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Humans have used various teas to relieve sore throats for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Many teas contain throat-soothing compounds, are warm, and help prevent dehydration.
This article discusses the best types of tea for a sore throat. It also looks at other beneficial ingredients to add to tea, common risks and side effects of consuming certain teas, and when to see a doctor for a sore throat.
Tea may just be the ultimate cure-all for a sore throat. This is because most types of tea contain antioxidants. Antioxidants can have an anti-inflammatory effect that reduces pain and discomfort.
Drinking warm liquids, such as tea may also soothe inflamed throat tissues by increasing blood flow to the area.
Staying hydrated helps prevent many conditions that cause a sore throat. Hydration encourages swallowing, mucus clearance, and helps keep throat tissues moist.
People can also add other ingredients to tea to help relieve a sore throat or prevent it from getting worse. Try adding honey to tea for a further antioxidant boost and to sweeten the flavor.
A review looked at the effects of honey on symptoms of cough, such as a sore throat, in children aged 2–5 years. Honey contains antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory compounds and may reduce mucus.
The review concluded that honey could be as effective or more effective than cold medications such as dextromethorphan and diphenhydramine.
Drinking almost any kind of tea may help relieve a sore throat. Some of the plant compounds found in teas contain higher concentrations of throat-soothing compounds than others.
Various traditional medicine systems use herbs and spices to relieve sore throats. However, there is little scientific evidence available to support the effectiveness of many of these herbs.
Some of the most popular and accessible types of tea to ease a sore throat include:
Chamomile is a common herb in the daisy family that humans have been using medicinally for hundreds of years.
Studies show that it contains several compounds, especially α-linolenic acid and apigenin, which have the following properties:
Drinking chamomile tea provides the healing action of chamomile, along with soothing heat.
Chamomile tea is available in packages of individual sachets or as a loose, dried flower. People can also purchase chamomile as a supplement or in a throat spray.
Find out about some other benefits of drinking chamomile tea here.
Marshmallow root tea
People have used marshmallow root extract for sore throats and dry coughs since ancient times, probably because it is rich in a substance called mucilage.
Mucilage forms a protective mucus-like film over oral tissues that can help reduce further irritation or dryness.
Marshmallow root extracts also contain high doses of antioxidants, such as flavonoids, phenolic acids, and tannins.
These antioxidants may reduce inflammation and pain while also destroying or preventing infection-causing microbes. Compounds in marshmallow extract may also promote cellular healing.
It is important to purchase a high-quality marshmallow extract that has been voluntarily tested by an independent laboratory. This ensures it contains high enough concentrations of the plant’s therapeutic compounds and contains no harmful substances.
Discover more about the benefits and risks of marshmallow root here.
Turmeric contains several compounds that may relieve sore throats by:
- reducing inflammation
- preventing or limiting infections
- stimulating the immune system
- relieving pain by numbing the throat
Scientists think that curcumin and other active ingredients in turmeric change different cell signaling pathways in the body to promote healing and reduce inflammation.
People can use ready-prepared turmeric tea or make their own tea from dried, ground, or turmeric root.
To make turmeric tea, steep ground or freshly grated turmeric in boiling water and leave for a few minutes. Try adding add 100% orange juice for flavor and extra vitamin C.
Learn how to make turmeric tea here.
Green tea contains many antioxidants. These can have an anti-inflammatory effect that may help reduce the pain and discomfort of a sore throat.
In one study, gargling with a green tea solution every 6 hours within a 24-hour period reduced sore throat symptoms associated with the removal of a breathing tube.
Some studies have shown that compounds in green tea help improve overall immune function and promote healing.
Green tea is readily available in sachets, loose-leaf, or powder form.
Find out more about the health benefits of green tea here.
Many traditional medicine systems use peppermint to treat a wide range of conditions, including sore throat symptoms.
People can buy peppermint tea in packages with individual sachets or as loose, dried leaves. For best results, steep peppermint or leaves in boiling water for 3–5 minutes.
Fenugreek, a traditional treatment for sore throats, contains compounds that can help clear mucus, cleanse the throat, and stimulate the immune system.
The herb also contains several types of antioxidants, such as phenolic acids and flavonoids that can reduce inflammation and pain.
People can make fenugreek tea from the plant’s seeds or leaves. Fenugreek seeds may contain higher concentrations of the compounds that specifically help relieve sore throats.
Fenugreek is usually available in packages of individual sachets, powder form, or as loose, dried seeds or leaves.
Licorice root tea
Licorice may help to reduce sore throats and coughs due to the anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial action of the compound glycyrrhizin and a few other active ingredients.
Glycyrrhizin acts on the adrenal gland to promote the release of cortisol, a natural anti-inflammatory steroid hormone.
In one study, participants gargled for 30 seconds with 0.5 grams (g) of licorice powder mixed in 30 milliliters (ml) of water before undergoing surgery. This helped reduce postoperative sore throat.
People can buy licorice root tea in packages of individual sachets or powder form.
There is a variety of everyday ingredients available that people can add to tea to provide additional throat-soothing properties. Additional ingredients can help to fight infection or increase the effectiveness or absorption of active ingredients in certain types of tea.
Additives can also change the taste of tea, making it sweeter or spicier. Some of the most popular tea additives and their potential benefits include:
- Honey: This has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties and adds sweetness.
- Citrus juices: These have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties, increase saliva production, and promote healing.
- Coconut oil: This has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory properties, lubricates mucous membranes, increases absorption of fat-soluble compounds, such as curcumin, and adds richness.
- Echinacea: This has anti-inflammatory properties that stimulate the immune system and promote healing.
- Cinnamon: This spice has antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Cayenne, red, and chili peppers: These contain capsaicin, which is a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory. They also stimulate mucus secretion.
- Black pepper: This contains piperine, which increases the absorption of curcumin and other nutrients. It also has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties and adds spice.
- Ginger: This has antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties and adds spice.
- Cloves: This has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
If people have a sore throat, it is usually best to avoid caffeinated teas as these can increase the risk of elevating blood pressure or increased jitteriness.
While many popular types of tea, such as black tea and oolong, contain caffeine, many herbal teas tend to be caffeine-free.
Green tea contains moderate levels of caffeine. This can make it a good option for regular coffee drinkers who want to cut back on their caffeine intake while avoiding caffeine withdrawal.
Drinking herbal teas in moderation will not usually worsen sore throats or increase the risk of adverse side effects. It is always best to talk with a doctor before trying any herbal remedy, though.
Some herbs interact with certain medications or change how effective they are.
Herbal products may also contain ingredients that are not safe for people with certain medical conditions or during specific stages of life.
Some sore throat remedies can be toxic if someone consumes too much of it or takes it for too long, including licorice and fenugreek. Consuming capsaicin and citric acid undiluted or in large quantities can also damage throat tissues.
The government does not regulate herbal products, so it is important to purchase high-quality products with voluntary laboratory certification to reduce the risk of contaminates.
The occasional sore throat is usually nothing to worry about, especially when it occurs alongside a cold or allergies, or in dry or dusty conditions.
People should see their doctor if they:
- develop a sore throat very quickly
- have a sore throat for no apparent reason
- have symptoms that last for longer than a week
Also, people can talk with a doctor as soon as possible if they have a sore throat with any other painful, persistent, or severe symptoms, such as:
- a fever
- trouble swallowing or breathing
- confusion or memory problems
- red, swollen tonsils, potentially with pus or white patches
- swollen lymph nodes
- a rash
- tiny, red spots along the roof of the mouth
- blood in the saliva, phlegm, or stool
- excessive drooling in young children
- severe dehydration
- joint swelling and pain
Drinking warm herbal tea may help relieve a sore throat, though certain kinds may have more benefits than others.
Some herbal teas contain throat-soothing compounds.
Most herbal teas are usually safe to consume in moderation, but certain groups of people should check with their doctor first. These groups include:
- pregnant or nursing women
- older adults
- people with preexisting medical conditions
- people taking medications
There is currently no government regulation for herbal products, so it is safest to purchase high-quality products from reliable, transparent sources.
Some of the teas in this article are available for purchase in grocery stores and online: