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Sore Throat Remedies: 12 Natural Gargles That May Ease the Pain

Gargling is a simple and remarkably effective way to kill germs and soothe a sore throat. Try one of these homemade sore throat remedies.

Relieve sore throat pain with these gargles

Sore throats are one of the worst symptoms of a cold. In addition to traditional cold treatments, it might be time to try alternatives for your sore throat, too. Although these gargles may help, the scientific evidence to support their use for pain relief is stronger for some than others. Still, they might be worth a shot to relieve your scratchy throat. (You also might want to pair these with the best foods to eat when you feel sick.)

Wooden spoon of salt on a wooden table. Pile of salt behind it.ISTOCK/baramee2554

Sore throat remedy: Salt and water

Try one of grandma’s sore throat remedies by mixing 1⁄4 teaspoon salt in 1 cup warm water. “Typically, for a salt water gargle, you want the water to be as warm as you can tolerate because this will help to soften and draw out mucus, which helps to reduce inflammation and pain,” says Ashley Wood, RN, a nurse in Atlanta, Georgia and a contributor at Demystifying Your Health. “Some people add a drop of mouthwash to their salt water mixture—ingredients like menthol and methyl salicylate provide pain relief, thymol provides antibacterial proprieties, and eucalyptol reduces inflammation. If you’re going to use mouthwash, the key thing to remember is to only use a small amount because they often contain some level of alcohol in them and this can actually irritate your throat if you put too much in your gargle mixture.”

Note: Mix a fresh batch of gargle for every use. Better to waste a bit pouring it out than to leave it in your glass, where it might become contaminated with bacteria. Also, do not swallow the gargle; spit it out!

istock/John Scott

Sore throat remedy: Hot sauce and water

The capsicum in hot peppers helps alleviate pain and fights inflammation, so it may help with sore throat pain. Add five shakes of ground cayenne pepper (or a few shakes of hot sauce) to a cup of hot water for sore throat relief. It’ll burn, but try this gargle every 15 minutes and see if it helps. Don’t try this if you have open sores in your mouth.

Jar of ginger, lemon, and water gargle mixture.istock/Ls9907

Sore throat remedy: Ginger, honey, and lemon

This sore throat home remedy mixes 1 teaspoon each of powdered ginger and honey, 1⁄2 cup of hot water, and the juice of 1⁄2 squeezed lemon. Pour the water over the ginger, then add the lemon juice and honey, and gargle. Honey coats the throat and also has mild antibacterial properties. One 2017 study published in the journal Advances in Biotechnology & Microbiology found that a mixture of lemon juice and honey killed common bacteria often involved in respiratory infections. It’s best to address symptoms like sore throat as soon as they start, so watch for the 9 early signs of a cold.

Sage leaves and stems.istock/matka_Wariatka

Sore throat remedy: Sage and apple cider vinegar

Sage has been used as a throat-soother for centuries, according to National Geographic Complete Guide to Natural Home Remedies. One recipe to try during cold and flu season: Grind 2 tablespoons each dried sage and thyme into a mason jar with 2 cups apple cider vinegar. Leave covered at room temperature for two weeks, then strain out the herbs. When you’re ready to gargle, mix a couple of tablespoons of the sage mixture into a small glass of warm water. Another herb with cold-busting properties is thyme—find out how to use it, then learn more about these 20 natural cold remedies.

White bowl with bright orange turmeric.istock/eskaylim

Sore throat remedy: Turmeric and water

This yellow spice is a powerful antioxidant, and the traditional system of medicine called Ayurveda, rooted in Hinduism, has used turmeric to fight pain and inflammation for centuries. To try it yourself, make this gargle from the book Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom: Add 1/2 teaspoon of the ground spice to a cup of warm water and use up to three times a day. A sore throat isn’t the only thing turmeric may fix—the wonder-spice may also help ward off belly troubles like gas and diarrhea.

Red cup of tea with cloves and cinnamon. istock/MKucova

Sore throat remedy: Clove tea

Add 1 to 3 teaspoons of powdered or ground cloves to warm water, then mix and gargle. Cloves have soothing properties, explains Elizabeth Trattner, an acupuncture physician in Hallandale Beach, FL. Plus, they also have antimicrobial properties that can help stop the growth of bacteria, according to research in Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal. The spicy mixture can also be used as a mouthwash to help tooth pain, she says.

Glass of tomato juice with ripe tomatoes behind it.istock/Kateryna Maksimenko

Sore throat remedy: Spicy tomato juice

For temporary relief of sore throat symptoms, try this tasty gargle from the Reader’s Digest book Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things: a 1/2 cup each of tomato juice and hot water, plus about 10 drops of hot pepper sauce. Bonus: Capsaicin from chili peppers boosts circulation.

Bowls of dried echinacea. istock/lindavostrovska

Sore throat remedy: Goldenseal, echinacea, or myrrh and water

Gargling with these herbal anti-inflammatories can soothe swollen and sore throat tissue, says Trattner. Try several drops of herbal tinctures in a small amount of warm water.

istock/Boarding1Now

Sore throat remedy: Apple cider vinegar and salt

Anecdotal evidence suggests that apple cider vinegar can help a sore throat, and research does show that it has antibacterial properties. Gargle with 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and 1 teaspoon of salt dissolved in a glass of warm water; use several times a day if needed. For a gentler treatment, combine 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar and 1/4 cup of honey and take 1 tablespoon every four hours. Try these natural home remedies for head colds, too.

istock/Keith Ferris

Sore throat remedy: Licorice root powder and water

Licorice root may soothe a sore throat and help eliminate cough-inducing phlegm; a 2013 study of more than 200 people found that surgical patients who had gargled with a licorice solution prior to anesthesia were less likely to develop a sore throat post-surgery.

Clear cup of green tea on a plate.istock/Moncherie

Sore throat remedy: Green tea

This one is actually a sore-throat prevention measure, since one health benefit of tea is the ability to fight infections. Next time you brew a cup of green tea, make a little extra and gargle with it. A 2016 review of research found that gargling with tea may have a preventative effect against the flu virus.

istock/Denys Dolnikov

Sore throat remedy: Raspberry tea

Raspberry tea is an old home remedy for a sore throat because of the anti-inflammatory properties. One recipe calls for pouring one cup of boiling water over two teaspoons of dried raspberry leaves or packaged raspberry tea. Steep for ten minutes, then strain and let cool a bit. Gargle while warm. Now, find out 21 natural cold remedies that really work.

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Medically reviewed by Michael Spertus, MD, on January 27, 2020