Your goal: Kick a sore throat to the curb. No one wants to deal with the pain that makes even talking difficult. It’s one of the top 10 reasons people head to the doc.
The source behind all the scratchiness is mostly likely a viral infection from a cold. Only about 10% of sufferers test positive for strep. If your sore throat lingers for longer than five days, swallowing or breathing becomes difficult or your fever tops 101 degrees, seek professional care.
Otherwise the pain usually goes away on its own, but who wants to wait to feel better? These five home remedies may help alleviate symptoms, even if it’s just for a blissful five minutes.
1. Coffee with Honey
You’ve heard of honey as a natural cough suppressant, especially when served with tea. Itsantimicrobial properties help fight off bacteria and viruses, says Trevor Cates, a naturopathic doctor in Park City, Utah.
Tea is a tasty way to get the honey down, but you may want to take it with coffee next time. Drinking a coffee-honey mixture every eight hours for one week eased coughing – often associated with a sore throat – better than medication or a placebo in a 2013 study inPrimary Care Respiratory Journal. Both honey and coffee may help with throat irritation, giving soreness a one-two punch.
2. Garlic and Sugar Syrup
Yes, it sounds gross, but this homemade cough syrup is worth a shot. Take chopped raw garlic and add honey, or pour sugar over chopped onions, advises Josephine Dlugopolski-Gach, M.D., assistant professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at Loyola University Health System. Both onions and garlic have antimicrobial properties, meaning they can help with infections. The syrupy slurry coats your throat, relieving scratchiness.
Garlic extract also helped soothe strep in a 2010 study. Allicin, a compound in garlic, might inhibit activity of group A streptococcus, the bacteria that causes the condition. “I did this as a kid, and it definitely helped,” Dr. Dlugopolski-Gach says. No lying, you’ll have to get past the smell first though.
3. Bone Broth
It’s the trendy sip du jour – you can buy cups from bone broth bars – but it comes with potential health benefits. Chicken broth made from bones the traditional way has several things going for it.
For one, it’s usually sipped hot. “While warm liquids don’t necessarily cure your cold or flu, they can feel soothing on your throat,” Cates says. Warmth may also clear out sinuses, making breathing easier too.
Compounds in the broth like carnosine could also inhibit the inflammatory response that causes symptoms like sore throat and congestion, notes a 2012 study in the American Journal of Therapeutics. Plus, the gelatin in the bone marrow coats the throat for soreness relief, says Dr. Dlugopolski-Gach.
For the biggest benefits, choose bone broth over regular broth, or make it at home. Store-bought chicken broth is often watered down and not made with bones at all, so it will lack the same properties.
4. Hard Candy
Cold lozenges are typically medicated, but yours doesn’t have to be. In a pinch – like when you’ve got to hop on the phone – don’t just drink water. Pop in any type of hard candy.
“The candy coats the throat to reduce the feeling of rawness and irritation,” Cates says. Keep in mind this is a short-term fix. Once the candy is gone, you’ll be sore again and sucking on too much sugar isn’t a great idea – especially if you’re diabetic, adds Dr. Dlugopolski-Gach.
5. Marshmallow Tea
You’re well aware that tea is the drink for a sore throat, but the type can make all the difference. “One of my favorite remedies is marshmallow tea,” Cates say.
Far from the most important part of a s’more, the tea is brewed from the marshmallow herb. “It’s a mucilaginous herb, so it has gelatinous qualities that coats your throat going down,” she explains. “That also decreases irritation and gives your body a chance to heal.”
You can buy marshmallow tea on its own and add a few shakes of cinnamon or cloves for taste. You can also find it in a popular herbal blend with licorice and slippery elm calledThroat Coat, which some people say tastes better than the plain version. Drink several cups a day for better results.