[FACT OR FAKE #93] I Have A Cold. Can Herbal Tea Help Me Get Rid Of It?

Tea can be warming, invigorating, soothing, and most importantly, health promoting. But can it really cure common cold? SAYS' FACT OR FAKE columnist Sadho Ram explores the topic.

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For thousands of years in the East (and now West), Tea has been celebrated as a key to wisdom, happiness and good health

Francis Kan, proprietor of Poh Woh Thong in Ipoh, preparing herbal tea for his customers.

Image via Vivian Chong

There are many health benefits attributed to tea. Studies have found that some teas may help with cancer, heart disease, and diabetes; lower cholesterol; and bring about mental alertness.

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But what about the health benefits of herbal tea? Can herbal teas help when I have a cold? How effective is their use?

Made from herbs, fruits, seeds, or roots steeped in hot water, claims into herbal teas that they help to shed pounds, stave off colds, and bring on restful sleep are largely unsupported

FAKE: Herbal teas do not cure cold!

Echinacea: Often touted as a way to fight the common cold, the research on echinacea has been inconclusive.

However, if you like herbal tea, drink up. It will help you stay hydrated, which is one key to getting well, says Dr. Stacy Wiegman, a Sharecare Editorial Advisory Board member.

She further says that keeping hydrated will prevent the mucus in the lining of your nose from drying out. "Be sure to drink at least eight glasses of caffeine-free, nonalcoholic fluid a day when you’re sick."

While herbal teas may not help in getting rid of your cold, soothing herbal teas can help you feel better while you are sick. Here are two such remedies:

Take the first one for a cold with chills and the second one for a cold with no chills.

To make Ginger Cinnamon Tea, put 3-4 quarter-sized slices of ginger into a teapot of boiling water. Add a cinnamon stick, lemon, and some brown sugar to taste. Drink it twice a day. If you can, drink it in bed and stay under the covers.

To make Peppermint Chrysanthemum Tea, use 1 part dried peppermint to two parts dried chrysanthemum. Boil a teapot of water and add the chrysanthemum. Pour the tea into a cup and add the peppermint. Steep for 5 minutes and add brown sugar to taste.

Some other health benefits of drinking herbal teas:

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Chamomile tea: Its antioxidants may help prevent complications from diabetes, like loss of vision and nerve and kidney damage, and stunt the growth of cancer cells.

Hibiscus: A small study found that drinking three cups of hibiscus tea daily lowered blood pressure in people with modestly elevated levels.

Rooibos (red tea): A South African herb that is fermented. Although it has flavonoids with cancer-fighting properties, medical studies have been limited.

However, while most teas are benign, the FDA has issued warnings about so-called dieter's teas that contain senna, aloe, buckthorn, and other plant-derived laxatives

The agency also warns consumers to be wary of herb-containing supplements that claim to kill pain and fight cancer. None of the claims is backed by science and some of the herbs have led to bowel problems, liver and kidney damage, and even death.

These cautions aside, nutritionists say to drink up and enjoy the health benefits of tea. "I think it's a great alternative to coffee drinking," says American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, LD.

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“You want to incorporate healthy beverages in your diet on a more regular basis to benefit from these health-promoting properties," says Diane L. McKay, PhD, a Tufts University scientist who studies antioxidants. "It’s not just about the foods; it’s about what you drink, as well, that can contribute to your health."

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About FACT OF FAKE column:

FACT OR FAKE column is part of a continuing SAYS weekly series that debunks urban myths, legends and popular claims such as the one you read in this column.

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