Posts Tagged ‘phlegm’

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Phlegm and Singing

What is phlegm?

Phlegm is a double edged sword.  It is an absolute necessity for lubricating the vocal chords but an excess makes life and singing hard.

What causes an excess amount of phlegm?

  1. Sickness – Allergies, Sinus infections, cold, flu, etc…
  2. Dehydration –
  3. Dairy products
  4. Meat
  5. Fried Food
  6. Wheat gluten
  7. Sugar
  8. Coffee
  9. Caffeine

Quick Remedies

  • Warm-up – Warming up is one of the best ways to git rid of excessive mucus and phlegm in throat and vocal chords.  Start by humming.  Do an octave exercise where you start on a note like {C} and then you jump to the {C} in the next octave all while humming a nasal “nnn” sound.  This is a great way to loosen up the phlegm in your throat before singing.
  • Lemon juice and honey – Warm up a glass of water with a small amount of lemon juice and add some honey.  Make sure that you do not have a high concentration of lemon juice because the acid can make you feel like there is a lump in your throat.  Many people will add some cheyenne pepper to the mix.
  • Spicy foods – Spicy foods are a great way to clear phlegm and mucus… and everything else.  I love Tabasco and so this one is easy for me.  Japanese wasabi that you eat with sushi is great, Thai curry, horseradish, and other spicy foods will clear out the phlegm and prep you for singing.  Make sure not to stuff yourself and don’t eat within 1-2 hours of preforming.
  • Cough Drops – A nice menthol, or Ricola Natural Herb or St. John’s wart work well.
  • Mouth Wash – This is my favorite solution combined with warming-up.  The best mouth wash that I have found for this is Crest Pro Health.  Make sure to do a deep gargle.
  • Chew a minty gum – The saliva you produce will help loosen the mucus in your throat an will also lubricate your throat.  Make sure to spit out your gum before you preform.


  • Clear your throat.  Instead continually swallow throughout the day.  Clearing your throat makes your throat sore and can damage the vocal box if done excessively.
  • Antihistamines – Don’t use Antihistamines like Mucinex.  These  can be dangerous before preforming vocally.  These are great when you are not going to be singing but when you are about to “Go on” they are dangerous.  Antihistamines cause the blood vessels to come to the surface and that is why they are effective in helping you get unclogged.  The trouble is that they bring the blood vessels to the surface on your vocal folds as well.  If you are hitting those high notes and the vocal folds are really straining then having the blood vessels on surface can cause damage to the voice.
  • Use cough drops with Menthol or Vapor Action.  These will dry out your throat and often times leave it numb.  These are great for colds but bad for singing.
  • Use cough drops or sprays with Anesthetic.  Anything that numbs the the throat on purpose will leave you singing horribly.  Don’t use these.

Long Term Cures for Excessive Phlegm

  • Water, Water, Water (and salt) – There are many facts about the benefits of water.  One is that water thins out the vocal phlegm and also helps keep your vocal chords lubricated.  A minimum of 4- 8oz glasses is recommended.

    The right balance of salt is also a necessary in helping retain the water. In the book “Water for Health, for Healing, for Life” by F. Batmanghelidj it states, “Salt unplugs the thick mucus secretions in the lungs and stops the overflow of nasal secretion, when water is plentiful.  Salt breaks up the mucus, rendering it watery and stingy, and suitable for expulsion… when water is available.”  Notice that water is the cure and salt only aids in the cure.  Do not intake salt without the water.

    Make sure to drink as much as you can throughout the day and you will start to notice a big difference.

  • Avoid foods that increase the production of mucus, such as dairy products, meat and fried foods.
  • Hot packs placed on your throat and chest are very soothing especially during times of illness and can open up the blood flow to the throat.


  • Vitamins A, C and E are all beneficial with conditions that cause coughs and phlegm.

Thanks and Happy Singing

Curtis J. Morley