DIY Herbal Cough Drops

DIY Herbal Cough Drops - design your own cough drops!

Today, I want to teach you how to make your own customized herbal cough drops so that you never have to buy the store bought kind again!

These cough drops are well loved around here and played an integral part in helping my husband finally quit his 20+ year tobacco habit this past summer. (Details on that, in a future post!)

A few notes to keep in mind:

  • A candy thermometer will make these so much easier to make. You should be able to find an inexpensive one locally or try one of these from Amazon.com. (affiliate link)
  • If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can use the cold water method of testing instead. Directions on how to do that are HERE.
  • The amounts of sugar and honey can be changed. You can use all honey, if you’d like to keep these sugar free; just keep in mind the texture will be a little different.
  • Cough drops are meant to be sucked on, not chewed, and are not recommend for smaller children.

 

DIY Herbal Cough Drops

(Click HERE for printable pdf version.)

  • 1 cup cane sugar (or honey)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup strong herbal tea (*see the options list below)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract (to taste)

 

Making Herbal Tea for DIY Cough Drops

First, prepare your herbal tea, using your favorite tea blend OR the herb option guide listed below. If designing your own, place about a cup of water in a small saucepan. Add a pinch or two of each desired herb. (You don’t have to be precise, at all – just try to end up with more water than herb so that it can simmer efficiently.)

Heat the water/herb combo to a simmer then cover the pot with a lid. Let this steep over lowest heat for about 15 to 20 minutes. Strain and measure out 1/2 cup.

 

Use Powdered Sugar as a candy mold

Next, prepare the candy molds:

While the tea is infusing, add a few cups of powdered sugar to a 9 x 13 cake pan, or rimmed baking sheet. Using a small cap, measuring spoon, or finger tip, make indentations in the sugar, as shown.

If you don’t wish to use DIY powdered sugar molds, have store bought candy molds and/or a large piece of parchment paper, spread over a baking sheet, ready.

 

Cooking DIY Herbal Cough Drops until 300 degrees F

Now, combine and cook the ingredients:

Add the tea to a heavy duty saucepan. (Thinner pans are more likely to result in scorched candy.) Next, add the sugar and honey.

Turn the burner to medium or almost medium high heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved into the solution. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan.

And… you wait. Pull up a chair, read a magazine, play a game or ten of Word Hero (seriously, it’s such a great game!), but whatever you do, don’t leave your candy unattended.

Every so often, check the temperature and give it a stir if it’s looking a bit foamy (herbal tea sometimes does that) until it reaches hard crack stage: 300 degrees Fahrenheit. You can tell it’s getting close when you notice a thicker consistency when stirred. It usually takes about 25 to 30 minutes for mine to reach this stage, but time will vary greatly depending on your climate and cooking temperature.

If your mixture starts to smell like it’s scorching at any time, you may be cooking at too high of heat or your pan might not be heavy-duty enough. In order to save the batch from burning and becoming inedible, go ahead and pull it off of the burner. Since these are stored in the refrigerator, they’ll harden naturally from the cold, so the temperature isn’t *as* crucial. (Even so, the best results will come from reaching 300 F.)

Remove from heat and stir in the peppermint extract. Be careful, as it will cause a little flurry of extra bubbling!

 

Powdered Sugar Molds

Now, we’re ready to pour into molds:

Working quickly, carefully pour the hot mixture into the powdered sugar or candy molds. I find it much easier to transfer to a Pyrex pitcher first, before pouring.

If you’re not using a mold, pour by the spoonful onto a sheet of parchment paper. (This is the messiest way!)

Let the candy sit, undisturbed, until cool. If using the powdered sugar method, lightly coat both sides and store in a jar in the refrigerator for several weeks or in single layers, between sheets of wax paper, in the freezer for several months.

If using 100% honey, you may find these store best in single layers, between wax paper, in the freezer.

 

Best Herbs for Cough Drops

Herb Options List:

This is not an exhaustive list, but is a good place to start! As always, research each herb thoroughly before use. Some of these may not be a good fit for you if you’re: pregnant, nursing, have health issues, or are on medication. Always check with a professional health care worker, when in doubt.

I buy my herbs from: Mountain Rose Herbs, Bulk Herb Store, or Jean’s Greens. (Those first two are affiliate links.) You can also source herbs from your yard or garden! (Dandelion, violet leaf, roses, lemon balm, etc.)

  • Astragalus: an adaptogen, excellent at restoring energy; helps you cope with illness or other stressors
  • Bee Balm (Monarda): good for sore throat, congested coughs
  • Catnip: helps insomnia and stomach distress
  • Chamomile: soothes & relaxes; helps stomach aches
  • Cranberry: antibacterial; anti-asthmatic
  • Dandelion: flower, leaf, root – detoxes; potential anti-cancer activity; kidney/liver support
  • Echinacea: boosts your immune system
  • Elderberry: excellent against viruses, especially influenza
  • Forsythia Fruit: antiviral
  • Ginger: powdered, dried or fresh – great for stomach aches/nausea; reduces inflammation; increases circulation
  • Hawthorn: for heart health
  • Lemon Balm: calming; relaxing; anti-viral; soothes stomach aches
  • Marshmallow Root: soothes inflamed tissue; wonderful for sore throats
  • Olive Leaf: antimicrobial
  • Roses: petals or leaves; anti-inflammatory
  • Schisandra: another wonderful adaptogen; helps your body cope with stress and illness
  • Thyme: for upper respiratory conditions, coughs & bronchitis; antiviral; antibacterial
  • Valerian Root: helps you sleep, promotes relaxation
  • Violet Leaf: soothing; potential anti-cancer benefits
  • Yarrow: lowers fever, helpful for colds & indigestion

 

Want more natural remedies like this one? Be sure to sign up HERE for my newsletter, so you can get my latest soap ideas, herbal projects and other DIY recipes sent straight to your inbox each month!

Some links in this post are affiliate links. That means if you click on one and purchase something, I get a small commission for sending a customer their way. This costs you nothing extra, but does provide a way to cover blogging expenses. Thank you! :)

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29 Responses to DIY Herbal Cough Drops

  1. thank you much for the recipe-I will be making these
    Kathy

  2. Melanie says:

    Wonderful! You’re brilliant! Thank you!!

  3. Cat Slate says:

    If I wanted to just use sugar, how much would I use? Honey has gotten really expensive here with the lower bee populations. My beekeeper is rationing it out to her customers.

  4. L. Marie says:

    Hi! I wonder about adding tincture and/or essential oil to this formula. (re: EO’s — I rarely use them internally, but I’m thinking a few drops of Eucalyptus might serve well in a lozenge for this stuffy-sinus thing we’ve got going on in the home right now!) Might you have any thoughts on adding tinctures – pros, cons, amount, and/or at what point in the preparation process to add it? (for example, echinacea, or elderberry, or…) I suppose the mint extract technically counts as a tincture, so it seems like substituting or adding another kind would work.

    Regardless, I love what you’ve shared with us and am making these today. Even went out and brushed away several inches of snow to reach my still-fresh thyme plant for the tea! :)

    • Jan says:

      Hi! You can definitely add tinctures right at the end (where you’d add the peppermint extract.) Stir in a dropperful (or two) & just be prepared for the spattering it does as it’s introduced into the hot candy mixture. The only essential oil I’ve used internally is peppermint, and even then, as a rarity, so unfortunately I can’t be much help on that part. However, I hope your family enjoys the cough drops and everyone feels better soon! :)

  5. Audrey says:

    Thanks for these, I’m wondering how effective they would be if you used essential oils?

    • andrew says:

      I’m making anti biotic cough drop with lemon, grapefruit seed oil, olive leaf oil and garlic extract. I’m using goldenseal tea.

      • Jan says:

        Sounds like a great combination!

        • andrew says:

          Goldenseal was terrible….go for flavor and not effect when using this. the cough syrup and cough drops worked great
          16 hours the swelling is gone, nodes are pink, no spots, throat doesn’t hurt. She’s right use a candy thermometer, I did the cold water trick and kinda scorched the drops.

          • Jan says:

            I’m happy that they helped with your sore throat! You do have a point about goldenseal’s strong bitter taste, if you do use it – you may want to up the peppermint flavor. Sometimes, for a really sore throat, I’ll take either goldenseal tincture or a few drops of oreganol and mix with a spoon of raw honey, but don’t drink after taking it for a little while. It tastes about as bad as something can taste, but it sure is effective!

  6. Audrey says:

    Sorry, just read the comment before mine…

  7. Monica says:

    Is there a printable version of this recipe.

  8. Billie Sarver says:

    Hi

    I read your herbal cough drops recipe in my Hobby Farms magazine and had a question on your recipe. Instead of using 3/4 cups of cane sugar, can you use Agave sweetner?

    • Jan says:

      Hi Billie! I haven’t tried that myself, but I’ve heard that it’s tricky to make hard candy with agave because it burns so easily. However, this site says that you can:
      http://www.healthyfoodshouldtastegood.com/2010/06/homemade-suckers.html so it’s probably worth a small batch test run, but I’d keep a really close eye on things. If the candy starts smelling scorched, then you can pull it off the heat a little early. Better to have too soft of a cough drop (which will firm up if you freeze or refrigerate them), than a burnt batch!

  9. Billie Sarver says:

    Thanks for the tip! Hope you have a great summer!

  10. Mia says:

    These turned out great, thanks!

  11. Valerie says:

    Hi,
    I’m borderline diabetic and I’m looking for a cough drop recipe that has no sweeteners of any kind. I was wondering if you might have any ideas in that department?
    Thanks

    • Hi Valerie, I’m sorry to hear about your health problems! I’m only familiar with cough drops made from honey or maple syrup, neither of which will be good for your blood sugar. I wish I could help more! I wonder if you could find some type of stevia syrup to make a cough drop?? I’m just not sure, but I do hope that you’re able to find one soon!

  12. Karen says:

    Did you make a post about helping your husband stop smoking? I need help! Very interested to read about it. Thank you for all your knowledge!

    • Hi Karen! Unfortunately, he went back to tobacco after a while, so I never wrote it. Then later he quit again. Then went back to it when work got stressful. And back and forth several times! I had found some great information on herbs that might help, but in the end I think it’s just a battle he has to fight on his own.

  13. Debbie says:

    Hi Jan,
    Many thanks for the recipe. I will try it this weekend, as I am looking for a substitute for Ricola cranberry cough drops (now discontinued.) I find them to be excellent for both soothing a ‘peppery’ throat, probably from mild allergies. So I would like to use cranberry juice (?) and, probably marshmellow root, which is also excellent. I see you have cranberries listed along with your herbs, but is it possible to use the juice? Or, should I just soak dried (or fresh?) cranberries? Many thanks in advance.

    • Hi Debbie, I suspect cranberry juice would be terrific in a cough drop recipe! Marshmallow root would make a wonderful addition as well. Sounds like a great plan to me & I hope you enjoy them!