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DIY: Make Your Own Cough Drops and Cough Syrup

Amy Jirsa
RYT 500 By Amy Jirsa
RYT 500
Amy Jirsa, LMT, is a master herbalist, E-RYT 500 yoga teacher, forager, and writer from Maine. She is the author of Herbal Goddess: Discover the Amazing Spirit of 12 Healing Herbs with Teas, Potions, Salves, Food, Yoga, and More and the founder of Quiet Earth Yoga.

One especially tiresome component of our winter illnesses can be that stubborn cough, which outstays even the sinus pain, drainage, headaches, and runny noses.

Bring on the herbs!

Here are 3 recipes to make your own cough drops and cough syrups:

Herb Honey Syrup:

  • 1 cup honey (organic)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tsp herb of choice (sage, wild cherry, or horehound—you can combine two or three of these herbs; your choice).

Stir all the ingredients over medium heat until they simmer, then remove from heat, cover, and steep ten minutes. Strain and bottle. You can keep this in the fridge for several months. Take by the tablespoon as often as needed for coughs (do not give to children under the age of two).

Herbal Cough Drops (involved version):

  • ¼ cup dried herbs of choice (I recommend horehound here)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tbs honey

Simmer your herb in the water for 20 minutes—keep the pot covered. Strain and return infused water to the pot. Add sugar and honey, stir, and bring to a boil. Simmer gently.

Next, clip on your candy thermometer and boil to 330 degrees. This is the tricky bit—keep stirring as the temperature rises. As it gets close, let the syrup drip from your (wooden) spoon; if it forms a thread, then allow a drop to fall into a cup of cool water.

Now the fun part—bite that little drop of syrup. Is it gooey and sticking to your teeth? Keep cooking. If it cracks when you bite it, you’re done. Take that puppy off the heat.

Now, if your syrup starts to crystalize, just add a cup of water and an extra tablespoon of honey, scrape in the crystals, and start again.

When you’re at the hard-crack stage, line a baking sheet with parchment and pour the syrup in. Let it cool a bit, then score with a sharp knife—this allows the cough drops to break apart easily once cooled. Store by wrapping each in parchment paper or dust them with powdered sugar to keep them from sticking to each other.

Herb Cough Drops (easy version):

  • 1 tps dried horehound
  • 1 cup honey

Heat the honey in a saucepan, stir in the herbs. Simmer, then take the honey off the heat, cover, and steep 10 minutes. Next, strain out the herb and return the honey to the sauce pan. Now, follow the directions above, clipping on your thermometer and heating to about 300 degrees. Drop the syrup in the cold water, test for cracking, then remove it from the heat being very careful because honey burns easily.

On a piece of parchment paper or wax paper, pour teaspoon sized drops leaving room for them to spread. Leave them to harden, then store by wrapping each in parchment paper or dust them with powdered sugar to keep them from sticking to each other.

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