Chicken soup may be good for the soul, but some people swear that it’s also good for the body. Many Americans reach for a steaming bowl of chicken soup whenever they’ve got a cold, while the equivalent remedy in Japan is ginger tea. But are these home cures, passed down from generation to generation, really therapeutic?
America: Chicken Soup for Cold Symptoms
Dosage: Sip on as much soup as you can manage, and repeat as necessary.
Verdict: Chicken soup inhibits white blood cell movement by a whopping 75 percent, which can reduce the symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection, according to a study by University of Nebraska researchers. Just make sure it has no MSG or other chemicals.
Natives: Garlic Rub for Bee Stings
Dosage: Crush garlic bulbs and wrap them in a cloth. Rub the poultice onto the sting.
Verdict: Do it. Bee venom is acidic, and the natural components of garlic will neutralize the pain so you’ll feel immediate relief, says Ranella Hirsch, MD, clinical assistant professor at Boston University’s School of Medicine in Massachusetts, and past president of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetic Surgery.
Greece: Chamomile Herbal Tea with Honey and Brandy for Cold Symptoms
Dosage: Fill a pot with 2 cups of boiling water, add a teaspoon of loose chamomile tea, a cinnamon stick, three cloves and either an orange or lemon peel. Let steep for five minutes. Pour the combination into a cup and add a teaspoon of honey and a splash of Metaxa, a Greek brandy. Drink.
Verdict: This could help, says Kathi Kemper, MD, author of The Holistic Pediatrician and director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at Wake Forest University’s School of Medicine in North Carolina. Chamomile has relaxing properties, honey can help with a cough, and orange and lemon are used in cleaning products to zap germs, Dr. Kemper says. And the brandy? “It would probably be an enjoyable addition,” she adds.
Ginger Tea for Cold and Flu Symptoms
Dosage: Mix 2/3 cup of boiling water with 2 teaspoons of grated ginger and 2 teaspoons of sugar. Add a few slices of fresh ginger root and drink the tea.
Verdict: Helps with some symptoms. Ginger can stimulate your circulation, which will help your body get rid of a cold faster. It’s also been shown to reduce nausea, and drinking liquid when you’re sick can help with congestion, Dr. Kemper says. Adding to that is a 2009 Iranian study that found women who were nauseated and vomiting decreased their illness by 50 percent after taking 1,000 mg of ginger daily.
Germany: Apple Cider Vinegar Rub for Sunburn
Dosage: Rub apple cider vinegar onto the burn. If the burn covers your entire body, pour two or three cups of the vinegar into your bath and soak in the water.
Verdict: Aloe vera would work much better on a sunburn, but when all else fails, an apple cider vinegar rub couldn’t hurt, Fulop says. In fact, an apple cider vinegar poultice is commonly rubbed onto aching body parts because the alkaline nature of the vinegar decreases pain.
Spain: Garlic Herbal Tea with Honey for Cold Symptoms
Dosage: Bring 3 cups of water with 3 cloves of garlic to a boil. Turn off the heat, and add ½ cup of fresh lemon juice and ½ cup of honey. Drink ½ cup of the warm mixture three times daily.
Verdict: Each ingredient can help with a cold or the flu, Dr. Kemper says. The garlic has antibacterial properties, lemon is loaded with vitamin C and the honey will soothe your cough. “But it sounds like it will taste terrible,” she adds.
South Africa: Honey and Cinnamon Paste for Acne and Facial Blemishes
Dosage: Mix 4 tablespoons of honey with 3 teaspoons of ground cinnamon. Before going to sleep, apply it to your face; leave it on overnight. Apply as often as needed.
Verdict: The cinnamon is the most important part of this mix because it acts as an anti-inflammatory, and will take down the redness and puffiness, says Dr. Hirsch. But honey is also known for its healing and moisturizing properties when it’s applied to the skin.