By Dr. Mercola
Millions of people suffer from sore throat and strep throat each year. In the U.S., sore throat is often one of the first signs that you're coming down with a cold, especially if a runny nose and cough soon follow.
In most cases you don't need to see your physician for a sore throat, and fewer than 1 in 10 people actually do. Even so, sore throat is the second most common acute infection seen by family practitioners.1
In 85 percent to 95 percent of cases, sore throats in adults are caused by viruses.
Only about 10 percent are due to bacteria, including group A β-hemolytic streptococcus, while allergies, acid reflux, and even dry weather can also cause a sore throat. If you feel a sore throat coming on, you needn't suffer through it.
There are many natural remedies that can not only take the edge off but also help with healing. As a bonus, many of the remedies that follow work for both coughs and sore throats because they tackle the underlying viral infection.2
11 Sore Throat and Cough Remedies
1. Hydrogen Peroxide
At the first sign of a cold, which is often behind a sore throat, pour a capful of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide in each ear. This works remarkably well at resolving respiratory infections, like colds and flu.
You will hear some bubbling, which is completely normal, and possibly feel a slight stinging sensation. Wait until the bubbling and stinging subside (usually 5 to 10 minutes), then drain onto a tissue and repeat with the other ear.
2. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is best known for its benefits for infectious diseases. Research published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that regular supplementation with vitamin C had a "modest but consistent effect in reducing the duration of common cold symptoms."3
Kiwi fruits are exceptionally high in vitamin C, along with vitamin E, folate, polyphenols, and carotenoids. Research published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that a kiwi-packed diet reduced the duration and severity of upper respiratory tract infections symptoms in older individuals.4
Other foods high in vitamin C include citrus fruits, red bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, papaya, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar
The antibacterial properties in apple cider vinegar may be useful for sore throats. Gargle with a mixture of about one-third cup of apple cider vinegar mixed with warm water, as needed.
4. Raw Garlic and Oil of Oregano
Garlic is packed with immune-boosting, anti-microbial compounds that may fight off viruses. Take a clove or two and chew them, letting the juice get into the back of your throat, then swallow. You can do the same with oil of oregano.
You can use lemons multiple ways to soothe a sore throat. Try cutting a lemon in half and sprinkling it with natural unprocessed salt and black pepper, then sucking it.
You can also make a potent "lemonade" out of fresh lemon juice, water, stevia, and cayenne pepper (this will help promote detoxification too).
6. Herbal Remedies
Herbs such as eucalyptus, peppermint, anise, slippery elm, and fennel (and their oils) act as cough suppressants. Sipping an herbal tea or using the essential oils (in a diffuser or hot compress for instance) may help relieve your cough, while Echinacea and sage may relieve a sore throat.
One study found an echinacea/sage throat spray worked just as well as a chlorhexidine/lidocaine spray in relieving sore throats among children.5
7. Licorice Root
Gargling with licorice root, a traditional sore throat remedy, may soothe your throat. Look for it in liquid extract form, which has been shown to lead to less severe post-operative sore throat.6
8. Raw Honey
Raw honey has antiviral and antibacterial properties, and may also boost your immune system. It has also been found to relieve symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection in children.7
9. Chicken Soup
Chicken soup made with homemade bone broth is excellent for speeding healing and recuperation from illness. You've undoubtedly heard the old adage that chicken soup will help cure a cold, and there's scientific support8 for such a statement.
For instance, it contains immune-stimulating carnosine to help fight off infection.
In addition to the anti-inflammatory benefits of bone broth, chicken contains a natural amino acid called cysteine, which can thin the mucus in your lungs and make it less sticky so you can expel it more easily.
Keep in mind that processed, canned soups will not work as well as the homemade version made from slow-cooked bone broth. If combating a cold, make the soup hot and spicy with plenty of pepper.
The spices will trigger a sudden release of watery fluids in your mouth, throat, and lungs, which will help thin down the respiratory mucus so it's easier to expel. Black peppercorns also contain high amounts of piperine, a compound with fever-reducing and pain-relieving properties.
10. Salt Water Gargle
One of the simplest ways to soothe a sore throat is to gargle with natural salt, which helps kill bacteria, ease sore throat pain, and prevents upper respiratory tract infections.9,10 Try a solution of one-half teaspoon salt in one-half cup of warm water.
11. Colloidal Silver
Last but not least, colloidal silver (silver that's suspended in a small amount of liquid) has long been used as an antimicrobial agent.
Researchers from Brigham Young University tested colloidal silver against five pathogens, including streptococci, and found it worked as well as commonly used antibiotics.
The researchers noted the silver solution "exhibits an equal or broader spectrum of activity than any one antibiotic tested" and could be "effectively used as an alternative to antibiotics."11 In this case, the silver could be especially useful for cases of strep throat.
Herbal Snuff Recipe (If You Dare)
The Epoch Times recently shared a bold "herbal snuff" recipe that is meant to be snorted, and can also be applied directly to your tonsils.12 It's not for the faint of heart, but the collection of ingredients just may send your infection packing:
Herbal Snuff Recipe
- 7 parts goldenseal root powder
- 7 parts bayberry bark powder
- 1 part cayenne pepper powder
- 1 part garlic powder
- Grind up finely, mix well, and snort.
If you prefer an option you can drink instead, try the Epoch Times' Total Tonic recipe.13 For best results, swish it around your mouth and gargle with it before swallowing.
Total Tonic Recipe
- 1 handful of garlic cloves
- 1 handful of chopped onions
- 1 handful of chopped ginger
- 1 handful of chopped horseradish
- ½ handful of chopped habanero peppers
- Raw apple cider vinegar
- Put all of the ingredients in a blender, cover with an inch or two of organic raw apple cider vinegar, and blend.
- Consume the mash right away, or wait two weeks and use it as a tincture.
Have You Tried a Neti Pot?
Using a neti pot (a small, teapot-like pot) is a simple technique to safely cleanse your sinuses of irritants. It may help with nasal congestion and may also be useful for relieving cold symptoms. The technique itself is very simple. To start, you'll need:
- All-natural Himalayan salt or sea salt (avoid using processed salt)
- Sterilized water
- Neti pot or bulb syringe
- Towel or washcloth
Be sure that you avoid tap water, as it could potentially be contaminated with brain-eating amoeba or other contaminants. Only use water that is:
- Previously boiled for one minute (at elevations above 6,500 feet, boil for three minutes) and left to cool
- Filtered using a filter with an absolute pore size of 1 micron or smaller
The technique, outlined below, may seem unusual at first. However, once learned, you will quickly realize how beneficial it can be for sinus problems.
1. Locate a workable container. The neti pot is specially designed with a spout that fits comfortably in one nostril. Alternatives you can use include a bulb syringe, a small flower watering pot, a turkey baster, or just a teacup (though the latter will be messier).
2. Fill the container with lukewarm sterile salt water. The salt-to-water ratio is 1 teaspoon sea salt to 1 pint (2 cups) water.
3. Have some tissues within reach for this next part. Over a sink, tilt your head forward so you are looking directly down toward the sink. Insert the spout into your right nostril. It is important that you breathe through your mouth. Turn your head to the right and let water move into the right nostril and exit the left nostril.
Normally, you will feel the water as it passes through your sinuses. It is fine if some of the water drains into your mouth. Simply spit it out and adjust the tilt of your head.
4. After using a cup of water, repeat the above procedure for the other nostril.
5. To finish, expel any remaining water by quickly blowing air out in both open nostrils 15 times over the sink. Avoid the temptation to block off one nostril, as doing so may force water into your eustachian tube.
6. When you're finished, rinse the neti pot (or other device) thoroughly with sterile water (the same water you used to fill the pot), then leave it to air dry completely.
You can perform this nasal irrigation up to four times a day until your symptoms improve, which may take three to six months if you're facing a chronic sinus infection. Generally, however, if you follow the instructions carefully and continue the routine until all your symptoms resolve, it is a very effective, and safe, technique.
A Healthy Immune System Will Cut Your Risk of Sore Throats and Cough
The key to preventing colds, sore throats, and coughs – and recovering from them quickly – is to maintain a strong immune system. This includes optimizing your diet, avoiding sugar, optimizing your vitamin D level, getting enough sleep and exercise, managing your stress, and practicing proper hand-washing technique.
Detailed instructions that will help set you the right path can be found in my optimized nutrition plan, which is focused around real food. Importantly, if you feel yourself coming down with a cold or flu, avoid all sugar, grains, artificial sweeteners, and processed foods.
Sugar is particularly damaging to your immune system, which needs to be ramped up, not suppressed, in order to combat an emerging infection. Foods that may help fight strep throat, sore throat, and even coughs which strengthens your immune response include the following:
✓ Fermented foods help "reseed" your gut with beneficial bacteria (examples include raw kefir, kimchi, miso, pickles, and sauerkraut)
✓ Coconut oil contains lauric acid that your body converts into monolaurin, a monoglyceride with the ability to destroy lipid-coated viruses, including influenza, HIV, herpes, and measles, as well as gram-negative bacteria
✓ Raw organic eggs from pastured chickens
✓ Apple cider vinegar has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory properties. It may also help boost your immune function by raising alkalinity in your body.
✓ Organic grass-fed beef is high in vitamins A and E, omega-3 fatty acids, beta-carotene, zinc, and CLA. CLA (conjugated linoleic acid, a fatty acid), an immune enhancer, is three to five times higher in grass-fed animals than grain-fed animals.
✓ Garlic is a potent antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal agent. As mentioned, ideally consume it raw, and crush it just before eating.
✓ Raw, grass-fed organic milk contains beneficial bacteria and fats that prime your immune system. It's also a good source of vitamin A and zinc. Pasteurized dairy products are best avoided, as they may actually promote respiratory problems such a recurring colds, congestion, and bronchitis.14
✓ Organic vegetables. Dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, collard greens, and Swiss chard contain powerful antioxidants, flavonoids, carotenoids, and vitamin C — all of which help protect against infections.
Ideally, opt for organic locally grown veggies that are in season, and consider eating a fair amount of them raw. Juicing is an excellent way to get more greens into your diet.
Herbal Remedies for Coughs, Colds, and Sore Throat
At first signs of a cold, you could also boost your immune function by taking a supplement or extract. The following are examples of immune-boosting herbs and supplements that may be helpful:
Zinc: Research on zinc has shown that when taken within one day of the first symptoms, zinc can cut down the time you have a cold by about 24 hours.15 Zinc was also found to greatly reduce the severity of symptoms.
Suggested dosage is up to 50 mg/day. Zinc was not recommended for anyone with an underlying health condition, like lowered immune function, asthma, or chronic illness.
✓ Curcumin, the pigment that gives turmeric its yellow-orange color, is known for its potent anti-inflammatory properties.
✓ Olive leaf extract: Ancient Egyptians and Mediterranean cultures used it for a variety of health-promoting uses and it is widely known as a natural, non-toxic immune system builder.
✓ Propolis: A bee resin and one of the most broad-spectrum antimicrobial compounds in the world; propolis is also the richest source of caffeic acid and apigenin, two very important compounds that aid in immune response.
✓ Oregano Oil: The higher the carvacrol concentration, the more effective it is. Carvacrol is the most active antimicrobial agent in oregano oil.
✓ Medicinal mushrooms, such as shiitake, reishi, and turkey tail have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral properties.
✓ A tea made from a combination of elderflower, yarrow, boneset, linden, peppermint, and ginger; drink it hot and often for combating a cold or flu. It causes you to sweat, which is helpful for eradicating a virus from your system.
✓ Echinacea is one of the most widely used herbal medications in Europe to combat colds and infections. One review of more than 700 studies found that using Echinacea can reduce your risk of catching cold by as much as 58 percent.
✓ Elder flower extract: Rich in vitamin C and a wide range of valuable flavonoids, including anthocyanins and quercetin, elder flower has been traditionally used as a tonic to boost immunity.
It is also widely known to promote lung and bronchial tract health.
✓ Elderberry: In one study, elderberry syrup reduced the severity of flu symptoms, and shortened their duration by about four days.16 Elderberry extract is also known for inducing sweating, and helps relieve congestion.