Sore Throat Relief

Way in the back of your throat--that's where you want the medicine so it can fight the infection. Getting it there is easy with a gargle. For best results, gargle these brews deep in your throat with your head back for several minutes, then spit them out. Mix and match among these preparations to find one that works for you.

Turmeric (Cucuma longa). This spice is very popular in Ayurveda, India's system of natural healing. It contains curcumin, a potent anti-inflammatory, along with astringent components that dry out phlemgy throats and antimicrobial agents to battle infection. Gargle with 1 teaspoon of powdered turmeric in a cup of hot water.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale). Another staple in the Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia, ginger alleviates inflammation and infection. Brew a tea from a few slices of the fresh root, a teaspoon of ground powder or a premixed tea bag in a cup of hot water. Gargle as needed or drink three cups a day.

Bayberry (Myrica cerifera). Commercially prepared mouthwashes with bayberry make good gargles because this herb is naturally antibiotic.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris). Native to North America and Asia, thyme is antibacterial, astringent and stimulating to the immune system. Gargle with 1 teaspoon of dried herb per cup of hot water.

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia). The secret to this antibacterial spice is its mucilage, a water-soluble fiber that coats and protects the throat. Cinnamon gargles can be made with hot or cold water, but cold water makes the mucilage more effective, says Mindy Green, director of educational services at the Herb Research Foundation in Boulder, Colo. Soak a cinnamon stick in a cup of water or mix in 1 teaspoon of ground spice.

Cayenne (Capsicum frutescens). Also known as red pepper, this drying spice contains the natural pain reliever capsaicin and disease-fighting antioxidants like vitamin C. Donna Robertson, an Albany, Ore.-based master herbalist, suggests mixing an eighth of a teaspoon with the juice of half a lemon and a pinch of salt. Gargle as needed.


Lemon, cypress or bergamot essential oils can give your gargles a boost. "Lemon and bergamot are effective against strep and many other bacteria," says Green. "Cypress is especially helpful when you get the first hint that a cold is coming on. It's antibacterial and astringent." All three oils are safe even if you accidentally swallow them while gargling (pregnant women, however, should not use essential oils). Add 1 drop of oil to the gargles above or mix 1 drop of essential oil with one teaspoon of salt in a quarter cup of hot water and gargle as needed.

Steam inhalations with tea tree, eucalyptus, rosemary or lavender oils also battle infection. "While breathing the steam, you're bathing your whole nasal and throat passage with antibacterial and antiviral agents," says Green. Put 3 drops of oil in a bowl of steaming water, tent your head with a towel, stay about 12 inches from the water, close your eyes and breathe deeply. Steam about five to 10 minutes.


A steaming cup of tea feels great going down, plus hot liquids raise the temperature in your throat to prevent cold viruses from reproducing, according to Michael Castleman, author of Nature's Cures (Rodale Press, 1996). Like honey in your tea? Try some spiked with a few cloves of garlic, a potent natural antibiotic. Herbalist Terri Merriken suggests 2 teaspoons a day of garlic honey. To make, just add several cloves to your favorite jar of honey.

Schizandra (Schizandra chinensis). This wrinkly, raisinlike berry is a very popular Chinese remedy for sore throats because of its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and astringent properties. Make a tea with a tea bag or 1 tablespoon of dried berries (found in Chinese herb or natural health stores) per cup of hot water.

Licorice (Glycyrrhizia glabra). Practitioners of Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine and Native American folk medicine all sing the praises of this antibacterial and antiviral root that's been used for centuries to relieve achy throats. "It's sweet, has a nice coating action, and it treats the inflammation," says Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, a Seattle-based herbalist and co-author of Herbal Defense (Warner Books, 1997). Use a tea bag or 1 tablespoon of chopped root per cup of hot water, and drink two to three cups a day. (Caveat: More than three cups daily may loosen stools, and cardiac patients or those with hypertension or kidney problems should avoid licorice because it interferes with medications for those conditions.)

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