Waking up with a sore throat isn’t a great way to start your morning. Your sore throat likely needs some attention to heal properly. One of the best natural ways to treat your issue is with essential oil for sore throat.
Essential oils are some of the most powerful substances on the planet. Diffusing a few drops of most essential oils is enough to take advantage of their benefits.
Why are some essential oils so great for a sore throat?
Many essential oils for sore throat help fight the root of what’s causing your sore throat, such as a cold or the flu. Also, some essential oils contain menthol or other soothing and pain-relieving compounds.
But what’s causing your woes in the first place? I’ll explain that, plus why my family doesn’t use conventional remedies for sore throat.
WHY DOES MY THROAT HURT?
First things first: What causes a sore throat? According to Dr. Josh Axe (1):
“The most common cause of a sore throat is a cold or the flu. You often first realize a cold or the flu is coming on when you get that first bit of pain and scratchiness in your throat. A sore throat can also be caused by allergies, strep throat, mononucleosis, tonsillitis, smoking or acid reflux.”
Other possible reasons for a sore throat include (2):
- Muscle strain (yelling at your kid’s ball game may be fun, until you wake up the next day!)
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Oral thrush/candida
- Air pollutants
- Dry air
A lot of times, you’ll notice the pain is worse when swallowing. This is because your glands and throat are swollen and inflamed. A sore throat may also cause your voice to become hoarse and/or make it harder for you to talk.
NATURAL VS. CONVENTIONAL SORE THROAT SOLUTIONS
From gargling salt water to cough drops, there are many home remedies for sore throat. Some of these conventional methods aren’t as helpful as you may think, though. For one, cough drops are often loaded with refined sugar, an inflammatory ingredient. Unfortunately, sugar-free cough drops contain sorbitol, which can cause a laxative effect (3).
A myth floats around about overdosing on menthol from cough drops. In reality, it’s not really true… it’s only happened once (4). Even so, loading up with refined sugar isn’t a great way to soothe a sore throat and expect it to heal.
Fortunately, there are menthol cough drops available without sugar or fillers. These may incorporate ingredients like honey and essential oils. If you choose to use cough drops, one of these (or a DIY version) is what I recommend.
What about cough syrup? Coughing irritates your sore throat, so getting rid of this stimulus can be helpful, right?
Not exactly… Cough syrups don’t actually work (5). It’s all a placebo effect!
Another conventional treatment for sore throat might be a trip to your health care provider. If the pain is severe or lasts for several days without improvement, this might be necessary. Yet, the drugs your health care provider prescribes might be worse in the long run.
Have you ever heard of antibiotic resistance, also called antimicrobial resistance? The World Health Organization defines it as a “serious threat to global public health (6).” By overusing antibiotics and over-sanitizing our lives, we’ve lost some of our natural immunity and created an environment for the growth of “superbugs.”
Sound a little freaky? It should. There’s a reason your health care provider reminds you never to stop taking antibiotics in the middle of a bottle.
That’s a longer topic than I’ll get into right now, but the point is you should only use antibiotics when absolutely necessary.
Antibiotics are only useful about 5-17 percent of the time you have a sore throat. But health care providers prescribe them over 50 percent of the time (7)!
That’s because most of the time, sore throats are caused by illnesses like the common cold or flu. And these are caused by viruses. Antibiotics don’t work against viruses, so every time you use an antibiotic when you don’t need it (like for a sore throat linked to a common cold or flu), you limit your body’s ability to fight future infections.
Conclusion: unless your health care provider is sure a bacterial infection caused your sore throat, avoid the antibiotics.
Personally, all of this is enough for me to seek out more natural, risk-free remedies. There are incredible options — and essential oils for sore throat are some of the best choices.
BEST ESSENTIAL OILS FOR SORE THROAT
One of the strongest essential oils on the planet, oregano is powerfully antibacterial.
Diffusing oregano can kill some of the bacteria that cause colds, flu, strep throat or sinus infection (8,9).
You have to be careful with this oil, as directly applying it to skin or consuming it can burn you. If you want to use it topically, combine oregano with a carrier oil — almond or coconut oil are my favorites.
I like to massage diluted oregano into my lymph nodes on my neck. It calms the burning fire of a sore throat almost instantly. It’s one of my favorite natural remedies for this reason.
For stronger infections, take oregano internally but use caution. Spare your mouth and throat painful burns by combining it with olive or almond oil in a veggie capsule. Your stomach acid is strong enough to break it down and use the antibacterial compounds. Be aware that it may cause mild nausea or stomach upset.
Because it’s so powerful, oregano essential oil can impact many parts of the body. If you have diabetes or a bleeding disorder, consider talking with your health care provider before taking oregano essential oil for sore throat (10).
Pregnant mamas: Oil of oregano might cause miscarriage, but the details are unclear. I’d steer clear of this one until baby comes!
A lot of people use peppermint oil to relieve pain — and it works great! It’s super versatile and is one of the best essential oils for sore throat.
First, peppermint oil contains an active ingredient called menthol. Menthol cools things down and reduces inflammation throughout the sinuses and respiratory system (11). You may notice your pain become less severe when using peppermint essential oil for sore throat.
But the benefits of peppermint oil for sore throat are even better than pain relief! Peppermint may actually end your infection faster.
It may even help treat asthma, the common cold and other bacteria that hang out in your mouth to cause a sore throat (12).
Use peppermint oil in your diffuser, topically or internally. On the skin, you’ll need a carrier oil, like coconut, and to take it internally, you should combine one drop with four ounces of water. Excessive peppermint oil can make you sick, but you really only need 1-2 drops at a time (13).
Pregnant mamas: There isn’t much out there about peppermint oil during pregnancy, but I’ve used it safely (14). Don’t overdo it, but you should be okay to diffuse this oil. Avoid taking it internally if you’re concerned. Breastfeeding is another story. Peppermint can dry up your milk supply! I know because it happened to me with my second child. Thankfully, I figured out what was happening, but you should definitely steer clear if you’re nursing.
This oil is another antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powerhouse, so it’s no surprise that it’s often used for sore throat and respiratory infections in folk medicine (15). It also contains plenty of vitamin C, which can fight infection-causing bacteria.
Lemon oil can also help to get rid of candida in the mouth, a possible cause of sore throat (16). Oral candida is also known as oral thrush.
You don’t always need a carrier for lemon oil on the skin, but it’s a good idea if you’re going to use it on sensitive skin (like your face). It can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight, so don’t use lemon essential oil topically if you’ll be outside in the sun for the next 12 hours.
If you want to know how to use lemon essential oil for sore throat, I recommend starting with a drink. Lemon tastes great in recipes — or just dilute with one drop per four ounces of water. Lemon essential oil for sore throat is a great scent to diffuse as well; Combine it with an herbal oil, like clove, to make a delicious blend.
Pregnant mamas: Lemon essential oil is safe while you’re pregnant and nursing, but use it in moderation, as it’s so concentrated.
We love eucalyptus because it is so versatile and has a ton of benefits. Like peppermint, eucalyptus is both a pain relieving and antibacterial essential oil for sore throat. Eucalyptus kills several different kinds of common bacteria and is used with menthol in natural remedies for sore throat (17,18).
A study published in 2010 compared how eucalyptus, peppermint, oregano and rosemary oils could help with a sore throat. Within 20 minutes of spraying the blend in the throat, the pain from sore throats, as well as cough and hoarseness, had gotten way better (19).
Using eucalyptus essential oil can be a little tricky. You should understand all the restrictions before trying it as one of your essential oils for sore throat.
As with most oils, it’s safe to diffuse eucalyptus, as long as you don’t stick your face right into the steam.
To use on the skin, dilute eucalyptus with a carrier oil; never put it on your skin directly. When someone in your family has a sore throat, try combining five drops of eucalyptus, five drops of peppermint and two tablespoons of coconut oil for a DIY vapor rub.
Eucalyptus can be taken internally by adults for up to 12 weeks, but it first has to be diluted (usually in water or taken in a veggie capsule). You only need a drop or two, and make sure you have at least four ounces of water to every drop of essential oil. Use hot water to make a tea. Some sources will tell you never to take eucalyptus internally, so consult with your health care provider if you’re not sure.
Children shouldn’t ever consume eucalyptus oil, as it can result in toxicity (20).
Pregnant mamas: There’s not a lot of evidence that eucalyptus oil is safe during pregnancy, but there aren’t known dangers like spontaneous miscarriage.
Tea tree essential oil kills bacteria that could cause your sore throat (12).
One of my favorite ways to create an essential oil diffuser recipe for sore throat is by blending tea tree oil, peppermint, eucalyptus and clove. It’s a great combination for ultimate infection-fighting power and pain relief!
Using tea tree oil as an ingredient in a homemade vapor rub is another great way to use this essential oil for sore throat; just make sure to dilute it with a carrier oil.
You should never ingest tea tree oil, as it’s poisonous if swallowed (21).
Pregnant mamas: There are conflicting reports about hormone disruption of tea tree oil. These case studies seem isolated, but I’d steer clear of tea tree oil during pregnancy, to be safe. Never ingest tea tree oil.
Using thyme essential oil may help your infection go away faster, minimizing the time you have to deal with a sore throat (9). It’s even a great essential oil for strep throat.
In some studies, thyme kills antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, including one type of strep (22,23).
If bronchitis caused your sore throat, thyme essential oil could be your answer, as it’s an effective bronchitis remedy (24). Thyme essential oil for sore throat is sometimes combined with other herbs to create an expectorant that loosens mucus (25).
Combine thyme oil with a carrier oil to use topically. You can also mix it with other essential oils for sore throat in an essential oil diffuser recipe for sore throat. It’s safe to consume, diluted in water, and is a popular essential to use in a healing bath or a bacteria-killing mouthwash.
Pregnant mamas: We don’t know much about thyme oil during pregnancy, but it may act like extra estrogen in the body. Use it in moderation if you choose to ingest thyme oil.
Add clove to your antibacterial essential oil diffuser recipe for sore throat for another infection-busting punch. In addition to getting rid of a bunch of different kinds of bacteria that can contaminate food, clove oil is great for preventing or treating oral thrush (candida), which can be one cause of a sore throat (12,26).
Not only does it fight infection, clove oil is a natural numbing agent.
Clove is one of the best natural remedies for toothaches because of the way it numbs the gums — it’s just as good as the medical stuff used by dentists (27). Gargling warm water with clove, then swallowing, can numb the pain in your throat.
It’s safe to use clove on the skin with a carrier or internally, diluted in water or a veggie cap; However, you shouldn’t use it for more than about two weeks. It’s not considered safe for smaller children, so don’t use it with your toddlers.
Pregnant mamas: Clove is thought to be safe during pregnancy — but stick to 100% natural or wild crafted varieties and don’t take it for more than a couple weeks at a time.
Ginger oil: it’s not just for nausea anymore.
While many of us know ginger soothes tummy issues, did you know that it’s one of the best essential oils for sore throat, too?
Ginger acts as an anti-inflammatory to knock out a sore throat, both relieving pain and killing bacteria that can cause a cold (28).
Unlike many other essential oils that kill bacteria, you can use ginger oil topically without a carrier oil. You can also cook with it or drink it in water (or another beverage).
Pregnant mamas: This one’s a major go-to for morning sickness! You should be safe to take ginger throughout your pregnancy without side effects.
Another one of the best essential oils for strep throat is cinnamon oil (9). It helps to kill some of the compounds that cause strep throat, a common cause of a sore throat.
Dr. Josh Axe recommends combining cinnamon oil with honey and hot lemon water to relieve sore throat pain and boost your immune system (29).
Topical cinnamon oil needs a carrier before you apply it. It’s also safe to ingest cinnamon oil — it’s a great aid to cooking a comforting meal. Try adding to soups for great flavor and many health benefits while you’re recovering from your sore throat!
Pregnant mamas: Cinnamon oil seems to be safe during pregnancy. If you’ve got ulcers, you may want to avoid ingesting it, but otherwise shouldn’t have any issues.
Kick that sore throat to the curb with lemongrass essential oil — at least, if strep is behind your sore throat (9).
Lemongrass oil can also kill oral thrush bacteria, so it’s definitely one of the best essential oils for sore throat (30).
You can use lemongrass oil safely in food or on the skin without a carrier oil, although some people with sensitive skin may need a carrier oil to avoid a mild burning sensation.
Pregnant mamas: Sadly, lemongrass essential oil isn’t safe while pregnant. It can stimulate menstruation which means your body can mistakenly decide it’s time to go into labor, even if baby isn’t ready. Avoid this oil until your little one has arrived.
OTHER NATURAL SORE THROAT REMEDIES
There are some other great natural remedies for sore throat that you may want to incorporate in addition to essential oils for sore throat.
Raw honey: Soothes sore throat pain by coating the throat; antibacterial against some infections (33)
Elderberry syrup: Fights several viruses and reduces inflammation (34)
Raw garlic: Antiviral, antiparasitic and antibacterial, even against some antibiotic-resistant bacteria; improves immune system function (35,36)
Vitamin C: Fights infections that cause the common cold and bronchitis (37)
Echinacea: Can prevent you from getting the cold if taken during cold season (38)
Zinc: Reduces the length of the common cold when you take it as soon as you feel illness coming on (39)
Probiotics: Significantly lower the risk of catching a respiratory infection, especially in kids (40)
These are our favorite essential oils and natural remedies for sore throat! I hope it’s helpful for you. Now, we want to hear from you. What are your favorite essential oils or natural remedies for beating a sore throat?
- Dr. Axe. (2018). 8 Essential Oils for Sore Throat Pain. Retrieved from: https://draxe.com/essential-oils-for-sore-throat/
- Mayo Clinic. (2018). Sore throat. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sore-throat/symptoms-causes/syc-20351635
- Peters, R., & Lock, R. H. (1958). Laxative effect of sorbitol. British medical journal, 2(5097), 677. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2026423/?page=1
- Baibars, M., Eng, S., Shaheen, K., Alraiyes, A. H., & Alraies, M. C. (2012). Menthol toxicity: an unusual cause of coma. Case reports in medicine, 2012. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3521632/
- Eccles, R. (2009). Central mechanisms IV: conscious control of cough and the placebo effect. In Pharmacology and therapeutics of cough (pp. 241-262). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18825344
- World Health Organization. (2018). Antimicrobial resistance. Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/antimicrobial-resistance
- Linder, J. A., & Stafford, R. S. (2001). Antibiotic treatment of adults with sore throat by community primary care physicians: a national survey, 1989-1999. Jama, 286(10), 1181-1186. Full text: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/194178
- Dadalioǧlu, I., & Evrendilek, G. A. (2004). Chemical compositions and antibacterial effects of essential oils of Turkish oregano (Origanum minutiflorum), bay laurel (Laurus nobilis), Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas L.), and fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) on common foodborne pathogens. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 52(26), 8255-8260. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15612826
- Sfeir, J., Lefrançois, C., Baudoux, D., Derbré, S., & Licznar, P. (2013). In vitro antibacterial activity of essential oils against Streptococcus pyogenes. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2013.
- WebMD. (2018). Oregano. Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-644/oregano
- Juergens, U. R., Stöber, M., & Vetter, H. (1998). The anti-inflammatory activity of L-menthol compared to mint oil in human monocytes in vitro: a novel perspective for its therapeutic use in inflammatory diseases. European journal of medical research, 3(12), 539-545. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9889172
- Thosar, N., Basak, S., Bahadure, R. N., & Rajurkar, M. (2013). Antimicrobial efficacy of five essential oils against oral pathogens: An in vitro study. European journal of dentistry, 7(Suppl 1), S71. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4054083/
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2018). Peppermint oil. Retrieved from: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/peppermintoil
- WebMD. (2018). Peppermint oil continued. Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/peppermint-oil-uses-benefits-effects#2-4
- Raal, A., Volmer, D., Soukand, R., Hratkevitš, S., & Kalle, R. (2013). Complementary treatment of the common cold and flu with medicinal plants–results from two samples of pharmacy customers in Estonia. PLoS One, 8(3), e58642. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3590151/
- Dagli, N., Dagli, R., Mahmoud, R. S., & Baroudi, K. (2015). Essential oils, their therapeutic properties, and implication in dentistry: A review. Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry, 5(5), 335. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4606594/
- Mulyaningsih, S., Sporer, F., Reichling, J., & Wink, M. (2011). Antibacterial activity of essential oils from Eucalyptus and of selected components against multidrug-resistant bacterial pathogens. Pharmaceutical biology, 49(9), 893-899. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21591991
- Penecilla, G. L., & Magno, C. P. (2011). Antibacterial activity of extracts of twelve common medicinal plants from the Philippines. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research, 5(16), 3975-3981. Abstract: https://academicjournals.org/journal/JMPR/article-abstract/7BBEFEE22854
- Ben-Arye, E., Dudai, N., Eini, A., Torem, M., Schiff, E., & Rakover, Y. (2011). Treatment of upper respiratory tract infections in primary care: a randomized study using aromatic herbs. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2011. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2967840/
- WebMD. (2018). Eucalyptus. Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-700/eucalyptus
- National Capital Poison Center. (2010). Tea tree oil. Retrieved from: https://www.poison.org/articles/2010-dec/tea-tree-oil
- Sienkiewicz, M., Lysakowska, M., Ciecwierz, J., Denys, P., & Kowalczyk, E. (2011). Antibacterial activity of thyme and lavender essential oils. Medicinal Chemistry, 7(6), 674-689. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22313307
- Magi, G., Marini, E., & Facinelli, B. (2015). Antimicrobial activity of essential oils and carvacrol, and synergy of carvacrol and erythromycin, against clinical, erythromycin-resistant Group A Streptococci. Frontiers in microbiology, 6, 165. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4347498/
- Kemmerich, B., Eberhardt, R., & Stammer, H. (2006). Efficacy and tolerability of a fluid extract combination of thyme herb and ivy leaves and matched placebo in adults suffering from acute bronchitis with productive cough. Arzneimittelforschung, 56(09), 652-660. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17063641
- Wark, P. (2011). Bronchitis (acute). BMJ clinical evidence, 2011. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2907939/
- Chami, N., Bennis, S., Chami, F., Aboussekhra, A., & Remmal, A. (2005). Study of anticandidal activity of carvacrol and eugenol in vitro and in vivo. Oral microbiology and immunology, 20(2), 106-111. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15720571
- Alqareer, A., Alyahya, A., & Andersson, L. (2006). The effect of clove and benzocaine versus placebo as topical anesthetics. Journal of dentistry, 34(10), 747-750. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16530911
- Bode, A. M., & Dong, Z. (2011). Chapter 7: The Amazing and Mighty Ginger. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects, 804.
- Axe, Joshua. (2015). Cinnamon oil: 10 proven benefits and uses. Retrieved from: https://draxe.com/cinnamon-oil/
- Silva, C. D. B. D., Guterres, S. S., Weisheimer, V., & Schapoval, E. E. (2008). Antifungal activity of the lemongrass oil and citral against Candida spp. Brazilian Journal of Infectious Diseases, 12(1), 63-66. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18553017
- Brochot, A., Guilbot, A., Haddioui, L., & Roques, C. (2017). Antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral effects of three essential oil blends. MicrobiologyOpen, 6(4), e00459. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5552930/
- Essentials For Living NW, (2014). Throat Spray & Hand Sanitizer Recipes! Retrieved from: https://www.essentialsforlivingnw.com/guard-throat-spray-hand-sanitizer-recipes/
- Bansal, V., Medhi, B., & Pandhi, P. (2005). Honey–a remedy rediscovered and its therapeutic utility. Kathmandu University medical journal (KUMJ), 3(3), 305-309. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18650599/
- Barak, V., Halperin, T., & Kalickman, I. (2001). The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines: I. Inflammatory cytokines. Eur Cytokine Netw, 12(2), 290-296. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11399518
- Ankri, S., & Mirelman, D. (1999). Antimicrobial properties of allicin from garlic. Microbes and infection, 1(2), 125-129. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10594976
- Modaresi, M. (2012). A comparative analysis of the effects of garlic, elderberry and black seed extract on the immune system in mice. J Anim Vet Adv, 11(4), 458-61. Full text: http://bit.ly/elderberrycomparison
- Hemilä, H. (2014). The effect of vitamin C on bronchoconstriction and respiratory symptoms caused by exercise: a review and statistical analysis. Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology, 10(1), 58. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4363347/
- Jawad, M., Schoop, R., Suter, A., Klein, P., & Eccles, R. (2012). Safety and efficacy profile of Echinacea purpurea to prevent common cold episodes: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3457740/
- Hulisz, D. (2004). Efficacy of zinc against common cold viruses: an overview. Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, 44(5), 594-603. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15496046
- Hojsak, I., Abdović, S., Szajewska, H., Milošević, M., Krznarić, Ž., & Kolaček, S. (2010). Lactobacillus GG in the prevention of nosocomial gastrointestinal and respiratory tract infections. Pediatrics, peds-2009. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20403940/