Vitamin C and orange juice are hailed as heroes during flu season, but is it really good for a cold and sore throat or is this another urban myth? Let’s discover if you can drink orange juice for a sore throat, or if it won’t actually help your ailments.

Why do people think orange juice is good for a cold?

The evidence to suggest that vitamin C, can cure a cold or flu is conflicting. Regular consumption of vitamin C has been linked to shorter, less severe colds, but not with lowering the risk of catching a cold in the first place.  

In fact, these studies showed that the benefits of vitamin C were more prevalent in those who regularly took supplements. Those who supplemented within 24-hours of the cold symptoms beginning at high doses and continuing to take it for 5 days also benefitted but to a lesser degree.

One cup of orange juice contains just over 200% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. As a water-soluble vitamin, this means that it needs to be consumed every day as the body does not store the excess. A glass of orange juice can be one of the easiest ways to ensure you're getting enough in your diet,

However, oranges are not the only juice or fruit that contains vitamin C. Other citrus fruits such as lemons and limes, as well as kiwis, papaya, and pineapple will do just fine.

Ultimately you can reduce the risk of catching a cold by practicing good hygiene. This means washing your hands often, avoiding touching your face, wiping down commonly touched surfaces such as TV remotes and doorknobs, and coughing into a tissue or into your elbow.

a cup,  pair of glasses and a box of tissues

Orange juice for a sore throat?

A common symptom of a cold is a sore throat, so while orange juice may help a cold, it is not necessarily ideal for a sore throat. In fact, drinking orange juice can actually make the throat feel worse.

Orange juice is slightly acidic, so ingesting it can make your sore throat more painful, irritating the already sensitive area.  When you have a sore throat, it is best to avoid acidic drinks and stick to soothing teas instead.

woman coughing

Does Orange Juice Help Boost the Immune System?

No, not quite. There isn't a simple solution to boosting the immune system. The immune system is a complex network that protects the body from pathogens; from our skin acting as a barrier, our stomach acid killing bacteria, and white blood cells fighting off infection.

However, a healthy lifestyle supports the immune system, allowing it to function at its best. This means eating a healthy well-balanced diet, including fruits and vegetables to help meet your micro-nutritional needs.  

Additionally, excess consumption of sugar can suppress the immune system. So,  a sugary glass or two of orange juice might not be all that it is cracked to be!

FAQs About Orange Juice For a Sore Throat and Cold

So, it seems that orange juice is not exactly the best solution for a sore throat. But can the beverage help with other cold-like symptoms? Here are a few frequently asked questions about orange juice and cold relief.

1. Is orange juice good for strep throat?

Strep throat is a disease caused by a small ball of bacteria in the throat. The disease has many of the same symptoms as a common cold, but it‘s quite a different illness. With strep throat, most patients require antibiotics to avoid long term damage to the throat tissue.

If you’ve been diagnosed with strep throat, you may think that the vitamin C content in orange juice can help you to recover. However, contrary to popular belief, orange juice can actually make the symptoms worse. This is due to the high acid content in orange juice, which can further irritate the throat. So, no, orange juice should be avoided for strep throat.

2. Is orange juice good for a cough?

Ok, so orange juice isn’t great for a sore throat or for strep throat. Any change it can help with a cough? It turns out that, yes, orange juice can help with a cough. This is because the citrus acid in orange juice forces the body to cough out phlegm, getting rid of excess phlegm in the lungs. At the same time, the vitamin C in the juice helps to prevent the production of more phlegm in the body. So, with orange juice, you may find that your cough goes away more quickly.

3. Is orange juice good for the flu?

If you have a serious cold that turns into feverish flu, can orange juice help? It turns out that just like with colds, pumping vitamin C into your system when you have a flu probably won’t be that effective for boosting your immune system and shortening the lifespan of your flu. This is because you actually need to have vitamin C in your system before the flu begins. So, it may be best to up your daily vitamin C intake (perhaps with orange juice) to avoid bad flus instead of waiting for the flu to strike.

Other remedies for a cold and sore throat

While orange juice for a sore throat may not be as effective as we once thought, there are some other beverages that can immediately help with your symptoms.

Lemon Water

Lemon water when made from the juice of one full lemon contains 30.7mg of the RDA of vitamin C. This is roughly a third of the RDA of this vitamin for men and almost half of the RDA for women. Lemon water is a simple way to stay hydrated, and consume vitamin C, but will be much gentler on the throat than a glass of orange juice would be. One lemon contains  1.5 grams of sugar, which is considerably less than orange juice.

a pitcher of lemon water better than juice for sore throat

Salt Water

Gargling a solution of salty water, and even baking soda is a common remedy for a sore throat. One study noted that gargling saltwater solution not only eased a sore throat but even lowered the occurrence of respiratory tract infection.

Salt is antibacterial, as it kills bacteria by sucking the water out of them. For a sore throat, the ratio is salt to warm water should be around 1/4 to 1/2 a teaspoon for 8 ounces of water. Gargle the drink for a few seconds and spit it out.

spoonful of salt that you gargle better than juice for a sore throat

Manuka honey tea

A warm drink consisting of manuka honey and water can also remedy a sore throat and a cold. As manuka honey is antibacterial and antimicrobial it can kill the bacteria causing the sore throat. It helps to soothe the throat and is more pleasant than the saltwater solution.

Manuka honey can also be added to chamomile tea. As chamomile is naturally antibacterial is can help kill the bacteria causing the cold and sore throat.  The anti-inflammatory properties of chamomile can ease the swelling and redness of a sore throat.

Honey dripping into cup of tea for a sore throat

Ginger Tea

Ginger is another tea that can remedy a cold and a sore throat. The spice can help combat nausea and stimulate the appetite which can help in recovering from a cold. Studies showed that ginger can be as effective as some anti-nausea medications.

Ginger is also antibacterial and can fight off many strains of bacteria.

Ginger tea can be made with sliced ginger root and warm water. For a nicer tasting hot tea, ground ginger can also be added to chamomile and manuka honey.

a cup of ginger tea with lemon better than juice fore a sore throat

The Verdict

Orange juice may be good for a cold and a sore throat when looking at the vitamin C content, but it's not the best remedy. Saltwater, manuka honey, and ginger tea can ease the symptoms of a cold while also fighting the bacteria causing it.

If you would prefer to drink orange juice, dilute it with to reduce the sugar. You will still reap the benefits as even just half a cup of pure orange juice meets 100% of the RDA.  

orange juice for a sore throat is not the best choice.

Orange juice can help with reducing the severity of a cold if it is drunk daily to help you meet the RDA of vitamin C, but there are other less sugary sources to choose from. As the acidity can be an irritant for your throat, consuming vitamin C from less acidic fruits and vegetables, will be a better solution.