The best teas to drink for a cold
Having a cold is no fun. A runny nose, sore throat, coughing, sneezing and general malaise leaves you feeling down in the dumps. The common cold also has no cure, and symptoms usually last for around a week or two. Luckily, there are a number of foods and beverages you can have that will help to relieve some of these symptoms and assist with the healing process. One of these beverages are certain types of tea, which we discuss below.
1. Ginger tea
Ginger has been used for thousands of years to treat various ailments, thanks to the substances it contains that give it powerful medicinal properties. One of these substances is gingerol, which can prevent the growth of many types of bacteria and viruses, such as those that lead to oral and respiratory infections. Ginger is also very effective at treating nausea.
Preparing ginger tea is straightforward and takes only a couple of minutes. All you need for one serving is a small piece of ginger root (about half the size of your thumb) and some lime (optional).
To prepare, cut the ginger root into small discs and add to a saucepan, followed by two cups of water. Bring the water to a boil and then allow to simmer for a few minutes. Finally, strain the mixture into a cup through a sieve and squeeze in some lime juice.
2. Echinacea tea
Echinacea is a flower with bright pinkish-purple petals. If you live in North America, its likely that echinacea grows somewhere near you. The flowers, leaves and roots of the plant are used to make various types of medicines, which can be purchased at pharmacies and health food shops.
Echinacea is thought to be highly effective at lowering the chances of catching a cold (by more than 50%), as well as reducing the duration that a cold lasts. It stimulates the immune system and relieves symptoms associated with the common cold, such as upper respiratory issues. This study found that having echinacea tea at the beginning stages of a cold was effective at relieving symptoms.
3. Hibiscus tea
Hibiscus is another type of flower that has large petals that are white, yellow, peach or red in colour. The red variety (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is the most popular type and is used to prepare tea. This tea is often known as sour tea because of its tart taste.
Like ginger and echinacea, hibiscus has potent medicinal properties. For example, this study found that the hibiscus plant had prominent antiviral effects against highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses.
If you have access to fresh hibiscus flowers, use them. Separate the petals from one flower, rinse them under a running sink and then add them to a pot of water that has been boiled. Alternatively, you can use two teaspoons of dried hibiscus petals. Cover the pot with a tight lid and allow the leaves to steep for 15 to 20 minutes, then strain the tea through a sieve.
4. Eucalyptus and peppermint tea
The eucalyptus tree is native to Australia and has long been used for its medicinal properties by the Aborigines. The leaves of this tree are a source of essential oils that act as an expectorant whilst also ridding the body of harmful microorganisms. Eucalyptus tea is readily available both in loose leaf and tea bag form, online, at supermarkets and at health food shops.
Peppermint is a source of menthol, an ingredient that helps to relieve congestion. Peppermint is also believed to have antiviral properties. If you grow peppermint at home, simply add some fresh leaves to boiling water and allow to steep for a few minutes. Alternatively, you can make yourself a cup of store bought peppermint tea as well.
5. Regular tea
When we say regular tea, we mean the kind of tea that is made from the Camellia sinensis plant. This includes green, oolong, black and white tea. Even though these teas do have caffeine, the amount is very small, so sipping on them throughout the day will still keep you hydrated.
Hot tea is a great decongestant, helping to clear mucus and the sinuses. That said, make sure you avoid drinking tea that is too hot, as this may irritate an already sensitive throat further.
Regular tea is an excellent source of antioxidants, some of which have antiviral and antibacterial properties. For example, this study found that tannic acid (a type of antioxidant found in tea) could reduce the levels of a common kind of bacteria found in the throat.
6. Honey and lemon tea
Warm beverages made using honey and lemon have been used for a long time to treat colds, and for good reason. Not only does honey taste great, it has strong antibacterial effects and also stimulates the immune system. Honey can be especially effective at soothing a sore throat and may also suppress coughing.
If you combine hot water, honey and lemon with a shot of alcohol (such as whiskey or brandy) and a little bit of cinnamon, you get a hot toddy, a beverage that is commonly recommended to those suffering from a cold.
The intake of small amounts of alcohol may relieve certain cold symptoms and allow you to get restful sleep. Keep in mind however that when we say small, we do mean it. Drinking too much alcohol will dehydrate you and leave you feeling much worse than before.
7. Marshmallow root and licorice root tea
When we say marshmallow root, we’re not talking about the stuff you roast over campfires, we’re talking about the herb. Marshmallow root contains a substance called mucilage which forms a gel when combined with water; this coats your throat and could reduce irritation.
Licorice root tea is also great. This study found that licorice is effective at reducing the severity of a sore throat.