Question: I am constantly getting sore throats that often don’t develop into colds or anything else. What do you think it is and how can I prevent these sore throats?
Answer: Recurrent sore throats or upper respiratory tract infections are either due to suppression of your immunity or repeated exposure to irritants in your environment. We would recommend that you first see a medical doctor and undergo a basic check-up for any evidence of a medical problem. This should include a careful examination of your throat and lymph nodes. A possible throat culture and some basic laboratory studies may be indicated. If you are sexually active, include an HIV test to be certain.
Assuming that you are not dealing with a serious health concern, the next step is to look carefully at your environment. We’ll assume you don’t smoke cigarettes or marijuana, but if you do, these are obvious sources of irritation. Are you exposed to smoke in your home or work environment? What is the quality of the air in your town? If you are indoors most of the time, consider getting an air purifier and a humidifier. These may be particularly helpful in your bedroom so you are breathing moistened, clean air while you are sleeping at night.
An Herbal Approach
There are several gentle herbal gargles you can try. In addition to providing symptomatic relief, they may also provide some protection to the mucous lining of your throat. The first herb worth considering is slippery elm. Make a strong infusion from this botanical that comes from the inner bark of ulmas fulva. Traditional Medicinals has a tea called Throat Coat that contains slippery elm. Gargle with and drink this infusion several times per day when you feel your throat irritation coming on.
Licorice (glycyrrhiza glabra) is another healing herb to soothe and protect mucous membranes. Most health food stores carry chopped licorice root that can be made into a strong tea using one tablespoon per cup of water. Licorice tea has a soothing and anti-inflammatory effect and as well as a demulcent influence on the mucous membranes. An Ayurvedic herb called guggulu, (commiphora mukul) is a resin that has been used to heal inflamed mucous membranes. Crush a tablet or capsule into an ounce of water and gargle with it four times a day. It is not the best tasting stuff, but it has a healing and cooling effect on the mucous membranes. Neem (azadirachta indica) is another potent anti-bacterial and anti-viral herb that is now available in a number of products including mouthwash.
Another Ayurvedic approach that can be very helpful is to gargle with a teaspoon of oil. Sesame seed oil is classically used but you can also try olive, almond or coconut. Swish it in you mouth and gargle for a couple minutes. Spit the residue out into a cup rather than down the drain. The lubricating effect of the oil can be protect you from environmental irritants and infectious agents.