There are herbal preparations that help us stay healthy and then there are ones to help us get better when our immune systems get overwhelmed. This recipe for cough drops is just for those times when you catch that cold you were so desperately trying to avoid and end up with an annoyingly sore throat.
Unlike many store-bought cough drops, these contain no cane sugar, artificial ingredients, or unnecessary fillers. They utilize the plant medicines of hibiscus, peppermint, and ginger to amp up your herbal wellness and cold care routine in as little as 15 minutes.
HERE YOU’LL FIND:
Meet the Lozenge (aka Cough Drop)
Why You Should Make Your Own
About the Herbs Used in These Cough Drops
How to Make Hibiscus Peppermint Cough Drops
Cough Drop FAQs
Recipe for Cough Drops with Hibiscus & Peppermint
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Did anyone else suck on cough drops like they were breath mints (or even candy!) when you were young? That’s because most of them are practically candy with all the sugar and artificial flavors they contain. And I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t seem very nourishing or nutritive when your body is struggling back towards health.
In fact, when a cold or the flu comes in hot, unnecessary sugar and artificial flavorings are the last things our bodies need.
Meet the Lozenge (aka Cough Drop)
A lozenge is a small medicinal tablet, not unlike a hard candy, that is meant to dissolve slowly in the mouth to help soothe sore throats.
Lozenges are often also called pastilles, or more commonly, cough drops.
There are two kinds of cough drops in this world. One is more like a hard candy like a peppermint or butterscotch candy, and the other is more like a compressed pill similar to an Altoid or Sweetheart candy.
The recipe for cough drops shared here is the latter, a compressed pill. The pill is made of honey and powdered herbs beneficial for immune support and soothing to inflamed and irritated throat tissues.
Why You Should Make Your Own Cough Drops
Here’s the thing: many recipes for cough drops require melting cane sugar to a hotter-than-Hades temperature and then pouring the hot lava into molds or dropping little drops of it into a bed of powdered sugar or corn starch. There are candy thermometers involved and safety considerations and patience that, frankly, I just don’t have sometimes.
These herbal cough drops take another approach. This method requires no heating and no candy thermometers.
You’ll simply powder the herbs, stir together with a small amount of honey, form into small balls, and then allow to dry. That’s it!
Granted, the end result is less like hard candy and more like a compressed ball of powdered herbs. But you’ll get all the benefits (and flavor) of the whole herb as opposed to just using an extract. And there are no unnecessary added sugars.
Herbal lozenges or cough drops are also easy to customize to your own tastes and personal health needs.
About the Herbs Used In This DIY Recipe for Cough Drops
This recipe is full of nutritive and medicinal herbs to help you get well much sooner! When making your own cough drops, herbs that are soothing to your tissues, immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and antimicrobial are just the thing you need!
The Health Benefits of Hibiscus
Hibiscus is probably best known for the brilliant red and pleasantly tart iced tea that helps keep us cool in the warmer months of the year. And it also happens to be a great herb to include in your homemade herbal cough drops.
In this recipe for cough drops, hibiscus is included as a demulcent, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial herb. As a demulcent and anti-inflammatory herb, hibiscus can help to soothe irritated tissues. And as an antimicrobial herb, it can help to fight any infection that may be causing the inflammation and irritation that manifests as a sore throat or cough.
Plus, hibiscus also happens to be incredibly high in vitamin C, a potent immune-boosting vitamin that’s an essential part of any cold care.
Here is a list of the most well-known and studied health benefits of hibiscus:
- Heart Tonic
- Demulcent (helps to soothe irritated and inflamed internal tissues such as mucous membranes)
The Health Benefits of Peppermint
Aside from being the quintessential summertime herb for all things iced tea and fresh-squeezed lemonade, peppermint is a perfect herb to include in your homemade cough drops.
The highly aromatic volatile oils of peppermint are incredibly cooling and add antimicrobial, antitussive (anti-cough), and antispasmodic benefits, just the things you need to help ease the discomfort of a sore throat and cough.
The medicinal uses of peppermint include:
- External Analgesic (pain-relieving)
- Stimulating Nervine
The Health Benefits of Ginger
Ginger, as a food, rarely needs an introduction. It’s found in all kinds of sweet and savory foods from salad dressing, gingerbread donuts, and pumpkin spice blends to herbal honey and digestive bitters. You can even make a ginger bug for all your homemade and healthy soda dreams!
Ginger is everywhere! And it’s with good reason: many herbalists refer to ginger as the truly universal medicine.
In this recipe, ginger is included for its immune-boosting properties, as well as its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties to help fight infection.
As a medicine, the health benefits of ginger include:
- Circulatory stimulant
Try These Other DIY Herbal Home Remedies
How to Make Hibiscus Peppermint Cough Drops
These cough drops (or pastilles) are adapted from a Mountain Rose Herbs recipe. They’re so quick and easy to make!
Here’s a quick rundown of what you’ll need and the basic method for making these cough drops with hibiscus, ginger, and peppermint. If you’re ready for the full, detailed recipe, skip ahead to the end of this post.
Equipment You’ll Need:
- Spice Ginder or Mortar & Pestle (You’ll only need one of these if your herbs aren’t already coarsely powdered. I use a spice (or coffee) grinder most often. If using a mortar & pestle, I find that the unpolished granite mortar & pestles are the easiest to use with dried herbs and spices)
- Measuring Spoons
- Small Mixing Bowl (or ramekin)
- Hibiscus Flowers or Hibiscus Flower Powder
- Peppermint Leaf or Peppermint Leaf Powder
- Ginger Root Powder
- Raw, Local Honey
- Optional: Add an immune-boosting tincture such as astragalus extract or elderberry extract or an herbal syrup such as elderberry syrup or ginger syrup. Otherwise, you can just substitute with more honey.
- Powder the herbs (if they aren’t already). If the herbs you’re using aren’t already powdered, you’ll need to use either a spice and coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle to grind the herbs to a coarse powder. No need to bring them to a fine powder. In fact, a coarse powder is better for this recipe.
- Combine all powdered herbs together in a small bowl.
- Add in wet ingredients. Use a fork to fully incorporate the honey and if using, the optional immune-boosting syrup or herbal extract. The mixture will start to come together and form a very firm, dry, and crumbly dough.
- Form the dough into small balls or disks. Use your fingers to pinch together small balls of the mixture and form into balls.
- Finish off the cough drops by dusting each one with additional hibiscus powder. Add all the rolled balls to a small bowl or plate of hibiscus powder. Gently roll them around in the powder until they’re evenly coated. This will help to prevent the cough drops from sticking to each other in storage.
Cough Drops FAQs
Where can I find the herbs used in this recipe?
Depending on where you live, you may be able to find at least some, if not all of these herbs, at a natural food store. Some natural food stores or food co-ops have bulk sections offering a selection of medicinal herbs.
Otherwise, you can find all the herbs used in this recipe for cough drops at any online herb retailer. My personal go-to is Mountain Rose Herbs. They offer an extensive variety of organic, fair trade, and ethically harvested medicinal and culinary herbs and medicine-making supplies. The quality of their products is amazing, consistent, and outshines herbs I’ve purchased from many other companies.
How many cough drops can you have in a day?
You can chew or suck on these herbal cough drops as often as needed. Start with one cough drop and then have another as needed. There are no major health concerns or contraindications with the herbs or ingredients used in this recipe and at the dosage used.
However, if you are pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription medications, always check with your healthcare provider or a practicing clinical herbalist before consuming medicinal herbs.
What herbs are good for coughs?
Not feeling the herbs used in this recipe? Here are some other options:
- Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
- Marshmallow (Althea officinalis)
- Slippery Elm Bark (Ulmus spp.)
- Poppy (Papaver somniferum)
- Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
- Plantain (Plantago spp.)
- Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
- Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
- Orange Peel (Citrus sinensis)
When choosing herbs to help care for a cough, there is the nuance of whether or not you have a dry cough or a wet, mucousy cough. Herbs that are expectorant in nature will help increase the productivity of a wet cough, helping you to better cough up the mucous.
And on the other hand, herbs that are are more demulcent and soothing in nature will help with the irritated and inflamed tissues that are causing your dry cough. Many cough drops contain some mixture of these herbs.
What is the best way to store cough drops?
The best way to store your homemade herbal cough drops or pastilles is to first roll them in a finishing powder (this recipe calls for hibiscus). This will help to keep the cough drops from sticking together.
Plus, this is the first thing you will taste when popping a cough drop into your mouth. Aim for tastier herbs, as opposed to primarily bitter herbs, like hibiscus and orange or lemon peel.
After rolling them in a finishing powder, store the cough drops in an airtight container in the refrigerator and take as needed.
How long do herbal cough drops last?
While these cough drops will probably last much longer, I like to use these within 1-2 weeks. If you add an alcohol extract such as elderberry extract or astragalus extract, the alcohol content will help to increase their shelf-life.
Store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for the best results.
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Hibiscus, Peppermint, & Ginger Course: RemedyCuisine: Cold CareDifficulty: Easy
Herbal Cough Drops (or Pastilles)
This recipe for cough drops (adapted from Mountain Rose Herbs) comes together in 15 minutes! Hibiscus adds a nice tartness and pleasant blast of vitamin C-powered immune support, while the peppermint is cooling and soothing to irritated and inflamed tissues in your throat. The ginger helps to fight any infection. This recipe makes ~12 marble-sized cough drops, although you could roll them a bit smaller to yield ~15.
4 teaspoons powdered hibiscus*
4 teaspoons powdered peppermint leaves*
2 teaspoons powdered ginger root (or 1 tsp ginger + 1 tsp powdered orange peel)
3 teaspoons raw, local honey
1 teaspoon herbal immune tincture, herbal syrup, or more honey**
extra powdered hibiscus for rolling (~1 teaspoon)
- **If the herbs you’re using aren’t already powdered, you’ll need to use either a spice and coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle to grind the herbs to a coarse powder. No need to bring them to a fine powder. In fact, a coarse powder is better for this recipe.
- Combine all powdered herbs together in a small bowl. Use a fork to mix them together thoroughly.
- Add in wet ingredients. Use your fork to fully incorporate the honey and if using, the optional immune-boosting syrup or herbal extract. The mixture will start to come together and form a very firm, dry, and crumbly dough. The dough may not look like it will stick together, but test it between your fingers before adding more liquid. It should hold together when pinched into a ball.
If the dough is too dry to hold together, add more honey, a tiny drizzle at a time, just until the dough can be formed into a ball without crumbling apart.
If the dough is too sticky and wet, add more hibiscus or ginger powder. The dough should be firm and on the drier side. A mixture that is too wet will be difficult to roll into balls and will take longer to “cure.”
- Form the dough into small balls or disks. You should end up with ~12 marble-sized balls. I think this is a great size for this recipe, although if desired, you can make the cough drops smaller.
Since these cough drops are so small, it’s easiest to roll these between your fingertips, as opposed to between your palms.
- Finish off the cough drops by dusting each one with additional hibiscus powder. Add a small amount of hibiscus powder to a small bowl or plate. Roll the cough drops in the powder until they are evenly coated. This helps to keep the cough drops from sticking together in storage.
- Let the cough drops “cure.” While these cough drops are ready for use immediately, for storage purposes, let them air-dry in a cool location out of direct sunlight for ~4-6 hours. You can just leave them on the countertop in the dish you used to roll them in the finishing powder.
- After 4-6 hours, store your homemade cough drops in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Take one cough drop as needed. You can either chew these cough drops or suck on them like candy.
- *POWDERING HERBS: Hibiscus and peppermint leaf powders are a little more difficult to find than ginger root powder. You can powder these herbs yourself using a spice (or coffee) grinder or a mortar & pestle. If using a mortar & pestle, I find that the unpolished granite mortar & pestles are the easiest to use with dried herbs and spices. >>It’s best to grind to a coarse powder for use in this recipe for cough drops, not a super fine powder.
- **ADDING HERBAL EXTRACTS OR SYRUPS: Try an immune-boosting tincture or syrup such as astragalus extract, elderberry extract, elderberry syrup or ginger syrup. Medicinal mushroom extracts such as reishi or chaga would add nice immune support as well. Otherwise, just use an additional teaspoon of honey.
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DISCLAIMER: The information given in this article is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult with your healthcare practitioner before consuming certain herbs & medicinal foods, especially if pregnant, nursing, or taking any prescription medications.