By Cat, November 2016 (Photo, right, by Cat)
I’ve been bugged by lingering cold symptoms for the last few weeks. Well, to be honest, it dates back to early August when I had strep throat. After treating that with penicillin, it went away but my voice was hoarse. Then I learned I had a viral infection in my throat which I treated with a lomatium tincture mix from Swan Valley Herbs, which works as long as I keep taking it, but after several weeks I decided its time to try something else, perhaps gargling with salt.
At that time I got a series of Herbal Cold Care recipes from a Learning Herbs class (1); included was this recipe which I’ve adapted. I harvested a handful of the fresh sage leaves, and a bunch of thyme from my garden to give this a try.
Sage & thyme gargle for sore throat
Salt water is very healing to a sore, swollen throat. Add to that antimicrobial sage and thyme, plus acidic and astringent apple cider vinegar that changes the pH (acidity) of the mucous membranes, and you’ve got a mix that holds a lot of promise as a gargle. Or omit the salt and vinegar and sip the concoction as a tea, adding a squeeze of lemon (for the acidity).
This mixture should be stored in the fridge and will last about 48 hours.
A friend who is suffering from a cold recently made an adaptation of this recipe as a tea to drink before bed, without salt (because he doesn’t have a sore throat), but he included the cider vinegar and added a bit of ground ginger and a dash of cayenne. He said it helped him to have a better sleep.
NOTE: the original recipe uses dried herbs; i’ve added fresh herb equivalence for sage: 7 fresh leaves = 1 tsp dried leaves (4); and for thyme: 3 Tbsp fresh leaves = 1 Tbsp dried leaves from Health with Food (5).
Ingredients & Equipment
- 1 Tbsp dried sage leaves (or 21 fresh sage leaves)
- 1 Tbsp dried thyme leaves (or 3 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves)
- ½ cup boiling water
- ½ tsp or more unrefined sea salt* (original amount: 1 – 2 Tbsp was too much)
- 1 Tbsp or more raw apple cider vinegar or ACV (original amount: ¼ – ½ cup was too much)
- half-pint jar with lid
‘* other types of salt can be used, such as Kosher salt; the amount varies by size of the salt grains. I don’t recommend using iodized salt as the iodine may interfere with the action of the gargle.
- Place herbs in jar; pour boiling water over, and steep,covered, for 15-20 minutes. Strain through mesh strainer.
- Add salt and stir to dissolve, then add vinegar. Start with ½ tsp salt and 1 Tbsp ACV; give it a taste and if not as strong as you’d like it, add another ¼ tsp salt and ½ Tbsp ACV, taste and repeat if you want it stronger, up to the original recommended totals (1 – 2 Tbsp salt and ¼ – ½ cup ACV). You should be able to taste the salt and the vinegar. Keep track of total amounts used for future batches.
- Screw on lid and store in fridge up to 48 hours.
- To use: place a small mouthful into your mouth and swish it around, then tip your head back to gargle as long as you can. Spit it out. Repeat ever 30 – 60 minutes
Testing Sage & Thyme gargle
11/5/16: Made roughly a half recipe with fresh sage and thyme from my garden. I removed most of the thyme leaves from the stems, and cut the sage leaves into ½” pieces. Used ¼ cup boiling water which was just enough to cover the leaves. Steeped 15 min then strained into a clean jar. Added a scant 1 Tbsp Real salt, stirring to dissolve, then added a scant ¼ cup vinegar. Result: Hard to take; too much acid and salt. I know it’s supposed to be strong, but this gave me a headache. I diluted with 1 Tbsp filtered water. Still quite strong but I could handle it. Next time: The Mayo Clinic’s recipe for salt water gargle (for sore throat) (6) is ¼ – ½ tsp salt per 8 oz (1 cup) water, but they indicate more salt works even better. I’ll start with ¼ tsp salt and ½ Tbsp ACV per ½ cup strained liquid, and test it. Then add more salt and/or vinegar a bit at a time, keeping track of amount, until it is just a hair over the line of what I can handle. Next time I’ll use dried herbs as it is easier to get the right amount. See also Home Remedies for Life on ACV for sore throat (7).
11/7/16: Second batch, using dried herbs: used 1 Tbsp each dried sage & thyme, steeped in 1/2 c boiled water for 15 min; noted it has a darker, more amber color after straining than previous batch. Added ¼ tsp salt (couldn’t taste the salt); added second ¼ tsp and salty taste is dominant; total ½ tsp salt added. Next, added 1 tsp ACV, then two more teaspoons (total 1 Tbsp) before could taste the vinegar. Will let it rest for a while and then try as gargle. Result: Salty and acidic but not so overpowering as to give a headache. I updated recipe accordingly, but retained original amount in parenthesis. It really has helped with my scratchy throat and dry cough.
- Learning Herbs: Winter Wellness and Herbal Cold Care Recipes, by Rosalee de la Forét. You have to register for the Winter Wellness and Herbal Cold Care class to get her recipe; see learningherbs.com
- The Kitchn Blog: Sage Tea for a Sore Throat: thekitchn.com/sage-tea-for-a-sore-throat-182714
- Sip and Om Blog: Sage or Thyme Tea/Gargle for a Sore Throat: sipandom.com/congestion-clearing-dried-thyme-tea
- Hea with Food, on sage conversion: healwithfood.org/substitute/convert-fresh-thyme-dried-ratio.php and healwithfood.org/substitute/convert-fresh-dried-herbs-recipes-chart.php
- Martha Stewart on thyme conversion: .marthastewart.com/270213/ratio-of-fresh-herbs-to-dry-herbs
- Mayo Clinic salt-water gargle for sore throat recipe: mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold/in-depth/cold-remedies/art-20046403
- Home Remedies for Life: Apple Cider Vinegar for sore throat homeremediesforlife.com/apple-cider-vinegar-for-sore-throat