Coming down with a respiratory infection often leads to an uncomfortable feeling of rawness and pain in our throats from all the coughing. Cough drops are a great way to coat our throats with medicine. But, if you live in the middle of nowhere (like I do), it can be hard to find cough drops that are not full of full artificial ingredients, food colorings and other additives that you may not want to expose yourself or your family to.
Pregnant women are faced with an additional dilemma when it comes to cough drops. Menthol, a derivative from the mint family, is a cough suppressant found in many over-the-counter medicines. Currently, there is not enough evidence to confirm the safety of menthol for pregnant women or their fetuses. When there’s not enough evidence for both natural and conventional therapies, I tend to steer clear and look for safer alternatives.
When I found myself unable to sleep due to an RSV (respiratory syncitial virus) induced cough at the tail end of my second trimester at 1030 at night after already losing sleep for days prior supporting my son, I went to my kitchen for a quick brainstorm... The kitchen is where I do the bulk of my “work” in supporting my families health. When you put together herbs and spices in a methodological way, you can safely support the health of yourself and your family.
Before you resort to using home remedies, it’s important to always assess the situation and whether it’s safe to treat your illnesses without medical supervision. Generally, if you don’t have a fever, signs of respiratory distress including difficulty breathing, turning blue or significant fatigue, and if you’re otherwise healthy, it’s typically safe to use home remedies. You will still want to run it by your physician, just to be safe. Also, it is not recommended for children under 6 to use cough drops, so if you’re wanting to support your 1+ y/o child with the cough, you can use a blend of honey and herbs instead of a lozenge.
Thyme has been found to help break up thick mucus, reduce the severity and duration of coughing episodes, and assist in clearing mucus from our respiratory tract.
Anise contains volatile oils (that beautiful aroma!) that helps to move mucus out of our respiratory tract, reduce severity and duration of coughing episodes, and it also calms anxiety/agitation.
Ginger is a warming and soothing herb. One of it’s herbal actions is to help reduce production of mucus. In one study, the fresh aqueous extract (aka: tea) was found to help reduce the binding of RSV viral particles to respiratory surfaces through a compound in the tea called Ge-Gen Tang. If a virus is unable to bind to our tissues, it is unable to infect us. RSV often just causes simple cold symptoms in adults, but in children, especially young children, it can lead to pneumonia and/or bronchiolitis. Both of these conditions, if they become severe enough, can lead to hospitalization. RSV infection is also linked to apnea in young children and may put them at risk for SIDS. As a result, ginger could be a good herb to incorporate for caregivers and families that want to take preventative measures against RSV. Because ginger tea is safe to consume while breastfeeding, it would be 100% safe for a woman to begin drinking it if she’s concerned about her child coming home with RSV.
Cinnamon according to herbalism, cinnamon is a “driving” herb. What this means is that it assists the movement of medicine to tissues within our bodies. It is also very warming, which may help with the coughing episodes, if they occur in response to cold.
Honey has been found to be a very safe and extremely effective treatment for cough in people over the age of 1. Research shows that a single dose before bedtime has been able to help reduce mucus secretion and cough episodes in kids, which means more sleep for caregivers and their children. In a Cochorane review, it was found that most over the counter medications for viral cough were ineffective. In many cases, both conventional and naturopathic medical professions are finding honey to be superior to over the counter options for the treatment of viral coughs.
Pregnancy and herbs: These herbs and spices at food based concentrations should be safe to use while pregnant. Anise does have mild phytoestrogenic activity, my concerns surrounding herbs tend to occur more when they’re used at a higher potency, for example in the form of tinctures and teas rather than in the form of cooking spices at a food based dosage.
1.5 cups water
1.5 cups organic sugar
1/2 cup raw organic honey
2 tablespoons lemon juice
arrowroot powder for dusting
Herbs (powdered or fresh - I used powdered ginger and cinnamon.
Boil 1.5 cups of water and add herbs (fresh or powdered depending on what you have). You can add herbs to taste. I made mine more on the spicy end with extra ginger. Allow to boil for a few minutes. If you added fresh herbs remove them before step 2.
Add 1.5 cups organic sugar and 1/2 cup raw organic honey. Stir and keep boiling until the water dissolves off. As the water dissolves off it will become a thicker consistency. Continue boiling until it reaches between 300-305 degrees fahrenheit.
Immediately remove it from heat at 300-305 degrees fahrenheit. Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. **IT WILL SPUTTER A LITTLE!**
Immediately pour into candy molds (I used these silicon molds from Amazon).
Let sit and set 1-3 hours
Pop out and dust in arrowroot powder and store in fridge or freezer.
I accidentally kept my drops out next to the stove, they melted together! But I rolled them into small balls, coated them in arrowroot and froze them immediately. They seem to store well in the freezer.