Let’s take a closer look at each of these herbs.
In modern days, Echinacea is famous for being an immune
stimulant and is often recommended at the first sign of an upper respiratory
illness. However, it has several other herbal actions that inspired me to give
it a starring role.
When Echinacea comes into direct contact with mucous
membranes, it stimulates secretions and creates a zingy and numbing sensation.
It is also one of our best herbs for promoting lymphatic movement, which can be
helpful for swollen lymph around the throat. Echinacea is also broadly
antimicrobial and has been shown to be effective against a variety of bacteria,
viruses and fungi.1 All in all, Echinacea is anodyne,
antimicrobial, lymphatic and an immune stimulant. All of these actions combine
to make it a fantastic herb for addressing a wide range of symptoms in a sore
Because Echinacea has been tragically overharvested from the wild, please only
used cultivated sources. This is a beautiful plant to grow – consider adding it
to your garden!
canadensis, S. cerulea, S. nigra)
I often combine elderberry and Echinacea for the first signs
of a cold or flu. I also take this combination with me when traveling on
airplanes and use it as a preventive remedy. Elderberry is my favorite herb for
warding off an upper respiratory infection. It works in many different ways to
modulate your immune system, as well as to prevent viral replication.2 3 4 While
elderberry doesn’t have as many herbal actions that are beneficial for a sore
throat as Echinacea, its ability to prevent the illness from progressing earns
it a starring role. It also has a good flavor, which is always helpful in a
sore throat spray.
As mentioned above, sage has long been used to bring relief
to sore throats. Researchers have confirmed this folkloric use in a couple of
human clinical trials. In one randomized, double-blind trial, researchers
compared the effects of a sage and Echinacea extract on sore throats with the
effects of a spray made up of the antiseptic chlorhexidine and the anesthetic
lidocaine. For reducing sore throat symptoms, the sage/Echinacea extract showed
slightly better results after three days.5 Another study showed that a fluid
extract of sage worked better than a placebo in reducing pain due to viral
pharyngitis (throat infection).6
Sage is astringent, helping to reduce swelling, which can be
a contributing factor to the pain of a sore throat. It’s also antimicrobial.
While it could play the main role for a sore throat as a tea, in this sore
throat spray formula it’s better suited in a supporting role. Also, a little
bit of sage’s strong flavor goes a long way and a lower dosage is best for
Ginger is commonly used as a catalyst or synergist in TCM
herbal formulas and it is the perfect catalyst for a sore throat spray
formulation. Fresh ginger is wonderfully antimicrobial and somewhat pain
relieving. It is also warming in nature, bringing a circulatory stimulating
effect to the formula.
Licorice is another common synergist in herbal formulas,
especially in TCM. The root is very sweet and is sometimes called a
“peacekeeper” in formulas because it is said to bring all the herbs together.
In addition to its sweet taste, I added it to this sore throat spray formula
because of its antiviral and demulcent qualities. Licorice, when taken in large
amounts, can raise a person’s blood pressure but this generally isn’t a problem
when it is used sparingly as a synergist in formulas. However, if you are
concerned about your blood pressure, then licorice can be omitted from the
While technically not an herb, honey is an important part of
our formula. Local and minimally processed honey is immunomodulating and
antimicrobial. I like adding honey to a sore throat spray because of its
demulcent and soothing qualities, as well as for the wonderful flavor.
Step #4: Putting Your
Now that we have chosen the herbs we want for our sore
throat spray, we need to figure out how to use them.
Here’s what we need to consider.
Which part of the plant is used (e.g., leaves,
Is it best to use the plant fresh or dried (or
How do we best extract the plant (e.g., hot
water, cold water, alcohol, vinegar, oil)?
What individual dosages should be used for the
If you are new to herbs, then figuring all of this out could
seem like a daunting task. But you learn about herbs the same way you learn
about anything in life: little by little. Many herbalists recommend studying
one herb at a time so that you can really sink into all of that information.
To save us both some time, I’m just going to tell you how I
would create this formula by giving you the recipe below.
Herbal Sore Throat
From a dull ache to a raging inferno, sore throats can be
one of the more uncomfortable symptoms of a cold or flu. Sipping hot teas and
eating spicy soups both help to mitigate the pain, but there’s only so much
liquid you can consume in a day! This herbal sore throat spray can be a
convenient way to frequently get the herbs directly on the throat where they
are most needed. The following recipe can be made with alcohol (my preference)
or a glycerin and water combination.
What you’ll need…
35 grams (about 1/3 cup) finely cut and dried
cultivated Echinacea angustifolia roots
25 grams (about 1/4 cup) dried elderberries
3 grams (2 firmly packed tablespoons) dried sage
5 grams (about 2 teaspoons) minced fresh ginger
3 grams dried licorice root 1 tablespoon honey
About 1 2/3 cups vodka or brandy OR 1 cup
vegetable glycerine and 2/3 cup water
Place all the herbs and honey into a pint-sized jar.
If using alcohol, add it to the jar, leaving about a 1/4
If using glycerine and water, then first mix together the
glycerin and water before pouring into the jar. Stir well.
Reserve any leftover liquid (alcohol or glycerine/water).
Cover the jar tightly with a lid and label.
For the next week, shake the mixture every day. If
necessary, as the dried herbs soak up the liquid, add more of either the
alcohol or the glycerine/water mixture.
Let it steep for a total of 4 weeks.
Strain using a fine mesh strainer and cheesecloth. Squeeze
or press the herbs well to release as much liquid as possible. Compost the
Pour the liquid into containers and attach fingertip misters
(spray toppers). Label.
To use: spray directly to your throat as needed to relieve
pain and reduce swelling.
About 1 1/4 cup