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Weirdest Cold Treatments from Around the World

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  • Uncommon Remedies for the Common Cold and Flu

    Uncommon Remedies for the Common Cold and Flu

    Colds and the flu tend to show up with dreary regularity. Here is a look at some remedies that people around the world have used to combat the congestion, body aches, fever, and sore throat of a bad cold or flu.

    Click through to learn which ones might actually help, and which are more charming folktale than curative.

  • Gogol Mogol

    Gogol Mogol

    Originating in Russia and the Ukraine, this hot drink is the result of whisking together an egg yolk and a teaspoon of honey or sugar. Pour the concoction into a half-cup of milk that’s been heated with a tablespoon of unsalted butter. Add a slug of rum or cognac for an adult version. 

    No studies measure the efficacy of gogol mogol. However, the silky consistency of the egg may ease sore throat scratchiness. And the L-tryptophan in hot milk can help promote sleep when it’s paired with a carbohydrate like cereal.

  • Is Something Burning?

    Is Something Burning?

    People burn Ai Ye (Artemisia argyi wormwood) in some households in China. Burning the dried leaves of this plant is said to have an antiseptic effect. It’s believed to prevent cold or flu germs from spreading and to help defend against further infection.

    Ai Ye leaves have antibacterial properties and are used in many forms of traditional Chinese medicine. However, it’s best to avoid inhaling any kind of smoke when you’re down with a cold or flu. Smoke acts as a respiratory irritant and can further restrict airways

  • Put on Your Socks

    Put on Your Socks

    This sartorial remedy recommends that cold sufferers soak their feet in hot water and then put on a pair of thin socks that have been soaked in cold water and wrung out. Next, place a dry pair of socks over that and take to your bed.

    The theory behind this odd therapy is that the cold water on your feet will increase circulation, boost your immune response, and hasten the cold’s demise. However, it may be that the misery of cold, wet, feet in bed simply makes you forget how awful your cold is making you feel.

  • Pick Up Your Dirty Socks

    Pick Up Your Dirty Socks

    Another sock remedy calls for greasing your throat with chicken fat or lard and then placing dirty socks around it. The logic behind this one is hard to pin down, but the idea may have originated in England. 

    The socks labeled people with potentially fatal throat ailments in the days before powerful drugs and vaccines could wipe out strep and prevent diphtheria. The sight of someone swathed in dirty socks possibly warned others to steer clear. Or it may have induced sweating, which was believed to help rid the body of germs.

  • Lizard Soup

    Lizard Soup

    Follow the Hong Kong custom of downing lizard soup if you fancy a variation of chicken soup for your cold. The simple-to-make recipe calls for dried lizards, yams, and Chinese dates simmered in water.

    You won’t find dried lizards in the supermarket, but a health practitioner specializing in Chinese herbal medicine may have a supply handy. 

    No studies compare the benefits of chicken soup with lizard soup, but hot soup in a water-based broth helps replace fluids lost from sweating, blowing your nose, and coughing. It can also help loosen mucus.

  • Can Hot Cocoa Help a Hacking Cough?

    Can Hot Cocoa Help a Hacking Cough?

    British researchers measured the effect of theobromine, an ingredient in cocoa, on coughs. Compared with codeine, theobromine was more effective in suppressing an induced cough. The researchers theorized that theobromine acts on the vagus nerve, which spurs coughing.

    The study is too small to confirm chocolate as a cough remedy. However, a cup of cocoa made with low-fat milk and dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cacao) offers chocolate’s antioxidant benefit, and the hot milk can have a sleep-inducing effect.

  • Pickled Plum

    Pickled Plum

    The Japanese rely on sour pickled plum, or umeboshi, to prevent and heal colds and flus as well as other illnesses. Umeboshi actually isn’t a plum at all, but a variety of apricot. It can be eaten plain if you like the pungency or steeped in hot tea with ginger and lemon.

    The medicinal quality of umeboshi stems from its reported antibacterial effects. However, no scientific studies back this up. Umeboshi may have a placebo effect as a traditional comfort food for the Japanese.

  • Turnip a Cure

    Turnip a Cure

    Turnips have a lot going for them: they pack a wallop of vitamin C and are full of vitamins A and B. In Iranian culture, people with colds often eat a plate of cooked, mashed turnips. The root vegetable delivers plenty of vitamin C and is believed to act as an expectorant, helping to loosen mucus and quiet a stubborn cough. However, no scientific evidence documents this effect.

  • Tallow Poultice

    Tallow Poultice

    A mix of European and African traditions led to this Texan preparation for chest congestion. Sheep or cattle tallow (fat) was cheap and readily available before the age of urgent care clinics. It was often used for skin ailments, as well as to keep a deep cough from turning into pneumonia.

    This remedy calls for a small amount of tallow to be wrapped in flannel cloth, warmed, and placed on the chest. The TLC of Mama or Grandma placing the warm cloth on your chest may be comforting, but there are no medicinal effects.

  • Learn More

    Learn More

    While there’s no cure-all for the common cold or flu, there’s no shortage of imaginative remedies across the world and the ages. 

    There's always more research being done on how to best fight off — or better yet prevent — colds and flus. For example, did you know that regular exercise reduces a person's risk for cold and flu? Vitamins and supplements may help too.