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Hot Toddy Remedy for Head Colds

This recipe is based on a long-established folk remedy, but I've added some extra ingredients to make it even more effective.

What Is a Head Cold?

A 'head cold' is a colloquial term used to describe a cold or flu-like illness in which the primary symptoms are focused around the head and face area of the body. These include:

  • Blocked nose
  • Runny nose
  • Blocked / painful sinuses
  • Headache
  • 'Brain fog'

They may also include other common cold or flu symptoms such as:

  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Nausea
  • Aches and pains
  • Lethargy
  • Raised temperature

About This Recipe

The recipe I'm sharing here is for a natural, herbal, home remedy that can be used for any type of cold, but which has a special emphasis on combating the symptoms usually associated with a head cold. It is based on the famous 'hot toddy,' which is really just hot brandy or whisky, but which is often served with lemon and honey. Hot lemon, honey, and brandy is a long-established folk remedy, but in this version, I've added some extra ingredients to make it even more effective. This will knock out that virus and return you to your normal self in no time.

Although the primary purpose of this drink is to help you heal, I've also paid a lot of attention to making sure that it tastes great, as well.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

6 min

4 min

10 min

1 Mug

Hot toddy ingredients

Hot toddy ingredients

Gather the ingredients

  • 1/2 Juiced Lemon, or Lime
  • 1-2 teaspoons Honey, Manuka honey has the best effect, but can be very expensive
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Fresh Ginger, Finely chopped
  • 1/2 Fresh Chili, Medium strength, include seeds but not too many
  • 1 level teaspoon Ground Tumeric
  • 1 generous teaspoon Dried Licorice Root
  • 1 generous teaspoon Ground Fennel Seeds
  • 1-2 teaspoons English Mustard, American mustard is weaker and may already include tumeric.
  • 1 shot Brandy, or Whisky (add alcohol for the grown-ups only, please!)
  • 1 small knob Butter, Note: Do not under any circumstances use margarine! Real, unsalted butter or nothing at all, please.

Put It in a Mug

  1. Add everything except the brandy to a mug
  2. Three quarter fill the mug with boiling water
  3. Stir well until the honey and butter are thoroughly melted into the liquid
  4. Leave to brew for 4 minutes
  5. Optional: Strain to remove the bits. Personally I like to leave the bits in to chew on towards the end, but most people will probably enjoy this drink more if it has been strained
  6. Add the brandy and stir again
  7. Drink!

Why It Works

  • Honey is one of nature's best anti-septic and antibiotic ingredients and may even have anti-viral properties. It also sticks to the throat and soothes irritation.
  • Chili may be a surprise inclusion for some people, but it is probably the most important for a head cold. Studies have shown that it effectively reduces symptoms of sinusitis including nasal congestion, rhinorrhea, sneezing, coughing, and mucous production. Other studies have shown that it reduces the pain of headaches. In fresh form (rather than powder) it is also a great source of Vitamin A, which can help heal damaged mucous membranes in the lungs and throat.
  • Licorice Root helps to soothe mucous membranes and reduces any potential irritation to sore throats from the chili and ginger. It is also a great natural expectorant, meaning it can combat chesty coughs
  • Mustard is a 'nasal spice', meaning that the effect is felt more in the nose rather than the mouth and throat. This effect can be great for clearing blocked noses. It is also a good anti-inflammatory, which reduces headaches which are often caused by inflamed sinuses, and has anti-microbial properties.
  • Alcohol dilutes blood vessels making it easier for your body to fight the infection through the mucous membranes. In small quantities, it can also help you to relax and even to get to sleep - which is just what you need to fight off a cold.
  • Ginger is a potent anti-inflammatory to reduce swelling in the face and ease headaches. It may also act as a natural painkiller and is packed with nutrients.
  • Fennel is another expectorant that helps clear lodged phlegm from your body. Great for coughs and blocked noses.
  • Tumeric has anti-viral and anti-bacterial qualities, may help to reduce inflammation, and is great for giving your immune system a boost.
  • Butter mellows the heat sensation from the chili and ginger, provides fat as a carrier to increase the bio-availability of the Tumeric, and is a great source of Vitamin A and Vitamin D3 which have been shown in some studies to reduce the length of colds by an average of 1 day.
  • Lemon is used in most folk cures for the common cold, although its efficacy is arguable. It is a very good source of Vitamin C which boosts the immune system, but some studies have shown that once you start feeling the effects of a cold it's already too late for Vitamin C to have an effect. It's included here mostly for taste and tradition.


Some of the active ingredients in this drink are well below the effective level in a single drink. For the best effect consume 3-4 hot toddy drinks per day and get plenty of rest.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Anjal on July 24, 2018:

Can we give this to 7 month baby

Cheri on November 12, 2016:

Vitamin C is a powerful antihistamine do including a gram of it will reduce symptoms. Nice recipe.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on September 26, 2016:

Very useful information to cure head cold!

I am aware about the usefulness of ginger, honey, black pepper and turmeric to cure sore throat or that irritating cold. But your other ingredients also sound effective.

Thanks for sharing the details!