How Effective are Herbal Teas?
With and increasing amount of herbal teas on the market, are there any that can genuinely help singers perform at their best? Let’s take a look at some of the published research, and listen to what medical professionals have to say about the herbs in these brews…
Active Ingredients: Slippery elm, licorice, and marshmallow root. Seller’s Claim: “Helps you sing it loud, say it proud, stand up and be heard…we think this tea blend is like taking your voice to the spa—because we all need a little comfort sometimes so we can get back to being our best.”
Active Ingredients: Ginger, slippery elm, licorice root, marshmallow root. Seller’s Claim: “I am the Siren—here for the singers, the shouters, and the screamers…I am an herbal tea expertly crafted to soothe your ravaged throat and heal your respiratory health.”
Active Ingredients: licorice root, marshmallow root, cinnamon. Seller’s Claim: “HUSKY NO MORE. Cinnamon and marshmallow root to help coat the throat.”
Active Ingredients: slippery elm, licorice, ginger root, fennel seed, cinnamon bark, black pepper, clove bud. Seller’s Claim: “To help relieve minor throat irritation…when you need a gentle and comforting blend to soothe your throat.”
Herbal Tea Ingredients
The herbal blend of these teas is almost exactly the same. So, what secrets do these mysterious herbs and spices hold? Can they really soothe your throat and help you sing better?
Slippery Elm Bark
This forest tree bark does indeed have the power to relieve the pain of a sore throat from pharyngitis by forming a protective film in the mouth and pharynx. According to the Food Standards Agency, “slippery elm bark is a safe and effective OTC over the counter demulcent active ingredient for topical use on the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat”. However, they add that it cannot heal or anesthetise so it can only offer short bursts of relief. A 2003 study concluded that the “intensity of throat pain when swallowing was significantly reduced” with Throat Coat tea when compared to a placebo. Furthermore, the pain relief was effective up to 30 minutes after drinking.
Marshmallow root may not be the strongest herbal hit but it can contribute to coating your throat in times of pain, and it can help suppress a cough. A 2013 study on the creation of marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) lozenges discovered that it can “form a protective film coating on the oropharyngeal mucosa, alleviating local irritation and inflammation.” Another 2013 study tested how marshmallow root has the power to “significantly reduced the intensity and the number of cough efforts from laryngopharyngeal and tracheobronchial areas.”
This sweet herb is a double-edged sword, so best consumed in small doses. A 2009 study on postoperative sore throat (POST) identified that licorice could heal ulcers, reduce swelling and suppress a cough. They concluded that a “licorice gargle… is an effective method for attenuating both the incidence and severity of POST.”
Although, a 2012 review warns us that more than 100mg of licorice a day could cause hypertension, swelling or allergic reactions. Licorice hard candy being the most potent. They “aim to send a warning message…That serious life-threatening complication can occur with excess use.”
Research suggests that we should all stock up on fresh ginger! It has the strength to fight off a cold, calm your pre-show butterflies and improve your overall health. A 2002 study claim that “ginger extracts could be better options to some of the antibiotics commonly used for respiratory tract infections”due to its antibacterial properties. A 2013 study “clearly demonstrated that fresh ginger had antiviral activity against HRSV… Human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV) is one of the most common airway viruses.” Many studies conclude that ginger ingestion is a great way to suppress nausea, which may come in handy for nervous performers. Additionally, according to a 2010 study, “it can be concluded that ginger is a good source of antioxidant.”
It seems that there is a lot of truth in folk and traditional remedies! So, boil the kettle and sip away. These herbal brews can provide hydration with some benefits. However, look for herbal remedies in their most natural form rather than opting for dried or sugary versions.
These teas may help reduce pain from a sore throat, but you should always be careful of masking symptoms and see a health professional if symptoms persist. Furthermore, don’t be tempted to believe that herbal teas are magical enough to compensate for inefficient vocal technique or bad lifestyle habits.