Sore Throat

Sore throat, also known as tonsillitis or pharyngitis, occurs when the pharynx or tonsils become inflamed.  Sore throats can occur all year long, not just during the winter months.  This condition generally lasts for just two to three days.


The infection of sore throat is spread through airborne droplets, which are breathed in, or by physical contact, typically on the hands. 

Sore throats can be caused by a bacteria or a virus.  Of the bacteria that can cause this condition, the most common is streptococcus group A.  Individuals with this type of sore throat can have swollen and coated tonsils, sour breath and feel very ill.

Symptoms of Sore Throat

Some of the more common symptoms of sore throat include:

  • Fever

  • Bad breath

  • Feeling unwell

  • Painful throat

  • White spots on the tonsils

  • Swollen tonsils

  • Swollen lymph nodes

The patient may also have pain that can spread to the ears. 

Treatment Goal

The goal of treatment is to bring relief and to determine whether the sore throat is caused by a virus or a bacteria. 


Treating a sore throat first depends on making an accurate diagnosis.  While sore throats can be viral or bacterial, they can also be caused by a chemical inflammation or as a side effect from medications which are being taken for another condition.

More rarely, other conditions can be the cause of a sore throat.  These include herpes, diptheria, yeast infections, gonococcus, syphilis, chlamydia and tuberculosis.

Treatments for Viral Infections

For treating sore throats caused by a virus, ibuprofen or paracetamol may be used to alleviate pain.  Gargling with saltwater may also help (use 1 tsp of salt mixed in 2 cups of distilled water).  Eating cool fruit may feel good on the throat. 

Taking larch plant at 1 gm twice a day in powder form may help by boosting the immune system and decreasing the length of the viral infection.

Treatments for Bacterial Infections

A course of antibiotics can be started for a bacterial infection even before the results of a throat culture are returned.  A five-minute, rapid-strep test is now available for use in a physician's office.  When the patient has a history of rheumatic heart disease, treatment is begun immediately.  Penicillin or one of its derivatives are prescribed to treat strep throat.  Erythromycin can be used if the person is allergic to penicillin.

Certain strains of strep have become resistant to penicllin and erythromycin.  When no improvement is shown after 48 hours, or if the culture indicates a resistance, an alternative drug such as clarithromycin can be used.

Natural Treatments

Some natural treatments for sore throat include:

  • Diet - Reduce dairy intake and simple carbohydrates.  Stick to a diet that consists of vegetables and whole grains.  Drink fluids throughout the day (water, teas and soups).  Miso and chicken soup are great for this condition.

  • Supplements - Vitamin C has long been known to support the immune system.  Take 500 to 1,000 mg every four hours until symptoms subside.  Bioflavanoids work synergistically with vitamin C and have immune-enhancing properties as well.  Take 1,000 mg of flavanoids in two 500 mg doses per day.  About 25 mg of zinc in the form of lozenges can be taken per day for one week.  Zinc may have some antiviral properties and also supports the immune system.

  • Herbs - Rub eucalyptus, lavender, thyme or tea tree essential oil on the chest and around the front side of the neck.  The oils should only be used externally and should be diluted in a carrier oil such as olive, apricot or almond oil.  These oils are anti-infective and help to loosen sticky mucous.  Elderberry and elderflower are also very effective natural antivirals. Cloves of garlic have antibiotic and antifungal properties that heal several types of sore throat.  Take two or more cloves of garlic (crushed or whole) at the first sign of a sore throat.  Continue eating two cloves a day until all symptoms are gone.

  • Other remedies - Some other redmedies include:

Lachesis - for left-sided sore throats.  Symptoms here are worse when waking or trying to swallow warm liquids.  Cool drinks can be temporarily soothing.

Hepar sulph - for sharp pains in the throat.  In these cases, contact with even slight drafts of cold air intensify the pain, distress and irritability.  Glands may be swollen and painful.

Apis - for allergic reaction sore throats.  The throat is bright red, swollen and shiny.  Stinging pains in the throat can also be present.  The throat is sensitive to heat and can be temporarily soothed by cool foods and drinks.

Phosphorous - for sore throats that are accompanied by hoarseness.  Other symptoms can include dryness and constriction of the throat.  Symptoms are worse in the evening.

Sage - When taken internally, this herb has a strong antimicrobial effect.  Sage reduces throat irritation almost immediately upon contact but should not be used for long periods of time.

Myrrh - This herb stimulates immune cell activity and encourages the body to eradicate infection.  Gargle with and swallow 30 drops of tincture in water anywhere from two to four times per day. Do not use myrrh during pregnancy.



  1. Bratman, S. The Alternative Medicine Ratings Guide: an expert panel rates the best treatments for over 80 conditions, Prima Health A Division of Prima Publishing (1998)
  2. Brown, L. Alternative Medicine, NTC/Contemporary Publishing (1999)
  3. Deepak Chopra, M.D. Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide, Celestial Arts (2002)
  4. Judd, S. (2008). Respiratory disorders sourcebook : basic consumer health information about infectious, inflammatory, and chronic conditions affecting the lungs and respiratory system, including pneumonia, bronchitis, influenza, tuberculosis, sarcoidosis, asthma, cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung abscesses, pulmonary embolism, occupational lung diseases, and other bacterial, viral, and fungal infections; along with facts about the structure and function of the lungs and airways, methods of diagnosing respiratory disorders, and treatment and rehabilitation options, a glossary of related terms, and a directory of resources for additional help and information. Detroit, MI : Omnigraphics
  5. Servan-Schreiber, D. The Encyclopedia of New Medicine: Conventional & Alternative Medicine For All Ages, Rodale International Limited (2006)

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