It’s that time of year for those yucky minor ailments like stuffed noses, coughs and sore throats. A lot of times they’re inconvenient and make you feel less than your best, but aren’t quite serious enough to justify staying home and snuggling under the covers. It might be tempting to take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug or cough syrup, and they can help. But if you’d like to try something natural first, here are a few choices.
1. You’ve heard that old standby “hot tea with lemon and honey” a million times. It’s the first thing all your friends will suggest when you say you’re feeling achey and congested. There’s a reason for that. It works. The hot beverage relaxes and soothes your throat, the lemon cuts through the mucus and honey adds a soothing coating to your throat—one that has antibacterial properties as well.
2. What kind of tea? Chances are your favorite oolong or Earl Grey will be just fine. But some herbal varieties are reputed to have curative powers. Marshmallow root and slippery elm bark, with their throat-coating mucilage, are said to be effective sore throat remedies. Steep a couple of teaspoons in boiling water for ten minutes before drinking several times a day.
3. Try a natural gargle with simple ingredients you have in your kitchen. A salt water gargle is one of the best. Dissolve a half teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water, gargle for a minute like you would a mouthwash and spit it out. The salt water reduces the swelling and inflammation in your mucus membranes and draws out the excess phlegm they produce. Since it’s that swelling that makes your throat feel sore, you’ll start to feel better. Or gargle with baking soda, an antibacterial that’s effective against minor skin irritations including the inflamed tissue in your throat. Follow the same process for making a salt gargle. Do either 3-4 times a day.
4. Ginger is a great digestive aid, with the ability to quell nausea and queasiness. But it’s also an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial that helps loosen the buildup of mucus clogging up your throat and nose. You can make a tea with fresh ginger root by cutting it into tiny pieces and pouring some boiling water over it. Or just chew on a piece if you don’t mind its bracing taste—and it may remind you of your favorite Thai restaurant, a motivation to kick that bug.
5. Your grandmother was right: some hot chicken soup would do you good! Like hot tea, it’s soothing and relaxing going down, and it contains nutrients in easy-to-digest form that are beneficial if you’re fighting off an illness. You may not feel like eating much if you’re under the weather but you need nutrition when you’ve got the blahs. And just the smell of that chicken soup could make you feel better, especially if it’s your grandmother’s recipe
6. A sore throat is often a scratchy, dry throat and it needs moisture to heal. That can come in many forms, starting with drinking plenty of water or fresh juice. Make sure your house is humidified. You don’t necessarily need an expensive humidifier—just place bowls of waters in the rooms where you hang out. Steam is great for your throat too. Boil a big pot of water and inhale. To avoid getting too close for comfort but to get the maximum benefit of the steam, drape a towel over your head. Or just fill a wash basin with the hottest water you can, stand over it and inhale.
If your sore throat lingers for more than a few days, it could be a sign of a more serious illness and you’ll want to get it checked out. But if it’s merely a mild winter bug, try these old-fashioned cures and you may find yourself feeling in prime condition in no time.