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.