Hoarseness and laryngitis

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Latest Edit: Hector 2014-05-14 (EDT)

Hoarseness and laryngitis manifest in similiar ways. They refer to a change in voice quality often described as breathy, strained, weak, or raspy. Both hoarseness and laryngitis can be caused by a variety of conditions including simple inflammatory processes, neurologic conditions, and cancer. Although commonly seen, hoarseness is most often associated with other main health concerns such as cough, dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), sore throat, or fever.[1]

Hoarseness and laryngitis

Hoarseness and Layrngitis
Causes Dietary Factors, Smoking, Allergies, Infections, Alcohol, Stress, Environmental Allergies
See Also Head, Ears, Eyes, Nose and Throat Conditions, Laryngitis, Sinusitis, Upper Respiratory Infection (Common Cold), Gastroesophageal reflux disease, Hypothyroidism
Books Books on Head, Ears, Nose and Throat Conditions
Articles Articles on Head, Ears, Eyes, Nose and Throat Conditions

Naturopathic Assessment

Causal Factors

In order to stimulate the innate ability of the body to heal the causes of disease must be identified and addressed. With hoarseness, the causes are variable and include lifestyle and environmental factors. A detailed assessment is required to determine which factors are contributing to the development of hoarseness or laryngitis.


  • Alcohol is a direct throat irritant and increases the risk of laryngeal cancer.[2]


  • Overuse
  • Overuse of the voice, whether from talking, singing or speaking loudly for an extended period of time can result in hoarseness or laryngitis.
  • Stressful life events can trigger functional voice disorders. It is common for underlying conditions to manifest for the first time due to acute onset stress.[3]


  • A dry environment is commonly associated with hoarseness, especially in cold-dry winter months.
  • Exposure to environmental toxins can trigger changes in voice.


  • Smoking predisposes individuals to several conditions known to cause hoarseness or laryngitis. Irritation from smoke exposure can lead to vocal changes due to inflammation, or even swollen vocal fold from coughing.[3]
  • Occupation
  • Individuals in some occupations such as teachers, telemarketers, attorneys, and clergy have a higher incidence of hoarseness due to increased demands on vocal structures.[3]
  • Trauma
  • Any trauma to the throat can result in hoarseness.

Medical Interventions

  • Medical Procedures
  • Trauma related to surgery and intubation can both lead to hoarseness.[3]
  • Medical Treatments
  • Chronic use of medications to treat asthma including inhaled corticosteroids and bronchodilators can cause hoarseness or laryngitis.[4]

Diagnostic Testing

In cases of hoarseness or laryngitis lasting longer than two weeks, and not attributed to a known condition, medication, or recent vocal trauma, the following diagnostic testing may be performed:[1]


  • Direct or indirect laryngoscopy can be used to evaluate possible causes of hoarseness or laryngitis. Biopsy of suspicious lesions based on results of laryngoscopy may also be necessary.

Other Diagnostics

  • Radiography, videostroboscopy, or evaluation by a speech-language expert may be indicated to assess the cause of hoarseness.

Related Symptoms and Conditions

Conditions commonly presenting with hoarseness or laryngitis as a symptom include:[1][2]


Hoarseness is a basic lay term to describe a deviation from normal voice quality.

  • The most common cause of acute hoarseness is viral laryngitis, while hoarseness lasting longer than 3 weeks may indicate a more serious underlying pathology.
  • Hoarseness is caused by a disturbance in the ability of the vocal structures to function normally.[2]

Common Symptoms

Common symptoms associated with hoarseness or laryngitis include:[1]

Naturopathic Treatment

The goal of naturopathic treatment is to support and work in tandem with the healing power of the body and to address the causal factors of disease with individual treatment strategies. Hoarseness or laryngitis is a symptom which may indicate acute or chronic underlying conditions. In order to appropriately address hoarseness, the root cause must be identified and treated. See treatment sections on the relevant conditions for specific treatments.

It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor before engaging in any treatment plan.

Home Care

Home Care strategies

  • When your voice is hoarse it is typically best to avoid speaking and allow the vocal cords to relax until your voice recovers.
  • Appropriate vocal hygiene including air humidification, dust reduction, avoidance of inhaled irritants, and establishing a smoke free home are important in the treatment of hoarseness.[1]


Lifestyle recommendations include:

  • Dietary recommendations
  • Ensure you drink adequate water.
  • Sucking on ice cubes can sometimes be soothing, especially if the hoarseness is associated with throat spasms.
  • Voice therapy exercises are effective in managing chronic voice changes.[4]
  • A use of a portable humidifier to avoid breathing dry air is recommended to minimize further irritation to the larynx.[4]
  • Decreasing the strain on the voice by reducing or eliminating vocal abuse patterns is essential in the treatment of laryngitis and hoarseness.[4]
  • Individuals with hoarseness or laryngitis are encouraged to avoid inhaled irritants, tobacco smoke, and dusty environments.[1]

Naturopathic Therapies

The prescribing of naturopathic therapies requires the guidance of a naturopathic doctor as it depends on a number of factors including the causal factors, a person's age, prescription medications, other conditions and symptoms and overall health. It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor prior to taking any natural therapies.

For relevant naturopathic therapies for hoarseness refer to the appropriate conditions page for the underlying condition causing hoarseness. Below are some general recommendations based on hoarseness as a symptom.

Naturopathic Therapies for hoarseness or laryngitis include:

  • A gargle of sea salt and water used several times a day can be soothing.
  • Essential oils such as chamomile, lavender or thyme are often effective when added to hot water and then inhaled by making a tent over the pot and breathing deeply.
  • A mixture of honey and lemon makes a good gargle and can be very soothing for the throat.
  • Onion syrup. To make the onion syrup: slice three large onions and put them in four or five cups of water; simmer until syrupy; strain. Next, put five or six tablespoonsful of the syrup into a glass of warm water, along with a tablespoon of honey and a dash of lemon. Sip slowly.
  • Herbal Teas make a wonderful gargle. Any hot tea will stimulate the throat and relax the vocal cords.
  • Acupuncture can be effective in treating voice problems.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Feierabend RH (2009) Hoarseness in adults Am Fam Physician 80(4):363-70
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Dains JE, Baumann LC, Scheibel (2007) Advanced Health Assessment and Clinical Diagnosis in Primary Care third ed Chap 11 Dyspnea Mosby
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Mau T (2010) Diagnostic Evaluation and Management of Hoarseness Med Clin North Am 94(5):945-60
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Dworkin JP (2008) Laryngitis: Types, Causes, and Treatments Otolaryngol Clin North Am 41(2):419-36
  5. Lu Henry (1986) Chinese System of Food Cures, prevention and remedies Sterling Publishing Co. New York.