We all know how important hydration is for our health, and for most of us, cold water is how we hit our daily targets. When we’re thirsty, there’s nothing more refreshing than a glass of ice-cold water.
But what about water at the opposite of the temperature scale? Is drinking hot water good for you?
Turns out it is. In this article, we explore the benefits and risks of drinking hot water, and why you might consider incorporating more of it into your hydration routine.
Benefits of drinking hot water
Most of us consume hot water in the form of coffee or tea, but plain hot water has shown to have many health benefits (and can be spiced up with a piece of lemon or another fruit).
Some of the benefits of drinking hot water are subjective, but they still work, and have been measured across a range of scientific studies.
Here is the full list of health benefits for drinking hot water.
Eases nasal congestion
The steam from hot water can thin mucus and help it to drain from your nose (which is why people with colds use the old bowl of hot water + towel trick). One study showed that hot water accelerated mucus breakdown by roughly 25%7. Another study didn’t report any physical improvements to airflow through the nose, but a strong degree of subjective relief for the participants8. They stated that “The hot drink provided immediate and sustained relief from symptoms of runny nose, cough, sneezing, sore throat, chilliness and tiredness.”
Drinking hot water—whether in tea, coffee, plain, or another variety—can help to ease nasal congestion, open up your airways, and help you to blow the mucus from your nose1.
Improves digestion and constipation
Hot water has many benefits to your digestive system. It helps in the following ways:
- Hot water breaks down food more quickly than cold water, speeding up your rate of digestion.
- When your stomach is empty, drinking a glass of hot or warm water helps to break down small molecules of food, and makes bowel movements easier.
- Hot water helps the bowels to contract, which allows you to defecate more easily.
- Hot water increases your hydration levels. Dehydration is one of the main reasons for constipation, so by drinking more water (hot or cold), your bowel movement is improved.
This helps to create a healthier stomach and bowel.
Hot drinks can feel incredibly relaxing, and this includes plain old hot water. If you suffer from anxiety, it can make you feel calmer, more satisfied, and produce a number of other positive emotions3.
This may be a result of hot water boosting your nervous system. Though there’s more research to be done, drinking hot water may enhance the function of your nervous system, which helps the various parts of your body communicate with each other and keeps your entire body running more smoothly. Drinking hot water also helps with hydration, which reduces your body’s stress levels further, and helps to control your brain’s response to it. All this from drinking a little hot water!
Improved blood circulation
Hot water is a vasodilator—it dilates the blood vessels, and prevents the muscles in your arteries and veins from tightening. This allows blood to flow through your body more easily, which increases blood circulation. The result is lower blood pressure, and a reduced risk of heart disease as a result.
Improved blood circulation from drinking hot water also helps to relieve pain in your muscles, and even eases menstrual cramps, making you feel much more comfortable4.
Achalasia is a disorder that makes it difficult for food and liquid to pass into the stomach. A 2012 study of 48 people with this disorder showed that drinking hot water helped to clear their esophagus, and improved their symptoms5.
More research needs to be completed in this area, but a small 2003 study found that switching from cold to hot water speeds up the metabolism for around 40 minutes, which can help with weight loss2.
Last but not least—perhaps the biggest benefit to drinking hot water is the fact that you’re drinking water! Hydration is incredibly important for your health, with the most important benefits including:
- More energy, which leads to enhanced physical performance
- Better brain function, including an increase in focus
- Prevention of headaches
- Weight loss
- Relief from constipation
- Treating kidney stones
- Improved digestion
- Improved immune system
- Preventing hangovers 🍺
- Healthier skin
- A whole lot more!
Risks of drinking hot water
It’s obvious but worth repeating: be careful when drinking extremely hot water, as it can burn your tongue and throat. This can be the case even when it doesn’t feel warm on the tip of your finger. Always test with a tiny sip before drinking.
If hot water is spilled, there’s also a risk of scalding yourself. This can be reduced by using a cup with a lid (such as a Keep Cup).
One study found that drinking warm or hot water can trick you into feeling less thirsty. This can be dangerous if you’re sweating a lot (due to exercise or high temperatures), because you may not feel like rehydrating, even though you need to6.
Aside from these small risks, drinking hot water is good for you. It eases congestion, improves digestion, reduces stress, and provides a number of other health benefits. It can also be spiced up with a piece of lemon, This includes
- Adrian White, 2019, How to Stop a Runny Nose: 7 Home Remedies That Work, Healthline
- Michael Boschmann, Jochen Steiniger, Uta Hille, Jens Tank, Frauke Adams, Arya M Sharma, Susanne Klaus, Friedrich C Luft, Jens Jordan, 2003, Water-induced thermogenesis, National Library of Medicine
- Nathalie Pross, Agnès Demazières, Nicolas Girard, Romain Barnouin, Déborah Metzger, Alexis Klein, Erica Perrier, Isabelle Guelinckx, 2014, Effects of Changes in Water Intake on Mood of High and Low Drinkers. PLoS ONE. 2014, PLOS One
- 6 Ways Drinking Hot Water Helps Your Body – Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s Federal Employee Program, BlueCross BlueShield
- Moo In Park, 2012, Hot Water Swallows May Improve Symptoms in Patients With Achalasia, JNM
- Kathryn Watson, 2018, Is Drinking Cold Water Bad for You? Digestion, Weight Loss, Energy, Healthline
- K Saketkhoo, A Januszkiewicz, M A Sackner, 1978, Effects of drinking hot water, cold water, and chicken soup on nasal mucus velocity and nasal airflow resistance, National Library of Medicine
- A Sanu, R Eccles, 2008, The effects of a hot drink on nasal airflow and symptoms of common cold and flu, National Library of Medicine