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Are Cough Drops Vegan? Can Vegans Use Cough Drops?

Are Cough Drops Vegan? Can Vegans Use Cough Drops?

Answer: It depends.

Are Cough Drops Vegan? Can Vegans Use Cough Drops?

Several studies or research have indicated that a fully vegan diet comes with several health benefits. But despite following a strict and nutritious vegan diet, anyone can fall prey to the common cold or sniffle.

When you are feeling sick, some remedies and medicines will make you feel better. But you must ensure that the medication you opt for doesn’t include animal products.

Cough drops are a staple remedy for the common cold and cough. So let us focus on its aspect of vegan-friendliness in this article. This context then begs the question, are cough drops vegan?

The answer is that it depends. It’s a bit of a yes and no, to tell you the truth. There are certain plant-based cough drops, but you need to look for them. In terms of the ones that are widely available, most cough drops are not vegan.

Although, some of these cough drops can be labeled vegan depending on how strict you are regarding your animal-free diet.

The question surrounding the complete vegan-friendliness of cough drops has been a topic of discussion for a while. People don’t want to accidentally consume an animal by-product when they feel under the weather.

If you have been looking to clarify if cough drops are vegan, we have you covered. Let’s dig deeper into the burning question of the hour: are cough drops vegan?

Ingredient List for Cough Drops

The active ingredient in cough drops may seem vegan. But it is not until we look into the factors behind each process that we realize its vegan friendliness.

Let us look closely at some key ingredients that go into manufacturing cough drops and how they determine their vegan-friendliness.

Artificial Colors

The labels on the pack only go as far as mentioning the ingredients involved in the manufacturing of cough drops. It is not until we look into the factors behind each process that we realize its vegan friendliness.

For example, lecithin and glycerin are two primary ingredients that go into preparing artificial colors. We usually obtain these from plants. But in some cases, animal-based lecithin and glycerol are derived from animal fat and soy as well.

Some artificial colors like blue 1 or red 40 exist that are wholly plant-based. But they are continuously updated and undergo extensive animal testing before being sanctioned for human use.

That can take away their vegan-friendly factors and becomes a complete no-no for many people. We are not talking about the typical mice and rats testing here. Sometimes they are tested on dogs as well.

On the other hand, petroleum also goes into making artificial colors. Although no animals get hurt while obtaining petroleum, it causes environmental degradation. Petroleum is a fossil fuel obtained from the remains of dead organisms.

Therefore petroleum too doesn’t fall under the category of being vegan-friendly.

On the whole, unless the labeling mentions otherwise, artificial colors involve testing on animals during the early stages of research. You can make sure to contact the manufacturer for clarification or look for a vegan alternative.

Magnesium Stearate

Stearic acid can be of either plant-based or animal-based origin. Vegan sources of stearate can be a vegetable oil, coconut oil, and palm oil. But the traditional source of it is pork, which is not uncommon with a lot of manufacturers.

You would need to contact the manufacturer to know for sure. Otherwise, always opt for cough drops that have a ‘suitable for vegans’ label on their packs.


If you are a strict vegan, then sugar can be a problematic ingredient for you. Sugar can be a point of concern because some cough drops involve bone char in their sugar-whitening process. It is the granular black substance that we obtain from charring animal bones.

Unfortunately, this is hardly mentioned on any label either. Our advice will be to buy and take sugar-free alternatives as much as possible if you want to avoid this.


Glycerin is yet another similarly vague ingredient that we can get from both plants and animals. Its two primary sources are animal fats and vegetable fats.

The animal fat gets sourced from tallow, a fatty substance produced by mutton or beef. Cough drops containing glycerin obtained this way will be off-limit to any vegan.

It is best to avoid them entirely if you want to avoid risking it. But keep searching for a vegan label until you finally find one.


A lot of cough drops contain honey, which aids in calming the throat. In most cases, it is listed around eight out of ten times on the ingredient list. Now, honey gets sourced from bees. That would mean it comes through mass production involving the worst possible practices.

There is a thing called ethically sourced honey. But most vegans are not reasonably sure whether that is not the case regarding the honey used in cough drops. As a result, honey stays off-limits until we know better.


Menthol, a plant-based organic compound, is possibly the only ingredient that is entirely harmless in this context. It acts as an active ingredient that works by creating a cooling sensation on the throat.

Natural and Vegan Alternatives to Cough Drops

It may be a bother to look for vegan cough drops in the market and cross-check whether every ingredient on the list is plant-based. But we have some natural alternatives that you can try out until you do manage to find one.

These food options serve the same function as cough drops, if not better. They also save you from the plight of having to keep scanning labels every time you buy a new bottle.


Bromelain is an enzyme that works wonders in terms of curing sickness. Pineapple happens to be rich in this enzyme, which will help you heal a lot sooner. That is because they contain potent anti-inflammatory and anti-mucolytic properties.

The collective effect of all these properties clears out the symptoms and helps your body heal faster.

Ginger and Garlic

These two vegetables are like nature’s cure-alls. Their potent antimicrobial property helps prevent sickness and cold symptoms. Add some to a cup of warm tea to get some cough relief and bolster your immunity.


Falling sick can adversely affect your digestive system, in addition to your immunity. But thankfully, bananas can help with the former. 

Bananas are rich in vitamin B6, potassium, and electrolytes. These substances make them effective against upset stomachs or diarrhea and in strengthening our immunity as well.

Marshmallow Root

Marshmallow root has been used as a remedy against a cough in and around Germany for thousands of years. The plant contains a mucilage lining, which is said to be rich in antioxidants.

As a result, this lining forms a layer over the digestive tract, thereby lessening the symptom. Have some marshmallow root powder with your evening tea, which would surely soothe the irritation in your throat.

But How Safe Are Cough Drops?

Cough drops can relieve throat ailments caused by viruses or bacteria. But otherwise, they are pretty safe for general usage.

The only point of concern is menthol, which can sometimes result in overdosing if consumed in a large amount over a prolonged period. 

However, this is quite improbable, as each drop doesn’t contain more than 10mg of menthol at once.

You can overdose on menthol only if you intake 6,800 drops at once. As a result, cough drops can be termed relatively safe as far as the question of overdose is there.

Even then, it would be best if you swallowed them in a pretty small window of time. 

On the other hand, menthol can be harmful to dogs. If your dog intakes a considerable amount, the menthol can cause excessive diarrhea and vomiting.

Lastly, if someone has diabetes, the sugar may be harmful to those people. But otherwise, cough drops contain zinc and vitamin G, which are immune boosters.

Final Words on Cough Drops

We understand that it might be concerning to determine whether your cough drop is vegan or not as a vegan. Manufacturers might describe some products as natural or artificial without providing any further explanation on the same.

However, vegan communities are continuously growing. With this growth, businesses consider these vegan communities a separate market section.

Avoid capsules as they typically contain glycerin and are obtained from animal sources. Always make sure to read the label before taking them.

If you are unsure about the contents of a cough drop, always try to find out from the manufacturers. If no information is available, you can always turn to the internet for answers. 

Vegan societies are an excellent source of support too. If all else fails, try out the natural alternatives we have listed for you.