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)
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.
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.
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!
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.
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! :)