Laryngitis happens when your vocal cords become inflamed and swollen leading to a hoarse voice and difficulty speaking. In some cases it can even lead to a voice so faint that it is inaudible. A serious problem for anyone who needs to communicate with others during their job and personal life. The sore throat that often accompanies laryngitis can also be painful. Laryngitis self-care focuses on foods that help protect the vocal chords from inflammation preventing the condition, or easing the inflammation and irritation helping you to speak once more.

In this excerpt from the book The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods by James A. Duke and Bill Gottlieb, CHC the authors discuss what foods prevent laryngitis, or reduce irritation as part of a laryngitis self-care recovery plan.

Sore Throat/Laryngitis

During the 2008 presidential race, the candidates were reportedly given strict rules by their doctors: remain quiet whenever you can; drink extra fluids; and whatever you do, don’t whisper. Whispering stresses your vocal cords, and the candidates were speaking so much while campaigning that they were at serious risk for laryngitis.

Not surprisingly, they turned to natural solutions to protect their voices. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported that Sen. Barack Obama enjoyed hot water with lemon, honey, and ginger to save his voice. Sen. John McCain reportedly swallowed a tablespoon of olive oil before debates.

As you can imagine, if the candidates hadn’t taken these preemptive measures, they may have developed a serious case of hoarseness. But laryngitis, in which your vocal cords become inflamed and irritated, can be a sign of an infection. Your vocal cords are in your voice box, or larynx. When you speak, they open and close to form sounds. If they’re inflamed and swollen, the sounds they make will be distorted and hoarse and in some cases may be barely audible.

A sore throat, on the other hand, doesn’t directly affect your vocal cords but does make talking and swallowing painful. It sometimes serves as a warning, often being the first sign that you’re coming down with an illness. Most sore throats are due to a viral infection, such as a cold, the flu, or measles, but sometimes they can come with a bacterial infection such as streptococcus (strep throat) or tonsillitis. And infections aren’t the only cause. Even allergies, dry air, pollution, and acid reflux can make your throat hurt.

If you have a sore throat with a fever, see your physician. It could be strep, and that needs to be treated by your doctor because it could lead to rheumatic fever. Otherwise, sore throats usually go away on their own in about five to seven days.

Typically, people suck on lozenges to get relief from a sore or hoarse throat, but all that does is anesthetize the nerve cells in your throat to temporarily relieve the pain. A better choice might be to soothe the inflamed tissue with foods and herbs.

Healing Foods for Sore Throat/Laryngitis

A chronic sore throat or laryngitis deserves a trip to your doctor to make certain it’s not a sign of something more serious. But if it’s not chronic, try these foods that work directly on the tissue of your larynx to soothe it. If your throat pain is caused by a cold or the flu, see that section for more remedies.

Cardamom. Since cineole is both anti-laryngitic and anti-pharyngitic, and since cardamom is by far the richest source of cineole I’ve found, it’s a logical candidate for treating a sore throat.

Garlic. As “Russian penicillin” and my numero uno antiseptic and immunity booster all rolled into one, garlic is one of the first things I try for any inflammation in the respiratory tract

Garlic can be made into a tea and used as a gargle. I suspect that garlic relatives such onion and leek would do almost as well, especially since onion is richer in quercetin than garlic. To cure a sore throat, the Jews of Cochin (an ancient Jewish settlement in India) used a decoction of onion and lemon juice.

Ginger. Like garlic, ginger is great for sore throats and can be added to lemon juice, vinegar, and honey and used as a gargle.

Since I like ginger with pineapple juice, I might also combine both with several of the high-cineole herbs listed below to make what I call Cineolade, which contains the expectorant cineole, reportedly useful for laryngitis. Plants with high concentrations of cineole include basil, bee balm, cardamom, cinnamon, eucalyptus, fennel, gin ger, hyssop, lavender, lemon leaf, lemon verbena, nutmeg, peppermint, rosemary, spearmint, sweet Annie, tansy, tarragon, turmeric, and yarrow

Pomegranate. This Biblical fruit—per haps the “apple” of the garden of Eden— has a long history of use for sore throat, from the Andes to India. It’s a broad-spectrum antiseptic, and it contains at least nine immune-boosting compounds. You might try sipping the juice throughout the day, alternating with water.

Sage. While I’m not sure how it would taste, I’d mix some sage with more promising anti-pharyngitics like garlic, ginger, and onion and maybe even some oil, hon ey, or vinegar. Or I’d make a sage tea with lemon juice and honey.


There are probably plenty of things you don’t feel like eating or drinking when you have a sore throat or laryngitis. Here are some in particular you should avoid.

Caffeinated drinks. Getting plenty of flu ids is important when you have a sore throat, but soda and other drinks with caf feine dehydrate you. It’s better to choose water, soup, broth, or even ice chips.

Excessive alcohol. Drinking a lot of alco hol can irritate your throat and vocal cords, which can then lead to laryngitis.

Foods that cause acid reflux. Stomach acid that backs up into your esophagus can also irritate your throat and make it sore. It can even lead to laryngitis, so it’s important to avoid foods that trigger reflux, especially acidic foods such as tomatoes and high-fat, heavy foods such as french fries and rich sauces.

A clinical study supported my conviction that sage could be sagely used for sore throat relief. Researchers sprayed a 15 percent sage solution into the sore throats of study participants, then checked their pain levels every 15 minutes for two hours after the first application. Results showed that the patients enjoyed significant pain relief with few, if any, mild side effects.

Thyme. My friend Martha Libster, PhD, author of Delmar’s Integrative Herb Guide for Nurses, has noted that patent medicines for laryngitis, sore throat, bronchitis, and whooping cough contained thyme. The herb helps remove mucus from the respiratory tract, works as an antiseptic, and boosts the immune system.

Here’s one way to reap the benefits of thyme: Make a decoction by boiling or simmering the herb in water for 10 to 20 minutes. If you like, you can improve it by adding lemon and honey while it’s hot. Let the mixture cool, then gargle with it. You can also enjoy thyme as a tea, especially if you drink it about a half hour after eating a hot spice such as garlic, hot peppers, horseradish, or wasabi.

Fluids. The Mayo Clinic tells patients with sore throats to drink twice as much as usual because fluids thin the mucus in the throat and make it easier to clear. Adding moisture to the air with a humidifier can also bring relief.

Honey and lemon juice. Former President Barack Obama isn’t alone in turning to this concoction for relief; it’s a traditional remedy for a sore throat and laryngitis. The Mayo Clinic recommends stirring lemon juice and honey into a glass of hot water and letting it cool before drinking. The lemon helps clear mucus, while the honey coats your throat.

Horseradish and mustard. In addition to garlic and ginger, hot spices such as horse radish and mustard can help relieve laryngitis.

Aniseed. The German Commission E, a government agency that evaluates the safety and efficacy of medicinal herbs, recommends anise for respiratory problems and cough with phlegm because it helps break up congestion. I suggest crushing one to two tea spoons of aniseed, pouring boiling water over it, and letting it steep for 10 to 15 minutes. Be sure to strain it before drinking. If you don’t have high blood pressure or low potassium levels, you might add licorice to this tea.

Frozen fruit or fruit ices. Try frozen peeled bananas, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, or melons as a soothing treat for your throat. Fruit ices, ice pops, and ice chips may also help. The American Cancer Society recommends cold and frozen foods for a sore throat.

Olive oil. It wouldn’t hurt to try Sen. McCain’s remedy of downing a spoonful of olive oil to prevent laryngitis. If I can manage to swallow a tablespoon of fish oil (I can), I can certainly get down a teaspoon of olive oil. (Having thought about it for less than a minute, I abandoned my boring computer for an interesting kitchen and took a tablespoon of my garlic/olive oil/balsamic vinegar salad and bread dressing. It’s not bad, but it’s even better on whole-grain toast, buttered or unbuttered.) Olive oil is a folk remedy without much research behind it, but it’s a healthy source of monounsaturated fat, so it won’t hurt to take a spoonful.

From the Herbal Medicine Chest

Certain herbs can work wonders for a scratchy, irritated throat. These are among my favorites.

Horehound (Marrubium vulgare). Horehound is one of the first herbs I recommend for throat problems. The German Commission E, a government agency that evaluates the safety and efficacy of medicinal herbs, has approved it for laryngitis and other bronchial problems. The suggested dose is two teaspoons of dried herb per cup of boiling water for tea. I recommend adding lemon, licorice, and stevia to the tea.

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra). Licorice soothes a sore throat and helps remove mucus. People in Europe and China have been using it for centuries. In his book Chinese Healing Foods and Herbs, Albert Leung, PhD, a distinguished pharmacist and pharmacognocist (natural product pharmacist), notes scientific documentation of the use of licorice for asthma and its folkloric use for sore throat. He advises adding five to seven teaspoons of licorice root pieces to three cups of water and bringing it to a boil. Simmer until half the water has boiled away.

Licorice tea may bring relief, but be careful not to drink too much.

Long-term use—that is, more than six weeks—can cause or aggravate high blood pressure, among other side effects. Besides, if you have a sore throat for that length of time, you should see your doctor!

For more ways to fix root causes of common health problems, purchase Real Cause, Real Cure from

Related Articles