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id your grandmother force you to gargle with hot saltwater whenever you were afflicted with a bad cough? Did your father whip up a concoction of water, mint leaves and cinnamon bark when you complained of an upset stomach? We all have stories of home remedies we were compelled to ingest by well-meaning parents and relatives. But is there any merit to such remedies? We rounded up eight common South Asian home remedies and talked with Dr. Rita Ahuja, a board of trustees member of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, to find out how these remedies are able to deliver the promised results.

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For the common cold or flu

Remedy: Boil a few leaves of holy basil, black peppercorns, crushed cloves and a bit of crushed ginger in one cup of water. When the mixture becomes dark brown, add one teaspoon of honey and sip while it is piping hot.
Why it works: Basil leaves are a digestant, and they’re also immuno-modulators that boost the immune system. Black peppercorns are antipyretics which reduce fever, and cloves contain eugenol, a molecule that acts as a local anesthetic. Ginger is an expectorant and, adds Dr. Ahuja, is an aromatic that just “generally makes you feel good.” The honey acts as an antibiotic, coating the stomach lining from irritants.

Remedy: In one cup of warm milk, mix a pinch of turmeric, 1/4 teaspoon crushed black pepper and one teaspoon of sugar. Sip it while hot.
Why it works: Turmeric has both antiseptic and anti-inflammatory effects, and the sugar in the mixture retains latent heat, which is soothing.

Remedy: Add one teaspoon of chopped ginger to one cop of water; boil. Strain the mixture, add one teaspoon of sugar, and sip while hot.
Why it works: The combination of ginger’s feel-good qualities and the heat of the mixture have a potent effect.

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For a sore throat or cough

Remedy: Add one teaspoon of cinnamon powder and one teaspoon of honey to one cup of water. Sip it to ease a sore throat.
Why it works: Cinnamon isn’t just for cooking. It also counteracts bacteria. Combine that with the soothing effects of honey and a sore throat is sure to feel better.

Remedy: Add 10 holy basil leaves to 1 1/2 cups of water. Boil for 10 minutes. Add the juice of one lemon (strained). Sip while hot.
Why it works: We know the holy basil boosts the immune system, but lemon is pretty impressive, too. Lemon stimulates blood circulation (a good thing when you’re sick), and its potassium soothes muscles while its Vitamin C aids the immune system.

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For stomach ailments

Remedy: To treat diarrhea, mix 1 tablespoon powdered cinnamon bark with one cup of hot water. Steep for 10 to 15 minutes.
Why it works: Cinnamon, a natural astringent, dries up your bowel. It also acts as a caminative agent, helping to relieve gas and aid digestion.

Remedy: For stomach pains, add five mint leaves to two cups of water; boil. Add two teaspoons honey and sip while hot.
Why it works: Mint contains atropine, a compound that decreases muscle spasms (thus alleviating stomach pains).

Remedy: In two cups water, add a pinch each of oregano, cumin and rock salt plus a few drops of lemon juice. Boil. Sip while warm to alleviate stomach discomfort.
Why it works: Oregano is a digestant, and it boosts the immune system. Cumin aids digestion, and rock salt contains magnesium and other minerals that can relieve stomach discomfort. n

Published on November 1, 2004.
Photography: Vikram Tank for Nirali Magazine.
Comments are closed.
  1. July 10, 2008, 9:21 am seema

    hi, this remedy section was great help thanks so much.

  2. August 28, 2008, 2:39 am larry

    this is a really wonderful site,,,i would like to thank my friend debbie,for sending it my way!

  3. August 31, 2008, 9:50 am Ruth

    i absolutely believe in the healing power of food! aside from common ailments, functional foods have been demonstrated to help in preventing cancer, heart disease, aging-related maladies and more. i’m so amazed at these superfoods i even started a blog about them: http://www.eatingfabulous.com. Check it out!

  4. August 31, 2008, 11:27 am Anti-Inflammatory Powers of Basil

    […] As I was researching herbal remedies for sore throat, I came across this article on South Asian home remedies which recommends a tea made of holy basil, black peppercorns, crushed cloves and a bit of crushed ginger, to relieve symptoms of common colds and flu. […]

  5. September 3, 2008, 6:18 pm DragonOak

    Thanks for the info, and the explanations for why it works!!!

    Good to know.

  6. September 6, 2008, 4:13 pm Delbert

    “Let your food be your medicine, and let your medicine be your food”

    Hippocrates (460 – 375 BC)

  7. September 8, 2008, 6:32 am jeanette

    this is great for future reference. Food is so much more important than we know and this site is good because it explains why.

  8. September 22, 2008, 2:42 pm Natural Cures

    Very informative information on natural remedies… thanks.

  9. September 24, 2008, 4:58 am The kitchen medic : I found it on the internet

    […] Share and Enjoy: […]

  10. September 24, 2008, 6:03 am MYRNA COLON

    Thanks for all the information…I appreciate every comment yo make about the benefits of everyday things that turn into medicine in the middle of the night, when you are desperate to find something useful.

  11. September 24, 2008, 9:45 pm Tonie

    I have three grown children and they always think? I am the nurse for their health. Thanks, for making me look good!!

  12. November 12, 2008, 4:27 pm Dreams

    I think it is great to use natural food items to heal. Where as compared to paying for pharmaceutical companies to repackage healing elements in a plastic bottle and charge us an arm and a leg.

  13. December 11, 2008, 2:01 pm Levitra

    Great Post!

    My Girlfriend is constantly getting sick. Ill give her this maybe it will help with her chronic soar throats.

    Anything for allergies?

  14. December 16, 2008, 2:30 pm Chantix

    very nice, thanks for sharing.

  15. May 22, 2009, 8:56 pm lucky

    Good posting – basil and lemon – nice !