Reviewed by Dr Nurul Aishah Jamaludin and Physician Brandon Yew
Got a Burning Throat? Here’s What It Could Mean
Published | 5 min read
Does your throat feel like it’s burning, but you’re unsure what’s causing it? Find out the possible causes and some ways to quench the heat.
A burning throat is an unpleasant sensation, which can affect your swallowing and breathing. The good thing is that the symptom can be quickly diagnosed and eased so you don’t have to bear with it for long.
Let’s look at what could be lighting the fire in your throat and how to put it out.
What is Causing the Burn?
The burning sensation in your throat can be caused by the following conditions or habits:
- An infection such as
tonsillitis, COVID-19, or mononucleosis.
- An allergic reaction triggers the overproduction of sinus mucus and drips down the back of your throat.
- Acid reflux causes stomach acid to move upwards into your oesophagus.
- An overuse of vocal cords, such as talking loudly, singing, or screaming.
- Mouth breathing exposes your throat to outside air more than necessary, drying it up.
- Neurological issues such as burning mouth syndrome.
- Throat cancer, especially if a burning throat has no other cause and lasts long.
The TCM Viewpoint on a Burning Throat: Disharmony in the Body
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) questions why and how the body becomes “hospitable” to pathogens that lead to symptoms like a burning throat. Real Medical Senior TCM Physician
- Work-related stress
- Poor work-life-rest balance
- Insufficient and poor-quality rest and sleep
- Poor management of emotions
- Unhealthy diet and poor eating habits
- Bad lifestyle habits and choices like binge drinking and smoking
Many of these TCM pathogens give rise to the same causes identified in Western medicine. For example, Stagnated Liver Qi is one of the syndromes that can cause acid reflux.
“Throat pain involves multiple pathogens like Wind, Cold, Fire, Dampness, phlegm, Stagnated Qi, and blood clots. It can also be due to
Real Medical Senior Physician Brandon Yew
How to Put Out the Fire
Firstly, treat the root cause once it has been diagnosed. This requires seeing your doctor.
Try sipping warm liquids or taking lozenges that encourage saliva production and help soothe your throat for immediate, temporary relief.
You can consider TCM modalities such as herbal and acupoint therapies.
Herbs in TCM work harmoniously with the body to restore balance. Physician Yew advises only working with a TCM practitioner rather than self-prescribing herbs. A suitable formula will depend on the syndrome as well as your body constitution.
To treat syndromes that harbour a “heat-friendly” environment in your body, Physician Yew recommends something like Pu Ji Xiao Du Yin (普济消毒饮) or Yang Yin Qing Fei Tang (养阴清肺汤). The former neutralises Fire toxins, while the latter replenishes Lung yin.
Meanwhile, Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang (半夏厚朴汤) is a qi-regulating formula that dispels Dampness, phlegm, and Qi Stagnation. Containing pinellia (ban xia, 半夏) and magnolia bark (hou po, 厚朴), this formula has been shown in research to be effective in treating acid reflux.
For something convenient to make and consume to reduce body Heat, try herbal teas. Qi Xing Heat Clearing tea nourishes the Lungs as well while Qing Liang Heat clearing tea also benefits the Liver.
Acupuncture is also effective in treating a burning throat. If you can’t make it for a session, try acupressure massage at home.
Use your finger or a blunt object to press and massage the point for about three minutes. To be more effective, make sure to press until you feel a tolerable soreness or tenderness.
Here are some acupoints that Physician Yew recommends for a burning throat:
- Yu ji
(LU10, 鱼际): Clears Lung Heat, dispels Fire and Wind, and relieves a sore throat and strained vocal cords.
- Chi ze (LU5, 尺泽): Stimulates the descending action of Lung qi, clears Lung Heat and relieves the feeling of fullness in the chest.
- Tian tu (RN22, 天突): Resolves phlegm, clears Heat and helps with a dry throat, hoarse voice, and difficulty swallowing.
- He gu (LI4, 合谷): Rebalances the flow of qi, expels Wind, and relieves sore throat and allergies.
- Lie que (LU7, 列缺): Promotes the descending and dispersing action of Lung qi. Often used to stop a stubborn cough and relieve a sore throat.
- Zhao hai (KI6, 照海): Nourishes yin, cools the blood, calms Heat, and soothes a sore throat.
A burning throat can be quite a nuisance, sometimes appearing out of nowhere. It’s your body’s way of telling you that something is off. In addition to relieving the discomfort, it’s important to get to the root cause as well.
Considering trying TCM to calm the heat in your throat? Start with the acupressure points we shared and let us know if they help!
- Speech Pathology Australia. Swallowing Awareness Day. [online] [Accessed 1 February 2023]
- Cleveland Clinic. 2022. Sore Throat (Pharyngitis). [online] [Accessed 1 February 2023]
- Kfir.net. 2017. Throat Disorders – TCM Treatment. [online] [Accessed 1 February 2023]
- All Things Health – Malaysia. 2022. Prone to Acid Reflux? You May Have an Underlying Condition. [online] [Accessed 1 February 2023]
- Chinese Medicine and Natural Products. 2022. Chinese Herbs for Pharyngitis Including COVID-19-Related Sore Throat. [online] [Accessed 1 February 2023]
- Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2017. Efficacy and Safety of Modified Banxia Xiexin Decoction (Pinellia Decoction for Draining the Heart) for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis [online] [Accessed 1 February 2023]
- The Journal of Pediatrics of Korean Medicine. 2016. Recent Clinical Research on Effect of Acupuncture on Sore Throat [online] [Accessed 1 February 2023]
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