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Are your grandmother’s sore throat remedies effective?

Published on March 24, 2021 at 18:08 / Updated on February 8, 2022 at 12:15

Chew a clove of garlic? Sip sage herbal tea? Swallow a spoonful of honey? Do Grandma's tips actually work to soothe a sore throat? Learn more here.

Natural solutions for sore throats

We’ve all experienced that unpleasant sensation of swallowing knives. It’s so painful that you will try just about anything to find some relieve. There is indeed a panoply of natural remedies to relieve a sore throat. You just have to remember that most of them haven’t been fully studied. Also, it’s good to remember that "natural" doesn’t mean "without danger". In fact, some natural products can interact with certain medications, so it’s important to consult a healthcare professional to ensure that everything is safe.


A lemon’s acidity can have an astringent and antiseptic effect. You may experience some relief by gargling a mixture of water and lemon juice. Also, sipping hot water with a little bit of lemon juice can also be soothing.


When it comes to coughing, a study has shown that honey can be as effective as dextromethorphan, the active ingredient in DM-type cough syrups, in relieving nighttime coughs and making sleep easier for children. For sore throats, honey soothes the pain, but no studies have shown any effect on healing the infection. It can be consumed directly with a spoon or diluted in a hot drink. Obviously, it should be consumed in moderation, especially if you’re diabetic.

You should also be aware that honey shouldn’t be given to a child under 12 months of age due to the risk of botulism.

Gargling salt water

Gargling with a salt solution is an effective way to hydrate the throat, which may help relieve pain. If you’re concocting a homemade gargle, it’s important to stick to the proper salt and water proportions: one teaspoon of salt (5 ml) for one litre of water. This is because a solution that contains too much salt becomes drying rather than hydrating, which would make the pain worse instead of soothing it.

Putting salt in hot water helps it dissolve faster. Gargle can be done with either warm or cold water.

Chew a clove of garlic

Garlic contains a substance called allicin, which is believed to have antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. Raw garlic cloves should be chewed, as cooking them destroys the allicin.

Is it really effective? Studies on the subject are inconclusive. Since garlic is a very inexpensive and readily available product and is not associated with serious toxicities, there is likely no great danger in trying it, other than causing an unpleasant odour in your breath.

Sage herbal tea

The medicinal effects of sage have not been proven by scientific studies.

Other types of herbal teas could probably also be used (lemon in particular), as it is usually the hot drink’s soothing effect that helps relieve a sore throat.

Besides natural products, what can be done to soothe a sore throat?

  • Drink lots of water to keep your throat hydrated
  • Rest
  • Eat healthily
  • Stop smoking
  • Make sure your home has the proper humidity

When should you seek medical attention?

Seek immediate medical attention if your sore throat is accompanied by any of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing that doesn’t improve, or gets worse
  • Wheezing or noisy breathing
  • Pinkish sputum
  • Significant difficulty swallowing saliva, drinking or eating
  • Signs of dehydration

See a doctor as soon as possible if the sore throat lasts more than 3 days or if it is accompanied by one of the following symptoms:

  • Whitish spots in the back of the throat
  • Stubborn fever over 39°C

A throat swab may be required in order to determine whether a bacterium is present.

When in doubt, don’t hesitate to consult your pharmacist.

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