Can Marshmallows Help Soothe a Sore Throat?

Can Marshmallows Help Soothe a Sore Throat?
12.01.2024
  • A viral TikTok suggests the gelatin in marshmallows can provide cough relief.
  • Experts say there’s no evidence to support this, but the placebo effect is real.
  • Honey, hot tea, and gargling with salt water are some of the effective at-home remedies to soothe a sore throat.

Respiratory illnesses are surging across the country and many people are looking for relief for their symptoms.

Lindsay Riipinen, 32, went viral on TikTok after sharing her doctor’s recommendation to eat a jumbo marshmallow before bed when she had a persistent cough for six weeks. Her doctor claimed that the gelatin in the marshmallow can “coat” her throat even better than honey.

“I don’t know if it’s the placebo effect, but I’m sleeping, so this is great,” Riipinen told Verywell.

Can marshmallows really soothe a sore throat and provide cough relief, or is this a placebo effect where people feel better even after taking a fake treatment?1 We spoke to a few experts to find out. 

Do Marshmallows Help With Sore Throat?

Marshmallow root is an herb that has been used for thousands of years to reduce inflammation and treat sore throats.2 It is available as an herbal supplement in teas, tinctures, and extracts.

However, the more popular marshmallow is a puffy candy that’s made with gelatin instead of marshmallow root.

“Marshmallows and gelatin will have absolutely no impact on soothing a sore throat,” said Linda Yancey, MD, director of infection prevention at the Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston.

While there’s no science to support eating marshmallows to cure sore throat, you could feel better by eating them because the placebo effect is powerful, Yancey explained.

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“If you give someone something to do and you tell them that it’ll make them feel better, a lot of people will feel better when they do it,” she said.

What About Another TikTok Remedy: Hot Jell-O Tea?

Marshmallows are not the first gelatin-based sore throat treatment to go viral on TikTok. Hot Jell-O tea with honey is another sore throat remedy that made the rounds online a few years ago.  

This tea might offer some relief, but the gelatin is not responsible for the soothing effects, according to Yancey.

“Any kind of warm beverage when you have a sore throat will be mildly soothing,” she said.

The honey in Jell-O tea also helps make this drink more effective than marshmallows. Honey is a popular at-home cough remedy, and there’s some evidence to support using this sweetener for relief from upper respiratory tract infections.

Drinking warm tea with honey, gargling with salt water, and eating dill pickles all work the same way, Yancey explained. These sugary and salty remedies create what scientists call a “hypertonic solution,” which has more salt or sugar in it than the inflamed membranes in your throat.

“As you swallow that solution, it will pull some of the fluid out of those inflamed membranes and reduce the inflammation,” Yancey said.

OTC Medications Are the Most Effective for Sore Throat

Over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, are the best for pain relief, according to Daniel Levy, MD, a primary care doctor at Mercy Personal Physicians at Lutherville, Maryland. 

Drugs that contain guaifenesin and dextromethorphan, like Mucinex DM, can also help break up phlegm in the chest and suppress coughing, Levy added. However, these medications may not be right for everyone. NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen, for example, come with side effects, including nausea, stomach pain, dizziness, and heartburn.

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“One person might say they swear by some combination of tea and honey, and never had any benefit from anything else they were ever prescribed,” Levy said. “The next person might say the opposite and feel they need cough syrup by prescription every time.”

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