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Natural Remedies for a Sore Throat
Sore throat is one of the most common diseases that afflict people around the world; it is usually caused by a virus or bacteria and is often accompanied by nasal congestion, fever and other symptoms of the common cold. A sore throat can also be caused or aggravated by smoking, dry heat or allergic reactions. A sore throat is rarely a reason for a trip to the doctor; there are some steps you can take on your own to ease your discomfort.
If you smoke, stop. There are a thousand good reasons to quit smoking now; the fact that cigarette smoke is extremely irritating to the throat lining is one of them. Since dry heat is another throat irritant, you can run a cool mist or humidifier in your bedroom while you sleep. The added moisture in the air will help prevent your throat lining from getting too dry while you sleep. If it is winter and you are hot in your house, you can put a bowl of water over the radiator or heating in your bedroom; this will have about the same effect as a moisturizer.
Throw away your old toothbrush and use a new one; bacteria tend to collect on the bristles, and can enter your system through soft areas in your gums. It is generally good practice to change your toothbrush regularly.
One of the easiest ways to provide quick relief for a sore throat is to gargle with salt water. Salt can act as an antiseptic, and it draws water from the mucous membranes in your throat; the water helps clear mucus. Dissolve a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and gargle, at least four times a day. Sore throat lozenges, which you can buy at most convenience stores, also serve to increase saliva production and lubricate the throat. However, be careful giving throat lozenges to small children; they can suffocate them.
In general, drink plenty of fluids. Some people prefer cold liquids, or even sucking on ice cubes or popsicles; others prefer hot drinks like tea or plain hot water. There seems to be wide disagreement about whether hot liquids or cold liquids are better for a sore throat; bottom line is, keep your throat irrigated, and drink whatever feels soothing!
One interesting mixture to soothe a sore throat, recommended by some, is to add one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, a pinch of cayenne pepper, the juice of a quarter of a lemon and a teaspoon of honey to a cup of warm water. Drink one cup four times a day. The prospect of downing such a potent cocktail can be enough to make one take proper preventative measures and avoid succumbing to a sore throat. Honey, however, has antibacterial properties and has long been used to treat sore throats; honey also draws water from inflamed tissues in your throat, reducing swelling. Add several tablespoons of honey to a glass of hot herbal tea or hot water, or make hot lemonade with honey by adding several tablespoons to hot water mixed with the juice of half a lemon.
Other common foods that can ease a sore throat include Vitamin C (drink orange juice or another citrus drink); Vitamin C will strengthen your immune system and help fight infection. Also, dried garlic has antibacterial and antiseptic properties; you can add extra garlic to your food as a seasoning.
Various other natural products have been shown to help. Slippery Elm is a tree common to eastern North America; the inner bark of this tree contains mucilage, a gel that swells when mixed with water. This mucilage was traditionally used as a cure for sore throat; it is believed that it reduces throat irritation. It is sold in capsule form, and is also found in various herbal teas. Check with your local health food store.
Licorice root has also long been used as a remedy for sore throat; it is a common ingredient in various herbal teas. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, this root has been used to help treat a variety of ailments including stomach ulcers, ulcers and viral infections. You should not consume licorice root in large quantities, however, as it can cause high blood pressure and lower your body’s potassium level. Marshmallow root has also been used for centuries to treat sore throats; add one tablespoon of dried marshmallow root to a cup of boiling water and let it soak for 30 minutes before straining. Like slippery elm, marshmallow contains mucilage.
A sore throat should only last a few days; if the condition persists, you may want to see a doctor. And be sure to see a doctor if you have severe throat pain or difficulty swallowing; blood in your saliva or mucus; tender or swollen lymph nodes in your neck; white or yellow spots in the back of your throat; pus in your throat; or other unusual symptoms.
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