Laryngitis is caused by inflammation of the larynx,
often resulting in a temporary loss of voice.
When air is breathed in, it passes through the nose
and the nasopharynx or through the mouth and the
oropharynx. These are both connected to the larynx, a
tube made of cartilage. The vocal cords, responsible for
setting up the vibrations necessary for speech, are located
within the larynx.
The air continues down the larynx to the trachea.
The trachea then splits into two branches, the left and
right bronchi (bronchial tubes). These bronchi branch
into smaller air tubes that run within the lungs, leading to
the small air sacs of the lungs (alveoli).
Either food, liquid, or air may be taken in through
the mouth. While air goes into the larynx and the respiratory
system, food and liquid are directed into the tube
leading to the stomach, the esophagus. Because food or
liquid in the bronchial tubes or lungs could cause a blockage
or lead to an infection, the airway must be protected.
The epiglottis is a leaf-like piece of cartilage extending
upwards from the larynx. The epiglottis can close down
over the larynx when someone is eating or drinking, preventing
these substances from entering the airway.
In laryngitis, the tissues below the level of the epiglottis
are swollen and inflamed. This causes swelling around
the area of the vocal cords and they can’t vibrate normally.
Hoarse sounds or loss of voice are characteristic of laryngitis.
Laryngitis is a very common problem, and often occurs
during an upper respiratory tract infection (cold).
Causes & symptoms
Laryngitis is primarily caused by overuse of the
voice, a condition faced by people ranging from teachers
to performers. Other causes of laryngitis include:
• strain on the larynx from talking or singing for long periods
• shouting or cheering for an extended time
• colds or cough
• alcohol consumption
• atmospheric conditions like dust in the air
• underactive thyroid
• growths on the larynx
However, the primary medical cause of laryngitis is
a viral infection. The same viruses that cause the majority
of simple colds are responsible for laryngitis. In extremely
rare cases, more harmful bacteria or the bacteria
that causes tuberculosis (TB) may cause laryngitis. In
people with faulty immune systems (like AIDS patients),
infections with fungi may be responsible for laryngitis.
Symptoms usually begin with a cold. The person
may have a sore, scratchy throat, as well as a fever, runny
nose, aches, and fatigue. Difficulty swallowing sometimes
occurs, and the patient may have a ticklish cough or
wheeze. Most characteristically, the patient suffers voice
loss or the voice will sound strained, hoarse, and raspy.
In extremely rare cases, the swelling of the larynx
may cause symptoms of airway obstruction. This is more
common in infants because the diameter of their airways
is so small. In that case, the baby may have a greatly increased
respiratory rate and exhibit loud, high-pitched
sounds with breathing (called stridor).
Alternative treatments for laryngitis include various
herbal therapies, as well reflexology, homeopathy, re-
laxation, and exercise . Resting the voice is especially
important, as is consulting a doctor or practitioner if
symptoms last for more than two weeks.
Practitioners who treat laryngitis include naturopathic
doctors and ayurvedic doctors. Naturopathic
medicine focuses on whole body health care; the
ayurvedic practitioner concentrates on maintaining balance
between the body and the world.
Acupuncture or accupressure, elements of traditional
Chinese medicine (TCM), may provide some relief.
A TCM practitioner may prescribe Throat Inflammation
Pills, which are also known as Laryngitis Pills.
The pill is an over-the-counter Chinese formula. The
usual dosage for adults is 10 pills taken three times daily.
This is a short-term treatment and should be stopped
after three days.
An ayurvedic practitioner could prescribe an infusion
of mint, ginger, or cloves, as well as a milk decoction
or licorice root powder.
Numerous herbals can be used to treat laryngitis.
Herbal lozenges and throat sprays can provide immediate
relief to a raw throat. Herbs that are effective for laryngitis
include thyme, horehound, cardamom, plantain, cinnamon,
and eucalyptus. Commercial cough medicines
that are effective include herbs such as anise, fennel, and
peppermint. A person can gargle with warm salt water
and slippery elm bark, wild cherry, and mallow.
Echinacea tincture taken in water is recommended
to boost the immune system. The tincture consists of 10
drops (1/8 teaspoon or 5/8 ml) of the herb in a glass of
water. This mixture is taken frequently, or 5 ml three to
four times a day. Antiviral herbs such as usnea, lomatium,
and ligusticum may help speed recovery.
Poke should be taken as a last resort. It’s a strong
herb that should be taken only in small amounts and
under the direction of a healthcare professional. However,
there are many other herbs that can be purchased as
packaged cold and throat remedies or used to prepare
HYDROTHERAPY. A person can use a vaporizer for
relief by inhaling steam. A natural version of the vaporizer
is a boiling pot of water with herbs or essential oils
added. The amount of these ingredients varies. A small
handful of sage or eucalyptus leaves may be added to the
water. When using essential oils, 1-2 teaspoons (4.5-10
g) of an oil such as sage, eucalyptus, lavender, benzoin,
frankincense, thyme, or sandalwood are added. The pot
is removed from the stove and the ingredients are allowed
to steep. The person places a towel over the head
for a tent-like effect, leans over the pot, and breathes in
steam through the mouth.
HERBAL TEAS. Commercial products like horehound
tea will provide relief. For brewing tea at home, 1 cup
(250 ml) of boiling water is poured over 1-2 teaspoons
(4.5-10 g) of an herb. The tea is steeped for about 10
minutes and then strained. Generally, up to 3 cups of tea
may be drunk daily.
Helpful herbs for teas include capsicum (cayenne),
which is used to treat conditions caused by a cold or flu.
Capsicum tea might be a painful treatment if inflammation
is severe. Ginger root helps with chest congestion.
Other useful herbs include cardamom, eucalyptus,
spearmint, rosemary, sweet Annie, nutmeg, lavender,
bee balm, peppermint, tansy, mallows, and mullein.
GARGLES. A home gargle is prepared like herbal tea.
One cup (250 ml) of boiling water is poured over 1-2
teaspoons (4.5-10 g) of an herb. This mixture is steeped
for about 10 minutes and then strained. The solution is
gargled for about 10 seconds, and repeated every three to
four hours. Herbs recommended for gargling include
coltsfoot, garden raspberry, golden seal, mullein, plantain,
red sage, yarrow, licorice, and slippery elm.
Other home remedies
A range of other home remedies will bring relief to
laryngitis and its symptoms. These include:
• Drinking more liquids and eating raw fruit and vegetables.
• Eating certain foods. Candied ginger, honey, lemon,
and pineapple juice are soothing. Spicy foods with ingredients
like garlic, cayenne pepper, horseradish, mustard,
or ginger are helpful.
• Using vitamins. They can also help the immune system.
The recommended dosages are 1,000-3,000 mg of
vitamin C and 10,000-20,000 I.U. of vitamin A (beta
• Using a compress. A compress is a form of hydrotherapy
that starts by placing a warm washcloth on the neck.
Next, a long cotton cloth is soaked in cold water. After
the cloth is wrung out, it is wrapped around the neck.
Then a long piece of wool flannel such as a scarf is
wrapped around the wet cloth. The flannel is secured
with a safety pin and remains in place for at least 30
minutes. The compress can be worn overnight.
• Relaxing and exercising. Since anxiety can cause laryngitis,
both relaxation techniques and physical exercise
can reduce stress.
• Breathing deeply. Deep breaths and breathing exercises
can make the respiratory system stronger
GALE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE