Does Boilo Really Help Cure a Cold?

Does Boilo Really Help Cure a Cold?

My boyfriend and I were recently on a call with two of his friends, one of whom is a fellow Schuylkill County native. Somehow, the topic of Boilo came up. I’ve never had it, so of course, I was accused of not actually being from the Skook (I truly am). The comments that followed this accusation revolved around Skook kids receiving boilo as a medicinal beverage.

I’ve heard quite a few Schuylkill County residents say they were given boilo as a cold remedy when they were a child. My general knowledge of boilo made me consider that the beverage may, indeed, have medicinal properties. However, I became curious and decided to do some research on the subject.

A Brief History of Boilo

Boilo comes from the Lithuanian liqueur called Krupnik or Krupnikas. Krupnik is a vodka-honey beverage that, according to legend, Benedictine monks at Niasviž created. Polish soldiers used it as a medicinal disinfectant during the second World War.

Many of my fellow Schuylkill Countians know how thick Lithuanian blood runs in the vicinity, so the fact that boilo is a derivative of a Lithuanian drink is not surprising. Many Lithuanians traveled to America in the mid-Victorian era and, you might guess, brought their traditions with them.

Boilo is currently a common yuletide beverage in Schuylkill County, especially following Christmas Eve service.

So how did the idea that boilo can cure colds or the flu come into play? Well, let’s take a look at the ingredients of boilo.

Boilo Ingredient Breakdown

Ultimately, I feel that any of boilo’s medicinal properties lay in its ingredients. Most of the components are known to have health benefits, so it’s not like boilo helping your immune system is out of the question.

I will primarily refer to this recipe as my source for ingredients.


Boilo uses two citrus fruits in its recipe: lemon and orange. Citrus is renowned for its health benefits, which mostly include its high vitamin C content. However, vitamin C doesn’t play as large of a role in curing a cold as many think. Vitamin C generally helps prevent illness before you get sick at all. Even then, you need to consume a lot of it regularly.

Citrus also provides flavonoids and dietary fiber. These items are healthy, yes, but do not necessarily help cure a cold.


Potential spices include nutmeg, cinnamon, anise seed, caraway seed, and cloves. Which of these you use depends on your taste or tradition. One or all is acceptable. If you need your spices like roses need rain, you’ll take in the following nutrients.

Note: I will not officially mention that I have come to believe that spices bring joy. Although joy is beneficial to our health, that is an unofficial opinion and may not directly help cure a cold.


According to this article, nutmeg is a natural sedative. This surprised me, as I thought that any sleepiness boilo caused would be from the alcohol content. However, nutmeg may also play a role in acting as a sleep aid.

If you read this article, it makes mention of pain relief. What kind of pain, it doesn’t say. It also mentions boosting the immune system, like how vitamin C does.

While natural sedation and pain relief do not necessarily spell out curing a cold, nutmeg could help fight the physical discomfort from a cold and help you sleep through it. Since rest is essential to healing from a cold, then a natural supplement to help you sleep is probably a good thing.


Cinnamon, along with being delicious, has some healthy side effects to its name. None of these qualities, however, cover fighting a cold or the flu. So, this tasty spice stays in the neutral lane when it comes to cold-fighting qualities.

Anise Seed

Anise seed also yields lots of healthy qualities. Most of them do not involve the common cold or the flu. However, one item that caught my eye was that anise seed can help remedy a cough, a common symptom of a cold.

Caraway Seed

I admit to a degree of prejudice against caraway seed. I like sausage, but as a kid who did not know what caraway seeds were, I thought that they were a mysterious pork byproduct that accidentally entered my tasty meal. I always suspected and disliked them. Today, I will set aside my bias for the sake of boilo.

Top sources cite it as a possible aid for digestive issues such as IBS and heartburn. This is all well and good, but where is it for our stuffy noses? Our scratchy throats? Our aching bodies? Where is it then?

Caraway seed, will you ever be good for anything besides scarring an innocent child from eating sausage? Perhaps some things, but not for my comfort and not for a cold.


Cloves are actually a wonderful spice that helps with several bodily scenarios. Its oil can help with respiratory issues such as a cough, which, again, happens often with a cold. There isn’t much to indicate it can cure a cold, though.


Raisins potentially boost your immunity system. Great! But what about when sickness has crossed the threshold? What is an outer bailey to the throne room? There doesn’t seem to be much evidence that raisins fight a cold, especially when you consider that most of its nutrients have been evaporated.


Ah, honey. Sweet nectar! Famous for not spoiling in the tombs of Ancient Egypt, honey receives a good deal of acclaim, both true and untrue. Among the qualities likelier to be true are accounts of anti-inflammatory effects and cough relief. This plays directly into alleviating cold symptoms.

Ginger Ale or Ginger Beer

Ginger products are not always used in boilo recipes. While ginger root provides several healthy qualities, drinks like ginger ale or ginger beer don’t yield as much ginger as its natural form. As a result, you’re getting a watered-down version of ginger’s beneficial properties.

However, even ginger ale and beer provide a degree of nausea relief. While this works well for a cold or the flu, not a lot of these ginger products are used in a boilo recipe. 


I felt a little funny researching “whiskey health benefits”, but, to my surprise, there are some! Not only does whiskey help heart health, but it can also widen your blood vessels which helps clear mucus in your chest and sinuses.

Granted, you shouldn’t consume large amounts of whiskey. But, frankly, I was expecting zero health benefits out of whiskey, especially for a cold! I anticipated that it would only make you drowsy. Although sleeping is good when you are sick, alcohol intake is a debatable choice as your body fights illness.

Health Benefits of Boilo

Based on my research, I would have to say that boilo does not particularly cure a cold. Many of boilo’s qualities boost your immunity system, which does the bulk of its work before you actually get sick.

However, any elements that help you sleep, relieve nausea, alleviate a cough, and clear mucus are bound to give your body a small kick in the right direction.

My uneducated-but-semi-researched opinion is that anyone who drank boilo was sick probably had a 24-hour bug. The aforementioned health benefits alleviated some symptoms and the whiskey (and nutmeg, apparently) helped them sleep through the night and let their body do its thing.

So does boilo cure a cold? Maybe not. But, it truly seems to help alleviate and assuage some cold-related symptoms and even help prevent illness in the first place. Just don’t go crazy!

Now if I could only try some myself…