A Cultural and Historical Examination of the Cough Drop

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Sometime around 1872, the Smith Brothers made one of the great decisions in marketing history.  About twenty years earlier, a street vendor named Sly Hawkins wandered into a restaurant owned by James Smith (father of the brothers) located in Poughkeepsie, New York.  Hawkins was broke, hungry, and clever; in order to get himself fed, he offered Smith his recipe for what he called “cough candy.”  Smith accepted, started making his own “cough candy,” and when his sons, William and Andrew, were fully grown, they began producing more of it and marketing it more aggressively to the public.  With sales rising, a decision was made to sack the word “candy” from the name of the product.  The Smith Brothers replaced it with the word “drop,” and with that decision, the very first box of “cough drops” was sold.

Meanwhile, across the pond in Great Britain, a new company began, starting around 1893 and selling jams, caramels, and something that was apparently popular at the time called a “humbug.”  The company was called HALLS, named after another set of brothers.  The HALLS Company continued doing business, likely aware of the Smith Brothers’ new advent of a menthol cough drop in 1922.  It’s difficult to say how aware the HALLS brothers were of this, but in the 1930s they invented their own recipe for cough drops, using a combination of menthol and eucalyptus, and began marketing them.  The Smith Brothers continued on, selling their company in 1963.  Nine years later, their line of cough drops came to an end.  As it did, HALLS Cough Drops, which were introduced to the US in the 1950s, proved to be extremely popular.  The company had a hit on their hands.  By the 1990s, HALLS cough drops were being sold all around the world.

Interestingly, though, they were not marketed the same way from country to country.  Personally, I can distinctly remember the HALLS commercials that played on American television in the 1980s.  I remember the phrase “the HALLS of medicine” and the ad where the camera drifts through what appears to be a cave made entirely of cough drops.  The commercial states, in a very serious tone, that, “HALLS are REAL medicine.”  And that’s how my perception of the product was shaped, I guess.  I’ve always thought, subsequently, of HALLS as a medicinal product, one used to treat a cough just as Vicks Vapor Rub is meant to treat chest congestion or Tinactin is meant to treat athlete’s foot in a tough actin’ way.

However, in many parts of the world, this “REAL medicine” tagline has never existed.  Throughout Asia, HALLS is marketed and viewed as straight up candy.  Thus, I’ve been thrown for a loop several times by Korean people, usually students, and how they react when I pop a HALLS in my mouth to treat a sore throat.

“Yum!” they’ll say.  “Can I have a candy?”

“Candy?” I’ll snap back.  “This is medicine.”

“What?  That’s candy!”

Then I’ll point out that at my school in the US, where I taught for several years, it was forbidden for a teacher to give a student a HALLS cough drop, as it was hammered into our heads that teachers could not under any circumstance give a child any form of medication (it could result in death).  I’d also explain that I could not in fact give away a precious cough drop; it was for my health, and it wouldn’t be right for somebody else to take the cough drop just for personal pleasure.

“But that isn’t medicine,” I heard over and over again, from younger and older people.  “It’s delicious candy…I love the taste of it.”

I was so confused by this, the idea that HALLS is candy and not medicine, that I started researching it on the Internet.  According to Wikipedia, “In some parts of the world, including Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Colombia and the Philippines, Halls is advertised as a mentholated hard candy and is not recognized as a medicine for coughs. In the UK, Halls Extra Strong has recently dropped all mention of an active ingredient (or of coughs) from the packaging, which now describes the contents as ‘Extra Strong Original flavour hard boiled sweets.’”

How, I wonder, does HALLS stay afloat if it’s nothing more than a candy?  It tastes medicinal to me; who in their right mind would, if desiring some candy, choose HALLS over a Snickers bar or peanut butter cup?  As a medicine, HALLS has basically no competition.  As candy, it’s David against an army of Goliaths.   HALLS vs. Gummi Bears?  I’m going with the gelatinous mammals.  HALLS vs. Twizzlers?  No contest.  HALLS vs. a Tootsie Roll?  That one’s close.  Depends on if they have the excellent “blue” flavor of HALLS.  If not, I’ll be more enthusiastic about a Tootsie Roll than the 69 Boyz were.

Putting more thought into this, I began to ponder the grey area between candy and medicine.  Gum, for instance, is sometimes marketed as a product that enhances one’s breath and is good for oral hygiene.  Yet, I can’t view gum as a health product.  True, the intent is there; I feel there is a wider gap between gum and mouthwash than HALLS and, say, a jolly rancher.  What about Flintstone Vitamins?  Those are technically a health product but, when I was a kid, if they didn’t have a child protective cap on them, you bet I would’ve tried to eat a whole bottle.  They were delicious.  I could’ve been the first child to ever overdose on them.  Could you imagine how humiliated my parents would’ve been?  It would be hard to admit that their child OD’ed on Flintstones chewables, as opposed to something cool like heroin.  Even worse, with my loss, the company would have to change the jingle to say, “We are Flintstone kids, 9,999,999 strong and growing.”

That’s just not as catchy.

There’s a reason the Smith Brothers decided to drop (pardon the pun) the ‘candy’ and changed it to ‘drop.’  What was that reason?  Was it because their product was medicine, or because they wanted to segregate it away from all the other candy products around?  For over 25 years of my life, I’ve viewed the cough drop as medicinal and now I think that’s because of advertising.  I feel like a sap but, at the same time, I’m still absolutely convinced it really is medicine.  What can I say?  In our world full of marketing and commercials, I suppose there really is but a minute difference between a Health Bar and a Heath Bar.

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167 thoughts on “A Cultural and Historical Examination of the Cough Drop

  1. I’ve always thought of it as medical… but like, simple over-the-counter stuff. Yes, it’s also sold on the same shelf as Mars Bars, but that’s beside the point.

    I prefer Tic-Tacs myself. I view Tic-Tacs as medicinal too, only they treat headaches, nausea, sleepiness, and a whole host of other conditions.

    Placebos work when you really believe in them!

    • Yes, tic-tacs also can treat cancer and scurvy. If I’m not mistaken, they’re also effective in treating acne, social anxiety, and issues with confusion surrounding sexual identity.

      Really, you were being sarcastic about the tic-tacs, right?

      Haha – thanks for the comment Drew. Always good hearing from you, buddy.

    • I guess it’s all about the way that culture presents them. I mean, root beer used to be marketed as an herbal tea, but nobody would buy it. Then the guy changed the name to beer, and suddenly he was raking in the dough

      • Cool fact about root beer. Really, herbal tea? That dude knew how to move product! Marketing genius. I guess anything would sell better if ‘beer’ was in the name: Sunny D – Sunshine Beer, Squirt – Lemony Beer, Milwaukee’s Best – Water Beer. The possibilities are endless.

        Thanks so much for the comment, Shinobi!

    • Sup Mikalee?! That is truly disturbing about your friend. I suppose the pink color makes it look like bubblegum or cotton candy. So it’s vaguely understandable. That said…if I was hanging with a girl and suddenly she’s slurping down Pepto Bismol like it’s vintage Scotch, that might be a bit of a turn off.

      Thanks for the comment. Peace!

    • I suppose the exception to that would be a pack of Newports. Maybe if they tried really hard, they could pitch it as smokeable medicine. ..that eventually gives you cancer.

      Seriously though, point well taken. Thanks a ton for the comment, Mom Meets Blog!

    • Yes, I suppose that is the underlying theme here. Who knows really how effective our medicine is – convince me that a HALLS throat drop cures a sore throat, and when I do indeed have a sore throat and take a HALLS, I will believe that it’s much better and improving. Is that true or just a placebo effect? And similarly, what else is like that?

      That’s sort of what I was thinking anyways. Thanks for hitting on that, MJ! I like your gravatar by the way. I would absolutely march with someone who sports an “I’m Evil” picket sign.

    • Thanks Laurie! Not to be argumentative, but I bet if I really tried and I was a really cruel person, I hypothetically could make you eat a HALLS for some other reason. Like if I kidnapped your dog or threatened your computer with Spyware. Of course I wouldn’t do that…that would be crazy and I don’t have that kind of dedication.

      I’m not sure what my point is. Regardless, thanks a ton for the comment! Peace!

  2. Kinked Slinky

    Phew, now I can keep eating those great Ludens drops without the fake “cough-cough” or fear I’m slowly poisoning myself !

    • Lol! Yes, I too have been paranoid about slowly poisoning myself with cough drops. I also agree that Ludens are great and quite significantly more candy-like than HALLS.

      Love the gravatar. It’s like Daria mixed with Velma from Scooby Doo, with an Asian tint to it. Thanks a lot for the comment, Kinked Slinky!

    • That’s cute. I’m assuming your girlfriend’s niece is a little kid. Otherwise, maybe not quite as cute. Although, in that case, I’d congratulate you for dating a cougar.

      Anyways, thanks a ton for the comment. Take care, Jeuron!

    • Farce! I have NO idea how this particular one got Pressed. Though I am thankful. 1,000 words about cough drops…I thought I’d end up with six likes.

      Hope you’re doing well, my friend! I should send you an email – I feel very interesting things are probably happening in your life that you have not been blogging about (shame on you!).

      • But cough drops are so univeral. It’s an experience to which we can all relate. And we all have that one kind that we ended up liking so much that we don’t buy it anymore. Because we eat it like candy and don’t have it when we actually need it.

      • Apparently cough drops ARE universal! I feel like a cough drop expert right now. Coincidentally, I’ve also gotten sick and my girlfriend just dropped off three packages of them. This is too much. I need a cough drop vacation!

        Thanks for the comment Urban Night! If I don’t finish these cough drops, I’ll send you some!

  3. Mind bogglingly definitely not as candy – too much menthol can cause unpleasant happenstances in the bathroom department for some folk. Nasty on your digestives altogether. I wonder if they’ve reduced the amount of menthol since my days of tasting them? Fun take on the subject and nice research too. ;)

    • Haha – two things made me laugh. First, I love the diction: “unpleasant happenstances in the bathroom.” Secondly, you mentioned “nice research.” The first thing I said to my girlfriend when I saw that this had been Freshly Pressed was, “Oh God, I hope it’s factually accurate!” I wrote a piece on the Korean war a few months back and…how shall we say it…a few blunders were made. So I’m pretty sure the research is okay here. Maybe I’ll end up getting contacted by a descendant of the Smith Brothers.

      Thanks a ton for the comment, Do F!

  4. I hate the taste of cough drops and discovered years ago that a butter rum Lifesaver works just as well. I’m with you, I’ll stick to licorice and peanut butter cups and leave the cough drops to the hypochondriacs. Very fun read, thanks.

    • Wow, totally forgot that Lifesavers exist! Have they become less popular recently? I remember Lifesavers being adored when I was a kid. Then again, so were Steve Guttenberg and Wham! The test of time can be difficult to pass.

      Thanks for the comment and the compliment, OK. Really appreciate it.

  5. Selvinas

    Mmm, maybe cough drops are ”medicine turned into candy”? Because while it does relieve your throath it also contains a lot of sugar and other stuff typically found in candy. Same goes for the cough drink, altough you can overdose on that one so it’s more of a ”proper” medicine.

    • Maybe that should be the standard: if you can overdose on it, it is medicine. I used to be scared that I would overdose somehow on my acne medication. That would’ve been embarrassing, because I didn’t even have clear skin. Lethal and inefficient.

      I’m rambling. Thanks a ton for the comment, Selvinas!

    • That’s a nice sentimental thought. To be honest, I’d never even heard of Smith Cough Drops before researching this. Sounds like they did very well for themselves. I feel bad for that Sly Hawkins dude who gave away the recipe for one stinkin’ meal! (Although I’d guess he gave the recipe away to a lot of restaurant owners over time; Smith was just the only one who ran with it. Just a guess.)

      Thanks a ton for the comment, Segmation!

  6. CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! Look at you, Mr. Freshly Pressed ;)
    Thanks for the bit of interesting history. I’ll never look at a Halls drop the same way again =P

    • LOL! Thanks Cafe! This was a total surprise. I even told 1 Point Perspective the other day that I was about to put up an extremely long and boring post, referring to this…and then it goes and gets Freshly Pressed. Very pleasant surprise.

      Waiting for your next cover song post, Cafe! Take some HALLS if throat soreness is what’s holding it up!

    • What the heck is a humbug??? I need to look that up. The website I used called it a “popular British candy.” I didn’t look into further. They still exist? Right on! I want a humbug too!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Peachy Teachy. Hope that cough gets better! Stop smoking!

  7. I was participating in a mission trip to the favelas in Sao Paulo, Brazil a couple summers ago and was very disturbed that the kids thought of Hall’s as candies. However, the leader of our group was forewarned and had packed several packages of the stuff to hand out to the kids. We were the kids’ heros. Hmph, who knew?

    • That’s really interesting. I was in Rio a few years back and was tempted to do the favela tour but didn’t end up doing it. I’d love to go back to Brazil, as it was one of the best experiences of my life, and when I do, I will be sure to pack some HALLS. Good heads up!

  8. matt miller

    Fantastic post! My sister and I used to get Luden’s Cherry cough drops for Christmas. They’re just like wild cherry Lifesavers, but seemed so much more “grown-up” or “fancy” or something…

    • Hahaha. Very true. Luden’s absolutely tasted more like candy than HALLS and your Lifesavers comparison is fitting. I’m a little curious that you got cough drops for Christmas, though. No toys? You asked Santa for Luden’s? Your parents must’ve been very happy with how undemanding you were. And the other kids must’ve been baffled: “I got a Nintendo 64!” “Sweet! I got cough drops!”

      I’m joking around. I’m sure they were a minor part of the holiday. Thanks a ton for the comment and compliment Matt. Peace!

  9. I’m definitely in the “cough drops are medicine” camp! It’s got a very bitter taste that I don’t like and I can’t imagine people seeing them as candy. I only ever take them when I have a cold!

    • I’m with you. It amazes me how the kids go nuts if I pop a HALLS during class. They ALL want one. Suddenly I have twenty little arms reaching out to me like I’m about to hand out pizza. Or money.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Amelie 88!

  10. Great article.

    Menthol, the alleged active ingredient in Halls, does provide some symptomatic relief but little “real”/biological effect as an antitussive or anti-inflammatory.

    Having said that, when it comes to some cough remedies and various other over-the-counter (OTC) remedies, the dividing line between medicine and placebo becomes very thin indeed. To the point of being an almost irrelevant distinction. In these cases, as traditional medicine has relatively little to offer, using a placebo makes sense. Hey you feel better don’t you, so no harm, no foul.

    This isn’t the case with all OTC meds though, so don’t treat them all as candy! :)

    Interestingly enough, IIRC, Halls have had to pull their medical claims from UK packaging and are now just call them sweets (though of course, I’m sure most of their sales are to the coughing rather than the sweet-toothed). I suspect this change was because of concerns of being sued for false advertising (the law on making medicinal claims was tightened a while ago) but I’m not sure of the specific reasons.

    Congrats on Freshly Pressed!

    • Hey, thanks for this. Great information. My post was (obviously) written by someone (me) who doesn’t really know anything about medicine, so having some actual insight is wonderful. “As traditional medicine has relatively little to offer, using a placebo makes sense.” Very well put.

      Thanks for the compliment as well. Rock on, Beyond Anomie!

    • No, thank you! I almost didn’t even post this, as my posts are usually more humor oriented and I was afraid that all of the background at the beginning would instantly make people stop reading. But then again, I kept laughing when I was writing it because I couldn’t believe I was writing such a formal sounding essay on cough drops. Anyhow, all that is to say I’m flattered by the compliment and glad you liked it.

      Also love your name, Magnet for Foolishness! Will be sure to check out your blog shortly. : )

    • Hmm, scary? Titillating? Rewarding?

      Really appreciate the compliment, Laundry Room. I’m not sure what books are from the laundry room, so I will have to check out your site and find out.

    • I love saying RICOLAAA! I’m gonna say it again. RICOLAAA!

      As fun as that is, I’m not sure I’ve ever had a Ricola. I don’t even know what it is. Is it like a Mentos? I’ll put having a Ricola on my bucket list.

      Thanks for the comment, Impybat! Love the gravatar.

      • A Ricola is a sort of throat/cough drop that has herbs and such in it, and comes in a variety of flavors. They’re really good! And thanks for the Gravatar love :)

      • Terpsichore

        RIIIIIICOOOLAAAA!

        I’m glad you brought it up, Impybat; someone had to.

        Topiclessbar, Ricola are ostensibly cough drops but are candylike (sort of like honey, but harder?) enough to convince Americans who hate menthol that they’re candy (one of my friends was an RA in college and the girls on her hall called her supply “the candy jar”).

        Plus Ricola had a fantastic ad campaign that involved pseudo-yodeling of their name, so that wins.

      • RIIICCCOOOOLLLLAAAAA! Sorry, I had to do that one more time.

        Plus Ricola is from Switzerland or something, right? I can see the guy with the horn standing on a hillside. That would be another bonus. Brilliant, brilliant ad campaign. Perhaps only topped by Mentos.

        Thanks again Impybat, and a big shout out to you, Terpsichore!

    • I used to have a roommate who would call the pizza place, then jog to it, pick up the pizza, jog back, and eat the whole thing. She thought the jog would negate the calories. I feel she might have been a little off with her thinking.

      Health bar and mint ice cream sounds healthier, of course. I very much like your gravatar picture. It would be freaky if the girl only has one eye. That’s a bad thought. Anyways, thanks a ton for the comment. Take care!

      • Ha! Calorie-negation jogging – why didn’t I think of that?

        I like the picture, too. I think she’s a very curious-minded cyclops with a heart of gold.

        And congrats to you on the FP! You must be a good luck charm – I made it up there this morning!

      • Hahaa! Awesome! Happy to hear, Spinster!

        That’s right everybody else – comment on my post and you’ll get Freshly Pressed! It’s proven science!

  11. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    I completely agree that HALLS is medicine not candy. I hate the taste of it and only eat it when I’m sick. Although I do like to eat Vicks cough drops even when I’m not ill.

    • Hi Estrella! I did not know Vicks made cough drops. They have a corner on the vapo rub. Can’t think of any other line that does the vapo rub. Brilliant concoction from the Vicks people.

      Great to hear from you – hope everything is going well, lady!

    • Exactly! It’s impossible to think of it as anything other than that. I would never, assuming I felt perfectly healthy, just decide to buy a thing of HALLS and scarf ‘em down. I’d feel like a poser. An illness poser.

      Anyways, really appreciate the comment. Thanks a lot, Just Start with Monday!

  12. When my sister and I were very small we ate through a whole bag of vitamin C cough drops. Even at 4 years old I thought of those things as medicine and just knew that my mother would be livid. (What can I say? Vitamin C is addicting!) Now, I prefer Ricola whenever winter hits, but after reading your post I finally feel free to admit that cough drops have never helped me a bit! Neither, for that matter, has cough syrup. Is that marketed as candy someplace else, too?

    • First off, I love your blog name. Such Meager Insight. Ha!

      I tried to quickly look up whether or not cough syrup is marketing as candy and discovered that, instead of candy, cough syrup seems to be most often confused with a liqueur. Lots of weird cocktail recipes came up that somehow involved cough syrup. This includes something called a Purple Drank that I feel one must be extremely desperate to resort to. Whatever happened to putting you and your friends’ change together and going in on a big plastic jug of Skol Vodka?

      To any extent, I’m glad you and your sister enjoyed yourselves, and big thanks for leaving the comment. : )

      • Thank you very much! And you are welcome for the comment.

        Honestly, the cough-syrup-as-liquor conundrum doesn’t surprise me very much. Over the years, I am sure I’ve drunk my weight in cough syrup, thus I hardly notice the horrid taste that other people claim it has. So, I suppose it would make sense that same brave souls in the same sickly boat as me would dare to get drunk off the stuff. Kill two birds with one stone, maybe? While they’re having a bit of fun they could see about banishing that awful case of bronchitis.

      • One time I was desperate for booze and I tried to drink Scope. I couldn’t swallow it and my two swigs resulted in my spitting it out on the floor. I suppose cough syrup would be more tolerable. I also hear whiskey is good for curing illnesses…or maybe it just helps one forget they are supposed to be sick.

        Haven’t had Sucrets. Sounds intense. I will put it on the list of cough products I now have to try (humbug, hot toddy, ricola, sucrets, etc)

  13. Here’s my theory (meaning an opinion unencumbered with the necessity of checking facts): as “big boy” cough drops have added vile tasting zinc to their formulations with documented effectiveness claims marketers for less effective drops have Been forced to reposition them as candies. Makes sense?

    • Hmm, that certainly does make sense. I Googled zinc cough drops and came away with brands like Cold Eze and Soothers. Have absolutely never heard of them, but just going by their names, they seem to be clearly promoting themselves as serious cold remedies. It would be tough to market Cold Eze as gum drops.

      Always enjoy a good theory. Silly things like facts…meaningless. Thanks for leaving the comment, Wiki Threads!

  14. I love the idea that your teachers wouldn’t give you cough drops because, since they were medicine, they might kill you. Has anyone ever ODed on Halls? What a depressing way to go.

    Congrats on FP. You always do a great job of bringing life as a wagook to the masses.

    • Waiting! Yeah, the big speech always went like this: “You can’t under any circumstances provide a student with any form of medication. Not a Tylenol, not an Aspirin, not even a cough drop!” The cough drop was always the closer. If I were to be the unfortunate teacher who killed a student via cough drop, I would bow out of my position gracefully. I wouldn’t want future students feeling unsafe, thinking it was an unorthodox classroom management maneuver.

      Thanks lady! Yes, I suppose I am representing all my waygook brethren…I should probably apologize then. We aren’t all like this. : )

    • Sup Boyalasco! Yeah, I kinda ripped that last line of the post off from my ex’s friend who had this great story about how she was eating health bars and kept gaining weight, and then she realized she was really eating Heath bars and had misread the label. So shout out to Susan Whatever-your-last-name-is!

      Thanks always for the support, buddy.

  15. Larissa Banting

    Here in Costa Rica, they give Halls as post-dinner mints. Seriously. Never have been able to figure it out as I, like you, view them as medicine, NOT candy. Thanks for a great post!

    • I can sort of see that. It’s somewhat mint like. God I’d love to go to Costa Rica…one day. After a dinner I’ll try to sound like a native and ask for a HALLS. We’ll see if that impresses anyone. Fingers crossed!

      Thanks a ton for the comment and the compliment, Larissa!

  16. Yes, you’re right. Here in the Philippines, Halls is advertised as a mentholated candy. And as far as I could remember based on personal account as a candy lover that it is, as claimed, a candy. No more, no less than that. Unfortunately, a cough drop (honestly, I am not sure if it really is) named Snow Bear is the one most Filipinos would associate and find relief with when plagued with sore throat.

    • I got to spend a week in the Philippines a little while back and really loved it. I want to go back. And when I do, I will purchase the Snow Bear and enjoy it thoroughly after my Jolly Bee dinner.

      Yeah, here in Korea, there’s a more popular line of cough drops from Lotte. Those are called ‘candy’ on the box and taste way better/less medicinal. I’m not sure if Korea has a throat drop that is especially effective. Although, due to the pollution and excessive smoking here, I’m told that the popularity of Lotte Throat Candy and HALLS is through the roof. Just in case you’re wondering. : D

      Thanks a lot for the comment! Take care!

    • Myth! This is so bizarre! I can’t believe I’ve spent so much time in the last few days thinking/talking about cough drops. I feel like I’ve entered The Twilight Zone. Of all the posts to get Pressed…the cough drop one. Who would’ve guessed?

      Love ya, Myth. Thanks always for the support. : )

    • Exactly! It’s sort of like when I tried to explain to my Korean coworkers that I didn’t want to have rice because I was trying to eat healthier/less carbs. The idea that white rice could NOT be healthy was something they couldn’t grasp at all. And I, personally, can’t understand how HALLS can be candy. So, it’s sort of similar.

      Thanks a lot for taking the time to comment, Tseefc!

  17. What wonderful memories this brings back! I remember those yellow packages of cough drops that my Mom tucked into my Catholic school book bag on the days I had a cold, and how the menthol ones cooled my nose and throat with every breath. Never realized the cough drop’s unique history until I read this great post. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

    • Ah, shucks! You’re too sweet, Sandwich Lady! I absolutely love that name. I would definitely hang out with someone called “The Sandwich Lady.” Maybe not for the company, no offense…but for the sandwiches.

      That’s cute that the post brought back memories. Thanks a bunch for leaving the comment – replies like yours make my day. : )

  18. The boundaries between things is an interesting concept to sit with for a while. When I became an acupuncturist I was introduced to the very moveable line between food and medicine. Lines are all over the place!

    • Hmm, very, very interesting. You’ve got me thinking now. I suppose, believe it or not, that somebody could write a much more meaningful essay on such a topic than I’ve done with the cough drop, which is purposely pretty minor. But you’re right – it’s an interesting concept.

      Thanks for getting the gears in my brain going! And of course thanks for taking the time to leave the comment, Wstedeford.

    • Is it my fault you’re naked all the time? Put some clothes on, dude! Obviously you’re gonna get a sore throat if all you wear is socks! Actually, wait a second, you have pants on…the picture is a little small…

      Still, I take none of the blame. Thanks for taking the time to leave the comment, Innocent 1 – now go make yourself a Hot Toddy! (whatever that is, exactly)

  19. A little hello from the tiny country that gave birth to the worldwide known cough and sour throat medical candy called “Ricola”!

    Here, the distinction has never been really clear. It does definitely look like a candy, not like a pill at all (it’s cube-shaped and all sticky), but people usually take it when their throat hurt or they cough heavily as a way to calm down the pain. However, if they are really sick, they’ll use what they would think of as “real” medicine, that is something that can act on the cause of the sickness, not juste on the symptoms.

    However, we also like to suck on a ricola just for its good taste and the brand has now brought out a whole set of different flavors. It also sells herbal infusions with the same ingredients as the “candies”. So, we actually also drink “Ricola” candies!

    Anyway, this is what your really interesting post inspired me just now! I discovered your blog on the “Freshly pressed” page and I’ll keep following it!

    • I feel as though I’ve learned more about Ricola today than more people do in a lifetime! And I can’t stop saying it! RIIICCOOOLAAA!

      I am going to see if I can find it in Korea, and if not I’m going to buy some online and have it mailed here. I would really like to try the herbal drink. I don’t care what the price is – I’ll blow half my next paycheck to have Ricola products delivered straight to my little place in Sindebang!

      Thanks for the comment and huge thanks for the follow. I shall try my best to be consistently amusing and inconsistently insightful. Peace, Ariane!

      • Thank you for your warm welcome! I can’t believe this ad has left such a heavy impression on people worldwide! I had an American dorm mate who kept yodling “Ricolaaa” every time he could see me coming from far on campus! But it was a nice change from the Swiss chocolate-cheese-watch stereotype trilogy (oh yeah, and those pastry things they call “Swiss rolls” and that are absolutely not Swiss), so I didn’t mind it too much!

        As for getting Ricola outside Switzerland and neighboring countries, I’m not sure exactly what products from this brand are available where. But I should warn you against some of their flavors. I tried a new one recently and I thought it tasted….well, like real medicine! ;-) So, before spending huge amounts of money on importing a small package of candies or herbal infusion, you should check out with other people how they taste.

        Considering some of your other posts, I think your blog will definitely be able to amuse me and inspire me, even if it is inconsistently! So, I’ll keep following it, even if I can’t comment every time!

      • Hey again Ariane! So, my girlfriend showed up to my apartment this morning with a packet of lemon Ricola. You’re correct – they are quite good and do in fact taste like candy. On another note, Swiss cheese is similarly excellent. All four years of high school I had a Swiss cheese sandwich for lunch every day. One day I want to have a Swiss cheese sandwich in Switzerland. Do you think I’d be mocked by the Swiss people for inquiring about that once entering their country?

        Love the comments! Thanks again for the kind words; I’m following you now as well, although I have the feeling I’m not going to understand the bulk of the posts. haha

  20. PushDumpFatButton

    Reblogged this on Push Dump Fat Button and commented:
    Cough drops now that’s different and absolutely mind opening! I remember many years ago when I was expecting one of my babies I craved for regular halls cough drops! LOL

    • Hey! Thanks so much for the re-blog; absolutely appreciate it!

      Pregnancy, from what I hear, makes most women crave ice cream. You, on the other hand, craved HALLS. I feel that’s a healthier alternative. If I was your husband, I would have no problem rushing out in the middle of the night to get you some cough drops. Unless you were irritable and yelling at me a lot…then I’d root for a sore throat just to keep you quiet.

      I don’t know what I’m talking about. Thanks again for the support – speaking of different, your name certainly is, and I look forward to checking out your blog. : )

  21. Wow, how did I miss this blog before? Nice work mate, certainly is an interesting debate. I’m from South Africa and I must admit that I have always seen Halls as more of a medicine than a sweet. However, medicine has the connotation that you should be careful of overdosing – with Halls this isn’t a worry. I would only ever use Halls for medicinal reasons, but if someone enjoys their taste there is no reason why they shouldn’t eat them like sweets.

    • Sup Brad the Brad? Good to hear from South Africa – always love getting comments from countries I typically don’t hear from.

      From a marketing perspective, I wonder why they’re pitched as medicine in the USA and sweets in England and in other parts of the world. Is there a bigger medicine market in the US? Or perhaps a bigger sweets market elsewhere? It’s a silly thing to focus on, but advertising somewhat fascinates me and that’s what I was sort of thinking when I wrote this.

      Anyways, I’m rambling. Thanks again for the comment. Peace man!

  22. desiree27

    That’s so interesting! I’d never thought about that before. I definitely could eat some of the off-brand cherry flavored cough drops as candy, but the legit ones definitely taste like medicine to me. But your post made me wonder, do I only think they taste like medicine because that’s the way they’ve been sold to me? It’s definitely possible.

    Your post also made me remember that I read in my social psyc book (in the chapter on advertising) that mouth wash wasn’t doing so hot when it first came out. I don’t remember what it said it was originally used for (I think it was just for oral surgeons, and the inventor wanted to broaden his market), but the guy who invented it also made up gengivitis, thus selling mouth wash as a thing to combat his made up -itis.

    • I’ve worked in the dental industry for 10+ years so forgive my need to correct the statement “…the guy who invented it also made up gengivitis, thus selling mouth wash as a thing to combat his made up -itis.”
      Firstly: I like the way you stated this, just the wording made me smile.
      Secondly: according to wikipedia: Gingivitis (“inflammation of the gum tissue”) is a term used to describe non-destructive periodontal disease.[1] The most common form of gingivitis is in response to bacterial biofilms (also called plaque) adherent to tooth surfaces, termed plaque-induced gingivitis, and is the most common form of periodontal disease.
      Thirdly: Mouthwash according again to Wiki: The following excerpt is only part of the information under the heading of history: In the late 1960s when Harald Loe (at the time a professor at the Royal Dental College in Aarhus, Denmark) demonstrated that a chlorhexidine compound could prevent the build-up of dental plaque. The reason for chlorhexidine effectiveness is that it strongly adheres to surfaces in the mouth and thus remains present in effective concentrations for many hours.[7]
      So in short; gingivitis is real and preventable by brushing and flossing daily and most over the counter mouthwashes are almost in the same category as cough drops. Please ask your dentist or dental hygienist if you have any questions. :)

      • desiree27

        Haha, I don’t have any questions. I was just paraphrasing from memory the blurb in my social psychology book (not a dental hygiene textbook). I totally use mouthwash on the daily. ;)

      • Neat! There was like a little debate here. I always liked how mouthwash commercials referred to it as “the gum disease gingivitis.” You rarely get that kind of information put along side the name of a disease. “The heart disease angina” or ” the skin disease eczema.” In fact, I watched so much TV as a kid, I can’t even say the word ‘gingivitis’ without saying ‘the gum disease gingivitis.’ Anyways, I feel I’ve gotten off track here.

        So, if I’m interpreting Pyper correctly, gingivitis is a real gum disease, but mouthwash companies may have used it to exaggerate the necessity of using mouth wash. Or, put another way, one combats gingivitis by brushing and flossing, and using mouthwash might help a little but isn’t dynamically effective. Interesting! I could definitely see a company doing that – finding some obscure affliction nobody really knows anything about and hyping it up in order to sell product. Brilliant!

        Thanks a ton both Desiree and Pyper. And Desiree, I’m glad to hear you are using mouthwash on the daily to combat gingi or any other (possibly made up) itis. : )

      • You’re right topiclessbar, it’s like the dental community feels the need to explain what gingivitis is everytime it is mentioned! @Desiree27 I never meant to imply that you don’t use mouthwash or have good oral habits, I just wanted to make sure that anybody who read these comments wouldn’t inadvertantly hurt themselves with a little misinformation. I totally understand the whole paraphrasing from a text book thing, if I wasn’t dealing with teeth daily I wouldn’t remember 1/4 of the stuff I do!

  23. I believe the black and white Humbug is still alive and well in British seaside towns; a ‘rock’ candy and I can’t remember whether it’s liquourice or aniseed but suffice to say neither ingredient should ever be allowed into any confectionery product. From an early age I decided that the ‘Humbug’ monicker must have something to do with a ‘Bah Humbug Scrooge’ purveyor of sweeties who decided he just wanted to traumatise children who’d just wasted their pocket money on what they thought would be a tasty treat. Korea has corrupted the chocolate Tim Tam biscuit as well and made a ‘cheese’ version….it’s just not cricket.

    Love your life and your blog and I am laughing at it (but in a good way!)

    • Hey Nanna! I have now had a Ricola (crossed off list), so the Humbug is next. Sounds…amazing. Yeah, Korea corrupts a lot of fine products. If I get corn in my hot dog bun or on my pizza one more time, I’m going to brush it off. That sounds like a some sort of innuendo actually, doesn’t it? “Hey, did you hear about that guy? He’s got corn in his hot dog bun!” I’m not sure exactly what it would mean…thinking out loud again.

      Thanks a ton for the compliment. Makes my day, friend! : D

  24. Topiclessbar: congratulations on being freshly pressed! I have checked out a few of your other posts and love how you blog about whatever you want to. I will be following you now. Bwahahaha!
    On the cough drop subject, I was raised with the cough drops are medicine school of thought. Shortly after I got married I noticed that after the cold my husband had was long gone, the cough drops (sucrets and ludens) kept dwindling away. I am diabetic so I think cough drops taste like candy and would have happily been enjoying them except for fear of being “found out” by my husband. Long story short, they are really yummy but we only ‘stock up’ on them when we have a cough or sniffles. lol

    • Hi Pyper! Thanks a ton for the follow! Yes, I feel that if I tried to stick to one theme or subject, I would run out of stuff to talk about quickly. Plus, I do believe that 98% of blogs, no matter what the official subject is supposed to be, are really just about the person who’s writing the blog anyways, so why front and pretend this is about travel or living abroad or something like that…it’s about me. And sometimes cough drops.

      No one wants to be ‘found out’ by their husband for having a secret affair with cough drops. Your point is very true – they do tend to get gobbled up despite being saved for potential sickness. I guess it’s kind of like chicken noodle soup – good for colds, but pretty awesome regardless.

      Thanks again Pyper! Peaces!

  25. When I was younger Halls used to be strong, and really felt like medicine. I used to be afraid to take more than one as I might be taking too much Halls “medicine”.
    But as I have grown older Halls seems more like candy. Not sure if they have changed their formula, or my taste buds have evolved and matured. But all in all now Halls is definitely a candy with cooling effects, much like those super gums now that are a little burst of the antarctic circle in your mouth. … off topic, why are all the gums like that now? our breath is that bad? anyway thanks for sharing
    and congrats on being freshly pressed
    Cheers
    -Ron

    • Haha – love that last insight. Right, are things so vital we must battle bad breath every moment of the day? In Korea, they brush their teeth with lots of dedication. After lunch at the high school, everyone – teachers and students alike – would take their tooth brushes and go to the bathroom and brush their teeth. It’s ludicrous imagining that happening in an American high school. So gum it is. Or nothing. You’re right – our collective breath isn’t that bad!

      Thanks a ton for my comment, Simulator!

  26. Leah

    I was baffled by the translation of cough drops to “throat candy” (nodoame) in Japanese. There’s another word for it that is closer to cough drop (cough-stop “drop”). I always thought Sucrets and Halls were foul, but Coldeeze honey was at least tolerable as a over-the-counter cold prevention medicine. Great post–research portion was quite interesting–and congrats on being FP!

    • Hi Leah! I know this is off topic, but some friends recently returned from a visit to Japan and now I really, really want to go myself. Can’t wait, actually. I now I know how to say “throat candy,” so my Japanese vocabulary has doubled! Impressive!

      Doing the research was quite interesting – did you know that HALLS initially helped launch Cadbury Eggs? Fascinating. Ok, mildly fascinating. Anyways, thanks a ton for reading and commenting. Later!

  27. Interesting – I never thought about how HALLS was seen as a medicine vs candy – it isn’t such an unfathomable candy given its strong menthol taste (afterall POLO candies taste something like that? And many other breath mints too). What I found ridiculous was when I had folks asking me for Lozenges as if it’s a candy!! =X

    • What is the difference between a cough drop and a lozenge? I’ve always used ‘lozenge’ when referring to HALLS – is that incorrect? Hmm.

      Thanks for the comment, Rustic Recluse!

      • Oh dear, now another thing to think about – I’ve been told the lozenges are for sore throats, and cough drops are for colds. Talk about cultural differences, now we’re seeing lots of it even in choice of words! :) Thanks for this post really, very interesting!

      • Hey! Sorry – this got sent into my spam folder for some reason. Anyways, thanks for the clarification. Never knew there was a difference. And yes, it’s always fun to see what differences in diction people have. : )

        Thanks again, Rustic Recluse. Take care!

  28. Great article. Interestingly, I have definitely heard somewhere that cough drops and ‘lozenges’ were once manufactured with opiates such as codeine and morphine.

    • I feel like everything had drugs in it at some point. People would sit around their own old-school version of crack houses and eat lozenges and drink coca cola.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Greshang. Very much appreciated!

  29. They’re seen as medicinal here but the sugar content is why I’ve got holes all down one side of my mouth, Halls is the only way I can get so sleep! ;)

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed too. :)

    • Hahaha – nothing wrong with a few holes in the mouth. They’ll give your partner something to play with when you make out. Sort of interesting that Halls is the only way you can go to sleep…hey, at least you discovered what works for you!

      Thanks! High five, Idiosyncratic Eye!

    • Haha – yes, preemptive strike. Awesome to hear from somebody in India. That’s another country I will somebody visit. And have throat drops in.

      Thanks for the comment, 21 c stories!

  30. Bill! Freshly Pressed again! :)

    Well, Halls have never tasted bitter nor medicinal to us Filipinos. It’s even sold in the streets along side cigarettes because we view it as a breath freshener. Some people I know like to have HALLS in their mouths while smoking because it lends a different taste while smoking.

    HALLS had always tasted sweet and mentholated to me. Growing up, we’ve always depended on Strepsils for sore throats but that’s because I’m a city girl. I think, people still use herbal medicine in the provinces.

    It wasn’t advertised as a cough drop ever. So please forgive us for popping it like cracker jacks. Though, my cousin from Guam once visited us and she used to treat Lotte’s Juicyfruit gum like medicine. I mean, she always chews it and say it’s her medicine. She was five at that time so I let it go. LOL

    • Hi Jishi!!!

      It’s good you mention that. In talking to Koreans (aka my girlfriend), part of the reason Halls and Lotte throat candy is so popular here has to do with the fact that everybody smokes. More smoking = more sore throats = more Halls. I in fact often have a Halls when I smoke and I do feel it makes it a more pleasurable experience. Although after a night of drinking and heavy smoking, I’ll wake up with a big Halls aftertaste and that’s not so pleasant.

      I think your cousin has excellent health standards. Juicy fruit leads to long lives – everybody knows that.

      Love ya Jishi! Laterz!!!

  31. It’s funny that not all ‘candies’ having menthol put you in this medicine-candy conundrum. Also, menthol technically does nothing to get rid of the cold; it just tricks your brain into focusing on its cool, tingly sensation.

    • And it does a good job at that. I support anything that tricks a person’s brain – menthol, alcohol, pain killers, Fox news, mirrors that make me look less ugly, etc.

      Thanks for the comment, Chembelle!

    • ZZ Top is still around? You should definitely go check out that show. I would also recommend getting very very drunk for maximum enjoyment.

      Thanks Steve! Say hi to Frank Beard for me!

  32. Glad to see you finally got around to Ricola! (Which was introduced to me by a real physician.)

    Still, I’m wondering why these sweet drops, whatever their brand, aren’t available in the vending machines at the office — along with the out-and-out candy.

    But to follow on the candy-is-dandy line of health inquiry, you need to turn your attention to Lydia Pinkham’s magical elixir of an earlier age — and its many competitors.

    Thanks for the enlightenment!

    • 1) Ricola was excellent.
      2) Good point. One would think they’d do well in the vending machine.
      3) Reading about Lydia Pinkham. This is GREAT! Women’s tonic. I love finding stuff like this – thanks a ton!

  33. Whoah! I hope you still have room for my comments here. It’s flooding with interesting comments and I didn’t know you were freshly pressed. Congratulations for that, by the way.

    I can’t believe this. Haha…I went googling it and found it is indeed recognized as medicine in other countries. However, it is being advertised in my country as a menthol candy. Besides, I tried imported Halls candies and the one locally available and I noticed the difference in the menthol taste. The menthol from the imported ones are stronger than what we have here. You are right on your research. Halls candy here is known as a candy and not a medicine. Strepsils is medicine. Although I just pop one (Halls) in my mouth when I have sore throat. I believe it doesn’t cure my sore throat, though, but basically soothes it. Besides, when I used to work in the call center, my co workers usually pop halls candy while smoking. I don’t know how it feels but they say, it’s soothing and relaxing from the nose to the lungs. Although, I believe in reality, they are burning their lungs.

    When I was a child, I also remember taking Flintstones vitamins. I didn’t like them though.

    And I didn’t know Tic Tacs are medicine, too. I always thought they were candy. So, can they really treat such conditions as mentioned above?

    Then I also found out about Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa. It taste good, although I was told it is an herbal medicine.

    Great post again topicless! :)

  34. Yolanda

    I happened upon your site after doing a search for halls formulary change. I am the unusual one who would choose a hall cough drop over candy. I have been known to gobble down a bag a day. This has now changed due to Hal’s reduction of menthol in each drop from 6.5 mg to 5.4 mg. I noticed immediately!! Looks like this is a permanent change as I can’t find the original cough drops anywhere. I just might be able to kick my habit

  35. My undying everlasting thanks if anyone remembers these:
    Cocillana Cough Drops came in turquoise box with brown writing…… Each “drop” was a brown square with a depression in the middle…….The taste was kind of maple-y…..and delicious…..I think they came off the market because they might have contained ethylmorphine in the formula…….
    Ludens made a cocillana cough drop that came in a red box, but that is NOT what I’m looking for…….I only remember the ones that came in that blue box and had Cocillana written on it…… There was also a radio jingle that spelled the word C o c i l l a n aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa at the end of it……. HELP!

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