1. Marshmallow root
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The marshmallow plant has been used to treat sore throats and other conditions since the Middle Ages.
Its root contains a gelatin-like substance known as mucilage, which coats and lubricates the throat when you swallow it.
Lozenges containing marshmallow root have been tested in animals and found to be effective and nontoxic, even at very high doses (1).
Here is a recipe for a cold marshmallow root infusion to soothe a painful throat:
Marshmallow root infusion
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1 ounce (28 grams) dried marshmallow root.
Fill a 1-quart (1-liter) jar with cold water.
Place the marshmallow root in cheesecloth and tie up in a bundle.
Lower the bundle into the water just until it’s completely submerged in the water.
Place the tied end of the bundle over the lip of the jar, place the lid on the jar and screw on the lid.
Infuse overnight, or for at least eight hours, and then remove the bundle.
Pour desired amount into a glass. Add sweetener of choice, if desired.
When this is ready, you can sip on it throughout the day to help reduce your symptoms.
Choosing high quality dried marshmallow root from reliable source is important. Various products are available online.
Bottom line: Marshmallow has been used to treat sore throats since ancient times. Its root contains a gelatinous substance called mucilage, which coats and soothes the throat.
2. Sage and echinacea
Although you may know sage as an herb used in cooking, it also has several medicinal uses.
Sage originated in the Mediterranean and is now grown throughout the world.
It has been used to treat many inflammatory conditions, and controlled studies suggest it can help relieve throat pain (2, 3, 4).
In one study, a sage-echinacea spray was actually slightly more effective at reducing throat pain than a chlorhexidine lidocaine spray. Neither treatment caused negative side effects (4).
Echinacea is another herb that is widely used in traditional medicine. It has been shown to fight bacteria and reduce inflammation (5).
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Follow this recipe to make your own sage-echinacea throat spray at home:
Sage-echinacea throat spray
1 teaspoon ground sage.
1 teaspoon ground echinacea.
1/2 cup water.
Place sage and echinacea in a small jar and then fill with boiling water.
Let steep for 30 minutes.
Pour mixture through strainer and then combine with 1/2 cup hard liquor (skip the liquor if you are an alcoholic or prefer to avoid alcohol for any reason).
Place in small spray bottle and spray into throat every two hours or as needed.
Bottom line: A sage-echinacea spray has been shown to relieve sore throat discomfort as effectively as antiseptic medication spray.
3. Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a natural health tonic that’s been used in folk medicine remedies for centuries. Its main active ingredient, acetic acid, helps fight bacteria.
The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, known as the father of medicine, even prescribed a combination of apple cider vinegar and honey – known as oxymel – to treat flu symptoms such as coughs and sore throats (6).
To help relieve throat pain, drink 1 cup of warm water mixed with 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and an optional tablespoon of honey.
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Bottom line: Apple cider vinegar has antibacterial properties and may help provide sore throat relief when consumed in small amounts with warm water.
4. Salt water gargle
Gargling with salt water is a well-known natural remedy to get rid of a sore throat.
The salt helps reduce swelling by pulling water out of your throat tissue. It may also help kill unwanted microbes in your throat.
Combine 1 cup of warm water with 1 teaspoon of salt and stir to dissolve. Gargle with a mouthful of this mixture for 30 seconds, once per hour.
Bottom line: Gargling hourly with warm salt water helps reduce swelling and may ease throat discomfort.
Honey is a delicious sweetener that is often used in combination with other natural ingredients to soothe a sore throat.
In addition to helping fight infection and providing pain relief, honey can undeniably make remedies taste better.
Honey may be especially effective when combined with warm water and apple cider vinegar or herbs.
However, it shouldn’t be given to children under the age of one because their guts haven’t had a chance to acquire healthy bacteria that can fight off germs, such as botulism spores, that are sometimes found in honey.
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Also, people who avoid sugar or follow a low-carb diet may want to choose another remedy, since honey is a form of sugar and contains 17 grams of carbs per tablespoon (15 ml).
Bottom line: Honey can help relieve throat pain, particularly when combined with vinegar or herbs in warm water.
6. Licorice root
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Licorice is a plant native to Europe and South Asia.
Interestingly, it has been used in traditional medicine to treat many disorders.
Licorice has properties similar to aspirin that may help reduce sore throat pain.
Unfortunately, there isn’t any research on its ability to relieve illness-related sore throats.
However, studies on individuals who had just undergone major surgery found that licorice significantly reduced throat pain due to breathing tube removal (7, 8).
One study found that gargling with licorice water prior to surgery reduced the risk of getting a sore throat by 50%, compared to gargling with sugar water (8).
Licorice root tea can be purchased at natural grocery stores or from online retailers.
You can also make your own to drink or gargle. Combine ground licorice root with hot water, let it steep for five minutes, then strain it prior to drinking.
Bottom line: Licorice root has aspirin-like qualities and may help soothe a sore throat when gargled or consumed as a tea.
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7. Lemon water
Lemon water is a refreshing beverage that may also reduce the throat pain that occurs during a cold or the flu.
Lemon contains vitamin C and antioxidants. It also increases the amount of saliva you produce, which can help keep your mucous membranes moist.
Combining lemon with warm water and a bit of honey or salt water may be the best way to maximize its benefits.
Bottom line: Lemon water contains vitamin C and compounds that can soothe a sore throat and assist with healing.