Coughs are often the bookends of colds and flu. Starting with a tickle and ending with the annoying irritation that lingers, coughs are impossible to stifle or ignore.
Good cough remedies, that keep your throat coated and content, can be tricky to find. A good cough drop can go a long way to easing a cough and soothing the sore throat that accompanies it.
“Cough drop” is a general term for lozenges that ease throat irritation. Depending on its ingredients, a lozenge can be an expectorant, analgesic, or a simple moisturizer.
Other causes of a sore throat include:
- Dry air
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
- Irritants – smoking and environmental impurities
- Pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter medications
- Throat tumors
- Voice over-exertion
A sore throat (pharyngitis) can be dry or moist. Hence, the inside of the throat may or may not appear red. Your voice may sound hoarse. With infection such as strep throat, there can also be pustules in the mouth and throat. (1) Also, swollen tonsils are common when fighting a cold or flu and can make the throat sore. Discomfort can range from mildly irritating to feeling that you are swallowing glass.
Typically, a sore throat isn’t a cause for concern. Children, as well as people who smoke, have allergies or have a compromised immune system are more susceptible to the condition.
Treating a Sore Throat
Plenty of rest, fluids, foods and herbs that support the immune system will help your body to fight whatever the cause of the infection and speed healing. during this time, it’s very tempting to run to the local drug store and buy over-the-counter “remedies” to stop the symptoms.
However, keep in mind that while those products—including cough syrup and throat lozenges—may work to block symptoms, they are temporary. They also do not solve the cause of the illness; can contain sugar, preservatives, and artificial ingredients; and can have serious detrimental side effects. Prescribed drugs are even more dangerous.
Sugary throat lozenges may taste good to start but refined sugar causes inflammation, which can exacerbate the problems of a sore throat and cough. In fact, one recent study concluded very simply that researchers had found “hard and fast data that sugar is toxic irrespective of its calories and irrespective of weight”. (2)
If you are suffering from a sore throat and/or cough, try some of the recipes below for DIY cough drops that naturally provide real pain relief, nutrition, and immune system support. Of course, you’ll get the most out of them if you use organic ingredients.
16 DIY Cough Drops
These cough remedies are all appealing in their own way, so feel free to give them a try. Start with the first recipe and give the others a chance too!
1. Coconut Honey Cough Drops
Honey is a natural soother by simple virtue of its texture and sweetness. Don’t let its apparent simplicity and mild flavor fool you—honey is a true superfood. Antibiotic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-viral, honey will certainly fight whatever infection that’s causing your discomfort.
On the other hand, coconut oil is a healthy saturated fat that also kills harmful bacteria and is soothing for your throat. Lastly, cinnamon is a potent anti-inflammatory and inflammation is part of what causes pain.
You can allow a drop to dissolve slowly for an effective throat lozenge.
- 3 ounces (7 tablespoons) extra virgin coconut oil
- 3 ounces honey (raw, unfiltered, organic and local if you can get it)
- Pinch of cinnamon
- To begin, melt your coconut oil at low heat on the stovetop and allow to cool before using.
- Pour coconut oil into a bowl and whip it until frothy.
- Gradually add honey and continue to whip until it forms a thick paste.
- Stir in cinnamon.
- Carefully pour the mixture into empty ice cube trays (the teeny square ones are best for this), filling each compartment only ¼ to ½ full, depending on the size.
- Lastly, place in the freezer for 30 minutes to set.
- Cough drops can also be stored indefinitely in a closed glass container in the refrigerator.
2. Honey Lemon Ginger Cough Drops
Honey has been found to be a more effective cough suppressant for children than commercial cough syrup, which make great cough remedies for kids. (3) Additionally, the acid in lemon is an effective germ-killer and lemons contain loads of vitamin C, well known for supporting the immune system and stopping viruses. Best of all, ginger is an anti-inflammatory substance and effective pain-reliever.
- Candy thermometer
- Glass of ice water
- Candy mold or ice cube trays
- Baking sheet lined with parchment paper and coated with coconut oil
- ½ cup honey
- 2 tablespoons organic lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger root
Optional for dusting: 1 teaspoon powdered vitamin C (recipe here).
- Place all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat.
- Stir constantly with a wire whisk until boiling (honey burns easily). As it cooks, the mixture will become foamy and move up the sides of the pan. Remove from heat and continue to whisk until the foam subsides, then return to heat.
- Cook until a candy thermometer reaches 300°F and remove from heat.
- To test, place a drop of the mixture into a glass of ice water. If the drop forms a hard, crunchy ball, it’s ready. If not, return to heat and continue to whisk, testing again a few minutes later.
- Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool until the foam shrinks. Drizzle the mixture into the candy mold. Cool at room temperature until cough drops harden.
- Optional vitamin C powder will help prevent the drops from sticking to the sheet. To use, simply put the vitamin c powder in a small bowl and place the cough drops into the bowl, stirring to coat.
- Store in an airtight glass container in the refrigerator.
3. Herbal Drops
These herbs are medicinal as well as flavorful. Slippery elm is known for easing sore throat pain due to its soothing emollient qualities. (4) Secondly, coltsfoot is an antitussive, promoting the break-up of phlegm. It’s been used to treat a sore throat, bronchitis, and other conditions of the respiratory tract. Use this herb short-term in very small doses. (5)
Lastly, elderberry is sweet and helpful in treating respiratory infections. Loaded with antioxidants, elderberry supports the immune system and promotes overall health.
- 2 cups filtered water, boiling
- 1 tablespoon to ¼ cup each of slippery elm, coltsfoot, cinnamon, elderberry, and/or chamomile
- 1 ½ cups honey
- Powdered slippery elm and stevia for dusting
- Firstly, place herbs in a large glass measuring cup. Cover with boiling water and allow to steep, covered, for 20 minutes. Strain herbs from the liquid.
- Next, pour 1 cup of the herb-infused water and honey into a medium saucepan and turn on medium-high heat. Mix honey to taste with the extra liquid and store in the refrigerator for a simple cough syrup.
- Stir mixture until the temperature reaches 300°F, about 30 minutes.
- The honeyed herbs may foam and rise in the pot; remove from heat and continue to stir until the foam subsides, then return to heat.
- When you’re ready, use the ice water test the mixture.
- Pour onto a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper greased with coconut oil.
- Cool only until mixture can be comfortably handled. Scoop up ½ teaspoon at a time and roll into lozenges. Place on parchment paper to cool.
- To keep drops from sticking together mix powdered slippery elm and stevia in a bowl, pour in the cooled round lozenges, and stir to coat.
4. Ginger-Clove Cough Drops
Essential oils are whole plants distilled into a very concentrated form. For a cough, clove essential oil can be inhaled as a potent anti-inflammatory and antibacterial that supports the immune system. Better yet, cloves contain eugenol, making them a superb topical analgesic.
- ½ cup filtered water
- 1 cup organic coconut palm sugar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon ground ginger (more, if desired)
- ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon ground cloves or 2 drops food-grade clove essential oil or extract
- Organic arrowroot powder for coating
- Before you start, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Combine all ingredients except the cornstarch in a saucepan. Cook on medium-high heat, stirring constantly until mixture reaches 300°F, about 20 minutes. Be careful to avoid scorching.
- Test by dropping a little of the mixture into a glass of ice water. If it cracks, it’s ready. If not, return to heat for another minute and test again. Remove from heat.
- Allow the mixture to cool slightly. Drop onto the lined baking sheet or marble slab in small rounds and leave to cool completely.
- Lastly, dust with cornstarch or arrowroot to keep them from sticking together.
- Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
5. Lemongrass Ginger Cough Drops
Lemongrass is an antibiotic herb in the mint family that’s effective for respiratory illnesses. Used in Ayurvedic medicine to ease coughs and colds, lemongrass is an analgesic rich in vitamin C. It’s also known as “fevergrass” for its ability to naturally reduce fever.
Lemongrass ginger tea:
- 1/2 cup dried or fresh lemongrass
- 3/4 cup fresh ginger root, chopped
- Filtered water
For the cough drops:
- 1 cup of the lemongrass ginger tea
- 1 cup organic coconut palm sugar
- 1/2 cup honey
- Optional: organic cornstarch or arrowroot powder for dusting
- To begin, crush the fresh herbs using a mortar and pestle.
- Place lemongrass and ginger in a pan with a tight-fitting lid. Add just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Allow to steep, covered, for 10 minutes.
- Strain well. Then, measure 1 cup of the lemongrass ginger tea for each batch of cough drops
- To make the cough drops, prepare a baking pan lined with parchment paper greased with coconut oil.
- Pour a cup of the tea into a large pot and cook over medium-high heat. Add the sugar and honey and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally (avoid the sides of the pot). When the mixture reaches about 250°F, increase to stirring constantly, making sure to bring up the mixture from the bottom and avoiding the sides of the pot.
- When the thermometer reaches 302°F, carefully pour the mixture into molds (or drop ½ teaspoonfuls onto the baking sheet). Then cool several hours or overnight at room temperature before unmolding. Toss with cornstarch or arrowroot if desired. Lastly, store in an airtight container at room temperature.
6. Honey, Coconut Milk, Ginger and Turmeric Cough Gummies
Turmeric is a superhero spice. Its anti-inflammatory and immune-system support properties are superlative in the herbal word. Heating turmeric increases its bioavailability to reduce swelling that causes pain.
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 2 Tablespoons grated fresh ginger
- 2 Tablespoons coconut sugar or honey or more to taste
- 1 Tablespoon grated fresh turmeric or more to taste
- 2 Tablespoons powdered gelatin
- You will also need silicone chocolate candy or ice cube molds.
- Before you start, place the silicone molds onto a tray and set aside.
- Place the coconut milk, ginger, turmeric and coconut sugar into a small saucepan and slowly heat the liquid to a simmer.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside for 15-30 minutes.
- Strain the coconut milk through a fine sieve or cheesecloth, making sure to extract all the milk.
- Then, rinse the saucepan and add the strained coconut milk.
- Sprinkle the gelatin onto the milk, whisking gently as you do so to incorporate.
- Allow the mixture to sit for 2-3 minutes to turn it into a thick paste.
- Return the saucepan to a low heat, and whisk continuously until the mixture becomes smooth. You should not be able to see any little specks of gelatin remaining in the milk.
- Remove from the heat and spoon into your molds.
- Place the molds into the fridge for 30 minutes or until firm.
- To finish off, pop out your gummies and enjoy! Keep the gummies in a sealed container in the fridge for at least a week.
7. Honey, Peppermint, Chamomile, Ginger and Cinnamon Cough Drops
Phytochemicals in peppermint behave as mild anesthetics, easing the soreness of the throat. Menthol, on the other hand, penetrates the sinuses and loosens mucus so you can clear the pipes in your head. Lastly, chamomile is calming and soothes irritated mucous membranes by reducing inflammation. (6)
- 1 Tablespoon (or one teabag) peppermint tea leaves
- 1 Tablespoon/teabag chamomile tea
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ginger
- ¾ cup boiling water
- ¾ cup honey
- To begin, steep peppermint, chamomile, cinnamon, and ginger in boiling water for 10 minutes or more.
- Strain, pour into a small saucepan and add honey.
- Next, heat over medium heat until mixture begins to boil. Continue boiling until mixture reaches 300°F.
- Let mixture cool for 5-10 minutes until it starts to get syrupy.
- Then, drop by small spoonfuls onto parchment paper and let cool.
- If you wish, dust with slippery elm bark or tapioca starch to absorb condensation and prevent them from sticking together in storage.
- Lastly, store in an airtight container.
Use as needed to soothe sore, itchy throats, and coughing.
8. Slippery Elm Drops
“Slippery” elm gained its name because when this herb is moist, it becomes viscous to coat irritated membranes.
- 5 tablespoons soft coconut oil
- 1½ teaspoons raw honey
- 1 – 2 teaspoons slippery elm powder
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- To begin, stir together all the ingredients.
- Pour the mixture into molds, stirring a few times to make sure the honey is well integrated.
- Then, place in the freezer until hard.
- Pop the cough drops out of the mold and place in a jar to use as needed. When they’re done, store in the refrigerator or freezer.
9. Eucalyptus Honey Lozenges
The natural antibiotic compound cineole, found in eucalyptus, also contains antiviral, analgesic, and antispasmodic properties. Additionally, eucalyptus relaxes the lungs, relieving congestion and discomfort.
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 cup raw sugar
- 85gm butter
- 3 or 4 drops of eucalyptus extract
- To begin, place the sugar, butter, and honey in a small saucepan.
- Stir over a low heat until the sugar completely dissolves.
- Then, bring to the boil and cook for 10 mins
- When ready, remove from heat and add the eucalyptus.
- Fianlly, pour into a greased ice cube tray and cool until hard.
10. Peppermint Cough Relief
Peppermint is one of the best essential oils for cough. Among other things, the herb soothes pain and clears congestion. These cough drops are soft and can be chewed slowly to coat your throat to relieve pain.
- 1/3 cup coconut oil
- 1/3 cup raw honey
- 2 drops food-grade peppermint essential oil or peppermint extract
- Heat coconut oil until it’s soft, but not melted.
- Add honey and peppermint and stir to combine well.
- Then, press mixture into small silicone molds.
- Refrigerate until firm, stirring every few minutes so that the honey doesn’t settle at the bottom of the mold.
- Remove from mold and cut cough drops into 1/2 inch square pieces.
- to finish off, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
11. Elderberry Lozenges
Elderberries are loaded with vitamin C, the most powerful antiviral nutrients. Ginger is great to reduce inflammation in your throat as well.
To make the tea base:
- 2 cups water
- 60g fresh ginger, grated
- 2 tablespoons dried elderberries
- Before you begin, place all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Simmer for about 8-10 minutes and strain.
- When done, store in a clean, sealed jar or use to make the lozenges below.
To make the lozenges:
- ¼ cup of ginger and elderberry tea
- ¼ cup coconut sugar
- ¼ cup honey
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 cup iced water
- Firstly, lightly coat a silicone ice tray with coconut oil.
- Heat all the ingredients but the ice water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and do not stir. Leave to gently boil for about 20-30 minutes.
- Then, test the liquid using the ice water method. Once the mixture comes to the ‘hardened cracking’ stage, take off the boil and evenly pour the mixture into the mold.
- Place the mold in the fridge or freezer and chill.
- Lastly, store in the refrigerator and use as needed when you have a cold or flu.
12. Hibiscus Lemon Cough Drops
Believe it or not, hibiscus is edible and medicinal. In fact, “[Hibiscus] Extracts showed antibacterial, anti-oxidant, nephro- and hepatoprotective, renal/diuretic effect, effects on lipid metabolism (anti-cholesterol), anti-diabetic and anti-hypertensive effects among others.” (7)
Hibiscus has been used in the tropics for ages to ease coughs due to its emollient (skin softening) properties.
- 1 cup strong hibiscus tea
- 1 1/4 cups coconut sugar
- juice of half a lemon
- Firstly, grease a silicone candy molds with coconut oil.
- Place the tea and sugar in a small saucepan and stir to dissolve the sugar.
- Boil until your candy thermometer reads 300F. Do not stir.
- Turn off the heat, stand back, and add the lemon juice.
- Quickly spoon the mixture into the molds.
- Refrigerate overnight.
- Lastly, un-mold the drops and lightly coat them with arrowroot powder to keep them from sticking.
- Finally, store in an airtight container and refrigerate.
13. Honey Lollipops
Lollipops are an ideal way to soothe your child’s sore throat. Plus, they reduce the risk of swallowing a lozenge whole or choking. This is one “candy” cough drop for kids you can feel good about giving them.
- ¼ cup honey
- Lollipop sticks
- Cook honey in a small saucepan over medium heat, watching carefully until it reaches the hard crack stage (302°F).
- Spoon a teaspoon of honey onto a piece of parchment paper and place the top of a lollipop stick into the honey.
- Quickly repeat the process for the remainder of the honey.
- To finish off, cool for 10 minutes, remove from the tray and wrap individually using parchment paper.
14. Sage Thyme Cough Drops
Sage’s beneficial phytochemicals include antioxidants and antiseptics. Additionally, its essential oils are known to ease congestion and support lung health. Hyssop, another key ingredient, is a popular home remedy for respiratory ailments, including asthma, and is an effective expectorant.
For its part, molasses contains vitamin B6, iron, magnesium, selenium, potassium, and other important minerals.
- 1 tablespoon dried sage
- 1 tablespoon dried hyssop leaves
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 ¼ cups honey
- 3/4 cup of organic black strap molasses
- First off, combine the herbs with one cup of hot water. Let them steep for 15 minutes, covered.
- Strain and set half the mixture aside.
- Next, combine all the ingredients 9including the 1/2 cup of tea) in a medium saucepan.
- Prepare the mixture using the candy method mentioned in the first recipe
- Once it is ready, pour into hard candy molds, greased parchment paper on a cookie sheet, or greased 9 X 13 baking pan.
- Cut out the lozenges immediately using a pizza cutter.
- Remove the cubes store your cough drop pieces in an airtight container.
- Finally, chill and store for up to a year.
15. Lemon Menthol Lozenges
The menthol in these drops isn’t synthetic like the popular brand you can buy at the drug store—they come from natural essential oils. People like menthol (a substance found in all kinds of mint) because the vapors have a cooling effect that penetrates a stuffy head and relieve the inflammation of a sore throat.
- 2/3 cup dried elder flowers
- ½ cup dried horehound
- ½ cup dried hyssop
- ¼ cup dried lemon balm
- 1 cup water
- 1 ½ cups honey
- 2-3 tablespoons coconut oil
- 10 drops food-grade peppermint essential oil or extract
- 5 drops food-grade lemon essential oil or extract
- 5 drops food-grade menthol essential oil or extract
- Firstly, combine water and herbs in a large saucepan.
- Next, bring to a steady simmer over medium-high heat.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
- Remove from heat and strain.
- Return 1 cup of tea to the heat in a clean saucepan.
- Add the honey and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir frequently and continue to cook until the liquid reaches 300°F. Stir in 1 tablespoon of butter to help stabilize the mixtures if it begins to scorch.
- Remove from heat and stir in the essential oils or extracts.
- Grease a baking sheet and let it cool just until it can be handled by hand.
- Roll the syrup into lozenges and set aside on a lightly greased plate to harden completely.
- Store in an air-tight jar. Keeps for 3-6 months in dry conditions.
16. Thieves and Lemon Cough Drops
Thieves oil is a blend of essential oils combined for their antiseptic, anti-catarrhal, and anti-viral properties, stimulating the respiratory and circulatory systems. Together, these oils offer a powerful immune system boost and work to soothe your throat, calm your cough, and relieve congestion. More specifically, they include cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, lemon, and rosemary.
You can find thieves oil at a natural food market or make your own by combining 1 teaspoon of each herbal extract with an ounce of extra virgin olive oil.
- 1 cup honey
- 10 drops thieves oil
- First of all, heat the honey to 300°F, about 20 minutes. Adjust heat as necessary to prevent boiling over or burning.
- Cool for several minutes, until it starts to thicken.
- Drop the mixture, a teaspoon at a time onto a sheet of parchment paper.
- Finally, cool to room temperature and store in an airtight container.
Do-it-yourself natural cough remedies are easy to make, cost less than over-the-counter, and don’t contain any harmful ingredients. Using herbs, honey, fruits, and essential oils, they are suitable for everyone, including children and people with compromised immune systems or underlying health issues.
Most of all, these cough remedies promote good health and treat the problem rather than artificially masking the symptoms. The best throat lozenges are those that naturally ease pain and suppress your cough.
These lozenges promote good health and treat the problem rather than artificially masking the symptoms. After all, the best throat lozenges are those that naturally ease pain and suppress your cough.