7/7/2014  Throat and Lung Health of the Singer - Natural Remedies

I'm often asked for advice in this regard and it finally occurred to me that if I started something here, I could gradually add to it and pass on years of tricks passed on to me.  ALL advice is non-medically based and should not be substituted for advice from a medical professional.
A singer tries VERY hard not to use chemicals of any sort for their health.  Antibiotics dry the throat and you often end up in more trouble than you started with. Medicated throat lozenges can do the same and worst of all as a singer is to take anything that anaesthetises the throat... if you can't feel what's hurting you're likely to push through causing the sort of damage that can take months and months to heal from.

So - chose your problem... dry throat/gluggy throat/tonsilitis/dry cough/wet cough

At a standard long gig I'll have water (no ice - that constricts the muscles) with some lime cordial in it (not fresh lime - that strips back the throat).  I make sure I've got more than one glass of it handy - I don't want to have to wait till the end of the set to get the right thing onto my throat.    My standard stage set up is a pretty glass with a carafe of whatever tonight's concoction is.  If the conditions are extremely dry or dry/hot I'll alternate a few drinks: the water/lime juice and something thicker like coconut water or apple/blackcurrant.
During performance hours no food/drink should be icey or hot - everything must be room temperature through to warm

DRY THROAT - this one's pretty easy.
sip full cream milk through the performance (this is extreme, but I've used it in dry air-conditioning singing on a really hot night in Asia).
Eat cheese, chocolate.
Actors try vitamin C tablets or biting the inside of their cheek (I haven't tried that).
DON'T sip water (that will dry out the throat more), but something that will help coat the throat more is the trick.

water with fresh lime/lemon in it
Honey & lemon tea (fresh of course!)
Pineapple juice/ peppermint tea/ black tea/ cider vinegar in water
anything edible that would cut through that junk in a petrie dish!
Cook with any amount of chilli/fresh ginger/fresh garlic/green herbs/tomatoes  (I do a really violent dish with these ingredients disguised among seafood or chick peas)

Here's where the fun starts!  Ask any doctor and he's trained to say 'Tonsillitis? You won't fix that without antibiotics'.  Ask any singer and they'll say that their tonsils go up and down more than the average person and they take antibiotics as an absolute last resort.  Your tonsils are DESIGNED to enlarge when they're filtering too much yucky stuff out of your system.  So, your first step is to figure out what, exactly, is your body filtering out at the moment.

Bump up your immune system like crazy while treating your throat for gluggy throat.Immune bump-ups include: Vitamin C, Echinacea, garlic, 
A friend gave me a recipe for Greek Farkesh which is amazing, but don't plan to go among people for a day or two!

Is your tonsillitis a) a virus picked up from a charming friend or stranger?   b)  some weird bacteria or mould that you've managed to spend some time around?  c)  some chemical that you've inflicted on yourself like painting a house?  d)  something you ate more of than normal or a new food? e) stress

If it's b) c) or d) get yourself away from the thing that is triggering the response.  (No point in staying home trying to get well if you're reacting to something AT home!)
REST!!!! And keep bumping up your immune system.

b) bacteria/mould   -   liquid!! Flush it out of your system.  Have HEAPS of water. Soups (consomme's or chicken noodle).  If your too sick to cook, packet soups are good.  Add chilli oil, fresh garlic, grated ginger to them!).  Stand outside and breathe in good clean air.

c) there's some nice de-tox things on the internet.  I would look at those.  

d)  It probably IS something you ate, you know...   traditionally too much dairy (although I can have lots of dairy in Switzerland or France and I'm fine, so not all dairy food is equal).  I've also triggered tonsillitis from seafood, from food that must have been slightly off, blue cheese, wine, red meat, pastry, new foods and goodness knows what else.  Resort to a simple child-like diet immediately, without ANY dairy and without many different foods.  Stay away from all oily food (so although hot food feels nice, anything thick will only make it worse).  Home made veggie soup is perfect.  Alternate between veggie soup and honey & lemon tea or peppermint tea and you should be heading towards health within 24 hours.  If you're not, then maybe it wasn't just food related..

e) stresssssss...... singers have this connection to the expression of stress through their throats.  We release all of our emotions that way and we tend to store it there too, so if you're a singer and you're stressed you really need to go and have a really good sing.  Cars and showers are designed to be sung in - take advantage of that immediately.  Some would say add alcohol, but I don't like what that does to my brain or my throat these days...

I'll tell you the main old-fashioned remedies for a sore throat:  alcohol and gargling with salt water.  Don't dismiss the option of gargling alcohol (and you don't HAVE to swallow it you know..).  It IS instantly soothing...  and the salt water thing - it helps with the symptoms without seeming to get at the cause.  It will relieve your throat for about 10 minutes, so that's good.  Also, most bacteria hates extreme heat, so I'll drink really hot drinks and sometimes wear a scarf around my neck to upset the temperature there. 

So often it's emotional, so look after yourself like a loving grandma would.  Slow cooked foods, slow cooked soups.  Scarves, special treats, slow pampering.  Baths with scented oils are nice.  Cry!  x

Rosemary Oil (bought at a nice health food place - not a cheap scented oils place) One drop placed in a glass of water is too strong for me, so do that, then throw out half the glass of water and fill it up with fresh water.  That strength seems right to me.  I sip this glass all day/night long, every time I cough.  I might go through two glasses over the day.  It gives instant relief.

Eucalyptus oil on a handkerchief placed somewhere near to your head.  Best done while lying down to rest.  If cough is very wet, lying slightly propped up seems better.  The body remembers to cough a little more frequently.  Lying flat disguises the symptoms for too long.

This is dangerous territory, healing a wet cough... (doctors call a wet cough bronchitis).  Bronchitis can most definitely lead to pneumonia, so if you're not SURE you're winning and if you're not used to using natural remedies, don't get too brave.  THIS is when to get those antibiotics you've been putting off...


28th April, 2012
It's midnight and I'm sitting up, putting on a new string and giving the harp a pre-tune for tomorrow's gig (am I the feature artist? no-one's told me...) I've decided I adore gut strings... (with apologies to the animal I am using). There's something incredibly soothing about sitting here, working with an ancient instrument, using ancient methods. I'm doing something right now that some harpist was doing 600 years ago, or 2000 years ago, or 3000 years ago (ancient Egypt... that's about right, isn't it?). And sure, SOME things have changed since then, but not harps and not these gut strings.... like, at Christ's Last Supper, or at Tutankhamen's ceremony... or at the celebration day of the completion of the pyramids, there'd have been a harpist... just like me....
On a sillier note (no pun intended), my husband brought home the new Mission Impossible movie and as I have the habit of becoming entirely engrossed in any movie or stage show I see, I have bitten off all my fingernails in fear and my fingers hurt!

 27th April, 2012
Life is pretty crazy at the moment.  A great time to start blogging.  There's been 10 days of silence (techno silence - no TVs, no music blaring - which is my dream... my idea of a perfect life.)  At the end of the 10 days, I'm singing all the time, composing non-stop and last night my heart was filled with the sound of my 3 kids making music for hours (my 4 year old is an amazingly loud vocal improviser - moving harmonies as the chords changed from the 15 year old on the guitar ... she was even sitting on the occasional 7th on purpose... *smile*)
Tonight the TV will be back on and it all stops till the next time.  C'est la vie.