Does hot tea really help a sore throat?

The problem with cheap home remedies is no one does any research on which ones work vs. which ones don’t, since you can’t really make much money either way. Call it the Pharmaceudical-Industrial Complex Effect: drug companies are only going to pay for tests on new drugs coming out that they could make money on. Therefore, only new drugs are found to be effective, even if they are no more effective than old remedies that no one ever bothered to do tests on to the extent that the FDA requires.

It's lemon, not tea, that helps a sore throat.

All that is meant as a preface to my addressing the question: Does hot tea actually work on a sore throat? I’ve had a sore throat for about four days now and have been drinking tea and found that it helps. But looking it up on the Web, I note that 1) there is no authoritative source on what it is about tea that helps soothe a sore throat, and 2) random comments by the teeming millions attribute the soothing effects of tea variously to any hot liquid, to the acid in the lemon one often puts in the tea, or to the tea itself.

I did an experiment myself by drinking hot water, hot tea, hot water with lemon, and hot tea with lemon of the course of the last few hours. Here are the results:

– Hot water alone had little effect.

– Hot water with lemon worked well.

– Hot tea with lemon worked as well as hot water with lemon.

– Hot tea alone worked OK, but not as well as with lemon.

My conclusion: It’s the lemon, not the tea, that helps soothe a sore throat. I would have guessed that the tannin in tea helps too, but apparently not in any significant way. One thing I can say for hot tea with lemon is that it tastes a lot better than hot water with lemon.

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About Don Seiffert

I'm a reporter and writer in the Boston area.
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