Q: Now that sore throat season is here, can you recommend any treatments that don't require medication?
A: Many people assume that antibiotics are the cure for sore throat, but since a virus is most often to blame, antibiotics are of no help. Allergy, dry air, smoky air, or overuse of the vocal cords can also cause sore throat. Less frequently, a sore throat can be due to a bacterium known as "strep." The only way to diagnose strep is with a throat culture. If the test is positive, antibiotics are needed.
Natural medicines offer great relief for the majority of sore throats. If you use these remedies promptly, at the first sign of throat distress, you may well save yourself a visit to your doctor and lost days of work or play. A natural cure for sore throat may seem time-consuming, but it usually takes care of the problem within 24 hours, as it did in my case.
Gargle. My favorite gargle is freshly made chamomile tea (cooled to tolerance). Use one tea bag per four ounces of water, steeped for six minutes. Chamomile has anti-inflammatory effects and will reduce sore throat pain. Gargle for 60 seconds and then spit out. Repeat as needed for pain. To boost the antiseptic properties of your gargle, add one teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide to each four-ounce chamomile gargle.
Gargle 6 drops of Tea Tree Oil in 4 ounces warm water and spit three times a day
Drink tea. Demulcent* herbs moisten and reduce irritation in mucous membranes. The best choices for sore throat are licorice root, slippery elm, marshmallow root and fenugreek. You can buy these herbs individually in bulk and make a tea using two teaspoons of any combination of the herbs per six ounces of water. Or buy a sore throat formula in tea bags. A favorite is "Throat Coat" by Traditional Medicinals, available in many health-food stores. Do your best to drink six ounces of tea every two waking hours until your symptoms are gone.
*Demulcent herbs often have a high content of mucilage, and have been used to soothe and protect irritated or inflammed internal tissues of the body. Mucilage is a thick gluey substance, often produced by plants. Mucilage is another term for so called exopolysaccharides, which are sugar substances.*
Try hydrotherapy. To hasten healing, use hydration and a heating compress. At the first sign of a sore throat, hydrate by having an eight-ounce glass of water every waking hour.
Heat packs / Cool packs. Use a heating compress twice a day. Cover a hot, moist towel with a dry towel and let it cool slightly so you don't burn yourself. Wrap it around your entire neck and leave it in place for five minutes. Remove the hot towel, and immediately wrap your neck with a towel doused in cold tap water, covered with a dry towel. Leave the cold wrap in place for 20 minutes if you can. Alternating the hot and cold stimulates circulation in the inflamed tissues of the throat, allowing the throat to heal.
Immune-boosting tinctures. I have used and highly recommend Be Well Flu.
If you don't notice improvement within two days, or find that the condition is getting worse, see a doctor for a throat culture.
*With the cold season, many people take and recommend to others, the herbal Ecchinacea. Although this IS an effective immune supporter, it SHOULD NOT BE TAKEN BY THOSE WHO HAVE AN ALLERGY TO RAGWEED, SUNFLOWERS, DAISIES OR OTHER FLOWERS IN THIS SAME FAMILY.