Step Aside, Chicken Soup: Eight Cold Elixirs

And when you have a cold, the idea of jetting off to a place with sunshine, warm weather, and salt water might just what you'd want the doctor to order.

Hot Blackcurrant Juice

"In Finland, there is a common belief that hot blackcurrant juice is an effective remedy against a cold," said Jukka Siukosaari, the international affairs officer for the Finnish Medical Association. At least, "that's what my grandmother used to recommend," he pointed out. "I suppose the vitamins [in the juice] are believed to be behind the effect."

picture of black currant

Purple black in color and an excellent source of vitamin C, blackcurrants were used in the United Kingdom as a food source of vitamin C during World War II, when oranges were hard to come by. In fact, blackcurrants have three to four times the vitamin C content as an orange and are valued for their medicinal benefits. Long a trusted remedy for sore throat, the small berries were called quinsy for a form of tonsillitis they're thought to treat.

Blackcurrants come from trees found mostly in Northern and Central Europe and Asia, which is one reason they remain popular in Europe today. The trees were once widely found in the United States, but when the shrub was found to host and spread a disease that threatened the timber industry, they were banned in the early 1900s. By the mid-1960s the federal ban was lifted in favor of allowing states to make their own growing decisions.

Both the fruit and its juice have a sweet and tart taste. The juice can be homemade or sold commercially as a concentrate in the supermarket, explained Siukosaari. If using the concentrate, you add hot water to it and begin to drink the warm juice three to four times a day when your cold symptoms start to act up.

Hot Lemon Drink

"In New Zealand, when people have a cold, they often make a lemon and honey drink. This is believed to soothe the throat," said Shani Naylor, the communications manager for the New Zealand Medical Association.

picture of lemon water

This tried-and-true remedy has been passed down through the generations rather than being the treatment of choice from physicians, she pointed out.

As would be expected, the hot beverage is made by combining boiling water, juice from a lemon and honey to taste.

It could be manuka honey, a type that's native to New Zealand and thought to have additional germ-killing and healing properties, but it's not the only option, said Naylor. "Since this remedy gets passed down from families, there's no one correct way of making it."

The residents of this island country might drink it several times a day to relieve cold symptoms.

The lemon adds a bit of immune-enhancing vitamin C and may even help cut down the production of mucus. Besides adding sweetness, honey can coat an irritated throat and ease its raw and inflamed mucous membranes, which can release secretions or become dry. (It's no surprise that lemon-honey is a popular flavor of throat lozenges.)

Sipped slowly and frequently, this hot mixture can be balm to your throat to temporarily ease its pain. And its healing ingredients and warmth might also help break up congestion.

Ginger Ale

Ginger repeatedly turns up in international remedies.

In the case of South Africa, it comes in the form of ginger ale -- combined with honey and lemon, one of the most commonly used combinations for a cold, said Adri van Eeden, corporate communications manager for the South African Medical Association.

picture of ginger ale

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