Your throat is so sore that it’s agony just to swallow…yet you can’t bear the thought of trekking to the drugstore for medicine to ease the pain.
Good news: There’s no need to leave the comfort of home—just head for your kitchen. Chances are that your pantry or fridge contains what you need to soothe your poor sore throat…safely, naturally, effectively and economically.
We spoke with Carrie Runde, ND, a naturopathic physician with Casey Health Institute in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and a member of the board of directors of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, to find out about the home remedies she often recommends for her own patients with sore throats.
You can use any or all of the following remedies (depending on the supplies you have at hand) in any order you like and as often as you like…
Carrot poultice. You’ll need one or two large carrots or the equivalent in smaller carrots…a dry cotton handkerchief, cheesecloth or similarly sized thin cloth…plastic wrap…and a scarf. (It’s best to wear an old shirt in case it gets stained orange.) Finely grate the carrot using a food processor or hand grater. Place the grated carrot in the center of the handkerchief, then fold the sides of the cloth up and over to create a packet (like a Hot Pocket) about two to three inches wide and five to six inches long. Lie down and position the packet horizontally against the front of your neck so that the single thickness of cloth is against your skin. Secure the poultice in place by wrapping (not tying) a layer of plastic wrap around your neck—loosely enough that you’re comfortable but snugly enough that the poultice doesn’t fall off. Then wrap the scarf around your neck and leave everything in place for 20 to 40 minutes.
What does it do? When you’re sick, white blood cells collect viruses and bacteria, then travel to your lymph glands to be filtered out. Carrots have a “cleaning” action on lymph glands. Dr. Runde said, “The carrot poultice increases circulation of blood and lymph fluid to the throat, bringing more healing oxygen, nutrients and white blood cells to the area and helping clear away toxins.”
Licorice root tea. Licorice root reduces inflammation, which gives some immediate relief from a sore throat. Consuming the herb in tea form also helps keep you hydrated and temporarily speeds up the movement of mucus, alleviating the nasal congestion that forces you to mouth-breathe and makes your throat dry and scratchy. In addition, licorice root stimulates the immune system and has antiviral properties that help your body combat the cold, flu or other ailment that’s causing your throat pain.
Though licorice root is available in various forms, the easiest thing to do, Dr. Runde said, is to keep licorice root tea bags on hand (find them in health-food stores and many grocery stores). Steep the tea bag in eight ounces of very hot water for five to seven minutes, keeping it covered to preserve the active constituents that vaporize. Then sip. Caution: Do not use licorice root if you have high blood pressure.
Washcloth hydrotherapy. All you need for this remedy is a washcloth and the kitchen sink. Wet the washcloth with cold tap water, and wring it out so it’s not dripping. Place the wet cloth over your throat and rest, sitting or lying down, for 30 minutes. Initially this remedy helps ease the pain by cooling the entire area…then, as your body heat warms the cloth, there’s an increase of healing circulation to the throat.
“Bone broth” chicken soup. There are lots of reasons why this is a time-honored remedy. Chicken soup acts as an anti-inflammatory, inhibiting immune system cells that participate in the body's inflammatory response. It also alleviates nasal congestion and throat dryness. In addition, the zinc in the chicken improves your absorption of the nutrients in the soup’s vegetables and gives your immune system a boost.
Dr. Runde said that the most effective chicken soup has a “bone broth” base made with chicken bones, vinegar and vegetables such as carrots and celery—all simmered for six or more hours so that the nutrients in the bones and vegetables infuse the broth. (Chicken soup that you buy in a supermarket probably isn’t as beneficial, she explained, because valuable compounds in the chicken bones may not make their way into store-bought broths and bouillon cubes.) Best: Make a big batch of homemade chicken soup, and keep it in your freezer so you’ll have it on hand when you need it. If your throat is too sore to handle soup with chunks of chicken and vegetables, you can sip on the broth and still get the healing benefits.
When professional medical help is warranted: Dr. Runde suggested that you alert your doctor immediately if throat pain is severe or is accompanied by a fever of higher than 101°F, headache, stomachache, rash, joint pain and/or trouble swallowing or speaking—you may have an infection or some other condition that requires more treatment. Otherwise, contact your physician if a sore throat lasts more than three days and is getting worse rather than better.
Source: Carrie Runde, ND, naturopathic physician, Casey Health Institute, Gaithersburg, Maryland. She serves on the board of directors of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and is vice president of the Maryland Association of Naturopathic Physicians. CaseyHealth.org