Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A straightforward approach

Having come down with the sore throat/sinus affliction that is plaguing the east coast, I've been looking up some sore throat remedies on the internet. I'm familiar with the trusty lemony and honey drinks, and usually down cup after cup of licorice tea (which works very well but many people find repulsive). These solutions, however, work mostly because they constantly hydrate the tissues, and maybe add a little something extra. What I'm looking for is something a little more... magical. Let's peruse through some google results, shall we?

First of all, as soon as I type in "sore throat remedy", google chrome suggests "sore throat remedy whiskey". Let's get this straight people. Drinking alcohol does not make you better. For example, take a look at this question, posted to an online forum:

I've had a sore throat for a week now and I'm convinced that nothing will heal it but getting drunk and hoping a high BAC will destroy all unwanted pathogens.
Would I be better off drinking a hoppy beer (pale ale/IPA), red wine, or liquor? I know anything with excessive sugar should be avoided. Thanks,

For starters, as a general rule (which, mind you, doesn't apply to all bacteria by any means) you need 70% alcohol by volume to sterilize something. It being more than a few years since I took the test for my driver's license, I had to look up exactly what BAC (blood alcohol content) is. I trust that Wikipedia is correct in saying that BAC is measure in the % of alcohol by volume (which is great because that's the same unit of measure we're using already and if it wasn't I'd probably stop right now because I hate conversions), and lists the symptoms of various BACs, including "0.010–0.029%; Average individual appears normal, Subtle effects that can be detected with special tests" up to ">0.50%; Unconsciousness, high risk of poisoning, high risk of death". If you recall, we're looking for a concentration of 70.0% (or 70%) to be sterile. So according to our research, you WOULD NEVER be able reach 70%, never mind survive it. (Note: in addition to correcting my math, my friend Nick points out that hops act as an antibiotic. I don't have any stats on that, but I'm going to maintain that it's not very efficient to drink to cure oneself.)

I also can't help but mention that alcohol is a depressant. That's a class of drug. It depresses your immune system, which, if you recall from high school, fights off infection. Such as bacteria. Soooo.... you probably don't want to inhibit that.

Back to our Google search. Other remedies: chicken soup (rumored to be like magic, but only if made by mom. Plus, the store bought stuff is full of sodium); cough drops (not magical, not tasty), marshmallows (mine as are hard as a rock plus this seems mostly like a kid's scheme to be allowed treats while sick). Gargling is one that I already know (and which has been working) but gargling with baking soda in water is new to me. Maybe I'll try that (similarly, I've had a lot of success with battling sinus infections with a Neti pot filled with the same).

Conclusions: Despite our technological advances in medicine and communication, the only true cure for a sore throat is to go the Van Gogh (or, if you prefer, Futurama) route, and cut it off.


  1. Personally, mug after mug of green tea. Always works for me. Something about it really is MAGIC!

    1. Green tea has too little taste. And it is NOT magic, Steve, that is an out and out LIE!!

  2. Haha, that's so funny- I hear surgeons say all the time that "cutting is curing". Apparently they're right!