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Lapsi: The Common Cold Cure?


The Interviewer will be referred to as ‘I’, and the informant as ‘S’. Translations for Hindi words will be italicised and in parentheses. The Informant is a 52-year-old Punjabi mother, born and raised in North India.

I: So, do you have any remedies or recipes to follow when someone you know has come down with a cold? 

S: Cold? Yeah, definitely.

I: Please describe the recipe and each ingredient, and why these ingredients would help someone with a cold.

S: Well, they’re supposed to be heat-inducing, primarily. So, you… you take gramflour—besan, we call it besan, that yellow powder—you take some besan and you roast it. Typically it was done in ghee (clarified butter, a South Asian staple), but we don’t really use too much ghee nowadays so I kind of dry-roast it, and you boil milk on the side, and if you want some flavouring you can add to it. You know, depending on what and who it’s for, you can add a little cinnamon, a little elaichi (cardamom), and… but you add that at the end, cinnamon you can add at the beginning. You dry-roast it a little, some, and you have boiling milk on the other side. You mix it all together and let it cook for a little bit, so that the gramflour gets cooked thoroughly, and towards the end of it you add your elaichi, or your cardamom, more cinnamon, whatever you want to add for flavour, and I-I like to do elaichi because the flavour is nice, it goes very well with it, and then you add… honey. I add honey. People like sweet, so I add a dash of honey, and cover it for a bit so the elaichi flavour seeps in. And there you have it! That’s lapsi. And in the end, I just add a teaspoon of ghee—because I don’t roast it in ghee but that’s the usual way of doing it. 

I: Is this something you’ve been taught by family — is this a family recipe?

S: Well,  this is just what I’ve learned by… I guess, just, seeing and hearing. My nani (grandmother) used to make it, then my mother, now me. We each use different flavours, yeah, depending on who’s making it and who’s eating it, but the base is the same. 

I: And it’s always called lapsi?

S: Yeah. I guess everybody around me used it. You could call it a family recipe, yeah. 


When it comes to ‘cures’ for the common cold, known medically to be viral and therefore virtually incurable, only something you can wait out, I’ve found that people in India do normally describe all of their remedies as having “heat-inducing” ingredients. While there is no concrete reasoning as to why these ingredients are such, within Indian culture, there are many spices and herbs believed to be so, used within these remedies, usually hot drinks or soups—another can be found in a piece titled “Kaadha: The One-For-All Remedy” (—and this is a long-standing recipe for this particular family. I have not found such a recipe for this ‘Lapsi’ anywhere else, including online, even though it has been passed down the lines of this family. Home remedies are extremely common in India, as they are in many places around the world, sometimes even preferred to allopathic medicine, because they rely on herbs, nature, spices, things that are ‘pure’ and gathered from the earth itself, not chemically processed. Even though it is common in some, primarily Western communities, to rely on allopathic/pill-based medicine and comfort food, when it comes to the common cold and other such illnesses, Indians gravitate to homeopathy and home remedies before anything else, from within the family and the community. Additionally, the common use of these hot soups and drinks makes sense, since they automatically would warm the body from the inside and cause relief from the cold.

Kaadha: The One-For-All Remedy

The Interviewer will be referred to as ‘I’, and the informant as ‘S’. Translations for Hindi words will be italicised and in parentheses. The Informant is a 52-year-old Punjabi mother, born and raised in North India.

I: Do you have any common notable remedies or medicinal recipes for a fever, maybe a flu?

S: Yeah, for virals! For flus, fever, cough, cold, we call it kaadha (decoction). It’s pretty generic… and everybody calls it kaadha.

I: Are there different recipes of kaadha, depending on where you go, who you ask—

S: Yeah, yeah, yeah! There’ll be different recipes, and I’m not really a master of them, but I used to make a lot of it when my daughter was younger. Now, today, I do not remember really the exact ingredients of what went into it, you know, which was the primary ingredient at which point of the recipe, but there used to be things like… dhaniya (coriander/cilantro) powder was for stomachache, and god-knows-what… no! Dhaniya powder was primarily for fever, but basically you have ginger—again, what goes into it is mostly heat-inducing ingredients, again, so you won’t have the cooling things going in there—so, primarily you’ll have ajwain (carom seeds, a very common ingredient in Indian foods and folk remedies), ginger, you’ll have dhaniya or dhaniya powder, long (cumin), cinnamon, tulsi (holy basil), haldi (turmeric), very importantly… a lot, depending on what the problem is and where you’re from. But, let’s say you take two glasses of water, you put it on to boil with all this stuff in it, all these spices and herbs, you put it to boil, and you allow it to boil till you reduce to quantity to about half on a slow flame, and you let it sit. Kaadha basically means, like, brewing, so you allow it to become a kaadha, like a brew, so you brew it enough to reduce the liquid to about half the quantity that you started with, and… cool it a little and then you add a dash of honey, because it’s very bitter and you give this to children too, and then you serve it. You have it, a few times a day, and it’ll help!

I: Did you learn this recipe from anywhere, that you can remember?

S: No, not really, it was, again, something we all kind of had in our childhoods, through our lives, so I learnt it from my mother. However, actually, there was this homeopathic doctor, Dr. [Name], he’s the one who guided me with some ingredients and varieties of kaadha, he streamlined the one that I would make, catered to my daughter, like, ‘oh, you add this, these are the primaries for fever, these are for stomachache,’ and whatever else. And… I also remember, I remember him telling me that with little ones, with children, when it comes to fever, you don’t give… immediately, like allopathy promotes that you immediately give the Crocin or Calpol when they hit, like, 99 (degrees) or 100, but he stopped me from doing that. He said that fever is very important, because you don’t want to treat the symptom, you want to treat the problem, and fever is your body’s way of fighting the problem. So, your body is heating up so much that the problem is being fought, being killed, but when you bring down the fever, you’re not allowing the body to fight. And, he said, basically, ‘kids can handle high temperatures far better than adults can,’ so he said, ‘no matter the temperature, do not panic, it doesn’t mean the same thing as an adult having the same temperature. You can stick to cold swabs and homeopathic stuff, but you don’t need to use allopathy unless it gets into… an emergency situation.’ It’s always worked for my daughter.


Kaadha is a very common remedy in India, and there are many variations of it, depending on the illness, and the person making it and the region they’re from. Kaadha (काढ़ा) essentially means, as the informant states, brew, or literally, decoction, a medicine derived from plants. Here, the plants differ, but the main ingredients always have similar properties: they are heat-inducing. This belief in and use of heat-inducing ingredients can also be seen in, “Lapsi: The Common Cold Cure?” (, except this is a very common remedy, and usually makes use of more spices. Where ‘lapsi’ would provide relief and usually taste pleasant due to its fewer spices and bitter herbs, kaadha is known to be bitter and a pure decoction, the ‘pain’ part of ‘no pain, no gain’, and many Indians swear by its effectiveness in helping cure most common illnesses, including stomachaches, fever, the common cold, a cough, a sore throat, etc., even in children. It is a hot drink, had multiple times a day, just as the informant states, and since it is hot and also has spices in it, it would heat the body from the inside out, but it is even used to treat a fever: this is why it is often recommended by homeopathic doctors, and since it uses heat-inducing ingredients to fight off, well, a fever, it can be classified as a homeopathic remedy as well, all while being a classic, Indian folk medicine, that has been used and trusted for decades upon decades.