Herbal Remedies for Sore Throat

Written by: Katarina Subotich

We all had the experience of the sore throat. It is the inflammation of trachea when, due to swollen tissue, the space inside of it becomes more narrow resulting in pain, especially during swallowing. Sometimes the throat can feel itchy and dry.

In this article we will divide herbs according to their actions and learn why certain actions will help with sore throat.

Astringent  – when tissue becomes inflamed and swollen, we want to tighten it. This will help to keep the infection away from spreading. Astringency will tighten the mucous membranes and prevent further inflammation. It will also reduce the pain. Herbs with this action are: sage, rosemary, wild rose.

Anodynes – a group of herbs used to dull the pain. Herbs used commonly in this situation are: echinacea, spilanthes, ginger, cloves.

Demulcent – herbs with demulcent qualities sooth the mucous membranes. They  are especially indicted in cases of scratchy throat.  Herbs with demulcent properties are: marshmallow, linden, licorice, plantain.

Antimicrobials – this group of plants will fight microbes and prevent farther infection. Most famous are: thyme, sage, ginger. Although not herbs, extremely important antimicrobial substances worth of mentioning are honey and propolis.

Lymphatic – swollen throat is usually accompanied by swollen lymphatic glands. To stimulate movement of lymph through the glands we can use: echinacea, mullein, violet, and calendula.

This might be a lot of information, especially for those of us who are not too familiar with herbal knowledge. Let’s summon this up and move on to the recipes. Once you have hands on experience, it all mystically starts to sink in.

We use astringent and demulcent herbs to bring relief; antimicrobial herbs to prevent farther infection, and the lymphatic herbs in case of the swollen lymph glands.


Sage and thyme gargle

Presence of salt in the gargle will help to relieve swelling in the throat, which then helps to relieve the pain. Adding antimicrobial herbs such as sage and thyme help to prevent further infection. The vinegar changes the acidity of the mucous membranes, which also inhibits pathogens.

1 tablespoon dried sage leaves

1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves

1/2 cup boiling hot water

1 to 2 tablespoons salt

1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar

Place the sage and thyme in a jar. Pour 1/2 cup boiling water over the herbs. Steep, covered, for 15 minutes. Strain. Add the salt and stir until dissolved. Add the apple cider vinegar.

This mixture will last for 48 hours. Keep it stored in the fridge.

Gargle a small mouthful every 30 to 60 minutes. Gargle for as long as you can and then spit it out.


Propolis tincture

To make propolis tincture you need high procentage alcohol. Propolis is very resinous and it won’t dilute in water. So to make tincture you will need:

Resin of propolis

95% alcohol

1:5 ( 1 part of propolis, 5 parts of alcohol per volume)

Take a desired amount of propolis, like 10 grams for example. Measure five times more alcohol (50ml). Put in a tight fitting jar and let it sit for 4-6 weeks. Shake occasionally. When done, strain it and add to it spring or distilled water. If you have 95% alcohol, adding the same amount of water as propolis tincture will make it around 47% alcohol tincture. 

I find it most effective to put it directly on the tonsils, on the back of throat. You can do it either by using dropper, or by putting propolis in the teaspoon and putting it on the back of the throat. It will probably burn a bit, but it is well worth the relief it brings.


Sore throat herbal pills

The powdered herbs will lose their potency relatively quickly (in a few months). So, although the coffee grinder won’t powder herbs finely, it can work just fine for some preparations. Roots are a bit harder to do in coffee grinder, so if really interested in making your herbal medicine, invest in herb grinder. If it is just occasional pastime, spice/coffee grinder can serve the purpose.

The following recipe is mix of astringent, demulcent and antimicrobial herbs. Recipe is formulated by Kiva Rose.

1 tablespoon powdered rose petals

1/2 tablespoon powdered sage leaves

2 tablespoons powdered marshmallow root

About 1 1/2 tablespoons honey

Rose petal and cinnamon powder for rolling (optional)

Mix the herbs. Place honey on very low heat, just so it becomes like syrup (never hot). Add it little by little and make a mixture that is easy to roll in a pea size balls. It should not be sticky. At the end, you can roll them in cinnamon or rose powder. Let them harden a bit and store them. I always make a smaller batch. Take 1-2 pills 3 times a day, depending on the condition.


Herbal honey 

To make herb infused honey it is preferable to use fresh herbs. When having dry herbs, it is better to make syrups. Exceptions are lavender and chamomile, as they seem to work fine even if dry.

Fresh herb of your choice

Raw honey 

Fill jar ¾ with herb. Lightly warm the honey so it is more liquid. Pour honey over the herbs and cover with tight lid. In  2-3 days you can start using your preparation, either to soothe the throat or just as a tasty treat. There is no need to strain the herbs. If honey gets crystallized you can lightly reheat it, or just place jar in a pot of hot water.


Next article is on types of coughs. We will focus more on dry coughs and make some herbal preparations that will help calm the irritation.

Be healthy and well,


Northeast School of Botanical Medicine graduate