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Brad Johnson

Is Whiskey Good For a Cold? | Does Alcohol Help a Cold?

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No one likes getting sick. From the ear, nose, and throat congestion to taking time away from work and relaxation, it’s no wonder everyone wants a speedy recovery. 

While there are dozens of cold remedies both natural and artificial, alcohol should be included on your list. A few sips of your favorite beverage has a purpose beyond happy hour drinks

But, what kinds of drinks are best when you’re ill? Does alcohol really help a cold, and if so, how much is too much? Keep reading this blog post to find out. 

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Does Whiskey Help A Cold?

Yes, whiskey can be good for a cold because it’s a decongestant. Being sick means your nasal tissues have become inflamed, which causes a lot of difficulty when breathing. 

Though it’s common to believe that excess mucus is what causes congestion, this is actually not the case. Inflammation is a result of swollen blood vessels in your nasal tissues, which is caused by more blood carrying nutrients to the infected area. 

Consuming low amounts of alcohol fosters the widening of blood vessels, which is called vasodilation. The process of vasodilation is enhanced by nitric oxide, which is a chemical compound in the body. 

Nitric oxide facilitates multiple chemical responses that relax the vascular smooth muscle of your veins. In other words, drinking a little bit of whiskey naturally opens up your blood vessels, allowing them to operate more normally. 

Does Alcohol Help with A Cold?

While alcohol can’t remedy the common cold, it does limit the severity of your symptoms. When consumed in small amounts, alcohol is a vasodilator, which means it helps your blood vessels open up. 

Getting sick means there is a foreign substance in your body. Your cells respond by sending greater blood flow to areas like your nose and throat, which causes blood vessels to swell up. In order to continue breathing enough, your blood vessels need to be dilated. 

Having less than the standard drink measure of alcohol relaxes your blood vessels, bringing more white blood cells and helpful chemicals to the infected area. Make sure you don’t drink more than one to two ounces throughout the day, though. Otherwise, your body will be working overtime to prevent alcohol’s side effects, which you don’t need when recovering from a cold. 

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Does Tequila Help Sore Throat?

Yes, tequila can be effective in reducing sore throat. Alcohol, including different types of tequila, has natural decongestant and antibacterial characteristics, which aids in relieving inflamed tissue.

Tequila is made from the agave plant, which has anti-inflammatory properties and is used as a medicinal herb. In particular, agave nectar has been found to be effective against intestinal bacteria. Since tequila is distilled from agave juice, it offers some of the same health benefits. 

Best Alcoholic Drink for Sore Throat And Cough

There are various alcoholic drinks that mitigate common cold symptoms, but the hot toddy is a great all-around choice. The hot toddy was likely a Scottish drink invented in the 1700s and features whiskey, lemon, hot water, and honey.

The drink is one of several winter cocktails that are delicious during colder months. Many have customized the hot toddy over the years, adding ingredients like ginger, orange juice, and cinnamon. It's a staple in many bar and restaurant seasonal menus.

Hot toddies work well when you’re sick for several reasons:

  1. The whiskey acts as a decongestant for blood vessels in and near your nose. 
  2. Ginger counteracts the growth of microorganisms and lemon offers a fresh dose of Vitamin C.
  3. Honey has high viscosity, meaning it acts as a natural barrier against the spread of infection.
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Nasal Congestion After Drinking Alcohol

It’s just as important to be aware of nasal congestion after drinking alcohol as it is alcohol’s potential to reduce inflammation. If you normally don’t drink alcohol, or drink on rare occasions, you may experience a stuffy nose and throat. 

If you have a few sips of whiskey and start to feel congested shortly thereafter, stop consuming alcohol right away. This can be a sign of alcohol intolerance, which means your body doesn’t have the enzymes necessary to digest alcohol toxins. 

Drinking Alcohol While Sick

Drinking alcohol while sick should always be handled with caution. All types of alcohol are vasodilators, which means if you don’t drink too much it will relax your blood vessels. This allows blood nutrients to reach the infected areas of your body faster, meaning you’ll heal more quickly. 

However, alcohol dehydrates your system, especially when consumed in large amounts. If your body is simultaneously trying to fight infection and dehydration, you may end up getting sicker. A key aspect of recovery is thorough hydration, so you should always balance sips of whiskey with plenty of water. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Is Whiskey Good For a Cold?

Humans have been using botanicals, drinks, and herbs to cure ailments for thousands of years. It wasn’t long after fermented beverages were invented that people discovered how useful they are.

As it turns out, a limited amount of alcohol can help you with a cold. But how does that work, and how effective is it?

We researched commonly asked questions about using alcohol to beat a cold. Take a look at our answers below: 

Is Whisky Good For Cold And Cough?

Yes--a little bit of whisky can lessen common cold symptoms, like a sore throat and stuffy nose. Congestion is caused by inflamed blood vessels because your body is sending more blood than usual to the infected areas. 

In order to breathe more easily, your blood vessels need to be opened up. Alcohol supports the release of nitric oxide in your blood vessels, which allows them to relax. Whisky also has ellagic acid, which is an antioxidant that’s found in many plants. While ellagic acid doesn’t cure or prevent disease, it can mitigate inflammation and swollen tissues.

Which Alcohol Is Best for A Cold?

There are several drinks that are particularly soothing when battling a cold. "Does alcohol help with a cold?" is not even a question to ask because it sure does. Though choosing a specific drink is mostly a matter of personal preference, here are a few popular beverages: 

  • Whiskey and orange juice. In addition to having high alcohol by volume (ABV), whiskey is one of the more palatable drinks when you’re sick. Pour yourself a glass of orange juice and add an ounce or two of whiskey, and you’re good to go. And as a matter of fact, this is a great cocktail drink to have when you are not sick, too.
  • Tequila, salt, and lemon. Tequila is one of the stronger alcohols at about 50% ABV, but that’s why it’s so effective. A standard pour of tequila blanco with a dash of salt and some lemon juice does the trick. The reason salt is useful is that it decreases the burn, which is particularly strong. 
  • Hot toddy. This is a classic drink to enjoy when you’re sick, not the least of which is because of its taste. To make a hot toddy, you need one cup of hot tea, two ounces of bourbon, one teaspoon of honey, and a lemon slice. Some enjoy adding a bit of ginger and cinnamon, too. The alcohol will relax your blood vessels and the warm honey, lemony-ness will soothe your throat. 

Is Whisky Or Brandy Good for A Cold?

Yes, both brandy and whisky are helpful for getting rid of a cold. Brandy is one of many red wine types, but includes distillation, not just fermentation. Whisky is distilled from grain mash--often a combination of barley, corn, and wheat. Since both are alcoholic beverages, they promote the release of nitric oxide in your blood vessels. 

Nitric oxide is a chemical compound that helps relax the vascular smooth muscle in your blood vessels. Once your blood vessels have opened up more, it’s easier to breathe and remove excess mucus. 

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A Couple Sips of Alcohol Ain’t Too Whiskey

Whether you enjoy a few alcoholic beverages regularly or only turn to them when needed, it’s nice to know how useful they are. Alcohol can’t fix every kind of ailment, but it does make a difference for the common cold. 

If you have friends or family looking for easy cold remedies, share this blog post with them. You never know who you may help!

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