Natural remedies, including honey, salt water, and herbs, may help manage sore throat symptoms. But if it doesn’t improve, you may need medical care or over-the-counter (OTC) medications.
A sore throat typically causes pain, itchiness, or irritation. The pain may get worse when you swallow, making it difficult to consume foods and liquids.
Even if a sore throat isn’t serious enough for a trip to the doctor, it’s still painful and may prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. At-home remedies can help soothe pain and irritation.
Generally speaking, the remedies discussed below may help ease a mild or typical sore throat. If you have a severe sore throat, particularly if it’s getting worse or has lasted several days, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with a doctor to discuss your symptoms.
The following remedies may help ease symptoms of a sore throat.
According to a 2021 research review, honey is just as effective as the cough suppressant dextromethorphan at taming coughs in children. Dextromethorphan is an active ingredient in products such as Robitussin and Delsym.
A 2021 literature review examined the effect of honey on acute upper respiratory tract infections. The researchers concluded that honey was more effective at relieving symptoms than other treatments, including antibiotics and the antihistamine diphenhydramine.
2. Saltwater gargle
Gargling with warm salt water can help soothe a sore throat and break down secretions. It may also help reduce bacteria in the throat.
Make a saltwater solution by adding half a teaspoon of salt to a full glass of warm water. Gargle with it to help reduce swelling and keep the throat clear.
According to the American Osteopathic Association, people with a sore throat should perform a saltwater gargle at least once an hour.
3. Baking soda gargle
While the saltwater gargle is more commonly used, gargling with a baking soda-saltwater mixture can also help relieve a sore throat. This oral solution can reduce bacteria and prevent the growth of fungi.
- 1 cup warm water
- 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1/8 teaspoon of salt
The NCI suggests using the rinse three or four times daily and then rinsing your mouth with plain water.
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4. Chamomile tea
Naturally soothing chamomile tea has long been used for medicinal purposes, including treating a sore throat. It has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and astringent properties.
According to a
Drinking chamomile tea may offer the same benefit. It may also stimulate the immune system to help your body treat the infection that caused your sore throat.
Peppermint contains the compound menthol, which helps thin mucus and calm sore throats and coughs.
While many peppermint teas are available, you can also make your own. Place some dried peppermint leaves in boiled water and let the mixture sit for a few minutes. After a few minutes have passed, strain the tea and allow it to cool slightly.
Diluted peppermint oil sprays may also relieve sore throats. To make a spray, mix a few drops of food-grade peppermint oil with 1 ounce of plant-based oil, such as:
If you want to make a peppermint oil spray, use peppermint oil designated as food grade and safe for internal use.
Never ingest essential oils or apply them to the skin without first mixing them with plant-based oil. When used topically, as in aromatherapy, these plant-based oils are known as carrier oils.
The herb fenugreek is available in many forms. You can eat fenugreek seeds, apply fenugreek oil to the skin, or drink fenugreek tea. Fenugreek tea is a common remedy for sore throats.
A 2018 literature review demonstrates the healing powers of fenugreek. Among other benefits, it may help:
- relieve pain, including menstrual cramps
- reduce bacteria that cause irritation or inflammation
- serve as an effective antifungal
- promote lactation
On herbal remedies
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t monitor herbs and supplements for quality or safety.
Supplements may differ from batch to batch. Lack of regulation means that different bottles may contain different medicinal doses. Consider choosing a supplement that has been certified by a third party.
7. Marshmallow root
Marshmallow root, a type of herb, contains mucilage, a mucus-like substance that coats and soothes a sore throat. A 2019 literature review notes that marshmallow root can be helpful for irritations of the respiratory tract, which may include a sore throat.
Marshmallow root is available:
- as an herbal tea
- as a tincture
- dried and in capsule form
Remember that marshmallow products, like those used in your favorite desserts, don’t typically contain marshmallow root.
8. Licorice root
Licorice root has long been used to treat sore throats.
Using licorice root lozenges or as a gargle before surgery may help reduce sore throat following surgery, according to the
Though the organization notes that licorice root remedies may not be safe for people who are pregnant or nursing.
9. Slippery elm
Like marshmallow root, slippery elm also contains mucilage. When mixed with water, slippery elm forms a slick gel that coats and soothes the throat.
To use slippery elm, pour boiling water over powdered bark, stir it, and drink. You may also find that slippery elm lozenges help.
Slippery elm is a traditional remedy for sore throat, but more research on its effectiveness is still needed.
Garlic has natural antibacterial properties as well. It contains allicin, a compound known for its ability to fight off viral infections, according to a
Taking garlic supplements daily can help prevent and treat upper respiratory tract infections, according to a 2018 article. These same respiratory tract infections may potentially cause a sore throat.
Adding fresh garlic to your diet is one way of taking advantage of its antimicrobial properties. Try sucking on or chewing a garlic clove. You may want to brush your teeth afterward to protect them from enzymes and improve your breath.
11. Cayenne pepper or hot sauce
Often used as a pain reliever, cayenne pepper contains capsaicin, a natural compound known for blocking pain receptors.
Anecdotal evidence suggests ingesting cayenne mixed with warm water and honey can help with sore throat pain, but this hasn’t been proven scientifically.
Start with a light sprinkle of cayenne or a few drops of hot sauce, as both can be very hot. Keep in mind that an initial burning sensation is common.
You should avoid cayenne if you have open sores in your mouth.
12. Broth or soup
Chicken soup is supposed to be a tried-and-true remedy for respiratory and throat conditions. You’ve probably heard many anecdotes about this remedy, but an older study supports its use.
The activity of various immune cells can contribute to inflammation, including in a sore throat. A
The researchers found that chicken soup inhibited the migration of these cells in a dose-dependent manner. The researchers also noted that specific brands of chicken soup varied in their inhibitory activity.
13. Steam or humidity
Dry air can further irritate a sore throat. Adding some additional moisture can help. For example, inhaling steam can help to ease a sore throat.
To do this, add just-boiled water to a bowl. Drape a towel over your head and breathe normally, allowing the steam to enter through your mouth and nose. Do this for 10 to 15 minutes. You may need to add more just-boiled water to the bowl to keep it steamy.
Another option is to turn your shower hot and shut the bathroom door. Once the bathroom steams up, you can inhale the warm, humid air.
You can also add moisture to the air using a humidifier. However, a 2017 literature review noted that heated, humidified air delivered by a humidifying device didn’t show any benefits or harms for treating the common cold.
Resting up may be just what you need. If you feel a sore throat coming on, try to take it easy and ensure you’re getting enough sleep.
It may also be a good idea to rest your voice as well. Actions such as talking loudly, singing, or shouting may further irritate your already tender throat.
Sore throats in infants and young children are not fun, but the good news is that they rarely signal a medical emergency on their own. Still, infants and children may require different treatments than adults.
You can try the following tips:
- Add a cool-mist humidifier to your child’s room. Moisture in the air can help relieve sore throat pain.
- Keep children hydrated by encouraging them to drink water frequently. Avoid juices or ice pops with lots of citrus since they’re acidic and may cause irritation.
- Children under 5 years should not be given hard lozenges or anything else that might pose a choking risk. Use caution when giving lozenges to elementary-school-aged children.
- Do not give honey to children younger than 1, as this can cause infant botulism.
Several OTC treatments may help if natural remedies aren’t cutting it. They include:
- acetaminophen (Tylenol), which is safe to give to young children
- ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), which also comes in formulations for children
- throat lozenges and sore throat pops, which are an alternative to throat lozenges for younger children
- powders that you stir into warm water, such as those made by Theraflu
- throat numbing sprays, which may contain the compound phenol
- eucalyptus, which you’ll likely find in natural cough syrups and throat lozenges
If you have a sore throat, exposure to certain foods or environmental factors can worsen your symptoms. While you’re recovering, try to avoid the following things:
- dry air
- smoking or secondhand smoke
- air pollution
- potential allergens such as pollen, mold, or pet dander
- chemical fumes, such as those from household cleaners
- acidic foods or drinks, such as citrus, tomatoes, or carbonated beverages
- foods that are dry or rough, such as pretzels, chips, or popcorn
- spicy foods
Here are some additional questions you may have regarding sore throats.
What is the cause of a sore throat?
Sore throat causes can include viruses, such as those that cause colds, the flu, and COVID-19. Bacteria, specifically those that cause strep throat, can cause a sore throat too.
Allergies to substances such as pollen, mold, and pet dander are another possible cause. So are environmental irritants, such as secondhand smoke, air pollution, or chemical fumes.
According to the
How long does a sore throat last?
The amount of time a sore throat lasts can depend on what’s causing it. Many sore throats go away on their own within 1 week.
It’s important to talk with a doctor if your sore throat doesn’t improve after 1 week or if it worsens, despite home or OTC remedies.
How do I fight off an impending sore throat?
It’s not always possible to prevent an impending sore throat. However, you try resting up and limiting your exposure to things that may further irritate your throat. Also, try reducing your stress levels, as high stress can negatively affect your immune system.
Sipping on warm liquids and staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water can help too. A humidifier can also add moisture to dry air.
How do I prevent a sore throat?
To prevent sore throat, you may want to avoid close contact with people with infectious illnesses such as the flu or strep throat. Washing your hands frequently may also help.
You may decide to avoid spicy or acidic foods, which can irritate the throat. Also, consider avoiding chemicals or smoke, as the fumes could cause inflammation.
Trying out some of these natural remedies may help you feel better and save a trip to the doctor’s office.
To feel your best, make sure you also drink lots of fluids and get plenty of rest. See a doctor if your sore throat doesn’t get better or worsens, despite using home or OTC remedies.