Everybody has a sore throat every now and then. Whether it’s a sore throat with signs of infection, a more innocuous sore throat caused by dry air or allergies, or caused by cold air from air conditioning or spending your day or night near a fan, there are solutions and treatments for every need. A lot of them all natural, but effective and gentle to your throat. Now, we’re not talking about treating a bacterial infection with raw honey (because you don’t do that!) – we’re talking about how to soothe and cure a sore throat with some gentle, natural home remedies available to just about anyone.
But whatever type of sore throat it is you have, temporarily soothing the pain is one thing, but treating the underlying cause is something very different. That is, calming the sore throat is not the same thing as treating what is causing it. Important symptoms to look out for are fever, a persistent productive or dry cough, white spots or patches on the back of the throat, tonsils and even roof of the mouth (they look like canker sores), malaise, chills, muscle aches, chest discomfort, wheezing and other breathing difficulties, red, swollen tonsils resulting in difficulty swallowing fluids or food, loss of appetite, malaise, earache, swollen lymph nodes on the neck or anywhere else on the body – these are likely symptoms of an infection which requires a visit to the doctor’s.
Sore throat causes
- Viral infection (examples: the common cold, influenza or the flu – no antibiotic treatment needed).
- Bacterial infection (caused by bacteria – requires antibiotic treatment).
- Fungal infection (examples: Candida albicans yeast infection, esophageal candidiasis or thrush – requires treatment with antifungals).
- Allergies (examples: pollen allergies such as ragweed allergy, pet hair, dust, dust mites allergies).
- Cold air (cold air can cause a feeling of raw throat).
- Dry air (fairly common cause of sore throat).
- Acid reflux (regurgitation of stomach juices burns the esophagus and causes a sore throat sensation because stomach juices are strong irritants). See what foods to eat and to avoid for acid reflux.
- Irritants (examples: acidic beverages such as vinegar, some alcohols, spicy foods such as hot paprika, hot chili peppers, spiced such as pepper, ginger or turmeric when eaten in excess).
- Dehydration (examples: not drinking any water for long periods of time).
- Talking too much, yelling, singing excessively, sleeping with your mouth open.
- Other causes: eating foods that are too cold or too hot can temporarily cause a sore throat, cigarette smoke, smoke from wood cooking stoves etc.
Find out below what to do for a sore throat with these simple and effective 7 home remedies and why they help with the soreness and what other benefits they offer.
Raw honey is the simplest, most effective and readily available of all home remedies for sore throat, for adults. This is because honey is an excellent demulcent: it’s thick and viscous in consistency as a result of a high sugar content (average sugar content in honey is 82%) and thus forms a protective film over the lining of the throat. This helps reduce throat soreness, inflammation and pain, for a limited period of time of course. In addition to this, honey has a low moisture content, acidic pH and contains methylglyoxal (present in manuka honey) and hydrogen peroxide (present in honeys other than manuka) which provide antibacterial benefits. See all the wonderful benefits of manuka honey.
Naturally-thicker honeys are the best remedy for a sore throat – normally honey has a water content ranging from 13% to 25%, but below 20% is best for a both increased shelf life and superior demulcent properties. Also, some varieties may work better than others – manuka honey has scientifically proven antibacterial and healing properties and is also naturally more viscous, which recommends it as a natural remedy for sore throat more than other varieties. But any raw honey will help soothe throat inflammation and pain. You can find out more about your favorite honey variety and its properties, health benefits and side effects on the Honey varieties page.
You can take one tablespoon of raw honey every 3-4 hours after eating and before going to sleep to help calm the pain. Remember to only get certified raw honey, but do not give honey of any kind to children under 1 year of age because of the risk of getting botulism. Also, if you are allergic, avoid honey and other honey bee products in all forms and preparations.
Raw honey and red beetroot
This was my parents’ go-to remedy for sore throat for me and my siblings. You wash a red beet and tap it dry with a paper towel. Cut in half and scoop out close to half the pulp, then add a tablespoon of your favorite raw honey. Leave for an hour or until the vegetable half fills up with liquid, then drink. In addition to the demulcent and antibacterial properties of the raw honey, you get water-soluble vitamins, minerals as well as naturally-occurring compounds that act on blood vessels, dilating them and reducing blood pressure. Just remember that red beetroot contains betalain pigments such as betanin which colors urine and stools pink, red or violet, mimicking the presence of blood. See the 12 foods that color stool.
Sugar and red beetroot
It’s the same concept as with the raw honey and red beetroot. The sugar melts in the juice that oozes off from the beetroot, creating a sticky liquid with demulcent properties. When you drink the sugared beet juice, it coats the back of the throat, creating a protective film that temporarily calms irritation, soothes the throat and prevents further irritation. Alternatively, you can use golden beetroot, black radishes, green radishes or white radishes (aka Daikon radishes), all healthy options.
Warm tea and raw honey
For a sore throat, this is the go-to home remedy. Warm tea is soothing because it warms the inflamed throat lining, reducing the perception of pain, even if just for a short period of time. Most people choose honey to sweeten their tea which is great because it has demulcent properties, soothing any existing irritation. But diluting it in the tea will also dilute its properties. My tip is to either drink the tea unsweetened and have a tablespoon of raw honey afterwards, or drink it sweetened, but also have a tablespoon of raw honey after. It’s important to remember to not add honey to hot tea: wait until it’s warm or lukewarm, then sweeten it.
Depending on the choice of herbs, you may also enjoy a range of benefits for your sore throat from drinking tea. For instance, chamomile has anti-inflammatory and mild sedative properties which may help with the discomfort caused by the sore throat. St John’s wort can help reduce anxiety associated with the throat soreness. Cinnamon tea creates a warming sensation that temporarily reduces pain perception. Adding ground cinnamon, ground ginger or ground turmeric to your tea can mask the soreness by creating a short-lived warming feeling, but be careful not to put too much of any of these in your tea because they will add to the throat irritation. Peppermint tea is minty and fresh and has a mild cooling effect can help with the throat soreness. Mint in general is known to have mild analgesic properties.
Warm milk and raw egg
This all natural home-remedy for sore throat always worked on me as a child. You have fresh, raw, full-fat cow’s milk which you heat in a small pot on low heat. After it’s gotten scalding hot, you mix or whisk in 1-2 raw chicken eggs (whole eggs or just the yolk), then heat for another 2 minutes or so on low heat. Do not bring to boil so you don’t cook the eggs, but make sure everything’s hot. Let it cool down, then sweeten with either raw honey or sugar, and drink. It’s a delicious treat, a highly nutritious snack/meal and a great sore throat home remedy. You can use sheep milk, goat milk, camel’s milk or any other dairy milk and any kind of eggs you like. And add any sweetener you like, whether table sugar, raw honey, maple syrup, molasses or something else, and any other ingredients you feel might improve taste (cinnamon, turmeric, ginger etc.).
The milk and eggs drink soothes the throat lining because it’s warm, but also acts as a demulcent thanks to the fats in both milk and egg yolk which leave a thin protective film over the inflamed mucous membrane of the throat, temporarily reducing irritation and relieving pain. Both whole milk and eggs, especially the egg white, are rich in proteins and proteins help the immune system fight off infections. Some milks naturally have antibodies that further boost the immune system, such as camel milk (see benefits of camel milk).
Of course, there is the concern that raw milk and eggs are unsafe to eat because they may cause food borne illness. The risk is real. The milk and eggs I received as a child were sourced from my grandparent’s own little farm and were as clean as they came. Not to mention that slowly heating the milk, then the milk and eggs together just below the boiling point for a good few minutes, until the whole mixture was scalding, helped keep it sanitary.
Marshmallow root, the root of the Althaea officinalis plant, is the original ingredient used to make marshmallows (the confectionery). The roots have over 10% mucilage and over 10% pectin in their composition, two ingredients with strong soothing properties, good for relieving throat soreness and reducing pain and inflammation. Currently there are various marshmallow root products available, including marshmallow root syrup, mouth gargling solutions, extracts, ground root for tea-making and other preparations, all of which make a good sore throat remedy.
If you have a sore throat, then it likely means your throat is irritated, inflamed and feels raw, scratchy or burning. To reduce the soreness and associated pain and discomfort, there’s no better remedy than something cold. Like a Popsicle. You can even make them yourself at home from cut pieces of your favorite fruit which you freeze in water in an ice tray mold. Or from pureed fruit or fruit juices. If it’s an infection you’re dealing with and it causes you to lose your appetite or feel nauseous every time you smell anything food related, then a fruity Popsicle might be just what you need to restore your appetite a little, keep hydrated and get some important vitamins and minerals as well. Just don’t overdo it because eating too many cold foods with an already sore throat results in loss of voice.