Natural Foods Merchandiser

Remedies for sore throats easy to swallow

It usually happens like this: You wake up one morning with that itchy feeling in your throat that you just know will become a sore—and annoying—throat by the end of the day. It means that your day of talking to customers is more nightmare than joy.

But, of course, there are numerous items on your shelves ready for you—and your customers—to use in the quest to quiet that painful occurrence. Some of them, such as slippery elm, are well-known and are probably winter sales darlings. However, there are many more lesser-known remedies waiting to be discovered.

"I drink two cups of chamomile tea a day" for its immune-boosting properties, says Paul Schulick, herbal researcher and co-founder of Brattleboro, Vt.-based New Chapter. "And it's amazingly soothing for sore throats."

Christopher Deatherage, N.D., owner of Eva, Mo.,-based Deatherage Health Products, recommends balm of Gilead, which he says has fallen out of common use, as an excellent treatment for sore throats. "It is so effective for serious pharyngitis—once a person's got the full-blown infection, [the balm] will immediately start turning it around and immediately start to soothe [the throat] and take away the pain," he says. "You take one teaspoon every hour [dissolved] in water—it does have a foul taste—then one teaspoon every two hours" after finding relief from the pain.

Another less common remedy is licorice. "Licorice is another amazing herb. I use that whenever there's a throat issue," Schulick says. "There's more traditional Chinese medical formulas that have licorice than any other botanical. And I think it's for good reason. Not only does it make everything else work better, but it also has a profound antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory effect." In fact, Schulick says for soothing a sore throat, licorice and slippery elm "is really the ultimate combination."

Deatherage likes to turn to the beehive for help. "Propolis is great—especially in the whole form. Just take a chunk of it and chew it, and it's extremely soothing," he says. "Propolis has been shown not only by tradition but by good studies to be very antibacterial."

New Chapter also puts out a throat defense product made from medicinal mushroom extracts. "We know that [for] our immunological response to be optimal, [it] must be able to deal with agents that are challenging to our immune system … . But our claim is that this is clearly a product that enhances immunity, particularly for upper respiratory issues," Schulick says. "Particularly, Ganoderma lucidum [red reishi] has been highly regarded as being the mushroom of immortality, and for thousands of years was considered to be the ultimate of all traditional Chinese medicines in terms of its ability to enhance the vital energies.


An old standby is another of Deatherage's favorites. "Echinacea taken—properly prepared—in the beginning of sore throat, is, most of the time, very, very effective," he says. He recommends 1 teaspoon of high-quality echinacea (which may be mixed with goldenseal) every hour when symptoms first appear, then 1 teaspoon every two hours until the throat is no longer sore.

When treating strep throat, Deatherage begins by cautioning that the disease might not be "the big bugaboo" everybody thinks it is. "People think, 'Oh my goodness. I've got strep. I've got to get antibiotics.' But that's not necessarily so. The acute strep pharyngitis, where you get 104 temperature, chills and extremely swollen throat, that's a different thing altogether. But a lot of people carry strep," he says. "One of the best things for it is silver. Colloidal silver works really, really well for streptococci."

Schulick and Deatherage both recommend that keeping up on immune-boosting supplements and herbs during the winter months is a great way to keep throat troubles at bay. "Probiotics have a significant effect. Not only living probiotics, but the dead cells have often been found to have more immunological activity than the living cells," Schulick says. Deatherage is a big fan of extra doses of vitamins A and C, as well as olive extract to keep the immune system working well. When that doesn't prove quite enough, he says zinc lozenges "are often a powerful thing to have with you, and at the first tickle or sign of infection, start using one every couple of hours."

And, to help support general mouth and throat health, Deatherage recommends using a nasal xylitol wash or the traditional practice of nasal rinsing. "Neti wash and saline washes are not only powerful prophylactically, but you can use them as treatment."

Plant credentials
German chamomile (Chamomilla recutita)
According to the American Botanical Council, German chamomile has been approved in the Commission E monographs for use in "inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract," among many other uses. The German government license for chamomile tea allows for its use in "gastrointestinal complaints and irritation of the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat and of the upper respiratory tract."

Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
ABC notes that licorice root has been approved in the Commission E monographs and the British Herbal Compendium for soothing and healing the gastrointestinal tract. The World Health Organization recognizes, among other uses, that licorice has been used in traditional medicines as a throat soother or demulcent.

Sage (Salvia officinalis)
The European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy and the Commission E monographs both approve of sage use for inflammation of the throat, and the German government license for the plant also includes sore throats.

Marshmallow leaf (Althaea officinalis)
According to ABC, the first recorded therapeutic use of marshmallow was in the ninth century BCE. It has been approved by the Commission E monographs and given a German license for its role in helping soothe the irritated membranes of the mouth and throat.

Balm of Gilead (Populus candicans)
The buds of poplar trees—of which 35 species grow in North America—are used to make the balm. According to ABC, the Commission E monographs approve of balm of Gilead use on skin injuries, sunburn, frostbite and external hemorrhoids. Research has also shown that it relieves laryngitis.

Slippery elm (Ulmus fulva)
The Physician's Desk Reference lists slippery elm as a remedy for "sore throat, stomach inflammation, wounds and burns." The United States Pharmacopoeia listed slippery elm as a remedy for sore throats until 1960.


Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVII/number 12/p. 30, 34

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