When your first cold of the season hits, you want anything that promotes comfort and relief from the body aches, sneezing, runny nose, congestion, watery eyes and general foggy feeling that comes with it. So, of course, generations of humans have turned to whiskey. Especially a hot toddy.
The classic hot toddy is a combination of honey, lemon, and whiskey—but there are tons of other variations (get the recipes for some creative twists on this classic here).
It’s good, and it’s comforting, but is this home remedy it a reliable way to tame the symptoms of a cold, or just or just another excuse to throw one back when you’re feeling crappy? It depends on who you talk to. There’s not a lot of science about whether it helps or not, so of course the expert community is divided on whether or not it’s OK to imbibe.
There are some pros:
It contains vitamin C.
While loading up on vitamin C is a go-to cold remedy, evidence is still mixed. A 2013 review published in the Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry found that vitamin C doesn’t actually prevent the common cold, but may help reduce the duration of your symptoms if taken at a higher dose of up to 2 grams. Thing is, lemons contain vitamin C, but only to the tune of about 4 mg per wedge.
The honey in your hot toddy may help.
Dr. Kobernick views honey the same way. Honey has been praised for its throat-soothing properties and this home remedy contains some compounds that are thought to boost your immune system, such as polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that may have anti-inflammatory properties. What’s also true: “We have no clinical trials that have looked at honey and its effect [on] the common cold,” says Aaron Kobernick, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of allergy and immunology at the University of Utah. So it’s a “might help, probably won’t hurt” kind of thing right now.
Heat is good.
Hot liquids help move mucus and germs out of your system. They “increase the mucociliary clearance rate,” explains Bruce Barrett, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the department of family medicine and community health at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Basically, it helps your body sweep mucus and germs out of your body.
Its whiskey is…controversial.
Alcohol at higher doses suppresses your immune function, Dr. Kobernick says, which could make it tougher for your body to fight off infection. But if you’re just drinking one, it’s probably OK.
That said, hot toddies might work to ease some of your symptoms, helping you relax, explains . The mix of hot water, lemon, and honey is soothing on a scratchy, dry throat. And sticking to just one serving of booze, such as 1.5 ounces of liquor, may help quash any aches or pains.
4 Perfect Winter Whiskey Cocktails:
Once you starting drinking more than that, though, you might do your body more harm than good. And the only way to prevent a cold in the first place is by washing your hands frequently to prevent the spread of viruses, says Baldeep Singh, M.D., internal medicine doctor at Stanford Health Care.
With that, if you want to enjoy a hot toddy while curled up in bed watching Netflix, go ahead and stick with just one. Will it make you feel slightly better? Maybe. Will it actually cure your cold? No, it won’t miraculously disappear overnight.
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