Salt Water Gargle For A Sore Throat: A Timeless Remedy

Salt Water Gargle For A Sore Throat

Anyone who’s endured a particularly bad sore throat would agree that using salt water gargle for a sore throat works wonders. But is there a scientific basis for this popular remedy or is it just a placebo effect? And how exactly should you carry it out?

Warm Water Gargle Can Reduce Chest Infection By 40%

You’ll be happy to know that scientific research has probed warm water gargle, a “grandma’s remedy,” and validated its efficacy. A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that warm water gargles done 3 times a day can reduce the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) by about 40%. The researchers also found that gargling with water effectively alleviated the discomfort of a sore throat among volunteers who had contracted a URTI.1


Salt Water Gargle Can Relieve Soreness And Pain

Now while warm water helps, what helps more is adding a pinch of salt to it. So how do warm water salt gargles work? By osmosis, the process by which water moves across a membrane, from a dilute solution to a concentrated one (you learned it in school!)2

The mucous membrane lining your throat is a place that invading viruses and bacteria find warm and hospitable enough to flourish.3 The resulting pain and soreness are caused by edema or swelling of the infected throat tissues. As the salt water gargle – in medical parlance, hypertonic solution – has a higher concentration of salt than the fluids in your throat tissues, it draws away water from them. This helps relieve those uncomfortable symptoms like soreness and pain while swallowing.4 5


Salt Water Gargle Can Expel The Infectants

But that’s not all. Warm salt water helps destroy the organisms that cause the infection. How? Osmosis again. When the salt water solution drains out the fluids in which the organisms thrive, they become dehydrated and perish. The bacteria-laden mucus is washed out by the gargle.6

Gargle With Warm Salt Water 3–4 Times A Day

Dissolve a teaspoon of salt in 8 oz (1 cup) warm water. Gargle at least 3–4 times daily.7 Also drink plenty of fluids – water, juices, and soups. About 8–10 glasses a day should help keep your throat well hydrated.8


Salt Water Gargle Is Safe For Children

Viruses account for 95% of sore throats among children below 5 years and 70% of sore throats in children aged between 5 and 15 years. Bacterial infection (specifically strep throat) is responsible for about one-third of sore throats among children in the 5–15 age group.9

This being the case, salt water gargles are likely to be frequently used in families with young, school-going children. And with good reason too – after all, it’s safe and side effect-free!


Here are a few tips on preparing and using salt water gargles specifically for children:

  • Prepare a salt water gargle using ½ to 1 teaspoonful of salt in 8 oz. of warm water.
  • For smaller children who may swallow the solution, use less salt, about ¼ to ½ teaspoonful.
  • Avoid gargling altogether if a child’s sore throat is too painful or if they cannot gargle without choking.10

Ayurveda Recommends Adding Turmeric Powder In It

Salt water to ease a sore throat finds mention in ayurveda too. Ayurvedic practitioners also recommend adding a pinch of turmeric powder to your salt water gargle to make the remedy more effective.11 Turmeric is widely recommended for upper respiratory tract diseases as it has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties.12


How To Prepare

  • ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon rock salt/sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder

Boil the water and dissolve salt and turmeric powder in it. Set aside, cover, and allow the solution to steep for 5 minutes. Use it when the temperature cools down and it’s comfortable enough to gargle.13


A Word Of Caution

If your sore throat doesn’t clear up with salt water gargling in about 3 days, it may be time to seek professional medical help. Symptoms like fever, enlarged tonsils, and white mucus patches on the throat or tonsils could be signs of a bacterial infection for which you may require antibiotics.14 A low-grade fever and a hacking cough can be symptoms of walking pneumonia too.