My three-year-old suffers from atrange, but not uncommon, allergy. Anything cold, mildly sour, or crumbly, leaves him with a terrible cough, painful tonsils, and a high fever. After trying repeated courses of antibiotics with little effect, I started to look into alternative remedies. Little did I know that the solution lay right under my nose! My grandmothers have a treasure trove of tried and tested home remedies for treating many of the common ailments we face. Since I started using them for my son, he has been enjoying ice cream, milkshakes and fries without so much as a slight cough. He can also play in the rain, without fear of allergies. Some of these ‘totkas’ helped change my son’s life, and I hope they can do the same for you and your loved ones.
Honey cough syrup: 1tsp honey+ pinch black salt (kala namak) + pinch turmeric (haldi). Warm up slightly and take to relieve coughing and pain. If you take this as soon as you feel pain swallowing — which usually indicates the onset of a sore throat — you may avoid the infection altogether. It works for me!
This ‘medicine’ tastes quite good — my kids love it. The dosage, however, has to be reduced for them: a couple of drops of the mixture should be enough.
Honey and ginger brew: Add 1 tsp ginger juice and the juice of one lemon (or half an orange) to 1 cup of hot water. Add honey to sweeten. Sip slowly, letting it rest in the back of your throat between sips, to provide immediate relief from pain and irritation. This concoction worked wonderfully every time my brother had a tonsils infection.
Snorting water: This is extremely effective for clearing the airways. It may be a little painful for the first 5 seconds, but gives instant relief so it’s well worth a try. Mix 1 tsp salt in a bowl of warm water. Take a handful and ‘inhale’ it through your nose, as far as you can. After a couple of times you’ll figure out how to take the water in your nose and out of the mouth. I know it sounds disgusting but it works like magic! Repeat at least 8 to 10 times. Warm salt water loosens the mucus, which you can then easily blow out through your nose. This gives immediate results.
Massage oil with carom seeds (ajwain): Simmer 1 tsp ajwain in half a cup of olive oil over a very low flame (a high flame will cause the oil to ignite) until the seeds are completely burnt. Cool and strain into an airtight container for storage. It works so well I always keep some in store.
Massage warm oil on the throat area, and wrap around a piece of cloth — great for curbing night-time coughing. For wheezing, massage onto the chest area (front and back) and wear an extra layer of clothing. To clear the nasal passages, massage onto the bridge of the nose and forehead, and wrap a scarf around your head. This will clear up a stuffy nose; especially important for getting much needed sleep! This remedy is great for young children who can’t expectorate mucus.
Masala tea: My father drinks this whenever he feels a sore throat coming on and it always helps. Put 2 cloves (long), 2 whole black peppers, a one-inch piece of cinnamon (dalcheeni) and some chopped ginger in a cup of water, and slowly bring to boil. Make your choice of tea with this water, and enjoy.
Take steam. Hot vapours help clear the air passages, and release mucus. Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil, or menthol, for better results. Studies have shown taking steam shortens the duration of a throat infection.
Other remedies: Gargling with salt and water is a common remedy for a sore throat. Add ½ tsp turmeric, a pinch of cayenne pepper and an aspirin to increase its effectiveness tenfold.
A slightly odd, but effective, remedy calls for a cloth soaked in cold water, placed on your throat, and wrapped around with another piece of cloth. Leave overnight. This works as the cold compress draws blood to the region, and expedites the healing process.
If you can tolerate the taste, suck on raw garlic; otherwise eat it mixed with food. It is a natural antibiotic, excellent for fighting all kinds of infections.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, August 28th, 2011.