Five sore throat remedies for instant relief

17 April 2023 dot 5-minute read
Healthy Body Live Well Listicle Sore throat remedies Illnesses and diseases
Herbal tea is one of the most popular sore throat remedies because it's affordable and readily available. (Credit: Shutterstock)
There is no mistaking a sore throat. Once you get the scratchy feeling, you may feel afraid to swallow and talk as you anticipate the pain. Even when you don't have a fever, you may feel sick and ready to take any available sore throat remedy.
Pharyngitis, commonly known as a sore throat, often signals that you're coming down with a respiratory virus like cold or flu (influenza). It is also one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19.
Hong Kong Medical Journal says pharyngitis may be caused by a bacterial infection if you have swollen tonsils and lymph nodes. A throat swab will confirm if it's a bacterium, typically group A Streptococcus.
Regardless, if the cause is a virus or bacteria, most cases of pharyngitis clear up in a week without medication. Here are ways to help relieve painful swallowing and a dry, scratchy throat.

Sore throat remedies aside from salt water

The most common remedy for sore throat is gargling with salt water, which helps clear throat mucus build-up. Salt can also kill bacteria by drawing water from cells and dehydrating them. Most healthcare professionals recommend dissolving 1/4 or half a teaspoon of salt in eight ounces of warm water.
Gargling with salt water isn't always pleasant and does little for pain relief. You may try these sore throat remedies instead.

1. Drink warm herbal teas

Soothe your dry and irritated throat with tea made from ginger root, a mainstay in Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) because of its anti-inflammatory properties.
Liquorice root tea is another common remedy. Based on a study of herbal tea in Biomedicines, liquorice root has an effective anti-bacterial agent that can help soothe a sore throat. The study's results showed it curbed the growth of bacteria within 12 hours in streptococcal pharyngitis. It can also help lubricate the throat and soothe inflammation.

2. Gargle with green tea

Green tea is well-documented for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. A study published in Anaesthesiology and Pain Medicine suggests it may also be a good pain reliever.
The study involved patients whose sore throats resulted from tracheal intubation. Those who swished green tea (30 ml) in their mouths felt less pain after their breathing tubes were removed 12 or 24 hours later.
Make sure to use warm water when you gargle green tea.

3. Suck on throat lozenges

Over-the-counter (OTC) throat lozenges may contain a local anaesthetic to numb the pain or antiseptic ingredients to stop the growth of harmful microbes. Some are considered non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Most lozenges for sore throat contain 2,4-dichlorobenzyl alcohol and amylmetacresol, mild antiseptics offering fast pain relief. Research published in the International Journal of General Medicine showed these ingredients could kill 99.9 per cent of pharyngitis-associated bacteria within 10 minutes.
Your doctor may also prescribe lozenges with benzydamine hydrochloride, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). A study in BMC Primary Care says most physicians prescribe benzydamine when painful swallowing, redness, swelling and cough are present with a sore throat.
If you prefer non-medicated lozenges, try Pei Pa Koa hard candy, which can help relieve throat irritation. It contains Bulbus Fritillariae Cirrhosae (BFC), loquat leaf and liquorice root. TCM uses these herbal plants to treat respiratory symptoms.

4. Try a throat spray with essential oils

If you want a medicated throat spray, look for antiseptic ingredients like povidone-iodine. (Credit: Shutterstock)
People seeking non-medicated symptomatic relief may want to try throat sprays with essential oils. A few studies suggest they have anti-inflammatory benefits, although antiviral effects require additional research.
Most throat sprays' formulations contain a blend of essential oils. Their active ingredients may include:
  • Anatolian sage
  • Echinacea
  • Eucalyptus
  • Geranium
  • German chamomile
  • Lemon
  • Oregano
  • Peppermint

5. Take a tablespoon of honey

Honey can act as an anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and antioxidant agent, based on a study published in the National Journal of Physiology, Pharmacy and Pharmacology. Participants who used honey as part of their treatment reported quick relief and faster recovery from sore throat.
Fourteen studies with more than 1,000 participants showed honey as one of the best remedies for symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections. Symptoms include cough, blocked nose, congestion and sore throat.
Eat one to two tablespoons of honey twice daily. You may also stir it into tea or warm water.
Avoid giving honey to children under 12 months of age. Honey can contain Clostridium botulinum, a type of bacteria that babies are not yet strong enough to fight. Ingesting contaminated honey can lead to infant botulism, a serious illness that can cause paralysis.

What about antibiotics for sore throat?

Doctors are careful about prescribing antibiotics for sore throats. The Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore says antibiotics have no direct effect on viral infections. Unnecessary use of this medication potentially exposes you to side effects like diarrhoea. You can also develop antibiotic resistance, which is currently one of the biggest threats to global health, the World Health Organization reports.
If your doctor does prescribe antibiotics, take the entire prescription even if you feel recovered, and never self-medicate with leftover antibiotics. Seek emergency care if your sore throat makes it difficult for you to breathe.

Give yourself the best care

Use a humidifier to improve your sleep. It will increase moisture in the room, helping to soothe a dry and painful throat. (Credit: Shutterstock)
Frequent sore throats may signal an underlying condition and require different treatment. For example, a sore throat can be a symptom of tonsillitis, heartburn (acid reflux) and obstructive sleep apnoea. A medical protection plan can help connect you with a physician for proper diagnosis and a more holistic healthcare solution.
In typical cases, doctors advise you to let pharyngitis run its course. Apart from the sore throat remedies mentioned, drink plenty of water to hydrate and moisten your throat. Also, get as much sleep as possible. A sore throat may be your body telling you to take a rest.
The effect of one night of sleep deprivation on your overall wellbeing is significant. In this episode of AIA Voices, sleep and mental health experts Olivia Arezzolo, Kate Yan and Asher Low explain what happens when we get less than adequate sleep
AIA Voices is a community of influential and educational voices from around Asia to talk about life, health and wellness. A platform to educate, motivate and inspire people to make positive behavioural changes on their health and wellness journey. Providing an opportunity for communities across Asia to connect, collaborate, and learn from each other. Designed to drive AIA One Billion, our ambition to engage a billion people to live Healthier, Longer, Better Lives by 2030.
Mayo Clinic. 2022. Cold remedies: What works, what doesn't, what can't hurt. [online]  [Accessed on 21 March 2023]
British Medical Journal. 2003. Herbal tea helps reduce the pain of acute pharyngitis. [online]  [Accessed on 21 March 2023]
Biomedicines. 2019. Herbal tea helps reduce the pain of acute pharyngitis. [online]  [Accessed on 4 December 2022]
Hong Kong Medical Journal. 2019. Antibiotic management of acute pharyngitis in primary care. [online]  [Accessed on 4 December 2022]
Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine. 2016. The Effect of Green Tea Gargle Solution on Sore Throat After Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting: A Randomized Clinical Trial. [online]  [Accessed on 4 December 2022]
British Medical Journal Evidence-Based Medicine. 2020. Effectiveness of honey for symptomatic relief in upper respiratory tract infections: a systematic review and meta-analysis. [online]  [Accessed on 4 December 2022]
Johns Hopkins Medicine. Ginger Benefits. [online]  [Accessed on 4 December 2022]
National Journal of Physiology, Pharmacy and Pharmacology. 2016. Role of honey as adjuvant therapy in patients with sore throat. [online]  [Accessed on 4 December 2022]
The Straits Times. 2018. Traditional Chinese cough syrup Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa popular among New Yorkers during flu season. [online]  [Accessed on 4 December 2022]
Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore.What is antibiotic resistance? [online]  [Accessed on 4 December 2022]

This is general information only and is not intended as financial, medical, health, nutritional or other advice. You should obtain professional advice from a financial adviser, or medical or health practitioner in relation to your own personal circumstances.

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