How do Cough Drops Work?

What does it take to stop a cough?

The active ingredient in Halls is menthol, which acts as an anesthetic and pain reliever. 

If you have a sore throat or persistent cough, a cough drop — or lozenge — may be just the ticket. Some are minty, some are herbal, and some are a little bit numbing, but how do they work? Here are five popular cough drops, along with explanations of what makes them tick.

The active ingredients in Cepacol are cetylpyridinium chloride, a bacteria-killing antiseptic; benzocaine, which is a numbing agent; and menthol, the minty compound that acts as a local anesthetic as well as a pain reliever.

The active ingredient in Halls is menthol, and some varieties also contain eucalyptus oil. Both act as local anesthetics and pain relievers.

The active ingredient in fruit-flavored Ludens is actually pectin from the fruit itself, which coats the throat to reduce swelling and irritation. Menthol is the active ingredient in original menthol flavor as well as the honey flavor; honey coats the throat as well.

Fisherman’s Friend
These “extra strong” lozenges contain licorice extract, aniseed and eucalyptus oils, menthol, tragacanth (a natural tree gum), and capsicum. All of these ingredients are geared toward coating the throat and relieving pain; the capsicum creates a small amount of pain one place (the mouth) in order to divert it from another (the throat).


The active ingredient in Sucrets is a local anesthetic called dyclonine, which slightly numbs the affected area.