Tried-and-true home remedies for the common cold
Sneeze once and you will have a long life of 100 years; sneeze twice and you will live 200 years; sneeze three times and your longevity will last 300 years or more. So goes an old saying in Beijing. And with the cold season fast approaching, there may be many sneezes to come.
Almost every household boasts a home remedy for the common cold or sore throat. An Australian mother of three, Adele Doherty, remembers her mother dabbing eucalyptus oil on her handkerchief and pillowcase at night so she could inhale its aroma to help clear nasal passages. “Eucalyptus is readily available in Australia, and we would use it often to help with congestion and as an aid to cure colds,” says Adele.
In fact, native plants and herbs are widely used as cold remedies. For example, Hiroe Aramaki-Olson, a Japanese-born mother of two boys, recalls a home treatment method whereby a spring onion is dug from the earth, roasted, and applied to the outside of the throat and the underside of the jaw. The onion acts as a warm compress and is used to relieve a sore throat. “It heats up the body and contains properties which help rid the body of toxins,” she explains. “This type of therapy is commonly used in both the northern and southern parts of Japan.”
Traditional remedies abound in Beijing and other parts of China. One method for reducing congestion is to heat a pan of vinegar until warm enough to radiate fumes, and then breathe deeply of the vinegar-infused air. Iris Lau, who grew up in Beijing, remembers her mom walking around the house in the wintertime holding a pot of vinegar so the fumes would permeate the air. “When we got a cold, the vapor from the steamed vinegar helped clear the sinuses in a natural way,” she says.
Another popular tradition that has been handed down in China from generation to generation is a drink prepared by boiling chopped fresh ginger and brown sugar (hong tang) in water for 15 minutes. Guo Yanping, who is native Chinese and has resided in Beijing for 43 years, claims that this mixture combines heat with the antiviral properties of ginger to help clear up colds.
Drinks and tinctures are used as cold therapies in the UK as well, according to Diane Ward, who hails from Wales. Diane clearly remembers her grandmother’s remedy of making medicinal tea by using freshly picked elderflowers. “The flowers would be laid out on a table to dry in the sun, ready to be used for tea,” Diane recalls. “The elderflower tea helped the cold go away, but I did not like the taste!”
In the United States, there are a multitude of remedies that families use to stave off colds. Getting extra vitamin C in the form of orange juice to boost the immune system and gargling with warm salt water at the first hint of a scratchy throat are thought to work wonders, and a popular comfort food for colds is a steaming pot of chicken soup. Medical science is finding that chicken soup is not to be discounted as a remedy: The steam can loosen congestion, the warm liquid is soothing to the throat, and garlic, a commonly used ingredient, is widely thought to have antibiotic properties, especially when eaten raw.
Whether it’s chicken soup, herbal tea or drowning yourself in the aroma of boiled vinegar, no doubt your family has its own reliable and time-honored home remedy for the common cold. And this winter, perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to try something new.
Don’t know how to say it?
Can’t understand what you’re hearing?
tbjkids to the rescue!
- sore throat
sǎng zi téng
- warm salt water
wēn yán shuǐ
- vitamin C
weí shēng sù C
- Eucalyptus tree
- brown sugar
- spring onion
- cough drops
ké sou yào
- chicken soup