Whether it is a common cold, runny nose or sore throat, one thing we know for sure when we get sick is that our immune system is struggling. When our immune system is in tip-top shape, our body can fight off viruses with much more grace.
While tending to the immune system is a full-time job, there are some simple things we can do to keep it functioning properly. These natural remedies are not just sore throat remedies; they help promote the immune system as a whole so it can work to naturally heal the body.
If you are dealing with a sore throat, then consider trying the following immune-boosting solutions. While the most effective treatment will be based on the cause, these remedies could help.
1. Good ol’ salt water
When you were a kid, someone probably advised you to gargle salt water when your throat was sore. This is actually some rather good advice. Putting aside for a moment whatever exactly caused your throat to become sore, once it starts hurting, you can bet that there is inflammation. A sore throat is really the physical sensation of pain caused by inflamed mucous membranes in the throat.
Gargling salt water actually helps decrease the inflammation, helping decrease the pain. According to Myoclonic (1), this does two things. First, gargling a saltwater solution will help draw out excess fluid in an inflamed throat, easing pain.
Additionally, it can help remove mucus where allergens, bacteria and fungi might be forming in the throat. To do this, simply get high-quality sea salt that is unrefined and unheated. Next, add ½ teaspoon to 8 ounces of water, dissolve, then gargle.
For an extra boost, try adding birch xylitol, which has been shown to kill off bacterial biofilm, a mucus film in which bacteria live. (2) Simply add a teaspoon to your gargling solution.
2. Probiotics to the rescue
Some sore throats are caused by bacteria. (3) If this is the case, antibiotics can help. However, I am not a fan of antibiotics except for in extreme cases. For a bacterially-caused sore throat, you might find major relief or quicker healing by consuming copious amounts of probiotics.
The best in my experience are coconut kefir and the juice from cultured vegetables. While raw dairy kefir can be a great option, dairy can be mucus-forming and might not be the best for a sore throat. It’s generally recommended to skip dairy when experiencing a sore throat. Coconut kefir is dairy-free, loaded with beneficial bacteria and hydrating.
3. Try an antiviral diet
As I just mentioned, if a sore throat is viral, then antibiotics won’t help. However, there are dietary measures we can take when treating a virus. A sore throat can be caused by either bacteria or a virus. (4) In either case, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to try removing certain foods that feed bacteria and viruses. The main food source for both is sugar.
In addition to removing all forms of sugar (fruit included), you would also want to look at other common allergens such as gluten, corn, soy, eggs, nuts and seeds. If you are following a Paleo diet already, this shouldn’t be much of a problem. Just skip the nuts and eggs and any butter, and opt for extra servings of bone broth, veggie soups and fermented foods for the next few days.
4. Don’t forget ACV
Raw apple cider vinegar has been known to remedy just about everything from sore throats and acne to diabetes. (5) The reason it is so effective is because it provides electrolytes that hydrate, probiotics and has antibacterial properties. (6) Apple cider vinegar is acidic and can burn your throat if taken directly, so your best option is to dilute it with some water. Better yet, warm up the water, which will be soothing on the throat and help dispel mucus.
5. Try a mucilage
Certain foods and herbs create a mucilage effect when soaked in water. Examples are chia, flax, marshmallow root and licorice root. Making a tea out of flax, marshmallow and licorice will not only provide a soothingly warm and tasty drink, it will also provide anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. (7)
6. Herbs that heal
While an antiviral diet is helpful in curing a sore throat, you can upgrade it to the next level by actively adding in some medicinal herbs. Because there are so many different healing herbs to recommend, I will name a few and the properties you want to look for.
For instance, warming herbs such as ginger, cinnamon, clove and cayenne are all great for sore throats. These herbs are known to be anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial. (8) Make yourself a super cocktail by mixing and matching a few of these. Try a hot tea made with ginger, cinnamon and clove.
7. Quiet time
Sleep and rest are the most restorative acts we can perform, no matter what ails us. I am including this last, but it is the most important factor of all! While remedying your sore throat, be sure to take plenty of time to relax.
Studies show that sleep puts the body in homeostasis or “self-repair.” (9) The best way to ensure a bolstered immune system that will fight off viruses and bacteria is to get the best sleep you can. Check out my top sleep recommendations for more tips.
(Related: 6 Natural Hangover Cures That Work)