A sore throat is a raw sensation in the back of the throat that makes swallowing painful. It can be a symptom of pharyngitis (inflammation of the throat) or streptococcal infection (strep throat); often it's the initial symptom of a cold, the flu, laryngitis (inflammation of the voice box), or another condition. A sore throat can also result from overuse (such as too much screaming) or abuse (smoking), and can, in some instances, result from problems in the sinuses, lungs, or a different part of the digestive tract.

Many alternative therapies can provide ways to soothe and heal a sore throat -- ways that don't disrupt the body's harmony in the process. Remember, though, if your sore throat is severe or persistent, be sure to have it checked out; strep throat should not be ignored or treated casually, as it can lead to kidney problems or rheumatic fever.

Herbal Medicine for a Sore Throat

Herbs can soothe and heal the throat, ease inflammation of its mucous membranes, and help the immune system fight off infection. Garlic works against bacterial infections and promotes a strong immune system. Try to tolerate the taste and smell of lots of fresh garlic, which is considered more effective than commercially prepared capsules.

Several herbs can be taken for their astringent properties on the mucous membranes. Agrimony, loosestrife, and thyme are good examples. Tea made from these herbs can be gargled to provide relief. Myrrh is especially helpful in sore throats, as are tonics such as goldenseal, cleavers, and marigold (calendula).

Echinacea (or purple coneflower) stimulates the immune system and can significantly shorten the duration of a sore throat. Other herbs commonly used to treat rough and raw throats include cayenne pepper, licorice, red sage, and white horehound.

Nutritional Therapy for a Sore Throat

Nutritional therapy supplies the body with nutrients needed to boost the immune system and target infections. When used to treat sore throats, zinc gluconate lozenges may stop viruses from multiplying. A father in Texas discovered this benefit by chance after his young daughter, suffering with a cold, sucked on a zinc tablet instead of swallowing it; her symptoms went away. A study that tested the lozenges against a placebo confirmed zinc's ability to speed up recovery of raw and scratchy throats, as well as coughs, runny noses, and sneezing. If you use this method, discontinue as soon as the throat feels better -- long-term use of zinc lozenges can adversely affect other nutrients in the body.

Supplements of vitamin C and bioflavonoids also can be taken for their ability to improve immune system functioning. These supplements may be able to shorten the course of a sore throat.

Liquids (decaffeinated and nonalcoholic, of course) can rehydrate the mucous membranes in the throat and should be consumed in large amounts. Herb teas, vegetable juices, and water are the preferred drinks. Fresh fruit juices (not bottled, canned, frozen, or packaged in any way) can cool the system if the sore throat is caused by a heat condition, and they also provide many important vitamins.

Aromatherapy for a Sore Throat

When added to hot water, inhaling the essential oil of certain plants and herbs can relieve pain. Commonly used oils include:

  • eucalyptus
  • geranium
  • sandalwood
  • thyme
Other Sore Throat Therapies
  • Detoxification, Fasting, and Colon Therapy for a Sore Throat -- Water and herbal tea fasts and juice diets, lasting only a couple of days, can be helpful.
  • Homeopathy for a Sore Throat -- Specific remedies must be tailored to the individual, but common prescriptions include baptisia tinctoria, belladonna, causticum, and rumex crispus.
  • Hydrotherapy for a Sore Throat -- A damp cloth wrapped around the neck and covered by a wool scarf helps bring the body's healing factors to the neck and throat area.
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