Strep throat is the common name for an infection of pharyngitis by Streptococcus Group A bacteria. The infection almost always involves the tonsils at the back of the throat.
Nearly all of us are familiar with the scratchy feeling in our throat when the streptococcal infection attacks us. The infection is contagious, being air-borne; it spreads with close contact with someone suffering from the infection. The infection usually begins within 2-3 days of exposure to the cause and apart from strep throat that occurs as a result of any allergen or irritant (where the causative factor must be removed); it lasts for about 3-7 days without any active form of treatment.
Strep throat is a common form of bacterial infection among children, comprising of 10-14% of cases of a sore throat and 5-15% of the adult population falls prey to this infection, usually in winters or early spring. Though the infection self-resolves within seven to ten days, the signs, and symptoms of strep throat call for immediate intervention because of interference with food or liquid intake. Some other reasons for prompt intervention include
- A person remains contagious even without symptoms for two to three weeks
- Risk of complications developing out of strep throat as ear or sinus infection, abscess formation around tonsils, rheumatic fever and in worst cases kidney infections
The conventional medicine offers a typical line of therapy in the form of painkillers and antibiotics, which reduces the risk of complications and transmission. However, the antibiotic therapy is adopted after contemplating the side effects and benefits of the treatment.
Owing to this fact, many individuals opt for home-based remedies and over-the-counter preparations for managing the signs and symptoms of strep throat. Out of these, application of essential oils via different means might be a preferred choice because of their soothing and calming effects. The only factor to bear in mind is that these remedies work only at the initial stages of the infection, once the infection is well-established you may lose this pick. Moreover, many of the sore throat cases are viral in nature and are best managed by an alternative therapeutic course.
Scientific back up to the use of essential oils in strep throat
Before embarking on different choices of essential oils for relieving strep throat, let us see what is said about the whole idea in the scientific discipline.
According to a research article published in PubMed, a research study was conducted to evaluate the “in vitro antibacterial activities of 18 essential oils chemo types from aromatic medicinal plants against S. pyogenes”, the culprit of the strep throat infection. Antibacterial activity of essential oils was investigated and out of 18 essential oils tested, 14 showed antibacterial activity against S. pyogenes. The conclusion of the study was
“The in vitro results suggested that, for patients suffering from bacterial throat infections, if aromatherapy is used, these essential oils, considered as potential antimicrobial agents, should be preferred”
Options of essential oils against strep throat infection
An essential oil is a plant based, hydrophobic extract, which contains concentrated aromatic compounds. Being volatile in nature, they are also called oil of plants, ethereal oils or volatile oils. These oils contain the essence or specific fragrance of the plant from which it is extracted, thus called essential oils.
Nearly eleven million people have diagnosed annually with strep throat in the US alone. This population is not only subjected to the risks and complications of a streptococcal infection, but they also carry the financial burden of antibiotic purchase. Besides a burden on your wallet, antibiotic therapy is followed by many side effects (altered gut activity, disturbed bacterial colonies in the gut) including the development of resistance against them in cases of repeated exposure to the specific infection.
“The growing number of antibiotic-resistant infections led to 50,000 deaths in the United States and Europe during 2015”
In such a case scenario, the option of essential oil therapy is superior as backed by initial researchers. Some of the essential oils for strep throat that are found effective are
One of the most powerful essential oils, oregano oil has natural antibacterial activity and acts as an amazing remedy for strep throat.
The essential oil is available as oil soft gels that can be taken in place of an antibiotic capsule. The oil preparation added to orange juice masks its strong smell and is a better option for children. Usually, a drop per glass is sufficient and can be taken several times a day.
Other options available is gargling with a drop of oregano oil with a little bit of coconut oil, this helps the oils to film the back of the throat as a layer and render its antibiotic activity for some hours.
Cinnamon oil is powerful oil that is proven by research (mentioned before) to create an unfriendly environment for Streptococcus pyogenes, the bacteria responsible for a sore throat. The efficacy of cinnamon oil in fighting the strep bacteria was found to be equal to the antibiotic amoxicillin.
The essential oil of cinnamon is packed with antioxidants and delivers potent antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antiparasitic activities.
Cinnamon oil prevents mucus production and helps clear nasal and throat passages. For the relief of a strep throat, use a mixture of hot water, cinnamon oil and honey first thing in the morning, alternatively, cinnamon oil and honey can be used without water for a more rapid action. Infusion of cinnamon oil in a diffuser for aromatherapy is also an effective way to get its benefits. Direct application of the oil to the throat skin can help relieve the scratchy feel and irritation associated with the strep throat infection.
Thieves for strep throat
Thieves is an essential oil blend of clove, cinnamon, lemon, rosemary and eucalyptus oils with strong antimicrobial properties. This blend naturally brings relief to the signs and symptoms of strep throat discarding any need for antibiotic use.
Peppermint and its oil are known for their natural cooling and soothing properties. The oil is a great choice in combating the itch and scratch of a sore throat.
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is recognized for its antiseptic effects. A review in the journal of Clinical Microbiology Reviews reported that
“Tea tree essential oil had potent antimicrobial and antiviral properties. The presence of antimicrobial properties suggests that by using tea tree oil, strep throat may be managed naturally”
The best way to use tea tree oil is to use it in warm water for gargles. Use only a drop or two and focus at the back of the throat while gargling. Always spit the mixture out after gargling and avoid ingesting because it can be unsafe.
Clove oil has antibacterial and analgesic properties, thus it helps in relieving sore throat pain at the same time of fighting the bacterial infection. Clove oil is proven by research study to aid in strep throat conditions.
Another way to use clove oil is by placing a piece or two of cloves and chewing a bit on them to release the oil. The oil will hit back straight at the throat and start relieving the itch and cough of a sore throat. You can always make clove oil tea and sip it all day long for a continued effect.
You must have used lemon-flavored lozenges for a sore throat. The combination of lemon oil and honey is a great antioxidant therapy for strep throat. Lemon oil is rich in Vitamin C and it keeps the throat moist by increasing salivation, thus aiding the itch of a sore throat.
The list of essential oils started with oregano oil, an extract from an herb that has an established culinary use. We compile our list with yet another oil, the basic herb of which is a culinary star, namely thyme.
A 2011 study evaluated the effectiveness of thyme oil against 120 strains of bacteria isolated from patients suffering from oral, respiratory and genitourinary tracts. The results were amazing with thyme oil displaying potent activity against all the clinical strains including antibiotic-resistant strains.
Means of application of essential oils
Following are the modes of utilization of essential oils
- Topical application
Topical application is best carried out with carrier oil since the essential oils are concentrated forms and may irritate the skin.
- Via inhalation
Inhalation via aromatherapy can be very effective for an individual as well as the whole household when someone is suffering from a strep throat in a family. This reduces the chances of transmission simultaneously with serving the patient.
- Via oral route
The oral route includes gargles, drinking a tea made with essential oil, taking in capsule or soft gel preparation, or adding it to juices or your food. It should be noted that the more diluted the oil becomes with other additives, the less effective it becomes. The best way for oral ingestion is using the oil with honey. FDA has graded essential oils as GRAS, which must be consulted before oral ingestion.
As with any kind of therapy, if symptoms persist or worsen, consult your physician. Essential oils should be used with caution in children, elderly people and pregnant women