There are a number of medical conditions in which a throat can feel sore, scratchy or raw. These include hay fever, post-nasal drip, sinusitis, upper respiratory infections, ear infections, or having a cold or flu. Infectious sore throats can be caused by viruses and/or bacteria. Bacterial infections, especially Streptococcus infection, can be most responsible. Other nonbacterial or viral causes of sore throats can include anything that irritates the sensitive mucous membranes at the back of the throat and mouth. Some irritants can include surgery, dental procedures, radiation, smoking, extremely hot foods, gum infections, and abrasions.
Sore throats are one of the most common health complaints and are seldom serious, but it is always wise to consult a pediatrician or physician when sore throats are severe or persistent. However, when a minor sore throat occurs, natural supplements can promote healing and ease symptoms. An acute sore throat usually runs its course with in a few days or a week.
Distinguishing between a bacterial and viral pharyngitis (inflammation of the throat) can be difficult. Bacteria is often a culprit, usually Streptococcus, and antibiotic therapy may be necessary if the infection is severe. However, over 50% of the time the throat culture taken by the doctor is negative. When viruses are the culprit, the same type that may produce colds and flu, symptoms such as fever, malaise, muscle aches, and chills can occur. Viral sore throats last 3 or 4 days and are not resolved by antibiotics.
Simply drinking a lot of water and warm liquids can ease sore throat discomfort. It is important to try and avoid “mucous” forming foods when suffering with a sore throat or flu. These foods will always produce more phlegm and produce an environment that bacteria proliferate in. Eating less dairy foods, chicken, meat, sugar, chocolate, cheese, and processed snack foods will certainly help decrease the length of the infection.
Attempt to “starve” a cold and healing may be accelerated. Gargling with salt water (with chlorophyll) every few hours is a time-tested therapy that helps ease the pain and discomfort.
- ECHINACEA – often the herb of choice for immune enhancement. It has antibacterial, antibiotic, and anti-inflammatory characteristics. When echinacea is squirted directly on the throat it has a numbing effect. Echinacea is safe and effective for any age. Dosage: A dose (related to age of patient) can be administered every few hours for 5-7 days. Lozenges are effective, especially when combined with zinc, vitamin B6, vitamin A, and vitamin C. If using the liquid form for children be certain it is alcohol-free and follow the directions.
- ZINC – In lozenge form, or in combination with other herbs and vitamins, is highly effective in treating sore throats and other cold symptoms. Zinc inhibits the growth of infectious viruses while enhancing growth and function of a variety of immune cells. It helps fight pain and promote healing of sore throats. Dosage: 25-60 mg daily. Lower doses for children.
- VITAMIN C (ESTER) – a potent antioxidant that when supplemented with higher doses can help soothe sore throats. Vitamin C has antibiotic, antiviral and antibacterial effects, and can be more effective when used in combination. Dosage: 1,000-3,000 mg daily; children: 250-1,000 mg daily.
- COLLOIDAL SILVER – a powerful natural antibiotic that can be used for 5-10 days to fight infections (bacterial or viral). Dosage: As directed on package.
- EUCALYPTUS – an essential oil that helps sooth sore throats in two ways. The aromatic oil has a cooling effect on inflamed tissue, and the tannins in eucalyptus exert soothing astringent action as well. Dosage: As directed. Best used in a tea or lozenge form.
- SLIPPERY ELM – this herb is an all-around soother, helping the throat, the respiratory tract and the digestive tract. Slippery elm contains compounds called oligomeric procyanidins which have antiseptic and anti-allergic activity. Dosage: As directed.
- ACIDOPHILUS – this common form of “friendly” bacteria is helpful to restore bowel flora, especially when antibiotics are prescribed. Dosage: 1-2 capsules 3 times a day while the patient is on the antibiotic, and for 2 weeks afterwards.
- LICORICE – this universally versatile herb has been revered as a sore throat treatment for centuries in both China and Europe. Licorice not only soothes a sore throat, it also has an expectorant effect to treat colds and other respiratory conditions. Dosage: Use as a tea, capsule, or lozenge as directed on the package.
- VITAMIN A – this antioxidant vitamin aids in healing and potentiates immune function. Dosage: 10,000-25,000 IU for 1 week, then decrease under 10,000 IU daily.
- GARLIC (and onions) – both have antiviral and antibiotic activity which help boost immunity while fighting infection. Dosage: 1-2 tablets with each meal.
- BERBERINE – a broad-spectrum antimicrobial that kills Strept. (bacteria) and viral infections. Plants that contain berberine include goldenseal, barberry, and Oregon grape. Because these herbs are bitter tasting, using an herbal tea with honey may be more pleasant. Dosage: As directed on label.
- LEMON BALM – a broad-spectrum anti-microbial that fights a number of bacteria and viruses. It is part of the mint family of herbs that includes OREGANO, THYME, and PEPPERMINT. These herbs can be effective as a gargle for sore throats. Dosage: As directed.
- MEDICINAL MUSHROOMS (Reishi, Maitake or Shitake extract) – may be supplemented if a viral infection is suspected, or excessively low immune system. Dosage: As directed on label.
- MARSHMALLOW – a root tea that is known to sooth a scratchy, itchy throat. May be combined with licorice for additional efficacy. Dosage: As directed on package.
- BEE PROPOLIS – a natural glucose that protects mucous membranes of the throat and mouth. Dosage: As directed.
- VITAMIN E – an antioxidant, fat-soluble vitamin that promotes healing and tissue repair. Dosage: 200-600 IU daily.
Balch, PA, Balch, JB. Prescription for Nutrition Healing. Avery Press, New York, NY. 2000.
Duke, JA. The Green Pharmacy. Rodale Press, Emmaus, PA. 1997.
Marion, JB. Anti Aging Manual. Information Pioneers, S. Woodstock, CT. 1996.
White, LB. Soothing Children’s Sore Throats Naturally. Nutrition Science News, April 2000. 5(4); 154-156.
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