Although a sore throat isn’t usually a cause for alarm, it can make talking and even eating very uncomfortable. It is often the first sign of the common cold but can also be caused by the flu virus, strep throat, or tonsillitis. In some cases, a sore throat can even be caused by an allergic reaction to dust, pollen, or pollution. The good news is that most sore throats don’t require a visit to your doctor. Many of the symptoms can be treated at home with a variety of natural remedies, from herbal teas to essential oils.
Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment for a Sore Throat
Most cases of sore throats are caused by either a virus or bacteria, although the most common causes of sore throats are viruses. When this is the case, you will likely experience other symptoms such as a headache, body aches, runny nose, watery eyes, congestion, or a cough.
A sore throat is part of the body’s natural immune response to a viral or bacterial infection. This leads to swelling of the mucous membranes and inflammation in the throat.
Many over-the-counter medications are available to mask the symptoms of the common cold. Analgesics, decongestants, and lozenges can all help relieve some of the discomforts of a sore throat, yet none of these work to treat the underlying problem.
In some cases of sore throats, antibiotics may be necessary. These are only effective for sore throats caused by a bacterial infection, such as strep throat. Symptoms of strep throat are more severe than the common cold and often include loss of appetite, pain when swallowing, fever, and white spots on the tonsils.1
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If antibiotics aren’t necessary, the pain of a sore throat can be easily remedied with ingredients found in your own home. Read on to learn about some of the best ones.
Natural Remedies for Sore Throats
Many ingredients found in your kitchen have been used as natural remedies for relieving the pain of sore throats for centuries. For instance, something as simple as a spoonful of honey and apple cider vinegar can effectively kill harmful bacteria and ease the pain of a sore throat. Dig around in your pantry, make yourself an herbal tea, and see just how easy it is to treat your symptoms at home.
Honey is far more than a delicious natural sweetener. Although it is often mixed into natural remedies to make them more palatable, it is an effective remedy on its own. Honey is a safe, natural, mild antibiotic that can be used for anyone over the age of one. It is also known for being a powerful anti-inflammatory that can help ease sore throats.
In a 2010 study, the efficacy of honey was tested against over-the-counter cough suppressants such as dextromethorphan (DM) and diphenhydramine (DPH). In the study, 139 children were given either honey, DM, DPH, or nothing. After 24 hours, it was found that honey was actually more effective at reducing coughs than either DM or DPH.2
This is good news for those who are looking to find replacements or complements for over-the-counter medications. Honey has the added bonus of being a delicious snack that happens to ease your symptoms. Whenever you feel a sore throat coming on, eat a spoonful of honey straight from the pot or add it to your favorite herbal tea. For an extra health boost, use Manuka honey. This type of honey has stronger antibacterial properties than other types of honey available.
The marshmallow plant has been used for centuries to treat sore throats and other respiratory conditions. The root of the marshmallow plant contains a gelatinous substance known as mucilage, which helps lubricate the throat.
A 2005 study aimed to test the effectiveness of an herbal cough syrup made from ivy leaf extract, thyme, aniseed, and marshmallow root. Within 12 days, all participants experienced an 86 to 90% improvement in symptoms. It was found that this herbal syrup was effective for relieving coughs caused by the common cold, bronchitis, and other respiratory tract infections.3
An easy infusion made with marshmallow root can be sipped on throughout the day to ease symptoms of a painful throat. Infuse high-quality dried marshmallow root in boiling water, then add honey to taste. Marshmallow root can also be taken in the form of herbal cough syrup or lozenge.
Apple Cider Vinegar
The use of vinegar to fight infections dates all the way back to Hippocrates around 400 BCE. Known as the father of modern medicine, Hippocrates often prescribed an oxymel (a mixture of vinegar and honey) for coughs and other respiratory problems. The original formula included four parts honey with one part vinegar, although this recipe is often tweaked based on personal preference.4
Apple cider vinegar has been used for centuries as a natural treatment for a variety of health conditions because it has powerful antibacterial properties due to its main active constituent acetic acid.
To ease the pain of a sore throat, mix one cup warm water with one tbsp apple cider vinegar. You can also make an oxymel with four parts honey to one part apple cider vinegar and take a spoonful any time symptoms are present.
Slippery elm is similar to marshmallow root, containing mucilage that can lubricate the throat. When mixed with water, it can help soothe the symptoms of a sore throat. It contains powerful germ-killing compounds that can fight off any infections that are causing your sore throat to begin with. Slippery elm also helps balance histamine, easing inflammation and reducing pain.
You can make slippery elm into an herbal tea or take it in the form of lozenges or an herbal syrup.
Licorice root has been used for centuries as an expectorant, helping fight off symptoms of coughs and colds. It can help prevent dryness in the throat and aids in the release of mucus.
A 2009 study tested the efficacy of licorice root on a postoperative sore throat. In the study, 40 adults were randomized into two different groups—one receiving water and one receiving licorice in water. Those who gargled with licorice root experienced a reduction in both pain and frequency of coughs.5
To use licorice root, you can make a gargle with powdered licorice root and warm water. You can also make it into a tea, or add it into a homemade oxymel to take by the spoonful.
Your Favorite Herbal Tea
While marshmallow root, slippery elm, and licorice root are all extremely effective against the pain of sore throats, other herbs can also help ease your symptoms. Raspberry, chamomile, and peppermint teas all have powerful analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Chamomile tea can help lubricate the throat, while peppermint can help numb the pain. A squeeze of lemon juice can add a healthy boost of vitamin C, and a spoonful of honey adds even more antibiotic properties.
A study published in 2003 found that herbal tea can effectively ease the pain of acute pharyngitis, which is caused by swelling in the back of the throat. In the study, 60 patients suffering from pharyngitis were given either an herbal tea containing a mixture of demulcents or a placebo tea. Those who were given the herbal tea experienced a greater reduction in symptoms.6
Using Essential Oils to Ease the Pain of a Sore Throat
Aside from drinking herbal tea, sucking on lozenges, or taking spoonfuls of herbal cough syrup, diffusing essential oils throughout your home can also help ease your pain. Essential oils offer powerful antimicrobial properties that can fight off the underlying infections causing your symptoms, and some also act as both expectorants and analgesics.
Eucalyptus Essential Oil
Eucalyptus essential oil is known for its antiseptic, antibacterial, mucolytic, expectorant, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory properties. It is commonly used to treat symptoms of the common cold, effectively relieving sore throats, runny noses, chest congestion, and coughs.
Eucalyptus essential oil is especially effective when inhaled from a bowl of warm steaming water. Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to a bowl of warm water, cover your head with a towel, and breathe in the vapor for 10 to 15 minutes.
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Lemon Essential Oil
Lemon essential oil has powerful antibacterial and antiviral properties that work together to help boost the immune system and fight off harmful pathogens. This oil also supports the lymphatic system, which helps remove toxins from the body.
Diffusing lemon essential oil in your home can help cleanse the air of any harmful pathogens and can reduce the chance of you becoming sick. Lemon essential oil is also safe to ingest in small amounts, so try adding a drop to a glass of water or a warm mug of herbal tea.
There are so many ways to treat your sore throat symptoms naturally if you know where to look. Diffusing essential oils, brewing herbal teas, and making homemade remedies are all wonderful ways to reconnect with nature and re-learn ancestral skills. Sore throats can be a painful nuisance, but luckily, they are easily remedied with a combination of powerful medicines found in nature.
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