Ask the Bartender, Ask the Plants, Ask Karoline #69

I’ve been touring with bands for the past seven years and since I spend a good portion of my life on the road, I figured that I should devote a little bit of writing to one of the most common tour ailments...the sore throat.  The trick is to recognize the symptoms before it gets bad.  Often,  people will ask for an herbal remedy once they are already feeling really shitty and I can’t help them (I’m not an herbalist, I just truly love learning how plants can help heal us) because most of my knowledge is about preventative care.  Basically, if you treat yourself like shit on tour/while travelling you can expect to get sick...you’re generally out of your element, sleeping on the floor, not getting enough sleep, inhaling too much smoke, drastic temperature changes, screaming your head off (either into microphones or just for the hell of it), eating poorly, drinking too much cheap beer/cheap coffee/cheap soda, not drinking enough water...get the picture?!  If you feel like a sore throat is coming on, try some of my (personally tested, relatively cheap and easy) suggestions and see if they work for you.

Beneficial Mucilaginous Components...
That sounds tasty, doesn’t it?!  Pick up a box of Throat Coat tea (made by Traditional Medicinals, of Sebastapol, CA) before you leave for tour and stash it somewhere in the van...I practically guarantee that someone will need it at some point.  If you sing, I recommend that you get in the habit of having a cup (or two) any night that you think you’ve outdone yourself.  The althea root and slippery elm bark contain the aforementioned beneficial mucilaginous components (read: good soothing throat bits) which forms a protective viscid ‘coating’ on the mucous membrane of the throat when ingested as a tea.  Use boiling water and let it steep (make sure that you cover it!) for a good while (at least ten minutes).  The longer it steeps, the stronger the tea, all the better for your throat.  There are also other brands of ‘throat tea’ that are readily available at your local natural foods store...or if you have a local herb store, you might be able to get someone to help you mix up a good bulk blend for the road.

Pineapple Juice...
This part is tasty!  I used to manage a juice bar and people would always come in and ask what was good for a sore throat...my answer?!  Pineapple juice!  I don’t have my reference book handy at the moment, so I can’t explain what it is, but bromelain (which is found in pineapple juice) is really good for the throat.  There’s a company called Lakewood that makes an awesome organic pineapple juice.  It’s pretty darn pricey, but oh so yummy.  If you can’t find that brand, or can’t afford it, go for any unsweetened pineapple juice.  You want to avoid ones with sugar if possible. Another easy (and pretty cheap) pineapple source is just getting a can of unsweetened pineapple chunks...eat the chunks and drink the juice.  Again, if you feel your throat getting tender or a little scratchy, go for the juice and the tea immediately!  Prevention is the key.  Listen to your body and react to the symptoms...then you won’t wind up miserable for days on end.

Red Root...
This doesn’t fall into the tasty category...I love the taste of red root...but most people absolutely do not. It’s another staple to buy for the van as a ‘just in case’ item.  I always travel with it.  The easiest and most convenient method of taking red root is in tincture form...readily available at your local natural food/herb shop.  Red root is an excellent treatment for tonsil inflammation, sore throats, enlarged lymph nodes, and chronic adenoid enlargements. If you are interested in reading more about red root and other plants native to the west, check out the book Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West, by Michael Moore.

Mom Knows Best...
When I was a little kid my mom would always mix up a small cup of hot (not too hot, definitely not boiling, be sensible and don’t burn yourself ) water and salt when I had a sore throat and instruct me to gargle it.  This works.  Infections don’t like heat. The combination of hot water, gargling action (working the throat) and salt (sea salt is best, avoid the aluminum in regular table salt) is a great cleansing feeling for achy throats.  Another good tip is to get in the shower, get some nice hot water going and just stand there and gently massage your lymph nodes (under the jaw) while breathing in lots of steam.

Enough Already...
Okay, that’s it for this edition of ‘ask the plants’...I hope this information comes in handy for anyone about to head out on tour.  Don’t forget to drink lots and lots of water...flush out that system all the time.  Also, don’t forget that I’m not an herbal practitioner and these are just suggestions that have worked for me (and the lovely people who have asked for my advice over the years).  These are basic PREVENTATIVE measures, nothing more.  You have the power to take care of yourself and to not rely on quick fixes (dayquil, etc) made by big name pharmaceutical companies.  Take care of yourself, you are all that you’ve got.
Karoline