‘Tis the season…it seems like now that Winter is here, everyone is coughing, hacking, sniffling and sneezing. Sadly, my family is no exception: In the last few weeks, we’ve been fighting a virus that comes complete with fever, sore throat, and a nasty cough. There are a ton of products you can buy to medicate a cough, but did you know that a recent study found that honey is actually more effective in relieving night-time coughing in children than the leading ingredient in cough syrup? That’s right, the children who were given a dose of honey at bedtime got a better night’s rest than those who were given honey-flavored dextromethorphan (the “DM” in over the counter cough syrups). When I read about that, I couldn’t help but seek out a recipe for honey cough drops! I found a great one over at Little House in the Suburbs and played around with it a bit. For these natural, yummy drops I combined the anti-bacterial, cough suppressing power of honey with phlegm fighting lemon juice and tummy-settling ginger root. The result? Cough drops that are all-natural, safe, and very effective. They taste great, too!
The honey used in the study was buckwheat honey, chances are that another type of honey will also work but if you’re going for full on cough-fighting power, the buckwheat honey might be worth a try. If you’ve ever made hard candy, you know that it can be a bit tricky…this is especially true when you’re preparing the honey cough drops, as the honey scorches easily! You’ll need a candy thermometer. And, since we’re making honey candy here, why not use a hexagon mold like this one to shape your drops? Cute, and each little beehive-like cell is the perfect size for cough drop.
First, measure your honey, lemon juice, and fresh-grated ginger into a sauce pan. Stirring constantly (pull up a chair, you’ll be here for a while), bring the mixture up to 300 degrees. You’ll see that once it starts to really boil, it becomes very foamy and climbs up the sides of the pot. Remove it from the heat now and then and just keep stirring it until the foam reduces. Once it hits 300, remove it from the heat right away. This process takes a little intuition, but it was easier than I expected.
Once the honey is hot enough, drop a bit of it into a glass of ice water. The honey mixture should form a hard ball, like candy. Fish it out and try it, if it is still chewy rather than crunchy it’s not ready yet and you need to heat it up again carefully before giving it another try. Chewy can be good, too…but the drops won’t hold their shape as well.
When your cough drop mixture is ready, let it cool off just a bit (the foam will die down and become liquid again) and then carefully drizzle the mixture into your mold. Let the mold sit in a safe place to cool (don’t be tempted to speed things up by popping them into the freezer, it’s better to just let them cool at room temperature). Also, don’t do what I did and put the pot under cold running water after you’re done with it…you will end up with a candy-coated pot that will need to soak for days! Run it under hot water that’s been going for awhile, or better yet put it in the sink and pour some boiling water over it.
When they are completely cool, pop the cough drops out of the mold. You can leave them as they are, but they do tend to stick to each other. One option is to drop them in some powdered sugar (here’s how you can make your own from natural, healthy Rapadura). For an extra immune system boost I mixed a little powdered vitamin C in with the powdered sugar, which gives the outside of the cough drops a sweet-tart taste. The easiest way to dust the cough drops is to drop them all in the powdered sugar, swirl them around, and then pour the whole mess into a sieve and sift away all the extra sugar.
There you have it! Cough drops that taste great, are good for your body, and work better than cough syrup! I’m feeling better already.
Note: It’s recommended that babies 1 year and younger not be given honey, as it can cause infant botulism.
Homemade Honey Lemon Cough Drops with Ginger
1/2 cup of raw, buckwheat honey (like this)
2 Tablespoons organic lemon juice
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger root
Kitchen items you will need: a candy thermometer, a candy mold with small openings (like this hexagon mold). You can make the cough drops without the mold; oil a piece of parchment paper and pour the candy onto it. Let it harden, and then break it up into small pieces.
1. Measure the honey, lemon juice, and grated ginger and pour it all into a saucepan.
2. With a wire whisk, stir the mixture as it heats to a boil. It will become foamy and start to climb up the sides of the pan, remove it from the heat and continue to whisk it until the foam reduces and then put it back over the heat. Repeat this until a candy thermometer reads 300 degrees, you will want to check frequently because the honey heats fast and scorches easily!
3. Drop a bit of the mixture into a glass of ice water (or, dip a spoon into the mixture and then quickly dip it into the ice water). If the mixture forms a hard, crunchy ball, it’s ready! If not, keep up with the whisking and heating and try again in a minute or so. Once a hard ball forms in the ice water, you’re good to go!
4. Let the mixture cool until the foam has reduced. Then, very carefully, drizzle the candy into the mold (or onto the oiled parchment paper). Let it cool in a safe place (not the freezer or fridge) until the cough drops are hard. When they are hard, press on the back of the mold to release. Or, if you’re not using a mold, break the cough drops up into pieces.
5. Optional (to prevent sticking): In a small bowl, mix the powdered sugar with the vitamin C powder. Drop the cough drops into the mixture to coat. Pour the sugar and cough drops into a sieve and sift to remove extra sugar.
6. Store in an airtight container. These actually do better in the fridge, as they attract moisture and tend to get sticky if left out.
What’s your favorite natural remedy for a cough?