Most sore throats are caused by viruses – not bacteria – according to recent reports from the Infectious Disease Society of America. However, approximately 10 million Americans are prescribed antibiotics for a sore throat each year, when in reality, only about 2 million actually have a bacterial infection. For the rest, the antibiotics are ineffective and worse, may hinder the body’s healing efforts.
Bacteria or Virus?
Signs of bacterial throat infection include sudden onset of throat pain and fever without other upper respiratory symptoms, such as runny nose and cough. Have your doctor confirm the diagnosis with the appropriate tests. If left untreated, it’s possible for bacterial infections to cause serious complications, especially in children or those with weak immune systems.
Whether you decide to take antibiotics for a bacterial infection or not, it’s helpful to know that there are also a number of natural remedies that can be taken alone or combined with antibiotics, to help fight a bacterial infection. These natural solutions help boost immunity, relieve symptoms and speed recovery. Importantly, they can also help treat the more common viruses that actually cause the majority of upper respiratory infections.
Powerful Herbs and Botanicals
Garlic: This potent antimicrobial can actively fight bacterial infections, boost immunity against viral infections and relieve symptoms. Simmer four or five cloves of raw garlic in 8 to 12 ounces of water for five minutes to make a potent, immune-boosting tea. You can also add raw honey, which has strong antibacterial and immune boosting properties.
Echinacea: Echinacea root has antibacterial action against Streptococcus and other bacteria. It also boosts immunity, fights viruses and offers anti-inflammatory benefits in acute conditions. It’s commonly available as a tea, liquid extract and herbal supplement.
Licorice Root: Licorice has long been used to help relieve sore throats and reduce coughing. It contains strong antibacterial and antiviral compounds and is shown to help reduce upper respiratory tract infections. Licorice root tea can be consumed several times a day; it’s also helpful when used as a gargle solution.
Yin Qiao San Chinese Herbal Formula: This traditional herbal immune formula can be found in health food stores and Chinese herbal retailers. Honeysuckle flower, forsythia fruit, burdock seed and other unique ingredients work to boost immunity against viruses, fight bacterial infections such as strep, soothe symptoms and support healing. This formula works best when taken at the onset of illness. Dosages on the bottle can be doubled for acute symptoms.
Medicinal Mushrooms: Numerous medicinal mushroom species increase natural killer (NK) cell activity and support immunity against foreign invaders. They also support recovery by helping to strengthen areas of the body that are weak due to stress, injury or illness. For acute support, take up to 4 grams two to four times daily.
Probiotics: The beneficial probiotic strain Streptococcus salivarius (also called BLIS K12) is part of the normal bacteria present a healthy mouth and throat. When taken as a probiotic supplement, BLIS K12 helps fight harmful strep bacteria and restore balance to our internal flora. It also offers antiviral benefits by increasing interferon production, a key antiviral protein that stimulates the immune system. BLIS K12 also has anti-inflammatory benefits and fights tooth decay, and is available as a dietary supplement.
When fighting viral or bacterial infections with natural remedies, it’s important not to forget the traditional standbys: vitamin C and zinc. Vitamin C helps reduce symptoms, soothes mucus membranes and boosts immunity against bacteria and viruses. 2 to 5 grams per day during acute illness can make a difference.
Zinc lozenges are also very helpful. 10 to 15 grams of zinc per lozenge, together with other soothing herb extracts such as marshmallow root or cherry bark, can help relieve sore throats while boosting immunity. Take every three to four hours as needed.
Sore throats can be painful and annoying, but they can also lead to more serious complications if not addressed properly. Whatever your choice of treatment, get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, and stock up on soothing, nutritious foods such as hot soups that are gentle on irritated tissues.
You’ll be feeling better soon!