Winter in Japan brings you some of the most Instagram-worthy sceneries, with layers over layers of snow, winter illuminations and festivals! It's a joy to travel this incredible country during the colder seasons until...... the dreaded cold hits you!
You've done everything in your power to avoid it but it got to you: the runny nose, the sore throat, paired with a cough and headaches. Let's be frank here, colds and even just the sniffles can dampen your experience significantly.
Of course you can hit the next drugstore or pharmacy to help with some over-the-counter medicine. But the last time I attempted to do so, our friendly neighborhood o-baachan (granny) had a different plan for me. According to her, a cold is best cured with some good old home-remedies.
So here is a list of what I call Ye Olde O-baachan's Cold Remedies:
One of o-baachan's favorite DIY remedies, though not everyone's taste. These little powerhouses are said to help with coughs, fevers, fatigue, digestive problems and even hangovers. Chop the umeboshi up in small pieces and steep it in hot water to create a tea. For extra benefits, add some ginger and lemon.
Ginger is known to have strong anti-viral and anti-septic properties and therefore a great remedy for all sorts of colds. To give your immune system a boost, grate some ginger (about one tablespoon) and pour hot water over it to create Shoga-yu, hot ginger tea. Add a teaspoon of honey and let it steep for about 3 to 5 minutes. The Shoga-yu will warm you up and help your body to combat those nasty cold germs!
This one is for hardcore home-remedy enthusiasts! Dice a daikon (Japanese radish), put it into a lidded container and cover it evenly with honey (hatchimitsu). Keep it at room temperature for about 3 hours, so that the daikon juice can seep out, mix with the honey and create a kind of cough syrup. Not for the faint of heart, but this stuff is seriously effective! Take it every 2 to 3 times a day and let the daikon's vitamin C and enzymes, combined with the honey's soothing anti-inflammatories, cure your cough in no time!
Another one out of the "Are you serious?!" section is this remedy, that is said to ease a sore throat and a stuffed-up nose. Grill some negi (green onions) but be sure not to burn them, then wrap them in a cloth and wear this around your neck. This is supposed to increase your blood circulation in your throat and reduce inflammation.
Green tea gargle
Green tea is well-known for its anti-oxidants and health benefits, so make sure you drink lots of it during the winter months. To fight a sore throat and also to prevent you from getting one, brew yourself a really strong one and then instead of drinking it, gargle with it for half a minute. Do so a few times a day and your throat will thank you!
Yuzu is a citrus fruit and is similar to lemon. Despite the "cha", which indicated tea, you can find Yuzu-cha in supermarkets sold in jars that look suspiciously like jam. Put a spoonful of it in a mug of hot water and stir well: instant Yuzu-cha that will soothe your throat and cough.
This one consists of two parts: tamago (egg) and sake (alcohol), therefore not an option for everyone! Unsurprisingly, this is o-baachan's personal favorite. Mix around 180 ml of heated sake with some honey and one raw, beaten egg, to create this remedy that could be labeled Japanese eggnog. The egg is said to give your immune system a boost and the honey has anti-inflammatory properties. And the sake? Well, the sake is supposed to warm you up and give you a good night's rest. And depending on how much of it you indulge on, I'm certain that you will sleep like a log.
If you are feeling adventurous and are coming down with a cold, give some of these old home-remedies a try! I can certify that the hatchimitsu daikon is a challenge but very effective, and that the tamagozake is a hit with the seniors!