Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Common Vocal Remedies: What Are They and Do They Really Work?, Part 1

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Common Vocal Remedies: What Are They and Do They Really Work?, Part 1

Article excerpt


Herbal Medicine, or botanical medicine, has a rich and ancient history, featured prominently in the healing arts of numerous civilizations over thousands of years. Seeds, berries, flowers, leaves, roots, and bark have been used traditionally in the treatment of many common and uncommon health conditions, including asthma, allergy, migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, menstrual disorders, cancer, and the common cold, among others. In 2008, the World Health Organization reported that the annual market for herbal medicines is nearly $60 billion.1 As more and more is invested into development and marketing of these products, more and more people are trying them. Among these are professional and avocational singers.

The voice is a delicate instrument, sensitive to dryness and inflammation from the environment, allergens, irritants, reflux, and infection. A number of herbal products are marketed to singers to help prevent and reduce hoarseness, dryness, laryngitis, inflammation, and cough, while providing lubrication of the mucosa and improved voice quality. This article reviews the efficacy and safety of seven of the most popular herbal products marketed to singers (Throat Coat, Entertainer's Secret Spray, Vocal Eze Throat Spray, Thayer's Cherry Lozenges, Vocal Zone Pastilles, Vitavocal Throat and Voice Enhancer, and Sprout's Voice Remedy) and two home voice remedies (singer's tea recipe and singer's gargle).

Before discussing these products, it is important to understand the anatomy and physiology of the voice. Sound is produced when a constant stream of air passes between the apposed vocal folds at the level of the larynx, initiating the glottic cycle and generating the source signal. This signal is then altered as it passes through the supraglottic larynx, pharynx, palate, oral cavity, nasal cavity, tongue, lips, and sinuses. Alterations in these structures, including dryness from cold air or dry heat, mild edema from upper respiratory tract infections, reflux or allergy, scarring, and muscle tension affect the quality of sound. All of the following singing remedies act in some way as demulcents-substances that lubricate and moisten at least part of the voice conduction system.

The effects of herbal remedies have not been researched adequately, and are thus poorly understood. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is responsible for ensuring that all drugs brought to market are both safe and effective, does not endorse or regulate the sale of herbal preparations. Many of the claimed effects of herbal remedies have not faced the same rigorous scrutiny that prescription medications have, including extensive preclinical and clinical trials prior to approval. Although many herbal products contain agents that provide health benefits and alleviate symptoms, they cannot be marketed as medicines. Therefore, all herbal preparations must be marketed as "dietary supplements," and it is not acceptable to make specific health claims about these supplements.2

In Germany, different requirements and standards exist for the regulation and control of herbal supplements. The German government's Commission E evaluated and approved hundreds of herbal products found to be reasonably safe and effective. Products that have been approved by Commission E provide information about potential treatment options for a wide array of illnesses. In the United States, the National Institute of Health is carrying out an increasing number of well controlled clinical trials evaluating herbal medications and supplements. Until a more substantial body of evidence develops focusing on herbal preparations, it is important to be cautious when interpreting claims that herbal remedy companies may make about their products.3


Throat Coat, marketed by the company Traditional Medicináis in Sebastopol, CA, is an herbal tea containing four main ingredients: licorice root (760mg), slippery elm bark (60mg), marshmallow root (60mg), and licorice root dry aqueous extract (60mg). …

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