Chewing on a garlic clove, drinking sage tea, swallowing a teaspoon of honey… Do folk remedies really work for a sore throat?
Chewing on a garlic clove
Garlic contains allicin, a substance thought to have antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. The garlic must be chewed raw, because high heat destroys allicin.
Is it really effective? Studies on the subject are inconclusive. However, since garlic is an inexpensive and easily accessible product with no severe toxic risks, there is no great danger to trying this folk remedy… other than the strong odour it will leave on your breath!
Sage or golden-seal herbal tea
Scientific research has found no medicinal effects for sage and golden-seal.
Other tea flavours (e.g. lemon) could probably be used just as effectively, since it is generally the soothing effect of the warm beverage that helps a sore throat.
A study has found that when it comes to relieving a nighttime cough and promoting sleep in children, honey is more effective than dextromethorphan, the active ingredient in DM cough syrups. As for sore throats, we know honey temporarily eases the pain, but no studies have shown that it helps combat the infection. It can be taken directly (a spoonful) or can be mixed into a warm beverage.
Since honey is a tasty and affordable staple food, there is no great risk to trying it. However, it should not be fed to a child under the age of 12 months, due to a risk of botulism.
Gargling with salt water
Gargling with salt water is an effective way to hydrate the throat, which can help ease the pain. If you make your own salt water solution, make sure to use one teaspoon (5 ml) of salt per litre of water. Using too much salt could dehydrate the throat, which would worsen the pain rather than easing it.
Mixing the salt in warm water makes it easier to dissolve. The solution can then be used lukewarm or cold.
If you suffer from any chronic health problems or take prescription medication, speak to your pharmacist before trying a folk remedy. Your pharmacist will help you determine whether the remedy is appropriate for you.