'Tis the season for plenty of holiday memory-making—and constant re-ordering of cough medicine, tissues and chest rubs from Amazon. While curing your kiddo’s sneeze fits and achy throat with over-the-counter medicine might be effective, if you’ve considered going the natural route, take a bit of wisdom from around the world. From Mexico and Chile to Korea and Germany, here’s how families handle the onset of cold and flu season in their households, without a trip to the pharmacy. Of course, before you try anything on your germy brood, consult your practitioner.
Chileans pair two yummy foods we don't tend to think to combine here. As Margaret from the blog Cachando Chile explains, a go-to cure-all for bronchitis is palto-miel, which translates to "avocado-honey." To create this cough syrup–like tea, you seep avocado leaves and honey. While not exactly tasty, Margaret says it’s highly effective and respected in this South American country.
Germany: Boiled Beer or Onions
It might come as little surprise if you’ve ever visited Deutschland, but German families use their beverage of choice for nearly everything. As Julia from Stripes Europe explains, stauchen or bier gestaucht is boiled beer that sometimes features an added shot of Schnapps. She writes, “The beer supposedly has antibacterial qualities; the carbon dioxide is supposed to settle your stomach and the alcohol is supposed to help put you to sleep.” If you're wary of serving this to your under 21-year-old babes, consider another option: boiled onions, using the juice that’s left after the chopped pieces seep. “The concoction is supposedly good for rehydrating the body and flushing out toxins,” Julia explains.
Guatemala: Cypress Seeds
When children here start complaining of a sore throat, parents head to their backyards. Thanks to the prevalence of Cypress trees in Guatemala's rural areas, a common home remedy there calls for preparing a special concoction that reportedly wards off discomfort. As Unbound blog explains, parents boil five seeds in filtered water, and then wait for the mixture to cool before straining. Then, they mix that with two tablespoons of white honey and have the sufferer gargle with it three times a day for four days. Good luck getting your toddler near a spoonful of the stuff, though.
India: Pepper Milk
Here, people's approach to treating colds is pretty simple; they drink a mixture of very hot milk and various spices. According to Vice's Tonic, who highlighted the recipe in its International Mom Advice column, to make this drink, start by bringing a cup of milk to a boil. Then, add the following ingredients: 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric, 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper and a pinch of saffron. You can also add a bit of sugar to improve the flavor. Tonic reports that the black pepper works to prevent—not induce—sneezing, and that the drink is also given to young children today to help build immunity.
Kenya: Lemon, Garlic, Ginger, Honey and Hot Water
From ginger tea to hot water with lemon and honey and beyond, if nothing is working, why not try Kenyans' approach and well, mix them all together? As Angi from The Herbal Academy shares, families here blend together a lemon (peel and all), a head of garlic, a sliver of ginger root, raw honey and hot water. You can also freeze this recipe into ice cubes to unthaw and warm up when needed. While it might not taste as great as the kid-friendly cough syrup, with the natural antioxidants, it’s worth a try.
Korea: Asian Pear With Honey
Although it might be quite the challenge to get kids to take their medicine, having them eat pears probably won't be as difficult. According to Naomi from The Spruce blog, Korean families frequently utilize pears to ward off illnesses with a special technique. She notes it’s important to purchase an Asian pear, which might require a trip to a specialty food shop. To begin, halve and core the fruit, then fill the seed hole and coat the sides with honey (feel free to be heavy-handed). Next, steam the fruit for 15 minutes before serving to your children with a spoon. On the Dr. Karen S. Lee site, which presents a version of the remedy using ginger, Dr. Lee writes that Asian pears are "low in fat, cholesterol and sodium—almost zero—but high in Vitamin C and K." And she says that honey, which is known for its antibacterial properties, is "very effective against infections."
Mexico: Caldo de Pollo
If you’ve taken a lick of Spanish in your lifetime or your kiddos are hoppin’ off the school bus trying to tell you about their day in espanol, you might guess what this remedy from south of the border entails. Much like the chicken noodle soup that many families across the states swear by, Caldo de Pollo, which translates to "chicken soup," is traditionally given to children when they are feeling less than stellar. But instead of bland crackers on the side, families in Mexico might add homemade tortillas to dip in between bites. What’s in it? Karla, a blogger at Mexican Food Memories, shares that the recipe varies, but in Mexico, it normally features rice and a concoction of vegetables: corn on the cob, carrots, zucchini, chayote and peas. “However it’s prepared, we all see a chicken broth as the cure for all illness and it is kind of true. Chicken broth is one of the coziest dishes that has ever been created. When you feel down or a cold is about to hit you, have a Caldo de Pollo and all your aches will soon disappear like magic,” she writes.
Russia: Raspberry Jam
When your kiddos begin to sniffle and cough in unison, you know you’re in for a sickly serenade that’ll last far into bedtime. To help soften their blows and ease them into sleep where they can sweat out their illness, Russian parents skip the chicken noodle soup varieties and reach for a sweeter solution instead: homemade raspberry jam. As Tanya from the Understand Russia blog explains, “Raspberry has the anti-inflammatory and heating effect and works like aspirin, but is much more tasty. It’s best to have two cups of tea and only then have a cup of tea with raspberry, so that you are not dehydrated when you sweat. That is especially important for kids.”
And here's a bonus remedy from Russia that's a bit odder: Caregivers will draw iodine grids across their kid’s back to do everything from relieve back pain to cure bruises, colds and more. “It is believed that such treatment stimulates blood circulation and replenishes the need for iodine in the body,” Tanya says.