan and cooking utensils
To remove sticky or hard sugar syrup scraps, fill the saucepan with lukewarm water and put the cooking utensils in the water, too. Let sit for a while until the sugar has dissolved and continue cleaning as you usually do.
How to use homemade cough drops
Dissolve the drops slowly in the mouth whenever you have a scratchy throat or a cough. Enjoy several cough drops throughout the day.
Shelf life and storage
Store your homemade cough drops in airtight containers or jars in a dry and cool place. Make sure the drops are away from moisture or humidity as they will draw in moisture and become soft and stick together. You can also wrap them individually in pieces of greaseproof (waxed) or baking (parchment) paper, which I find a bit tedious to do.
Print the labels on A4 or letter size cardstock or photo paper and cut out along the grey outline. Use as labels as or gift tags.
Free Printable Cough Drop Label
Click on the button to download your free printable cough drop labels for storing and gifting!
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