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Just as I thought the winter was over and with it the cough and cold season I came down with another bug, this time was throat is also extremely sore as well as having a hacking cough. I like to use lozenges such as Lockets when I have a sore and dry throat as they really halp but since being diagnosed as diabetic then the sugar in them is a no-no. I spied the Ricola herbal lozenges in a health food shop and since they are sugar free decided to give them a try.
Ricola contain 13 different herbs which are grown in Switzerland. These are: Horehound, burnet, speedwell, marshmallow, lady's mantle, elder, mallow, peppermint, sage, yarrow, cowslip, plantain and thyme. All of these herbs have healing properties ranging from treating minor wounds to healing plague victims! I have got to wonder how much of the active ingredients you get from a single lozenge and how effective they are.
The lozenges themselves are a square shape and have a rather odd flavour. I can initially taste the peppermint which gives a slightly spicy taste on the tongue when mixed with the other herbs. None of the other herbs are distinguishable but the overall taste is fairly pleasant.
I did find the lozenges fairly effective at treating my sore throat which was eased after I had sucked a full lozenge. They were less good at easing my cough but the fact they added moisture to my mouth helped a bit. You do need to be careful with these sugar free sweets as too many of the sweeteners can cause a runny tummy but luckily I did not suffer with that side effect.
The Ricola are fairly nice lozenges, not the most effective on the market when compared to Lockets or Soothers at easing a cough but the fact they are one of the few sugar free preparations means that they are a good bet for diabetics or anyone else who does not want to eat too much sugar.
I like to keep a bag of sweets in my car for times when those long journeys get a bit boring and I need something to not only freshen my mouth but to also soothe a bit of a dry throat. I don't really have a drink in my car as I would always need to stop to go to the toilet so I keep these in my car when I need something to moisten up my mouth. I can't keep a really nice bag in my car as if I had one I would end up eating the whole bag so I keep a bag in there that are nice but not my favourite sweets in the world, that might sound a little weird, but hey, that's what I like to do. Also, with these sweets generally one is all you need and so these sweets are perfect for that.
My bag of sweets of choice are Ricola Original Swiss Herb Drops. The sweets actually come in a little cardboard box and so are perfect for storing in the car as it is a small box but it also stays shut so you do not end up with sweets all in your car door. The box is much like a little cigarette packet and has the same opening at the top.
Ricola are natural, healthy herbal drops and according to their literature it is the world's best-selling herbal confectionery. I think they are a great alternative to the more sugary drops on the market today as the sugar free drops contain only 6 calories per sweet.
The sweets are a boiled sweet so are hard when you put them in your mouth and you can suck them. They are in an almost oval shape and so fit into your mouth nicely and are quite easy to suck. Now, onto the taste. It is quite an interesting taste. They come in different flavours sometimes such as Lemon mint and Elderflower but the original ones have somewhat of a peppermint taste. They are also quite menthol as well so I also find that these work well as a cough drop if you have a sore throat or dry throat. Each drop is said to contain a unique blend of 13 natural swiss herbs, not too sure what the herbs are but I like that they are all natural and different from say a fruity drop.
You can find these in Holland and Barrett's and Boots stores as well and are a nice treat from Switzerland!
I'm very pleased to say that for most of the year I'm disgustingly healthy but as the nights start drawing in, the clocks go back and the heating goes on at work, like everybody else, I seem to fall foul of the dreaded office cold. Like most offices with air conditioning, it only seems to take one person to sneeze and everybody in the building goes down with the same cold!
So, with the season of colds and sniffles upon us, I've already begun to stock up on linctus, pills and potions to combat any winter malady which may befall me and an essential item for the medicine cabinet and my handbag is always a box of Ricola Herb Drops.
What are Ricola?
They are a herbal sweet made in Switzerland which the manufacturers claim are soothing and refreshing and contain Ricola's secret blend of 13 herbs, which makes them sound rather like Colonel Sanders' KFC without the added spices, but I assure you these taste nothing like chicken!
What's in them?
Well, the secret blend of 13 herbs to begin with, which is a concoction of:
Mallow - for coughs, bronchitis, hoarseness and easing irritation of the respiratory passages
Sage - for easing sore throats and sinus congestion
Yarrow - helps the body deal with colds and fevers
Peppermint - to soothe nagging coughs and relieve headaches
Thyme - for sore throats and also has antiseptic qualities
Elder - for reducing fever
Speedwell - for general wellbeing
Plantain - for laryngitis and also contains antibacterial qualities
Lady's Mantle - often used to aid conception...Eeek!!
Cowslip - used as a sedative
Horehound - for reducing congestion
Burnet - for easing general aches and pains
Marshmallow - to ease coughs and catarrh
All these herbs are grown under license in Switzerland without the use of any herbicides or pesticides.
Other ingredients include Isomalt - which is a sugar substitute made from beet but contains half the calories of sugar - menthol, peppermint oil, colouring (caramel), sorbitol and sweeteners.
Because of the sorbitol, which can have a laxative effect if taken in quantity, it's advisable to limit your intake of these sweets. However, if you only suck one when you really need it, you shouldn't have a problem.
Each sweet contains 6 calories, no fat, no carbohydrate and no sodium.
How do they taste?
Not bad for a cough sweet, actually. They have the obligatory menthol and peppermint in them which helps to clear the old nasal passages but the blend of herbs seems to temper the flavour somewhat so that, although you know you're sucking a cough sweet, it's a mellow sort of flavoured cough sweet. For those old enough to remember, the flavour is something like a mild cough candy.
Who makes them?
Ricola is a family owned and run business based in Laufen in Switzerland. It was established in 1930 by Emil Richterich and is still owned by the same family. The product's name is derived by taking the first two letters of the original company name RIchterich & CO, LAufen.
Who uses them?
My doctor, for one, and he's the person who originally recommended them to me. Years ago, I'd taken one of the children to see him and I was getting over a cold which had left me with a lingering and nasty cough and when I mentioned I was being kept awake by my coughing, he suggested I try Ricola and I've been using them ever since.
According to the Ricola website, there are quite a few well known people, apart from my doctor, who swear by these drops, including Robbie Williams, Placido Domingo and Christina Aguilera to name but three. So far, using Ricola hasn't improved my singing voice, which still would give a corncrake a good run for its money (even when I haven't got a cough), but over the years they've certainly helped soothe that horrible tickly throat which always seems to accompany a cold.
How much do they cost and who sells them?
Most chemists sell at least one variety of Ricola, as well as Holland & Barrett and some larger supermarkets. Price, of course, depends on where you buy them but the average cost for a 45g box containing approximately 20 sweets is in the region of £1.25.
Would I recommend them?
I certainly would!
For something which is to all intents and purposes a sweet, albeit one with medicinal properties, they work remarkably well. I'm not a huge fan of patent medicines and have to feel pretty rotten before I'll even take an aspirin, but when you need something to soothe your throat and stop that cough, I've yet to find anything more effective than Ricola.
Ricola's sugar-free drops come in various flavours (like lemon-mint, elderflower and cranberry) and this is my review of the Original flavour.
You can buy them in Holland and Barrett, Sainsbury's and a few other shops but they're often hard to track down. In Sainsbury's they cost £1.24, their price tends to vary from 99p to £1.50 depending on where you buy them.
I've found that the original flavour is often available in health food shops but not always supermarkets.
Each packet is 45g and you get approximately 18 individual drops per box. The box is a bit like a slim cigarette packet so I find they easily fit in pockets and bags for taking out and about. The sweets inside never get stuck together although if they've rattled around a lot some of them may be a bit chipped.
You can also get the original flavour in a roll packet where each sweet is square-shaped and individually wrapped. I think the ones in the roll packet taste slightly better, maybe the wrapping keeps them fresher for longer or maybe the ingredients are slightly different, I've never checked!
These herbal sweets are made in Switzerland (which is why I bought lots to stock up while I was visiting Switzerland last year!) and they claim to have a unique mixture of 13 different herbs (I'm not sure what Ricola's special blend of herbs includes but you could try to guess from the pictures of plants on the box!).
The Original variety is suitable for vegetarians, vegans (the caramel colouring in the ingredients is vegan so no need to panic!) and are produced in a nut-free environment.
The packet warns against excessive consumption which may produce laxative effects (e.g. don't eat more than 10 drops in 1-2 hours).
The picture of the sweet on the outside of the packet is more or less the actual size and each one has an R printed on both sides.
When you open the box you can instantly smell a slight cough-sweet type smell, that'll be the menthol!
They're an unappetising brown colour, darker than the one on the outside of the box (shown in the Dooyoo picture) but they're shiny so that helps!
As soon as you put one in your mouth you can taste the menthol and peppermint flavouring straight away, then the menthol starts to get stronger and begins to overpower the peppermint. I don't find these sweets to be as strong as other cough drops, they're quite sweet but they just don't have enough peppermint for me; I'm not keen on the taste of plain menthol.
They certainly freshen your breath though and help you to breathe more easily. I definitely recommend them if you have a mild cold or a stuffy nose. They also make your throat feel a bit cooler too.
So you can use them for colds, coughs, blocked noses, stomach problems (the peppermint is helpful for soothing digestive problems) or just as an everyday breathe freshener. The best use I've found for them is to ease travel sickness so I always have a packet in my bag for long journeys.
(per 2.5g drop)
Calories - 6kcal
Sugar, Fat, Saturates, Sodium - 0g
Isomalt, extract (1%) of Ricola's herb mixture, black colour (plain caramel), sorbitol, natural flavours (menthol, peppermint oil), sweeteners (aspartame, acesulfame-K).
The secret of Ricolas unique taste is due to the famous mixture of thirteen herbs / Ricolas herbs are grown in the beautiful and tranquil mountains of Switzerland / The herbs are all cultivated in carefully selected locations guaranteeing the best quality and the purity of all the herbs / Ricola use only the finest ingredients with no artificial colours or flavours.