Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sore Throat Remedies : (

How did I get a sore throat in May??  I hardly ever get sick, but occasionally I'll get that nasty feeling in my throat and know I'm in for a week of discomfort.  Having been away from home three weekends in a row, I guess I got a bit too tired, or exposed to an unfamiliar germ.  This time on the first and second days it was actually a very mild sore throat - hardly noticeable during the day but hurt at night.

My usual favorite remedy for a cold and sore throat has long been Theraflu - little packets of powder that you mix with warm water to make a lemon-flavored tea.  Years ago it had some great stuff in it that would knock me out for the night, but it has been "improved" over the years so it is much less effective now.  Since I'm being extra healthy this year, I thought I'd try some natural remedies, and I'm surprised how many I found, including many for which the ingredients were already in my pantry or fridge.  I was only afraid the sore throat wouldn't last long enough to try them all!  (Hah - it certainly did!)

Here are two websites that have lots of easy suggestions:

Everyday Roots - 22 Natural Sore Throat Remedies to Help Soothe the Pain

Healthline - 7 Natural Remedies for Sore Throats

Here are some ideas I tried:

  • Honey
Honey by itself or in tea is an easy thing to try.  Who wouldn't rather eat a spoonful of honey than pop a few pills?  Healthline has a link to a study of 139 children that found honey more effective than common cough suppressants for nighttime coughs.  They also say honey is a wound-healer, so it may help the throat heal while it soothes.  (btw - I read honey should not be given to a baby less than one year old.  It contains a bacterium that can cause infant botulism in a baby's immature digestive system.)

I especially enjoyed an alcohol-free hot toddy, made with hot water, honey and a squeeze of lemon.  Stan makes a real hot toddy when he has a cold, and would be happy to make one for me, but  I'm aiming at an alcohol-free month, so I just enjoyed the honey and lemon.  It tasted good!

  • Gargle salt water
Healthline has links to two studies showing salt water gargling is helpful.  The two studies were done at University of Connecticut (my alma mater) and University of Puget Sound (my ex's alma mater) - a sign for me I'm sure - so I had to try this!  Just add 1/2 teaspoon of salt (I used Kosher salt) to a cup of warm water and gargle without swallowing.   Claire on Everyday Roots says:
When our throats hurt, regardless of what causes it, it’s because the cells in the mucous membranes have become swollen and inflamed. By gargling with salt water you decrease the swelling, as salts primary function is to draw out water, which in turn shrinks the swollen cell and eases the pain. It also helps wash away the excess mucous and allows your stuffy nose (if you have one) to drain properly.
 She also warns not to do this more than three times a day or you risk drying out healthy tissue and making things worse.  The first time I did it I felt better for about five minutes and then started coughing like crazy.  Tried again with no coughing, and it seemed to help a little.

  • Apple Cider Vinegar
I had never heard of this one before.  Apparently the acidity can kill bacteria, and when mixed with honey it also soothes the throat.  Mix a tablespoon each of apple cider vinegar and honey in a cup of very warm water and drink while it's still warm.  This was okay, but I enjoyed the honey with lemon a lot more.

  •  Suck on garlic
Eew - wasn't sure I'd like this one from Everyday Roots.  Cut a clove of garlic in half and place half in each cheek as you would a cough drop.  Mash a bit with your teeth from time to time to release a bit of allicin, a compound that kills the bacteria that causes strep.  I lasted ten minutes and had to give up.  Besides the sharp taste, it felt like it was burning the side of my cheek.  During the ten minutes I did try to swallow several times and hopefully a few germs were killed!

  • Cayenne pepper
I don't care for spicy food even on a good day, but apparently cayenne can relieve pain.  Claire on Everyday Roots says:
Cayenne (and other hot peppers) have a chemical compound called capsaicin that temporarily relieves pain, much like Advil or aspirin does. It accomplishes this by hindering something called substance P, which is what transmits pain signals to your brain. Thus, the discomfort from your sore throat is diluted when coming in contact with the Cayenne-and quickly to boot.
She advises mixing 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper with 1 teaspoon of honey in a cup of warm water.  I thought I would hate this, but I'm surprised to say it worked!  I didn't have dry ground red pepper, so I used a half teaspoon of red pepper sauce and a generous teaspoon of honey.  It didn't taste bad, thanks to the honey, and although my lips tingled a bit, my throat stopped hurting.  I'll use this again, and I'll buy some powdered cayenne before my next sore throat.

Three days later my sore throat was worse!  How did this happen when I've been so very careful and faithful in my healthy eating and exercising?  So far I had stuck with the natural remedies, although  I must admit that when I woke up coughing in the night I still popped a cough drop.  I wasn't about to get up and go downstairs and I didn't really believe any of these would stop the coughing while I tried to get to sleep.

On the fifth day I went to Whole Foods to look for some throat lozenges with helpful herbs I had read about, like slippery elm, licorice root, marshmallow root or peppermint.  I didn't find lozenges with those ingredients, but I got some with a mixture of herbs including holy basil, horehound, mullein leaf, ginger and sage, as well as a mix of essential oils.  They are flavored with cherry and do work well enough to keep me from coughing for a while.

I also spent $17 on a "natural" cold remedy that says on the label "shortens duration and reduces severity".  (Can you tell I was feeling pretty punk at the store?)  It's a liquid that you take with a medicine dropper.  I promptly took a dose, and then read the following when I looked up the active ingredient on Wikipedia:

Pelargonium sidoides is a medicinal plant native to South Africa. Its common names include Umckaloabo and South African Geranium. Root extract of Pelargonium sidoides is used as cold and flu medicine under various brand names including Kaloba, Umcka and Zucol. Evidence to support its use is low to very low.

Rats.  I really wanted to buy a bear claw (admired them in pastry case but did not purchase).  That would have cost a lot less and probably would have made me feel much better  : (

After that, I reverted to my regular sore throat strategy - popping two aspirin and a vitamin C every four hours and taking Theraflu at night.  Even in its less-powerful version it still helps - mostly by making you sleepy and allowing you to breathe without coughing so you can stay asleep.

Readers - any other ideas??  What do you do to hurry along a sore throat and cold??

By the way, that big beautiful jar of honey in the photos is from our friend Rob at Bee Works Farm (formerly called Backyard Bees).  He started with a few hives while working as a pharmaceutical rep and now has a thriving full-time business.  How great to know someone is taking care of the bees!  And what delicious honey!

1 comment:

  1. A valiant effort with the garlic! I will have to try the cayenne/honey concoction when I get my next cold. My favorite remedies have always been lots of rest and homemade soup from my hubby.