Soothing Homemade Cough Drops: Lemon, Ginger, & Honey

I have suffered this week with an awful sore throat, hoarseness, and stuffiness. This cold called for more than just my usual honey lemon tea remedy so I whipped up a batch of homemade cough drops!

If your family is experiencing scratchy throats during this cold & flu season, try this recipe to avoid the artificial sweeteners in store-bought cough drops and to give your immune system a boost!

Simple + Natural Homemade Cough Drops

These DIY cough drops include lemon (a great source of Vitamin C & antibacterial properties), ginger (antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties, pain reducer), cinnamon (antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial), and raw honey (antioxidant, anti-bacterial, and soothes sore throat better than some medications).

honey, lemon slices, cinnamon stick, and sliced ginger

When honey is heated, much of the medicinal value is lost, however, in this recipe, it still serves as a natural sweetener, throat coat, and as the ingredient that allows the cough drops to solidify. 

Lemon, Ginger, & Honey Cough Drop Recipe

*You will need a candy thermometer to make homemade cough drops.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 sliced lemon- or the juice of one lemon
  • 2 tsp ginger or 2″ sliced fresh ginger 
  • 1/2 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 cup local raw honey
  • **a tiny bit of Turmeric- optional

Step 1: Prep a Pan or Non-Stick Sheet

Prepare the surface that you want your cough drops to solidify on. This could be a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or 1/2″ of powdered sugar, a silicone baking mat (I still put parchment paper down because I was worried about the heat), or even silicone molds.

homemade cough drops on silicone baking mat
homemade cough drops on baking sheet with powdered sugar
homemade cough drops in silicone molds

Step 2: Prepare the Ingredients

Slice the lemon into round slices or juice it if you prefer. Slice or grate the ginger root. Add the lemon, ginger, cinnamon stick, and water into a medium heavy bottom saucepan. 

I added two thin slices of turmeric, but this is optional. If you need a milder flavor you can leave it out. 

Step 3: Make the Tea

Bring the water and fresh ingredients to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pan, and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Then remove the pan from heat and allow it to steep for another 10 minutes. This makes a strong tea that will add flavor and soothing properties to your homemade cough drops. 

Step 4: Strain the Solids

Strain the lemon, ginger, and cinnamon solids out of the tea. Don’t just toss them in the trash, though! Save them for the compost bin.

Solids being strained from lemon ginger tea | lemon slices, cinnamon stick, and ginger

Step 5: Add Honey

You could just stop here and drink the lemon ginger tea with a teaspoon of honey, BUT taking it a couple of steps further will give you a jar full of soothing homemade cough drops that your whole family can use.

Now you can pour the tea back into the same saucepan and add one cup of locally sourced raw honey.

Step 6: Stir & Add the Thermometer

Stir well until the honey is dissolved and place a candy thermometer in the pan.

Step 7: Harden the Mixture

Heat on medium-high heat until it is boiling. Turn the heat down a bit and continue to boil until the syrup reaches 300 degrees. This is called the hard-crack candy stage.

It is pretty easy to burn honey at this high temperature so keep a close eye on it and reduce the heat if needed. This can take a bit of time- 30ish minutes usually.

The honey syrup will begin to bubble up the side of the pan. You can pull it off the heat for a couple of seconds to let the bubbles subside or stir it a bit to keep it down. 

Candy thermometer and wooden spoon in boiling honey mixture

You can check to see if you have reached the hard crack stage by dropping a bit of the boiling mixture into a glass of cold water. If it is ready, it will form hard pieces (balls and threads) in the water and when you take it out, it will snap when bent. 

The Importance of Reaching Hard Crack Stage

There are different stages in the candy making process:

  • Thread: 230° F-235° F (good for a syrup and jellies )
  • Soft-Ball: 235° F–240° F (good for a fudge, fondant, and meringue)
  • Firm-Ball: 245° F–250° F (good for caramel and marshmallows)
  • Hard-Ball 250° F–265° F (good for a taffy, nougat, gummies, rock candy)
  • Soft-Crack: 270° F–290° F (good for taffy, candied apples, butterscotch)
  • Hard-Crack: 300° F–310° F (good for lollipops, cough drops, and other hard candies)

I used to heat these DIY cough drops to the hard ball or soft crack stages, but I found they would begin to melt into each other in storage. Altering the recipe to reach the hard crack stage allows the cough drops to be stored without melting and it produces a hard-candy-like cough drop instead of a chewy one.

You can heat to a lower temperature, but be aware that there will be a higher moisture content which means your cough drops may be chewy and may melt. This isn’t an issue as long as you wrap each cough drop in parchment paper during storage to prevent sticking.

Step 8: Settle the Bubble

Remove the pan from heat and let the bubbles settle for a few seconds.

Step 9: Shape the Cough Drops

Use a spoon to drop dots of the syrup onto your prepared pan, mat, or mold. Do this quickly because it will harden fast.

Homemade cough drops on silicone baking mat covered in powdered sugar

Remember to keep your drops cough drop sized or they will be difficult to use without chewing or cutting them. 

Step 10: Cool

Let the homemade cough drops solidify for about 5 minutes. 

Step 11: Enjoy!

Place one on your tongue and let the throat soothing begin!


These DIY cough drops come out with a little bit of a spicy kick. If you don’t want the spiciness, then I suggest cutting the ginger to 1 1/2 tsp. You can also coat these drops with powdered sugar so they won’t stick together during storage.

How to Store Homemade Cough Drops:

After rolling each cough drop in powdered sugar, you can place them all in an airtight container (like a mason jar) and keep them in the fridge. 

homemade cough drop covered in powdered sugar in a half-pint mason ajr

If they stick together even with powdered sugar (this sometimes happens with homemade cough drops especially if they don’t reach the hard crack stage), then you can wrap each one in parchment paper and place them back into the container for storage. 


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7 Comments

  1. Tastes great but did not stay hard and melted together overnight and it was brought to the correct temperature.

    1. Im sorry that happened! I kept this recipe at hard ball stage so they would be somewhat chewy for kids. Cooking to hard crack stage (300-310 F) should prevent them from melting together. I will be remaking them soon and will update the post to reflect that information.

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