12 Jun 2017
Shake that winter bug: sip your way to good health with these medicinal drinks

With (excessive) drinking being frowned upon these days for being detrimental to your health, you might be surprised to know that many alcoholic drinks have their roots in medicine. So instead of turning to Big Pharma next time you have a sniffle – and arguably do yourself more harm than good – why not open your liquor cabinet instead?


In its earliest form of genever, gin can be traced back as far as the 14th century, when the juniper-flavoured tonic was lauded in the Low Countries for treating ailments of the stomach, kidneys and (ahem) liver. In the 16th century, juniper potions were even used in Western Europe to ward off the Black Death. These days, juniper is used as a diuretic to treat urinary, bladder, kidney and prostate infections, as an anti-inflammatory for rheumatism and arthritis, as a decongestant for colds and even to treat asthma.


You’ve seen those mountain-rescue dogs on TV carrying life-sustaining flasks right? Well, they’re filled with brandy. But apart from warming someone who’s been freezing to death, since the 19th century brandy has been said to stimulate the heart too. Nowadays, we know its antioxidants both help reduce cholesterol and keep us looking young, while its polyphenols lower blood pressure. As an antibacterial, brandy kills bugs and shifts phlegm, and as an anti-inflammatory it soothes sore throats. Even better, its ellagic acid fights cancer!


The water of life has been considered a cure-all probably since its invention, and many a physician turned to it as both an anaesthetic and an antibiotic. Like brandy, whisky is also good for cardiovascular health, plus it reduces blood clots, so it’s great at preventing heart attacks and strokes. It also reduces your chances of getting diabetes, as it regulates insulin and glucose levels. Plus, its antioxidants and trace vitamins also mean that whisky stimulates the immune system, helping you fight off a variety of lurgies.


Rum essentially kept the Royal Navy afloat from 1655 to 1970, its daily ration giving its sailors both courage and fortitude. It reduces anxiety too, which certainly helped when it came to fighting barbaric battles in the middle of the Atlantic. But rum’s also great for relieving muscle pain and osteoporosis by increasing bone-mineral density. In addition, it’s good for the brain, reducing your risk for both Alzheimer’s and dementia, plus its anti-microbial properties fight germs.


Feeling sick? Try one of these boozy potions for relief. If nothing else, they’ll elevate your mood. (Remember to drink plenty of water though, to stay hydrated.)

1. Hot Toddy = hot water + lemon + whisky

This one’s a favourite for winter blues. It helps relieve congestion, soothes sore throats and provides a good dose of Vitamin C.

2. Cough Kicker = honey + nutmeg + ginger + brandy

Use this combo as a cough syrup, as it soothes sore throats and loosens chest mucus.

3. Ginger Tonic = ginger + lemon + tonic water + gin + whisky

This cold fighter relieves nausea, encourages sweating and eases coughs.

4. Fireball = apple cider + cinnamon stick + spiced rum + tequila

Fight off cold-causing bacteria and enhance your memory with this booster.

5. Russian Remedy = garlic + unsalted butter + honey + egg yolk + milk + rum or brandy

This all round cold-kicker gives you a dose of calcium C, boosts energy, soothes sore throats and helps with cholesterol.

This post first appeared on Food24 on 12 June 2017.

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