Sore Throats

The defences of the throat can be vulnerable to a number of different pathogenic micro-organisms, viral and bacterial, either in the nose, the sinuses, the mouth or the lungs as well as by general systemic health. Sore throats, like all other symptoms, need to be seen in the wider context of the child’s general health and well-being, not simply the microorganisms involved. An infection will develop only where the environment is hospitable for the microbes to settle and multiply.

One common cause of a mild sore throat on waking is central heating, as it causes low humidity. At night during sleep the mucous membranes of the nose dry out and swell, congesting the nose and causing mouth breathing. The low humidity irritates the mucous membranes in the throat causing discomfort. Placing a dehumidifier / vaporizer in the bedroom should easily remedy this.

When tonsils, adenoids and other lymph glands around the throat become swollen and painful, they are merely doing their work, along with other lymphatic tissue in the body, to defend the body from infection. Lymphocytes produced by the tonsils and adenoids are the first line of defence against airborne pathogens that are inhaled through the nose and mouth. Once the underlying causes of swollen lymph glands are resolved, the swelling will gradually subside.

Ayurvedic approach

According to Ayurveda there are three types of sore throats.

Vata type: the throat is dry, irritated and associated with wind and constipation and hoarseness.

Pitta type: the throat is red, swollen and inflamed, the pain can be severe as in a streptococcal infection.

Kapha type: a sore throat occurs with congestion and phlegm.

Treatment of sore throats

Most infections affecting the throat are viral, though the more serious infections tend to be bacterial. Herbs can be used in both bacterial and viral infections but obviously care needs to be taken with children with acute sore throat, swollen glands and fever, because of the risk of complications of a streptococcal throat infection. If a child has a sore throat with runny nose or eyes, slight cough and nasal congestion, it is more likely to be a viral infection, but if the child has only a severe sore throat and swollen glands with or without fever and malaise, but no accompanying upper respiratory symptoms, it is more likely to be a bacterial infection (see also Treatment of Infections).

• Antimicrobial herbs including chamomile, basil, cat’s claw (Uncaria tormentosa), self-heal (Prunella vulgaris), thyme, garlic, turmeric, wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria), myrrh (Commiphora molmol), cinnamon, ginger, garlic and onion can be used to enhance the efforts of the immune system to fight off infection. Propolis is also recommended.

• Many herbs traditionally used for sore throat such as those containing rosmarinic acid (e.g. sage and rosemary) have antiviral action.

• Honey itself has antiviral action, supporting the traditional lemon and honey cure.

• Echinacea and garlic can be given every 2 hours. These can be combined with remedies that specifically help the cleansing work of the tonsils such as cleavers (Galium aparine), marigold, blue flag (Iris versicolor), burdock, dandelion root and golden seal (Hydrastis canadensis).

• Tinctures / infusions of thyme, sage (Salvia off.), rosemary, myrrh, golden seal and propolis can be used as gargles or in throat sprays.

• Antiseptic essential oils can be used for inhalations / vaporizers, to disinfect the room, including rosemary, eucalyptus, pine, lemon or thyme.

• For fever management elderflowers, limeflowers (Tilia europaea), chamomile, yarrow, lemon balm, peppermint can be given as teas throughout the day.

• Demulcent herbs to relieve heat and discomfort in the throat, such as mullein, liquorice, marshmallow (Althea off.), coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) and slippery elm (Ulmus fulva) can also be given.

Ayurvedic approach

Vata type sore throats require warming and soothing herbs such as ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, haritaki, liquorice, slippery elm, amalaki, anise (Pimpinella anisum) and garlic. Tea of liquorice, ginger, cinnamon in equal parts ( ½ teaspoon of mixture powder) in hot water can be taken three times daily.

– Gargle: salt and warm water is suitable or ½ tsp turmeric powder in warm milk.

– Massage of sesame oil or ghee medicated with liquorice or calamus can be applied to the throat.

Pitta type sore throats require cooling, detoxifying antimicrobials including katuka (Picrorrhiza kurroa), guduchi, chamomile, liquorice, amalaki, bibhitaki, fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) and lemongrass.

– Gargle: sandalwood: 2.5 ml of tincture / 2.5 g of powder or ½ tsp turmeric powder or ½ tsp of neem tincture in ½ cup of warm water or ½ cup of neem infusion are all suitable.

Kapha type sore throats require warming diaphoretics, expectorants, decongestants and astringents. Useful herbs include ginger, bibhi-taki, basil, lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus), har-itaki, garlic, cinnamon, coriander and turmeric. Drinks of hot lemon and honey will help to soothe the throat.

– Gargle: sandalwood / turmeric in hot water (see above).

Sitopaladi and chiretta can be taken generally by all types, ¼ – ½ tsp in hot water or a teaspoon of honey three times daily, as well as Triphala powder, ¼ – ½ tsp in hot water with honey at night.