Coughing spells can attack us when we least expect it. So if you don’t like the taste of store-bought cough drops, the bright color they leave your tongue and the extra additives found in most—or maybe you are just looking for a way to save money—try making your own homemade cough drops. With a few common household items and one standout herbal healer, it’s easy to get started.
Natural Cough Remedy
Horehound (Marrubium vulgare), a natural cough suppressant and expectorant, is one of the major ingredients in over-the-counter herbal cough drops such as Ricola. Although it has an old-fashioned-sounding name, and indeed, is probably the cough remedy with which our great-grandparents were most familiar, horehound has up-to-date value in fighting coughs, colds and catarrh (or mucus buildup). Horehound is in the mint family, so consider growing it in a container to keep the plant from taking over. It grows from seeds or starts. Sow seeds up to three weeks before the last frost and space plants about 10 inches apart. As with other mints, go easy on the water. Harvest the flowers and leaves for medicinal use.
According to the American Botanical Council, horehound has been in use as an expectorant cough remedy since ancient Egyptian times and has been an important herb in treating wheezing, chronic bronchitis and whooping cough. Commission E, a regulatory body that governs herbal remedies in Germany, also approves horehound for loss of appetite and for intestinal concerns such as bloating and flatulence. (Read more under “What Is the The German Commission E?” in Grow a Garden with Healing Herbs and Plants.) Native people throughout North America have used it for centuries as a cold remedy, attesting to its universal effectiveness. An aromatic perennial, horehound is hardy and can be grown and harvested readily.
If you want to make your own homemade cough drops, horehound is a great place to start. For a recipe, just look in Herb to Know: Horehound Cough Drops. It also uses honey, which has been used medicinally since ancient times. (Hippocrates recommended it for optimal health circa 400 b.c.) Note: Do not give honey to children younger than 2.
Tip: For easy relief, steep horehound for 15 minutes, strain and gargle frequently. Another option for cough relief is a little honey. The demulcent soothes irritated mucus membranes and has been shown to reduce coughs better than dextromethorphan (the common over-the-counter cough suppressant) or a placebo.
K.C. Compton is senior editor at our sister publication, Mother Earth News.