Already have an account?
Get back to the

Outsmart This Season’s ‘Super Bug’ With Doc-Approved Natural Ways to Stop Strep Throat

Find out how docs are keeping themselves safe from germs

It starts with a tickle in the back of your throat, and before you know it, chicken soup is your new best friend. No one likes getting sick, which is why new research showing a dramatic uptick in strep throat is raising alarm bells. Thankfully, there are natural strep throat remedies that will enhance your body’s ability to fight it — and boost your overall immunity this season. Keep reading for doc-approved strategies proven to help you sidestep sickness and feel your best.

What to know about strep throat

When you hear the words “strep throat,” you probably think it’s a kids-only disease, but the truth is, it’s an equal-opportunity infection that strikes children and grown-ups alike. What’s more, it’s making an unwelcome comeback: Rates of the bacterial infection are up 30% since 2017.

Symptoms include fever, headache and, of course, a bad sore throat. Adds infectious disease specialist Gregory DeMuri, MD, professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, “It’s less likely to be strep if you have a cough or runny nose — but it can be difficult even for a doctor to determine without a test, so if you’re experiencing symptoms, you really should get your throat swabbed.”

Why strep throat is on the rise

“There’s definitely been an uptick, especially since the pandemic,” confirms Dr. DeMuri. “Last fall there was an explosion of strep, with rates three times higher than even the worst year in the last 10 years, and we’re seeing it in adults, too, some of whom develop complications like blood stream and bone and joint infections.”

Why the surge? “A theory called ‘immunological debt’ suggests if we’re not exposed to a pathogen on a continual basis (like during the pandemic), our immune system becomes ‘naive’ and infections take advantage,” says Dr. DeMuri.

3 natural strep throat remedies

The good news: You can protect yourself and boost your immune system with these natural strep throat remedies.:

Strep-stopper #1: Vitamin D

The streptococcus bacterium is most commonly spread through respiratory droplets in the air or through contact with saliva, by, say, sharing utensils or drinking glasses, notes Dr. DeMuri. While you can easily avoid the latter, the former (being around people) isn’t something we either want or can do. The solution, therefore, isn’t to avoid people, but rather to fortify our defenses in a kind of preemptive strike against strep.

“This infection can be so nasty, like razor blades in the throat, it’s very important to build up our innate immune response,” says Robert G. Lahita, MD, PhD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, Rutgers, New Jersey Medical School Medicine and author of Immunity Strong: Boost Your Natural Healing Power and Live to 100. By “innate,” Dr. Lahita means our body’s first line of defense, or as he colorfully puts it: the “immune system swat team.”

To ensure our “troopers” are capable of defending against strep, he advises taking vitamin D. “It’s wonderful at boosting the immune system and increasing our resistance to infectious diseases like strep.” In fact, a study in ACS Infectious Diseases showed that lower levels of vitamin D were linked to significantly increased risk of contracting strep. That’s in large part because vitamin D binds to and helps activate T-cells, the foot soldiers of the immune system that go after the strep infection. Dr. Lahita recommends taking 250 mg (10,00 IU) of vitamin D daily.

Related: This Sneaky Vitamin Deficiency May Be the Cause of Your Thinning Hair

Mature woman with strep throat touching neck
Eric Audras/Getty

Strep-stopper #2: Washing your hands this way

Bacteria is nature’s original opportunist, finding its way in wherever there is a chink in our armor. That’s why washing our hands with cool or lukewarm water rather than hot is so important. Turns out hot water can cause our hands to chap, creating tiny cracks in our skin that read like a welcome mat to strep infection. In fact, a study in the Journal of Food Protection found that people who washed their hands in cool (60°F) water removed just as much bacteria as those who washed in warmer temperatures (79°–100°F).

Another hand-washing myth busted: the researchers found that soaping up for only 10 seconds banished a significant number of bacteria. That means if you don’t have time to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice (advice you may have heard once or twice or a million times!) for 20 seconds, you’ll still be protected.

To sidestep strep in a public bathroom, consider stashing a few paper towels in your handbag so you can avoid touching the paper towel dispenser — which is like a perch for germs to rest on — or using the air dryer, which has been shown to spread lingering bacteria on people’s hands back out into the air.

Also smart: “I often use a paper towel to shut off the faucets and to grab the door handle,” says Neha B. Vyas, MD, a physician in the department of Family Medicine at Cleveland Clinic. That’s because these surfaces are like magnets for germs, including strep bacteria. In fact, bathroom door handles harbor 30 times more germs than the toilet seat.

Strep-stopper #3: Licorice root tea

licorice root tea next to licorice root pieces

A recent study in Biomedicines revealed that the potent antibacterial properties in licorice root tea target strep bacteria and may help prevent infection. Not only is licorice root tea potent, it’s also fast-acting: the strep-sabotaging effects of the tea were seen in just 12 hours, as opposed to the day or more other herbal remedies in the study took to thwart strep.

If you’re not a fan of the sweet yet tangy taste of licorice, Dr. Lahita promises green tea will also help bolster your defenses. “The polyphenols [antioxidants in plants] in green tea curb inflammation, boosting natural resistance to infections including strep.” To soak up the immunity-boosting benefits, aim to drink 1/2 cup of licorice tea a day or 2-3 cups of green tea daily.

Related: Fight Yeast Infections, Digestive Issues, and Menopause Symptoms With This Powerful Root

For more ways to fight off common diseases, click through these stories:

CDC Says Food Poisoning Is on the Rise — MDs Share 8 Kitchen Tricks to Keep You Safe

Experts Reveal the Best Tea for Headaches That Soothe Pain Naturally

6 Fast-Acting Common Cold Remedies Study-Proven to Really Work

Use left and right arrow keys to navigate between menu items. Use right arrow key to move into submenus. Use escape to exit the menu. Use up and down arrow keys to explore. Use left arrow key to move back to the parent list.