Can Whisky Help Cure a Sore Throat?

Updated on May 19, 2018
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I'm an avid outdoorsman who loves hiking, biking, snowboarding, and amateur science.

My Experience with Sore Throats

There are few people who go through life without catching the common cold or worse, the flu. One of the many symptoms associated with these illnesses is, of course, a sore throat. Like most people, I've had my fair share of coughs and colds over the years, and I've also had a sore throat plenty of times. However, in my early twenties, I started having problems with tonsillitis. This caused me some severe pain and discomfort and a few times caused me to be seriously ill. Over the course of about eight years, I had tonsillitis five times.

If I'd had this problem ten years earlier, chances are the doctors would simply have removed my tonsils. Nowadays, however, they are very reluctant to do that. So unless a patient is having frequent cases of the illness, they prescribe antibiotics to simply clear the issue.

After having had a very sore throat on numerous occasions, I accidentally stumbled across a solution. In my twenties, I also discovered quite a liking for single malt whisky. I've had a few friends who enjoy whisky, and over the years, I've become something of a connoisseur. I now enjoy a glass of whisky on occasion and have a nice little collection of whiskies in my kitchen. So, how does this tie in with my problems with a sore throat?

The Humble Whisky Glass—a Cure?

How Whisky Helped My Throat

I first came across the use of whisky on a cold and sore throat on a group holiday in Ireland. I was staying in a house with a big group of friends that included an older couple. After a few days, some of us came down with a very heavy cold. So, off I went to the local supermarket. I purchased some cold medicine and throat sweets. As I was at the checkout, the older man I was staying with appeared behind me in the queue and all he had in the basket was a bottle of whisky. He looked at my medicine and told me all I needed was a few glasses of his drink. I simply laughed at him.

The following day, I didn't feel much better. However, my older friend seemed a lot more spritely. I also noticed a fair amount of his whisky had disappeared from the bottle. Again, he told me that he always has a large glass of Scotch when he feels like he's coming down with something and it always does the trick.

So, the next time I started with a cold and sore throat, I decided to give it a try. I poured myself a decent measure of whisky and sipped it for an hour before bed. To my surprise, my sore throat had vanished in the morning. I still had a cold, but my throat was fine.

Over the years, I've always gone back to this remedy. Whenever I feel my throat getting sore, I get myself a nice big glass of single malt whisky and sip it for an hour or so before bed. I find the alcohol helps me sleep and get a good night's rest and more often than not, my throat is fine in the morning.

On occasion, I've still woken up with a little bit of a sore throat. So, I simply have another whisky that evening. Since starting my whisky drinking method, I've never once had a sore throat last more than a day or so. More importantly, in the past seven years, I have not once had tonsillitis again.

Now, I'm not one for miracle cures or home remedies. However, there must be something medical behind this. It's surely no coincidence that whisky has helped me over and over again. So let's have a look at the science behind it all—can whisky really cure a sore throat?

Better Than Pills?

The Science Of It All

It turns out that after doing some research, there is genuine scientific evidence that whisky can indeed help cure a sore throat. Alcohol is well known for its antibacterial properties. Hand washes and many soaps contain a high level of alcohol which is proven to kill off germs and bacteria. A hand wash will usually contain an alcohol level of around 60-80% as shown here in this article. Now obviously you can't rub hand wash on your tonsils, so can drinking alcohol help?

A study back in 1998 by Sissons CH' which can be found in the Archieves Of Oral Biology has shown that drinking strong alcohol does actually kill bacteria. Tests were done with wine and other lower strength alcoholic beverages, and these had little or no effect on bacteria in the throat. However, stronger drinks such as whisky did have an effect. It was found that when the alcohol level reached around 40%, it did start to have a significant effect on the bacteria found in the mouth and throat.

Another factor is time. If you down a large shot of whisky, this will only coat the throat for a short time, thus not killing many germs. However, if sipped slowly over a longer period, this kills far more bacteria and will have a much greater effect. Even gargling with a strong spirit will help if you'd rather not swallow the alcohol.

Single malt whisky is generally at least 40% proof. There are many whiskies that are stronger though. I have a few that are almost 60% proof. Tests have shown the stronger the alcohol level, the more bacteria is killed, so this again backs up my own personal experience.

So, it seems there is a scientific basis for my theory on how I've cure my sore throat and tonsillitis. There is a dangerous side to whisky, however.

The Dangers Of Using Alcohol

While I can honestly say I have benefited from drinking strong alcohol to help with my throat problems, there are some dangers. Whisky is a very strong substance, and too much of it can lead to other problems. I enjoy a nice drink, but I don't have too much. With alcohol of 40% and above, too much can damage the stomach lining and lead to other problems.

It's all very well having a nice healthy throat, but if you're causing yourself other problems, then it really is pointless. So obviously, moderation is the key here. Having a large glass every night will not benefit your body. I only have a glass once a week or so. When I start feeling ill, I pour myself a large double, but I drink it slowly. Getting drunk when having a cold is certainly not sensible.

Also, if you're on medication for an illness, then you have to be very careful with alcohol, especially strong alcohol. If you have tonsillitis and have been given antibiotics, then drinking whisky is not a good idea. If unsure, you should always consult a medical professional. Never take risks with any kind of alcohol.

Overal,l it's really interesting to see that whisky can help with throat problems. It's something I have used many times over the years and will no doubt continue to use. I'm very happy not to have to worry about tonsillitis anymore and also glad that I don't have to endure days on end of not being able to swallow.

Have Your Say On The Matter

Have You Used Whisky To Help With A Sore Throat?

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      • Pamela99 profile image

        Pamela Oglesby 

        2 months ago

        This is very interesting remedy, and it sounds helpful if you don't overdo it too often. The science sounds sound, and I think it probably beats gargling with salt water. That's what I was taught as a child. Very good article!

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