Monday, December 10, 2012

How to Ease a Sore Throat

A few weeks ago my little family battled a common seasonal menace, the sore throat.  You might not know this, but most sore throats are actually caused by a virus and not a bacteria.  Which means even if you go to the doctor, unless you've been diagnosed with strep throat (which is caused by bacteria) you won't be given antibiotics and your doc can do exactly zip.

I almost always use herbal or home remedies first.  If that doesn't work and I'm giving them to my kids, you bet I take them to the doc to make sure they're alright.  But, I find herbal medicine works 90% of time and it seems pretty evident to me when my kids need something extra (like antibiotics).  Which is what happened to my family just a few weeks ago.  Everyone in my family got a runny nose and a horrible sore throat.  After herbs and rest it resolved right before Thanksgiving. But that Monday my son got a fever and  it came back with a vengeance.  He was diagnosed with strep and after a quick and painless doc visit he got a prescription for antibiotics.  I find it interesting that all of us were treated with the same herbal remedies the week before.  Perhaps these remedies resolved strep throat for us, or my son had the unfortunate luck of getting two bugs.  Either way, they worked for us.  And now I pass them on to you.  

Scenario time...  So, a snotty schoolmate or grown up coughed on your shopping cart and has just given your family a runny nose and a sore throat.  What do you do now?  
#1  Rest & Hydrate - No herb, vitamin or supplement is a substitute for sleep and water.  Your body needs lots of both in order to heal itself, so don't skimp on the water and naps.

#2   Echinacea - Time to boost that immune system!  You can help shorten the duration of whatever bug you caught by taking a little echinacea.  I prefer tea to just about anything, but you can take echinacea capsules or tincture too.  Suggested dosage by Rosemary Gladstar in Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health, is 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of herbal extract/tincture every hour until symptoms subside.  Or up to 3 or 4 cups of tea.  To learn how to make your own, you can watch my video:

#3   Sage Tea - Now not everyone likes the taste of sage.  It can be a bit to bitter for some, but it packs a great whallop when it comes to sore throats.  When we all got sick I knew I couldn't count on my kids drinking straight sage tea, so I mixed it up with some other herbs that would help too and taste great. If you aren't into making your own teas, you can check out Throat Coat by Traditional Medicinals.  Don't drink either of those if you are pregnant or nursing. Sage or licorice are contraindicated and may cause pregnancy problems or reduce milk supply. But the other herbs in this tea can still help soothe and heal your sore throat.
Sweet Sage & Rose Tea
Equal Parts:
Sage Leaf
Marshmallow Leaf
Rose Petals

Directions: Bring a pot of water to boil, then turn off the heat, add the herbs and cover.  Let it steep for 15 minutes and then strain out the herbs.  Add some nice thick honey and enjoy.

#4   Salty Gargles - It can temporarily relieve a sore throat.  If you want to know why, head over to eHow.  Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt to an 8-ounce glass of warm water and stir to dissolve.  Pour some into your mouth and gargle for a few seconds, spit it out and repeat every so often for pain.  You can also add a little salt and honey to the tea recipe above, but remember to spit it out.  For the kids I add a pinch of salt to warm water or tea in a shot glass.

#5   Lozenges - Funny story, I actually made some slippery elm lozenges for the first time last month.  If you have never heard of them, they are basically a ball of dried, powdered herbs and honey.  I tried 3 different recipes and couldn't find one that I liked the taste and texture of.  My son didn't seem to mind the plain slippery elm version, but me and my daughter gagged and sputtered every time we tried them.  That said, I'll be darned if they didn't work extremely well for easing our sore throats.  There are many different kinds of homemade throat balls, lozenges, pastilles, or candies.  But what seems to remain a constant is honey.  So if you can't stand the homemade versions, I suggest you suck on a honey stick.  Here are two different recipes for homemade throat lozenges:

#6   Homemade Soup with Astragalus Root - I can't even begin to tell you how awesome homemade broth is!  It doesn't even compare to store brands when it comes to medicinal benefits.  In fact it will probably be a blog post all it's own at some point.  But I'll try to refrain from getting on my soap box. One of my favorite herbs to use with my soup is Astragalus.  A Chinese herb commonly used for boosting the immune system and nourishing the body.  When you buy the dried roots, I prefer to buy them in slices (like tongue depressors .  Add a handful of these to a pot of soup (count how many you put in so you can fish them out later), or one slice per cup of soup.  Simmer them in the pot for 15 minutes and then fish it out before you eat it (they are really tough). 

There you have it! Six things you can do to help your family heal a sore throat.  I hope you enjoy these recipes.

Brightest Blessings,


  1. What interesting suggestions! I would love to come visit your "lab" and see what's behind you.

  2. So very helpful. Thank you, Sarah. I'm bookmarking this one for sure!

  3. Just what I am in need of this week - thanks so much for these resources- I am going to look for the Astragalus Root to make some soup.

  4. These are great. I always prefer a natural remedy over the dr. anyway and you've listed some here like the honey and the tea that I wasn't aware of. Thank you!

  5. I use a propolis tincture - a few drops directly in my throat, and by the next morning there's no trace of sore throat :)

  6. Thanks for these suggestions, Sarah! I had no idea sage was helpful for sore throats--will definitely try adding some to my peppermint tea the next time I have a sore throat.


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