Cough Drop Day
annually on May 13th
Cough drops are small tablets, usually medicated, that slowly dissolve in the mouth to suppress or stop coughs temporarily, as well as to soothe sore tissues in the throat. Some are designed to combat other symptoms of the common cold or influenza as well. They are sometimes known as throat lozenges because they were originally shaped like lozenges, or diamonds. They have also been called troches, cachous, and cough sweets. Today we celebrate them for all they do to help us while we are sick.
Ingredients in cough drops include both expectorants and cough suppressants. Cough drops also have many of the same ingredients that hard candies have, such as sugar and corn syrup, as well as other additives such as vitamins. Some common ingredients include benzocaine, eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil, menthol, spearmint, honey, dextromethorphan, vitamin C, zinc, echinacea, and camphor. Non-menthol cough drops usually have an oral demulcent such as pectin or zinc gluconate glycine. The ingredients are mixed together, cooked, and cooled, in a similar process to how hard candy is made.
In ancient times, coughs were suppressed with herbal teas and syrups. Precursors to cough drops date back to 1000 BCE, to Egypt's Twentieth Dynasty, when candies were made with honey and flavored with herbs, spices, and citrus. In the fourth century, hard candies similar to those of today began being made, and their design predated modern cough drops. Hard candies originally were only available to the rich, but as sugar became cheaper and more readily available in the eighteenth century, so did these hard candies.
Cough drops that resemble those of today were born in the nineteenth century. What would become Smith Brothers Cough Drops, the first cough drops, began being made in 1852. A street vendor named Sly Hawkins stopped into a restaurant owned by James Smith in Poughkeepsie, New York. Hawkins gave him his recipe for "cough candy." Smith began making the recipe and selling the cough candy in glass bowls. James Smith passed away in 1866, and his sons William and Andrew took over the business. In 1872, they changed the name of the cough candy to Smith Brothers Cough Drops, they put them in special packaging instead of bowls and began a more aggressive marketing campaign. The company added menthol to their cough drops in 1922. The company was sold in 1963 and the cough drops stopped being made in 1972.
Other early brands include Luden's, which was formed in 1879, and Halls, which was started by two brothers in Great Britain in 1893. Halls originally focused on jams and caramels, however, and it wasn't until the 1930s that they began selling cough drops, making them with menthol and eucalyptus. Halls cough drops were introduced to the United States in the 1950s. Today there are many popular brands of cough drops, such as Halls, Lockets, Luden's, Fisherman's Friend, Ricola, Sucrets, and Vicks. On Cough Drop Day, we celebrate all cough drops, no matter their brand.
How to Observe
Celebrate the day by having some cough drops. Who cares if you don't even have a cough! Try many different flavors, and have some made with various ingredients such as honey, peppermint, and eucalyptus. You could also try various brands, such as Halls, Lockets, Luden's, Fisherman's Friend, Ricola, Sucrets, and Vicks.