Who hasn’t experienced the absolute pain in the neck that a sore throat is? When swallowing food feels like torture, and it feels like a small rodent crawled into your throat and died there, you know you’ve got a sore throat. The only solution to this bane? Salt water gargle. I was told of it by my dad, who was told of it by his dad. And it works. But before we get into why it works, let’s first look at what a salt water gargle is.
Table Of Contents
- What Is Salt Water Gargle
- How To Gargle With Salt Water
- How Does Salt Water Gargle Work
- What Are The Benefits Of Gargling With Salt Water
- What Are The Side Effects Of Gargling With Salt Water
- Tips and Precautions
What Is Salt Water Gargle?
Salt water gargle is an easy and time-tested natural remedy to treat a sore throat. It works on the simple chemical process of osmosis in which the liquid moves from the concentrated form to the diluted form of the solution. This principle enables the warm water to draw out the fluids from the infected tissues in your throat area. And this helps relieve a sore throat.
All that’s well and good, but you’re probably still confused about how to use this miracle remedy. Here’s how.
How To Gargle With Salt Water
- Add half a teaspoon of either table salt or sea salt to a cup of warm water and stir until it dissolves completely.
- Check to make sure that it is not hot enough to burn your mouth.
- Take a big sip of the salt water and hold it in your mouth.
- Tilt your head back and look up.
- Gargle the salt water in your throat for about 30 seconds and spit it out.
- Repeat this process until you’ve finished the whole cup.
- Gargle with salt water every 4 hours to relieve the pain in your sore throat effectively.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at how salt water gargle actually works to provide relief to your throat.
How Does Salt Water Gargle Work?
To understand how salt water gargle works, you need to understand the principle of osmosis. Osmosis occurs when a solvent moves from an area of higher concentration to an area of lower concentration to attain equilibrium. Your throat gets sore when bacteria (or virus) decide to take up residence in it. Because the salt water is of a higher concentration, the sodium in it passes through the tissue membranes in your throat where the fluid is in lower concentration. This sodium creates an environment that is not hospitable for the bacteria. This osmosis also helps flush out the fluid that builds up due to an infection and dehydrates the bacteria’s environment. This helps in relieving some of the pain. You could imagine it like the FBI (the salt water) busting down the doors on a human trafficking ring (the bacteria) operating out of a warehouse (your throat!).
Well, now that you’ve mastered the art of gargling with salt water, let’s look at the many health benefits it provides.
What Are The Benefits Of Gargling With Salt Water?
Gargling and rinsing your mouth with salt water provide a range of health benefits that you can’t even wrap your head around. It is an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and a great preventative measure for a number of oral diseases.
1. Maintains The Natural pH Level
Salt water helps neutralize the acids in the throat produced by the invading bacteria and helps maintain a healthy pH balance. A normal pH balance also helps the natural bacteria in your throat and mouth to thrive and prevents unwanted bacteria from accumulating and causing infections.
2. Clears Mucus And Relieves Nasal Congestion
Probably the grossest thing about being down with the flu is the phlegm hawking up every time you cough. Gargling with warm salt water helps thin out this mucus build-up in your respiratory tract and nasal cavity and expels it. This not only reduces inflammation and relieves the pain in your throat, but it also flushes out the bacteria or virus that are causing your symptoms in the first place.
3. Treats Dry Cough
Salt water gargle works just as well in treating a dry cough as it does a wet, phlegm-filled one. It works as an antitussive, which means that it helps stop a cough (1).
4. Prevents Upper Respiratory Tract Infections
According to a study conducted in Japan, gargling with warm salt water thrice a day is an easy and cost-effective way to decrease your risk of developing an upper respiratory tract infection by a whopping 40% (2).
5. Eases Tonsillitis
Tonsils are two lumps of tissues located at the back of your throat. These can get inflamed due to a bacterial or viral infection and lead to symptoms like sore throat, trouble in swallowing, and a yellow-white coating on the tonsils. Gargling with warm salt water can help relieve the pain in your throat and ease some of these symptoms (3).
6. Eliminates Bad Breath
Be it an occasional bout of bad breath after gorging on garlic bread or a case of chronic bad breath (halitosis) that you can’t seem to shake off, salt water gargle can help you get rid of it effectively. Warm salt water gargle can neutralize the acids in your mouth to restore its natural pH level and flush out oral bacteria – the two biggest culprits of bad breath.
7. Sore Throat
Sore throat can be caused by a bacterial or viral infection. The most effective natural remedy to relieve its symptoms is salt water gargle (4). As discussed above, salt water gargle works on the principle of osmosis to make the environment in your throat inhospitable for the bacteria/virus and flushes them out completely.
8. Bleeding And Swollen Gums
Don’t you just freak out when you spit out after brushing your teeth and see blood in the toothpaste foam? Bleeding and swollen gums are the first sign of gum disease caused by a bacterial infection. Rinsing your mouth with salt water can help reduce inflammation and fight this bacteria (5). Additionally, it can help flush out the bacteria from any abscess in your mouth that is causing the infection.
9. Treats Dental Plaque And Prevents Gingivitis
Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on the teeth and along the gum line. If left untreated for too long, it can harden into tartar and eventually develop into gingivitis. Gingivitis is characterized by swollen, painful gums and can lead to even more serious oral diseases and loss of teeth. The best way to prevent this from happening is to gargle with warm salt water a few times a week to regularly remove the plaque build-up on your teeth (6).
10. Canker Sores
Canker sores are those small bothersome ulcers that you get in your mouth. They are sensitive and painful. They can be caused by a myriad of reasons like accidentally biting the inside of your cheek, sensitivity to certain foods, or hormonal fluctuations during menstruation. Rinsing your mouth with salt water can relieve some pain and speed up the process of healing the sore (7).
11. Relieves Toothache
A toothache is usually caused when there is a build-up of pus in the center of your tooth due to a bacterial infection. If that’s the case, you will need to take antibiotics to treat the infection. But to relieve the pain by flushing out some of the fluid from the tooth, you can rinse your mouth with salt water every few hours (8).
12. Protects The Enamel
Salt water has one mineral that can not only stop but even reverse tooth decay – fluoride! The fluoride in salt water prevents loss of minerals from the tooth enamel and helps strengthen it. It also neutralizes the acids in your mouth that attack and weaken the enamel on your teeth (9). Hence, a salt water rinse needs to be incorporated in your dental routine.
13. Aids Gingival Wound Healing
Oral diseases like gingivitis cause the gums to weaken and become more susceptible to injury and the teeth to loosen from their place. A study conducted in Thailand has found that rinsing your mouth with salt water aids in the rapid healing of any wound in the connective tissues in your gums and helps restore them back to health (10).
14. Fights Candidiasis
Candidiasis is a fungal infection that is caused when the yeast Candida starts growing in the mouth, throat or esophagus. This can lead to symptoms like white spots patches in your mouth and throat, a cottony sensation in your mouth, and pain while swallowing. You can use the antimicrobial property of salt to your advantage by rinsing and gargling with salt water to fight not only a Candida infestation but any oral infection (11).
15. Cleanses Mouth
Gargling and rinsing your mouth with salt water neutralizes the acidity in your mouth and creates an alkaline environment that is not conducive for the growth of bacteria and other invading microbes. Thus, it prevents the development of any oral infections. It also helps remove the tiny particles of food stuck between your teeth that can spell disaster for your oral health. Additionally, salt water rinse removes the white build-up on your tongue effectively.
Yes, gargling with salt water is great and you do need to try it out immediately to reap its benefits. But there are some tips that you can follow and precautions you need to take before you do that.
What Are The Side Effects Of Gargling With Salt Water?
Though salt water gargling does not have any serious side effects, there are some ways that it can affect you negatively:
- Gargling with salt water that has too much salt in it can dehydrate the lining of your throat and make it hurt even more.
- Engaging in salt water gargling every day for a long period can soften the enamel of your teeth and gums due to its acidic content. So, make sure you limit it to just 2 or 3 times a week if you don’t have a sore throat.
- Make sure you spit out the salt water after gargling. Swallowing too much salt water can be harmful as consuming excessive sodium can increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Who knew this age-old remedy passed on to us by our grandparents would hold some scientific truth, huh? If you have any more questions about salt water gargle, do leave us a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
Tips and Precautions
- Use warm water for gargling as salt can be dissolved in it much more easily.
- Always check how hot your salt water is before gargling to avoid burning your mouth.
- If you feel the salt water is too, well, salty, just dilute it by adding a little more water.
- Make sure the salt has dissolved completely before gargling as undissolved grains of salt can grate against the lining of your throat and cause more pain instead of alleviating it.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
What is the ratio of salt and water for gargling?
A half teaspoon of table salt or sea salt for one cup of water is a good ratio to follow when gargling.
How much salt do you put in water to gargle?
A quarter to half teaspoon of salt can be put in 8 ounces (1 cup) of water for gargling.
How does salt water help a toothache?
A toothache is caused when there is a build-up of pus inside your tooth, which exerts pressure on your nerve endings. Salt water helps flush out some of that fluid to relieve the pressure and, thus, reduce the toothache.
How long do you have to gargle salt water?
Gargle salt water for about a minute, every 3-4 hours in a day.
Does gargling salt water really help with a sore throat?
Yes, it does as it flushes out the fluids that help the bacteria (that are causing your sore throat) to survive in your throat.
- “What Can I Do To Fight Cold, Cough, Or Sore Throat?” Washington State Department Of Health, USA.
- “Cost-effectiveness of gargling for the prevention of upper respiratory tract infections.” Department of Clinical Research and Informatics, Research Institute, International Medical Center of Japan, Japan. 2008 December.
- “” MedlinePlus.
- “Soothing a Sore Throat: What To Do When Your Throat Hurts.” National Institutes of Health, USA.
- “A Solution to Reducing Inflammation.” University of Manchester, UK. 2012 September.
- “Comparative evaluation of salt water rinse with chlorhexidine against oral microbes: A school-based randomized controlled trial.” Tamil Nadu Government Dental College and Hospital, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. 2017.
- “Canker Sore.” Mayo Clinic.
- “Tooth Abscess.”
- “The Tooth Decay Process: How to Reverse It and Avoid a Cavity.” National Institues of Health, USA. 2016 June.
- “Rinsing with Saline Promotes Human Gingival Fibroblast Wound Healing In Vitro.” Dentistry Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand. 2016 July.
- “Antimicrobial properties of salt (NaCl) used for the preservation of natural casings.” The Netherlands. 2006 October.
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