A sore throat refers to pain, itchiness, or irritation of the throat. Throat pain is the primary symptom of a sore throat. It may get worse when you try to swallow, and you may have difficulty swallowing food and liquids.
Even if a sore throat isn’t serious enough for a trip to the doctor, it’s still painful and may prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. Fortunately, you can use at-home remedies to soothe the pain and irritation.
Honey mixed in tea or taken on its own is a common household remedy for a sore throat. One study found that honey was even more effective at taming nighttime coughs than common cough suppressants. Other research shows that honey is an effective wound healer, which means it may help speed healing for sore throats.
Gargling with warm salt water can help soothe a sore throat and break down secretions. It’s also known to help kill bacteria in the throat. Make a saltwater solution with a half-teaspoon of salt in a full glass of warm water. Gargle it to help reduce swelling and keep the throat clean. This should be done every three hours or so.
Chamomile tea is naturally soothing. It has long been used for medicinal purposes, like soothing a sore throat. It’s often used for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and astringent properties.
Some study reviews have shown that inhaling chamomile steam can help relieve symptoms of a cold, including a sore throat. Drinking chamomile tea can offer the same benefit. It can also stimulate the immune system to help your body fight off the infection that caused your sore throat in the first place.
Peppermint is known for its ability to freshen breath. Diluted peppermint oil sprays may also relieve sore throats. Peppermint contains menthol, which helps thin mucus and calm sore throats and coughs. Peppermint also has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral properties, which may encourage healing.
Never use essential oils without mixing them with a carrier oil such as olive oil, sweet almond oil, or softened coconut oil. For peppermint oil, mix five drops of the essential oil with one ounce of the carrier oil of your choice. Never ingest essential oils.
While the saltwater gargle is more commonly used, gargling baking soda mixed with salt water can help relieve a sore throat as well. Gargling this solution can kill bacteria and prevent the growth of yeast and fungi.
The National Cancer Institute recommends gargling and gently swishing a combination of 1 cup warm water, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/8 teaspoon of salt. They recommend using the rinse every three hours as needed.
Fenugreek has many health benefits. It also has many forms. You can eat fenugreek seeds, use the topical oil, or drink fenugreek tea. Fenugreek tea is a natural remedy for sore throats.
Research demonstrates the healing powers of fenugreek. It can relieve pain and kill bacteria that cause irritation or inflammation. Fenugreek is also an effective antifungal.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health suggests that pregnant women avoid fenugreek.
Marshmallow root contains a mucus-like substance that coats and soothes a sore throat. Simply add some of the dried root to a cup of boiling water to make tea. Sipping the tea two to three times a day may help ease throat pain.
People with diabetes should talk to a doctor before taking marshmallow root. Some animal research shows it may cause a drop in blood sugar level.
Licorice root has long been used to treat sore throats. Recent research shows it’s effective when mixed with water to create a solution for gargling. However, pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid this remedy, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
Like marshmallow root, slippery elm has a mucus-like substance in it. When mixed with water, it forms a slick gel that coats and soothes the throat. To use, pour boiling water over powdered bark, stir, and drink. You may also find that slippery elm lozenges help.
Slippery elm is a traditional remedy for sore throat, but more research is needed. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, it may decrease the absorption of other medication you take.
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has many natural antibacterial uses. Numerous studies show its antimicrobial effects in fighting infections. Because of its acidic nature, it can be used to help break down mucus in the throat and stop bacteria from spreading.
If you sense a sore throat coming on, try diluting 1 to 2 tablespoons of ACV in one cup of water and gargle with it. Then take a small sip of the mixture, and repeat the whole process one to two times per hour. Make sure to drink lots of water in between the gargling sessions.
There are many different ways of using ACV to treat sore throats, depending on the severity of the illness and also your body’s sensitivity to vinegar. It is best to first consult your doctor or healthcare practitioner.
Garlic also has natural antibacterial properties. It contains allicin, an organosulfer compound known for its ability to fight off infections.
Studies have shown that taking a garlic supplement on a regular basis can help prevent the common cold virus. Adding fresh garlic to your diet is also a way of gaining its antimicrobial properties. Your grandmother might have told you to suck on a clove of garlic to sooth a sore throat. Because garlic has many healing actions, you might try this, though you may want to brush your teeth afterward to protect your teeth from enzymes and improve your breath.
Often used as a pain reliever, cayenne pepper contains capsaicin, a natural compound known for blocking pain receptors.
Although not scientifically proven, ingesting cayenne mixed with warm water and honey can help with pain relief for sore throats. Remember that an initial burning sensation is common. Cayenne should not be taken if you have open sores in your mouth. Start with just a few drops of hot sauce or a light sprinkle of cayenne, as both can be very hot.
Sore throats in infants and young children definitely aren’t fun, but the good news is that they’re rarely the sign of a medical emergency on their own. Still, treating sore throats may be different for infants and children. Here are a few tips and remedies:
- Add cool mist or a humidifier to your child’s room. Moisture in the aircan help relieve pain from a sore throat.
- Keep children hydrated by encouraging them to drink as much as possible. Avoid juices or popsicles with lots of citrus.
- Children under 5 years should not be given hard candy cough drops or anything else that might pose a choking risk. Use caution when giving cough drops to children under 10 years.
- Don’t give honey to children who are younger than 1 year.
To prevent sore throat, stay away from people who are sick with an infectious illness like the flu or strep throat. Wash your hands frequently. Try to avoid spicy or acidic foods, and stay away from chemical fumes or smoke that could cause inflammation.
When natural remedies just aren’t cutting it, there are several over-the-counter treatment options. Acetaminophen can be effective for sore throat, and it can be given to young children.
Over-the-counter options like lozenges or numbing sprays can also provide relief. Other potential sore throat soothers include eucalyptus, which you’ll likely find in natural throat lozenges and cough syrups.
Herbs and supplements are not monitored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for quality, packaging, dosage, or safety. Also, the batches may be different from container to container. Lack of regulation means that each supplement might give you a different medicinal dose. Be careful using these remedies, and be sure to buy from a reputable source.
Bacterial infections, such as strep throat, whooping cough, and diphtheria, are responsible for only a small percentage of sore throats. Most doctors recommend calling a doctor only in cases of severe sore throat, such as sore throat with a fever or when swollen tonsils block the throat.
Trying out some of these natural remedies may help you feel better more quickly and save you a trip to the doctor’s office. To feel your best, make sure you also drink lots of fluids and get plenty of rest.