Science Says Alcohol Can Help Fight The Common Cold


New research says that alcohol, at least in moderation, can help fight the common cold:

With the onslaught of holiday parties upon us, a bad case of the sniffles could threaten your merrymaking. Luckily science has swooped in with the jolliest solution of all: You can boost your immune system, a new study claims, by drinking that spiked eggnog.

A team of researchers from Oregon Health & Science University trained 12 rhesus macaques—chosen for the similarity between their immune system and ours—to drink a 4 percent ethanol cocktail. They vaccinated the monkeys against small pox and divided them into two groups: one that had access to the cocktails and one to sugar water. (Both groups were also given food and regular water.)


After drinking for seven months, the macaques received another booster shot, and their reactions were remarkably different. The immune systems of the bad monkeys that drank too much failed to produce the antibodies the body usually makes in response to a vaccine. The moderate drinkers, on the other hand, demonstrated an enhanced immune response—better even than the teetotaling control group. The researchers can’t yet fully explain the results, but one possible explanation is that modest amounts of alcohol stimulate the immune system.

The benefits of moderate drinking are well documented, from reduced risk of Alzheimer’s to improved cardiovascular function.

I’m not going to argue with science, are you?

Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I’m not going to argue with science, are you?

    Forget science, you didn’t argue with my Southern Baptist grandmother! Her recipe included Jack Daniels, lemon juice, and honey. Getting sick at grandma’s was always a treat.

  2. @OzarkHillbilly:

    My Catholic Grandmother had a similar recipe!

  3. CSK says:

    Take two vodka martinis and call me in the morning.

  4. Neil Hudelson says:

    Where do you think the “tonic” part of “gin and tonic” came from? It’s because a few glasses will either cure you, or make you not care. Which is really just as good.

  5. Tillman says:

    Sure, Science. Whatever you say.

  6. john personna says:

    Worth it for the “bad monkeys” quote alone.

  7. DrDaveT says:

    one possible explanation is that modest amounts of alcohol stimulate the immune system.

    As much as I would love to believe this, another possible explanation is that (if the quoted part is correct) there were only 6 monkeys in the alcohol-drinking group, and fewer than 6 in both the ‘excessive’ and ‘moderate’ groups. Anyone willing to draw strong conclusions on contrasts involving 3-5 data points is not doing science.

  8. grumpy realist says:

    My roommate’s prescription for a cold was either a hot wine toddy or two glasses of port. Even if it didn’t cure you, at that point you don’t care.

    P.S. and I see that similar comments have already been made above.

  9. JohnMcC says:

    Waiting for some researcher to investigate (regarding the mysterious properties of ethanol): Why do stone-cold alcoholics — the skid row bum type — all have wonderful full heads of hair? (Yeah, I’m pretty close to completely bald.)