How to Use Alcohol to Treat a Cold

Four Methods:Knowing How Alcohol Can HelpMixing Drinks for ColdsKnowing the RisksTaking Care of Your Cold

There is no real cure for the common cold,[1] but there are things you can do to temporarily alleviate some of the symptoms, such as a sore throat or a stuffy nose. A shot of alcohol can help make you feel better, but keep in mind that too much alcohol (as with any remedy) can do just the opposite and make you feel worse. Read this article to find out how to mix some hot drinks that can help soothe a sore throat and decongest a stuffy nose.

Method 1
Knowing How Alcohol Can Help

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    Drink a shot of alcohol with some honey or lemon to soothe a sore throat. Honey and lemon are both antibacterial. Lemon would help get rid of any mucus while honey would help hydrate a sore throat and make it feel better.
    • Hot Toddy
    • Hot tea with a shot of whiskey or brandy
    • For more ideas, click here.
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    Clear congestion by drinking a hot, alcoholic beverage. The steam will help dilate the blood vessels in your nose, and in turn help clear the mucus out. A great drink to help decongest a stuffy nose would be a Hot Toddy tea. The tea in the drink will also help you combat the cold due to all the antioxidants in it.
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    Try drinking a shot of alcohol to help you fall asleep. Getting plenty of sleep is essential for beating your cold and feeling normal again. When you are sick, you should try to get between 8 to 10 hours of sleep so that your body can recover.[2] Unfortunately, falling asleep while sick can be difficult, but a warm drink, such as a Hot Toddy, can help.
    • Studies have shown that alcohol-induced sleep can be less restful than normal sleep, with a higher likelihood of waking up during the night.[3]
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    Drink alcohol in moderation as a preventative measure. Studies have shown that, while a cold cannot be cured by alcohol, moderate alcohol consumption can increase one's resistance to the cold. One study has shown that drinking 8 to 14 glasses of red wine a week has reduced the chances of getting a cold by 60 percent.[4]

Method 2
Mixing Drinks for Colds

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    Get cozy with a Hot Toddy. Pour 1 ounce (30 milliliters) of whiskey and 1 to 2 tablespoons of honey into a mug, then squeeze in the juice from 3 lemon wedges. Add 8 ounces (240 milliliters) boiling water and stir to mix. Poke 8 to 10 cloves into a lemon wedge and plop it into the mug.[5]
    • Hot Toddies are great at putting you to sleep. They can help with congestion by dilating the blood vessels. Don't drink too many, or you will get dehydrated, which will worsen your cold.[6]
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    Brew some Hot Toddy tea. Boil 8 ounces (240 milliliters) of water and add in ¼ teaspoon of ground ginger, 3 whole cloves, 1 cinnamon stick, and 2 bags of green or orange tea. Let it brew for 5 minutes, then take out the tea bags. Re-heat the tea in the microwave for 1 minute, then add in 2 tablespoons of honey and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Lastly, pour in 1 – 2 ounces (30 – 60 milliliters) of whiskey. Stir everything with a spoon and drink while it is still hot.[7]
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    Brew some berry-Rum tea. Brew some berry herbal tea in 6 ounces (180 milliliters) of boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes. Discard the tea bag, then add 1 ½ ounces (45 milliliters) of white rum, ½ tablespoon of lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon of honey. Stir everything together, then garnish with a lemon twist (or some lemon peel).[8]
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    Mix a honey-ginger-lemon tonic and add some whiskey. Peel a 1 inch (2.54 centimeter) piece of ginger root and chop it into small pieces. Add it to 8 ounces (240 milliliters) of water, along with the juice of half a lemon and 1 teaspoon of honey. Bring everything to a boil in a small saucepan, then pour the mixture through a strainer into a mug. Add 1 ounce (30 milliliters) of whiskey and stir. Drink the tonic while it is still hot.[9]
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    Make a cough syrup out of bourbon. Pour 2 ounces (60 milliliters) of bourbon, and the juice of half a lemon (about 2 ounces/60 milliliters) into a mug. If you want something less-strong, add 2 to 4 ounces (60 to 120 milliliters) of water. Put the mug into the microwave and heat for 45 seconds. Add 1 tablespoon of honey, stir, and heat for another 45 seconds. Drink your cough syrup while it is still hot.[10]
    • Do not drink more than one serving of this, or you will agitate your throat and nose, making things like congestion worse.[11]

Method 3
Knowing the Risks

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    Drink with moderation. None of these remedies are meant to replace actual medicine or rest. Drinking too much alcohol can not only result in liver damage, but it can also make cold symptoms, such as congestion, sore throats, and coughing, much worse. These remedies are best used occasionally.
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    Be aware that alcohol can weaken the immune system.[12] Studies have shown that drinking too much alcohol can weaken your immune system, making it easier for you to get sick. When you are already sick, your immune system is weaker than normal; this means that drinking alcohol while sick may make it even more difficult for you to recover.
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    Know that alcohol can dehydrate you. When you are sick, you need to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids; this helps improve sore throats and congestion. Certain fluids, such as alcohol and caffeine, can dehydrate you instead, making things like congestion, sore throats, and coughing worse.[13]
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    Know the risks of drinking alcohol while taking cold medications. Certain medications contain ingredients that react strongly and negatively when mixed with alcohol. If you are currently taking any medications (including prescription and non-cold-related medications), be sure to read the warning label. Most medications cannot be mixed with alcohol. Doing so may result in the following reactions and problems:[14]
    • Immediate reactions such as: dizziness, drowsiness, fainting, headaches, nausea, and vomiting.
    • Long term problems such as: heart problems, internal bleeding, liver damage, and troubles breathing.
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    Know what medications can cause negative reactions when mixed with alcohol. Most cold medications contain ingredients that should not be mixed with alcohol. Here is a list of cold-related medications that should not be taken while you are drinking: [15]
    • Medications for allergies, colds, and flu
    • Cough medications
    • Medications that ease muscle pain and fevers
    • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
    • Aspirin[16]
    • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB)[17]
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    Be aware of allergic reactions to alcohol. Sometimes, allergies to alcohol can worsen cold symptoms. Common allergic reactions include swelling in the nose and increased congestion. Certain alcoholic beverages, such as red wine, contain high amounts of histamine, which also increases mucus production; this would make a runny nose feel much worse.[18]
    • If you are allergic to wheat, rye, and barley, you may want to stay away from drinks made from these, including beer, bourbon, gin, whiskey, and vodka.

Method 4
Taking Care of Your Cold

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    Try to get plenty of rest. Your body is working hard to combat the virus and recover, so exercising will take away what little strength your body has left; it will make your cold last all the longer. Instead, try to get between 8 to 10 hours of sleep.
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    Let the sunshine and fresh air in.[19] Open the window a crack and pull apart the curtains or blinds. The sunlight will kill any bacteria, and the fresh air will filter out the stale, bacteria-laden air.
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    Drink plenty of fluids but hold off on the caffeine and alcohol. While some hot alcohol may help alleviate some of the symptoms of a cold, too much of it can actually make things worse for you. Coffee, black teas, and alcohols are dehydrating and will make your throat feel all the more dry. Instead, opt for any of these liquids:
    • Water
    • Caffeine-free teas, such as herbal and berry teas
    • Fruit juice
    • Chicken soup
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    Take some over the counter medication. Be sure that you do not take it with alcohol. Medications such as cough syrups, pain killers, and nasal decongestants can help relieve some of the more bothersome symptoms of the cold.[20]
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    Use alcohol to sanitize and disinfect anything you touch. At the end of the day, spray down anything you touched often, such as doorknobs, light switches, computers, and phones, and wipe it clean with a paper towel. You can use rubbing alcohol[21] or vodka.[22]


  • Drink plenty of water. This will keep you hydrated and lower the risk of a hangover.
  • Consider other home remedies as well, such as getting plenty of rest and drinking chicken soup.


  • Alcohol can dehydrate you, which can make symptoms, such as congestion and sore throats, worse. Be sure to drink plenty of water to prevent this from happening.
  • Do not use alcohol to treat children, immuno-suppressed people or those who do not wish to drink.
  • Be sure to read all warning labels on any medications you are taking before drinking any alcohol. Mixing medications and alcohol can have serious consequences.
  • While alcohol can help relieve certain symptoms, drinking too much can worsen them.
  • Drink in moderation. This is not a substitute for proper medical care or for appropriate drug treatment.

Article Info

Categories: Colds and Viruses | Home Remedies