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Survival Guide for Performing Artists

Home Remedies & Alternative Medicine
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Singers' Home Remedies & Vocal Health
sore throat -laryngitis - cough - cold - flu

docbag.wmf (7350 bytes)When it comes to tricks for beating a cough or cold, no one (except maybe a doctor) knows more than a Singer!   Naturally protective of their throats, singers spend a lot of time and energy seeking out quick fixes and natural remedies for song-impairing ailments.   Here are some singers' and others' sure to send yours in too!  (YourType claims no responsibility for the methods and remedies listed here.  Consult with your doctor for serious illness.)


At the first sign of a sore throat, suck on a Zinc Lozenge, preferably 20mg or more per lozenge.   Ideally, you should use one lozenge every 4 hours or so.  Zinc is wonderful at warding off a cold, if you treat it early! Zicam is a zinc-based product which can really help too.

If you can't find Zinc Lozenges, try Hall's Vitamin C drops, which are more widely available.  And no matter what you take, drink lots and lots and lots of water.

A sore throat is usually the result of post-nasal drip (over-abundance of mucus accumulated in your sinuses, dripping on the back of your throat).  So if you treat the sinus issues, you can often get rid of the cause of the sore throat.

Also see remedies for Laryngitis, below.

LARYNGITIS (loss of voice)

Cindy, a singer in Canada says:

"When the pipes get scratchy I like to use the following:
3 tablespoons liquid honey
2 ounces of lemon juice (pure)
2 teasponns of granulated sugar
1 Xtra large cup
Boil water, add ingredients, pour hot water in cup, stir until honey is disolved....drink it while it is hot and drink it as hot as you can stand without burning your mouth.  Do this once every 2 hours on gig day and your scrathy throat will be clear."

Denis, a pop singer from Australia sent us this:

"I recently lost my voice due  to a chest infection, which I have been prone to all my life. I am a chronic asthmatic and bronchitis sufferer.

I could hardly speak on the first day of this ailment, and had to sing in two days time. It was an important 'gig' so I knew I had to do something drastic.

Firstly, I stopped talking, refusing phone calls etc,I gargled with salt water (lots of salt) every three to four hours. Then I realised the antibiotic properties of honey (not the supermarket types, but the varieties straight from the aparies) and took one dessert spoon every three to four hours. I also took Paracetamol [Paracetamol is a safer alternative to aspirin. The main brand name we have in Australia is Panadol, but there are also many generic versions. Panadol is manufactured by a world wide company, and perhaps you may recognise paracetetamol by that particular brand name.] as much as was allowed by the manufacturer (normally two tabs every four hours).

For the first time in my life I was not running to the doctor for prescribed antibiotics, and guess what? I was able to sing on the night."

A preacher sent us this:

"I am a preacher and recently I had an attack of laryngitis. I could just whisper. I remembered that I use to use apple cider vinegar mixed in water to drink, but hadn't used it with water for a good while. I added two teaspoons to a glass of water with just a bit of honey. I drank that about three times a day. In two days my laryngitis was almost gone. For people who think they could never drink vinegar mixed in water, they should remember that the honey smooths out the taste of the vinegar. It works!!"

An opera singer says:

"First, I have to realize that if I have a throat problem and I have to sing in the next 7-10 days, I MUST go to the best ENT (otolaryngologist, or "Ear Nose and Throat") doctor I can find. There are several in NYC that treat professional singers [Dr. Libin, Dr. Slavitt, Dr. Jahn are among the best in the New York metropolitan area]. If it's an emergency and I've lost my voice, my doctor will give me strong antibiotics if needed, a shot in the butt of steroids, Predisone and nasal spray. Having been prone to allergies which turn into upper respiratory infections all my life, this is a step I must not ignore. It may be the only way I can get through my performances.

"But if I can, I prefer to treat myself naturally first. Salt water can be very soothing. Gargling with warm salt water is widely known, but I also use a neti pot to rinse my sinuses with warm salt water. You can buy a pot and instructions on the internet or you can get a small plastic one at most drug stores these days. Another popular product for saline nasal rinsing is NeilMed's Sinus Rinse, available online or in drugstores.

"I also like natural products I can buy in health food stores, like Singer's Saving Grace, an inexpensive throat spray (tastes awful, but it really works!) and Thayer's Slippery Elm Throat Lozenges.

"Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory. It can help reduce swelling in your body and your throat. I like to make ginger tea. Buy fresh ginger root at the grocery store. Slice off several thin slices of the root, put it in your mug, and pour boiling water over it. Add honey if you like. Let it steep for a while and drink it. It's a little tingly, and very soothing.

"Yogi Tea also makes several teas I enjoy: Cold Season, Throat Comfort and Breathe Deep. You can find these teas at most health food stores and now many grocery stores. These are great to use any time you feel bad."

For more on laryngitis, see


A wonderful natural solution to a cough is garlic (or onion) and honey.  Chop up an entire bulb of garlic (or onion) and put it in a bowl.  Cover the garlic (or onion) with honey and let the mixture sit overnight.  In the morning, remove the garlic (or onion) and take two teaspons of the honey mixture.  The honey is instantly soothing to the throat, and the garlic (or onion) has wonderful immune-boosting (and some say cancer-preventing) powers.  It is, of course, very aromatic!  Your loved ones should eat it too, so no one will mind the scent!


At the first sign of a cold, try Zicam and Airborne, both available at drug stores. Zicam is zinc-based, and Airborne is herbal. Great products!

As well, there's a great herbal formula available at most health food stores and online: Wellness Formula. Got a runny nose? Start taking this right away. It's got dozens of good herbs (Echinacea, Goldenseal, etc.) as well as garlic, so it's kind of stinky, but very effective.

Everyone has heard about Echinacea, the natural immune booster.  But you should know that if you take it for too long, your body will develop a tolerance to it and it will no longer be effective.   However, if you take it for 6 days and not on the 7th, it may help you get over your cold. 

Goldenseal is a natural antibiotic, so taken with Echinacea, it can help you feel better faster.  Goldenseal should not be taken excessively, and never on a regular basis.

And don't forget the Vitamin C!


Oscillococcinum by Boiron.  This homeopathic remedy has been proven to help cure influenza.  Once available only in health food stores, you can now find it in many pharmacies (try Duane Reade in NYC).  The medication consists of little sweet spheres that are packaged in small screw-top cylinders.  You empty the cylinder of medicine under your tongue and let it dissolve.   One cylinder every 6 hours for 2-3 days.  As with most of the remedies described here, you must start this treatment at the first signs of the aches and fatigue associated with the flu.  It comes in a box of 6 vials, and costs $9-$14, depending on the store.


Simple Ways to Keep Your Broadcast Voice Healthy

Check out this informative article about keeping your "broadcast voice" healthy--great for all who use their voices professionally.


Need more advice? Try searching on Google - you can search our site or the web in the box below:



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Last modified: December 20, 2003