A few weeks ago I received an urgent e-mail from a local singer. She had a BIG event coming up the following week and had been struck by the dreaded viral laryngitis! Her e-mail went something like this:

“I have a serious case of laryngitis and am desperately trying to rest my voice and repair before next week. Hot water, lemon, honey? or no? I’ve never been clear if lemon and honey are good or drying to the throat. HELP!”

For many singers there’s a definite lack of clarity and certainty regarding what to do in these types of situations. We’ve all heard about various remedies, but which ones actually work? I’m happy to report that my suggested remedies REALLY worked and she was in excellent voice for her event. While I hope you never find yourself in a similar situation, I thought you might find the information helpful as well.

**Note: I am not a trained medical professional and the information contained here is not intended to take the place of professional medical advice. These are simply suggestions that I have found to be very helpful, both as a singer and as a vocal coach. If you are experiencing vocal problems or general health conditions that are not resolving, I encourage you to seek advice from a trained medical professional.**

Here is my response:

“I’m sorry to hear you aren’t feeling well!

Ok, remedies. 

Remember that when your voice is hoarse it’s generally due to an inflammation of the vocal cords or a situation where the vocal cords are so coated with mucous that they can’t vibrate properly. Lemon, honey, etc. aren’t going to directly affect the vocal cords (either negatively or positively), though the lemon can help to break up mucous and the honey certainly feels soothing to a dry, sore throat. So if you like lemon and honey you can take it, but I wouldn’t overdue it as too much acid or sugar aren’t recommended.

In addition to getting plenty of rest, my most recommended remedies are:

  1. Drink plenty of room temperature water (but I’m sure you already knew that!) and eat lots of high water content fruits and veggies. Hydration is crucial!
  2. Do daily steam treatments – boil the water, pour it into a bowl and breathe the steam for 5-7 minutes with a towel over your head. This puts direct moisture on the vocal cords which is wonderfully soothing. Just be sure that you don’t try to make ANY vocal sound (no singing, talking or whispering) for 30 minutes after steaming. Additionally, if it’s cold out, don’t go outside immediately after steaming as the cold air would be quite a shock to the vocal cords. I always recommend steaming right before bed.
  3. Try Bromelain, which is an extract of pineapple root and can be taken in pill form. Available at vitamin shops health food stores and natural grocery stores. It acts as an anti-inflammatory. Super helpful!
  4. Avoid spicy or highly acidic foods (so that’s why you don’t want to overdue the lemon) as it can irritate the delicate membranes of the throat and/or cause acid reflux (if you’re prone to that).

While everyone is different and certain situations absolutely call for vocal rest and medical treatment, I’ve made these same suggestions to many singers over the years and all have found them to be very helpful. If and when the situation arises, I hope you find them helpful too!

Until next time, Happy Singing!