Wondering about the best thing to drink when sick? Drink these comforting, healing beverages when you’re sick to boost your immune system and get well again quickly.
The weather may be dreary, but you’re feeling cheery… until, suddenly, sickness strikes. The soreness in your throat. The achy feeling in your body. The extreme lack of energy. Even your mood turns sour.
As the signs of sickness set it, you may be tempted to lay on the couch and feel bad for yourself. And yes, you do need rest (and a good dose of zzzzzzs). But why not use this as an opportunity to take care of your health?
Choosing healthy, fresh, whole plant foods may be the best way to care for your body in its time of need. And doing your best to prevent illness before symptoms hit is always a good idea.
But when you’re unwell,the right healing beverages may help ease your woes and even end your illness. (Even if you don’t feel like drinking them.)
What Should You Be Drinking When You’re Sick?
You’ve probably heard it before. When you’re sick, you need to drink plenty of fluids.
It’s true. You want your body to be well-hydrated so it can fight off germs.
But it is possible, though not very likely, to drink too much water or other liquids. So you shouldn’t be downing buckets of water — or even guzzling gallons of green tea. (Flooding your body with fluid won’t actually flush out the bugs.)
It’s true that most people don’t drink enough water. But as in so many things, the answer is balance. Even when you’re well, drinking too many fluids can overwhelm your kidneys and liver, making it harder for them to get rid of toxins.
Instead, you may want to drink a little more than the often recommended eight glasses of fluid throughout the day (and pay attention to your body). Doing this should help you get what you need without going overboard.
You may not feel like drinking anything. (If so, I get it. In college, I ended up in the ER from dehydration when I got the flu.) But you really do need to drink a good amount of fluids when you’re sick.
Do Hot Liquids Ease Cold and Flu Symptoms?
Hot liquids, like a warm cup of tea, are said to clear up congestion — but is this true?
The answer is yes. Researchers at the Common Cold Center at Cardiff University in Britain investigated this claim. Their results supported the belief that hot drinks can provide helpful relief for most cold and flu symptoms.
The hot drinks provided immediate and sustained relief from a runny nose, coughing, sneezing, a sore throat, chilliness, and tiredness. On the other hand, the same drink at room temperature only provided relief from a runny nose, coughing, and sneezing.
Best Thing to Drink When Sick? 13 Easy Healing Beverage Ideas
No liquid will magically make your symptoms disappear in a snap. But these libations are good for your body and won’t cause nasty side effects (like you need that). And they can help revive your spirits, too.
When I’m feeling under the weather, I typically don’t want to make complicated foods and drinks. So these suggestions are not only healthy and comforting but also quick and easy, too. Try these home remedies for cold and flu and see if they help you.
Water — Critical for Every Function in Your Body
Water helps clear your body of toxins. Drinking water can also help clear away some types of illnesses by lessening congestion in your body.
Additionally, water helps your mucous membranes work, so they can trap things like dust and bacteria and prevent them from getting into your lungs.
Drinking enough water will help your body cleanse properly, allowing it to heal and get you back to feeling good again.
Especially when you’re sick, drinking clean, filtered water is best. (Unfortunately, much of our water is polluted. You can find out more about water pollution and water filtration options here.)
Lemon Water — Give Your Immune System A Boost
If you like flavor — and want to give your immune system a vitamin-C boost — squeeze fresh lemon in hot or warm water to help your body stay hydrated.
Lemons are high in a fiber called pectin — a prebiotic that assists good gut health by feeding healthy gut bacteria.
Lemons also contain large amounts of citric acid (hence their sour taste and lip-puckering qualities), which can increase urine output and decrease kidney stones, as well as aid in digestion.
All of which is good for your immune system and your overall health.
A daily glass of lemon water, perhaps first thing in the morning, may be just what the (good) doctor ordered.
Ginger Tea — A Soothing Beverage to Warm You Up
A mug of warm tea can be comforting, like a blanket for your insides.
My favorite tea when sick is ginger tea because it’s super easy to make, lightly spicy, and warms me up quickly. (I also enjoy it as a wellness tonic throughout the winter.)
Ginger has vitamins and minerals, including chromium which can help prevent chills and fevers. This plant can also be useful for a bad cough or a sore throat. Overall, ginger can help break down toxins and cleanse the body.
Ginger also helps to fight the headaches that so often accompany illness.
But don’t think sipping on ginger ale will do the trick to get you well. Ginger ale actually doesn’t have much (if any!) ginger. And it has sugar, which can deplete your immune system.
To make ginger tea, cut up raw ginger root, put it in a pot of water, bring it to a boil, and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. (You can also use ginger powder.)
Green Tea — A Popular Healing Beverage for Good Reason
Easy to find and affordable, tea, specifically green tea, may be one of the healthiest beverages on the planet.
Green tea contains a powerful antioxidant known as EGCG, which helps stop free radicals from damaging your healthy cells.
Studies have also proven green tea to be antiviral, helping to fight the flu and other viruses. Like antiviral drugs, green tea appears to help enhance the rapid growth and activity of immune cells that are considered a first-line defense against infection.
You can sip green tea and even gargle with it to knock out germs and reduce your symptoms. In a 2016 study in BMC Public Health, gargling with tea was found to be potentially effective for preventing the flu.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that green tea is so health-promoting. As Michael Greger, MD, says, “You’re basically drinking a hot water extraction of a dark green leafy vegetable.”
Hibiscus and Rose Hip — Two Teas Packed with Vitamin C
When researchers studied the antioxidant levels of more than 3,000 foods and beverages, what do you think had the most antioxidants of any food on the planet?
Hibiscus. It even beat green tea!
This ruby red herb is rich in vitamin C. And people use it around the world as a medicinal beverage.
Sometimes known as sour tea — it tastes a bit like a less bitter version of cranberry — hibiscus can be enjoyed both hot and cold.
You can find it in tea bags or make tea with dried hibiscus petals. (To do so, pour boiling water over the dried flowers and let steep for at least five minutes.)
Rose hip tea can also help your body fight infection. Rose hips, the fruit of a rose, have a higher percentage of antioxidants, particularly vitamins A and C, than many healing foods.
Echinacea Tea — Powerful and Proven to Shorten the Cold and Flu
Want to shorten the length of your cold or flu and reduce your sore throat, cough and fever? Of course you do.
And echinacea is backed by science to do all those things. In fact, echinacea may be more powerful than commonly prescribed flu medications.
When should you sip this powerful flower? Studies have shown that drinking echinacea tea at the first signs of the cold or flu can reduce the severity and duration of your sickness.
And then, you probably want to keep drinking echinacea. Studies have proven it to increase immune activity and to keep a cold from returning.
You can find echinacea tea bags or simmer the root for at least 10 minutes.
Some herbalists and researchers recommend not taking echinacea for longer than two to eight weeks consecutively. They believe that if you take echinacea for a long period, it could actually be harmful to your immune system.
Astragalus Tea — A Home Remedy for Preventing Colds and Flu
If you frequently get colds and the flu, this earthy herb can help you strengthen your immune system. In fact, Chinese doctors have prescribed it for this purpose (among other things) for thousands of years.
I make astragalus tea throughout the winter (I often add astragalus root to chai recipes) and sip it often.
The main reason to use astragalus is for prevention, but it may also give you an immune boost when you’re sick.
Thyme Tea — Clear Up Your Congestion and Brighten Your Mood
Thyme is something you might already have in your kitchen. But if you haven’t tried thyme tea when you’re sick, it just might be thyme to start.
This herb is packed with disease-fighting antioxidants. It’s particularly useful for colds and flu and easing coughs and sore throats.
Thyme also has mood-boosting effects, so it may be able to help pull you out of the sickness blues.
To make thyme tea, all you need to do is combine about 1 tablespoon of the dried herb with hot water, let it steep for 10 minutes, and then strain. You can drink frequently throughout the day.
Adding some peppermint or spearmint is delicious and provides even more of a healing boost. You can also make a thyme cough syrup.