A sore throat is a common term for inflammation of tonsils, pharynx, epiglottis and larynx. The cause of a sore throat is mostly viral infection, but in some cases, it can be a bacterial infection and rare fungal infection. Conventional treatment for a sore throat includes over the counter analgesics and antipyretics which help in getting of associated ache and fever. Antibiotics are not useful in the most common viral variant of infection (1). The condition subsides on its own in two weeks’ time. Natural sore throat remedies at home are the most sort after treatment modality for a sore throat for symptomatic relief.
A sore throat causes inflammation and irritation of the upper respiratory tract. It can occur in any age group and is most common in fall and winter months. Some of the popular natural sore throat remedies are lukewarm water gargles with apple cider vinegar, turmeric, Himalayan salt and grapefruit extract, garlic with honey, ginger with honey, etc.
Types of sore throat
Sore throat is usually named after the anatomical part it affects.
It is the inflammation of the paired tonsil glands embedded in walls at the back of your throat. Tonsillitis is caused by either viruses or bacteria. Most cases reported are of a viral origin and usually subsides on its own. The Bacterial tonsillitis is more aggressive and is caused by Streptococcus pyogenes.
Adenoids are lymphatic tissue that helps body fight infection. Adenoids are found in the pharynx, just behind the nose. Adenoiditis is an inflammation of the adenoids caused by infection.
It is caused by swelling in the back of the throat, between the tonsils and larynx. It is the most common type of a sore throat and is mainly caused by a viral infection associated with acute nasal infections.
The epiglottis is a stiff tissue of small flap shape. It closes the entrance to the larynx and trachea during swallowing. It prevents the entry of food in the windpipe. Inflammation of epiglottis is called epiglottitis. This condition is more common in children and can cause airway obstruction.
Laryngitis is inflammation of larynx due to infection. The larynx is also known as the voice box present between the trachea and pharynx. Laryngitis may be acute or chronic. The main symptoms of laryngitis are hoarseness and loss of voice.
Oesophagitis is any inflammation or irritation of the oesophagus.The oesophagus is also called the food pipe or gullet and can be inflamed by viral or bacterial infection, or gastro-oesophageal reflux disorder.
Croup is an acute viral infection of the upper respiratory tract also called laryngotracheobronchitis. It involves the larynx, trachea, and bronchi. This infection leads to increased mucus production and is a common cause of respiratory distress in young children.
What causes a sore throat?
Viral infections cause 90% of sore throats (2).
- Common cold producing rhinovirus
- Flu viruses like influenzae A virus
- Coxsackievirus causing Herpangina
- The Epstein-Barr virus causes infectious mononucleosis
A bacterial sore throat is mostly called strep throat and is mainly caused by group A streptococcus bacteria. Other bacteria that can cause a sore throat are
- Arcanobacterium haemolyticum
A sore throat appearing after treatment with antibiotics, chemotherapy, or in immunocompromised patients may be due to the fungal or yeast infection.
- Chronic smoking
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Symptoms of a sore throat
- A red and swollen throat with painful swallowing of food and liquids
- Inflamed and swollen tonsils with associated tenderness
- Wheezing while breathing can occur in few instances
- Breathing is often difficult due to congestion
- People may cough frequently
- Fevers are common with sore throats
- Malaise, body ache, headache
- Pus on the surface of the tonsils can occur in bacterial infection
- Tender and swollen lymph nodes in the neck with radiating pain
- Post-nasal drip is seen in cases of allergies
- Hoarseness in your voice
Over-the-counter analgesics and antipyretics will help in combating body ache and fever.
Antibiotics are usually not required in cases of a sore throat unless the cause is a bacterial infection. Home remedies will not only alleviate the symptoms but will also boost our immunity facilitating quick recovery.
Top sore throat remedies
Honey is a potent cough suppressant and has a wide range of healing properties.(3) It coats the lining of the throat and prevents the constant itching sensation and soreness.
Consume two tablespoons of honey before bedtime to avoid the drying of the throat. Alternatively, you can mix honey with crushed ginger and pepper consume it with tea.
2. Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar potent anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It contains acetic acid which alters the pH of our throat. Dilute the apple cider vinegar with lukewarm water and do gargles, it forms an acidic coating inside the throat making it difficult for the organisms to survive in an acidic environment.
Apple cider vinegar has mucolytic properties, and it provides relief from congestion and cough.
Elderberry has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The flavonoids, such as quercetin and rutin, present in elderberry help in reduction of swelling and inflammation.
It also helps in boosting the immune system of our body, which is essential for combating viral infection. Studies show that elderberry eases sore throat symptoms like fever, headache, sore throat, fatigue, cough, and body aches. Infuse elderberry herb is water and consume as tea till symptoms subside.
Echinacea purpurea has various antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.(4) The active ingredient caffeic acid decreases the multiplication rate of the virus.
It works best in conjunction with sage. Simmer two cups of water and two tablespoons of Echinacea. Strain the remnants and add honey.
Ginger helps flush out toxins created by the virus and bacteria It also helps to boosts your blood circulation giving it a good line of defence. The active ingredient gingerol has potent anti-inflammatory properties which reduce the pain and swelling of the throat.
Add fresh crushed ginger to boiling water, strain the remnants and consume it warm.
Sage has astringent, antiseptic, and antibacterial properties. Sage contains cineole, borneol, and thujone which treats sore throats, coughs, and other inflammations.
Pour 1 cup water and bring it to boil add two tablespoons of fresh or one tablespoon of dried sage leaves. Consume this tea twice daily for a speedy recovery.
It is the most commonly used sore throat remedy in traditional Chinese medicine. It has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and also flushes toxins out of the body.
Sipping on honeysuckle tea several times a day will strengthen your immune system to ward off infection producing pathogens. (5)
8. Liquorice root
Liquorice also is mostly consumed in the form of herbal tea. The active ingredient glycyrrhizic acid and chalcones have analgesic and anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
Liquorice root also contains mucilage that coats the mucous membranes and prevents it from drying. Crush three silvers of liquorice root in two cups of water and bring it to boil. Strain away the remnants and consume it warm.
Garlic is considered a natural immunity booster. Also, the active compound allicin found in garlic has bacteriostatic action. Take fresh cloves of garlic and crush it to extract the juice.
Mix it with honey to make the juice more edible and easy to ingest. Consume this concoction till all the symptoms of a sore throat are alleviated.
10. Bone Broth
Bone broth helps support your immune system and provides enough nutrients to restore health. Bone broth contains biominerals and amino acids that help boost your immunity and provides enough nutrients to restore health.
Bone broth detoxifies the body eliminate toxins and waste from tonsil infections. It also helps you stay hydrated and is especially beneficial against malaise.
Horehound herb is used for treating sore throat for over a long period. The active component marrubiin found in horehound has potent expectorant properties.
Horehound also possesses anti-inflammatory properties that help combat the swelling and inflammation of the throat. You can process horehound as, lozenges or consume it as tea.
Turmeric is a natural immunity booster. The curcumin is an active ingredient in turmeric which has potent anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric and salt in lukewarm water to make a highly effective gargle solution.
Cloves can be sucked on or incorporated into tea. The eugenol derived from clove has antibacterial properties. Cinnamon tea works wonders for strep throat. Fenugreek has strong healing power.
It can relieve pain and kill bacteria reducing irritation and inflammation. Cayenne pepper, wasabi should be included in the diet as it can clear the inflammation.
14. Grapefruit seed extract
Grapefruit seed extract has natural antibiotic properties, and it works as an antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal remedy for a sore throat. It helps clear out the mucus that can lead to congestion.
Always dilute grapefruit extract before consumption as it is very acidic. Mix it with lukewarm water and do gargles multiple times a day.
15. Himalayan salt
Himalayan salt has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. You can mix Himalayan salt with warm water and do water gargles multiple times a day.
It is one of the best sore throat remedies, which is a natural and most effective treatment for an irritated throat, soreness, itchiness, scratched throat and laryngitis.
Final words on sore throat remedies
A sore throat subsides without intervention. Antibiotics are not useful for treating sore throat if the cause is a viral infection. Take a break and sleep through the infection letting the body do the healing. Meanwhile, do try above natural sore throat remedies to speed up the healing process.
Also, adequate doses of vitamin D and vitamin C can prevent the risk of bacterial infection and strengthen the immune system. Try to balance adequate vitamins and probiotics in the diet. Essential oils help alleviate congestion and give symptomatic relief. Stay hydrated and visit a general practitioner if the symptoms persist for over two weeks.