In the quest of what to write today, I found myself striking a blank (not unreasonable when I’m trying to fill 365 days full of published words). I do each day try and find a source of inspiration, whether it’s something I’ve read or done or heard. In fact, like many people at this time of the year, I’ve got a cold and sore throat. I’ve avoided the Lemsip and decided to ignore it, hoping that positive mental attitude will endure. Tomorrow I’ll wake up and it’ll be all be a bad dream. I’ll be fit as anything and ready to face a day at the hospital. Sounds great!
Ok, doubtful that will happen but I did think it would be interesting to look at the history of remedies people used to treat a bad cold and flu with.
The Chinese Remedy
The Chinese have long been known for their ancient remedies. Some remedies have been passed down for generations and are still sworn by. I’m not sure how old this remedy is but it involves fresh ginger, orange rind and epsom salts.
What to do:
Peel and chop the ginger and mash it slightly with the back of the knife.
Add it to some simmering water with the orange rind and leave it for 20 minutes on a low heat.
Soak in hot bath with the epsom salts (no you don’t drink them).
Return and strain the infusion. You can add honey to help sweeten it up.
John Gerard wrote a book about plants and their uses back in 1597. Likely based off of the Chinese remedies that were coming over via the new trade routes.
What to do
His suggestion was to burn the gum of the Juniper tree. Juniper has great medicinal properties and is still used today, but inhaling smoke might irritate your throat.
“The fume and smoke of the gum doth stay flegmatic humours that distill out of the head, and stoppeth the rheume”
– The Herball, Or, Generall Historie Of Plantes, John Gerard (1597)
The Primitive Physic
Back in 1744, a Methodist developed a recipe to rid you of your evil cold that he called an “oily emulsion”. The six ingredients were “six ounces of salt water, two drams of volatile aromatic spirit, an ounce of Florence oil, and half an ounce of sugar syrup“. However, he noted that the mixture worked better if you swopped the volatile aromatic spirit for “the paregoric elixir of the Edinburgh dispensatory.” This ‘elixir’ was likely a mix of camphor and opium.
Good, Old Alcohol
Back in the 18th Century it seemed that if you weren’t going to burn herbs or blood draining with leeches, then doctors would recommend getting drunk.
What to do
Today, you can still find a great Hot Toddy recipe. Back then, it was just about drinking till you collapsed into bed and sweated it out.
Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, 1861
Many a household would have considered this book an essential. Her remedy for the common cold included a large teacupful of linseed, a quarter pound of raisins, a stick of liquorice, a quarter pound of sugar candy, a tablespoon of rum, and another tablespoon of white wine vinegar.
What to do
The linseed, raisins and liquorice would be boiled down in water, at which point the sugar was added. The vinegar and rum only going in when you were due to drink the mixture. You’d apparently be all good in 2 to 3 days, if you can stomach all this.
Sweat it out
A powerful concoction from the West Indies that consists of lemon juice, garlic, ginger, cayenne, and vinegar. It might sound a bit much, but it’s known that many of the ingredients have anticold features. From the garlic’s antibiotic ability to the lemon and cayenne pepper’s antiseptic and astringent properties (good for clearing up mucus).
What to do
One recipe from Dr Kligler says to combine 1/2 cup lemon juice, 2 tablespoons vinegar, 1 clove garlic (crushed), 1 teaspoon grated ginger, and a dash of cayenne. Mix thoroughly, and drink up. Mmmmmmm.
An old wives tale that has history from Indonesia to Ghana to Denmark. In fact Chicken noodle soup has been called “Jewish Penicillin” because of its supposed positive effects in treating various ailments.
What to do
A classic chicken soup is a light broth with pieces of chicken and vegetables simmered in water. Pasta, dumplings or grains are also sometimes added. Whether it works or not, it’s a great comfort food when you’re feeling under the weather.
I don’t recommend trying most of these. Some as they’ll be illegal (taking Opium for one). But if you’ve got a proven treatment, I’m all ears!