Herbal throat soothers
Naturopath Toni Green shows you how to make easy, effective and economical herbal medicines at home.
Sage (Salvia officinalis)
One of the oldest medicinal plants, sage’s volatile oils soothe mucous membranes and its anti-microbial action counteracts infections. Use an infusion as a mouthwash or gargle for bleeding gums (gingivitis), mouth ulcers, sore throat, laryngitis, or tonsillitis. To make, steep 2 teaspoons of fresh leaves in 1 cup of boiling water for 10 minutes. Drink up to three cups daily. Do not take sage while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Purple coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia)
Echinacea has interferon-like activity that inhibits infection and increases natural killer cell activity, destroying bacteria and viruses. Clinical studies support echinacea’s use for treating colds, influenza-like viral infections and streptococcal throat. To make a decoction, simmer 2 teaspoons of root in 1 cup of water for 15 minutes. Drink up to three cups daily. Or, take one teaspoonful of tincture in warm water three times a day. Both can also be used as a mouthwash or gargle.
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
This has anti-inflammatory, muco-protective and demulcent properties that soothe coughs and protect a dry, raspy throat. Like echinacea, licorice increases interferon production. Licorice extracts also have antibiotic activity against pathogens like staphylococcus, streptococcus and Candida albicans. To make a tea, simmer 2 tablespoons of dried root in 600ml of water, cool, strain, and drink two cups daily.
Myrrh (Commiphora molmol)
Used for over 1,000 years to treat bleeding gums, mouth ulcers and sore throats, myrrh contains tannins which have an astringent, drawing effect on throat tissue. Chinese research has identified antimicrobial substances in myrrh, while Ayurvedic scientists have discovered that it is an anti-inflammatory. For a gargle, steep one teaspoon of powdered herb in 600ml of boiling water. Stand for 20 minutes, strain, and use warm.
Garlic (Allium sativum)
The allicin fraction of garlic is an antimicrobial agent that is effective against throat infections, such as streptococci. Eating garlic regularly also prevents infection by the influenza virus. When garlic is chewed, chopped, or crushed it becomes a powerful antibiotic. For an infusion, chop 6 cloves per cup of warm water and steep four hours. For a tincture, soak one cup of crushed garlic cloves in one litre of brandy or vodka. Shake daily for two weeks, strain and bottle. At the first sign of a sore throat, take one teaspoon in warm water three times daily.
D-I-Y: Make your own cough drops
Horehound reduces swelling of inflamed throat tissue. It also thins mucus, making it easier for you to clear it from your throat.
1 cup horehound, mint or sage leaves
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons honey
Place herbs and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Cool and strain, squeezing down well to extract liquid.
Add sugar and honey and boil again, stirring with a wooden spoon. Test for hardness by dropping a spoonful of mixture into iced water. If it’s hard enough to crack when you bite it, remove pan from heat.
Lightly butter an ovenproof tray and pour in the mixture. Score the surface when it is cool and firm, so it can be snapped into pieces when cold. Sift caster sugar over pieces to stop them sticking. Store in an airtight container.