Tonsillitis is inflammation of the tonsils. Tonsillitis is a common condition in children, teenagers and young adults. One can get an episode of swollen tonsil after having an ice cream or feel the constrictions during the fall or winter seasons. Usually, tonsillitis is not considered as a severe condition, and it tends to subside in two weeks of time. There are some simple home remedies for swollen tonsils or tonsillitis that can help relieve the symptoms and assist in speedy recovery.

Conventional treatment involves over the counter medicines such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Ginger tea, chamomile tea, garlic, bone broth, etc. are some simple and effective swollen tonsils home remedies.

What causes swollen tonsils or tonsillitis?

Tonsils are paired glands situated at the back of the throat. They are made up of lymphoid tissue that forms a part of our immune system. Tonsils are body’s first line of defence against external pathogens that are inhaled or ingested (1).

Children have an immune system which gets stronger, with developing age, the tonsils become less important and usually shrink. In most people, the body can fight infection without the tonsils.

Either viruses or bacteria may cause tonsillitis. Most cases reported are of a viral in origin. The bacterial tonsillitis is more aggressive and can cause complications if left untreated. They are mostly caused by Streptococcus pyogenes, the organism that also causes strep throat.

Acute tonsillitis with sudden onset usually resolves within 7-10 days. People with recurrent and chronic tonsillitis need to consult a healthcare professional.

Who are at risk?

Tonsillitis is a contagious infection, transmission of the illness usually occurs when:

  • You are in a confined space with infected individuals.
  • Someone sneeze and cough. Both conditions can cause droplet infections, which deposit the pathogens in and around the area.
  • Skin-to-skin contacts, like hugging, handshake or physical contact with the infected person.(2)
  • Sharing doorknobs, utensils, and other belongings with the infected person.
  • Kissing or sharing food and drinks with the infected person.

Symptoms of tonsillitis

  • The most common form of tonsillitis is swollen tonsils with red appearance. Pain and difficulty in swallowing fluids accompany this condition.
  • There may be a change in voice, muffled speech or a hot potato voice is common.
  • The throat continually appears to be dry, and swallowing becomes very difficult.
  • Tender lymph nodes in the neck with radiating pain towards the ear can occur.
  • Fever and malaise along with a headache and body ache can accompany this condition.
  • A runny nose and bad breath.
  • Redness of the eyes with irritation.
  • Bacterial infection can include additional signs such as white pus-filled spots on the tonsils.
  • Tonsilloliths, also known as tonsil stones or calculi, can occur in some individuals.

Complications of untreated tonsillitis

If left untreated, tonsillitis, especially the bacterial variant can cause Otitis media, which is an infection of the middle ear. In this condition, the fluid between the eardrum and inner ear becomes infected by bacteria.

Peritonsillar abscess is also known as quinsy. It is a collection of pus between the tonsils and the wall of the throat.

Sleep apnea can occur in people who also have an adenoid infection. Sleep apnea can cause breathing difficulties and disturbed sleep.

Scarlet fever occurs due to streptococcal infection, especially in kids. It starts with a rash that typically origins around neck and face and spreads around back covering up the chest region.

Conventional treatment

You can go for over the counter medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to combat the pain, fever and malaise accompanying tonsillitis. Penicillin and amoxicillin are the commonly prescribed drugs for bacterial tonsillitis.

If you have chronic and severe tonsillitis, then the doctor may recommend you go for a blood test to suspect a glandular fever. Tonsillectomy is a surgical procedure where the tonsils are removed. Surgery is usually the last resort in cases of chronic or severe tonsil infections. Tonsillectomy is much debated and cited controversial (3).

Most cases of tonsillitis usually subside on their own. Following specific home remedies will alleviate the symptoms of swollen tonsils and help in speedy recovery.

Tonsillitis or swollen tonsils home remedies

Manuka Honey

Manuka honey has been traditionally used in the treatment of tonsillitis. The active ingredient methylglyoxal present in manuka honey has a bacteriostatic action which makes it useful in treating bacterial tonsillitis. It also coats the inner lining of the throat and prevents the constant itching sensation and soreness.

You can consume a tablespoon of manuka honey before bedtime. This will prevent drying of your tonsils and might have reduced pain the very next day. You can also mix manuka honey with grounded black pepper to provide soothing relief to the irritated and tender lymph nodes.

Ginger

Ginger has potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant properties. The active ingredient gingerol present in ginger has proven to have a virolytic and bacteriolytic effect. Ginger also help flush out toxins created by the bacteria. It helps boosts blood circulation around the tonsils, giving it a good line of defence. (4)

The anti-inflammatory property of ginger reduces swollen tonsils. Drink two to three tablespoons of fresh ginger juice with honey as the mixture will coat the tonsils and have a positive localised effect. Alternatively, you can have a warm ginger tea for quick relief.

Liquorice root

Liquorice, also known as licorice, is mostly consumed in the form of herbal tea, which has an active ingredient known as glycyrrhizic acid. The infusion creates a viscous coat to soothe a sore throat. Liquorice root also contains mucilage that coats the mucous membranes and prevents it from drying.

Liquorice has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that help in reducing the throat pain and swollen tonsils. Crush three silvers of Liquorice root in two cups of water and bring it to boil. You can strain away the remnants and consume it warm.

Chamomile tea

Chamomile tea is considered the best therapy for swollen tonsils. The active ingredient, terpene and bisabolol, found in chamomile essential oil has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Add few drops of chamomile essential oil into two cups of boiling water. You can also add honey and lemon to this mixture. The active compound will reduce the pain swelling and inflammation produced by pathogens. (5)

Marshmallow

Marshmallow root has antimicrobial, mucociliary, antitussive and anti-inflammatory properties. The mucilage and the gelatin in marshmallow coats the inner lining of the throat which prevents the drying of tonsils.

Take two tablespoons of crushed marshmallow root and add it to boiling water. You can sip this hot solution and soon will notice the reduction of the coarseness of tonsils.

Horehound

The practice of using horehound herb for treating throat is prevalent for a long time. The active component marrubiin found in horehound has potent expectorant properties.

Horehound also possesses anti-inflammatory properties that help in combating the swelling and inflammation of tonsils. You can consume horehound as lozenges or tea.

Garlic

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 tonsillitis are alleviated.

Slippery elm

Slippery elm is a powerful herb used for centuries because of its healing properties. Slippery elm bark contains mucilage which acts as a demulcent for a soothing sore throat and mucous membranes.

Sipping on slippery elm tea several times a day will strengthen your immune system to ward off infection producing pathogens.

Bone Broth

Bone broth contains biominerals and amino acids that help in supporting your immune system and provides enough nutrients to restore health. Bone broth detoxifies the body by eliminating toxins and waste from tonsil infections.

It also helps you stay hydrated and is especially beneficial against malaise.

Food habits during tonsillitis

Foods to avoid

Your ultimate goal in tonsillitis is to build a solid immune system and avoid foods which can upset your digestive system. You can avoid following food items such as refined oils, processed or packed food items, high sugar-packed foods, gluten-based foods, etc.

Foods to consume

You can consume healthy food items such as omega 3 foods, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, essential oils, extra virgin coconut oil or olive oil, green vegetables, etc.

Points to remember when dealing with swollen tonsils

You should avoid taking antibiotics as much as you can. If the complications of swollen tonsils increase, then you can consider antibiotics as a last resort after consulting with any general medical practitioner.

Mostly, viral infections are the leading cause of tonsillitis, and the only treatment modality is strengthening the immune system to fight the infection. Kids can contract this infection too easily in cold weather. Hence extreme cold contact should be avoided.

Lukewarm salt water gargles will help you in eliminating the pathogens and toxins. Try doing the gargles several times a day for quick relief from swollen tonsils. A diet rich in probiotics will help increase the count of essential bacteria which keeps other infection producing bacteria in check.

Sleeping helps our body heal at its own pace, especially in viral infections. Take a few days break when you are down with tonsillitis. You can also sip on herbal tea and remember to stay hydrated.

Taking these few small precautions will prevent the recurrence of tonsillitis and help you enjoy your next icy treat without worrying.