Looking for an all-natural strep throat treatment? Aside from conventional antibiotic medicines, there are other things you can use and do to boost your immune system and ease the strep throat symptoms. Essential oils could be good alternatives to standard medical treatments for strep throat. Each has different properties that could help alleviate the common symptoms of strep throat, such as pain and inflammation, and even help to fight off the causative germ. In this article, you’ll learn the basics of strep throat and the best essential oils for strep throat.
Note: always consult with your doctor before starting to cure your strep throat at home. Most of the times antibiotics are needed to cure a strep throat. If your symptoms don’t go away or get worse, check with your doctor immediately.
- 1 A Strep Throat is Different from a Sore Throat
- 2 Best Essential Oils for Strep Throat
- 3 Other Strep Throat Treatments You Can Do At Home
A Strep Throat is Different from a Sore Throat
People often confuse the two. They’re not the same.
A sore throat is generally a viral infection. In babies and children, a strep throat is triggered by a group of bacteria called Streptococcus pyogenes or “group A strep.” Since it’s a bacterial infection, a strep throat responds positively to antibiotics.
Anyone could get a strep throat or sore throat. However, the former is most common in school-aged children (6 to 12 years). Smokers, children, people with allergies, and people with a weakened immune system are at greater risk of developing a sore throat.
The site of inflammation is also different. The inflammation in sore throat is usually concentrated around the tonsils only. When it comes to strep throat, the tonsils and the surrounding of the throat become very inflamed. Plus, a strep throat is more painful than a sore throat.
Other symptoms of a strep throat could include:
- Fever (more than 38.3°C or 101°F)
- Sudden and severe throat pain, without cold symptoms
- Inflamed neck lymph nodes (kidney-shaped glands)
- Headaches and bodyaches
- Bright red and tiny spots on the roof of the mouth and on the throat
- Nausea and vomiting, especially among younger children
Symptoms of strep throat would usually go away within a week with the proper treatment. But, if any of the following are present, make sure to get in touch with your healthcare provider:
- Your symptoms don’t improve or become worse after 48 hours of taking antibiotics
- Sandpaper-like, bright red rash
- Sleeping difficulties because of swollen tonsils or adenoids (lumps of tissues found behind your nose, above the roof of your mouth)
- Uncontrolled movements of your extremities (legs or arms)
- Painful joints
- Shortness of breath
- Extreme tiredness
Essential oils could be a good home remedy option to speed up the healing process. Most varieties contain unique properties that fight common symptoms of a bacterial or viral infection, such as pain, inflammation, and swelling. They also have the unique capability to lift your mood and help your mind and body to relax.
Best Essential Oils for Strep Throat
Eucalyptus Essential Oil
Eucalyptus essential oil comes from the dried leaves of a fast-growing evergreen tree that grows in Australia. This essential oil is colorless and has a distinctive sweet and woody scent. Eucalyptus globulus, Eucalyptus radiata, and Eucalyptus polybractea are the three common varities of eucalyptus oil.
Aboriginal Australians use this essential oil as a cure for many ailments, such as fever, bodyaches, and respiratory infections (e.g. the common cold). Now, hospitals use it as an effective antiseptic during surgeries and when cleaning urinary catheters. According to MedlinePlus.com, you can take diluted eucalyptus essential oil by mouth to treat inflammation and pain due to asthma, cough, and bronchitis.
The active compound that’s responsible for its medicinal activities is cineole, formerly known as eucalyptol, which can reduce pain and inflammation. It might even have the potential to kill blood cancer cells, although more studies are needed.
A study published in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine suggests that eucalyptus essential oil could help decrease the pain and blood pressure of patients who underwent total knee replacement. The researchers divided the patients into two groups: the “eucalyptus essential oil plus almond oil” group (experimental) and the “almond oil only” group (control).
The experimental group had to smell a 4×2-gauze pad infused with eucalyptus oil (dissolved in almond oil). They placed the guaze pad between their nostrils and the little groove under their noses (philtrum) for half an hour of continuous passive motion. The control group did the same. This went on for three straight days, starting on the third day post-surgery.
Like other essential oils, eucalyptus essential oil may also have undesirable adverse reactions, such as skin rash, sleepiness, drug interactions, and breathing difficulty.
Cinnamon Essential Oil
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum or Cinnamomum verum) has a long history of use as a flavoring and cure for various ailments. Among the various species of cinnamon—there are over a hundred—the two most popular are Chinese cinnamon and Ceylon cinnamon. The oil comes from the inner bark and leaves of cinnamon trees.
Cinnamon bark essential oil and cinnamon leaf essential oil has several differences. For instance, the former is usually red-brown in color, while the latter tends to be pale yellow. Cinnamon bark essential oil has a stronger sweet, musky, and spicy scent compared to cinnamon leaf essential oil. That’s why perfurmers generally prefer it.
The health benefits of cinnamon essential oil come from various compounds, specifically cinnamaldehyde, cinnamate, and cinnamic acid. People use this essential oil for poor blood flow, depression, inflammation, high blood sugar levels, infections due to viruses and bacteria, to aid the immune system, and to increase sex drive. A study showed that it also fights off Streptococcus pyogenes, which causes strep throat.
There are different ways to use this to ease the symptoms of strep throat. Dr. Mercola suggests mixing 1 to 2 drops of cinnamon essential oil with 8 ounces of purified water. Use the resulting solution as a mouthwash.
Cinnamon essential oil can be highly irritating. That’s why some people prefer to use the spice itself instead of the pure oil. Before you take this by mouth, make sure to do the following first:
- Perform a skin patch test of the diluted cinnamon essential oil on a hidden part of your body.
- As much as possible, consult someone who has expert knowledge on essential oils.
- Avoid this if you’re pregnant or have liver or kidney disease.
Lemongrass Essential Oil
The pure oil of lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) smells like lemons. However, compared to real lemons, it has a lighter, earthier, and sweeter scent. The oil comes from the stalks and leaves of the lemongrass plant.
It’s a highly preferred ingredient for massage oils because it helps relax the muscles and relieves pain. Traditionally, lemongrass oil, as well the other parts of the plant, are used for curing various digestion problems, high fever (by triggering profuse sweating), sluggish blood circulation, compromised immune system, headaches, infection, and menstrual irregularities.
Today, people also use it to treat bacterial infections, such as strep throat. Researchers of a study suggest that lemongrass essential oil may have the ability to eliminate the strep throat-causing bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes, although it’s not as potent as cinnamon essential oil.  Its active ingredient is limonene, which is an anti-inflammatory compound that’s present in lemon and orange peels.
Lemongrass essential oil is relatively safe to use, but it’s still important to take note of the following:
- Don’t use this if you’re taking medicines for high blood pressure or high blood sugar because it could increase their effects.
- Pregnant women should avoid this essential oil because it stimulates the uterus.
- If you suffer from certain health conditions, such as liver or kidney disease, ask your doctor before using this essential oil because it may cause toxicity.
- It can be irritating to the skin and may possibly cause skin rashes or burning if used without diluting it properly.
Thyme Essential Oil
Thyme essential oil comes from Thymus vlugaris, a perennial herb that’s part of the mint family. This is a favorite ingredient in many mouthwash products and ointments. People also use it for cooking, aromatherapy, and potpourri. Since ancient times, people used it to cure the following ailments:
- Arthritis or gout
- Swelling (edema) due to kidney failure
- Painful menstruation
- Heart-related ailments
- Abdominal aches
- Epilepsy or convulsion
- Bacterial infections
Containing 20% to 54% thymol, thyme essential oil is a potent antiseptic. Meaning, it can slow down or stop the growth of certain germs. It can even fight off diseases caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes, like strep throat and tonsillitis.
When it comes to easing pain and inflammation, it works just like NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Thanks to its active ingredient called carvacrol. It works by stopping cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), which is an enzyme that plays a major role in inflammation and pain. Among six essential oils (rose, clove, fennel, bergamot, eucalyptus, and thyme), researchers discovered that thyme is the most effective in reducing cyclooxygenase-2 levels by around 75%.
Thyme essential oil is generally safe to use internally and externally. If you’re planning to use it to ease the symptoms of strep throat, make sure to take note of the following:
- If you have a known allergy to oregano or other herbs in the same plant family, you’re most likely allergic to thyme, too.
- Thyme essential oil has the potential to slow down your blood’s clotting rate, which increases your risk of bleeding. So, if you’re taking any medicines for bleeding disorders or have a bleeding disorder, avoid this.
- Don’t use thyme essential oil 14 days before a planned surgery.
- If you have conditions that could get worse by estrogen exposure, don’t use thyme essential oil.
Oregano Essential Oil
Oregano essential oil comes from the leaves and other parts of the Greek oregano (Origanum vulgare) plant. It’s one of the most powerful essential oils out there for treating various health problems.
The oil is rich in plant-based antioxidants called phenols. Two of the most abundant and active are carvacrol and thymol, which contain properties that fight off fungi and bacteria. Like the essential oils of cinnamon, thyme, and lemongrass, oregano essential oil is also effective against the strep throat bacteria. Carvacrol destorys the outer layer of invading bacteria to expose them to your body’s white blood cells.
Oregano essential oil can also reduce inflammation. It contains beta-caryophyllin (E-BCP), a dietary cannabinoid that has anti-inflammatory activities.
- Essential oils containing high amounts of phenol, like oregano, can be irritating to the skin and toxic to the liver. Depending on the product instructions, make sure to use only 1 to 2 drops of the oil each time you use it topically or through inhalation.
- Avoid using this if you’re also taking anti-diabetese drugs, anticoagulants (prevent blood clots), birth control pills (or undergoing hormone replacement therapy). The essential oil could magnify their effects.
- The essential oil also slows down the absorption of iron. If you’re taking iron supplements, make sure to take them at least two hours before or after.
Winter Savory Essential Oil
Winter savory (Satureja montana) essential oil is clear to light yellow in appearance. Its scent resembles that of juniper trees or chrysanthemums. Most winter savory essential oils that are available on the market come from Morocco, Spain, Turkey, Russia, and Europe.
Traditionally, people have used it as a body tonic and digestive cure for many centuries. Some perfumers even used it as an aphrodisiac. Today, it’s considered a powerful essential oil that has activity against a wide range of organisms (bacteria and viruses), such as Streptococcus pyogenes. It also provides support for the circulatory, nervous, and immune systems.
- Make sure to use it cautiously because it contains a higher concentration of carvacrol than summer savory.
- Don’t use it on pregnant women and children who are two years old and below.
The best way to avoid strep throat and its serious complications like kidney inflammation and rheumatic fever, is to perform regular hand washing. You could also try the following natural strep throat treatment ideas (after consulting with your doctor):
Other Strep Throat Treatments You Can Do At Home
Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)
Barberry is a type of shrub with thorny branches. It can usually grow up to 108 inches. Barberry has been traditionally used by Indians to treat various ailments, like upset stomach, fever, and diarrhea. Today, you can buy barberry as a tea, extract, tincture, ointment, and capsule.
Like the herb goldenseal, barberry also contains berberine. This chemical compound is present in its fruit, stem, and root bark. Animal and test tube studies of berberine have shown that it contains medicinal properties that can kill or prevent the growth of bacteria, stimulate the immune system, reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and prevent convulsion.
One study revealed that berberine is highly effective against Streptococcus pyogenes (Group-A Streptococcus). Berberine was able to stop its adherence to the host cells in two ways: by releasing lipoteichoic acid and by disbanding the lipoteichoic acid-fibronectin complexes.
Bacterial adherence to mucous membranes is the initial step to the development of certain infections or diseases. Some disease-causing bacteria do this by attaching to fibronectin, which can be found in your blood and saliva. Meanwhile, the role of lipoteichoic acid is to stop this binding and stimulate the production of antibodies.
How to take barberry for strep throat:
The following is a dosing suggestion given by the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center:
- For barberry tincture, you can use up to 60 drops, three times daily
- If you plan to use barberry tea, the recommended steeping time is between 10 and 15 minutes. You can add 2 to 4 grams of barberry dried root to 2/3 cup of boiled water.
- Since there’s no established therapeutic dose for kids, it’s important that you consult a qualified healthcare provider before using barberry in kids.
- Extremely high doses of barberry were reported to cause vomiting and nosebleeding.
- If you’re pregnant, avoid using barberry because it could stimulate premature uterine contractions.
Sage (Salvia officinalis)
For thousands of years, sage has been used both as a culinary and medicinal herb. Ancient people used it to treat inflammatory conditions (e.g. sore throat), cough, indigestion, abdominal cramps, profuse sweating, poor appetite, and intestinal gas.
Today, sage is commonly used as a tea, which is often used as a mouthwash to relieve inflammations in the throat and mouth. It’s believed that sage contains antibacterial, antiseptic, astringent, and cooling properties. However, there are only a few clinical studies that have been done to backup these health benefits of sage.
One example of a study was published in the European Journal of Medical Research. Scientists investigated the efficacy of sage (Salvia officinalis) spray compared to placebo for the treatment of acute viral sore throat (pharyngitis).
Overall, the result was favorable. It revealed that sage proved to be more effective than the placebo. Participants who were given 15% sage spray experienced a decreased in their throat pain intensity score. Plus, the only side effects noted were mild burning sensation and dryness of the airway passages.
Come to think of it, this drying action of sage herb is really not a bad thing.
When you have a cold or other respiratory infection, it helps dry up the phlegm.
How to take sage herb for strep throat:
- To make fresh sage tea, pour 1 cup or approximately 237 ml of boiled water to 1 tablespoon of dried sage leaves. Add a lime juice and/or honey, if you want. Cover and steep for 15 minutes.
- In Germany, sage tea is gargled to reduce inflammation.
- To maximize its health benefits and taste, drink sage tea slowly. Take one or two sips every 15-20 minutes.
- Mothers who are breastfeeding should avoid consuming sage because it can decrease milk flow.
- Some of the minor side effects of excessive intake of sage are irritability and headache.
Guava (Psidium guajava) Leaves
Guava (Psidium guajava) is part of the Myrtaceae family. Throughout the years, the leaves, roots, stem, and bark of guava have been used in folk medicine for treating and managing a great number of health conditions, such as sore throat, vomiting, cough, wound, toothache, and ulcer.
It’s believed that leaves and essential oil of guava are rich in medicinal properties, namely:
- Mineral Salts and so much more
An animal study revealed that guava leaf aqueous extract can be used as a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory agent. Researchers suggested that these effects may be due to some of these compounds: tannins, guiajaverin, quercetin, ellagic acid, and polyphenolic compounds.
Studies have also shown that guava extract is able to kill or inhibit the growth of certain bacterial strains, especially Staphylococcus aureus. However, it’s not known whether it’s also effective against Group-A streptococcus bacteria, the main culprits behind strep throat.
How to take guava for strep throat:
To alleviate a painful and sore throat, it’s best to use guava leaf as a gargling solution.
- Boil approximately 3 cups or 708 ml of water.
- Lower the heat, and then add 7 to 12 fresh, young guava leaves into the boiling water.
- Let it simmer for 5 more minutes. Allow the solution to cool before straining.
- The resulting liquid is what you’ll use for gargling. You could even drink it once or three times a day because it’s believed that guava leaf extract can help with weight loss and lowering of blood sugar (without increasing insulin production) and cholesterol.
- So far, there aren’t known side effects of taking guava as medicine. There’s also not enough information regarding its safety in kids and pregnant or lactating women.
Crushed Garlic (Allium sativum)
Garlic has been a staple part of natural alternative medicine for hundreds of years. Today, its active component, allicin, is compared to a mild form of penicillin, an antibiotic generally used against gram-positive bacteria.
Is allicin effective against the strep throat bacteria?
If I’ll base the answer on a preliminary research published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology, the answer would be “yes.” Just a 15-minute exposure to 35 mg allicin, streptolysin O, a type of protein produced by the Group-A Streptococcus bacteria, was stopped from prematurely destructing red blood cells.
What’s more, fresh garlic extract was able to stop the hemolytic activity of streptolysin at a much lower concentration (1.9 mg allicin).
Aside from garlic’s direct antibacterial effect against the strep throat bacteria, you can also use it to protect yourself from catching common colds, speed up your healing, and significantly lessen the possibility of repeated infection. Common cold is one of the risk factors for strep throat or sore throat.
How to take garlic for strep throat:
- If you’re suffering from a mild case of strep throat, you can simply crush, chop, or chew raw garlic cloves. You could also include it with your meals.
- It’s important to damage garlic by crushing or chopping in order to release allicin, which is responsible for majority of its medicinal effects.
- For garlic supplements, the University of Maryland recommends taking two capsules (200 mg each) three times a day.
- Excessive intake of garlic causes mild side effects, including headaches, digestive discomforts, and hypersensitivity reactions.
- People who are taking blood-thinning medicines, like warfarin and aspirin, should avoid using garlic because it can increase their risk for bleeding.
Andrographis (Andrographis paniculata)
Andrographis, also called as Indian echinacea, is a shrub native to India and Asia. It has been traditionally used in Ayurveda and Chinese folk medicine for cough, inflamed tonsils, sore throat, heart disease prevention, bronchitis, and diabetes. Andrographis was even said to be responsible for stopping the 1919 Indian flu outbreak, which killed millions worldwide.
There’s a reasonably good amount of scientific evidences that suggest that andrographis extract may help prevent or alleviate the symptoms of the common cold. This may be due to one of its active ingredients called andrographolides. Studies have shown to have activities that stimulate the immune system, reduce inflammation, and protect the liver.
This immune boosting capability of andrographis is particularly important when it comes to strep throat. Individuals who have a weak immune system are at a greater risk of contracting this throat infection.
However, it’s still not clear how andrographolides in andrographis might work for common colds. Other studies suggest that other components in this shrub may also be responsible for its ability to stimulate the immune system.
How to take andrographis for strep throat:
- According to the dosage schedules given by WebMD, you can take 3 to 6 grams of andrographis every day to alleviate fever and sore throat due to tonsillitis. For common colds, you can take 4 to 5.6 mg of a standardized andrographis extract combination, plus with Swedish Herbal Institute, Kan Jang Siberian ginseng (400 mg) three times a day.
- In general, andrographis is safe and well-tolerated if taken orally and for a short period.
- People with autoimmune diseases, like lupus, should avoid using andrographis because it might exacerbate their condition.
- Some of the minor side effects of andrographis are fatigue, diarrhea, poor appetite, runny nose, and headache.
- Since the safety and efficacy of andrographis are unknown, be careful when buying products online that contain high amounts of andrographolide.
You may also like our detailed article on how to get rid of swollen lymph nodes in neck.
These were just a few herbal treatments you could use to naturally soothe your throat. Other natural home remedies for strep throat are:
- Gargle with sea salt.
- De-stress, consume the right kinds of foods and supplements, and exercise to strengthen your immune system.
- Suck popsicles, mentholated candies, and lozenges.
- Avoid smoking or exposing yourself to secondhand smoke.
- Drink plenty of warm liquids to prevent throat dryness.
- Use a humidifier to moisten air in your home.
- Do regular hand washing.
Always remember that these above mentioned remedies are not 100% replacements for your doctor’s advice or medical treatments because of insufficient human-based studies that reaffirm their health benefits.
If you or your child is starting to feel the following strep throat symptoms: fever, chills, sore throat, and swollen and painful neck glands, please get a hold of your healthcare provider. It is advisable that you start the strep throat treatments as soonest possible. Also, call your doctor if you don’t feel any improvements in your condition within the next 24 to 48 hours.