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Quiz: A Niggling Throat Pain? Find Out Why

Published | 5 min read

Throat pain has many causes. If left untreated, the cause of your discomfort can become more severe and impair your ability to lead a normal, healthy life.

Woman with throat pain sitting up on the edge of the bed.

Throat pain is a common condition. It can occur throughout the year, but it happens more frequently during the monsoon season. Having a sore throat can affect your ability to eat, drink, or speak. Whether you are experiencing mild or severe symptoms, it’s important to know what’s really causing this condition. 

Why Do You Have Throat Pain? 

Many factors lead to a sore, swollen or scratchy throat. Let’s uncover the cause of your throat pain and how to treat it.  

If your answers are mostly A’s: You might have tonsilitis or strep throat

Woman taking yellow lozenges with her hands around her scarf.
You can relieve throat pain symptoms with lozenges. 

There are two types of tonsilitis: viral tonsilitis, which will clear on its own; and bacterial tonsilitis, which would require prescription antibiotics. You can achieve relief from recurring tonsilitis by using ibuprofen, paracetamol, lozenges, a throat spray, or an antiseptic solution. If medication fails to treat the condition and it keeps recurring, the doctor may recommend removing your tonsils. 

Strep throat, meanwhile, is the product of a Streptococcus bacterial infection. It usually spreads through droplets from an infected person’s cough or sharing food with them. Antibiotics like penicillin or amoxicillin are the most common medicines to treat strep throat.

“In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), an invasion of wind-heat pathogens causes tonsilitis. The consumption of oily, spicy, or fried can make you susceptible to lung and stomach heat in the throat and tonsils. TCM remedies like herbal medication and acupuncture can help,” says Senior TCM Physician Brandon Yew from Real Health Medical Clinic in Singapore.  

“Adding on to that, there must be an underlying bodily imbalance within the patient that acts as the root causative behind the numerous bouts of tonsilitis. As long as underlying bodily imbalance is addressed, theoretically, tonsilitis can be well managed or even prevented. Its frequency and severity, too, will be significantly reduced, and the patient can enjoy a much better quality of life”, says Physician Yew. 

Herbal formulations and ingredients to consider for tonsilitis

TCM formulations or ingredients that can alleviate the signs of tonsilitis and strep throat include:   

  • Isatidis Root (板蓝根, ban lan gen)
  • Great burdock achene(牛蒡子, niu bang zi) 
  • Isatidis root (ban lan gen, 板蓝根) 
  • Figwort root (玄参, xuan shen) 
  • Puff-ball (马勃, ma bo) 
  • Common Andrographis herb (chuan xin lian, 穿心莲) 
  • Snakegourd fruit (瓜蒌, gua lou)
  • Weeping Forsythiae (连翘, lian qiao)

Classical formulae such as Pu Ji Xiao Du Yin (普济消毒饮), Yang Yin Qing Fei Tang (养阴清肺汤), Gan Lu Xiao Du Dan (甘露消毒丹), Bai He Gu Jin Tang (百合固金汤) are also effective.  

“However, these herbs and formulas are for generic cases of tonsilitis. Some people might benefit, and others might not. Some may even experience a worsening of their existing condition or develop new problems. As such, it’s strongly advised to refrain from purchasing herbs or formulas to self-medicate without undergoing a thorough consultation and proper assessment.

This should also be followed by professional guidance by a TCM practitioner. With herbs, especially, they are often prescribed by a TCM professional who will also combine a few different herbs to target underlying specific root causes based on your unique body constitution. In this way, the prescription formula provides a more customised, fitting and holistic treatment instead of just treating your problem symptomatically”, cautions Physician Yew. 

If your answers are mostly B’s: You might have laryngitis or the flu 

A healthcare professional checking throat of a male patient.
Get a proper diagnosis when you experience throat pain.

Laryngitis results from viral infections, chronic sinusitis, vocal strain, or an allergy. Ibuprofen or paracetamol can help calm laryngitis symptoms. Medicinal syrup can also be good for coughs, while lozenges and gargle solutions help soothe the pain. The remedy for the flu, on the other hand, involves the use of antiviral medication. 

In TCM, the throat is the ‘gate’ to the lungs, and the larynx is part of the throat. Therefore, treating laryngitis is best achieved by treating the lungs. Herbs that can clear toxins within the lungs to relieve laryngitis include:  

  • Liquorice (gan cao, 甘草) 
  • Cicada slough (chan tui, 蝉蜕,) 
  • Lo han fruit (luo han guo, 罗汉果) 
  • Mint leaf (bo he, 薄荷)  
  • Platycodon root (jie geng, 桔梗) 
  • Boat-fruited sterculia seed (pang da hai, 胖大海) 
  • Indian trumpet flower seed (mu hu die, 木蝴蝶)  
  • Franchet groundcherry calyx and fruit (jin deng long, 锦灯笼)  

As for the flu, TCM states that external pathogenic factors like the combination of wind with Cold, Fire or Dampness can cause this condition.

Stimulating acupoints like chi ze (LU5), he gu (LI4), lie gue (LU7), tian tu (RN22), yu ji (LU10), and zhao hai (KI6) can also help ease throat pain.

Before taking any herbs or trying any therapies, ensure that you consult a physician beforehand. The faster you seek treatment, the more effective it will be. If this quiz has helped you identify the cause of your throat pain, share it with your loved ones!


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021. Strep Throat: All You Need to Know. [Accessed 11 November 2021] 
  2. Cleveland Clinic. 2019. Strep Throat.  [Accessed 11 November 2021] 
  3. NHS. 2021. Tonsillitis. [Accessed 11 November 2021] 
  4. NHS. Laryngitis. 2020. [Accessed 11 November 2021] 
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021. Flu Symptoms & Complications. [Accessed 11 November 2021] 
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021. Flu Treatment. [Accessed 11 November 2021] 

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