The tonsils, which are located on each side at the back of the throat, are actually lymph nodes, which means their job is to filter out harmful microorganisms that could infect the body. Once in a while, however, they can become overwhelmed by bacterial or viral invaders. The result is infection and inflammation, accompanied by a host of flu-like symptoms. This is tonsillitis, which is particularly common among children.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Sore throat
  • Headaches
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Fever and chills
  • Soreness and/or tenderness in the glands of the jaw and throat
  • Specks of white discharge on the tonsils (in some cases)

Conventional Medical Treatment

To distinguish tonsillitis from similar-appearing illnesses, such as the flu and strep throat, your physician may take a throat culture. Treatment includes rest, an over-the-counter analgesic (such as aspirin or acetaminophen), and possibly a course of oral antibiotics. Even though you should start feeling better after a few days on antibiotics, continue taking the medication until all pills are gone to prevent reinfection.

When the glands become infected three or more times per year, or an infection is particularly severe, your physician may recommend a tonsillectomy-removing the tonsils. Though tonsillectomies were a fairly routine practice in the past, most experts now believe that the tonsils protect against infection, and therefore, this surgery is performed only when absolutely necessary. Having these glands removed does not guarantee a lifetime free from sore throats. The same bacteria that infect the tonsils also can infect the throat-though people who've had tonsillectomies generally have fewer throat infections.

Complementary and Alternative Treatments


A gentle massage with essential oils may ease discomfort. Add 5 drops berg amot, eucalyptus, or peppermint oil to 1 teaspoon vegetable oil or lotion. Gently rub into the neck and throat.

Ayurvedic Medicine

Ayurvedic practitioners often advise taking Septilin, an Ayurvedic formula, for easing the discomforts of tonsillitis. They also may recommend drinking mint tea or taking a powder or pill of Indian bdellium. Ayurvedic products are available at many health food stores and Indian pharmacies. Be sure to consult your doctor if symptoms persist.

Bodywork and Somatic Practices

Polarity therapy, reflexology, and Oriental bodywork techniques can be helpful.

Herbal Therapy

Infusions of cleavers, sage, and red sage can help combat inflammation and soreness. To use cleavers, steep 1 teaspoon dried leaves in 1 cup boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes; strain. Drink several times a day.

For sage and red sage infusions, steep 1 teaspoon dried or fresh leaves in 1 cup boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes; strain. Gargle with the warm tea up to 5 times a day. Caution: Do not swallow.

A blend of tinctures of cleavers and echinacea also can temper tonsillitis. Combine equal parts of each tincture and take 1 teaspoon, 3 times daily as needed.

Herbal products are available in health food stores and in some pharmacies and supermarkets. Follow package for specific directions.


Tonsillitis may respond to homeopathic treatment. However, the selection of a remedy-more than one is available depends on your child's symptoms and the stage of the condition. Don't try treating this disorder yourself. See a homeopathic professional.


Two hydrotherapies are easy and effective for blunting pain and reducing inflammation. Try gargling with comfortably hot water or applying a cold compress to the throat area.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Acupuncture Acupuncture can be used to reduce the swelling and sore throat associated with tonsillitis. The practitioner typically focuses on Lung 1, Bladder 10 and 12, and Large Intestine 4 and 11, along with ear points related to the pharynx and tonsils.

Acupuncture also can be used in place of anesthesia during tonsillectomy surgery. In most cases, the practitioner focuses on points along the large intestine, pericardium, and triple warmer meridians.

Acupressure To reduce the swelling and throat pain associated with tonsillitis, the practitioner may focus on Large Intestine 4, Lung 11, and Stomach 9 and 36. Difficulty swallowing may be relieved by applying pressure to Conception Vessel 17 and Governing Vessel 13.

Chinese Herbal Therapy Laryngitis Pills and Superior Sore Throat Powder Spray are over-the-counter remedies that may be recommended to treat tonsillitis.

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