Sore throats & Tonsillitis

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Finding a good herbalist

Our bodies, from a bug's point of view, are the microbial equivalent of 'heaven on earth'. We are a constant source of warmth, food and shelter -- and they definitely want in!

Thankfully our immune systems take a dim view of alien invasions and work tirelessly to keep the bugs out. Each and every day our digestive systems, lungs, skin, and our throats, are arenas of combat between 'them', and 'us'. For many people the throat is the most vulnerable point of entry and knowing how to use Nature to nip an infection in the bud can be the key to staying well and stopping sickness from spreading deeper in.

Much of what's written in this article is entirely suitable for a person to work through themselves but, especially if things are quite bad, or you just know that you need further help, then there may be a great deal of benefit to you to go to whatever lengths necessary to find a good herbalist or truly holistic practitioner to guide you on to a safe and strong treatment program. There's a short write-up to suggest how you might go about finding such a person here

Antiobiotics - yes or no?

Most people still think that a course of antibiotics is the best way to deal with tonsillitis or a bad throat infection and most doctors are willing to go along with this even though medical councils around the world repeatedly send out messages asking them to stop prescribing antibiotics for tonsillitis and sore throats because a) the evidence shows that they make little to no difference and b) we have now entered the age of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and we simply must stop using them so much or there will be hell to pay in the future. I would also add a c) that antibiotics are vital life-saving drugs, but they are also really bad for you and should only be used when it is truly necessary.

So, even though the vast majority of sore throats and tonsillitis is caused by a virus and that therefore using antibiotics can be worse than useless, how can we know when it is one of the 5-10% of the time where a Strep bacterium is the culprit, and so this is when antibiotics would be warranted?

Some of this question can be answered by just having a proper look. Bacterial infections tend to produce a great deal of pus and mucus on the back of the throat, much more than viral infections. Getting a swab from the back of the throat for testing would be the most accurate way to assess things, but you would need to ask for this, as it is not done routinely.

This said, even if it is a bacterial infection, in my own experience and that of a great many others, the following methods are usually rapidly effective and can be taken on good faith that they have helped a great many people get better a lot faster than they would otherwise.

What follows are the best first-aid methods I know but please note that if you, or someone you care for, is getting chronic or recurrent infections then you must consider it highly likely that the overall health of your or their immune system needs to improve. This subject is covered in more depth here

Echinacea angustifolia


Sore throat formula

To rapidly resolve a throat infection and stop it going any further into the chest, the following formula has been seen to be effective for a great many people.

Echinacea root 25mls
Golden Seal* 10mls
Licorice root 10mls
Myrrh resin 5mls  
To make 50mls, double this amount to 100mls if you will need it more frequently

*Only use cultivated (not wild-crafted) Golden Seal or alternatively use Sage, Kava or Calendula.

Dose: between 1-4 mls, as often as required, usually slightly diluted.


The right way to take this formula is very important. To rapidly cure your infection you have to get the herbs to coat the back of the throat as much as possible and this requires some technique and training!

If it is for a young child, the best approach may be to simply put the mixture in a dilute form into a spray bottle of some kind. Tell them to 'open wide' and give a few quick sprays to the back of their throats. It will be weird at first, but once they feel the mixture giving them some, more or less, instant relief, they should be easy to encourage to take it more, or even do it themselves. How much you dilute the mixture is important, too much and it will be weaker than ideal, too little and it may be too strong for them to tolerate. I suggest starting with about half and half formula to water, and then go from there.

For an older child or an adult, the best way to get the most effective treatment is with gargling. You must start with the right amount of liquid to do a successful gargle and you will need to do some experimentation to see exactly what works best for you. Too much liquid is just as unhelpful as too little. Some people will find that they do best with no further dilution at all, others will need as much water as herbs, i.e. about 4 mls water added to the 4 mls of formula. Many people find that about 2 or 3 mls is about right for them, try and see for yourself.

If you want the best results, commit to a long and fully engaged gargle! Tilt your head back and let the herbs (and water) swish around the back of your throat by making that classic gargle sound. Ideally you want the medicine to be in contact with your throat for a good 20 seconds, which is a lot longer than it sounds.

Most people will find it hard to gargle for that long without a pause so you may need to drop your head forward for a moment, try not to swallow yet if you have to take a pause before you have done your 20 seconds or so. As soon as you ready, tilt your head back again and continue on.

You must make some noise to do a good gargle and you are best to move the 'pitch' of your voice up and down to get the medicine touching all the parts of the back of your throat that it needs to get to. Yes, this will sound weird, but it beats the torture of a sore throat and you must not stop, even if you have an audience and they don't appreciate your efforts as much as they should.

If possible, you should swallow the herbs after you have gargled them. The reason for this is, as well as the antimicrobial action that you get from putting these herbs in direct contact with your throat, you will also get significant benefits to your immune system from taking them internally.

If you have a lot of debris, mucus etc. from the infection then you may simply have to spit everything out when you've done the gargle. that's ok but In this case, take another dose of formula as soon as you can and try to swallow this next one after getting it into contact with the affected areas.

Frequency etc.


This treatment can be repeated very frequently when needed. Listen to your body and to your symptoms. The medicine should make your throat feel at least somewhat better right away, don't hesitate to repeat the dose if it starts feeling worse again.

How long does it take to work?

Most people feel at least some benefit from the very first dose and, started early enough, you should be able to nip most infections in the bud before they get a chance to get established. However, if you have been sick for a while then you may need to frequently repeat the treatment to get well.

Ideally, the sooner you start treatment the better. People who tend towards recurrent infections involving their throats should have this formula ready and waiting to use as soon as they need it.

Is it safe for children?

This formula is entirely safe for children to use. I would give a child below 5 about 1 or 2 mls per dose, 3 mls up to ages 8 or 9 and then adult doses from 10 years old. If they are too young to gargle, just spray it in there!


Home Care

The above approach has repeatedly been seen to be very helpful, but not everyone will easily be able to get those concentrated herbal extracts in a formula, or it may them take some time to organise. In any case, as soon as the condition begins, you are best to start some kind of treatment straight away and the following is a well tried and tested method that should give considerable aid.


Honey, Lemon, Ginger &/or Garlic

There are many variations on this recipe, used around the world for the simple reason that it helps!

It is ok for the amounts to be approximate and it is best to bring an open mind-set to exactly how much of each ingredient to use because the patient, whether that be you, your child, or someone else you are caring for, will soon be able to tell whether more or less of any of the ingredients seems to help more.

Start by planning to use 'equal proportions' of the honey and the lemon juice; i.e. and for example, 2 tsps of honey and 2 tsps of freshly squeezed lemon juice and then about a half that amount of the pressed juice of the Ginger &/or the Garlic.

You can make larger amounts when you are confident about the proportions that feel the best but this is a preparation that should be made fresh each day if you need to use it for more than a day.

To get a pressed 'juice' of Ginger, grate some fresh Ginger root and then, either by squeezing it in your hands, or by wrapping some muslin cloth around it and squeezing it that way, or by using a garlic press or other kitchen utensil, simply press it to get the half tsp, whole tsp, or more of the 'juice' that you want to mix into the lemon and honey.

The Garlic is not so easy to press out and here a kitchen 'Garlic press' will be most helpful. It is very important, if you will use Garlic in this mixture, to make it fresh each day. The antimicrobial properties of freshly cut or crushed Garlic are remarkably potent but they will degrade over 8 hours or more.

Once the ingredients have been thoroughly mixed you have another choice to make as to whether you take this treatment 'neat' i.e. straight off the spoon, or you mix it with some water and take diluted. I recommend trying both methods before you decide what works best for you. Some people will want to have it very diluted, e.g. 1-2 tsps to a whole glass of warm to hot water, others will prefer it much more concentrated and some people will honestly feel the most relief from this medicine by taking it straight, no water added at all.

People, especially when treating children with this method, are naturally apprehensive that fresh Ginger or Garlic could feel too hot or have a burning effect on an already sore and swollen throat.

Yes, it is important not to overdo either herb, using the mixture diluted to begin with will help here and also, if you are worried or unsure, then you can start at a lower dose and build it up as they get used to it and find it helpful.

However, you should not be too shy about getting either or both of these great healing herbs into the sore, infected throat. The heat of the Ginger is, surprisingly enough, actually very relieving after a short while and the Garlic, whilst it smells and tastes terribly strong, is so potently antimicrobial that within as little as 20 or 30 minutes there can be a shift in how much inflammation the body needs to create to try to fight its battle. The reason for that is that the Cavalry have arrived! No bugs, of any kind, can stand up to fresh, raw Garlic.

There is also a recipe for a decoction of Ginger, Cinammon, Lemon and Honey on the page on Ginger found here that may be beneficial to try. Likewise, if you or your child was ok with the taste of it, adding some Sage leaf (something most people already have in their kitchen pantry) to the tea may give significant relief to a sore throat.


Desperate Measures - Cayenne

If the pain was too severe to bear, then an old enough and brave enough person might be willing to try a Cayenne throat treatment. It is an incredibly potent method, but it is not for the faint-hearted! This is a recipe from Dr Jane Guiltinan, chief medical officer at the John Bastyr University Natural Health Clinic in Seattle. Jane says, 'this will literally knock the socks off the worst sore throat pain imaginable'.

Take half a glass of warm water, add half a squeezed lemon, a tablespoon of salt and half a teaspoon of Cayenne pepper. Gargle small amounts for as long as you are able, spit out and do not swallow. Honey, vanilla extract or maple syrup may certainly be added to improve the horrible taste. The pain relief should last for about four hours and the treatment can then be repeated if you are game enough!

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!



© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd