Having a cold is a miserable experience: the ever-growing pile of tissues, the foggy, stuffy feeling in your head, the sore throat — all of it is just very unpleasant. Though there’s not much you can do to cure the common cold, there are things that can make the experience less uncomfortable.
Staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for yourself when you’re sick. And when you have a cold, having a hot, steaming cup of tea is just the thing for preventing dehydration, and for clearing all that darned congestion from your face.
As someone who seems to pick up every cold virus that is floating around, I went looking for the best teas to help ease my congestion. I found some expected results (green tea, peppermint tea) and some unexpected results (elderberry tea, chamomile tea).
Below are the best teas for congestion. (A note: this article will mostly deal with nasal congestion. If you are suffering from sinus congestion, have a look at our piece on the best teas for sinus congestion.)
Green tea, made from the leaves of the tea plant, is loaded with antioxidants, from flavonoids, to polyphenols and catechins. It is these properties that make green tea an anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and generally good for you, which is exactly what you need when you have a cold.
Luckily, green tea has become wildly popular over the last decade or so, and so it is easy to find on its own or blended with other flavors and ingredients. Almost every tea company has its own line of green teas, but we recommend in particular:
- Buddha Teas: Buddha Teas creates 100 percent organic, healthful teas, meant to promote wellbeing and a sense of calm. They have a wide variety of high quality green teas and green tea blends to choose from.
- Teadrops: On the other side of the equation is Teadrops. This producer has found a way to do away with tea bags to create loose-leaf tea drops that dissolve upon contact with water. It’s an innovative and fun way to get your daily dose of tea in.
- The Art of Tea: The Art of Tea carries a huge variety of green teas and green tea blends. From ceremonial grade matcha to green pomegranate tea, they have anything you could want in a green tea.
When I have a cold, the first type of tea I reach for is peppermint. I like its mild sweetness and breathing in its cool minty flavor clears my congested nose, if only for a few minutes.
The element in peppermint that provides that cool flavor is menthol, and the good it does you comes from its anti-inflammatory properties. Beyond menthol, peppermint is good for you in general. It decreases coughing, and according to the USDA studies have found that “In test tubes, peppermint has been found to have significant antimicrobial and antiviral activities, strong antioxidant and antitumor actions, and some antiallergenic potential.”
Elderberry tea is made of the bright purple berries of the elderberry, or sambucus tree. Strangely enough, unripe, raw elderberries are poisonous, however, once they are dried and cooked they contain a surprising amount of health benefits.
According to WebMD: “The berries and flowers of elderberry are packed with antioxidants and vitamins that may boost your immune system. They could help tame inflammation, lessen stress, and help protect your heart, too. Some experts recommend elderberry to help prevent and ease cold and flu symptoms.”
In terms of colds in specific, elderberry extract has been found to reduce cold duration and symptoms in air travelers. Airplanes are notorious germy cesspools, so just think of how much elderberry could help in reducing symptoms of colds that have been shared in places other than airplanes.
Elderberry tea on its own- such as Buddha Tea’s Organic Elderberry – is somewhat tart and rich. It is good with a bit of honey.
Elderberry can also be found in various wellness boosting blends. Some of my favorites are:
- Art of Tea’s Feel Better Blend: This blend contains elderberry, echinacea, cinnamon, and other herbs and spices to create a spicy, citrusy tea designed to make you feel better.
- Pukka’s Elderberry and Echinacea Blend: This blend also includes echinacea as well as ginger, peppermint and a range of other spices. It is bright and invigorating.
- The Republic of Tea’s A Cup of Protection Blend: This tea is a blend of rooibos, elderberry and hibiscus, giving it a juicy tart-sweet flavor.
When you think of chamomile tea you typically don’t think of it as a cold-killing tea. You’re more likely to use it to lull you to sleep than as a cold remedy. (For more on chamomile tea as a sleep aid, see here.) However, as it turns out, chamomile tea actually has properties that make it a good tea to drink when you have a cold.
Studies point to the fact that inhaling steam with chamomile extract has been helpful in relieving the symptoms of the common cold. It has likewise been shown that chamomile has some antibacterial properties that help it fight infections.
It should be noted that if you are allergic to ragweed or chrysanthemums, you may also be prone to developing an allergic reaction to chamomile, as they come from the same family.
Some of my favorite chamomile teas, and chamomile blends are: Buddha Teas’ Chamomile Flower Tea, Traditional Medicinals Organic Chamomile Tea, and Celestial Seasonings Chamomile Tea. Likewise, the Art of Tea also has a delicious chamomile citrus blend.
Other Helpful Teas
Other teas that could be helpful in relieving cold symptoms are:
- Ginger tea: which may help shorten the duration of a cold
- Nettle Tea: which has been shown to help with allergies.
- Eucalyptus Tea: which has anti-inflammatory properties
What Should You Look For in a Tea for Congestion?
When you have a cold and are looking for some relief, you should look for teas that have proven antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. These are the ones that are most likely to help.
However, the truth is that the most important thing to take into account regarding teas when you have a cold is the taste. Drink teas that taste good to you and that you find soothing. Staying hydrated is one of the most important things you can do when you are feeling unwell, and drinking a hot cup of tea is one of the best ways to do so.