A sore throat may be one of the first signs of cold and flu, or it may result from allergies or inflammation of the vocal cords or the larynx (laryngitis) or infected tonsils. Sometimes it creeps up on you slowly, intensifying over a day or two, as in the case of many respiratory allergies. Occasionally you wake up with a searing pain in the throat that makes even the swallowing of saliva unbearable. This could be due to a viral infection that may take several days to clear up.
If the sore throat is accompanied by headache, fever, and the characteristic red and white patches seen in streptococcus infection, you may be advised to take antibiotics, but it may still take a few days for the pain to subside.
Whatever the reason or intensity, sore throat can be really annoying. Whether you take other medications or not, try these home remedies to get quick relief.
1. Salt water gargle
This is the first line of defense against a slowly developing sore throat. If you gargle often enough with salt water, you may be able to stop many a bacterial infection in its track.
Salt at high concentrations kills off the microbes, but more importantly, the dehydrating effect of salt makes the area less hospitable to them. Part of the relief comes from the anti-inflammatory effect of the salt solution as it draws out water from the tissues. That makes salt water gargle useful in relieving sore throat due to any reason.
Add a teaspoonful of pure sea salt to a cup of warmed drinking water, and use it to gargle thoroughly by throwing your head backward to bathe the throat with the solution. Repeat it as often as you can.
2. Chewing garlic
It doesn’t seem a great proposition since it is guaranteed to give you a despicable garlic breath, but many people find it the easiest and most effective way to get relief from throat pain. When you have a sore throat, you aren’t great company anyway, so you might as well try it.
Garlic has wide-ranging antimicrobial action, and is effective against even viral and yeast infections. You need just one or two cloves of garlic a day. Keep a skinned garlic clove inside your cheek and crunch it slightly to release a tiny bit of juice at a time. You’d feel better in a short while, and could be relieved of a sore throat in a day or two.
3. Basil leaves
An infusion of the culinary basil leaves (Ocimum basilicum) in warm water can reduce cold symptoms such as cough and sore throat. Ocimum sanctum, known as holy basil, is even more effective, but rather difficult to source. Steep the leaves in warm water for 30 minutes and drink the infusion.
4. Honey and lemon
This age-old formula to ease nighttime coughing can soothe your sore throat when taken throughout the day. Add a tablespoon of raw honey and the juice of half a lemon to a cup of warm water. Sip it as you plod through the day.
The lemon changes the pH balance of the throat temporarily. Since disease-causing microbes are sensitive to their environmental conditions, small, but frequent doses may help reduce the microbial load. Honey, being hypertonic, draws out excess fluid from the inflamed tissues.
Another way to use this soothing formula is to just mix a tablespoon each of honey and lemon juice in a small squeeze bottle with a narrow nozzle and carry it with you. Shake the bottle and squeeze out a few drops onto your tongue every now and then.
5. Chamomile tea
This soothing herbal tea is known to have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. It is particularly useful in relieving throat pain due to laryngitis. Chamomile tea will not only give you relief from a sore throat, but make you feel less irritable. You can use either fresh flowers or dried flower buds for brewing the tea, but make it fresh every time for best results.
Boil a cup of water and pour it over 2 tablespoons of dried chamomile buds in a bowl. Keep it covered for 10 to 15 minutes. Filter out the tea and drink it warm. If you are using fresh flowers, you need to use double the quantity.
Recommended Reading: 14 Reasons To Have A Cup Of Chamomile Tea Right Now
6. Ice pops
Children generally refuse to eat when they are down with a cold, the sore throat making it all the more difficult to swallow food. You can find a way around the problem by making ice pops with not only sweetened herbal teas, but with fresh fruit juices and custard. Give them these treats on a stick to relieve the pain and provide some sustenance at the same time
7. Sage water/tea
The aromatic leaves of sage (Salvia officinalis) are excellent for relieving sore throat. It can be used as a throat gargle because of its antiseptic and astringent qualities. Gargling with sage can be a preemptive treatment during the cold and flu season.
If you cannot find fresh leaves, use dried ones. Add boiling hot water over a tablespoon of dried leaves and let it steep in the water for 10 to 15 minutes. Take double the quantity if you are using fresh leaves. Drain the decoction and use it for gargling 3-4 times a day. If you don’t find the flavor too strong, you can even drink it as an herbal tea by adding a teaspoonful of lemon and some honey.
8. Fennel tea/syrup
Many herbal preparations are too strong or repulsive for young children. Fennel or sweet anise (Foeniculum vulgare) is an exception because of its mild, sweet flavor. Although it is used more often to soothe colic in babies, fennel tea is effective in relieving a sore throat. You can use it as a throat gargle or drink it as a tea, or make it into syrup to be used frequently.
To make a light fennel tea, boil 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds in a cup of water for 5 minutes. Keep it aside until it has cooled down a bit. You can gargle with it or drink it warm. Add some honey to make it more appealing to children.
Fennel syrup is even more attractive to children. You can boil one tablespoon of fennel seeds in a cup of water and add half a cup of sugar to it to get a syrupy consistency. Half a teaspoon can be given to babies and young children several times a day. Fennel can even relieve any gastric pain or discomfort that may accompany flu and strep throat.
9. Shallots and honey
Shallots are small-sized, mild flavored onions (Allium cepa var. aggregatum) considered to be superior to regular onions in their medicinal properties. Sliced shallots with honey or rock sugar make a traditional cold and sore throat remedy.
Shallots are sliced across the grain into really thin slices and steeped in an equal amount of honey and mixed well to form a thick sauce. If rock sugar is used, it is slightly crushed and mixed with shallot slices and kept aside to allow the onion juice to dissolve the sugar into thick syrup. This preparation can be stored for 2-3 days. Eat half a teaspoon at a time several times a day.
10. Cayenne pepper and honey
Honey is a popular ingredient in many preparations to relieve sore throat because it reduces inflammation by drawing out water from the swollen tissues. As for cayenne pepper, the capsaicin it contains acts as a pain reliever by blocking the Substance P which transmits the sensation to the brain. Since repeated use is necessary to bring about this effect, honey and cayenne pepper mixture should be taken several times a day.
Cayenne pepper can irritate the stomach lining and cause discomfort, so a vinegar and cayenne pepper gargle is preferred by some.
11. Clove oil
A single bite of this spice can give your tongue a numbing sensation. This, along with its wide-ranging antimicrobial and antiseptic properties, can make it an excellent mouth gargle to treat painful oral conditions such as toothache, mouth ulcers and sore throat.
Clove oil is so strong that it can cause burns in the mouth if used undiluted. Add just 5-6 drops to a cup of warm water and use it as a throat gargle 3 to 4 times a day. You can spray this directly onto the throat too.
12. Slippery elm
This Native American remedy for sore throat and cough is worth a try. The beneficial effect is attributed to the gelatinous substance that is present in the bark of slippery elm Ulmus fulva.
You can make a tea with the dried slippery elm bark you can purchase from this page on Amazon or from outlets selling herbal products. Boil it in water to get a thin, gelatinous tea. Drink it plain or mixed with honey. Powdered bark is also available. You can just mix it with hot water and drink.
It is not the fluffy sweet we find today, but its predecessor made from the roots of the marshmallow plant, Althaea officinalis, that has medicinal properties. The leaves and roots of this plant belonging to the hibiscus family have large amounts of mucilage which can relieve sore throat and cough. It used to be made into a jelly-like candy that children could eat to get relief.
Make a tea with the dried roots or root powder by boiling it in water for 5 minutes. Use in the ratio of 1 teaspoon of the powder to an ounce of water. Filter the tea and drink it 2-3 times a day.
14. Licorice root tea
Licorice tea is a time-tested sore throat reliever, but licorice is another herbal ingredient that time has ousted out of products carrying its name. Licorice candy no longer has any real licorice in it. Licorice content in ready-to-use licorice teas is doubtful. To make a sore throat remedy, it is best to buy dried licorice root and boil it in water to make your own tea.
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) root contains the saponin Glycyrrhizin which gives it the sweet taste. Its antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties are well known. You need to boil 1 teaspoonful of root sections in 1 cup of water for at least 2-3 minutes to get the best out of them.
15. Pomegranate tea
This highly astringent tea to relieve sore throat is made from the pomegranate fruit peel. This traditional Indian remedy is prepared by boiling fresh or dried peels in water for 5 minutes and letting it stand for half an hour. You can drink the filtered tea or use it as throat gargle. The astringency helps reduce the inflammation and pain.
16. Ginger and honey
Ginger needs no introduction as a sore throat remedy. It is a common ingredient in cough lozenges. Grate fresh ginger and squeeze out the juice, mix it with an equal amount of honey. Take half a teaspoon at a time, but repeat it several times a day. Dried ginger root should be boiled in water for 5 minutes to make the tea. Ginger improves appetite, so it is beneficial when cold and flu kill your interest in food.
17. Cinnamon and honey
This combination can be used as a tea or in paste form. To make the tea, boil 5-6 cinnamon sticks in a cup of water and add honey to taste. A paste of cinnamon powder mixed with honey is equally effective when taken in small quantities throughout the day. But the most important thing is whether you are using the true cinnamon (Cinnamomum vera/zeylanicum) called Ceylon cinnamon or the cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia) known as Chinese cinnamon. That can make all the difference.
Echinacea has been a traditional cold and flu remedy for a very long time. Echinacea products are in high demand during the flu season for a reason; it can build up your immunity and ward off colds. In the event of catching a cold, the severity of the symptoms, including sore throat, is greatly reduced.
You can make your own herbal tea with dried flower buds and boiling water, or prepare a tincture by steeping them in alcohol. Drink the tea or spray the tincture on to the throat for quick relief.
19. Iced tea
If warm tea can be soothing to a sore throat, so can cold tea. The relief may be temporary since our body is very efficient at warming up the throat again, but sipping the iced tea can do a bit more than numbing the throat with cold. The astringent tea helps relieve inflammation. You can make large amounts of tea at one go and store it in the refrigerator for use throughout the day; a great plus when you are in bed with a bad cold or flu.
The menthol in peppermint has a cooling effect without actually being cold. Children and adults both enjoy the flavor and may prefer it to other herbal teas. To make a peppermint tea, you can steep a handful of fresh peppermint leaves in warm water for 15 minutes and strain it out.
If you can’t find fresh peppermint, dried leaves would do. Sucking on peppermint lozenges and candies may be an easier option, but too much sugar intake can increase phlegm production.
21. Hydrogen peroxide
This is a common oral disinfectant used after tooth extraction and tonsillectomy. It is widely used to disinfect cuts and wounds too but also has a huge number of other uses. The bubbling action comes from the release of oxygen, which can kill off anaerobic bacteria that cause many illnesses. 3% hydrogen peroxide that is commonly available in chemist’s shop diluted with equal amounts of water can be used as a throat gargle to relieve sore throat. But you shouldn’t swallow it.
These home remedies may resolve your sore throat, but if other symptoms such as fever and body pain continue for over 3 days, you should consult a physician.