Tag Archives: Cold cure

Cold Remedies – Whiskey & Honey Milk


This piece is collected in a casual interview setting around a cup of coffee. My informant (BA) was born in Lille, France, and moved to California in 2002 with her husband for their jobs at Caltech. She has a Master in Human Resources and Detection of High Potentials, is a mother of two teenage girls, loves to garden and go on hikes, and is overall a very energetic and happy woman. 

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant (BA) and interviewer.

Interviewer: How do you treat a sore throat?

BA: So, there are two ways. There’s the version a little more aggressive.  You take a chug of whiskey, you gurgle it around, you remove all the bacteria, and its supposed to leave [the bacteria and sore throat]. And the grandma remedy, which I love, and can’t do any har, is that you take a, a, a bowl of hot milk, actually more warm, you put two teaspoons of honey, you turn, you mix, and you drink it. That’ll take care of your sore throat.

Interviewer: Where did you learn these remedies? 

BA: My grandmother would make me drink the milk and my dad, who used the more aggressive method, made me drink whiskey. I liked the grandma version better *laughs* but I made my girls try both when they were little! 


Growing up, the whiskey method was not my favorite either, but my parents and neighbors, who we are very close to, insisted I try it if medicine or hot milk and honey didn’t do the trick. The hot milk and honey is a remedy I use all the time, but I also use it to destress when I’m feeling anxious, not only for sore throats. Although I don’t think it cures a cold, it does help with the symptoms. 

Ear Infection Garlic Drops cure

I asked what I should do if my ear is starting to hurt and I have a slight cold:

Response: “You don’t want to get sick and get an ear infection…especially if your ears are already starting to hurt. You need to go grab the garlic drops we have…they will prevent you from getting an ear infection, but won’t be any good if you already have one. Go grab the bottle and then run the dropper under hot water so it warms up then grab a paper towel and set it down on the table and lay your head down on one side so the drops don’t get on anything else. Just put a couple drops in and let it sit for a second. And make sure it really feels like it gets in there. And then do the other side, you’ll be good.”



Background: He is 53 years old and raised in Los Gatos, CA. He attended Santa Clara University and now lives with his wife in Los Angeles. He is a father of two.

Context: He shared this home remedy with me in our kitchen when I was beginning to feel sick.

Analysis: In my opinion, believing in home remedies is entirely dependent on how you were raised and the home remedies that your parents practice. My dad told me this remedy, which immediately gives it validity in my worldview. Remedies are such a cool thing that gets passed down through familial lines, and I think is an interesting thing to analyze family to family. You never think about where, when, and from whom you first heard a home remedy once it becomes part of your personal belief system. One home remedy could sound completely ridiculous to someone whose own family holds different beliefs. Who it is that shares with you their home remedy is extremely relevant to whether or not you will try it or accept it as your own folk belief as well.

Caviar, raw garlic, hard toasted bread to get over a cold

Background information:

It is often considered that mothers know best, and this piece of folklore is in complete accordance to this idea. As an immigrant to the United States, my mom was certainly open to new ideas and remedies to help with colds and sore throats but found that this home-remedy that she had concocted was extremely useful in fending off bacteria and decreasing the amount of time that it takes to fight a cold and ultimately feel better. She had created this home-remedy when she was in her young adulthood when she had been stuck with a cold. Since she lived in Sweden at the time, she used ingredients that were common in Sweden, such as caviar and hard bread. When we moved to the United States, however, she was not able to find the same ingredients as were available in Sweden and therefore imported caviar and located grocery stores which sold the specific hard bread she was looking for, and therefore carried over this home-remedy to the United States from Sweden.


Main Piece:

Whenever I would get a cold or feel under the weather, my mom instantly knew what to do. Aside from being the perfect mother in always supplying me with cough drops, tissues, checking in on me, and overall tending to my needs, she shared with me a fantastic home-remedy to fight off bacteria and get over a cold quicker. I believe that she found this home-remedy herself and used some ingredients that are common in Sweden but not necessarily common in the United States. Her home-remedy consisted of a single piece of crisp, hard bread, which is very commonly found in Swedish grocery stores. On top of this piece of hard bread, she would smear on caviar to coat the entire surface, and then top this with raw garlic. In Sweden, caviar is very common as well, and is often stored in a toothpaste-like tube that is available everywhere in Sweden. Whenever she would give me this piece of hard bread with caviar and raw garlic on top, I would feel significantly better as the day went on. She claimed that the reason as to why this home-remedy was so successful was due to the raw garlic being so concentrated and therefore was good at fighting off bacteria. Additionally, she claimed that because the piece of bread used was very hard and crisp, it created friction with the sore throat, which helped the scratchy and uncomfortable feeling often associated with colds.


Personal thoughts:

I always thought that this home-remedy was very strange because the ingredients did not completely agree with my personal taste. When I tried it for the first time when I was young, however, I found that it was actually extremely helpful and aided me in getting over my cold. Therefore, I will always keep this remedy with me because it is a tried and true way of fighting off a cold.

Honey, Lemon, Garlic, and Onion Mix to Cure Colds

Background information:

My roommate is Colombian and is the first one in her family who was born in the United States since her relatives all live in Colombia except for her direct family. She actively engages in the Colombian culture, speaking Spanish with her family and celebrating Colombian events and traditions. Therefore, even though she was born in the United States, she holds onto her Colombian roots and treasures her Colombian culture as she believes that her Colombian roots are a large part of what shapes who she is.

Main Piece:

My roommate, who is of Colombian descent, has fantastic cultural traditions that she shares with me. When she was sick with a cold earlier this semester, she told me about a remedy that she had been exposed to her whole life. She said that she begins by squeezing a whole lemon, pouring this lemon juice into a glass, mincing garlic and onion, and putting this into the glass with the lemon juice. She later tops this concoction off with honey and mixed it all together, then quickly drinks it. She said that it is a horrible taste and needs to be consumed quickly because the taste is so pungent and concentrated. After drinking this, she recommends that one have a class of water to immediately flush down any excess of the concoction as the taste can linger for a while which can be very unpleasant. She claims that although this remedy is most likely one of the most unappealing drinks that she has tasted, it works wonders and immediately can make one feel better. The concoction, she states, has a large dose of Vitamin C which is crucial to bettering the immune system, has honey that is gentle and soothing to the throat, and contains garlic and onion which are key to clearing out any mucus. She said that this has been a key remedy to making her feel better throughout her childhood and adult life, and therefore used this remedy whenever she felt like she had a cold.


Personal thoughts:

My roommate shared a fantastic remedy for sore throats with me when she was fighting off a cold and it reminded me of certain cold remedies that I have learned from my family. Although we come from vastly different backgrounds with her being Colombian and me being Swedish, there is a connection between the cold remedies that we have learned from our respective cultures. For example, the cold remedies that we have both learned each involve garlic, which I would not consider to be the most common treatment for colds, therefore showing similarity and slight overlap between widely different cultures.

A Natural Cold Remedy – Ecuador

My informant was born and raised in Ibarra, Ecuador until she left to live in the U.S. when she was sixteen years old.  Whenever she and her brothers had a cold or a sore throat, her mother made a drink for them made from lemon juice, a little bit of orange juice and honey.  Her mother would then heat it up on the stove, which my informant says helped a lot since the steam would reduce congestion and the warmth would relieve sore throats.  She also says that you have to drink it with a straw or it will ruin your tooth enamel.  The remedy has a long tradition in her family: her grandmother prepared it for her mother, her great-grandmother prepared it for her grandmother, her great-great grandmother prepared it for her great-grandmother, etc.  She says, “Everyone in Ecuador does it… I think [laughs]… Or a lot of people I knew did it.”  It provides a lot of Vitamin C as well so it offers a cheaper and more natural alternative to medications.  The honey not only cuts the acidity of the lemon juice, but also adds anti-bacterial elements into the “cocktail.” “Unless we were really sick, we didn’t go to the doctor… Especially not for simple colds.”  To this day, she still prepares the remedy when she is feeling under the weather.  When I asked if she would do the same for her children, she replied: “Of course, it’s a family tradition!”