What is a Sore Throat
It has been described as a scratchy feeling, a tickle, or even a burning pain. Still, a sore throat by any other name is just that—a feeling of soreness that begins at the back of the mouth and extends to the middle of the throat. Usually the result of inflammation, a sore throat is not an illness but a symptom. When the throat is infected or otherwise irritated, the body responds by sending more blood to the area. It carries white blood cells and other substances to fight the infection—and these actually cause the redness, swelling, and pain in the throat.
Causes of Sore Throat
Allergies, bacterial or viral infections, and environmental triggers (dust, low humidity, smoke) are the most common causes of a sore throat. In the case of an allergy or viral infection, a sore throat is often the result of postnasal drip, the draining of excessive mucus from the nose or sinuses down the back of the throat. In addition, the viruses that cause colds often attack throat tissue directly. Usually a viral sore throat develops slowly over the course of several days. It lasts longer but is milder than a bacterial infection (such as strep throat), which often strikes quite suddenly—sometimes in a matter of hours—inducing severe throat pain, difficulty in swallowing, and fever.
Throat Remedies for Sore Throat
The remedies listed here will strengthen your immune system, help heal inflamed throat tissue, and ease pain. Unless otherwise noted, use them together for the duration of your symptoms. These supplements can be combined with over-the-counter or prescription medications for colds or allergies or with antibiotics for strep throat.
|Vitamin C||Dosage: 1,000 mg 3 times a day.
Comments: Reduce dose if diarrhea develops.
|Vitamin A||Dosage: 50,000 IU twice a day until symptoms improve; if needed after 7 days, reduce to 25,000 IU a day.
Comments: Women who are pregnant or considering pregnancy should not exceed 5,000 IU a day.
|Echinacea||Dosage: 200 mg 4 times a day.
Comments: Standardized to contain at least 3.5% echinacosides.
|Garlic||Dosage: 400-600 mg 4 times a day with food.
Comments: Each pill should provide 4,000 mcg allicin potential.
|Zinc||Dosage: 1 lozenge every 3 or 4 hours as needed.
Comments: Do not exceed 150 mg zinc a day from all sources.
|Slippery elm||Dosage: As a tea, 1 tsp. per cup of hot water as needed.
Comments: May substitute or combine with marshmallow root.
Vitamin C assists the body in fighting the upper respiratory infections that often cause sore throat. As a natural antihistamine, it can also reduce inflammatory compounds that the body produces in people with allergies. Vitamin A speeds healing of mucous membranes, such as those in the throat. The herbs echinacea and garlic have antiviral and antibacterial properties; begin taking them at the first sign of throat irritation.
In addition, try zinc lozenges to help prevent a sore throat caused by a cold; studies have shown that they may shorten the duration of the illness. If you dislike the taste of zinc or don’t have a cold, drink a tea of slippery elm or marshmallow root. These herbs coat the throat, making swallowing easier and relieving pain. Slippery elm also contains compounds known as procyanidolic oligomers (PCOs), which fight infection and allergic reactions. For an extra immunity boost, add a few drops of goldenseal tincture to your tea—it is especially effective against bacterial infections because it contains berberine, an antibacterial compound. If you are congested as well, you can add licorice (in dried herb or tincture form), but don’t take it if you have high blood pressure.
Other Remedies for a Sore Throat
- Use a humidifier or cool-mist vaporizer to keep the throat lubricated.
- Don’t smoke and stay out of smoke-filled rooms.
- Drink eight or more cups of liquids daily. Warm liquids, such as soup or tea, may be especially helpful.