Science reveals the truth about drinking whiskey to fight a cold

Science reveals the truth about drinking whiskey to fight a cold
Source: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock

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. 

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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. 

Hello, hottie.
Source: Giphy

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.)

Whiskey

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

Honey

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.