Introduction: Cough Drops

Picture of Cough Drops

Try this homemade cough drops recipe the next time you need something to soothe your sore throat.  Carefully selected herbs also make these great as natural cold and flu remedies.

After getting knocked out by an H1N1 vaccine, I had plenty of time to consider just what I was looking for in a lozenge.  I wanted something herbal and not overly potent, not too sweet, but tasty enough to finish. 

You can make these with any flavor or coloring you prefer - a blend of your favorite sickness-busting herbs is a great way to go.  I'll suggest a few in the next step.  But if you don't have access to such things, or you just want results NOW, consider what you might already have on hand!

Making hard candy requires sugar (or a lot of crazy chemical sugar substitutes), and flavor.   That's about it.  So why not take some of the yummy herbal blend teas I so love and stock up for times of sickness like these, and lozenge-ify those?  A perfect cup of tea in a long-lasting lozenge.  Perfect!

Step 1: Ingredients

Picture of Ingredients
I made these as simply as possible with herbal tea and sugar.  That's really all you need.

But if you want to get fancy, you can use a blend of sugar or substitutes, food coloring, additional flavors, and custom blend your own herbs.

Some great herbs (and their uses) for lozenges are:
  • Horehound - (be careful - this stuff is strong!) pain reliever, stimulates digestion
  • Echinacea - best before full onset of cold, anti-bacterial + blood cleanser
  • Peppermint - expectorant, decongestant and mild pain reliever
  • Eucalyptus - relieves congestion
  • Camphor - relieves congestion
  • Ginger - pain relieving, antiseptic and antioxidant
  • Goldenseal - antiseptic and immune stimulant
  • Licorice - anti-viral, chest and throat soother
  • Sage - good for sore throats
  • Fennugreek - expectorant
  • Juniper - relieves congestion
  • Yarrow - reduces fevers and inflammation
I also used powdered sugar to make my candy molds, and to toss them in so they wouldn't be so sticky.  If you have candy molds, these work just as well!

Finally, a well-calibrated candy thermometer makes this task almost effortless!  To make sure it's accurate, check the temperature of a cup of boiling water to be certain it registers 212oF (100oC).  If it doesn't, make note of the difference.

Step 2: Brew a Strong Tea

Picture of Brew a Strong Tea

Whether you're using prepackaged tea, or your own blend of herbs, you'll want to make a strong brew.  I found that two cups of water to four tea bags works well. You can, of course, divide that in half. 

Steep the herbs/tea in boiling water for 15 minutes. 

Step 3: Prepare Candy Mold

Picture of Prepare Candy Mold

If you have a candy mold that you'd like to use, you're good to go!  Give them a quick spray of cooking oil, and get started.

If you don't, powdered sugar or even cornstarch will make a great substitute.  I started out by trying to make little mounds of candy on waxed paper, without any kind of mold formation at all.  Fast-forward to FAIL.

Then I remembered Mongpoovian's technique in making Chocolate Liquor Cordials which I had immediately filed away in my mind as "too time consuming!"  Well, how wrong I was.

I used powdered sugar instead of starch for two reasons.  One, I knew I wanted to lightly coat them in sugar once they were done.  Two (and more importantly) it's what I had on hand.   I didn't dry it the way Mongpoovian's Instructable demonstrates because I didn't read that part. 

It was super fun to make these molds by pouring powdered sugar into a pie pan, flattening it out with my hand, then using the bottom of a food coloring bottle to make indentations.  That was it! 

The best part is that the candy was slightly repelled by the sugar and actually flowed into each of the divots on its own, which is worth the price of admission just to watch!

Step 4: Make Candy

Picture of Make Candy
Wash away crystals from the side of your pan with a damp cloth.Add tea to sugar and boil, using the following ratio.

1 part liquid : 1 part sugar

That may seem like a lot of sugar, but it's less than half what you'd find in a basic hard candy recipe.  You can add more if you prefer a sweeter finish.  But using less will make it difficult to reach the hard crack stage necessary for a good,  solid lozenge.

Again, you can combine your sugar sources. I made one batch with brown sugar, and one with a white sugar / agave nectar blend.  

Each combination will take different cooking times, so a good candy thermometer will help you out immensely.

  • Add your sugar to your tea and heat over med-high.
  • Stir until sugar is completely dissolved.
  • Bring to a boil and DO NOT STIR AGAIN.
  • Wash away crystals from the side of your pan with a damp brush or cloth.
  • Once candy reaches 300oF (150oC), remove from heat.
  • Add colors and flavorings (opt) and stir.

Step 5: Mold Candy

Picture of Mold Candy

Pour your finished mixture into your prepared molds.  (If you're using the powdered sugar technique, prepare to be entranced by what you witness.)

Allow to set until firm.  If it's humid or rainy outside, this may take longer.  Putting them in the fridge will help.

When it's time to demold the lozenges, stir them around in the powdered sugar and sift away excess.  Keep in a sealed container or wrap in cellophane.

Once you try this, you'll want to try it again and again.  I was instantly hooked!  I plan on trying more and more potent concoctions in the future.  These lozenges are great for what ails you, but are also a tasty treat when you're already feeling fine.



_Jazmin_ (author)2016-06-06

Just made these for my girlfriend, hope she likes them

Saturn V (author)2010-06-27

YAY!!! Homemade mints! Do you know how to get a wintergreen flavor?

ManonF1 (author)Saturn V2015-11-30

Go to

I used all their Essential Oils as they guarantee the quality and that you can take internally.

Young Living Distributeur Independant.
ID 2881582

fae_s (author)Saturn V2015-09-14

Be careful when making them with wintergreen the oils can become volitile, if u use fresh leaves u will need to ferment them inorder to make them useful after fermenting them let them dry and then i can use the leaves, it works amazingly in replace of say pepermint or speramint

GyroGearLoose47 (author)Saturn V2012-01-28

One might try

Jeri79 (author)2015-10-10

My sugar burnt at 240°F P you!,what stink. LOL oops. Not funny. Had a hard time pouring into slots/ divits. And is there a easier way to clean up too?

Jeri Koller <Facebook

fuzzylumpkin1 (author)2013-11-04

I would totally do this right now because I'm sick, but I'm allergic to eucalyptus. Is there anything that could replace the eucalyptus?

satoko68 (author)fuzzylumpkin12015-03-11

Try peppermint, spearmint, clove, cinnamon, ginger or lemon essential oils. They'd all work & aren't that pricey if you buy the real thing from a reputable wholesaler who deals in essential oils.

lorie.cruz (author)2015-02-17

Just made these using a Lemon Ginger tea and white sugar with some honey. They came out ok (they set into hard candy form) but it tastes a bit of burnt sugar even though I added extra lemon extract :/ Still good though! Where did you get that tea sampler? That would be perfect for these lozenges! Also, when adding in the herbs you mentioned before, what state should they be in? Oil, powdered, dried, whole? And when would you add them?

crystal.3605 (author)2015-02-09

I usually share these posts but never get up the nerve to do them. This looked so easy and I wanted a natural cough drop without menthol since I'm breastfeeding. This was awesome and easy! And just as u said the powdered sugar trick didn't disappoint my kids loved it!! Thanks

SparkySolar (author)2015-01-05

I love this recipe, no added high fructose corn syrup!!!!

SparkySolar (author)2015-01-05

I love this recipe, no added high fructose corn syrup!!!!

kimmet.ellis (author)2014-12-16

Coughing is one of the most common health problems. Determine what kind of cough you have and search out cures specific to that type. Share with you:

Jar Sqwuid (author)2012-02-17

You're the only person I've ever met who knows what horehound is. I'm eating some now! Great recipe :)

DIY-Guy (author)Jar Sqwuid2013-02-06

Grandpa used to make these candies for me with horehound growing wild outside. (I miss Grandpa's old-time concoctions.)

justbel7 (author)2013-01-13

Store the leftover powdered sugar for the next time you make the drops (it will keep a long time) or use it for making frosting, etc. If you are concerned about the bits in the sugar, run it through a sifter to remove any hardened pieces.

smadrus (author)2012-12-01

I have tried this THREE times now and each time my sugar burns =( I'm so frustrated. Any suggestions as to what is going wrong? To stir or not to stir? My foams up like CRAZY! Also, medium heat or high heat? My first burnt at 300, my second just under and this last one... oi vay SUPER burnt before even 260.

kathynv (author)2012-11-17

Those are wonderful. I now know a way to carry my favorite chai with me! I don't know if your recipe will allow me to use milk as a liquid, but it's well worth a try. Thank you!

scoochmaroo (author)kathynv2012-11-18

Ooh, that sounds interesting! Cream sounds nice too. Let me know how it goes!

OrIsIt (author)2011-08-09

What do you do with the leftover sugars

kathynv (author)OrIsIt2012-11-17

I suspect that the best/easiest thing to do would be to strain it to get the hard strands of candy out, then store it for the next time when you need powdered sugar.

Keira_Yagami (author)2012-06-29

Can you rinse off the powder to make it shiny and smooth?

scoochmaroo (author)Keira_Yagami2012-11-11

You can rinse them, but they might get sticky. They will not get shiny and smooth lie commercial candy - you need a device called a sugar panner for that.

auntcandie (author)2012-03-13

After twenty years in Holistic Medicine, I love a line of teas called Traditional Medicinal. They have phenomenal blends for different conditions. My favorite for colds/flu is Gypsy Cold Care. Can hardly wait to make up a batch of these cough drops. Thanks for the tutorial!

scoochmaroo (author)auntcandie2012-11-11

Yes, that's exactly the kind I used! Good taste :D

Apxeon (author)2012-02-14

yes, what can you do with the leftover confectioner's sugar?

IrishTink (author)2012-01-02

I tried the powdered sugar mold and I'm not sure where it went wrong but instead of acting as a mold, the mixture dissolved the powered sugar and now it just looks like mush. Any Idea why???

7under1roof (author)IrishTink2012-01-10

Sounds like you may not have let your 'candy' get to 300F. when you use a candy thermometer, you clip it to the side of the pan and don't take it off, and keep the tip just above the floor of the pan so that it's not touching the floor of the pan itself.
I think if you try again and make sure it gets all the way to 300 you will be successful!

smcgill1 (author)2011-08-21

Thanks for this wonderful recipe & details. I made honey ginger drops (with mostly white sugar) and they turned out great! I put photos and how I made the ginger tea on my blog.

OrIsIt (author)2011-08-14

You thing I can put in zotz powder(forgot the instructable but last time i checked they closed it) to make candy with this?

OrIsIt (author)OrIsIt2011-08-14


jantinarose (author)2010-02-02

I made these tonight, and I'm not sure if I did something wrong, but it took 2 1/2 hours to get these to the hard crack stage. Is that normal?

QueenQuill (author)jantinarose2010-09-13

Use a candy thermometer, and a sugar temperature stages guide. Here's one: If you don't have a candy thermometer, they you can do a cold water test as described here: Enjoy!

Mitsuskitzo (author)2010-01-21

You confuse me. You seem to be big in to herbal remedies yet you get the H1N1 flu vaccine dont you know whats in that vaccine. thats like being a vegitarian and eating steak once a year

sameotoko (author)Mitsuskitzo2010-01-22

never underestimate the placebo effect.... that's pretty much all the therapeutical benefit you'll get from herbs and it's still strong enough to cause debate to this day

thefallenhero (author)sameotoko2010-09-05

Actually I think you'll find that some herbs have very potent healing properties, an have been used for centuries.

den_of_thieves (author)sameotoko2010-03-31

LOL. Do yourself a favor and pick up a small bottle of Clove oil, swab a bit of that on the inside of your cheek and tell me how much of a placebo effect you fe
el, (It'll numb up your mouth pretty well).

Don't underestimate the herbs. Some of them are as strong as very potent Pharmaceuticals (like belladonna, a very strong painkiller used when a patient has developed resistance to traditional meds).

Mitsuskitzo (author)sameotoko2010-01-22

Now see thats not true. Im very familiar with the placebo effect. You expect me to believe that every disease and illness can only be cured and treated by pharmaceuticals that are only man made. Nature has healing powers, be it in herbs, trees, plants, dirt, minerals, vitamins, and even our own bodies. Most man made medicines usually kill our natual ability to cure our selves they completly vaporize our immune system and then they make it seem like you have no choice but to rely on their medicine wich you pay for. I dont use any kind of man made medicines and i very rarely get sick. If and when i do it dosent last any more than a day. My immune system erradicates what ever is ailing me.

scoochmaroo (author)Mitsuskitzo2010-01-22

Yeah, my boss said we had to. 
It's the first vaccine I've ever gotten (since I was a wee lass)
It could well have been something else I was fighting at the time that took over once I got injected.  I'm not a big fan, and I probably won't do it again.

Mitsuskitzo (author)scoochmaroo2010-01-22

I would have quite my job or gotten fired If I was forced to inject something in me that is potentially harmful or even crippling or life threatening. I'm sorry no job is worth that

Super_pride1146 (author)2010-06-06

Hi Scooch, I was wondering, if I make say four cups of my choice of tea, then do I use four cups of sugar as well? Also, how long did it take you to reach the hard crack stage?

keastes (author)2010-04-15

just a thought here why not use cornstarch? less of a sugar sock when you first use it, it shouldnt affect the taste, also when you said licorice, did you mean anise?

adam72 (author)2010-02-06

I use coughdrops a lot for sore throats, or even just as a treat and I thought this would be a great idea. My only question is, where do you think I could get some of these herbs? A store? Thanks!

Knightsabre (author)2010-01-21

 Great 'ible!  One thing I noticed that has been bugging me a say to wash away any crystals from the side of the pan when boiling the sugar, but you don't say why.  I don't remember for sure, but there is a significant reason for that, correct?

Then again, I could just be thinking about it too hard.  ;)  I would love to try this sometime, but I don't have the supplies/facilities right now!

frollard (author)Knightsabre2010-01-26

The syrup you boil out the water until its a supersaturated liquid sugar.  As it cools it no longer holds its solid shape and slowly hardens.  It really really wants to be solid, but stays liquid a bit longer than it should because of the temperature.
If you add just 1 solid sugar crystal to it, it will 'flash crystallize' - where one seed crystal is all it takes to catalyze the hardening, and you will have a solid crystal in your pot and no candy :(
Keep your pot edges clean! 

Sidenote:  Same reaction happens to sodium acetate in those clicky crystal heating pads that you boil and melt the crystals - they stay statically as a liquid until they're shocked into hardenning, the clicker creates one crystal, and the rest grow instantly...

Knightsabre (author)frollard2010-01-26

 Ah, THAT sounds like what's been lurking at the edge of my memory!


frollard (author)Knightsabre2010-01-27

yeah; searching virtually any hard candy instructions and it should refer to doing this pot-cleaning.  I should make a video showing it happening.

sameotoko (author)Knightsabre2010-01-22

they burn on the sides of the pan and ruin the flavor, coloration and texture of your caramel. Its a lot easier to brush them of with a damp pastry brush than witha  damp cloth, and a lot less dangerous

scoochmaroo (author)sameotoko2010-01-22

Yup, that's it!
And good point about the cloth - I've never tried it, but I've seen it recommended more than once. 

Knightsabre (author)scoochmaroo2010-01-22

 Ah, yes.  Thanks for the reply, both of you!  :)

About This Instructable




Bio: Hello!
More by scoochmaroo:Halloween FoodSparkle Unicorn Floof HatPumpkin Carving
Add instructable to: