Recipes To Treat Sore Throats

You know that scratchy feeling that gets worse when you try to swallow. Sometimes a raw throat is the first sign of the common cold or other respiratory infection. Other agents can irritate the throat, too: hot liquids, chemicals, smoke, allergies, postnasal drip from sinusitis, and even sleeping with your mouth open at night. Viruses—particularly those associated with the common cold—are far and away from the most common infectious cause. Normally, other respiratory symptoms, such as runny nose and sneezing, accompany the throat pain. A viral sore throat should resolve on its own within a few days. The onset of sore throat is sudden, with pain on swallowing, tender and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, fever, headache, and possibly nausea and vomiting (especially in children). Unless you have the bad luck of also having a cold, a runny nose, sneezing, and cough are absent. Doctors treat strep throat with antibiotics.

1. Listerine Gargle

How it works: Listerine’s antiseptic ingredients are thymol (which comes from thyme, oregano, and a couple of other mint-family herbs, menthol (from peppermint), and eucalyptol (from eucalyptus). It also contains water, ethanol (alcohol), sweetener, coloring, and preservatives. Tea tree oil is antimicrobial, with activity against a number of bacteria, including strep bacteria, and viruses, including influenza virus. Likewise, eucalyptus essential oil is antibacterial (including against strep) and some respiratory viruses. If you have time, use plant essential oils or make the gargle using dried herbs as described in the recipes that follow.

  1. 1 cup (235 ml) hot (but not scalding) tap water
  2. 1 teaspoon (6 g) salt
  3. 1 tablespoon (15 ml) Listerine, or 1 drop either
  4. Eucalyptus or tea tree essential oil
  • DIRECTIONS: Mix the water, salt, and Listerine. If using essential oil rather than Listerine (in which case you’re eliminating such things as preservatives, saccharin, alcohol, sorbitol, and artificial coloring), mix the ingredients in a small jar and shake well to disperse the essential oil. Gargle and spit out. Continue until you finish the cup. Repeat four to five times a day, making a hot, fresh batch each time.
  • RECIPE VARIATION: Try gargling with a capful of straight Listerine for a throat wash (if you don’t mind the sweeteners and alcohol)

2. Sage and Thyme Gargle

How it works: Sage and thyme are antioxidant and antimicrobial.

  1. 1 cup (235 ml) water
  2. 1 tablespoon (3 g) dried thyme
  3. 2 teaspoons (2 g) dried sage
  4. 1 teaspoon (6 g) salt
  • DIRECTIONS: Bring the water to a boil in a small pan. Stir in the thyme and sage. Cover and steep for 20 minutes. Strain. Reheat, if necessary. (You want the water as hot as you can stand it without burning.) Add the salt and stir. Gargle and spit out. Continue until you finish the cup. Repeat four to five times a day, making a hot, fresh batch each time.

3. Lemon-Honey Ginger Tea

How it works: Ginger is antiviral, antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and warming. Lemon inhibits some bacteria, is an antioxidant, and provides bioflavonoids and vitamin C. Honey moistens irritated mucous membranes, soothes inflammation, and discourages bacterial growth. (Manuka honey, which comes from bees that extract nectar from the manuka flower in New Zealand, is active against strep bacteria.) Cayenne is antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic (despite the burn), and active against some bacteria.

  1. 2 cups (475 ml) water
  2. 2 tablespoons (12 g) minced fresh ginger, or 4 teaspoons (7 g) dried
  3. 1 tablespoon (20 g) honey
  4. 1 tablespoon (15 ml) fresh lemon juice
  5. ¹∕8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • DIRECTIONS: Bring the water to a boil in a nonreactive pot. Add the ginger. Turn off the heat. Cover and steep for 15 minutes. Strain. Stir in the honey, lemon juice, and cayenne.
  • WARNING: Do not give honey to children under twelve months of age because of the small risk of botulism.

4. Sore Throat Tea

How it works: Honey is antibacterial, soothing, and moistening. The three herbs are antimicrobial. With heat, you’ve infused the honey with the herb’s healing chemicals.

  1. 1 cup (235 ml) water
  2. 1 tablespoon (2 g) fresh thyme leaves
  3. 1 tablespoon (4 g) fresh oregano leaves
  4. 1 tablespoon (3 g) fresh sage leaves
  5. Honey
  • DIRECTIONS: Boil the water in the bottom of a double boiler. Place the other ingredients in the top of the double boiler. Gently heat the honey mixture for 30 to 60 minutes. Strain through a tea strainer. (You’ll get about ¼ cup [60 ml] or less.) Drink right away while still warm.

5. Neck Lymph Massage

How it works: Massage can increase local circulation of blood and lymph (an immune system fluid). Peppermint is analgesic and antimicrobial against some viruses and bacteria.

  1. 1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive, apricot, almond, or sesame oil
  2. 3 drops peppermint essential oil
  • DIRECTIONS: Wash your hands. Pour your preferred carrier oil into your palm. Add the peppermint essential oil. Blend with a fingertip. Massage into your neck, focusing on the area under the jaw (where you may feel tender lymph nodes) and the muscle that runs parallel to your trachea (windpipe). Stroke downward from the base of your jaw toward your collarbones. Avoid contact with your eyes. Wash your hands well after you finish.

6. Homemade Neck Cozy

How it works: Heat increases local circulation, which increases the delivery of immune cells and the removal of wastes. It also feels good. The essential oils are antimicrobial, smell nice, and help clear a stuffy nose that accompanies your sore throat.

  1. 3 cups (about 540 g) rice, dried lentils, millet, barley, or other microwave-safe grain
  2. 10 drops lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus, or other essential oil

Pour the grain into a bowl, sprinkle the essential oil over it, and mix.
Pour the scented grain into a clean tube sock. Leave enough room to knot the open end of the sock. (You can also sew it closed.) Microwave on high for 60 to 90 seconds.
Check the temperature: It should feel pleasantly warm to the touch but not scalding hot. Wrap the sock around your neck. Ideally, you should do this after the neck massage described in the previous recipe. Sip warm tea and relax.


7. Apple-Cinnamon Toddy

How it works: You’re delivering warmth and antimicrobial plant chemicals to your throat, which both soothe and heal it. Ginger is especially warming, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving.

  1. 1 quart (946 ml) apple juice or cider
  2. 1 quart (946 ml) water (to dilute the sugar in the juice)
  3. 1 cinnamon stick
  4. 3 or 4 whole cloves
  5. ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  6. Fresh lemon juice
  • DIRECTIONS: Pour the juice and water into a large pan. Add the spices. Heat until just beginning to boil. Turn the heat to low, stirring occasionally. Simmer for 30 minutes. Strain out the cinnamon stick and cloves. Enjoy each cup with a squirt of lemon juice.

Fact or Myth?

  • WHEN YOU FEEL A SORE THROAT COMING ON, TAKE EXTRA DOSES OF VITAMIN C AND IT WILL HEAL QUICKLY. Maybe. Accumulated research has failed to support the use of vitamin C in preventing the common cold (which typically causes sore throat). The exception is people performing the extreme exercise, especially in very cold weather. Extra vitamin C started after a cold begins may shorten symptom duration. Also, eating five or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables (which naturally contain vitamin C and other beneficial chemicals) strengthens the immune system.

Lifestyle Tip

  • Cranberry juice is a great gargle and an even better drink. It contains salicylic acid (the backbone chemical of aspirin), which eases inflammation and pain in the throat.
  • Stay warm and rest when you first come down with a cold. You’ll help your body’s immune system battle the infection.

When to Call the Doctor

  • Sore throat pain persists for more than three days.
  • Throat pain is severe. The throat and tonsils often look fiery red with whitish deposits in the crevices of the tonsils. Strep throat can cause significant illness and complications. (The only way to know for sure whether you have it is to get a “strep test,” which entails swabbing the back of the throat and testing for strep bacteria.) See the doctor to make sure you don’t have strep throat.
  • Severe throat pain is accompanied by extreme fatigue and other whole-body symptoms. You might have mononucleosis or another condition that warrants physician monitoring.
  • You have difficulty swallowing.
  • You have any other questions about your health.

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