You know the dreadful feeling when a sore throat is coming on: a dry, scratchy sensation that eventually leads to swollenness and trouble swallowing. A sore throat is, no doubt, uncomfortable. But thankfully there are lots of at-home ingredients that can deliver quick relief.
Why Do We Get Sore Throats?
You may be curious: Why does your throat get sore and feel inflamed when you’re sick in the first place? Well, a sore throat can be an indicator that your body’s working hard to fight off an illness.
When someone experiences cold or flu symptoms of illness, the body will often produce excess mucus and drainage while trying to fight the infection, explains Dr. Jill Carnahan, M.D., with Flatiron Functional Medicine in Louisville, Colorado.
“This constant barrage of mucus draining down the throat can irritate delicate mucosa [membranes] and cause inflammation called pharyngitis or sore throat,” she says.
Given the ongoing pandemic, ruling out COVID-19 via testing is a top-line concern when throat discomfort strikes, especially if you were recently exposed to someone with the virus. Sore throats are among COVID-19 symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Assuming you’re all clear on the COVID front, sore throats can happen for a variety of reasons, including colds and flus, mono, allergies, dry indoor air, or pollutants, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Here are six ways to bring some relief to a sore throat at home:
1. Gargle with Saltwater
Simply gargling with saltwater is one of Carnahan’s favorite at-home remedies for relieving sore throats.
To get this right, add one teaspoon of salt to 6 to 8 ounces of warm water and gargle for 1-2 minutes, recommends Carnahan. The trick here is to try and get the salt water as far back in your throat as you can safely hold it while you’re gargling. “The salt in water is good for fighting bacteria and viruses, and it reduces inflammation and improves healing,” Carnahan says.
You can repeat this gargling routine several times throughout the day.
2. Try A Thyme Essential Oil
Essential oils come from the leaves, bark, stems, and flowers of plants, explains Dr. Leena Guptha, D.O., M.B.A., P.H.D., and academic dean of online education at Pacific College of Health and Science. While more research is needed on their effects, they may help kill germs, reduce inflammation, and they can speed up healing, she says. For soothing sore throats, one of Guptha’s favorite essential oils is thyme.
“This powerful essential oil has therapeutic properties that make it great for a throat that needs some tender loving care,” she says, pointing to a 2011 study published in Medicinal Chemistry that showed thyme protects your body against illnesses by boosting the immune system.
Thyme also reduces muscle spasms. Thus, it may prevent coughing (which sometimes causes a sore throat) and ease breathing, she says.
This Herbalist Throat Spray contains peppermint, thyme, and tea tree oils to help soothe your throat.
3. Inhale Peppermint Essential Oil
Peppermint is an all-around great essential oil to have in your first-aid kit, says Guptha.
“One of its primary constituents, menthol, is the main ingredient used in many throat lozenges and cough drops to relieve sore throats,” Guptha says.
Inhaling peppermint oil could help reduce inflammation and relieve pain, she says. Or, the high menthol content gives the oil a cooling effect if applied to your skin. However, do not apply peppermint essential oil directly to your skin; dilute it first with a carrier oil at a 1:4 ratio, she says. Jojoba, grapeseed, and olive oils make for great carrier oils, though Guptha says almond oil is her favorite carrier oil for peppermint essential oils.
4. Add Marshmallow Root to Your Tea or Water
Store-bought marshmallows won’t soothe a sore throat, quips Dr. Omid Mehdizadeh, M.D., and an otolaryngologist and laryngologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. But marshmallow root could do the trick.
“Marshmallow root soothes a sore throat by creating a protective coat on the surface of the mouth and throat,” he says. You can add 1-2 ml of marshmallow root to a glass of water or your hot tea.
Read More: The Best Teas for Every Health Goal
5. Drink Hot Water with Honey
Another home remedy that Carnahan recommends is brewing hot water as if you were going to make tea. Then, add 1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger and 1-2 teaspoons of Manuka honey. The honey contains MGO (methylglyoxal) and DHA (dihydroxyacetone) and leptosperin, all of which have a potent antimicrobial effect and speed wound healing, Carnahan says.
Just as marshmallow root helps relieve a scratchy sore throat, honey can provide a similar benefit by coating the surface of your throat, Mehdizadeh says. As a bonus, honey may also carry some antibacterial benefits, he says.
Try stirring in some honey to this Yogi Throat Comfort tea that’s an herbal tea with licorice root and elm bark.
6. Place a Humidifier in Your Bedroom
A cool-air humidifier can eliminate dry air that may be irritating your sore throat, according to the Mayo Clinic. But, be sure to clean the humidifier regularly so it doesn’t grow mold or bacteria.
Don’t have a humidifier at home and are looking for instant relief? You can also try sitting for several minutes in a steamy bathroom.