A sore throat affects the upper airways, or more specifically, the tonsils and pharynx. It usually manifests in painful sensations like scratchiness, burning or scraping (as if with razor blades). It’s often accompanied by difficulty swallowing, hoarseness or redness at the back of the throat.
There are many possible causes. While it’s often a symptom of a viral or bacterial infection(1), a sore throat may also just be a sign of irritation (2) caused by:
Be sure to consult your doctor if your symptoms persist or increase (fever, cough, etc).
Though we might instinctively reach for something cold to fight the fire of a sore throat, hot drinks may be a better option (3). Heat actually soothes irritated mucous membranes and thins down the nasal or bronchial secretions that often accompany them.
Vegetable broths, or herbal teas with a touch of soothing honey (4) are both good options. A special mention here for tea made with common thyme, which supports anti-bacterial activity, and Breckland thyme, which supports respiratory health (5-6).
Since ancient times,peppermint has been one of the most popular essential oils for its refreshing and invigorating properties. It is also has remarkable applications for soothing the mouth and throat(7).
If you’re not comfortable using aromatherapy (with its delicate dilutions), ready-to-use supplements are available that contain safe doses of peppermint (Organic Defense Mix, for example, combines the best essential oils for supporting health, including peppermint, lemon, oregano and cinnamon) (8-9).
Looking for a traditional home remedy to relieve your painful throat? Soak a thin cloth in hot lemon juice to which you’ve added a handful of coarse grey salt. Apply to your neck and let it sit there for an hour.
If your lymph nodes are swollen, a green clay poultice may be just the job (10). Apply sparingly to affected areas and cover with a thin cloth. Leave to work for 2 hours, then repeat if necessary.
A member of the Asteraceae family, common butterbur (Petasites hybridus) has featured among European medicinal plants since the Middle Ages. Containing two major active principles, petasin and isopetasin, butterbur was the subject of renewed interest in the 1950s for its potential over the spring and summer months – when there’s a significant increase in allergens (11).
As it contains naturally toxic compounds called pyrrolizidine alkaloids, make sure you opt for reliable Petasites hybridus supplements where these compounds have been removed (such as Butterbur Extract, standardised to 15% petasin and isopetasin for maximum efficacy) (12).
To moderate your response to allergens, it’s also worth considering a ‘combo’ supplement (such as Aller Fight, which also contains astragalus, an immune system-regulator, and maritime pine, which supports respiratory health) (13-14).
Without sufficient moisture, the walls of the throat feel under attack and become dry and irritated (15). Installing a humidifier in your living room (or simply placing a bowl of water on a radiator) as soon as you start to feel any discomfort can provide some relief.
A resinous substance produced by bees to increase the hive’s resistance to contaminants, propolis has become widely available in the form of soothing throat sprays, which also help maintain oral hygiene (16).
It’s worth knowing that several types of propolis are produced across the world with different compositions depending on the biotope. Gathered from the heart of the lush forests of Brazil, green propolis (featured in the powerful supplement Green Propolis) is exceptionally rich in cinnamic acid, kaempferol, and artepillin C, hence the growing interest in its therapeutic potential (17).
If you’re finding it difficult to swallow, try gargling several times a day with a natural antiseptic (such as salt, lemon juice, bicarbonate of soda or a little aspirin) diluted in a glass of warm water(18).
Keep the liquid at the back of the throat for 30 seconds (tipping your head back), then spit it out.
With its beautiful pink petals, purple coneflower(Echinacea purpurea) would seem to be the top plant choice of Native Americans. It offers healing effects, and supports the health of the upper respiratory tract as well as immunity(19).
As a result, this super-plant features in supplements formulated to boost the body’s natural defences (such as Immunity Booster, containing organic echinacea enriched with vitamin C and zinc, both of which support healthy immune system function) (20-21).
When did you last replace your toothbrush? If you’re suffering with a persistent or recurrent sore throat, an old toothbrush could be the reason.
With repeated brushing, bacteria accumulate in the bristles and re-enter the body with ease (22). If your toothbrush is more than three months old, it’s definitely time to replace it.
Formulated from analgesics and/or local anaesthetics, throat lozenges also encourage salivation(23). At the same time as lubricating oral mucous membranes, saliva - rich in enzymes and proteins - creates a protective barrier against pathogens. A very good reason to increase your salivation!
Not sure how long a course of zinc supplements should last? Here’s a summary, by health issue, of the durations and doses required for effective supplementation.
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