For millions of people every year, sore throats serve as the major warning signal that they are about to be hit with the flu, common cold or a bacterial infection like strep throat. On a far less ominous note, allergies, dry air and pollutants can also cause them.
While there are lots of over-the-counter medications that can treat aching throats, there are also countless home and natural remedies to sooth the soreness for those who prefer more organic health care or just can’t make it to the pharmacy. Since it can often be difficult to separate the scientific fact from fiction, we’ve compiled a guide to the everyday affordable materials that have been shown to relieve the pain and wipe out early infections.
Also known as "sweet root," this perennial herb, commonly grown in southern Europe and Asia, has been used in medicine for thousands of years. Licorice is known to soothe and coat sore throats, and helps eliminate phlegm and mucous in the nose, throat and lungs. A 2009 study found that gargling with a licorice and water mixture gave patients with post-operative tracheal tubes less severe sore throats than those who gargled with just water.
Chicken soup is a staple food when it comes to being sick, but it turns out it is good for more than its comforting taste. Research suggests the chicken and vegetable combo helps reduce upper respiratory cold symptoms, including soothing sore throats.
Apple Cider Vinegar
This brown liquid is thought to have antibacterial properties that can help fight the infection causing sore throats. The acidity of the vinegar decreases the pH of tissue, which helps prevent bacteria from growing on its surface. Raw apple cider vinegar also has the prebiotic inulin, which may increase your number of white blood cells and T cells, and boosts your immune system.
Mixing warm water, honey and lemon is a time-honored tradition to treat aching throats in many households. A 2007 study from Penn State University found that honey was as effective as dextromethorphan, the active ingredient in over-the-counter cold medicines, at relieving cough symptoms, and was rated more favorably for symptom relief during sleep.
The bark of this North American tree is often used to treat gastrointestinal disorders, skin ulcers, coughs and sore throats. More specifically, the tree’s mucilage – a sticky, gelatinous substance that contains protein and polysaccharides – has a demulcent effect, meaning it coats tissue and reduces pain and inflammation. Slippery elm is most often taken in the form of lozenges.
While the mechanism is unknown, this African geranium species is antibacterial and has been shown in clinical trials to reduce cold symptoms ranging from nasal congestion and headaches to fever and sore throats. The plant is a major component in many cold medicines, including Umcka ColdCare.
This bulbous plant is antimicrobial, says Dr. Asher, and therefore potentially useful in treating early-stage sore throats. Unfortunately, scientific studies haven’t linked directly linked the two, and you risk having horrible breath.
While these treatments can be useful in relieving pain, they can’t cure more serious infections like strep. Dr. Asher suggests making an appointment with your physician if you see white patches on the back of your throat, are so sore you can’t eat or drink anything, or have a fever of 102 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for longer than two days (less time for children).
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