If you’ve ever had a hoarse voice or barking cough, you might have experienced laryngitis symptoms. Laryngitis is an inflammation of the vocal cords. Laryngitis can be an uncomfortable condition, especially when it comes with other illnesses like the common cold or flu. In most cases of laryngitis, home treatment is all that you need. By using soothing and anti-inflammatory herbs, foods and essential oils, you can reduce swelling and get your voice back.
What Is Laryngitis? Common Laryngitis Symptoms
Laryngitis causes a hoarse voice or the complete loss of the voice because of irritation to the vocal cords. The vocal cords are inside of the larynx. They are vibrating elastic bands that produce your voice. When our vocal cords function normally, they open and close smoothly. Sounds are made through their movement and vibration. Laryngitis causes the vocal cords to become inflamed and swollen due to overuse. The vocal cords can also be affected by another health concern, like GERD or a viral infection, leading to the distortion of sounds and hoarseness.
There are other laryngitis symptoms, besides a hoarse and raspy voice. Other laryngitis symptoms include losing your voice completely, coughing, trouble swallowing, a dry or sore throat, a tickling, scratchiness in the throat, a constant urge to clear the throat, postnasal discharge and fever. (1)
Most of the time, laryngitis symptoms will come on quickly and then disappear within two weeks. It’s possible to develop chronic, long-lasting laryngitis. Chronic laryngitis lasts more than a few weeks. It tends to have a longer course and require treatment. According to research conducted at Boston Medical Center, up to 21 percent of the population may develop chronic laryngitis in their lifetime. Difficulty speaking, globus sensation (feeling of a lump in the throat), and pain are the most common symptoms of chronic laryngitis. (2)
Laryngitis Causes & Risk Factors
Certain viruses or bacteria can infect the larynx and cause it to become inflamed and swollen. The most common cause of laryngitis symptoms is a virus that comes from another illness. These include the common cold or flu. Other possible causes include:
- overuse of your voice (such as singing or shouting)
- acid reflux or GERD (when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus)
- excessive alcohol use
- exposure to irritants and toxins
- use of inhaled steroid medicines (3)
When acid or other chemicals that come up from your stomach cause pain, it may be because of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), laryngopharyngeal reflux, acid reflux or chronic laryngitis. Estimates regarding acid reflux causing laryngitis vary widely, reaching up to 80 percent of cases in some studies. (4)
Common symptoms of laryngitis caused by acid reflux include dry cough, foreign body sensation in the throat and throat clearing. There are many causes of acid reflux. The main issue is that the esophageal valve that connects the esophagus and stomach is unable to shut properly and gastric juices end up sneaking up the pipe. This can be triggered by a hiatal hernia, pregnancy, smoking, too little stomach acid, eating before bed, excessive exercise, taking medications, being overweight and eating common acid reflux food triggers.
Another major cause of laryngitis is smoking. Research shows that heavy smokers were much more likely to have a laryngeal disorder. Voice problems were also significantly more likely for heavy smokers. (5)
Air pollution can also cause laryngitis, according to a 2015 study published in Plos One. Air pollution is a heterogenous mixture of gases, liquids and solid particles, which all may be hazardous to health. (6)
There are some risk factors for developing laryngitis. With age, our vocal cords may naturally loosen and grow thinner, causing some hoarseness. Some other risk factors for laryngitis include smoking, overusing your voice, and having an upper respiratory infection like a cold, flu or bronchitis.
Conventional Treatment of Laryngitis
According to research published in Otolaryngology Clinics of North America, treatment of laryngitis depends on the cause, as well as the age, vocal demands and clinical characteristics of the individual. (7)
Antibiotics are often prescribed for acute laryngitis. However, research shows that penicillin and erythromycin appear to have no benefit in treating the primary outcomes of this condition. Some studies have found that antibiotics can improve some laryngitis symptoms, such as cough and hoarseness of voice. But, these modest benefits may not outweigh the cost, adverse effects or negative consequences for antibiotic resistance patterns. (8)
Many people take proton pump inhibitors (PPI) for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and GERD-related chronic laryngitis. By lowering stomach acid levels, proton pump inhibitors are taken to reduce acid reflux into the esophagus. However, studies show that PPI therapy only offers modest and non-significant clinical benefits. (9) PPIs don’t work to reduce stomach acid because GI issues are connected to low stomach acid. Because people have low stomach acid, they are unable to digest their food fully.
According to research from Harvard Health Publications, if you need a proton pump inhibitor prescription for chronic conditions, it should be for the lowest dose that’s effective. This is because of the concern for overuse, and possible drug interactions and side effects. (10) Some common side effects of PPIs include dizziness, constipation, coughing and a choking sensation, headache, nausea, muscle cramps, rapid heart rate, seizures and spastic muscle movements.
Corticosteroids, or steroid hormones, may also be used to reduce vocal cord inflammation. These drugs are generally used when there’s an urgent need to treat laryngitis symptoms like loss of voice. Side effects of corticosteroids may include high blood pressure, headache, muscle weakness and ulcers.
9 Natural Treatments of Laryngitis
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is helpful when trying to balance stomach acid levels. It’s naturally acidic and it will lower the pH in your stomach. It also provides enzymes and probiotics, which improves your ability to digest foods properly. This will help people who have laryngitis due to acid reflux or GERD.
Apple cider vinegar can also fight infections; in fact, the use of vinegar to fight infections and other acute conditions dates back to Hippocrates. He recommended vinegar preparation for the treatment of sores. Scientific investigations clearly demonstrate the antimicrobial properties of vinegar. (11)
Take 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in one glass of water three times daily to help cure acid reflux that causes laryngitis. You can also combine apple cider vinegar and raw honey, another home remedy for respiratory inflammation.
Ginger helps to soothe inflamed mucous membranes of the larynx. It is used in Ayurvedic medicine to warm the body and break down toxins in your organs. It’s also known to cleanse the lymphatic system and make us less susceptible to infections in the respiratory system.
Research shows that one of the many ginger health benefits is its ability to decrease inflammation, swelling and pain — some of the most common laryngitis symptoms. (12)
To use ginger to relieve laryngitis, add raw ginger to a smoothie or juice, use ginger powder in a soothing soup, or drink a cup of ginger tea 2 to 3 times daily.
Garlic is popularly believed to be useful for the common cold, one of the main causes of laryngitis. It has antibacterial and antiviral properties, helping to kill bacteria and viruses that lead to inflammation and infection.
A 2014 study involved 146 participants over a three-month period. Half of the participants took a placebo tablet and half took a garlic tablet. Then they wrote in a diary when they had symptoms of a cold. The researchers found that people who took garlic every day (instead of the placebo) had fewer colds. Over a three-month period, there were 24 occurrences of the common cold in the garlic group, compared to 65 in the placebo group. (13)
Garlic also acts as a natural expectorant, helping to loosen mucus. Whether you are using garlic raw or cooked, you can take advantage of the many garlic benefits by chopping or crushing it. Add it to a soup, stew, salad or sauce. You can also eat 1 to 2 cloves of raw garlic daily — combine it with raw honey if you don’t love the taste.
4. Raw Honey
Honey is one of the oldest traditional medicines considered to be important in the treatment of several ailments, including respiratory conditions. Raw honey has antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant activities. It also has a high nutrient value. It maintains a moist environment, helping to soothe irritation and relieve laryngitis symptoms like coughing and hoarseness. (14)
Raw honey can also help to relieve seasonal allergy symptoms, which can cause laryngitis. Many seasonal allergy sufferers have found that local, raw honey is helpful. It desensitizes them to the flora triggering their allergic reaction. (15)
To treat laryngitis, add raw honey to warm water or tea throughout the day.
5. Lemon Essential Oil
Lemon essential oil can relieve laryngitis symptoms. It inhibits the growth of bacteria and the spread of viruses that cause respiratory infections. It also detoxifies the body and loosens mucus in the throat, so you won’t need to cough as forcefully or often. This lets your voice box rest.
According to a survey measuring the use of plants for the treatment of episodes of the common cold and flu, the main causes of laryngitis, lemon fruits were used by 73 percent of the participants. (16)
To use lemon essential oil to relieve laryngitis symptoms, add 1-2 drops to a glass of warm water or tea, or combine 1-2 drops with a teaspoon of raw honey. You can also inhale lemon oil directly from the bottle or add it to a diffuser at home.
6. Peppermint Essential Oil
Peppermint oil is a helpful essential oil for allergies, a common cause of laryngitis. It can offer relief from scratchy throats. It also acts as an expectorant, providing relief from allergy symptoms, as well as colds and coughs. Peppermint oil can discharge phlegm and reduce inflammation of the vocal cords. Peppermint oil is especially helpful for people with laryngitis. It has antispasmodic activity, inhibiting contractions that causes you to cough, which reduces irritation to the vocal cords. (17)
You can use peppermint oil in a number of ways to treat laryngitis symptoms. For internal use, add 1-2 drops to a glass of water or cup of tea. You can also apply peppermint oil topically to the chest and throat, or diffuse it at home.
7. Marshmallow Root
Marshmallow root has been used traditionally to treat sore throat and cough. It contains mucilage that coats the throat and helps to relieve irritation. It also reduces swelling in the lymph nodes, speeds up healing time and reduces aggravating dry cough. This is why marshmallow extract is added to many cough syrups and throat lozenges. (18)
Don’t take marshmallow at the same time of day as prescription medications, as it can potentially interfere with some drugs.
8. Slippery Elm
Slippery elm has been an herbal remedy in North America since the 19th century. It is known for its ability to treat GERD, sore throat and cough. Like marshmallow root, slippery elm contains mucilage, a substance that becomes a slick gel when mixed with water. This mucilage coats and soothes the mouth, throat, stomach and intestines, making it ideal for sore throat, cough and GERD. (19)
9. Resting Your Voice
Rest your voice to get rid of laryngitis. Don’t talk unless you have to, and when you do, speak softly. Whispering actually irritates your larynx more than speaking softly, so be sure to avoid whispering. Even clearing your throat can further irritate your larynx.
Some other lifestyle treatments for laryngitis include:
- drinking plenty of water
- avoiding alcohol
- using a humidifier or vaporizer
- sucking on lozenges or chewing gum
- gargling salt and warm water
- chewing your food
- eating smaller meals
Check with your doctor if laryngitis symptoms last longer than two weeks. Seek medical attention immediately if you have trouble breathing or swallowing, if your throat bleeds, or if you develop a fever over 102 degrees Fahrenheit.
Final Thoughts on Laryngitis
- Laryngitis causes a hoarse voice or the complete loss of the voice because of irritation to the vocal cords.
- The vocal cords get inflamed and swollen when you have laryngitis. Overuse of the vocal cords leads to the distortion of sounds and hoarseness.
- Laryngitis symptoms include a raspy voice, losing your voice completely, coughing, trouble swallowing, a dry or sore throat, a tickling, scratchiness in the throat, a constant urge to clear the throat, postnasal discharge and fever.
- Some causes of laryngitis include bacteria and viruses, overuse of the voice, GERD, allergies, smoking, alcohol use, exposure to irritants and toxins, and use of inhaled steroid medicines.
- Natural treatments for laryngitis include foods and herbs like apple cider vinegar, ginger, garlic, marshmallow root and more. Plus, essential oils that help to soothe the throat and fight infections.