Tea in the face of the common cold

Phase One:  I cannot get a cold 

I make a lot of bargains with the universe.

You know, the kind that goes I can’t get sick now because my absolutely must-do list is about a mile long but next month is looking good—until of course next month rolls around and the absolutely must-do list has not diminished.

This haggling with the unknown actually bought me a couple of virus-free years. My entire family and all my colleagues could be dropping around me but I kept at my list undeterred.

Til my luck ran out, of course.

Phase Two: I have a cold

Now I know people who gamely soldier on while sick—working and driving and making important decisions. And I know people who can use a nasty virus to good advantage—binge watching, reading, cruising the internet.

I am not one of those people. Nope.

But I CAN drink tea!

Phase Three: Hmmm, which tea?

Although scientists discuss and debate whether black or oolong or green or white tea has the most health benefits, all can agree that tea is good for us. Interestingly, my mother-in-law dislikes tea—because she associates it with being sick, which was the only time that she drank it when she was young.

But based on current research, tea IS a good choice to combat the symptoms of the common cold.

Tea won’t cure a virus, although one preliminary study suggested that the catechins of green tea may have an effect in preventing flu (1). However, a follow-up experiment showed inconclusive results (2), and studies are ongoing. But even if it won’t prevent or cure a virus, tea has plenty of flavonoids (plant metabolites), which have anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties. Logically, then, it would seem that such properties would at least mitigate the effects of a cold.

In a review of tea’s anti-infectious activity, researchers state that “the broad-spectrum activity associated with tea polyphenols should be given proper attention as an alternative to pre-existing prophylactic and therapeutic measures” (3).

More broadly, hot beverages alone relieve some cold symptoms (4).

My Pick Today

Since it seems that any tea will have its benefits, I simply choose what appeals to me. And this time around, it turned out that I just wanted a strong black tea that had a bold and clean taste—no subtle nuances sought, just something strong that I could taste through congestion engl westand fogginess.

So it was English Westminster, one of my very first favorites that I discovered at TeaHaus. A simple and straightforward tea. While this tea holds up well to additions—and I have been known to lace it with raw honey from our beehives (and honey definitely has its own health benefits!)—I enjoyed it black this time around.

And gave up all thoughts of my absolutely must-do list. . . .

So what tea do you reach for when the common cold hits??


1. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 11(2011):15  
2. PLoS ONE 9.5 (2014)
3. Expert Review of Anti-infective Therapy 5.3(2007):497ff.
4. Rhinology 46(2008):271ff.

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