Zero Waste Cough Drops

Zero Waste Cough Drops
Want to try your hand at making zero waste cough drops? You should! It’s super fun and a really great way to soothe a sore throat. Traditional cough drops have a lot of packaging waste that can easily add up when you’re feeling under the weather. And most of the wrappers (and bags) are made from plastic. You can avoid the waste (and questionable ingredients) inside conventional cough drops by making your own. 

I will say I’ve come across several cough drop recipes on the internet, and most of them were pretty intimidating. Unless you’re used to making candy, you’ll likely find it very tricky. I tried to make cough drops three times: The first time I absolutely, whole-heartedly failed and burnt my batch. The second time, I used a different, easier recipe and I almost got it right. Third time was the charm though. Yes, my failed attempts did create waste. But the good news is, I learned from it and won’t let that happen again. These cough drops don’t require you to own a candy thermometer or get to a specific temperature. The chance of burning your cough drops is practically non-existent with this recipe. Here’s how I make zero waste cough drops that are easy, quick and super efficient.
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Zero Waste Cough Drops

Zero Waste Cough Drops

If you have a sore throat, throat drops immediately become your best friend. Instead of wasting money on buying cough drops, why not try making your own? Honey naturally soothes sore throats on its own, so it makes sense to include them in throat drops. Here’s how to make some zero waste cough drops.


  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teapoon of ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cloves (or 6 whole cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon of raw honey
  • Powdered sugar or tapioca starch (for topping the cough drops so they don’t stick)

Note on ingredients: Try to get these ingredients as package free as possible. You can usually get local honey in glass jars at the farmers market or health food store. Sugar, ground cloves, ground ginger and tapioca starch can be found at the bulk food store. See if a neighbor has a lemon tree you could grab a lemon from. My climate doesn’t really favor lemon trees so I can’t get these at the market or from a neighbor. I just grab it at my local grocery store package free using a produce bag.

Zero Waste Cough Drops


  1. Combine all the ingredients together in a small pot, making sure to stir it together. Keep it on high heat until it starts to boil. Once it starts to boil, put it on low heat for about 20 minutes, give or take. If using whole cloves, make sure to scrape them out using a spoon towards the end. When the 20 minutes are up, remove from heat and let it cool for a few minutes (2 to 3 minutes). It should look syrupy, a little thick, and a bit darker in color.
  2. Take a cookie sheet and line it with compostable parchment paper. Alternatively, you can also just use a silicone mat. Drop one large spoonful of the mixture onto it. Repeat this process until you’ve filled up the baking sheet with the soon to be cough drops. It may look a little messy, but this is okay. I found scraping the bottom of the spoon off before plopping a spoonful of the mixture down helped control and limit the mess.
  3. Now, let your cough drops cool and harden. You can place the drops in the freezer for 10 minutes to speed up the hardening process. When they’ve hardened, sprinkle a generous heap of powdered sugar or tapioca starch on top of them so they don’t stick together. You can make powdered sugar very easily by simply blending regular sugar up in a blender. Once they’re coated, they’re now ready to use!

Store these zero waste cough drops in the container of your choice and use as needed. I’m keeping mine in a small metal tin. You can use an emptied out tin from mints you finished, if you like. These tend to get a little tacky if left in room temperature too long, so I suggest keeping them in the fridge. That’s because they’re not exactly hard candy like traditional cough drops.


Using zero waste cough drops

Zero Waste Cough Drops

I really love these zero waste cough drops. They’re so easy to make and really tasty. Not to mention they really help with reducing a sore throat!

Even if your throat is just dry, these will help you. Sometimes I’ll find myself reaching for these without any given reason cause they’re just that good.

The cloves, lemon and ginger really help fight off sickness. The sugar helps keep it tasty and sweet though, which I prefer.

If you’d like to make a big batch of these, I recommend just doubling or tripling the ingredients. It’s nice to have extra! These will go fast, especially when you are sick.

It’s a good idea to make these before you get sick, just so you don’t have to be bothered while you’re under the weather. Prepping ahead of time will save you time and effort!

Zero Waste Cough Drops

I’m definitely going to make a big batch of these come fall every year from here on out. They’re so easy to make there’s no reason not to make them, honestly.

To use, just pop one in your mouth and suck on them like you would any cough drop!

Just be aware that these cough drops aren’t exactly hard candy, so they’re kind of melt in your mouth in a similar way caramel does. It’s still effective at helping soothe your throat, but something to be mindful of. Make sure to suck and not chew these drops.

For those who aren’t into DIY cough drops, I will say that Ricola is a great option. The reason is because Ricola cough drops are all-natural, herbal and wrapped in compostable waxed paper.

The actual bag Ricola cough drops come in isn’t as waste free, but still – it’s your best bet. You can just compost all the paper wrappers when you’re done! Definitely reduces the amount of waste in my book.

Zero Waste Cough Drops

Will you give these zero waste cough drops a try?

For more zero waste health tips, check out these all natural immune boosters or this fire cider recipe.
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By Ariana Storniolo (Palmieri)

Ariana Storniolo is the founder of Greenify-Me, a blog dedicated to zero waste and sustainability. Her work has also been featured on Going Zero Waste, Green Matters, Mother Earth Living and several other online publications.


  1. I noticed you listed turmeric in a comment but not in the ingredients of the recipe.If you recommend adding it to your cough drops,how much do you use in the recipe? I definitely want to try these! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks for pointing that out! I fixed it now haha. I didn't use turmeric so I'm not sure why I mentioned it haha. I meant to say lemon. 😀 Let me know how it goes for you! Hope you enjoy them as much as I do! ^_^

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