Sore Throat Remedies

Also known as: pharyngitis

Sore throats are one of the most common reasons why people see a doctor. In the United States, sore throats account for more than 18 million visits to the doctor each year.

Sore Throat Remedies:

These are herbs that are used as natural remedies for sore throat.

Slippery Elm:

Slippery elm was once a popular drugstore remedy for sore throats in North America. The herb was listed in the United States Pharmacopeia, a compendium of drug standards, until 1960. A member of the elm family, the slippery elm tree (Ulmus Rubra Muhl) grows primarily in the eastern region of North America.

For sore throats, herbalists use the inner bark of the tree. The inner bark contains mucilage, a gel-like substance that swells when it is mixed with water. The mucilage is thought to coat the throat, reduce irritation, and soothe sore throat.

Slippery elm is often the primary ingredient in herbal sore throat lozenges found in health food stores or in the natural food section of some grocery stores and drug stores. A popular brand of slippery elm lozenges is Thayer's.

The safety of slippery elm in pregnant or nursing women has not been established.


The herb licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is a common ingredient in herbal teas for sore throat, such as the herbal tea products Throat Coat (Traditional Medicinals) and Throat Comfort (Yogi Teas).

Although licorice has not been associated with adverse effects when used for ten days or less, excessive longer-term use may result in side effects such as high blood pressure, swelling, and headaches. There is some evidence that licorice may lower testosterone in men.

When used in high doses, licorice may even cause heart failure and a muscle disorder called rhabdomyolysis.

People with high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, liver disease, or kidney disease, or those who are taking certain drugs such as digoxin, thiazide or loop diuretics, or corticosteroids should not use licorice. Licorice should not be taken by pregnant or nursing women and children.


Marshmallow, a herb that grows in North America and Europe, has been used for centuries as a sore throat remedy. Like slippery elm, marshmallow contains mucilage, which is thought to coat and soothe sore throats.

Herbalists recommend marshmallow root tea for sore throats. It is usually made by adding one tablespoon of the dried root to a cup (8 ounces) of boiling water, steeping it covered for at least 10 minutes, and then straining. Herbalists usually suggest drinking up to three cups a day.

Consult a doctor before taking marshmallow if you have diabetes, as it may make your blood sugar too low especially when combined with diabetes medication. Marshmallow may also slow the absorption of other drugs taken at the same time. Marshmallow should not be taken by pregnant or nursing women.

Honeysuckle Flower:

An herb that taste as sweet as it smells (and sounds), honeysuckle flower is one of the most commonly used sore throat remedies in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

Honeysuckle flowers aren't as easy to find as slippery elm and marshmallow. Health food stores occasionally carry it, but it is primarily sold in Chinese herbal stores.

Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine often recommend making honeysuckle tea by bringing one quart of water to a boil using this method: add one cup of honeysuckle flowers (not the leaves), steep for at least 10 minutes, covered, and then strain. Up to four cups a day are typically recommended.

Lemon, Apple Cider Vinegar, Cayenne, and Honey Tea:

An old home remedy for sore throats is a tea made with lemon, apple cider vinegar, cayenne, and honey.

It is made by adding one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper, the juice of 1/4 lemon, and one teaspoon of honey to a cup of hot water. Stir.
Typically, up to four cups a day is suggested.


There is some evidence that a throat spray made from the herb sage can help to reduce sore throat.

A randomized controlled trial compared the effectiveness of a 15% sage (Salvia officinalis) throat spray to a placebo in patients with sore throat.

The spray was significantly more effective than the placebo in reducing throat pain. Symptomatic relief occurred within the first two hours after the first administration.

Minor side effects such as throat dryness or burning of mild intensity were reported.

Only sage sprays designed specifically for sore throats should be used.

When to See a Doctor:

Although most sore throats are a symptom that a cold or flu is coming and resolve on their own within a week, it's not always the case.
A doctor's visit is necessary to rule out a more serious condition, especially if any of the following are present:Sore throat or hoarseness lasts for more than several days.
Sore throat causes severe pain or difficulty swallowing or breathing.
Blood in saliva, sputum, or phlegm.
Enlarged or tender lymph nodes in the neck.
White or yellow patches or pus at the back of the throat.
Fever of 103°F (39.4) in infants under 12 months or 101°F (36.3 C) or higher in babies under 6 months.
Excessive drooling in children.
Contact with someone who has been diagnosed with strep throat or mononucleosis or if there is a reported outbreak in your community.
Sore throat but no fever.

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