Natural Vocal Remedies
There are several things that can be done when vocal problems arise. None of them, however, take the place of seeking personal professional assistance if your vocal problems are chronic.
While vocal rest is sometimes the correct choice, more often than not, knowing how to rejuvenate your voice with therapeutic vibration can bring about better and faster results. Gentle humming at a low volume with your lips together can also be of assistance, working your voice back and forth little by little over a small range of notes.
The following three remedies can usually be purchased at most pharmacies and health food stores. All three can assist in reducing vocal hoarseness and fatigue. None will eliminate infection. If your vocal fatigue or hoarseness is from poor technique – not what you sing, but how you sing it – then ultimately a supportive vocal technique is really the answer and should be developed before you run into long term vocal problems. In the meantime, here are a few temporary remedies:
Licorice Root Tea: Place in a saucepan of water several Licorice twigs. Bring to a simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the liquid and if preferred, sweeten with honey. You may find licorice to be sweet on its own. This reportedly helps with vocal fatigue, hoarseness, and coughing.
Chewable Papaya Enzyme Tablets: Take a tablet and tuck it between the gums of your upper teeth and cheek. Let it dissolve without chewing it. You can do this every few hours while the need is great. Chewing is for digestion, dissolving as described helps reduce swollen membranes of the voice.
Bromelain: Bromelain comes in tablets and is made from the stems of pineapples. The enzymes in these tablets, if taken on an empty stomach, act as an anti-inflammatory, and can reduce swelling in the vocal folds (though not the ultimate cause of the infection or bad voice technique!).
As directed on my “Vocal Warm-Ups and Cool-Downs” CD, a neck and throat massage can bring oxygen into your tired muscles by stimulating the blood-flow. I have a number of gentle vocal exercises (also found on the CD) which use vibration therapeutically to reduce puffiness of the vocal folds and rejuvenate their performance and your results. Used consistently, singers can sing through powerfully with endurance and no vocal fatigue.
However, your best assurance for vocal health lies in having a good foundation of vocal technique. This would keep your vocal muscles in good “tone” and your mind confident that you were doing those things necessary to truly support your instrument!
Steaming your voice is a soothing treatment used when your voice is hoarse; you are recovering from a cold or after a strenuous gig. (And if your voice is getting hoarse, it’s time for voice lessons!) This remedy can be used upon rising, prior to retiring, or several hours before your performance or rehearsal.
Boil filtered or distilled water. Pour it into a bowl. With your head covered by a large towel, lean over the bowl and make a tent to trap the steam. Inhale gently, primarily through your mouth for 5 to 10 minutes or until there is no more steam (also great for your complexion!).
Follow these steps immediately afterwards:
1) Do not speak or whisper (which can be just as strenuous as talking) for at least 20 minutes after steaming. Let your folds go through the changes the hot steam has put them through.
2) Do not go outside for at least 30 minutes after treatment. If it is below 70 degrees outside, wait at least 1 hour, and then be sure to wrap your throat with a scarf. Breathing cold air too soon afterwards will be a shock to your voice and may aggravate an infection.
3) If you are steaming prior to singing, follow the above two steps, and be sure to include at least 30 minutes of properly done vocal warm-up before leaving for your gig.
Steam treatments are soothing to the membranous tissues of the vocal tract, vocal folds, windpipe and bronchial tubes. The treatment helps restore moisture to the tissues while also relaxing the inner muscles of the larynx and vocal folds.
This remedy is not a solution to your vocal problems. Nonetheless, the treatment feels good and can help your voice recover from hoarseness and strain. Unless directed by a medical throat doctor (an Otolaryngologist), I would not use this remedy for more than four days consecutively. If you are suffering from a condition that persists past that amount of time, it is time to seek professional assistance.
Have you ever tried to sing while your mouth and throat were dry? If the tissues of your vocal instrument are not sufficiently hydrated, they cannot function well and your voice will not reflect your full vocal capability. There are various influences which result in abnormal dryness of your voice and through which your voice can be restricted or actually damaged.
The cold outdoor air and heated indoor air of the winter months create dry conditions which can make singing more difficult and for which we need to be prepared. If you live or travel in a cold climate, you will probably notice that indoor heating makes the air very dry and dries out your voice. Under these conditions it is a must to have a humidifier or vaporizer. It is best to have several so that the environment of your home and office maintain enough moisture. Vaporizers produce warm moisture which can humidify the air more quickly while killing bacteria that may build up in the water supply. While on the road, travel with one so that your hotel bedroom stays humid.
When going outside in cold weather, wrap your neck with a warm scarf, and pull it up over your nose. Breathing with your nose covered, will capture the moisture of your breath and hydrate the air you inhale. Who knows, maybe we’ll start a new fad for winter wear!
This article is reprinted with the permission of celebrity voice and performance coach Jeannie Deva, who is the founder of The Deva Method ® – Complete Singing Technique for Stage and Studio. Her website: www.JeannieDeva.com. For Free Lessons or to study with Ms. Deva from anywhere in the world, visit her Online Vocal School.