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Natural Remedies for Strep Throat

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Updated February 28, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Natural remedies are sometimes used in treatment of strep throat, an infection caused by Group A Streptococcus bacteria. But while some natural remedies may help relieve certain strep throat symptoms, no natural remedy is known to treat the infection itself. What's more, self-treating strep throat with natural remedies and avoiding the use of antibiotics can have serious health consequences.

Natural Remedy for Strep Throat Symptoms

Strep throat is treated with antibiotics (such as penicillin or amoxicillin) that help wipe out the Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria causing the infection. However, these natural remedies may help ease symptoms of strep throat:

1) Honey

Drinking warm tea with honey can help soothe the soreness of strep throat, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Although some preliminary studies show that honey may also possess bacteria-fighting properties, it's not known whether honey can knock out Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria.

In addition, the NIH recommends gargling several times daily with warm salt water, drinking cold liquids, sucking on popsicles or lozenges, and using a cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier to moisten indoor air.

2) Herbs

A number of herbs have long been used in herbal medicine to alleviate sore throat. Lozenges or teas containing licorice, slippery elm, or marshmallow, for example, may help reduce the irritation and inflammation associated with sore throat. However, it's important to note that there is a lack of studies testing the use of these herbs specifically for strep throat.

Other Natural Remedies for Strep Throat

Preliminary research suggests that certain herbs can help fight off the bacteria that cause strep throat. For instance, findings from a 2010 laboratory study published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology indicate that compounds found in garlic may inhibit the activity of streptolysin O (a protein produced by Group A Streptococcus bacteria). In addition, lab research published in a 2010 issue of Phytomedicine shows that echinacea may help render Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria inactive.

However, due to the lack of supporting evidence from human-based studies, neither of these natural remedies can currently be recommended in treatment of strep throat.

Should You Use Natural Remedies for Strep Throat?

When left untreated by antibiotics, strep throat can lead to serious complications (such as rheumatic fever, an inflammatory disease that can cause permanent damage to the heart). Although such complications are rare, it's important to seek medical treatment if you experience symptoms of strep throat (including sore throat, fever that begins suddenly, headache, stomach ache, nausea, chills, difficulty swallowing, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck).

If you're considering the use of natural remedies for relief of strep throat symptoms, talk to your doctor about how to go about safely using these remedies in combination with standard care for strep throat.

Sources:

Agarwal A, Gupta D, Yadav G, Goyal P, Singh PK, Singh U. An evaluation of the efficacy of licorice gargle for attenuating postoperative sore throat: a prospective, randomized, single-blind study. Anesth Analg. 2009 Jul;109(1):77-81.

Arzanlou M, Bohlooli S. "Inhibition of streptolysin O by allicin - an active component of garlic." J Med Microbiol. 2010 Sep;59(Pt 9):1044-9.

National Institutes of Health. "Strep throat: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia". May 2011.

Sharma SM, Anderson M, Schoop SR, Hudson JB. "Bactericidal and anti-inflammatory properties of a standardized Echinacea extract (Echinaforce): dual actions against respiratory bacteria." Phytomedicine. 2010 Jul;17(8-9):563-8.

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