5 funky home remedies to cure the common cold
I am a self-proclaimed whiny baby when I’m sick. Even though it’s the heart of what’s turning out to be a beautiful summer, I’m not having any of it. Sniffles, headache, congestion, sore throat, earache, you name it - I’ve got it. All I want is for someone to take care of me and make me soup while I watch trash guilty pleasure TV in bed all day. Unfortunately, I’m living alone for the summer so I’m out of luck. Or so I thought. My German landlady heard my horrendous cough (she lives below me) and told me very firmly to do a few things I found a bit outlandish. Remember to take all of this with a grain of salt. I’m not a doctor. Heck, I’m not even pre-med. I’m probably the least qualified person to give medical advice - which this shouldn’t be taken as. I just have a cold and would love to beat it quickly. So here are five German home remedies to do just that.
Her first suggestion seemed very obvious to her but was absolutely wild to me. She told me to boil some beer and drink it as hot (called Stauchen or Bier gestaucht) as I could stand it. It’s even better with an added shot of schnapps. 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. I’m not sure if this one really works, but there are similar recipes across Europe to beat the cold and flu. In Ireland they suggest Guinness and boiled whiskey with honey, Poland has a mulled and spiced beer recipe for the common cold. It won’t hurt to try it.
Wrap your calves
I know, this one sounds even sillier than the beer. In lieu of your forehead, Germans say you should wrap your calves in cool compresses to beat a fever. Bonus points if you add lemon under the cloth. Apparently, there’s some scientific basis to this. Since there is more skin on your calf than on your head, the cool compress helps lower your temperature faster than if you put the cloth on your head. I’m not sure how effective this is but after a brief bout of research this seems to be tried and true - especially for children that fidget compresses off of their foreheads. If you want to try this one out, remember to remove after 30 minutes and rest for 10 before doing it again.
Milk and honey
Boiled milk mixed with honey is soothing for a sore throat, according to most Germans. The hydration is good for your body and milk with honey mixed in should also help settle upset stomachs. That is, unless you’re like me and are lactose intolerant.
Another one for the cooktop, my lovely Vermieterin (landlady) suggested that I boil two chopped onions in a small pot full of water and drink the resulting juice. The concoction is supposedly good for rehydrating the body and flushing out toxins. I honestly think the smell alone would be enough to scare the cold virus away. It’s yet to be determined if this method works, I’ll be the first to admit I’m a bit too afraid to try it out.
There’s a tea for that
Drug stores work differently in Germany than they do in the States. To get any over the counter medicines, you have to go to an Apotheke, designated with a red A outside the storefront, and talk to a pharmacist. An Apotheke is a drug store/pharmacy hybrid that stocks every permutation of medicine you can possibly think of. If you talk to a pharmacist about having a cold, odds are he’ll recommend you stop by your local grocery store and pick up some tea. Hot liquids are a pretty universal treatment for the common cold; in Germany there’s tea labeled specifically for all of your symptoms. They’re all very affordable, accessible and not bad with some honey and lemon if you’re into that sort of thing.
Go to a doctor if you have a persistent fever or feel really sick. None of this is bona fide medical advice, just some German culture that might help the next time you have a cold. As for me? I’m looking forward to being back in bed. Maybe with a boiled beer or two.