Sore throat is a common symptom of different conditions, like allergies, respiratory infections (viral or bacterial), and dry air. In today’s article we will discuss how to get rid of a sore throat quickly. Usually sore throat doesn’t require a serious medical attention and can be treated using home sore throat cures.
- 1 How to get rid of a sore throat quickly at home
How to get rid of a sore throat quickly at home
1. Berberine Sulfate
Other names: berberine alkaloid, berberine, and berberine complex. Do NOT mistake it for Berberrubine, Berberol, or Piperine.
Berberine is extracted from the roots of different medicinal plants, such as Oregon grape, goldenseal, and barberry. It’s a natural alkaloid that’s usually bitter tasting and yellowish in color. Many herbalists and dietary supplement manufacturers recommend this to treat fungal infections, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
There are also some scientific evidences that point out berberine’s ability to resolve respiratory infections (e.g. common cold) and their symptoms, such as sore throat.
In one study published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, researchers said berberine sulfate is a bacteriostatic. Meaning, it’s able to stop the growth of streptococcus pyogenes, a bacteria responsible for sore throat, and prevent them from attaching to the host cells.
How does berberine sulfate stop streptococcus pyogenes from adhering to host cells?
The researchers said there are two ways: First, it frees the lipoteichoic acid found on the cell wall of the streptococcus pyogenes. Second, it directly interferes with the lipoteichoic acid-fibronectin (a group of proteins that promote adhesion) complexes.
The right dosage for berberine varies per brand, but the common dosage range of berberine dietary supplements is 900 to 2,000 milligrams daily, divided into 3 to 4 measured quantities. Remember, it should be taken with food, or shortly after eating.
Taking too much berberine can lead to digestive problems, cramping, insomnia, and headache. It should also not be given to newborns and pregnant or lactating women because it can cause kernicterus, a rare kind of brain damage in newborns. Berberine is also not advisable for people with abnormally low blood sugar and blood pressure.
The good news is that berberine rarely causes adverse effects. That’s why health care providers use it as an alternative treatment.
2. Organic Honey with Pollen
Honey has always been a favorite sore throat remedy. The claim is that it helps to ease the sore throat symptoms, like a dry and itchy throat, by serving as a protective lubricant. It’s also believed that honey contains certain properties that fight off many viruses and bacteria, including Staphylococcus pyogenes.
But many ask, “What’s the source of its antibacterial activity?”
One theory suggests it may be perhaps of its sugar content, which deprive bacteria of the water they need to live and thrive.
Another possible reason is its acidic pH level (normal range: 3.4 to 6.1 or an average of 3.9). The belief is the best pH level for Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria is above 6.5. BUT experts quickly refute this idea since there are other honey varieties (e.g. chestnut and honeydew) that have pH levels of over 5, but still exhibit bacteriostatic effects.
It’s believed that the non-peroxide antibacterial activity in honey is associated with its acid content, not pH level. (The non-peroxide antibacterial agent in honey is able to remain stable to heat and storage.)
According to the National Honey Board, honey has several acids: organic acids (0.17 to 1.17%) and amino acids (0.05 to 0.1%). The organic acids found in honey are gluconic (major), citric, lactic, acetic, malic, butyric, succinic, and pyroglutamic.
The Problem with Honeys from Stores…
According to an investigative study done exclusively for the Food Safety News, most of the honey we buy from groceries and pharmacies are not honey. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that a honey product that has been highly filtered to the point that it contains zero pollen is no longer considered a ‘honey.’
Why is pollen a crucial component of the honey products?
Pollen acts like the identity codes of honey to help authorities trace its origin. In previous incidents, groceries in the U.S. were swarmed with prohibited Indian honey with zero pollen, which was filled with toxic heavy metal and antibiotics. Examples of these unsafe honey products are:
- American Choice Clover Honey
- Busy Bee
- Pure Clover Honey
- Busy Bee Organic Honey
- Thrifty Bee Honey
- Walgreen MEL-O honey
- Mel-O 100% Pure Honey
Tip: The article suggested that in order to reduce the chances of buying an ultra-filtered honey, buy products that have the “organic” label. Because majority of the organic honey products (5 out of 7) they tested contained high amounts of pollen. Apparently, they came from Brazil.
3. “Good” Bacteria for Sore Throat
I’m referring to probiotics, which means promoting life in Greek. These live microorganisms are called “good” because they help keep your gut healthy, in appropriate amounts. People often used them to treat or prevent gas, cramping due to antibiotic intake, and diarrhea (frequent loose stools).
Although scientific studies are still going on, probiotics are said to help different illnesses, such as sore throat, tonsillitis, and other throat infections caused by the group-A streptococcus bacteria (streptococcus pyogenes). How?
Sore throats often occur because of the normal flora, specifically of the group-A streptococci, in the throat is disturbed, said researchers of one study. In order to stop people with streptococcal tonsillitis from continuously suffering from sore throats, researchers believed it’s only logical to restore the normal bacterial life by re-introducing the group-A streptococci (alpha-streptococci).
The researchers created a probiotic throat spray made with the bacteria. Just five days of used, it significantly reduced the recurrence of GAS (group-A streptococci) tonsillitis.
In fact, there was only one (out of 17) test subject who experienced a sore throat recurrence in the next 90 days or so. That’s definitely a great result compared to those who used a placebo spray treatment. There were eleven out of seventeen in the placebo group that got a sore throat.
So far, there’s still no consensus regarding the dosage range for probiotic preparations. To be safe, just follow the specific dosage instructions of the product you’re using. According to Medscape Multispecialty, there should be at least billions of microorganisms in order for good bacteria to effectively colonize your gut (or exert therapeutic effects). However, the common practice is take probiotics by mouth every day.
Based on its long track record, there have been no reports of probiotics causing ailments or minor discomforts. However, it’s wise not to give this to people with damaged gastrointestinal tracts, weakened immune systems, or taking drugs that suppress the immune system’s function to avoid opportunistic bacteria from wreaking havoc.
4. Ulmus fulva (Slippery Elm)
Slippery elm is a kind of tree that mostly grows in North America. Traditionally, Native Americans used this as a salve for skin problems, such as boils, burns, and wounds. Today, people widely use this for treating sore throat, cough, digestive tract problems (e.g. diarrhea and stomach acidity), sexually transmitted diseases, and urinary tract infection.
Slippery elm contains components that can help alleviate sore throat symptoms. One of these agents is its mucilage, which is a thick gel-like substance that’s produced by most plants and a few microorganisms. This works by covering the throat mucous membrane to prevent further irritation and give it time to completely heal.
According to scientific studies, the mucilage in slippery elm contains sugars (l-rhamnose, d-galactose, and 3-O-methyl-d-galactose) and galacturonic acid (a precursor of vitamin C).
Slippery elm is available commercially in various forms: lozenge, capsule, fine or coarse powder, capsule, tea, and extract. For sore throat, the standardized lozenge form of slippery elm is highly preferred over the unprocessed herb because it has a longer therapeutic effect.
The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends taking slippery elm capsule (400 to 500 milligrams) up to 4 times a day. Make sure to drink a whole glass of water when taking it. For its tea form, add 2 tablespoons of slippery elm powdered bark to boiled water, and then let it steep for 5 minutes max. Drink it three times a day.
Slippery elm is safe to be taken by mouth and is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating irritated throat, digestive problems, and respiratory inflammations. Traditional healers believe that it can induce the abortion when taken orally, so it’s not advisable for pregnant women. But there’s no scientific evidence that back up this notion.
This has no known life-threatening adverse effects. One disadvantage of taking a slippery elm is that it delays the absorption of some of the medicines. If you have to take other meds or supplements, be sure to take the slippery elm 2 to 3 hours before or after.
5. Correct Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency doesn’t really cause any obvious physical symptoms, but if it did, you’ll most likely feel muscle weakness and bone pain. A surefire way to diagnose this condition is to undergo the 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test.
Why do people experience low levels of vitamin D in their bodies? It may be caused by the following factors:
- Obesity (refers to a body mass index of over 30)
- Limited sunlight exposure
- Dark skin
- Strict vegan diet
- Kidney and digestive tract problems
Researchers from Israel say that a vitamin D deficiency could influence recurrence of group-A streptococcal (GAS) tonsillopharyngitis among adults. Tonsillopharyngitis refers to the inflamed tonsils and pharynx, which symptoms include sore throat, painful to swallow, fever, enlarged neck lymph nodes, and breathing difficulties.
For their study, researchers focused on the records of fifty-four patients diagnosed with GAS tonsillopharyngitis plus a control group without any history of this condition. Researchers defined a vitamin D deficiency as 30-20 ng/ml or lower. A recurrent GAS tonsillopharyngitis is 3 or more episodes annually for a series of two years.
What’s the result?
Researchers confirmed their earlier notion that recurrent GAS tonsillopharyngitis is linked to a deficient vitamin D levels (lower than 20 ng per ml) AND high levels of C-reactive protein (more than 3 mg per liter), which is an indicator of inflammation. However, further clinical tests need to be done to know whether vitamin D replacement therapy will solve the recurrence.
NATURAL VITAMIN D SOURCES
Vitamin D is usually formed when our skins are exposed to sunlight. Unfortunately, that’s not always an option for people living in a non-tropical countries, like the U.S. The next best natural option is food, although there are only a few foods that are rich in this vitamin.
The top 3 sources given by WebMD are mackerel (wild-caught), mushrooms (the more exposed to sunlight, the better), and salmon (wild-caught). Other food sources are a beef liver, canned tuna, cheese, and egg yolks. There are also supplements you can readily purchase after consulting your doctor.
Normally, vitamin D is safe to be taken orally, but too much could cause adverse effects. Some of these are metal-like taste, vomiting, fatigue, headache, dry mouth, and poor appetite, among others. If you take more than 4,000 IU/day for prolonged periods, your blood calcium can increase above normal levels.
6. Zinc Tablets, Lozenges, or Syrups
At small amounts, zinc is essential for our health. People use it to enhance their immune system function, fight colds and other lower respiratory infections, zinc deficiency, cataract, diabetes, night blindness, and others. Experts point out that it may even help prevent or lessen recurrence of common cold due to viruses. It does this by preventing common cold viruses from entering your nose lining.
Researchers of one study reviewed the different scientific evidences regarding zinc’s cold-busting powers. They surmised that zinc syrup, tablet, or lozenge may decrease the severity and shorten the duration of common cold if people take it at the first sign of the illness.
What’s more, those who regularly took zinc every few hours during the day were completely free from cold symptoms on the seventh day. The opposite can be said for the placebo group. The kids who were given zinc lozenge or zinc syrup (15mg) every single day for the next five or so months were better protected from common colds and less absent from school.
Since all 15 clinical trials they reviewed used varied doses and time period, researchers found it difficult to come up with a consensus. That’s why further studies need to be done to determine the exact best dosage range, formulation, and schedule for zinc.
According to WebMD, you can treat common cold by taking either one acetate lozenge (with 9-24mg elemental zinc) or zinc gluconate. You can take acetate lozenge every two hours if common cold symptoms are still observable.
Is it safe? Zinc is safe to be taken by adults when taken for a short period of time at a dosage not exceeding 40mg per day. It can’t be taken for too long and/or at high doses because it can cause toxic effects, such as vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal discomfort, and damaged kidneys or stomach.
Zinc can also interfere with the absorption of antibiotics, thus decreasing their effectiveness. Examples of these antibiotics are enoxacin, grepafloxacin, ciprofloxacin, norfloxacin, trovafloxacin, and trovafloxacin. If you’re under antibiotics therapy, you can take zinc an hour or so after taking antibiotics.
7. ‘Benifuuki’ Green Tea
Green tea is believed to contain certain properties that help ease the conditions marked by inflammation. Experts say it’s because of its anti-allergy and anti-inflammatory compound called Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG). One of the green tea varieties that’s particularly rich of this compound is Benifuuki green tea.
Benifuuki is actually the result of a crossbreeding of two plant varieties: MakuraCd86 and Benihomare. The anti-allergenic compounds of this green tea are epigallocatechin-3-O(3-O-methyl)-gallate/O-methylated catechins (epigallocatechin-3-O-(3-O-methyl) gallate (EGCG”Me) and epicatechin-3-O-(3-O-methyl) gallate (ECG3″Me), which are lost during black tea manufacturing.
Based on one randomized, parallel-group study, the O-methylated catechin found in Benifuuki green tea helps to relieve symptoms of recurrent or seasonal allergic rhinitis. The study included 38 participants with Japanese cedar pollinosis, a type of seasonal allergic rhinitis caused by Japanese cedar pollen.
Researchers of the study randomly designated participants to drink Benifuuki green tea with 34mg O-methylated catechin either short-term (from February 15, 2007 to April 8, 2007) or long-term (from December 27, 2006 to April 8, 2007).
Result showed that this green tea variety was able to ease the symptoms of Japanese cedar pollinosis. But it should be taken daily for 1.5 months before the start of a cedar pollen season.
What’s great about Benifuuki green tea is that it has a pleasant aroma and a smooth taste. If you want to really enjoy it, you should drink it without any sugar, milk, or creamer. If you have an allergic rhinitis due to pollens, it’s wise to drink it months before the start of a pollen season.
8. Echinacea purpurea
Other names: echinacea, purple coneflower, and coneflower
Although it’s not clear when this was first used for medicinal purposes, some suggested that echinacea was used by the Natives of America for snake bites. The specific parts of echinacea that hold medicinal value are its flowera, leaves, and root. Glycoproteins, flavonoids, polysaccharides, volatile oils, and alkamides (anti-inflammatory, immune system stimulator, and pain-reliever agents) are just a few medicinal compounds found in echinacea.
People usually take this to help prevent colds or other upper respiratory infections from developing. If cold symptoms (e.g. inflammation, sore throat, and cough) are already present, people use this to ease the severity or completely eliminate them.
One of the main reasons why Echinacea purpurea is used as a medicinal herb is because of its supposed immunological properties. This herb is said to be effective in fighting bacteria and viruses because of its ability to stimulate the immune system.
For instance, when you drink echinacea tea, the polysaccharides I have mentioned earlier can stimulate immune system reaction by changing certain serum protein processes. Thus, more white blood cells are released in order to take care of a mild to severe bacterial or viral invasion, so infection or illness can be prevented. Certain chemicals are also activated to ease the inflammation that’s common in flu or cold.
In one study, standardized preparation of Echinacea purpurea extract (Echinaforce®) was able to completely stop and kill Streptococcus pyogenes in its tracks. It was even able to fully reverse its inflammatory effect. This result reinforced the recommendation to use a standard form of echinacea extract (Echinaforce®) to fight off symptoms associated with the bacterial respiratory infections.
Short-term intake of echinacea is most likely safe. However, people with known allergy to daisies, marigolds, mums, and ragweed should steer clear from this herb. Some of the adverse effects of echinacea includes diarrhea, vomiting, fever, stomachache, dry mouth, and dizziness, among others.
Since commercial preparations of echinacea greatly vary per manufacturer, it’s best to ask your healthcare provider for a brand that he or she deems to be safe and effective. Make sure that you’re buying from a reputable and well-known brand, especially when purchasing online. There have been reports that some echinacea products don’t contain this herb or don’t declare the exact echinacea species or active ingredients they use.
How Long Does a Sore Throat Last?
Answer: it depends. You have to determine the root cause to appropriately treat your sore throat. Sometimes, you don’t even have to do anything because the cause is viral. Or you simply have to avoid the root cause. For instance, avoid smoking cigarette to prevent dry throat, which can lead to sore throat.
If your sore throat is not resolved within 7 to 10 days, call your doctor. A serious underlying condition may already be at play, so you want that addressed immediately.
Although certain herbs, foods, and dietary supplements are deemed safe, please don’t forget that they may still produce undesirable effects that could outweigh their therapeutic benefits. Make sure you know what you’re taking, including its side effects, drug interactions, and right dosage and timing, in order to maximize its intended positive effects.
Double check the product you’re buying. Not all products labeled as “organic” or “pure” really contain the active ingredients necessary to treat your condition. Check online websites, like ConsumerLab.com or USDA.gov, for counterchecking purposes.
Do you have other suggestions on how to get rid of a sore throat? I would like to hear your ideas.