Can Alcohol Cure Your Winter Woes?

There are a lot of home remedies, and myths that claim alcohol can cure your winter woes. But where do these come from, and where is the truth in these claims?  Let’s take a look:

1.     Hot Toddies: The ingredients in a hot toddy typically include: whisky, hot water or warm milk, sugar or honey and lemon.  Depending on who makes it, the alcohol can be brandy or bourbon and other spices can be added like cloves or cinnamon.

The alcoholic beverage is touted to soothe sore throats, quiet coughs, clear stuffy noses and encourage sleep.  Researchers say that the alcohol dilates blood vessels a little bit, making it easier for your mucus membranes to deal with the infection

TRUTH:  Alcohol, coffee and tea are diuretics, meaning they cause kidneys to get rid of fluid faster than they usually do, so dehydration can be an issue.  It would not have an effect on the virus itself, but may give you some modest symptom relief.  It’s more likely that the steam from the warm drink relieves congestion, while swallowing the fluid soothes the throat and keeps you hydrated.  Your better bet is to drink black or green tea because they’re loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants, which may fight colds and other illnesses

2.     Beer: Researchers at Sapporo Medical University found that humulone, a chemical compound in hops, was effective against the respiratory syncytial (RS) virus.  Humulone was also found to have an anti-inflammatory effect.  The RS virus can cause serious pneumonia and breathing difficulties for infants and toddlers, but no vaccination is available at the moment to contain it. The RS virus, which is particularly prevalent in the winter months, can also cause symptoms similar to that of the common cold in adults.  Sapporo Breweries hoped to create humulone-containing food and (non-alcoholic) beverages that both adults and children can consume.

TRUTH:  Only small quantities of humulone can be found in beer, so a person would have to drink about 30, 12 oz. cans of beer to benefit from the anti-virus effect

3.     Red Wine:  British researchers from the University of Leicester have found that resveratrol, a chemical found in wine, could reduce the risk of cancer.  Scientists suggest that a daily dose of resveratrol, equivalent to 2 glasses of red wine, can decrease the risk of bowel cancer by 50%.  Research has also investigated resveratrol’s impact on: battling cancer, heart disease, diabetes, neuroprotective effects in animal brains, and anti-inflammatory, antiviral and testosterone-boosting effects.

TRUTH: It has been shown that high doses of resveratrol may potentially interfere with other medication.  Resveratrol supplementation has not been proven effective by robust clinical trials

Regardless of their purported health benefits, it is important to consume all alcoholic beverages in MODERATION.  Avoid treating illnesses like a cold or flu solely with alcoholic beverages as they can cause dehydration.  Too much alcohol can also disrupt your much needed sleep thus interfering with recovery.  Overconsumption of beer or other alcoholic beverages can also result in heartburn, weight gain, dehydration and numerous other physical and social hazards that can be caused by drinking too much.  These recommendations are clearly not for children or teens.