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Whiskey Might Help Relieve Cold Symptoms

Whiskey Might Help Relieve Cold Symptoms

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A bit of alcohol can help that stuffed up nose

Wikimedia/Paul Joseph

A hot toddy can be effective at relieving some cold symptoms.

With much of the country under piles of snow and in the grip of cold and flu season, it is a bit of good news to hear that the grandmas of the world were right: A bit of whiskey really is the best cold medicine.

According to The Huffington Post, the hot toddy is an effective way to relieve cold symptoms. Taken together, those ingredients can help aid nasal decongestion, and it’s as warm and comforting as chicken noodle soup.

“The alcohol dilates blood vessels a little bit, and that makes it easier for your mucus membranes to deal with the infection,” said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

While the hot toddy might not be quite as effective as over-the-counter cold medicine, it is certainly better tasting. So if you’re feeling a bit under the weather, or if it’s just cold in your area and you have a couple lemons to kill, check out our best hot toddy recipes for some good ways to pass the evening.

Uses of Whiskey for Congestion

Colds and congestion have, historically, been treated quite effectively with a "hot toddy." Toddies, and the recipes for them, tend to contain varying amounts of liquor -- usually whiskey -- along with herbal ingredients that are popular in a variety of home remedies. Whether the results are thanks to the other ingredients, the method of delivery, or the dram of alcohol itself, you can treat several kinds of congestion with a dose of whiskey and, assuming you "go light" on key ingredient, wake up feeling better in the morning.

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Is a Hot Toddy Really Good for a Cold? Doctors Explain

It’s cold and flu season, and for many dads, that means a hot toddy for that cold and flu. Hot cocktails like the toddy, a warm cup of whiskey spiked with lemon, honey, cloves, and cinnamon, have long been prized as an old-school cold remedy, but does it actually give sick parents anything more than a hangover? Does whiskey help a cold and ease a sore throat? Doctors are less dismissive of the buzz-inducing cure than you might think.

“While a hot hoddy can’t necessarily cure a cold or stop it in its tracks, the warm beverage’s ingredients are known to alleviate cold symptoms,” Dr. David Greuner, a surgeon at NYC Surgical Associates, told Fatherly .

Besides alcohol’s famous pain-killing powers (try gargling with whiskey and warm water to numb a sore throat), moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to dilate mucus membranes much in the same way as menthol does, Greuner says. This can help clear infections and refresh moms and dads with colds. Whiskey, specifically, also contains the antioxidant ellagic acid, which studies suggest may help treat viral and bacterial infections.

Heating that whiskey up and serving it with spices is similarly sound advice. Hot water relieves nasal congestion, honey can help soothe sore throats and suppress coughs, and the vitamin C in lemon juice helps to reduce phlegm. As long as you continue drinking water and other non-alcoholic fluids, there is little risk to the occasional Hot Toddy. “Alcohol is a diuretic that pulls fluids from the body, so drink plenty of non-alcoholic beverages, like water,” Greuner says, adding that sick people should limit themselves to only one hot toddy per day.

Not all physicians are as easygoing about the hot toddy, however. Even one spiked beverage burdens an already busy immune system, family physician Dr. Janette Nesheiwat argues. “We are potentially adding an extra stressor to our body,” she told Fatherly. “We are running uphill, and it becomes steeper when alcohol is added.” Nesheiwat recommends hot tea, instead. Alcohol can make one nauseated, dehydrated, constipated, cause headaches, dry mouth, fatigue.”

The truth about drinking whiskey to fight a cold

Sipping on whiskey sound way better than holding your nose while throwing back a cupful of NyQuil? You're in luck. The hot toddy, a mix of whiskey, honey and hot water, is a classic standby for alleviating cold symptoms, aka making your sneezing, congestion or runny nose far less miserable.

It's not just an old wives' tale that a jigger of alcohol can help people suffering from sniffles — science confirms that the ingredients in hot toddies really can help to alleviate sore throats and stuffy noses.

The healing properties of hot toddies

Even a novice home bartender will be able to whip up a hot toddy — the most basic recipes (like this one from Epicurious) call for mixing two tablespoons of bourbon with a tablespoon of honey, two teaspoons of lemon juice and a mugful of boiling water.

The ingredients in hot toddies make them a quadruple-threat against cold symptoms. From aiding with sleep to soothing a scratchy throat, here's how the ingredients in a hot toddy could ease your sniffly suffering.

(Editor's note: Mixing alcohol and medicines can be dangerous so always talk to your doctor to determine the best way to treat your symptoms.)


Bottoms up! When your body is in pain, alcohol can take the edge off. It's why many over the counter medications contain small amounts of booze. Some medicines (including popular cough syrups like NyQuil) contain up to 10% alcohol.

The whiskey in hot toddies could help you relax and help you fall asleep faster but beware, it might lead to less quality sleep. People consider alcohol a sleep aid but it's more often a sleep disruptor. Researchers found that people who had an orange juice and vodka nightcap before dozing off had lower quality zzz's compared to a control group that had OJ before bedtime, Time reported.

Hot Water

Boiling water with a bit of cloves and cinnamon gives the hot toddy its warming temperature — and this is good for far more than warming your chilled hands. Research reveals sipping hot liquids can decrease congestion. (Researchers noted that inhaling the hot vapor wafting off hot chicken soup was especially effective.) Sip and sniff, folks!

Lemon Juice

"Lemon juice reduces and thins mucus, which makes it easier to unclog a stuffed-up respiratory system," Douglas Schar, clinically trained herbalist, told Prevention, explaining that the acidity of lemons can also help the body fight off infection.

While lemon juice is a good source of vitamin C, experts say vitamin C doesn't effectively prevent or treat colds. There's no body of scientific evidence confirming that loading up on vitamin C can prevent colds, Marci Clow, registered dietician, told Mic.


A spoonful of the sweet stuff tastes delicious and also works to soothe a cough. Researchers found that two teaspoons of honey at bedtime reduced cough frequency in children.

Honey also arms your body with antioxidants, making you better prepped to fight off disease-causing inflammation. Another study found that consuming honey twice immediately increased antioxidant activity in healthy adults.

Homemade Cold Remedy Drink

This homemade cold and flu tea isn’t just for cold symptoms like a sore throat or runny nose it’s also great for an upset stomach. When you were a kid, your mom probably gave you ginger ale to sip on if you weren’t feeling well.

While drinking soda probably isn’t the best thing to drink when you’re sick due to the sugars, there is some truth in that old home remedy. Ginger, in the right quantities, can help relieve an upset stomach by increasing bile production and kill some microbes so you feel better quicker. This makes it suitable for not just colds, but also the flu. (You can also learn how to make your own custom herbal tea blends for common ailments here.)

Benefits of Natural Cold Remedy Tea Ingredients

The Benefits of Raw Honey

Raw honey is added to this homemade cold remedy drink both for taste and for it’s natural benefits. While some people like drinking lemon water, a ginger and lemon drink is very sour drink and not very palatable for many people.

You could use white sugar to sweeten this drink, but white sugar has a lot of empty calories and little nutritional value. Raw honey, however, is full of enzymes and nutrients that help support a healthy immune system. Therefore it makes a much better alternative over sugar as a sweetener for a natural cold remedy tea.

I only use local raw honey in my homemade cold remedy drink. Most honey on the grocery store shelf can barely pass as honey. It’s been process and pasteurized. By the time it hits the shelf, most of the nutrients and enzymes have been killed by the processing it.

Raw honey isn’t pasteurized or processed. Sometimes it’s filtered to remove debris, but it keeps the nutrients and enzymes to promote better health.

Raw honey is naturally antibacterial and can even kill some types of fungi. When you eat or drink raw honey, it can help kill germs inside your body.

Honey is also high in antioxidants. Antioxidants protect healthy cells in the body by reducing free radicals. This helps support your immune system over time.

For immediate relief, honey can help reduce mucus and reduce coughing. It also coats the throat, which can soothe a sore throat for almost immediate relief. In fact, I eat raw honey by the spoonful at night if I’m coughing and can’t get to sleep. It really works incredibly well at soothing irritation in my throat.

I always recommend buying local honey. This helps support your local economy, and there is some evidence that eating local raw honey can help reduce allergies by exposing your body to pollen from your area.

Don’t forget that children under one-year-old should not eat any honey either alone or in a drink like this one.

The Benefits of Ginger

I add ginger to my homemade cold and flu tea because it can help relieve a stomach ache and reduce nausea.

Two compounds in ginger, gingerols and shaogals, are anti-inflammatories. They can help reduce inflammation from a sore throat so you feel better quickly.

Ginger is also naturally antimicrobial. It can kill bacteria and some viruses, including the rhinovirus that causes colds.

Over the counter cold medication can relieve your symptoms, but it can’t kill the virus that caused your cold. However, ginger may be able to kill the virus naturally. This can help shorten the duration of your cold. (Source.)

Although ginger is most known for relieving a stomach ache, it can cause an upset stomach if you take too much. If you get an upset stomach, limit this natural cold remedy tea to once a day.

The Benefits of Lemon

Lemon, like all citrus fruits, is high in vitamin C. Boosting vitamin C can help reduce the duration of a cold and help you feel better. Several studies have mixed results about the benefits of vitamin C for colds, but many people swear that taking extra vitamin C helps them feel better.

Lemon juice can also help reduce phlegm so you feel better right away. Drinking this homemade cold remedy drink before bed can help you sleep better by reducing phlegm help stop coughing temporarily.

For long term benefits, lemons are high in antioxidants that can help reduce free radicals in the body.

Like honey and ginger, lemons are also antimicrobial. They can help kill both bacteria and viruses in the body. This can also help shorten the duration of colds.

The Benefits of Warm Water

It’s important to drink this homemade cold remedy drink warm because the warm water also has benefits for your body.

The warmth can help open nasal passages, which helps reduce a stuffy nose and helps you sleep. It also helps lubricate your throat to make your sore throat feel better.

It’s important to stay hydrated when you are sick. Drinking plenty of water will help you feel better.

The Benefits of Whiskey

Adding whiskey to this natural cold remedy tea is optional. Alcohol can help dilate blood vessels in your body. This helps thin mucus, which can help you breathe better. However, you need to make sure you increase your water intake so your body stays hydrated. Otherwise, including alcohol in your homemade cold remedy drink can actually have opposite the intended effect.

Also, if you do add whiskey to your homemade cold remedy drink, be responsible. Don’t add it if you may be driving.

Homemade Cold Remedy Drink Recipe


1 cup boiling water
1 inch fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon raw honey
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 ounce whiskey (optional)


To make my homemade cold remedy drink, grate the ginger or slice into thin slices and then mince. (For best results, you want the ginger to be in very small pieces.)

Then place the grated or minced ginger inside a teapot or medium sized bowl.

Pour the boiling water over the grated or minced ginger. Let this steep for three minutes.

While the ginger is steeping, place the lemon juice and raw honey in a mug.

Strain the ginger out of the water and pour over the lemon juice and honey. Then stir well until the honey is dissolved.

You can add more honey to taste, if desired.

Next, add whiskey if you’re using it.

How to Use My Homemade Cold Remedy Drink

You can drink this homemade cold and flu tea three or four times a day to relieve your cold symptoms naturally. If your stomach gets upset from the ginger, just use ginger tea once a day and drink warm water, honey, and lemon the rest of the day.

Tips for Reusing Your Ginger

You can reuse the grated or minced ginger you used for your first cup of homemade cold and flu tea. I reuse mine two or three more times before I discard it. Just steep the ginger for a few extra minutes for the second and third steep to get more ginger out of it.

6 Surprising Ways Whiskey Is Actually Good for Your Health

Everyone knows whiskey on the rocks is a choice way to relax after a long day at the office. But even better than the buzz is the expanding list of health benefits attributed to knocking one back. So long as your imbibe in moderation, here are five ways whiskey is actually good for your health.

1. Much like Champagne, whiskey can help lower your risk of dementia.

A 2003 case study reported that adults who consumed one to six alcoholic beverages a week showed a significantly lower risk of dementia than those who abstained from alcohol. It should also be noted that the moderate drinkers also fared better than study participants who had more than six alcoholic drinks a week.

2. It serves as a digestion aid.

While the hair of the dog might not help if your nausea is hangover-induced, drinking a whiskey after a large meal can help ease an upset stomach. Whiskey's high proof makes it an excellent digestif, stimulating the stomach's enzymes, which help break down food.

3. Single malt whiskies contain more ellagic acid than red wine.

In a speech at the EuroMedLab conference in 2005, Dr. Jim Swan, who, granted, is a consultant to the drinks industry, reported that whiskey contains more ellagic acid (a free-radical fighting antioxidant) than red wine. "There has been much in the news about the health benefits of antioxidants in red wine. By contrast, very little has been said about malt whisky distillery science," he said.

"However, research has shown that there are even greater health benefits to people who drink single malt whiskies. Why? Single malt whiskies have more ellagic acid than red wine."

Is his opinion biased? For sure, but here's hoping an independent body validates his research ASAP.

4. There's a connection between moderate consumption and a lowered risk of stroke.

A study out from Harvard University reports that moderate alcohol consumption corresponds with a 25 to 40 percent reduction in risk of heart disease and ischemic (or clot-caused) stroke. "It's safe to say that alcohol is both a tonic and a poison," says the paper's introduction.

"The difference lies mostly in the dose. Moderate drinking seems to be good for the heart and circulatory system, and probably protects against type 2 diabetes and gallstones. Heavy drinking is a major cause of preventable death in most countries."

5. Drinking in moderation benefits the heart and blood vessels.

Sure, alcohol can help lower inhibitions, but according to researchers in Toronto, one alcoholic drink can actually calm your circulatory system. "Our findings point to a slight beneficial effect of one drink&ndashbe it alcohol or red wine&ndashon the heart and blood vessels, whereas two or more drinks would seem to turn on systems that stress the circulation," said Dr. John Floras, Director of Cardiology Research at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre and Mount Sinai Hospital. Again, everything in moderation.

6. It can help cure the common cold

In moderation, whiskey can dilate or widen your blood vessels. This helps with cold symptoms like congestion, by allowing more movement of the mucus membrane in your sinuses, or flushing out an infection. (That might explain why Hot Toddies have been a historical home remedy for cold and flu symptoms.) A bit of whiskey may also contribute to a better night's sleep, but only a bit! Too much will have an opposite effect, leaving you with a hangover instead of a cold cure.

For more studies proving whiskey is good for your health, head over to Cool Material.

Can Whiskey Help You Beat a Cold?

Before the clink of drinks, many Spanish-speaking countries toast with the word &ldquosalud,&rdquo which translates to &ldquohealth.&rdquo When you&rsquore healthy and kickin,&rsquo toasting to good health can be a feel-good way to appreciate your wellness&mdasheven if it is with alcohol, which doesn&rsquot exactly win the healthy drink award.

Despite alcohol&rsquos not-so-healthy reputation, word on the street is that it can help you beat the common cold. Is it true?

While sipping on bourbon might sound more fun than a spoonful of cold medicine, unfortunately, it can&rsquot treat a cold. There&rsquos no &ldquocure&rdquo for the common cold. In fact, drinking boozy beverages while you&rsquore sick can actually make your cold worse.

For one thing, alcohol is a diuretic, so it can dehydrate you, which is exactly opposite of what your body needs during a cold. Getting enough fluids and staying hydrated is key for a speedy recovery.

Combining alcohol with certain cold meds can also be dangerous. Imbibing while you take acetaminophen (a common pain and fever reducer) can mess with your liver, and drinking while taking dextromethorphan (in many cough syrups) may cause dizziness, nausea, and vomiting.

Drinking alcohol may also dampen your immune system, and to beat a cold, you need all the immune support you can get.

You best bet to soothe your cold symptoms? Skip the shot, get plenty of rest and fluids, and say cheers to your soon-to-be good health with these cold-fighting foods instead.

Have a common cold? Crack open the whiskey

Good news from science: all Southern grandmas were right — whiskey helps relieve cold symptoms.

The hot toddy, a mixture of hot water, lemon juice, honey and whiskey, has been a staple of homespun cold remedies in Southeastern U.S. since the Scots-Irish settled the Appalachian region and brought their recipes for hot whiskey with them. Southern grannies have been mixing the brew to ease a sore throat or loosen congestion ever since — although there are certainly versions in other parts of the U.S., and even up into Canada.

Now a writer for has examined the evidence and deconstructed the health benefits of each ingredient in a hot toddy and come away with a veritable recommendation that a hot toddy is preferable over traditional cold medicine to treat symptoms associated with the common cold.

From the pain-reducing qualities of whiskey — "It's why many over the counter medications contain small amounts of booze." — and the mucus-reducing miracle of lemon juice and hot water, to the throat soothing tendencies of honey, the hot toddy has it all:

Of course it's a good idea to remember that, as with anything involving alcohol, moderation is key. But the cost of the common cold, according to WedMD is about $40 billion a year, and the hot toddy home remedy does give the popular over-the-counter cold helpers a run for their money:

The evidence also suggests that perhaps the best cure for the common cold is plenty of rest. The alcohol in a hot toddy likely helps facilitate that, too.

Go ahead, go outside

Despite its name, getting a cold has nothing to do with temperature. (It&rsquos caused by a viral infection, period.) In fact, a classic 1968 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that colds were no more frequent or severe in people who were chilled than in those who weren&rsquot chilled. So if you think getting some fresh air will lift your spirits and make hanging at home and willing your cold to go away a bit more bearable, we say go for it.

Reality check: Can a hot toddy really help relieve cold symptoms?

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Most of us have a classic list of must-haves that we reserve for those times when we fall prey to a cold or flu. A warm blanket, flannel pyjamas, chicken soup and the sympathy of a loved one tend to comprise the bulk of the list, although an aromatic and boozy hot toddy might also be appealing.

WATCH BELOW: Cold and Flu: Fact vs. fiction

4:44 Cold and Flu: Fact vs. fiction

Over the years, experts have praised the hot toddy’s soothing benefits, crediting its ingredients — whiskey, hot water, honey and lemon — with healing powers ranging from relieving aches and pains to soothing a scratchy throat. But we’ve sought out our own experts to determine if the drink that dates back to 1700’s Scotland really does have medicinal powers, or if its effects are merely as nostalgic as grandma’s chicken soup.

“Any hot beverage helps when you have a cold because the heat dilates the nasal passages allowing mucus to flow better,” says Dr. Ariel Fenster, a McGill University professor and founding member of the Office for Science & Society. “The alcohol that’s present in the drink will relax you and that’s an important factor.”

While it’s true that alcohol in large quantities has a dehydrating effect on the body, which is the exact opposite of what we need when we’re sick, the whiskey in a hot toddy is minimal (most recipes only call for two tablespoons) and is diluted with water, so its negative effects are essentially cancelled out.

What’s left are the soporific benefits of the booze. That’s also why it happens to be a standard ingredient in many over-the-counter cold medications like NyQuil and Robitussin.

Another otherwise negative trait associated with alcohol consumption, depression, also may have a counterintuitive effect.

“We know that alcohol is a depressant that diminishes the activity of the brain,” says Dr. Sam Kacew, associate director in toxicology and professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottawa. “This diminished activity could help you stop thinking about how lousy you feel and help you fall asleep.”

The honey in a hot toddy certainly helps soothe a sore throat, but Fenster says, don’t rely too much on its antixoidant claims.

“Honey has healing and antibacterial activity, but that only works if you apply it to a wound,” he says. “In that case, it can help heal and prevent bacteria from developing. But it doesn’t have the same effects when you ingest it.”

Meanwhile, the addition of lemon might be more the stuff of lore than anything else, especially considering that there’s scant evidence that vitamin C can prevent a cold.

Both experts concluded that a hot toddy is a soothing drink that can help temper some cold symptoms, but it doesn’t have any more healing powers than a bowl of soup or a steaming cup of tea.

“It’ll make you feel better because it’s comforting and it will help replace some fluids, but not much else,” Kacew says. “It’s not a cure.”

Watch the video: Βασίλης Μπατής - Ζημιά. Vasilis Mpatis - Zimia. Official Video Clip HQ 2017 (July 2022).


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