Many useful articles have been written about what are the best foods to be taken when a singer has a sore throat / cold / flu / hoarse voice. So I am probably not going to say anything completely new here. However, the following tips might be of help, as they’re solely based on my personal experience throughout the years. Funnily enough, being a singer, I have always been prone to throat infections from an early age (they say one is most sensitive to the parts one needs/uses the most), so trust me, I have had a lot of trial and error on the following.
I am a massive fan of honey (my dad is a beekeeper), and we always had honey at home, so I know quite a bit about it. Whilst this food has unbelievable antibacterial properties (and other magical stuff), when it comes to helping the vocal cords and from a practical point of view, it doesn’t do much apart from soothing the pharynx and base of the tongue. If you take a spoonful of honey and leave it for about 20 seconds at the back of your tongue, let it mix with your saliva, just before swallowing it, it can alleviate any irritation or cough you may have, momentarily. It is also good for contributing to strengthening your immune system, thus killing the infections, in the long term. But it will not stop the pain, mucus or congestion (it doesn’t stop mine, anyway).
Lemon becomes alkaline inside your body and it has vitamin C, which is a good immune system booster. I always drink half a lemon juice in warm water every single morning before doing anything else, and in the long run, it helps you maintain a clean/alkaline gut, thus helping minimize the appearance of mucus. It can momentarily help dissolve mucus as it mixes with saliva and goes down the throat, but it will not vanish the pain.
I boil my rice with a cinnamon stick, and I add cinnamon to virtually everything (I love the flavour)! 🙂 It is again a great antibacterial and an immune system booster, and if you mix 1 tsp of honey with 1 tsp of cinnamon powder, it works wonders to alleviate dry cough instantly. It can also alleviate throat pain substantially.
My favourite. During cold weather I keep freshly squeezed ginger juice in the fridge, and I add it in teaspoons to herbal teas or water. Fresh ginger juice reduces inflammation in the mucus membrane, fights infection, and it’s one of the few natural remedies that can reduce pain to a certain degree. Have this every morning and night: 2 tsp ginger juice, 1 tsp basil leaves, black pepper, 1/2 tsp turmeric, dissolved in 1/2 a glass of warm water. Also, add it to soups in abundance, the heat and the spice will reduce pain and congestion significantly.
I find coconut oil to be very soothing on the throat, but take one spoon a day maximum, because it’s also a saturated fat. It helps reduce inflammation, fight infection and relieve pain, and it lubricates the mucous membranes in the throat. You can have it to let it melt in your throat, or adding it to coffee/hot chocolate, or soups. Also take a look at Oil Pulling, I have personally tried it and found it repulsive, but maybe it works for you. It is said to lubricate the head, neck and throat, and it pulls toxins out of the mouth and throat, such as mucus: “Keeping of oil gargle provides strength in jaws and voice, development of the face, maximum taste and relish of food. One does not suffer from dryness of throat, lip cracking and teeth become firmly rooted.” ~ Caraka Samhita Ch V -78 to 80.
Although highly popular in treating the flu and colds and killing bacteria, it doesn’t do much for me. It is said that mixed with honey it relieves throat pain, very mildly though. The acidity in it kills the bacteria that infect the throat area (this one and lemon are great anti-bacterial house cleaners😁). Mix 1 cup of warm water with 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar and 1 tbsp of honey to relieve throat pain, mildly.Mint, peppermint, eucalyptus and liquorice (ginger and chilli too) are great numbing products, so even if they don’t get rid of the pain, their numbing effect relieves it a bit. Having said that, peppermint has anti-inflammatory and slimming properties. It also reduces phlegm production. Having peppermint or fresh mint tea will definitely soothe your throat.
Another favourite of mine, and again, another bee product. Bees make this resin to coat/repair their hives. How clever is that? It’s got anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, but its most valuable property, from a singers’ point of view, is the cure of hoarseness. There are some tablets in the market such as these ones: Bee Health Propolis Lozenges , that will produce some miracles when you’ve lost your voice. I used to chew it raw collected by my dad from the wax panels, which is even better 😋
Gargling with salted water when having throat pain has worked well for me, it cleans the ‘roughness’ and it freshens up the area, and it improves (clears) the quality of the voice too. Apparently, gargling with salted water will coat your throat and vocal cords and help kill bacteria and stave off infection too, healing quicker. The way it works is that the salt helps reduce swelling by pulling water out of the throat muscle tissue. Gargle for 30 seconds, once per hour, with a mouthful of 1 cup of warm water mixed with 1 tsp of salt.
This discovery was brought to me through my Indian connections, long before turmeric latte was a thing😆. Turmeric dissolved in hot milk is a massive anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and anti-oxidant. It relieves joint pain and strengthens bones too. But the best thing for singers, from my experience, is that it reduces fever and body pain.
Again, another Indian acquisition, and I give faith it works: chew/suck a clove when you’re coughing and it will let you sleep those long sleepless nights, stopping the cough almost instantly. Ayurveda has proven to be infallible most of the time, overtime. Also use this spice (turmeric and cinnamon too) in your cooking regularly to support digestion and overall oral health.
These natural cures are more effective when coupled with a balanced diet, exercise, and consistency. Apart from this, I also recommend inhaling steam (natural water steam itself will work, you don’t need any fancy additions such as oils and waxes that will stick to your mucus membranes, if anything, use natural dried leaves), and certain market brands such as Vocalzone, Singer’s Saving Grace, Throat Coat Tea, general lubrication for the sinuses (such as saline nasal sprays, or lubricating tools such as the Indian – yet again – Nasya) and the always useful sipping of hot water and herbal teas, which dilate the vessels in your throat for more clarity and ease in projecting your voice.
More information on foods for singers here.