Sore throats can be one of the more annoying medical symptoms, making it difficult to swallow or even talk. But if you're looking for an alternative to traditional medications, essential oils for a sore throat are worth considering.
Essential oils are derived from plants and have been used for centuries in various forms to promote wellness and natural healing. When used correctly, they can provide quick relief for sore throats – and much more.
In this blog post, we'll take a deeper look to see if essential oils for a sore throat work. Keep reading to learn more.
What is a Sore Throat?
A sore throat is a common condition that can be caused by many different things. Most often, a sore throat, known medically as pharyngitis is the result of a viral infection, such as the common cold or flu. In these cases, the sore throat is usually accompanied by other symptoms, such as a runny nose, fever, or cough (1).
In general, a sore throat is characterized by pain or discomfort when swallowing. Other symptoms may include a scratchy feeling in the throat, swollen glands, and hoarseness.
A sore throat can also be caused by bacterial infections (2), best treated with antibiotics; allergies due to pollen or pets (3); environmental irritants such as dust (4); and even stomach acid (5).
The best way to treat these causes of sore throat is to reduce your exposure to the irritant or, in the case of stomach acid, to reduce the cause of it.
3 Best Essential Oils for a Sore Throat
Try Eucalyptus if Your Sore Throat is Due to a Cold
If your sore throat accompanies a cold or cough, try Eucalyptus. It can work indirectly to help your sore throat because it is known to be an effective treatment for congestion, coughs, and colds.
Try and get essential oil extracted from the fruit of the Eucalyptus rather than the leaves. This is because it has been known to be more effective, especially for sore throats. It is more effective than antibiotics at killing the bacteria that can cause particular painful sore throat infections, called “strep throat”. (6).
Try Peppermint to Kill Viral or Fungal Infections
Like Eucalyptus, Peppermint essential oil has also been found to be effective at killing the strains of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.
On top of that, it can also kill viral and fungal infections (7). Peppermint essential oil is best inhaled with a few drops in steaming water or in a diffuser.
Using it this way is particularly effective at easing coughs, which often lead to a sore throat. Peppermint essential oil can be consumer in small amounts and is actually good for some conditions, such as indigestion. However, too much can cause side effects and should definitely not be given to children (8).
For treating a sore throat, peppermint is great to have in your medicine cabinet in the form of over-the-counter sore throat medications, such as sprays and lozenges. They will soothe your sore throat, kill the microbes, and you can be sure it is safe.
Drink Peppermint Tea to Soothe a Sore Throat
If your sore throat accompanies a cold, the medical advice is to drink plenty of fluids (9), so it is important you make sure every drop of those fluids count!
It is worth mentioning that peppermint tea, either from bags or home-grown peppermint leaves, is another great way to soothe a sore throat and make every drop of fluid intake count (10).
Ginger Can Kill Bacteria and Reduce Swelling
Ginger has many health benefits that are due to the active ingredient it contains called gingerol.
Gingerol is anti-inflammatory, which means it can help to reduce the swelling that accompanies a sore throat. It also has analgesic capabilities, meaning it can reduce pain.
Ginger essential oil is extracted from the roots of the plant Zingiber officinale. The most effective oil is taken when the plant has matured for approximately 9 months (11).
Gingerol has been shown to kill the bacteria that can cause a sore throat, known as pharyngitis. However, this has only been in a laboratory. There is no scientific evidence that ginger essential oil can actually cure or ease a sore throat in humans (12).
Recent Ginger Research
That being said, research from last year (2021) found that ginger extract when combined with cinnamon extract at a concentration of 5%:40% can kill staphylococcus aureus. This is the strain of bacteria that causes sore throats.
Although, this study was again conducted in a laboratory, it is the closest thing to scientific evidence regarding the ability of ginger essential oil to ease a sore throat (13).
If you have a sore throat and nothing else is helping, it is worth giving ginger essential oil a try. However, drinking ginger tea or ginger shots, both of which will contain gingerol, is another option.
Garlic Has Antimicrobial Properties
Garlic is well known as having antimicrobial, antiviral, antibacterial and antiseptic properties. However, this refers specifically to allicin, the active ingredient in the garlic bultb (14).
Garlic essential oil also has antimicrobial properties, especially with regard to staphylococcus aureus, the microbes that cause sore throats (15).
On the face of it, this means garlic essential oil could be used to cure a sore throat. Unfortunately, the bad news is that while garlic is classed as a food and is edible, the essential oil can cause nausea or vomiting, a burning sensation in the mouth and throat, and even stomach ulcers.
Eating excessive amounts of garlic essential oil has also been linked to sight loss and liver and kidney damage (14). It is, therefore, not worth the risk of taking garlic essential oil internally to treat a sore throat.
The oil could be diluted in a carrier oil to reduce the risk of a reaction, and it is probably better applied topically than taken internally.
Although, remember, it is not the most pleasant odor! There are many other ways to treat a sore throat without the unpleasant odor and with no side effects. But if you like the idea of benefitting from the antimicrobial properties of garlic, you could consider taking garlic tablets on a daily basis. Those that contain the active ingredient allicin can help many other illnesses and diseases in the first place (16).
Conclusion – Do Essential Oils Work For a Sore Throat?
While essential oils have their place in treating congestion, coughs and colds, the medical community will say there is insufficient evidence to recommend the use of essential oils to cure the pain of a sore throat.
Having said that, if you have a sore throat, eucalyptus and peppermint are effective in over the counter medication, otherwise manufacturers wouldn't use it! Ginger and garlic can be eaten. Or you can take garlic tablets that contain allicin to help you fight the bugs that cause the sore throat in the first place.
1. Sore throat https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sore-throat/symptoms-causes/syc-20351635
2. Strep Throat: All You Need to Know https://www.cdc.gov/groupastrep/diseases-public/strep-throat.html
3. Sore Throat From Allergies: https://www.zyrtec.com/allergy-guide/understanding-allergies/symptoms/sore-throat
4. Environmental and non-infectious factors in the aetiology of pharyngitis (sore throat) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3439613/
5. Understanding Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) — Symptoms https://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/guide/understanding-gerd-symptoms
6. Antibacterial activity of essential oils from Eucalyptus and of selected components against multidrug-resistant bacterial pathogens https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3109/13880209.2011.553625
7. Antibacterial and antioxidant activities of Mentha piperita L. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1878535211000232
8. Peppermint Oil https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2007/0401/p1027.html
9. Hydration Information Leaflet https://www.knowledgeanglia.nhs.uk/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=uzyG0SbhsgA%3D&tabid=313&portalid=1&mid=981
10. Is Peppermint Tea Good for a Sore Throat? https://www.livestrong.com/article/336572-is-peppermint-tea-good-for-a-sore-throat/
11. The Amazing and Mighty Ginger https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92775/
12. Inhibition of Streptococcus pyogenes growth by native Australian plants: New approaches towards the management of impetigo, pharyngitis and rheumatic heart disease https://bit.ly/3b0jWRu
13. Combinant Potential Antibacterial Zingiber Officinale Var. Rubrum with Cinnamomum Burmannii Against Staphylococcus Aureus https://media.neliti.com/media/publications/345733-combinant-potential-antibacterial-zingib-f1ae1435.pdf
14. Potentials for health and therapeutic benefits of garlic essential oils: Recent findings and future prospects https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2667142522000367
14. Antimicrobial activity of essential oil extracts of various onions (Allium cepa) and garlic (Allium sativum) https://bit.ly/3tM0tdW
16. Allicin: Chemistry and Biological Properties https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6271412/