Did you wake up this morning with a croaky or hoarse voice? Chances are, you’ve got laryngitis. Laryngitis happens when your vocal cords become inflamed from overuse, irritation, or infection. This inflammation causes distortion in your voice.
Just one night of spirited cheering (or yelling at the TV) during football season can trigger laryngitis. It can also be triggered by a nasty cold or flu.
The primary symptom of laryngitis is hoarseness. Thankfully, if you’re without symptoms of a more serious condition, there’s generally no need to rush to the doctor. You can treat your symptoms at home, with all-natural remedies and teas.
1. Rest your voice
When you have laryngitis, your vocal cords are swollen and irritated. They need time to heal. Try to avoid situations that require a lot of talking or shouting. If you have to talk in a meeting or in front of a group, avoid the natural temptation to strain your voice further to be heard. Try calling into a speaker phone that can be turned up or using another amplifying device.
Singing will make your vocal cords more inflamed, so take a few days off. Use your voice as infrequently as you can, at a volume that feels natural to you.
2. Gargle warm salt water
You can soothe a sore and irritated throat with warm salt water. Stir 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt into an 8-ounce glass of warm water. Take a sip and gargle it around the back of your throat, then spit it out. The water will cool in your mouth, so take another sip and repeat as often as necessary.
3. Add moisture with a humidifier
Breathing dry air can irritate your throat and contribute to inflammation of the vocal cords. This is especially common in the winter, when heating units pump dry air into your home and office. A cool mist humidifier or vaporizer will add healing moisture to the air and help loosen phlegm.
If you don’t have a humidifier, take a warm shower or sit in a warm bath.
4. Suck on lozenges
Throat lozenges help add moisture to your throat, relieve pain, and reduce coughing. Try a natural throat lozenge like these honey-filled ones from Burt’s Bees or these cough-suppressing lozenges with green tea and Echinacea from Ricola.
5. Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has antimicrobial properties that can help your body fight off infection.
Pour 1 to 2 tablespoons of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar into a small glass of water. Add a teaspoon of honey to make the remedy even more powerful (and much better tasting). Drink this once or twice per day until your symptoms improve.
6. Tea with raw honey
There’s nothing more soothing for an irritated throat than a warm cup of tea. Plus, tea can do a lot more than soothe. Herbal teas, like chamomile, contain antioxidants which can help strengthen your immune system. Research shows that chamomile also has anti-inflammatory properties.
Super charge your tea with the healing powers of raw honey. Studies have shown that honey reduces mucus production and treats coughs as effectively as over-the-counter medications.
7. Slippery elm tea with lemon
Slippery elm tea is made from the ground and dried bark of the slippery elm tree. It’s long been used in Eastern and Native Indian herbal medicine to treat inflammation of the upper airways.
Anecdotal reports suggest that it coats and soothes the throat, making it easier to talk and sing. Today, you can find it as an herbal supplement or tea. It’s also an ingredient in sore throat teas like this one from Traditional Medicinals.
Add lemon to your tea for an extra immune boost. Research shows that vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant.
8. Ginger root
Ginger root has many health benefits. It’s been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. Ginger works to suppress the dry, irritating cough that often accompanies laryngitis. It can also help treat throat infections.
Ginger is a versatile root that can be used in many different ways. You can add fresh ginger root (peeled) into smoothies and juices or chop it up and add it to a stir fry. You can also add fresh ginger root to a pot of boiling water to enjoy as a tea.
9. Products containing essential oils
Essential oils contain the natural chemicals that give plants their essence (smell and flavor). Essential oils from the eucalyptus tree are found in many over-the-counter medications, including lozenges and creams like Vicks VapoRub.
Eucalyptus oils help loosen mucus and soothe irritation. Add four or five drops to a diffusor or humidifier to disperse it throughout your home or dab some on your pillow at night.
10. Fresh garlic
Throughout history, many different cultures have used garlic for the treatment and prevention of disease. Recent research confirms that garlic does contain antibacterial properties. It’s possible that the antibacterial properties in garlic can help you fight off infections, such as sinusitis and bronchitis.
Fresh garlic is extremely versatile. Dice up a few cloves and put them in a pasta sauce, stir fry, or salad.
11. Gargle diluted vinegar
Vinegar has been used for thousands of years to fight infections. Scientific studies support the theory that vinegar has antimicrobial properties. Gargling with diluted vinegar is another option for you to try. Mix one to two tablespoons of apple cider or white vinegar into a glass of water, then gargle and spit.
12. Drink lots of fluids
When you’re sick, it’s always a good idea to drink plenty of fluids. This is also true when you have throat irritation. Water, juice, clear broth, and tea will help keep you hydrated, loosen phlegm, and flush out mucus. Warm liquids, like tea and soup, can help ease congestion by increasing the flow of mucus. However, you should avoid any liquids that contain caffeine, which can cause dehydration.
Things to avoid
While your voice is healing, try to stay away from the following:
- Singing and shouting. Don’t add any unnecessary stress to your vocal cords. This will just lead to more inflammation and a longer healing time.
- Whispering. It sounds odd, but whispering actually puts more stress on your vocal cords than speaking normally.
- Alcohol. Staying hydrated will help you heal. Avoid alcohol, which has a dehydrating effect.
- Decongestants. Over-the-counter cold medicines that contain decongestants can dry out your throat, causing further irritation.
- Smoking. Any type of smoking, including e-cigarettes, can irritate your throat, cause coughing, and prolong healing time.
When to see a doctor
Acute laryngitis typically gets better on its own in about a week. Most cases of laryngitis are caused by a viral infection (like a cold) or overuse of the voice, which means that antibiotics won’t help. If you’re a singer or someone who absolutely needs to use their voice, your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids, which sometimes work to reduce inflammation in the vocal cords.
If your hoarseness lasts more than a couple of weeks, you may have chronic (long-lasting) laryngitis. Chronic laryngitis should be investigated by a doctor because it could have an underlying cause, such as acid reflux or a bacterial infection.