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.
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?
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.cruz6 months ago

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.36056 months ago
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
SparkySolar7 months ago

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

SparkySolar7 months ago

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

kimmet.ellis8 months ago

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: http://www.healthdoyen.com/home-remedies-for-cough.html

Jar Sqwuid3 years ago
You're the only person I've ever met who knows what horehound is. I'm eating some now! Great recipe :)
Grandpa used to make these candies for me with horehound growing wild outside. (I miss Grandpa's old-time concoctions.)
justbel72 years ago
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.
smadrus2 years ago
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.
kathynv2 years ago
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)  kathynv2 years ago
Ooh, that sounds interesting! Cream sounds nice too. Let me know how it goes!
OrIsIt4 years ago
What do you do with the leftover sugars
kathynv OrIsIt2 years ago
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.
Can you rinse off the powder to make it shiny and smooth?
scoochmaroo (author)  Keira_Yagami2 years ago
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.
auntcandie3 years ago
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)  auntcandie2 years ago
Yes, that's exactly the kind I used! Good taste :D
Apxeon3 years ago
yes, what can you do with the leftover confectioner's sugar?
Saturn V5 years ago
YAY!!! Homemade mints! Do you know how to get a wintergreen flavor?
One might try essentialoils.com
IrishTink3 years ago
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???
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!
smcgill14 years ago
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.
OrIsIt4 years ago
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 OrIsIt4 years ago
jantinarose5 years ago
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?
Use a candy thermometer, and a sugar temperature stages guide. Here's one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candy If you don't have a candy thermometer, they you can do a cold water test as described here: http://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/candy/sugar-stages.html Enjoy!
Mitsuskitzo5 years ago
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
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
Actually I think you'll find that some herbs have very potent healing properties, an have been used for centuries.
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).
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)  Mitsuskitzo5 years ago
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.
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
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?
keastes5 years ago
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?
adam725 years ago
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!
Knightsabre5 years ago
 Great 'ible!  One thing I noticed that has been bugging me a little...you 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!

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...

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

yeah; searching virtually any hard candy instructions and it should refer to doing this pot-cleaning.  I should make a video showing it happening.
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)  sameotoko5 years ago
Yup, that's it!
And good point about the cloth - I've never tried it, but I've seen it recommended more than once. 
 Ah, yes.  Thanks for the reply, both of you!  :)
whiteoakart5 years ago
I made a batch this weekend.  My 11 year old daughter was suffering with a sore throat.  We made them with Peach Juice, her favorite.  I forgot to take a photo.  :(

Just don't bite down on them. They'll pull your teeth right out.  Or glue your mouth shut, if you have very strong teeth.

It took a long time to get to 250 degrees F.  Then a matter of seconds to go to 300.  Good thing I was keeping an eye on the thermometer.
Shesu5 years ago
Sweet! With my allergy to red food coloring, I can't eat some of the cough drops in the store. In fact, just the other week I was looking at some supplement drops, but the only one with more than just C had red food coloring in it. Now I can make my own! I just love DIY.

You might be able to add a vitamin pill in there too for added vitamins, but then again many of these tea making plants have lots of vitamins already. My question is how to add zinc.

BTW, with that horehound, be careful. The plant looks a lot like catnip (I know this from experience - yuck).
sameotoko Shesu5 years ago
you dont.... most vitamins will be destroyed by the heat and all minerals will concentrate, sometimes forming inactive compounds and some other times reaching poisonous levels; like iodine in tap water
Yup, they need adding at the very last moment, and even still only have a short lifespan at high temperature.
mrdavidlowe5 years ago
 I made these tonight and obviously didn't allow them to boil long enough. They ended up being crumbly, but the powdered sugar molds were awesome. It was awesome to watch the candied mixture suck into the mold and out of the sugar. I will make these again tomorrow and let it go all the way to 300 F. They tasted good, just not the right consistancy.
scoochmaroo (author)  mrdavidlowe5 years ago
I had forgotten how long it takes to achieve hard crack... ages and ages... but this Instructable makes it so worth the wait.
scoochmaroo (author)  thistlechick5 years ago
Yes! It does! Ages! I was surprised myself.  Even burned the first batch.
It takes forever to get there, but once it's there, no dawdling!
Awe thanks :0)  BTW-did you see my new picture of my grandchildren?
3553745 years ago
Well done this is really good!
You were really clever  to make up this recipie!
Mitsuskitzo5 years ago
no offence though i was just making an observation. thanks for the recipes

You need a lot of sugar for the candies to harden, yes, I do understand the chemistry. But is there anyway to tweak the recipe so one could use an alternative sweetener? Like stevia  or  honey?
scoochmaroo (author)  Ojibwa Chick5 years ago
I think it's worth a try. I don't have much luck with stevia, but I haven't put a lot of time into mastering it.  Honey may well make a softer chew than a hard candy lozenge like the agave nectar did.  Still awesome.
Splenda is a good substitute because its chemical structure is still similar to sugar. 
 OK, thanks Scooch. I know a lot of people hear on the reservation make traditional medicines all the time. This would be a cool, more palatable way to take them.
danm955 years ago
You could use some of that get well cold tea stuff. I think it has all sorts of stufff for colds
hammer98765 years ago
Pouring an exceedingly hot liquid out of a pan is a little frightening for me. My chemistry class taught me to put a thin object like a glass rod or metal chopstick across the top of a container and gently pour the liquid down the protruding end. (Does that make sense?) You can easily direct the molten liquid plus it is less likely to drip down the outside of the pan. Good luck with that technique.
rejectcarp5 years ago
Dude!  You could just impress any awesome shape you want over and over... I knew there was something to pastry technique.  And a better way to take my echinacea for sure.
scoochmaroo (author)  rejectcarp5 years ago
However. When you make the neighboring impressions, it kind of shifts the original one's shape.  Does that make sense? Give it a shot and you'll see what I mean.
This morning, I was thinking about my game "Pass the Pigs" and wanting to do a bunch of tiny pig shapes.
Hmm.  So I'd have to reproduce the shape, affix it to a static object and impress them all at one.  I'm sure there are candy molds for this?  I mean have you seen ice cube molds lately?  They are awesome.  And silicone.  

Whatever, I'll probably just make lollipops.  Those are easy.
whiteoakart5 years ago
Scooch, Your Instructables never cease to amaze me.  The final photo of the lozenges in the sugar is a work of art in itself.
scoochmaroo (author)  whiteoakart5 years ago
Oh! Thank you! It looks so cool when you make it, I just had to try and capture it.
What a great idea.  I think it could be a perfect gift  to put into  a "Get Well Soon" gift basket. oh! I just thought of a nice addition to the basket too.  I'm sure someone has posted a really good chicken noodle soup recipe. It could be put in a mason jar, and added to the basket.  Then...a copy of "The Best of Instructables" book could go into the basket. And then.....? Hmmm there must be other cool ideas lurking about the site lol :0) Look at what you've started Scoochamaroo.
scoochmaroo (author)  porcupinemamma5 years ago
HahahHA! I love it!
I just made a batch of chicken stock last night and was thinking I should make a classic chicken noodle soup I'ble.
You could include one of those microwavable rice packs too.
I should make you my marketing manager!
Definitely on my to-do list.

We're always looking for little cottage industry type ideas to make some spare change.  These may be too labor intensive to make much off of, but I plan to study up and see if it is viable.

Great idea and wonderfully presented.  Thanks for sharing!

dotmom615 years ago
Wow!  I'm very intrigued by this.  I've never made hard candy before, but DH is suffering from a cold right now.  I have some Throat Coat tea on hand, and I think that might make some delicious cough drops!

About how long did it take to make these???
momofmedo5 years ago
this is such a great idea, my 3-year old is always complaining that the caugh drops are to "spicy", but now I could make them to suit him.
has anyone tried honey, since honey is a natural antiseptic, and has a nice flavor, but I don't know if it would prevent hardening?
Cinnamon is also great I imagine, and it works wonders with caughs
your dog5 years ago
Great instructable! do the liquid cough drops really flow into the holes like you explained?
Also, i was wondering what type of sugar works best.
Im planing on making it with mint or an apple cider tea.
scoochmaroo (author)  your dog5 years ago
Oh yeah, and it's awesome.  But you have to pour slowly and aim for the holes, or else it will just flood the whole thing.  You'll see what I mean.

The best sugar I've found is a mixture of white sugar and light corn syrup (or golden syrup if you're in the UK). 

Good luck!

hahaha! it makes an odd plopping noise. it tends to work well, unless you're near the ede of the pan. Thanks for the recipie!

thanks. it's on the stove now. i decided to use white sugar.
 LOVE IT! I must try!
Arbitror5 years ago
"little lost gnome in a field of snow"...  That made my day!
This is awesome by the way! I'm going to make some super strong ginger ones! ;)
scoochmaroo (author)  Arbitror5 years ago
Ooh, once you perfect your recipe, send it on. I'm dying for some lemon-ginger ones.  Or better, just mail a batch to Instructables HQ. . . .;)
Can you mix the herbs and spices from the ingredients list or will they react?
Research, research, research first before making your own blends.
Awesome idea, I have spent sooo much money on the same from Ginger People.  And I have some ginger juice in the fridge now ^.^  Lemon zest to add lots of flavor and no more liquid or acid...
hishealer5 years ago
OOOOOH! Ginseng drops!  Energy candy!
hishealer5 years ago
Double strong breathe easy is the best inhaler in the world for bronchitis, even chronic.
lala19895 years ago


Mongpoovian5 years ago
This is great! I hadn't even thought of using powdered sugar because I didn't know how the drying step would affect it.

I'm planning on making some lemon mint this weekend. Thanks for the inspiration!
HollyHarken5 years ago
Somewhere along the road of my life I learned that keeping the lid on the candy pan eliminates the need to wash down the sides of the pan.  Fantastic idea to make your own herbal cough drops.  I'm going to share this with my sister-in-law who is very much into holistic medicine.  Her grandma was a naturalpath so the knowledge was passed down to her.  She managed to save one of her dogs with natural remedies after he nearly died from the dog food poisoning (which is why I've been feeding my dogs organic dog food for many years).  She has a lot of knowledge that I love to tap into.
Keep up the good work Smooch!
fegundez15 years ago
does the agave make it come out soft? or will it harden like sugar
scoochmaroo (author)  fegundez15 years ago
Ok, that's a really good question.
My agave drops did come out more like chews.
I thought it was because I didn't cook it long enough.
After all, corn syrup will turn hard as glass if cooked long enough.
So what makes you ask if agave will stay soft?
I have used it on other stuff and it seems to be softer, bread comes out heavier etc. so I figured it would come out like the soft chews.
moshee5 years ago
 Those look really tasty :O
Ninzerbean5 years ago
Perfect timing for me - I've had laryngitus for a week now, not enough time to learn how to spell it though. I'm heading for the kitchen right now.
lemonie5 years ago
I was expecting some cloves in this.
They look super.

Myrdydd5 years ago
Doh!  I never even thought about using candymaking techniques to make my own cough drops!

paulzef5 years ago
I likes it :D
Can't wait to try it
Looks like fun (I might just do it for the sake of being "Entranced" by the mould)

Nikki2135 years ago
This is really an awesome idea. I'm gonna have to try this, thank you for sharing!
Hmm, this will merit a try - store-bought lozenges do nothing for me, but herbal teas always help.  Very nice layout too.
ChrysN5 years ago
I love the powdered sugar molds!  I wonder if you could use lemon and honey, both are really great for colds.
Doctor What5 years ago
 That is an adorable Choco-Cat timer!  

The powdered sugar reminds me of sand molds.

The molds are pressed from sand into shape, used, and then knocked away, with a perfect finish! 
leeski5 years ago
 that is an awesome idea for a gift for a friend of mine who is out of commission with the flu....