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Photos – © Artem Furman (throat), © Printemps (blackcurrant) – Fotolia.com
When a sore throat strikes, one suffers from a burning or scratching sensation at the back of the throat and pain such that it can become very hard to swallow or even talk. Tenderness in the neck occurs too. Sore throats are usually not medically serious, often last only for three days, and clear up on their own, even
without treatment.  Sore throats however can be painful, distressing, and troublesome and should be treated swiftly.
There are several possible causes of sore throat – virus, bacteria, smoking, and gastroesophageal reflux disease, to name a few. Treatment is geared toward the control or elimination of these causes. While most people swiftly rush for over-the-counter medications for relief, a variety of home remedies that are equally effective but inexpensive and simple to use can be employed. Medications come with side effects, but the following natural remedies do not:
1. Saltwater gargles – One of the most recommended means to help get rid of sore throat is saltwater gargling. Not only is a gargle with saltwater convenient and simple to make, but also it is effective and produces a rather quick effect. A warm cup of water with half a teaspoon of salt eases the swelling associated with sore throat.  It does this by drawing the water out of mucous membranes in the throat. This in turn loosens and washes away the mucus that might accompany it. Since pain is related to the swelling, relieving the inflammation in sore throat also lessens the discomfort. Note that the water for gargling is intended for “gargling only” and should not be swallowed. Also, too much salt is a no-no since this would only lead to the dehydration of mucous membranes.
2. Tabasco gargle – A spicy alternative to saltwater gargle is a solution of 10-20 drops of Tabasco sauce in a glass of water. Tabasco sauce comprises mainly peppers, vinegar, and salt, and Tabasco gargle hence uses the antiviral and antibacterial properties of the three to eliminate the pathogen causing the sore throat. Similar with saltwater gargle, do not swallow Tabasco gargle since it can irritate the stomach. 
3. Baking soda solution – Baking soda possesses antibacterial activity, specifically against Streptococcus mutans.  A baking soda gargle can help reduce the number of bacteria causing sore throat. Mix half teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of warm water and use the solution as a gargle.
4. Honey – Honey has long been appreciated for its antibacterial properties. Such feat can be used in the treatment of sore throat. It can eliminate the bacteria responsible for sore throat and hasten the healing process. Honey can also draw water out of inflamed tissue; this ability helps in reducing the swelling. Mix two or three teaspoons of honey in a cup of warm water or even tea. 
5. Lemon – Lemons contain a wide range of beneficial phenolic compounds and vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, essential oils, and carotenoids – just what you need to boost your immune system to combat any infection!  According to the USDA Nutrient Database, an average-sized raw lemon (100 g) boasts 53 mg of vitamin C, 2.8 g of dietary fiber, 8 mg of magnesium, and 0.06 mg of zinc. Add some lemon juice to a glass of hot water, plus two teaspoons of honey. Alternatively, consume the fruit directly, with some salt on the lemon if desired.
6. Blackcurrant – Like lemon, blackcurrants are rich in vitamin C and minerals. According to the USDA Nutrient Database, a 100 g blackcurrant provides 181 mg of vitamin C and 1 mg of vitamin E, 24 mg of magnesium, 59 mg of phosphorus, and 0.27 mg of zinc.  In a Nigerian study, blackcurrant was determined to have high antioxidant content and free radical scavenging abilities.  All these make blackcurrant an excellent counter to the infection related to sore throat. Make a blackcurrant gargle by diluting blackcurrant concentrate in some hot water.
7. Vitamins – If the cause of your sore throat appears to be a viral or bacterial infection, there’s nothing better to do than helping your body fight off what is causing the infection. Bolster and strengthen your immune system by consuming a diet packed with vitamins C and E and minerals such as zinc and magnesium.
8. Water – It goes without saying that an adequate consumption of water works wonders during infection. Drink plenty of water. Water in general will keep one’s mucous membranes moist and hydrated. Furthermore, water helps thin the secretions in the throat and can soothe the irritation.
9. Tea – Drinking a cup of tea can be very beneficial for someone suffering from sore throat. As it is basically a fluid, it works similarly with water, soothing the throat and keeping the tissues hydrated. Teas also boast a good amount of antioxidants, which will strengthen one’s immunity to combat the infection.
10. Slippery elm – Slippery elm is a century-old herbal remedy for sore throats. It contains mucilage, which becomes a slick gel when mixed with water and which can be used to coat and soothe the mouth and throat. The fine and dried powder from the inner back of slippery elm can be mixed with teas or extracts or can be taken as lozenges. Add around two tablespoons of slippery elm powder into two cups of hot water to make a tea. Drink this thrice daily. 
11. Licorice root – Licorice has long been utilized as a home remedy for sore throat. It possesses antiinflammatory and demulcent properties, soothing the irritation in the throat. A study from the Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, India, demonstrated that licorice gargle performed 5 min before anesthesia attenuates the incidence and severity of postoperative sore throat.  Consume some warm licorice tea or incorporate licorice in gargles.
12. Marshmallow root – The root of the shrub “marshmallow” works in the same manner as slippery elm. Through its throat-coating mucilage, marshmallow root keeps the throat coated and eases the soreness of inflamed tissues. According to a 2010 German investigation from the University of Munster, the aqueous extract and the raw polysaccharides from the roots of marshmallows are effective treatment for irritated mucous membranes. These bioadhesive polysaccharides are associated with the physical formation of mucin-like substance on top of the irritated tissues. Moreover, the marshmallow extract stimulates cell viability and proliferation of epithelial cells.  One can avail of marshmallow’s healing properties by making a tea out of it: add two teaspoons of the herb in a cup of hot water for 10 minutes and then strain and drink. Drink 3 to 5 cups daily.
 Sore throat. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved 17 July 3013 from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sore-throat/DS00526
 Anonymous. (2013). Sore throats: treatments and remedies. Reader’s Digest. Retrieved 17 July 3013 from http://www.readersdigest.co.uk/health-home/more-things-that-can-go-wrong/sorethroats-treatments-and-remedies
 Drake D. (1997). Antibacterial activity of baking soda. Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry Supplement, 18(21): S17-21. Retrieved 17 July 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12017929
 Gonz·lez-Molina E., Dom”nguez-Perles R., Moreno D. A., & Garc”a-Viguera C. (2010). Natural bioactive compounds of Citrus limon for food and health. Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis, 51(2): 327-345. doi: 10.1016/j.jpba.2009.07.027. Retrieved 17 July 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19748198
 Blackcurrant. Wikipedia. Retrieved 17 July 2013 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackcurrant
 Oboh H. A., Osagie A. U., & Esewe R. E. (2012). Evaluation of antioxidant and free radical scavenging abilities of some Nigerian packaged fruit juices. Nigerian Journal of Nutritional Sciences, 33 (1): 31-36. Retrieved 17 July 2013 from http://www.ajol.info/index.php/njns/article/view/84752
 Ehrlich S. D. (2011). Slippery elm. University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved 17 July 2013 from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/slippery-elm
 Agarwal A., Gupta D., Yadav G., Goyal P., Singh P. K., & Singh U. (2009). An evaluation of the efficacy of licorice gargle for attenuating postoperative sore throat: a prospective, randomized, single-blind study. Anesthesia & Analgesia, 109(1): 77-81. doi: 10.1213/ane.0b013e3181a6ad47. Retrieved 17 July 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19535697
 Deters A. et al. (2010). Aqueous extracts and polysaccharides from Marshmallow roots (Althea officinalis L.): cellular internalisation and stimulation of cell physiology of human epithelial cells in vitro. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 127(1): 62-69. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2009.09.050. Retrieved 17 July 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19799989
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