Herbal Cough Drops (horehound)

I have made cough syrup with horehound in years past. This is the first year I attempted cough drops. This is a pretty standard recipe for making the traditional horehound candies that have been sold in American candy stores for decades. Horehound grows all around me as an invasive weed on land that has been stressed by use as pasture. This herb may be bitter but it is one that we all should know how to use and identify in case of emergency. The use of sugar in the form of syrup or “drops” makes it more palatable. My kids are not of fan of these candies but I find the taste a fun experiment. But I also still remember sodas made of birch, sarsaparilla, and sassafras. I like European candies flavored like rose, violet, and orange blossom. It must be an acquired taste. The addition of anise hyssop and mint covers the bitterness of the horehound and provides a bit more sweetness to the flavor.

Herbal Cough Drops/Candies

Make 1 cup of strong infusion using dried or fresh herbs. Start with 2 cups of water, 1/4 cup of horehound, 3/4 cup of anise hyssop, 1/4 cup of mint. Bring water to a boil, add the herbs, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain and measure out 1 cup of liquid.

Measure 1 cup of honey. Add it and your infusion to a medium size pan.

Cook over low heat, stirring continuously.

Cook until temperature reaches 300 degrees or the hard crack stage on a candy thermometer. If you do not have a candy thermometer, you can test the mixture by placing a drop into ice water. If your drop stays firm/hard then you are probably at 300 degrees. Be patient. I may take a long time to get to 250 but after that it may rise very quickly. Your liquid may foam at the very end. It may change to a lighter color. It should not start to smell burnt.

Once at 300 degrees, remove pot from heat.

Pour mixture into greased molds. Allow cough drops to cool and harden. If you could not get your temperature up high enough to reach a true “hard crack stage” your drops may be a bit soft and melt at room temperature. No problem just keep them frozen until needed. Candy making can be a bit of a science experiment. Sometimes you have no idea why the “chemistry” did not go according to plan. This happens a lot since I live at such a high altitude. Substituting some of the honey with cane sugar may also help with hardening. If your liquid is foamy you can tap the mold lightly to reduce air bubbles. Waiting and pouring more as it settles is an option as long as things don’t start to harden.

Cooled candies can be rolled in powered sugar or fine slippery elm bark powder. Store in the refrigerator until needed. These drops are probably not a good choice for kids under 3 years old or for individuals with braces or certain dental appliances. They are quits sticky or could possibly be a choking hazard.

White horehound is a perennial plant in the mint family that grows easily on several continents. You will find it in gardens, dessert pastures, the wild, and wastelands. The entire plant is downy and has a silver “bloom”. The fibrous twisted root sends up several square shaped stems. Numerous leaves are opposite, petioled, round/ovate, wrinkled and soft underneath. Tiny with a pink/white two lipped flowers with a spiny calyx grow in axillary whorls in late summer. Prefers sun and well drained soil.

Marrubium vulgare has been used for healing since ancient times. It is a common ingredient in cough syrups and lozenges because it clears phlegm and prevents infection from moving into the lungs. It is thought to helps with bronchitis, laryngitis, hoarseness, sore throat, asthma, pneumonia, and a hacking cough. Historically this plant has bee used to treat fever, anemia, hepatitis, retained placenta, stomach issues, heart conditions. It balances bodily secretions and makes a bitter digestive tonic. It increases circulation (vasodilator) and sweating. Stimulates the production of bile and supports the liver.

Externally a serum can treat blackheads and rough/dry skin. Adds a healthy glow and moisture to the skin. As a poultice/compress it can be used on deep wounds, a rash or for shingles.

Taste: highly aromatic/pungent (volatile oils) and bitter. Requires a lot of sweetner to make it palatable.

Energetics:Moves energy, clears heat/cooling and toxins. Drying.

Element: Air

Contraindications: pregnancy. Excessive use may lead to hypertension. Fresh juice applied to the skin may cause a reaction. Large doses may act as a laxative.

Published by blackbirdsbackyard

My backyard botanical pharmacy is located in Boulder Colorado. I began studying herbal medicinewhen I was 12 years old. In college I studied subjects like anthropology, microbiology, anatomy and physiology, After graduation I decided to go to midwifery school. I attended births and had a small practice until I retired early in order to be a mother full time. I have always had an herb garden, gathered plants and made my own healing formulas with plants. Over the last 30 years there have been many teachers and I have attended dozens of workshops. I am one of those people who is always reading, studying and learning. In 2019 I was called to practice as an herbalist professionally, using "plant spirit medicine" and bio-energetic ( 5 element)healing techniques. I feel that there is a big need in the community for my skills and talents. I hope to inspire others to start their own backyard pharmacies as a solution to species extinction and the healthcare crisis in America. Healing has also become a spiritual practice and way for me to feel balanced and connected with nature. I consult with clients in person, teach classes (adults and kids), give tours of my garden and offer apprenticeships. Health, joy, meaning, and support are everyone's birthright.

%d bloggers like this: