Sage & thyme Gargle or Tea for sore throat

Sage and Salt

Sage and Salt

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.

 See also: 1. Healing Herbs, Oils and Remedies Menu; 2. Apple Cider Vinegar and Ginger Drizzle for Blood Sugar and Sore Throat

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)
  • Equipment
  • half-pint jar with lid
  • strainer

‘* 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.


  1. Place herbs in jar; pour boiling water over, and steep,covered, for 15-20 minutes. Strain through mesh strainer.
  2. 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.
  3. Screw on lid and store in fridge up to 48 hours.
  4. 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.


  1. 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
  2. The Kitchn Blog: Sage Tea for a Sore Throat:
  3. Sip and Om Blog: Sage or Thyme Tea/Gargle for a Sore Throat:
  4. Hea with Food, on sage conversion: and
  5. Martha Stewart on thyme conversion:
  6. Mayo Clinic salt-water gargle for sore throat recipe:
  7. Home Remedies for Life: Apple Cider Vinegar for sore throat

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