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Tips for Singers:
"Herbs to the Rescue"  
(Mother Nature has a remedy for just about anything)

by Mark
The other day I woke up with a killer sore throat.

It was pay back for too many long nights in the studio on top of jet lag from a recent trip. Obviously, I didnít heed my own words of warning (see free lesson entitled : Singing With a Cold ) and so I humbly insert foot in mouth. Anyway, the last time I hurt that much to swallow was years ago, on the morning of an "unplugged" show my band was playing at the Hard Rock in Boston. Luckily, I didnít have to sing this time around; a snow storm had canceled my studio session. However, I always treat these nasty little detours as dress rehearsals for the future. Aside from catching up on some much-needed rest, piling on extra layers of clothes and forcing fluids, I reached for my trusty herbal extract.

Herbs are an excellent way for singers to treat many ailments without the adverse effects accompanied by pharmaceuticals. Drugs leave behind residues which are difficult for the body to eliminate. Sometimes the cure is more harsh than the cold. Herbs work naturally within your body, helping to fight infections and correcting imbalances. They also have a preventative quality which fortifies the immune system to recognize future intruders. Since they donít leave behind any toxins, there is no adverse effect on your vocal membranes (such as the drying from antihistamines). The problem is that they donít provide the big bang weíve become accustom to from western medications, so itís important to administer them early. In order to discover the right herbal combination and dosage, I strongly recommend experimenting on non-gig scenarios.

The best way to gain the benefits of herbs is via liquid extracts. Youíll find racks of herbal extracts in any natural food store (they come is small bottles with eye-dropper tops). The label will detail what ailments a particular herb relieves. Some claims will seem pretty far-fetched, so hereís a few I recommend for singers: Echinacea for the beginning stages of a cold. It activates the immune system, fights infections, mobilizes white blood cells. Golden Seal to reduce mucous membrane inflammation due to sinusitis, hay fever and allergies. Osha Root to loosen mucus. Slippery Elm soothes sore throats. Wild Cherry Bark is a good expectorant. Collinsonia reduces irritation in the pharynx (upper throat). Licorice Root is also good for sore throats and has mild anti-histamine properties. Astragalus Root is the best at preventing colds. It increases production of interferon and helps resist viral infections if taken daily before cold season.

Herbal extracts are also sold in combinations for greater convenience. My favorite tonic is Echinacea and Golden Seal, which is what I used to rid myself of that burning throat infection. One squirt of the eye-dropper on the back of the tongue every hour did the trick. What used to last a week was squashed in a day -- twice. I must warn you the taste is extremely bitter. If you need to, the drops can be diluted in a glass of water or juice -- or a vodka martini, I guess.

Speaking of alcohol, you might notice most extracts contain an alcohol base. This, I am told, is the best way to remove the herbís vital resins and preserve their medicinal qualities. If youíre a recovering alcoholic, place your drops into a cup of boiling water. This will reduce the potency of the extract, but evaporate the alcohol completely. If youíre worried about the affect of alcohol on your voice, donít be afraid. There is twice as much alcohol in a whole ripe banana than in a single dose of extract.  There is, of course, loads of info on herbs throughout the web.  Run a search for starters or visit your local health food store and start asking questions.  So, now that Iím feeling better, itís off to the studio for more abuse. Adios my fellow vocalteers.

Mark Baxter is a vocal therapist who offers private and video lessons. To contact him, call: (800)659-6002. Visit his website at:

(reprinted with the kind permission of Mark Baxter)

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