I don’t think I’ve ever had a common cold for longer than a week — until recently. I picked up a bug while traveling, and it. has. been. ugly.
Every day has been a new symptom, and like most people who worry they will never be able to properly breathe through their nose again, I have been consuming hot tea and soup like a maniac, hoping it will help with congestion and mend my throat that is making it sound like I smoke a pack a day and also might be a man.
As any doctor that you visit will tell you when you’re sick: hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. And if you’re on the sugar-laden Gatorade train (srsly it’s more than the stick of cotton candy your mom instantly regretted buying you at the carnival), step away and aspire to the higher adult-version of yourself and start drinking tea. Obviously, being that it is water, tea helps with hydration. 😑 But a few things we miss in our standard American diet are herbs and spices. And if you’re thinking about the Spice Girls and how involved they were in your life like I am rn, remember they were British.
One of the things I learned from meeting Dr. Axe a few months ago following a presentation he gave is that a cold is actually termed a “cold” because of its probability of occurring in the colder months, when your body is physically cold internally as well. Hence why we are naturally drawn to warm comfort foods in the winter months and aren’t craving salads in January (granted I pretty much never crave a salad, so there’s that.)
And to really maximize the impact of slurping hot soup and drinking/spilling tea (I mean who doesn’t love half-baked office gossip amirite?), there are also a ton of warming spices that can help preserve heat in our bodies. And while some of y’all might be on board and already thinking that Sriracha would make a great tea, just chill for a sec (lol *chill*); there are some better options, I swear.
Now, let me skip on back to me being sick and having a serious case of RBF as I strolled through the grocery store looking like death. I was on a mission to get in and get out of that store as fast as possible, and I am navigating through the store like MarioKart on Rainbow Road — until I get to the tea aisle.
Alright, let’s just pause to reflect on why there is so much tea on the tea aisle.
So. Much. Tea.
My brain can only process a very finite amount of information when I feel like hell, and I’m not even off to a good start since I don’t even technically know what Earl Grey is when I’m healthy. Is Earl Grey a band? A flower? An herb? A blend? Will he/they/it make me feel better?
Too many colors, boxes, brands, labels. I go to the bulk section of my grocery store, which is a more simplified section of the pre-packed tea, lined only with bins of tea leaves and their ingredients. I decide I can hang with this. With a nose that can’t decide whether to drip uncontrollably or to completely plug up, I looked for teas with spices and other herbs, and based on my large intake of tea over the last 7 days, I’ve compiled the best teas to drink when you’re sick.
Herbal, Rooibos or Green Teas
Because caffeine can dehydrate you, I avoided black teas or teas with a high level of caffeine. I opted for caffeine-free herbal & Rooibos teas and lower-caffeine green teas if they had an ingredient I thought would be helpful.
If you’re new to trying to eat better (good on you!) or not a big fan of Indian food, you might not have heard of turmeric, but it has been in the spotlight for the last few years because of its superfood qualities. Almost all sickness starts from inflammation, and turmeric is packed with both antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, so it’s a good idea to have it as much as possible basically year-round, but especially when I’m feeling sick.
Ginger is spicccyyyy (just like me, heeyyy) and will def warm you up. It is also an anti-inflammatory, but it will seriously help you in the middle of a coughing attack and help with congestion.
Warming Spices (cinnamon, cardamom, clove, nutmeg, pepper)
If you’re suffering from chills, reach for a tea with one of these as the headliner. While the tea will make you warm, these spices will keep you warm. Also they’re just really good and there’s so many herbal teas that make them dessert-y tasting and I am always down for that.
Okay, so peppermint can be cooling, BUT peppermint is a natural decongestant. I didn’t even know that until recently, but that makes total sense because duh: Vick’s Vapo Rub and menthol.
Citrus or Berry teas
Cuz Vitamin C duh.
Honestly, I didn’t know about this until a few months ago when found out that licorice is pretty much used globally to treat coughs and colds. So I bought it separate and add it to whatever blend I’m making. And it is a gamechanger. I woke up in a fit of coughing again last night, so I wandered into the kitchen to boil water and sleepily threw in the licorice root shavings I bought before stirring in some honey. I chugged it down (not the root shavings, y’all don’t worry) and went right to sleep. I’ve noticed this helps a lot with my cough more than congestion.
Okay, so if you’re on board with this but new to loose-leaf teas, great — go buy this. You’ll spoon the tea in there, pour water over it and call it good.
Oh, honey honey.
So one other thing. Honey or no honey? If you have a cough or sore throat, then absolutely yes.
I would wake up in the middle of the night coughing hysterically. I would saunter into the kitchen, throw a glass of water in the microwave for a minute, and stir in two solid squeezes of honey. When I did that, I could sleep through the night. This study conducted with 270 kids also confirms its effectiveness for gnarly coughs. Count me kid #271.
If you don’t believe me, go ask Grandpa Fred if he thinks a Hot Toddy or whiskey shot can help heal a cold. If he says yes, that’s because whiskey is the warmest liquor there is, so just like these teas, it can help you feel better more quickly.
And if he says no, he’s a wise man and you def shouldn’t be throwing back whiskey shots when you’re sick.
All the best,