(WellnessNova.com) - Sore throats are one of the most common symptoms of colds, flus, and other respiratory infections. A sore throat can leave you hoarse, uncomfortable, and unable to swallow. The discomfort causes most to turn to cough drops and over-the-counter cold medicine to alleviate the problem.
The most common cause of a sore throat (pharyngitis) is actually a viral infection and not bacterial infections. Thus, unless you’ve been diagnosed with something like strep throat, the last thing you want to do is take an antibiotic. Not only is it ineffective, but it can contribute to bacterial drug resistance and cause side effects.
The best thing you can do for a sore throat is to treat the symptoms as they arise and wait for your body’s natural defenses to fend off the infection. You don’t need to spend money on pharmaceuticals or unnatural chemicals — these ten natural remedies will relieve that scratchy feeling in your throat.
1. Try Gargling With Warm Salt Water
It doesn’t taste great, but warm salt water is an age-old sore throat solution. Salt water as a natural remedy for sore throats isn’t just an old wives’ tale: there’s actually a good reason why it works. The reason your throat hurts when you have a cold is that the mucous membranes in the cells themselves are swollen and inflamed, which are a byproduct of your body’s efforts to kill the pathogen. Salt draws out water from the cells, reducing the swelling.
2. If You’re Over 21, Try a Hot Toddy
The hot toddy is an old English remedy for sore throats. It’s traditionally alcoholic. Hot toddies are a blend of honey, whiskey or bourbon, hot water, and lemon juice. Do bourbon and whiskey really count as a “natural remedy?” Well, maybe that’s stretching it a little, but it certainly works.
You can also make a nonalcoholic version for young children. But for adults stuck at home in bed, the sedative effect of the alcohol can help you get some rest.
The honey is the key to alleviating your sore throat. Honey has been used for millennia as a natural anti-inflammatory. It can soothe the irritated mucous membranes surrounding your throat, drawing out excess water from the cells. In addition to honey’s anti-inflammatory properties, it also contains an enzyme that’s a natural antibiotic. This makes it effective against strep throat and other bacterial infections.
Keep in mind that while honey is a great natural sore throat remedy for adults and older children, you should never give honey to infants under 18 months old. For very young children, it creates the risk of infant botulism.
3. Drink Tea With Licorice Root
Herbal teas containing licorice root can also help soothe a sore throat. When most people think of “licorice,” they think of the candy. That flavor is actually synthetic, but real licorice root is often available dried at your local health food store. Licorice root can be incorporated into herbal teas, or gargled in a solution with warm water. It’s also an expectorant, which helps get rid of excess mucous.
The effectiveness of licorice root as a natural sore throat remedy has been explored in scientific research. In one 2009 study, researchers found that a licorice gargle significantly reduced the severity of postoperative sore throats. Its effectiveness was found to be comparable to pharmaceutical expectorants.
4. Drink Herbal Tea With Marshmallow
Marshmallow plants are quite different from the puffy, sugary candy that you’re familiar with. Marshmallow leaf and marshmallow root are widely available dried for use in herbal teas, and they’re a great natural way to soothe a sore throat.
Marshmallow plant material is full of mucilage, which coats your throat and soothes the swollen and irritated mucous membranes. It also tastes surprisingly good, and can be combined with other natural herbs, honey, or lemon for added flavor.
5. Take Slippery Elm Bark
Slippery elm gets its name because it’s rich in thick mucilage, making it a great sore throat remedy. Used for centuries by indigenous North American peoples, it can relieve cold symptoms and stomach discomfort when taken orally.
Slippery elm isn’t as common as licorice root or marshmallow, but you can find it online or at specialty herb stores. For use in herbal teas, the bark is usually finely powdered.
6. Drink Peppermint Tea
As you probably know, the cough drops that you buy in the store contain menthol, which is a chemical produced naturally by plants in the mint family. Menthol helps thin out mucus and reduce inflammation, which reduces throat discomfort.
Medical studies have demonstrated that peppermint is more effective than a placebo for reducing sore throat symptoms. Peppermint has also been shown to have antibacterial and antiviral properties that help fight off the infection itself.
7. Take Horehound
Horehound is an herb native to Europe and northern Africa. Horehound has been used medicinally since at least the first century B.C.E. as a natural remedy for respiratory ailments, including sore throats. Horehound acts as an expectorant, thickening mucus to make it easier to expel through coughing and sneezing. It’s also been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects, which makes it great for common colds and flus.
Horehound is sometimes incorporated into lozenges with other natural ingredients. It can also be steeped into an herbal tea.
8. Take Mullein
Mullein, sometimes called “velvet plant,” is a group of related plants found in Europe and Asia. Like many traditional herbs, it’s commonly used as a remedy for coughing, sneezing, sore throats, and other respiratory symptoms. Its antibacterial and antiviral properties can help fight off infections while soothing sore throats and swollen lymph nodes.
Mullein is commonly prepared as an herbal tea or tincture. Its leaves are covered in fine hairs that may irritate your digestive system, so many people remove the hairs before using mullein. The seeds, which are toxic, should be discarded.
9. Take Astralagus
Astralagus isn’t specifically a sore throat remedy, but it’s a potent immune booster that can help your body fight off bacterial and viral infections. Astralagus is in a class of medicinal herbs known as “adaptogens.” These plants contain compounds that can help fight aging, strengthen immunity, and reduce the negative physical effects of psychological stress. It’s commonly available as a health supplement, usually in capsules.
10. Take Goldenseal
Goldenseal is a perennial North American herb, closely related to buttercups. It’s used as a multipurpose herbal medicine for respiratory infections, digestive problems, and inflammation. Goldenseal, which is available as salves, tablets, and tinctures, contains a compound called berberine that attacks bacteria on a cellular level.
With a combination of natural anti-inflammatories, natural antibiotics, and immune-strengthening herbs, these soothing, natural remedies can ease your sore throat. They also help your body fight off colds and flus. These natural remedies are time-tested and highly effective ways to fight off the inflammation that causes a sore throat without the unwanted side effects you can get from pharmaceutical cold medicine.