Adding honey is totally encouraged.
There are many possible reasons behind a sore throat, but one thing is for sure—they’re never a good time. Between the painful swallowing, dry coughs, and scratchy throat, sometimes all you want is an easy, natural remedy you can reach for quickly to make your symptoms go away. Enter: the best tea for sore throat.
FYI, sore throats are typically a result of bacterial or viral infections (think: a cold and the flu) affecting the tissue in our throat, causing inflammation, swelling, and pain, says Robert Glatter, MD, an attending emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. (Fun fact: The medical term for sore throat is pharyngitis.) Though allergies and strep throat could also be to blame, according to the CDC.
Thankfully, tea can help relieve the discomfort no matter what the underlying cause is. You probably already know that these leaves offer many potential health benefits, from boosting your immune system to warding off heart disease. Turns out teas can do wonders when you’re down with a sore throat too.
“Liquids that we take by mouth do not reach the vocal folds directly, but rather go around them into the esophagus,” says Paul Kwak, MD, an otolaryngologist at the NYU Langone Voice Center’s Department of Otolaryngology. “So the way that hot or warm liquids, such as tea, can be helpful is by soothing the mucous membranes of the throat, and sometimes with the warmth or heat, increasing blood flow to the tissue.”
Adding honey to your cup will make your brew more delicious and calming for your throbbing throat because the sweetener will coat the mucous membranes in your throat and soothe your soreness while minimizing coughing, says Dr. Glatter.
There aren’t any risks to using tea to quell the inflammation in your throat, but keep in mind that teas should not be used as a substitute for medications. If you have a sore throat and your symptoms persist, it’s best to get it checked out.
For a mild case of sore throat, try one of these expert-recommended teas to ease your symptoms.
Classic green tea is a great option when your throat needs some love. “Research indicates that green tea has anti-inflammatory effects, which may help reduce swelling of tissue in the throat,” notes Dr. Glatter. Sip on it nice and hot when you’re feeling scratchy. For extra flavor, add lemon and honey.
Black tea doesn’t just wake you up in the a.m.; it can also relax a sore throat. “Black tea contains compounds called tannins, which may help reduce inflammation and ease the pain of a sore throat,” says Dr. Glatter. Gargling with black tea several times a day (yes, really!) may also minimize swelling and inflammation too, he adds.
Mint tea may also help to soothe the pain of a sore throat, Dr. Glatter says. Why? It contains a compound called menthol that has anti-inflammatory properties.
One note, though: “Menthol can also lead to drying of tissue, so it should be used sparingly,” he says. So, feel free to incorporate mint tea into your rotation; just don’t chug it all day long.
Licorice Root Herbal Tea
“While licorice root tea is best known for helping to alleviate upset stomach and similar issues, such as heartburn, its antibacterial and antiviral activity can also be useful for sore throats,” Dr. Glatter says. If you dig licorice (it’s polarizing, I know), definitely sip on this slightly sweet tea when you’re feeling under the weather.
Made from flowers, this bedtime classic is especially helpful when a scratchy throat or nasty cough keeps you from winding down at night. Plus, chamomile tea contains antioxidants, specifically flavonoids, and terpenoids, which can help the body fight infection, says Dr. Glatter.
Marshmallow Leaf Tea
Sadly, this mild tea doesn’t taste like s’mores, but is harvested from the good-for-you marshmallow plant. “Marshmallow root secretes a gelatinous substance known as mucilage that helps to coat and soothe a sore throat,” explains Dr. Glatter. “Research indicates that it also has anti-inflammatory properties.”
Can’t get enough of ginger candies and stir-fry? You’re in luck. Spicy ginger tea can also be your natural sore throat remedy since ginger root contains a number of compounds that have anti-inflammatory effects, says Dr. Glatter.
To balance the spiciness (and show your irritated throat some extra love), add honey and cinnamon to your mug. Bonus: Cinnamon also helps increase your body’s ability to fight infection, per Dr. Glatter.
“Great for helping with sore throats and colds, lemon tea is packed with vitamin C, which helps boost the immune system,” says Yeral Patel, MD, a board-certified functional medicine physician based in California. ICYMI, the more robust your body’s defense, the better and faster you can get rid of that sore throat and the infection that led to it.
Turmeric tea is ideal for sore throats because turmeric has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and most importantly, anti-inflammatory properties, which help soothe your throat and upgrade your immune system, says Dr. Patel. If you are not a fan of the flavor, add honey, ginger, or a little stevia to make it more palatable.
Tulsi (an herb originally from India that’s also known as holy basil) tea has long been used as an herbal remedy for upper respiratory illness, such as asthma, colds, bronchitis, and coughs. “Packed with antioxidants and anti-microbial properties, Tulsi can help soothe sore throats, fight off bacterial and viral infections, and boost the immune system,” notes Dr. Patel.
Rose Hips Tea
Packed with vitamin C and antioxidants called polyphenols, rose hip tea is great for strengthening your immunity. “Rose hips tea also possesses anti-inflammatory properties that help soothe the throat and ease pain,” Dr. Patel says. Often blended with fruity-flavored hibiscus, this brew is light and sweet.
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