Natural Home Remedies for Sore Throat

Sore throats are one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor and they tend to affect children the most. A sore throat is usually considered a minor complaint until you have one and every swallow induces pain—pain that may seem unbearable. Unfortunately, the only option is to treat the symptoms and rest until you recover. Fortunately, there are many natural remedies that can soothe a sore throat and there’s a good chance you already have many of them in your home.

Common Sore Throat Causes

There are many potential causes of a sore throat, viruses are the most common. In fact, viruses account for about 95% of sore throats in both adults and children under the age of 5. Other common causes of a sore throat include:

  • Allergies
  • Dry air
  • Pollution
  • Smoking
  • Exposure to people with a sore throat
  • Cold
  • Flu
  • Strep throat (bacterial)
  • Tonsillitis
  • Weak immune system
  • Acid reflux

Common Sore Throat Symptoms

Isn’t a sore throat a symptom itself? Yes, but as you probably already know, not all sore throats are the same and some are more severe than others. You might have one that only makes your voice a little hoarse, or it might be a serious impediment to your ability to breathe comfortably. Some of the most common symptoms of a sore throat are:

  • Pain when swallowing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dry and itchy throat
  • Swollen glands around the neck and throat
  • Hoarse voice

A sore throat is also a first symptom of the common cold and flu, but you might have other symptoms such as fever, runny nose, congestion, headache, abdominal pain, or vomiting. Consult your trusted healthcare provider if your sore throat lasts longer than one week.

Best Home Remedies for Sore Throat

1. Drink Warm Fluids

If you have a cold, make sure you’re taking in plenty of fluids. Nothing feels better than warm tea and thin soup when you’re sick. When your throat is raw and inflamed, drinking warm beverages keeps your throat moist and comfortable. Black tea might be the obvious choice, but give green or oolong tea a chance if Earl Grey just isn’t your, well, cup of tea.

2. Gargle Salt Water

For fast relief from sore throat pain, gargle 8 ounces of warm water with half a teaspoon of salt. You may have heard of this practice before and dismissed it as an old wives’ tale, but it does work and many people swear by it.

3. Use a Humidifier

If there’s anything that can make a sore throat even worse, it’s harsh, dry air. Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air around you. In one study, using a humidifier reduced the severity of sore throat pain. If you’re experiencing other symptoms like upper respiratory congestion, try adding an essential oil like eucalyptus oil to the humidifier to loosen and help expel excess mucus.

4. Honey and Black Seed Oil

Honey may not be suitable for vegans, and it’s dangerous for children under the age of one. However, honey does offer many benefits. Add a teaspoon of honey to your tea, or take a spoonful by mouth to sooth your sore throat. As an added bonus, research indicates that honey significantly improves cough symptoms in children.

You can spike your honey with therapeutic spice by adding 2-3 drops of black cumin seed oil (also called black seed oil) to your honey. Like herbal teas, black cumin seed oil is an anti-inflammatory and can help soothe the pain.

5. Cold Food

Drinking or eating something cold soothes an irritated throat almost immediately. Instead of ice cream or ice pops, opt for whole fruit sorbet or make your own fruit pops to soothe the irritation.

6. Herbal Tea

Many varieties of herbal tea are effective at soothing a sore throat. Chamomile, lavender, echinacea, sage, ginger, peppermint, and licorice root tea all have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Peppermint, in particular, relieves upper respiratory congestion by improving lung function and the ability to breathe through your nose. If you need to add a little sweetener, stir a teaspoon of honey or elderberry into your herbal tea.

7. Essential Oils: Lavender, Eucalyptus, and Myrrh

Myrrh and eucalyptus are effective for soothing a sore throat but don’t take them as a tea. Instead, inhale the vapors by using a diffuser or humidifier. You can also gargle with myrrh like a mouthwash.

Apply one or two drops of lavender oil, specifically and exclusively from the Lavandula angustifolia species, to the back of your tongue or throat, to relieve the pain from a dry, scratchy throat. The taste isn’t overwhelming and the only side effect is fresh floral-smelling breath.

8. Spices: Cayenne, Turmeric, Ginger, and Clove

Cayenne might seem counterintuitive for a sore throat but, after the burn, it provides relief by numbing the pain. To make, add one tablespoon of cayenne pepper to a quarter cup of warm water. Mix in the cayenne completely, take a mouthful, tilt your head back, and gargle. If you can’t handle a lot of spice, this might not be the best solution.

Turmeric and ginger both have long histories as therapeutic plants. Drinking ginger juice alleviates sore throat pain. You can also make a tea with fresh ginger. Turmeric contains curcumin, which is very soothing. You can make a turmeric gargle to soothe a sore throat, just like cayenne, but without the sting.

Make a clove tea, clove calms inflammation and eases the discomfort associated with a sore throat.

9. Propolis

Research indicates that propolis offers multiple health benefits, especially for those suffering from an upper respiratory infection. If you’ve never heard of it, propolis is made of plant material, beeswax, and, well, bee saliva. It is useful against most types of harmful organisms, even the flu virus. Take it by adding 5 drops of propolis to a teaspoon of water.

10. Honey and Elderberry

Honey with elderberry is my favorite combination. Research suggests that elderberry reduces the severity of the common cold and flu symptoms and may shorten the duration of the illness. Add a little elderberry syrup to your honey and stir into your tea or simply take it by mouth. If you use fresh elderberries, make sure to cook them thoroughly; raw elderberries are not safe to eat.

How to Prevent a Sore Throat

The best strategy is to avoid catching a sore throat in the first place. Reduce your chances by washing your hands and limiting your exposure to sick people. Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke, which may irritate your throat. Strengthen your immune system by eating cruciferous vegetables and carotenoid-rich tomatoes. For more tips, check out our How to Stay Healthy During the Winter article.

There are, of course, many types of lozenges, sprays, gargles, and, recently, pain strips but be careful with OTC medicine as it may have very real side effects. Conversely, most of the remedies described in this article do not have unpleasant side effects.

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Spices That Heal: Pumpkin Spice

Spices are so revered by humans that travelers ventured into the great unknown to seek out the healing and culinary delight they offered. Luckily, all you have to do is venture to your cupboard to unlock the healing potential of culinary herbs and spices. Here’s a closer look at the wonders of Pumpkin Spice.

— Tieraona Low Dog, M.D

It’s that time of year again. The sun sets a little earlier, we start to dress with more layers, and pumpkin spice fans rejoice as their favorite fall flavor begins to pop up everywhere from coffee shops to the supermarkets. Why do we love it so much? Maybe it’s because the comforting, spicy aroma and rich harmony of flavors can instantly turn an everyday latte into a seasonal celebration.

There’s nothing quite like the warmth of holding that pumpkin spice cup, and most of us instinctively know that a warm soothing beverage is an act of self-care. But there are some other wellness benefits in that special spicy concoction, too. In fact, when we break down the ingredients of pumpkin spice flavoring, each component has its own healing powers, aromatherapy benefits, and medicinal properties.

Most recipes for pumpkin spice call for cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. Let’s take a look at the wellness attributes and medicinal properties of each one.

 

Cinnamon

Delicious and popular year-round, cinnamon is derived from the bark of trees in the Cinnamomum genus. Cinnamon is packed with antioxidants and can help the body maintain healthy blood sugar levels, which reduces carbohydrate cravings, an important component to supporting a healthy weight. And cinnamon is also heart healthy. A review in the Annals of Family Medicine concluded that based upon clinical research, cinnamon improves fasting blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

 

Ginger

One of my personal favorite remedies for calming an upset stomach, quelling nausea, fighting off a cold, easing muscle aches and pains, and maintaining healthy blood sugar.  This warming rhizome adds an unmistakable zing and brightness in pumpkin spice. Even the aroma of ginger is stimulating and refreshing.

 

Nutmeg

It’s used in lots of cookie and coffee drink recipes, but did you know nutmeg can also help relieve pain, quell indigestion, boost cognitive function, and strengthen your immune system? A pinch of nutmeg is an excellent addition to your cup if you’re feeling a little under the weather.

 

Allspice

Another hallmark aroma of fall and the holiday seasons is allspice, the only spice that grows just in the Western hemisphere. These little berries are a wonderful digestive aid, helping to reduce bloating, gas and ease stomach cramps. Allspice is the aroma found in many men’s toiletries (think Old Spice).

 

Cloves

The scent of cloves is strong, but pumpkin spice would not be pumpkin spice without it. Cloves are actually the unopened pink flower buds of the evergreen clove tree that turn brown upon drying. “Clove” is derived from the Latin word clavus, which means nail, pretty appropriate. From reducing inflammation to stimulating digestion, to using clove bud oil topically for a toothache, cloves are loaded with health benefits.

If you’re a fan of pumpkin spice and want to reap the benefits, I recommend trying your hand at making your own spice blend so you can control the ingredients and choose organic components. Or look at your natural foods store for seasonal blends with organic, sustainably harvested spices.

 

Pumpkin Spice

2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cloves

Mix together in a small bowl and put in a jar with tight fitting lid.

Add a teaspoon to your drip coffee maker. Mix 1 tbsp of sugar and ½ teaspoon of pumpkin spice and sprinkle over popcorn. Heat one quart of organic apple juice and add 1 tsp pumpkin spice. There are so many ways to use these wondrous spices. Mmmm, there’s nothing quite like it in fall.

Resource: Allen RW, et al. Ann Fam Med 2013 Sep-Oct;11(5):452-9.

Dietary Intake of Cinnamon Associated with Better Working Memory

  • Cinnamon (Cinnamomum spp., Lauraceae)
  • Working Memory
  • Prediabetes

People with diabetes or prediabetes have a higher risk for cognitive impairment. Evidence from experimental, clinical, and epidemiological studies indicates that consumption of culinary herbs and spices such as cinnamon (Cinnamomum spp., Lauraceae) bark, turmeric (Curcuma longa, Zingiberaceae) rhizome, and ginger (Zingiber officinale, Zingiberaceae) rhizome may improve working memory (WM). The authors hypothesize that culinary herb or spice usage is associated with improved WM in people with age-related and prediabetic cognitive impairment. The authors tested this hypothesis in an epidemiological study of patients with untreated, newly diagnosed prediabetes.

Patients (n = 99; aged ≥ 60 years) with a body mass index (BMI) of 18.5-30 kg/m2 (non-obese) and fasting glucose between 100-125 mg/dL (prediabetic) were recruited from a health checkup program at Tri-Service General Hospital, National Defense Medical Center; Taipei City, Taiwan. Included patients had no history of diabetes medication usage, severe chronic disease, recent acute illness, or hospitalization in the 2 months preceding the study. Excluded patients had a history of heavy drinking in the preceding 2 weeks, consumed ginseng (Panax spp., Araliaceae) root or garlic (Allium sativum, Amaryllidaceae) cloves, or had kidney impairment.

After an overnight fast, patients were assessed using the mini-mental state examination (MMSE) and a modified WM test. Physical evaluations included BMI, body fat composition, fasting glucose, and homeostatic model assessment for insulin resistance (HOMA-IR). Trained dieticians administered 2 questionnaires. One queried patients regarding their clinical history, medicine usage, sociodemographic characteristics, and personal behaviors including physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption, and betel nut (Areca catechu, Arecaceae) chewing. The second was a 32-item semiquantitative food frequency questionnaire (SFFQ) to evaluate dietary intake 1 year prior to study initiation, with 5 additional questions on culinary herb and spice usage. The intake frequency of culinary herbs and spices was assessed on a 7-point scale ranging from “never” to “6 or more times per day.” Linear regression analysis was used to calculate the effect of variables on WM.

Six patients were excluded from the analysis; 4 did not fast, and 2 reported implausible dietary intake data. The cohort studied was composed of 47 men and 46 women with mean ages of 72.1 and 74.3 years, respectively.

The crude analysis indicated that cinnamon (but not ginger or turmeric) consumption had a significant effect on WM (P < 0.05). Increased education (number of years) and a higher MMSE score also were positively associated with WM (P < 0.01 and P < 0.05, respectively), while increased total fat mass (kg) was negatively associated with WM (P < 0.05). After adjustment for age and sex, only cinnamon use (P < 0.05), education (P < 0.01), and MMSE (P < 0.01) remained significant. When all variables were adjusted, cinnamon users still had significantly better WM than non-users (P < 0.05). Patients who consumed dietary cinnamon had significantly less frequent physical activity (P = 0.04), consumed more fresh ginger (P = 0.02), consumed more ginger in cooking (P = 0.04), and had better WM (P < 0.001) compared to patients who did not consume cinnamon. Although cinnamon users also more commonly consumed ginger, no synergistic effect on WM was detected.

The authors state, “Because we are reporting [cinnamon] usage in usual home food preparation, we are talking about no more than a gram or so per day, generally available and affordable.” They do not report the criteria used to differentiate cinnamon users (n = 15) and non-users (n = 78).

The authors conclude that cinnamon intake is associated with better WM in patients with untreated prediabetes, and this correlation is not accounted for by education, dietary quality, or insulin resistance. According to the authors, studies that evaluate acute cinnamon intake have not shown an association between WM and cinnamon intake; they hypothesize that the effect on WM may be dependent on the duration of exposure. Limitations of the study include (1) the criteria used to define cinnamon users and non-users was not reported, (2) cinnamon (and other herbs and spices) intake calculations were based on subjective recall of dietary habits over the past year, (3) neither the preparation form nor the quality of cinnamon consumed could be evaluated, and (4) since the study was conducted in a Taiwanese population, the results may not be transferable to other populations with Western-style diets. The results of this epidemiological study suggest that the effects of chronic cinnamon consumption on WM bear further research. The authors also recommend investigation of the additive or synergistic effect of culinary herb and spice consumption.

Wahlqvist ML, Lee MS, Lee JT, et al. Cinnamon users with prediabetes have a better fasting working memory: a cross-sectional function study. Nutr Res. 2016;36(4):305-310.

The spice of life: Cinnamon cools your stomach — ScienceDaily

cinnamon-stick-powder-130909Adding cinnamon to your diet can cool your body by up to two degrees, according to research. And the spice may also contribute to a general improvement in overall health, say authors of a new report.

Source: The spice of life: Cinnamon cools your stomach — ScienceDaily

Anti-Cancer Properties of Turmeric and How to Increase Curcumin Absorption

Turmeric (scientific name Curcuma longa) belongs to the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. This perennial plant has a bright yellow rhizomatous root covered with a tan-colored skin. Turmeric is a popular spice that is widely used in the cuisines of the Middle East, Southeast Asian and North African regions. Turmeric is a very versatile herb that is also one of the key ingredients in spice blends for curries and it augments the flavor of soups, salads, meats, stir-fries and other cuisines.

The active elements in turmeric are called curcuminoids, which offer many health benefits. The particular compound called curcumin is known to be the most potent, therapeutically very powerful and responsible for turmeric’s cancer-killing attributes. This compound facilitates detoxification as well as rejuvenation of the liver, diminishes the negative consequences of excessive iron in the body.

In addition, curcumin augments the body’s antioxidant ability, reinforces the brain cells, enhances cognitive functioning and lessens the risks of developing Alzheimer’s disease as well as treats the condition. This compound also possesses anti-inflammatory properties, lessens the chances of developing heart diseases and depression, besides combating premature aging.

We know that curcumin literally kills cancer, but what is its mechanism?

 

Curcumin’s lethal aspect

There are about 10 to 13 trillion cells in the human body. Every day our body replaces anything between 100 billion to 130 billion of these cells. The old and unnecessary cells are destroyed through a firmly controlled process of cell suicide known as apoptosis or programmed cell death.

Interestingly, unlike the normal cells, the carcinogenic cells do not commit suicide. On the contrary, they render the suicide genes inactive.

In such situations, curcumin stimulates the death receptors in different ways. Scientists are still in the process of learning the mechanism by which curcumin works to activate these receptors. One interesting means by which this compound turns on the death receptors is by activating enzymes that simply breaks up the proteins present in the cells. Scientists are of the view that cancer cells are unable to resist curcumin, unlike the chemotherapy drugs, because this compound triggers the death of carcinogenic cells in various different ways. As of now, we are still not aware of the reason behind curcumin sparing the healthy cells in our body. All that we know is that curcumin just kills the cells that are thought to be dead already.

Unfortunately, our bodies have a propensity to get rid of almost all the curcumin we consume. It is important to note that unless there is help, it becomes difficult for our body to absorb much curcumin.

 

Increasing bio-availability of curcumin

Our bodies have a problem with curcumin. As our liver tries to put off or get rid of unnecessary drugs, supplements and similar substances, it also retards curcumin absorption – a process known as glucuronidation. In effect, this process makes curcumin less effectual in our body compared to its normal effectiveness. Nevertheless, we can enhance the ability of our body to take up this compound.

 

Consume turmeric with black pepper

The strong flavor of black pepper is attributed to piperine, an alkaloid enclosed by it. Piperine slows down the metabolic functions of specific enzymes resulting in the disposal of what our body deems to be surplus curcumin. However, the action of this compound is not restricted only to curcumin, as black pepper can also augment the body’s ability to take up other supplements and similar substances. When taken with black pepper, piperine helps to raise the body’s ability to absorb curcumin by about 2000 percent.

 

Blend turmeric with useful fats

It has been established that curcumin dissolves in fats. In the absence of fats, curcumin does not disband as it should. As a result, curcumin finds it difficult to reach the gut and being assimilated into our blood stream and eventually reach the cells where the compound is needed. Hence, it is advisable that you always consume turmeric with beneficial fats such as olive oil, avocado and coconut oil.

 

Take turmeric with quercetin

A plant flavonoid, quercetin slows down the action of the enzymes that neutralize curcumin. Hence, it is advisable that you consume turmeric with quercetin.

Apples, blueberries, chicory greens, cranberries, onions, red lettuce leaf, sweet peppers, raw broccoli, raw spinach, raw kale, snap beans, green tea, black plums, red grapes and red wine are some foods that contain high levels of quercetin. However, capers are known to be the best whole food source that enclose quercetin.

Cardamom Tea

Cardamom has many health benefits from detoxification, oral health, digestion. Usually its the seeds in the cardamom pods that hold flavor and you can remove the seeds and then blend to have a powder, but I felt that using the pods/ shells reduces the work, later you can sieve it to get a fine powder.
HOW TO MAKE CARDAMOM POWDER

Prep time – 10 mins
Makes – 1 and 1/4 cup cardamom powder
Storing suggestion – in an air-tight container in room temperature

Ingredients

Cardamom seeds- 1/2 cup
Sugar – 3/4 th cup

Method

Using a mixer blend the sugar and cardamom pods for 3-4 minutes giving an interval of 30 seconds every minute. This is to avoid the mixer becoming really hot. later sieve this powder to grind again, let it cool down completely. Store in an air-tight container and use as and when required.

HOW TO MAKE CARDAMOM TEA/ ELACHI CHAI / YELLAKAI TEA

Ingredients

Tea powder – 3 teaspoons ( I used Taj Mahal Gold)
Water – 1/2 cup
Cardamom powder – 1 tsp
Milk – 1 and 12 cup
Sugar – 3 tsp (as required)

Method

In a saucepan bring water to a boil, add tea powder and let it boil further for a minute, now add milk, let it boil, add the sugar and cardamom powder and switch off

Serve hot along with crisps or snacks

Cooks Wisdom

  • You can remove the shells of the cardamom and use only the seeds to make a fine powder
  • Tea can be made with boiling tea powder in milk or with water and then adding milk. Since I used full fat milk I used water to make the tea
  • Store the cardamom powder in a moisture free air tight jar for long life.