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Sore Throat Remedy Is Hot Stuff

Readers offer remedies for the pain of a sore throat. They include hot pepper, ginger or sucking on marshmallows.

A sore throat is a common symptom of a respiratory infection. Colds, flu, COVID-19–any of them could make it uncomfortable to swallow or sometimes even to speak. Readers have shared a number of remedies over the years. Our favorite, gargling with warm salt water, is very basic but we find it helpful. Here are a few others:

Will Marshmallow Help a Sore Throat?

Q. I was listening to talk radio and the DJ had a sore throat. He asked listeners for their home remedies, and one listener said she sucks on marshmallows.

I had surgery the other day and had a real bad sore throat from the anesthesia. The throat lozenges I tried offered no relief. Then I sucked on about seven marshmallows, one after the other. Sure enough, my throat was much better and by the end of the day the pain was completely gone.

A. We have to admit we are skeptical. While marshmallows once contained extract of marsh mallow (Althea officinalis), they now consist primarily of sugar, corn syrup and gelatin. None of those ingredients are known to relieve pain. Perhaps tincture of time was responsible.

A. officinalis extract, on the other hand, has been shown to ease cough and sore throat (Complementary Medicine Research, 2020).  The European Medicines Agency suggests that it could also be used for mild digestive upset.

Spicy Juice Eases Throat Pain:

Q. I’d like to share my favorite remedy for a sore throat. It’s not for everyone, but it works for me.

I take any kind of juice, preferably citrus, which I mix half and half with water. Then I shake in as much cayenne pepper as I can stand. (As I said, it’s not for everyone!)

After shaking the bottle well to mix the cayenne into the juice, I sip it throughout the day. Usually by the end of the day, my sore throat is gone.

I have told several people about this remedy, but most don’t even want to try it. My daughter uses it although she doesn’t really like hot food, and my husband finally tried it and he said it worked well. I hope this helps someone with a sore throat.

A. Your recipe sounds reminiscent of a remedy a reader sent us years ago, with the heat supplied by ginger instead of hot pepper.

Here are the details:

“Our son is an opera singer in Germany. When his throat gets irritated, he uses this recipe: 200 grams ginger root; 2 lemons (cut in 8 pieces); handful of fennel seeds; cook in 1 gallon of water till half evaporates. Sweeten with honey, strain, and sip.”

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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  • Mahboubi M, "Marsh Mallow (Althaea officinalis L.) and its potency in the treatment of cough." Complementary Medicine Research, 2020. DOI: 10.1159/000503747
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