One way we differentiate herbs in western herbalism is by herbal actions. I've broken this materia medical for sore throats into four different categories. Rather than think of using one or the other, consider your specific symptoms and put together a blend that fits your particular circumstance. Also keep in mind that herbs rarely fit neatly into categories. Marshmallow root for example is demulcent, cooling, anti-microbial and immune supportive.
Demulcent herbs: These herbs are slimy in nature and help to coat the mucous membranes of the throat. This can bring instant relief to dry itchy throats. Demulcent herbs include licorice, marshmallow, and slippery elm.
Astringent herbs: These herbs can tighten the pores of the mucous membranes, helping to close out further infection and reduce inflammation and swelling. Astringent herbs include horehound, sage (Salvia officinalis), and red clover.
Antimicrobial herbs: These help to eliminate pathogens. Examples include cottonwood buds (Populus balsimifera), bee balm (Monarda spp.), garlic, ginger and goldenseal root (Hydrastis canadensis). I often like to take these infused in honey. Honey is soothing to the throat and is also antimicrobial.
Lymphatic herbs: Lymphatic herbs stimulate movement of lymph and can be very helpful when dealing with a sore throat combined with swollen lymph glands. Examples include Echinacea, calendula flowers (Calendula officinalis), cleavers (Galium aparine), burdock root (Arctium lappa), red root (Ceanothus spp.) and mullein (Verbascum thapsus).