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Chances are that your throat pretty much performs on command, so you give it little thought—unless it’s your moneymaker or it’s sore. Then it probably becomes just about all you can think about.
Since their voices are their instruments, singers rely on a variety of secret weapons to keep their throats in tiptop shape. But these botanical wonders aren’t just for vocalists. They can help anyone who experiences a sore throat or related respiratory symptoms.
Herbs That Open Your Airways
These helpful herbs are known as “astringents,” which means they help shrink throat tissues. This in turn helps open up airways and allows you to breathe more freely.
Bibhitaki (Terminalia belerica) is the best single Ayurvedic herb for generally controlling mucus, fat, and toxins in the body. One of three herbs in the Ayurvedic formula triphala, bibhitaki nourishes the lungs, throat, voice, eyes, and hair. It excels at removing stones and deposits (mucus, cholesterol, mineral deposits) in the
digestive, urinary, and respiratory tracts. A strong astringent, bibhitaki is great as a gargle since it opens the throat. Put 1 teaspoon of bibhitaki powder in a glass of water and gargle several times until the glass is empty.
Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) is a woody vine with clusters of small red berries. Several animal and human studies have determined that schisandra increases stamina and speed, and it improves concentration. What many people don’t know about schisandra berry is that it’s also a super astringent. Brew dried schisandra berry into a tea and, like bibhitaki, gargle until the throat is optimally open. Note: Schisandra has been shown to have phytoestrogen properties.
Sage leaf (Salvia officinalis) is another well-known throat astringent. It has been used to treat many inflammatory conditions, and research shows it can help relieve throat pain. Recently, German scientists found that a sage throat spray (with 15 percent sage) provides a convenient and safe treatment for patients with acute sore throat (pharyngitis). Symptomatic relief occurred within two hours after the first dose and was significantly superior to the placebo. Swiss scientists followed up with a paper showing that such a spray worked as well as a chlorhexidine/lidocaine spray in the treatment of acute sore throats. In addition to sprays, you can use sage tea as a gargle.
Herbs That Relieve a Sore Throat
Demulcents are herbs that soothe throat tissues by coating them with slippery plant starches, and they act on contact. So drinking demulcent teas or sucking on lozenges made from these herbs can provide almost instant relief.
Marshmallow root (Althaea officinalis) has been used to treat sore throat conditions in Europe since the Middle Ages. Sip arshmallow tea, or let an herbal lozenge melt in your mouth to coat and soothe your throat. A 2018 paper from Germany supported the long-established use of both marshmallow preparations (syrup and lozenges) for symptomatic treatment of dry cough. Marshmallow root lozenges have been tested in animals and found to be effective and nontoxic even at very high doses.
The slippery elm tree (Ulmus rubra) is native to North America. Native Americans made canoes, baskets, and other household goods from the tree and its bark. Slippery elm’s inner bark, a soothing, slimy herb, is used internally for sore throats and diarrhea. As a poultice, it’s a useful remedy for skin conditions.
Slippery elm bark is also a safe, effective cough soother. Drink as a tea or use lozenges. Slippery elm has FDA aaaapproval as a demulcent for sore throats, although there are no clinical trials to support this indication, and, overall, very little science on its use
for sore throat. Anecdotally, however, this herb is a lifesaver if you have a sore throat.
Finally, a technique new to most people—nasya from Ayurveda. These remedies are herb-infused oils that are inserted up the nostril (bend your head back) with an eye dropper. Several manufacturers (e.g., Banyan Botanicals) maake nasya blends. One exceptional traditional formula is Anu Taila, which contains a couple dozen ingredients. To start with any nasya, put one drop into each nostril. Increase by 1 dropper per day, until yoa get the clear throat that feels best.
Neti Pot Secret Ingredient
By now the Neti pot is familiar to most of us. In addition to using salt water as the base, singers may want to add a boost of triphala tea to clear the sinuses. Brew a cup of tea with 1 teaspoon of triphala powder. Start with a very small amount. With each use of your Neti pot, increase the amount of tea until you’re using an entire cup.
Planetary Herbals Triphala Powder
Thayers Slippery Elm Lozenges Tangerine
ZAND HerbalMist Throat Spray