How does Throat Coat work?
March 23, 2012 1:28 AM   Subscribe

How does Throat Coat tea work? Singers and people who use their voice professionally all seem to recommend Throat Coat to soothe vocal strain, but I'm interested in how it works. If I twisted my ankle, I wouldn't want to take a pain killer and keep running. Does Throat Coat contain some sort of herbal anaesthetic? Can anyone tell me how it works so well?
posted by surenoproblem to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I read this and thought "I bet it's slippery elm," and, yeah, mostly. Slippery elm is a demulcent, "an agent that forms a soothing film over a mucous membrane, relieving minor pain and inflammation of the membrane."

I am a fan of Thayer's Slippery Elm Cherry Throat Lozenges; they really do 'form a soothing film.'
posted by kmennie at 1:54 AM on March 23, 2012 [7 favorites]

kmennie got to the how of it first, and seems to be right on the money. I'm actually kinda surprised that it doesn't have ginger in it as well, as I've always found that ginger tea does an excellent job of soothing a sore throat. The other main ingredient is licorice, but I can't find anything about active effects from licorice that seems relevant.

As to the why of it though, in terms of "take Throat Coat and keep going" vs. "take a break and let things heal," I think it comes down to the fact that professional singers often can't just take a break, or at least not right away. If you've got a sore throat and a show that night, you're going to have to go on -- tickets have been sold, fans are waiting, everything's good to go except you and you're just going to have to do what's necessary to get through the night.

It can suck when you're on tour (I was hanging around with a guy who was touring at one point and he was battling a sore throat -- his tea was mostly ginger and garlic, I think) because you definitely do cause further damage by doing this and so the next show is only worse. It can be a vicious cycle, but sometimes there's not a lot you can do about it besides just try to find ways to keep going.
posted by Scientist at 7:19 AM on March 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm a singer, and one of the things that drives me insane is "the tickle." When your throat is dry, typically in just one... small... spot... that can ruin your whole performance. The tickle can easily get aggravated by the act of just a tiny bit of air passing that spot. "Hey, no problem!" I think. "I'll just stop breathing altogether!"

This typically happens at the tail end of a cold, when I can speak and otherwise phonate just fine, with a good tone quality, but the tickle makes me cough -- which in turn makes me KEEP coughing. I've been in a concert when it's been a challenge just to keep my mouth closed, not even singing, to get through the piece without coughing. And as singers know, coughing is a violent and damaging spasm that should be avoided at all costs (also SO EASY :P).

So a demulcent like this helps keep my throat happy and, if not entirely hydrated (drink more water!), at least not sore or tickly. God, I hate the tickle.

I'm not all hardcore Throat Coat or whatever, but I do like the Aveda Calming Tea that they sell at salons (I have a nice big jar) because of its licorice content. It seems to have a sort of syrupy effect that does a similar thing. So basically, it's a liquid cough drop.

Singer's Saving Grace spray, I believe, is more of a numbing agent, so that's not good. Same with Chloraseptic. You can get the dreaded nodes from singing through the pain thanks to stuff like this. I did, however, just try this stuff (Entertainer's secret, which was recommended by our local drugstore that also has a monopoly on theatrical makeup and costumes). It has aloe and glycerin, and although of course it tasted weird it was actually not bad.
posted by Madamina at 7:59 AM on March 23, 2012

All the theatre people I knew drank Throat Coat in conjunction with several other activities. Walking around with "SORE THROAT NO TALKING" written on their cup and staying completely silent for the day was common, along with not eating spicy or acidic foods. As well the whole thing took on a bit of a ritual, so I suspect there at least some of it is mental.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 8:02 AM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

The demulcents actually reduce throat inflammation; they don't just mask it.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:15 AM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

A lot of the things singers do to protect their voices or "soothe vocal strain" are complete myths. Some of them are actively unhelpful.

My stance (as someone who sometimes works with people with damaged voices) is that as long as you find it soothing then that's great. If I think it's harmful then we're going to have a long argument.

We don't have throat coat tea in this country but we have lots of sticky things that claim to line the throat. They seem to do a good job at soothing sore throats. This might help you feel less tickley, as above. They might also hydrate you, which will help your voice. However, they shouldn't be going anywhere near your vocal cords and if they do then you have bigger problems than a strained voice.
posted by kadia_a at 10:08 AM on March 23, 2012

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