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General characteristics

General characteristics

The speaking or singing voice is a precious tool for the communication of ideas, emotions and thoughts and (as far as we know) is unique to humanity. It is often taken for granted as when we open our mouths to speak, the voice just happens. However there are several different mechanisms, organs and structures that work together to make our voice what it is. The quality and clarity of our voice can easily be affected when one or more of the components is not functioning as well as it could be.

Apparently the vocal chords vibrate up to 100 times per second in men and 200 times per second in women!


The structures and systems involved in producing the voice include the larynx or 'voicebox' with its folds we call the vocal cords (which create the vibrations needed to make sound), the lungs and diaphragm (the bellows creating pressure and movement), the mouth, lips tongue and teeth (to articulate different types of sounds), the openings and cavities in the head and throat (amplify sound and create resonance and distinctive tones), the brain, the muscular system and the nervous system (all contribute to the proper functioning of the other structures and systems) and even the ears (help us to hear and make adjustments to our voice) The individual variations in the anatomy of all the structures provide us each with a distinctive and individual sounding voice.


The quality and strength of the voice can be affected by a variety of conditions including overuse or straining of the voice, infections (e.g laryngitis, catarrh build up, sinusitis) that can affect the quality and sound, lung conditions (affect the amount of air we can push through the vocal structures), abdominal conditions affecting the abdominal muscles (again affect how much air we can produce and how we control its flow), posture and balance (affects the positioning of vocal structures), anxiety and stress (affects our ability to consciously control breathing), nerve disorders (provide the stimulus to the structures needed for vocalising), cysts or polyps developing on the vocal chords (affect the quality of the voice), acid reflux and hiatus hernia (irritate the delicate vocal structures in the throat and neck), skeletal misalignment or deformities (can affect nerve function).


Healing objectives should begin with trying to determine the underlying cause of the problem and treating that accordingly. Nutrition should be improved also.


See also laryngitis, pharyngitis and reflux for treatment ideas for these conditions.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Make sure your body is well hydrated every day as a first step. Water and herbal teas should be taken but avoid anything else like carbonated drinks, alcohol, coffeee etc. Voice experts recommend 8-10 glasses per day of water at room temperature, not too cold or too hot.

Foods containing sulphur such as cabbage, broccoli, kale and other cabbage family plants can help to raise the tone of a voice if it is too deep.


Foods from the onion family such as garlic, onions, chives, shallots etc can all help improve the voice.


Eat plenty of berry fruits and other foods rich in antioxidants.


Avoid junk and processed, sugary foods.


Avoid smoking and smokey environments wherever possible.

Useful herbs

Useful herbs

Mullein leaf, myrrh, liquorice root, turmeric, agrimony, plantain leaves, elderflowers and ginger root tea can improve the voice by easing inflammation, clearing congestion, fighting infection and improving blood flow to and from the area. Mix equal parts of the dried herbs and use a teaspoon to make a tea. Add a teaspoon of honey and drink at least one cup daily until improvement is seen.

All the more pungent warming herbs and foods such as black radish, horseradish, mustards and similar can help to improve the voice.

Gargling for several minutes, several times a day with strong comfrey leaf tea can help to restore and improve a croaky voice.

Add some slippery elm powder to honey and roll into lozenges, suck one slowly one every few hours.

Natural healing

Natural healing

Speech therapy and vocal chord exercises can help to improve and strengthen the voice, especially when due to neurological disorders such as stroke or Parkinson's. 


Many people find that apple cider vinegar in warm water with a little flower based honey helps to give their voice clarity and strength.


Steam inhalations can help to loosen mucous and improve the voice. Add boiling water to a bowl, cover your head with a towel and allow the vapour to enter your air passages, breathing slightly deeper than normal. You can add appropriate essential oils to the water too, for instance thyme or eucalyptus to help with infection.


If the voice is hoarse and strained, rest it for as long as possible to help it recover quicker. Talking and especially whispering will delay healing and can make it worse. Use either a pad and paper, texting, instant messaging and/or sign language to communicate.


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