Natural remedies for sore throats include drinking hot beverages or using salt water, lemon juice, licorice root, marshmallow root, apple cider vinegar, or essential oils.
Sore throats are an extremely common health ailment, particularly in the winter. A sore throat can be painful and affect daily life due to swelling and inflammation of cells in the mucous membranes. However, it normally only lasts for a few days. Bacterial infections, such as strep throat, can cause a sore throat and requires treatment with antibiotics to clear the infection and prevent long-term complications. Most sore throats are caused by a virus, such as viral infections that cause the common cold.
Natural remedies can be used in combination with painkillers for pain relief. Here are the most effective natural remedies to relieve a sore throat:
Gargling with warm salt water can help soothe a sore throat, kill bacteria in the throat, and reduce swelling. However, it is important not to use too much salt as this could cause additional drying out of the sensitive throat membranes. A teaspoon of salt in a cup of water is sufficient.
A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that gargling with saltwater may even help prevent upper respiratory tract infections.
Similar to salt water, lemon juice can be useful as a remedy for sore throats as they can break up mucous and provide pain relief. Lemons also contain vitamin C, which can strengthen the immune system and help it to fight infection and inflammation. You can simply add lemon slices or a teaspoon of lemon juice to warm water for effective relief for sore throats.
Chamomile has been used for centuries to treat inflammation of the skin and mucous membranes, as well as bacterial infections of the oral cavity, gums, and respiratory tract.
Drinking warm liquids such as chamomile tea helps with hydration, soothing a sore throat, alleviating pain, and reducing sinus mucous for better drainage. Chamomile tea can also help with rest and relaxation due to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antispasmodic (muscle relaxation) properties. Additionally, chamomile tea may stimulate the immune system to help your body fight off the infection.
Avoid drinking alcohol and caffeinated drinks when you are suffering from a sore throat as it can cause dehydration.
Licorice root is currently promoted as a dietary supplement for conditions including coughs, digestive problems, menopausal symptoms, and bacterial and viral infections.
Licorice root can be added to boiling water to make tea as a natural remedy for sore throats. Licorice root contains anti-inflammatory, anti-irritant and antiviral properties so can be used to reduce swelling and irritation.
A study published in Anesthesia & Analgesia found that gargling with licorice root can help to reduce pain associated with postoperative sore throats.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, pregnant and breastfeeding women should not drink or gargle licorice root due to the risks of premature birth and health problems in the offspring.
Marshmallow root soothes the throat by coating the irritated tissues of the throat, as well as loosening the excess mucous. Marshmallow root may be taken as a tea by adding a tablespoon of dried root to a cup of boiling water for thirty minutes. However, diabetics should consult a doctor before taking marshmallow root as it has been associated with a lowered blood sugar level.
Apple cider vinegar
Due to the acidic properties of vinegar, gargling or drinking apple cider vinegar can kill bacteria in the throat. Apple cider vinegar has both antibacterial and antimicrobial properties so is useful in fighting infections.
It has been suggested that essential oils, such as peppermint, may help soothe a sore throat. Peppermint contains menthol that can help in thinning mucous, in addition to calming sore throats and coughs. Peppermint has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral properties, which can promote healing. Peppermint can be taken as a tea or peppermint oil can be added to a diffuser or rubbed on the chest for relief from a sore throat.
Seek medical attention if your sore throat is accompanied by a fever, chills, or swallowing difficulties.
Written by Albina Babu, MSc
Satomura, K., et al. (2005). Prevention of upper respiratory tract infections by gargling: a randomized trial. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 29(4), pp.302-307.
Srivastava, J.K., Shankar, E. and Gupta, S. (2010). Chamomile: a herbal medicine of the past with a bright future. Molecular Medicine Reports, 3(6), pp.895-901.
Licorice root (2020). National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Retrieved from: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/licorice-root
Agarwal, A., et al. (2009). An evaluation of the efficacy of licorice gargle for attenuating postoperative sore throat: a prospective, randomized, single-blind study. Anesthesia & Analgesia, 109(1), pp.77-81.
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