When a dry, achy feeling envelops the back of your throat, do you reach for a box of lozenges? Plenty of people do, but they’re missing out on some highly effective natural cures. A sore throat can have lots of causes. Allergies, dehydration or exposure to polluted air could be to blame. A sore throat may, of course, also herald the beginning of a flu virus or a strep bacterial infection. Whatever the cause, you can try all three remedies below or one of the contrast hydrotherapies plus the honey and herb mix at the first sign of sore throat pain.

The first two of my favorite sore throat remedies rely on contrast hydrotherapy, a naturopathic technique that stimulates the immune system by using hot and cold water to move the blood. Hot water brings blood to the area where heat is applied. Cold water drives blood away from the area. When blood moves, new cells are brought to areas of the body that need attention. Fresh blood cells fight infection, reduce inflammation and revitalize the body.

CURE #1: Throat wrap. What to do: Get a thin piece of cotton cloth, such as a dish towel, soak it in cold water, wring it out well and keep it nearby. Then soak a second cotton cloth in hot water, wring it out and wrap the hot towel around your neck in a wide band. Caution: Be sure the towel is not so hot that you burn yourself. Cover the cloth with a dry wool scarf (for maximum warmth). Leave it on for two minutes, then quickly replace the hot towel with the cold towel, cover it with the wool scarf and leave it in place for 15 minutes. Remove the cold towel, then briskly rub your neck downward from jaw to shoulder. This stimulates the movement of lymphatic fluids to help rid the body of toxins. Cover your neck with dry, warm clothing, such as a turtleneck sweater or another dry scarf. Do the throat wrap one to three times daily.

CURE #2: Footbaths. Bet you’re surprised, right? There is a reason why footbaths help a sore throat. This therapy stimulates a big movement of blood throughout the body, which speeds healing. What to do: Fill a washbasin with hot water (enough to cover your ankles), and fill another with cold water. Start with hot water, and soak both feet for three minutes. Then immediately move your feet to the cold water, and soak for one minute. Go back and forth, three times each, ending with cold. During a sore throat episode, do a footbath at least twice daily. Caution: People who have peripheral vascular disease, diabetes or a loss of sensation in their feet should not do hot/cold footbaths.

CURE #3: Honey. While it’s not a cure-all, honey is a mild antiseptic and an anti-inflammatory, so it eases sore throats. What to do: Mix together equal parts slippery elm powdered bark and honey (I like raw, local honey). Stir it up really well, and put a spoonful of the mixture in your mouth. Let it melt down the back of your throat. It’s soothing and tasty, and you can do this as often as you wish until your sore throat is better. In my experience, this therapy is more effective than gargling with salt water. Caution: Do not take slippery elm within two hours of taking medication—it can interfere with absorption. If you are pregnant, consult your doctor before taking slippery elm.

Note: If you develop a fever (101°F or above), have significant sore throat pain and/or red, swollen tonsils, sometimes with white spots on them, see your physician. You may have a strep infection and need an antibiotic.

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