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A Discourse on Cough Drops

Updated on April 6, 2016
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Introduction

I have always been intrigued by cough drops. The different brands with their varied shapes, textures, flavors, and colors have been of interest to me ever since I was 7 or 8 years old. The "Free Dictionary" defines a cough drop as "a small, often medicated and sweetened lozenge taken orally to ease coughing or soothe a sore throat." Different brands contain different medications (active ingredients), and I think that my career in the pharmaceutical industry began when I started taking note of the active ingredients in cough drops. So, I thought I'd like to dedicate a hub to providing some information (hopefully useful and interesting) about cough drops.

In the mid-nineteenth century, fishermen from Fleetwood in northwest England traversed the North Sea in vessels like this one. Many of them carried sore throat lozenges formulated by pharmacist James Lofthouse.
In the mid-nineteenth century, fishermen from Fleetwood in northwest England traversed the North Sea in vessels like this one. Many of them carried sore throat lozenges formulated by pharmacist James Lofthouse. | Source
The Smith Brothers, William on the left and Andrew on the right, were featured on the packaging of their cough drops so that people would know they were getting the real thing and not an imitation.
The Smith Brothers, William on the left and Andrew on the right, were featured on the packaging of their cough drops so that people would know they were getting the real thing and not an imitation. | Source

A Bit of Cough Drop History

One of the earliest cought drops put onto the market was the Fisherman's FriendTM brand. Around 1865 in the fishing community of Fleetwood in northwest England, fishermen on large sailing ships would traverse the rugged North Sea in search of their catch. Many of them contracted coughs and colds because of exposure to the harsh environment. One of the residents of Fleetwood, pharmacist James Lofthouse, noticed that the fishermen were prone to colds and came up with a remedy consisting of menthol and eucalyptus in the form of an oil packaged in a bottle. Later, Mr. Lofthouse reformulated his cold remedy into easy-to-carry lozenges that many of the fishermen took with them on their voyages. The fishermen referred to the lozenges as their friend, and that is how the current-day product got its name.

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1870, J. Herman Pine and his brother owned a confectionery shop. In an attempt to treat colds and sore throats he and his family contracted, Mr. Pine formulated glycerin, natural flavoring, sweeteners and a stabilizing agent called gum acacia into what is known today as Pine Brothers Softish Throat Drops.TM He did not expect to make very much money on his invention, but over the years his throat drops became one of the best-selling over-the-counter sore throat remedies ever marketed.

Another very old brand of cough drop, Smith BrothersTM, first appeared in Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1852. James Smith, father of the Smith brothers William and Andrew, moved to Poughkeepsie from Quebec in 1847, and opened up a restaurant. According to F&F Foods, the maker of Smith Brothers, a journeyman came into the restaurant one day and struck up a conversation with James. During that conversation, he gave James the formula for the cough drops. James immediately made a batch, and distributed them to customers. They were an instant hit, and over the next five years William and Andrew became involved in making and selling the cough drops. The business really took off when in 1852, they advertised their product in the Poughkeepsie newspapers. When James died in 1866, and the brothers inherited the business, they decided to put their pictures on the packaging so that the public could be sure they were getting the real Smith Brothers cough drops and not those of the imitators like Schmitt and Smythe who popped up.

Hall's Mentho-Lyptus Cough DropsTM began in Great Britain in 1893 as a manufacturer of soaps and jams. Soon, the company expanded its product line to include candy products such as carmels and chocolate limes. Sometime during the 1930s the company came up with the idea for a cough drop incorporating menthol and eucalyptus. These cough drops were so popular that they became the focus of the company's operations. At first, they were marketed solely in Great Britain, but in the 1950s they were introduced to the United States. Later, in the 1970s, they were launched in Latin America, and in 1980, sales in Japan began. Sometime around 1990, Hall's began to introduce new product variations that also proved to be popular. For example, in 1994 a sugar-free version appeared in the U.S. and Hall's with vitamin C was launched in South Africa.

There are several other brands of cough drops/lozenges on the market, and they all have their own unique story of birth and evolution. Active ingredients vary somewhat, and in the final analysis it is up to the consumer to decide which cough drop works the best, combining effectiveness with acceptable taste.




Fisherman's Friend Cough Drops are sold in outlets like this drug store, and they are available online.
Fisherman's Friend Cough Drops are sold in outlets like this drug store, and they are available online. | Source

Smith Brothers Cough Drops and the Bear Hunter

What Are the Most Effective Cough Drops?

The question of which cough drop is most effective has been posed by ConsumerSearch, Inc., an internet company that evaluates consumer products and reports on the opinions of both experts and users on a given product. You can access this company at http://www.consumersearch.com. After soliciting reviews from users at Drugstore.com, Amazon.com and Epinions.com, ConsumerSearch concluded that the most effective cough drop is the Fisherman's Friend Original Cough Drops brand. Each drop contains 10 mg of menthol, an oral anesthetic, as the active ingredient. Users say it "stops a sore throat immediately," and does "wonders" for an annoying cough. One negative aspect of these cough drops according to the users is that they are available only in the licorice/menthol flavor which is a little too strong for some of those participating in the review.

The ConsumerSearch review also concluded that the second most effective cough drop is the Hall's Mentho-Lyptus brand. In addition to menthol, these cough drops contain eucalyptus, an oil from the eucalyptus tree which is native to Australia. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, eucalyptus oil contains substances that can kill bacteria and loosen phlegm. Users said the Hall's drops are good at soothing dry throats and relieving mild coughing. In addition, they come in several flavors that include cherry, strawberry, honey lemon, spearmint and tropical fruit.

Disclaimer

This hub has been written for the sole purpose of providing information to the reader. It is not intended to be a source of any kind of medical advice or instruction, and it should not be used in the diagnosis of any illness, disease or condition. You should consult your doctor if you have questions about a specific medical problem.

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