Cough and sore throat remedies don't have to come from the drugstore – quick and easy relief may be right in your pantry. Sometimes sore throat pain is just caused by winter dry air; sometimes it's linked to a cold, flu or other virus. Whatever the cause, these home remedies can help relieve throat pain and speed healing.
Remember – If pain is severe or persistent, is accompanied by high fever, bleeding or trouble breathing, please see a trained health care provider. Take care of yourself and get help if you need it.
#1 – Cayenne
I was really surprised to see that this took the top spot for sore throat remedies on Earth Clinic, with over three times the votes of the next closest cure, but it does make sense due its capsaicin content. Capsaicin is a natural anti-inflammatory and pain reliever – which is why you often see it used in pain relief salves.
To use cayenne for sore throat relief, use a glass of warm water and add from a few sprinkles to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder to the water. Gargle with this water several times per day, or as needed. You may also add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt. Depending on your spice tolerance, you may use more cayenne, but I think it's best to start with lower amounts and work your way up as needed. Please note that cayenne may interact with some prescription medications, so make sure to research your particular medications' interactions with cayenne before using it.
#2 – Apple Cider Vinegar
Those who are regular readers of the home remedies series know that apple cider vinegar (ACV) is used to cure just about everything, and providing sore throat pain relief is no exception. You can take it straight or mixed – your choice. The Earth Clinic crew recommends apple cider vinegar gargling, sipping apple cider vinegar, or putting some apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle to spritz the back of the throat. If straight ACV seems a little too intense, mix 1/4 cup warm water, 2 tablespoons of ACV and 2 tablespoons of honey. Gargle and sip.
Sore Throat Home Remedy #3 – Warm Salt Water
If you're battling bacteria or a virus, it can throw your throat pH out of whack. A warm salt water gargle can help restore the proper pH levels, easing sore throat pain. The warmth also acts to relax tight, aching throat muscles. Use 1/4 teaspoon salt per 1/2 cup of warm water, and gargle several times per day.
#4 – Zinc Lozenges
As mentioned in the post, “The Best Vitamins and Minerals for Fighting Colds and Flus“, zinc interferes with the ability of rhinoviruses, which are responsible for most colds, to reproduce and lock on to cells. In a study of zinc cold lozenges, “cold duration was an additional 4.3 days in zinc-treated patients compared with 9.2 days for placebo-treated patients. Cough, nasal drainage and congestion were the symptoms most affected, and only mild side-effects were noted.” Patients used up to eight zinc lozenges per day. Just to note – these taste a little funny, but they've been proven to work.
#5 – Pickle Juice
Combine vinegar and salt in a more tasty package, and you have pickle juice pain relief. Some folks swig it right out of the jar (this isn't very hygienic if you're sharing your pickles with others – don't share the sore throat funk), others gargle from a glass. Warming it up a bit gives the muscle relaxation mentioned earlier, but it may taste a bit less palatable. If you have a nice fermented pickle like raw sauerkraut juice, which also contains vitamin C and probiotics, all the better.
#6 – Sore Throat Tea
This herbal sore throat tea from the Herbal Academy of New England brings together sage (an antihistamine), licorice root or slippery elm (to coat and soothe), cinnamon (antiviral, antibacterial) and ginger (warming and immune boosting) into a healing, soothing tea. Add some lemon and honey and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper for extra “oomph”! Opens airways and reduces sinus drainage without the pharmaceutical side effects.
Herbal Sore Throat Tea Ingredients
- 1 part sage leaf
- ½ part licorice root or slippery elm
- ¼ part cinnamon chips
- ¼ part ginger root
- Combine herbs in a bowl and store in a sealed container when not in use.
- To Make a Medicinal Infusion – In a glass quart jar, pour boiling water over 4-6 Tablespoons herbal tea, filling the jar to the top. (For one cup of tea, use 1 tablespoon of herb mix.)
- Allow to steep covered for 30-45 minutes. (30-45 is better, but steep at least 15 minutes.)
- Strain herbs and enjoy! Breathing the vapors of your tea is encouraged to maximize the benefits.
- You can refrigerate any excess infusion and heat it up to drink later.
Any warm liquid will help, but other cold busting tea ingredients to look for include rose hips, which are high in vitamin C; elderberry and echinacea, which are known virus fighters; or cloves, which contain eugenol, a natural numbing agent.
#7 – Garlic
Garlic is both anti-viral and anti-bacterial, so it fights against many types of sore throat causes. The pungent smell of garlic comes from the sulfur rich compounds that it contains, including allicin and alliin. Cooking makes these compounds less effective, so raw is the way to go. Crushing or chopping the garlic and letting it sit before use will help to produce more of the helpful sulfur compounds. Let sit at least fifteen minutes, but consume within an hour of crushing/chopping.
To make your raw garlic a little easier to swallow, you can mix it with some honey and lemon, add it to your herbal tea of choice, or steep it in hot water to make a simple garlic tea.
The 2014-2015 flu season is making headlines, starting earlier than expected and landing more folks in the hospital. CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden has stated that “Unfortunately, about half of the H3N2 viruses that we’ve analyzed this season are different from the H3N2 virus that’s included in this year’s flu vaccine.” Viruses mutate, often quite quickly, so this is not uncommon. It does mean the flu vaccine may be largely ineffective (but is still recommended by the CDC). I know a number of friends and family have been sick already, some with symptoms that hang on for weeks. So far, knock on wood, we've been clear, and I've been dosing our family with probiotics and other immune boosters and we enforce strict hand washing.
If you're sick, or want to avoiding getting sick, you may find our Cold and Flu Care series useful. It includes over 10 articles on prevention and treatment of cold and flu symptoms, such as:
- Home Remedies for Coughs
- Home Remedies for Earaches
- Immune Boosting Herbs in Finger Gelatin
- Coping with Stomach Flu Symptoms (Why the BRAT diet may not be your best choice)
Have you been ill this cold and flu season? What do you use to treat sore throat pain?
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