Treating a Sore Throat Naturally

Sore throats have many causes, including viral or bacterial infection, allergies, injury, and irritants. Many different pathogens may be involved in a sore throat. 

A sore throat can be painful. 

Suppose a viral infection is at the core of the sore throat. In that case, the common accompanying symptoms include coughing, runny nose, eye inflammation, headache, stridor, and difficulty breathing due to inflammation, diarrhea, and hoarseness.

Suppose bacterial infection is at the cause, often from the streptococcus family; the symptoms include headache, malaise, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting occur frequently. Bacterial infections often occur in late winter and early spring. They account for about 15% of all episodes of inflammation of the pharynx, causing a sore throat (also known as pharyngitis). The common consequence of sore throat caused by Streptococcus infection is an acute inflammation of the joints and the kidneys, which you can prevent with prompt antibiotic treatment. 

Laboratory diagnosis is strongly recommended to ensure you distinguish between bacterial and viral sore throat. Because of the critical consequences of a bacterial caused sore throat, doctors lean towards this diagnosis and sometimes prescribe antibiotics with no need. It would be best if you did a throat culture to diagnose streptococcal pharyngitis. It takes 24-48 hours to obtain results. But there is also a rapid antigen detection test (RADTs) that takes less than 15 minutes to detect. Taking the two tests is best: When the RADT result is positive, the person likely has Streptococcus caused pharyngitis, and you can discard the extra swab. When the RADT is negative, Streptococcus may nonetheless be present; so the additional swab should be processed for culture.

Antibiotic treatment begun within nine days of the onset of the bacterial pharyngitis effectively prevents joint inflammation all over the body, known as acute rheumatic fever (ARF). Antibiotic treatment also reduces the incidence of abscess, lymphatic obstruction, neuropsychiatric disorders such as tic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Tourette syndrome, which have also been connected to streptococcal infections.

If you take antibiotic treatment for ten days to treat the streptococcal infection, I recommend taking probiotics between antibiotic medications. Midday probiotics are best at 100 billion colony-forming units. You can find these on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3Dyt3Cp

If the cause of the sore throat is viral, here are some effective natural remedies to manage the pain and treat the sore throat.

1. Saltwater gargle or spray 

Researchers conducted randomized controlled trials in a study led by a team from the Department of Laboratory Medicine, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. They concluded that saltwater or saline sprays could significantly reduce sore throat symptoms. [1]  

The American Cancer Society and the Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement also recognize gargling with salt water as a way to soothe sore throats. Regularly gargling with salt water also helps prevent bacterial infections. The recommendation is to gargle a saltwater solution made up of ¼ to ½ teaspoons of table salt for every 120-240 mL of warm water. You can fill a spray bottle with this saltwater solution and spray it into your mouth a few times a day. Do not swallow the water. Gargle with it and then spit it out.

2. Increase water intake 

Drinking at least eight glasses of water a day is recommended whether you have a sore throat or not. But when you do have a sore throat, it’s even more critical to meet your daily water requirement. Staying hydrated not only keeps your throat moist, but it helps battle the cause of the sore throat, whether it’s viral, bacterial, allergic, or irritated.   

3. Apple cider vinegar 

Apple cider vinegar has potent antibacterial properties. A study conducted on the antimicrobial activities of apple cider vinegar by researchers from the Department of Natural Sciences in London concluded that apple cider vinegar has multiple antimicrobial effects. These antimicrobial activities of apple cider vinegar are potent directly on E-coli, S. aureus, and C. albicans. Apple cider vinegar can help treat sore throats by destroying harmful enzymes and microbial proteins.[2]    

However, apple cider vinegar should never be taken undiluted as it can burn the tender tissue of the esophagus. To prevent or treat a sore throat with apple cider vinegar, dilute the apple cider vinegar with water. Place in a spray bottle and gargle with the solution, and then spit it out. Avoid swallowing. 

4. Honey 

Honey can help soothe inflammation because of its antimicrobial properties. In a comprehensive study on the effectiveness of honey in providing relief for upper respiratory tract infections and its symptoms, such as sore throat, researchers reviewed 14 studies covering 1345 records. The study concluded that honey was a cheap and safe alternative to antibiotics and slowed the spread of antimicrobial resistance. [3] 

To use honey for any sore throat, bacterial or viral, I recommend swallowing a teaspoon of honeycomb twice a day. The thick texture of honeycomb is what makes it coat the throat better and bring relief.

5. Herbs

Effective herbs for a sore throat include licorice root, barberry root, thyme, and oregano flowering shoots. These herbs may help manage S. pyogenes infections without antibiotics and may be taken immediately for 2-3 days to see if there is complete relief from the condition. If not, you should start a course of antibiotics immediately.

Unsweetened herbal teas may be continued while on antibiotics and during viral infections. They also help provide pain relief from a sore throat and reduce inflammation. Although the pain relief may be brief for some people, lasting about 30 minutes, you can continue consuming these herbal teas as a water replacement while you are suffering from a sore throat until you have significant improvement.

Another natural product from the German company Bionorica has been shown to help heal a sore throat. The product name Tonsipret® and is an ethanolic-aqueous extract of three plants: medicinal paprika, pokeweed, and pockwood. Capsaicin, a substance derived from medicinal paprika, treats sore throats effectively and naturally. The pockwood and pokeweed help reduce the inflammation in the throat. You can get it here on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3jbM05J

As a preventative measure to prevent a sore throat from coming to visit you regularly during winter months, I recommend removing dairy products from your diet entirely and adhering to a diet rich in plant foods such as whole grains, lentils, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. This diet will naturally keep you healthy, with a robust immune system and well-functioning circulatory systems to supply your body with nutrients and rid your body of waste products and toxins.

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Dr. Galit Goldfarb

References 

  1. Ramalingam S, Graham C, Dove J, Morrice L, Sheikh A. A pilot, open labelled, randomised controlled trial of hypertonic saline nasal irrigation and gargling for the common cold. Sci Rep. 2019;9(1):1015. Published 2019 Jan 31. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-37703-3
  2. Yagnik D, Serafin V, J Shah A. Antimicrobial activity of apple cider vinegar against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans; downregulating cytokine and microbial protein expression. Sci Rep. 2018;8(1):1732. Published 2018 Jan 29. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-18618-x
  3. Abuelgasim H, Albury C, Lee JEffectiveness of honey for symptomatic relief in upper respiratory tract infections: a systematic review and meta-analysisBMJ Evidence-Based Medicine 2021;26:57-64.
  4. Wijesundara NM, Rupasinghe HPV. Herbal Tea for the Management of Pharyngitis: Inhibition of Streptococcus pyogenes Growth and Biofilm Formation by Herbal Infusions. Biomedicines. 2019;7(3):63. Published 2019 Aug 24. doi:10.3390/biomedicines7030063