is there anything like a cough drop, but not sweet?
December 30, 2020 12:01 PM   Subscribe
All the cough drops I've been able to find, to moisten my dry mouth or stop a tickle in my throat, are too sweet. Especially the sugarless ones. Most sugarless cough drops are sweetened not only by the hard-candy base, made of isomalt or some such indigestible sugar, but also by added sucralose, acesulfame-K, stevia, aspartame, saccharin, or other artificial sweetener. The amount of any artificial sweetener used in anything is always vastly in excess of what I can stand the taste of. (Why do people like everything so sweet!) I must be a supertaster for sweetness.

What I'd really like would be something like a hard candy, without eucalyptus, ideally with a moisturizer such as glycerin or pectin, with no added sweeteners. What I'll be lucky to find is anything not quite as sweet as what I have now. I'm mainly looking at sugarless versions because dry mouth plus sugar eventually equals tooth decay.

Things that don't work for me:
  • Halls sugarless cough drops and various store brand versions (the combination of isomalt, sucralose, AND acesulfame K or aspartame make them far too sweet)
  • Biotène Dry Mouth Lozenges (isomalt, xylitol, AND sucralose)
  • Biotène Moisturizing Mouth Spray (saccharin tastes extra-horrible)
  • Ricola cough drops (their herbal formula always gives me a thrush infection)
  • Spry xylitol-sweetened chewing gum (gum is highly effective but makes me clench my jaw at night after I've used it during the day)
  • KAOL Japanese mouth refresher mints (peculiar and interesting but no effect on dryness or throat tickle)
The best thing I've found so far is Ice Chips xylitol candy. No sweetener other than xylitol, which is the best-tasting of the not-sugars, and most of the many many flavors taste really good, plus the bonus anti-dental-decay action of xylitol. These work fine at bedtime, though they're a bit too sweet. I can't bear the terribly sweet taste they leave in my mouth if I use them in the middle of the night, though. Spry xylitol-sweetened mints are second best, so far, same drawback but not so many flavors.

Glucose doesn't taste nearly as sweet as sucrose, so I've toyed with the idea of making hard candy from glucose, but that's an awful lot of trouble. Handling molten sugar scares me.

Can anyone come up with any other suggestion?
posted by chromium to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Fisherman's Friend. Sugar is the 2nd to last ingredient and they are not sweet at all.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:17 PM on December 30 [32 favorites]

Hits of peppermint tincture. Follow with water.
posted by Wichienmaat at 12:18 PM on December 30

Additional note re Fisherman's Friend - I too considered that, because of how I recall them to taste. But I also looked at the ingredients list and noticed they DO have sorbitol. So - fair warning that while they do add a sweetener, it is possible they add it in a low enough level that you might still nevertheless be satisfied.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:22 PM on December 30 [1 favorite]

Thayer's Slippery Elm tablets are a tiny bit sweetened, and they are a totally different texture than hard candy cough drops, but might be worth a try. They are labeled as a "demulcent"; singers use them to increase moisture.
posted by amtho at 12:23 PM on December 30 [6 favorites类似彭野的小说男主角 类似彭野的小说男主角 ,真人妇女导尿手术视频 真人妇女导尿手术视频 ,女主开始就很强大无敌 女主开始就很强大无敌 ]

Came here to suggest Buckley's cough drops - their advertising slogan is "It tastes awful. And it works." Looks like the sweeteners are malitol and sorbitol, but I can attest you sure as heck wouldn't be able tell. However today I learned they're really only sold in Canada. Looks like you can find it online in various places in the US, but their US plant was closed some years back.
posted by cgg at 12:32 PM on December 30 [3 favorites]

Have you tried Grether's Pastilles? I was introduced to these by a coworker a few years ago--I do a lot of public speaking, and these are something of a cherished tradition among singers and the like. The blueberry variety might be right up your alley (ingredients are maltitol syrup, edible gelatine, acidifier (citric acid), thickener (agar-agar), glycerin (1.5%), blueberry juice (3.3%), vegetable oil (coconut and rapeseed oil), coating agent (beeswax), flavor, coloring grape extract, sweetener (acesulfame -K)) and they're about as sweet as fruit, not sweet as candy. I prefer the vegan version, which is a bit sweeter but not by much.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 12:35 PM on December 30 [5 favorites]

Bach's Rescue Pastilles are made with sugar but are mostly a gum arabic base (kind of like glycerin), which is soothing to the throat. They're pretty delicately sweet and small.

Same with the Grether's Pastilles, which come in much more bold fruit flavors (they're known for the currant ones).

My mother has been using PUR mints which are xylitol sweetened and I think those other sugar alcohols. There's an orange one that's not as sweet tasting.

For plain old boiled sugar, no flavor, the Japanese have a niche candy called Juntsuyu or Ogontoh.
posted by typetive at 12:35 PM on December 30

Fisherman's Friend have maximum menthol, which is the active ingredient. I often break them in half; they can be too hot.
posted by theora55 at 1:01 PM on December 30

Oracoat brand Xylimelts are pretty subtle, at least to me.

Chewing on couple of small chunks of dried licorice root (usually sold as a tea) is a mint substitute I use. It's sweet, but notably different from most candies.
posted by eotvos at 1:32 PM on December 30 [1 favorite]

Are the Ricola brand cough drops too sweet?
posted by slateyness at 1:50 PM on December 30 类似彭野的小说男主角 类似彭野的小说男主角 ,真人妇女导尿手术视频 真人妇女导尿手术视频 ,女主开始就很强大无敌 女主开始就很强大无敌

On looking again, I see they’re listed in your no-gos. Sorry. Mods can delete my comments as unhelpful if they’d like.
posted by slateyness at 1:56 PM on December 30

Glucose doesn't taste nearly as sweet as sucrose, so I've toyed with the idea of making hard candy from glucose, but that's an awful lot of trouble. Handling molten sugar scares me.

No need to make your own glucose candies, you can buy glucose tablets at just about any drug store, because diabetics use them when blood sugar drops too low. However, they would still have the issue you mention with tooth decay (plus, you'd be spiking your blood sugar all the time).
posted by Jahaza at 2:25 PM on December 30 [1 favorite]

You might give spruce gum a try. It's the resin from spruce trees. The flavor is distinctive and lasts for hours. It takes a little while to soften into a chewable gum, and during that time acts a bit more like a lozenge.
posted by jedicus at 2:52 PM on December 30 [1 favorite]

Note: sorbitol is a laxative.

Following up on jedicus, you increase your options if you look outside the genre of cough drops. Gums might work. Ginger chews might work. A gulp of cold water from a thermos might work.

You don't say if you are trying to control a persistent cough, but if you are, it might be worthwhile searching for the cause. My doc suggested an OTC antacid for my occasional cough.
posted by SemiSalt at 3:44 PM on December 30

Slippery elm works sometimes. The drops mostly have sweeteners and don't really work. The only thing that worked for nighttime cough for me is Benzonatate, by prescription. They're gel caps, but they also knock you out.
posted by answergrape at 4:45 PM on December 30

Unsweetened isomalt. They taste much more of menthol than eucalyptus to me. /olbas-remedies/olbas-lozenges/
posted by gray17 at 4:53 AM on December 31

Additional note re Fisherman's Friend - I too considered that, because of how I recall them to taste. But I also looked at the ingredients list and noticed they DO have sorbitol.

Where are you seeing this because I have a packet in my hand and there is no sorbitolthe Original Extra Strong, which contains sugar. The later "sugar free" flavours like lemon and blackcurrant do, but that's not what I linked to?
posted by DarlingBri at 5:08 AM on December 31

I double up on Grether's Pastilles. You'll probably have to order over the internet as they are hard to find in stores. My personal favorite is the sugar-less black currant. When I wake in the night with a cough, Grether's immediately soothes it.
posted by tmdonahue at 5:19 AM on December 31 [1 favorite]

DarlingBri: I went to the company web site and clicked on the various flavors and read the ingredients labels.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:22 AM on December 31

Thanks for all the great ideas. My primary concern is dry mouth, but I also like to sleep with a cough drop in my mouth when I have a cold, not that I've had a cold for a long time, and I like to carry a cough drop or piece of hard candy when I have to go out, in case I might get a tickle in my throat, since, these days, coughing in public will cause unnecessary alarm. SemiSalt, you're right, a chewable antacid should also work for this last purpose.

gray17's unsweetened isomalt is one answer I was most particularly looking for, so I was thinking of getting some Olba's lozenges, but what that led me to, which seems even better, is just plain isomalt nibs. Apparently people make clear gemstones or windowpanes for fantastic cakes using it. Of course the stuff will cause digestive distress if one eats more than one or two pieces in a day, and it will be sweet, but it's got to be less horribly sweet than the same stuff with acesulfame or aspartame or sucralose added to it.

I've also ordered some spruce gum to try, as that sounds interesting; the lack of sweetening seems ideal. That might be the best answer for when my mouth is feeling dry at dawn (even after drinking water) and I can't face anything sweet at all. I have tried Oracoat brand Xylimelts and they are pretty acceptable. I will look for Grether's Pastilles, slippery elm lozenges, Bach's Rescue Pastilles, and Fisherman's Friend the next time I'm in a shop that carries them, since they seem pretty pricy online. Maybe I should order the Grether's pastilles before then. No real licorice root for me, since to me it tastes a lot like saccharin, as it is fifty times sweeter than sugar.
posted by chromium at 1:41 PM on December 31

I'm probably being Safety Sue, but do be careful about falling asleep with a hard lozenge or lump of gum in your mouth, because you could inadvertently inhale it.
posted by Transl3y at 4:12 PM on December 31 [4 favorites]

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