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Photo by Smoobs

Gabriela Garcia recommends you try these natural homemade remedies from around the globe before you dish out dollars for cough syrups and pain relief medications.

YOU TYPICALLY WON’T find me in a doctor’s office unless I believe I am indisputably dying. I believe I acquired this attitude during my childhood. At the first sign of illness, my mother would brew up one of her infamous concoctions involving some variation of garlic, lemon, honey, or salt water. She would scoff at my suggestion that I be given cherry-flavored cough syrup like every other kid I knew, but before I could muster any words of indignation, I would feel better and have to admit defeat.

Now that I’m older I realize that my mother’s recipes weren’t some kind of mad science experiment thought up by Cuban parents eager to torture their children. I’m grateful for these simple wisdoms passed on through the generations that never fail to work for me; I’ve even made a habit of collecting recipes throughout my travels. If you share in my aversion to antiseptic-smelling waiting rooms or late-night runs to the drugstore, these remedies from around the world might come in handy.


India – Mix a tablespoon of ground cinnamon with a tablespoon of warm water and apply the paste to your forehead. If possible, lie somewhere dark until your headache subsides. This remedy eliminates headaches caused by exposure to cold air (and smells kind of nice, too).

Upset Stomach

Spain – Boil some water and throw in a handful of celery leaves (make sure to rinse them first). Let the leaves steep for five minutes, strain, and then drink the tea. Celery is the enemy of acid buildup.

Latin America – Make chamomile tea. Using your own dried chamomile is best, but chamomile tea bags are readily available in most grocery stores. The plant sterols in chamomile love to soothe an upset stomach.

Photo by chadao

China – Add four slices of fresh ginger to a cup of black tea. A British medical journal found that ginger is more effective than Dramamine in alleviating motion sickness. This is old news to Chinese medicine, which has made use of it for thousands of years.

Cold and Flu

Dominican Republic – Finely chop half of a large onion. Mix with one cup of honey (the amount in a typical honey bear). Every night, take 2 tablespoons of this mixture with the juice of half a lime. Onions have powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-everything bad super powers, which are enhanced by lime juice chock-full of Vitamin C.

Cuba – Make an oregano tea. Steep half a cup of dried oregano in a cup of boiling water and let it steep for five minutes before straining. The oil of the oregano leaves is a natural antibacterial, and the taste even grows on you (I swear!)

Russia – Drink a cup of kefir (a yogurt-like milk drink). Chop two cloves of raw garlic super finely and swallow. Raw garlic is what every natural cure wants to be when it grows up—it is one of the most powerful natural antibiotics, and is widely used as an ingredient in all kinds of home remedies. Eaten alone it can upset your stomach, but the kefir coats your stomach first so the garlic won’t give you a burning feeling. If you don’t have access to kefir, add the raw garlic to a salad or sandwich.

Sore Throat

Global – Dissolve five tablespoons of salt in a cup of hot water and use as a gargle. It feels like being overcome by a wave at the beach, but the salt water will get rid of germs and bacteria in your throat.

Photo by aussiegall


South Africa – Create an acne cream by mixing four tablespoons of honey with three teaspoons of ground cinnamon. Apply it directly to the skin and leave it on overnight. Use it every night for best results. This paste is slightly astringent and thought to contain antibacterial properties.

Middle East – Look for black seed oil at an Arab grocery store. Use it like a mask—apply to your face for an hour and then wash it off. The Prophet Muhammad is quoted as saying, “Use this black seed regularly, because it has a cure for every disease except death.” It was also believed to have been used by Pharaohs in ancient Egypt. If you don’t have access to black seed oil, you can use aloe vera gel, but make sure it is pure aloe vera with no added ingredients.

Minor Burns

USA – Apply egg whites to the burn and let it dry. Reapply as necessary until the pain subsides. Egg whites will cool down your skin and prevent scarring.


Australia – Eat plenty of Vegemite on toasted bread. This spread made from brewer’s yeast extract hasn’t quite reached international popularity, but is a beloved staple of the Aussie diet. You’ll be thanking them after a night of hardcore partying.

USA – Make a “prairie oyster”: Combine a raw egg yolk, two teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce, two teaspoons of vinegar, one teaspoon of hot sauce, two teaspoons of ketchup, salt, and pepper. Make sure not to crack the yolk. People swear by this, but I think I’d rather spend the day on a hangover deathbed than drink it. Either way, consume at your own risk!


Have you discovered any helpful remedies throughout your travels? Share them in the comments below!

Health + Lifestyle


About The Author

Gabriela Garcia

Gabriela Garcia is a freelance writer who splits her time between New York, Miami, and, as often as possible, the world. In between pondering the universe, she enjoys Jivamukti yoga, camping, and chance encounters with fascinating people. She loves interacting with fellow travelers on Twitter.

  • Megan Hill

    Meat tenderizer for jelly fish stings on the Gulf Coast!

  • Candice Walsh

    Killer piece, Gabriela.

  • Michelle

    Bookmarking this – thanks!

  • joshua johnson

    This is great! As a dude with no health insurance I need every trick I can get my hands on! Any ancient remedy for H1N1?

  • K

    - Great work; I for one can vouch for the Dominican home remedy for cold & flu – Works like a charm. I’ll be bookmarking this as well thanks!

  • Maria Lopez

    Very well written and very informative. I loved your sense of humor and the way to interlace the words. Thank you for the valuable advice and I’ll keep it close to me in case I need to recur to it.

  • Alouise

    Love the post – some really interesting remedies, lot’s I’ve never heard of too.

    I find when I sick with a cold/flu ginger tea helps a lot. I just peel some ginger root, steep it in boiling water and drink like 5+ cups a day and I start feeling better immediately. I usually add a bit of honey to sweeten it up.

    And my personal rememdy for hangovers – drink lots and lots of water. The morning/afternoon/evening after (when I can handle food) I head to Taco Bell and get a chicken burrito (loaded with hot sauce), fries supreme and a root beer. Never fails… for me at least.

  • Slava

    Great piece, Gabriela! I always go for the natural remedies myself! Here is some tried and tested recipes from Bulgaria:
    Hangover – drink some sauerkraut juice (sounds horrible, but it’s not that bad) or a big glass of ayran (a traditional Bulgarian drink, made by mixing COLD yoghurt with water and (sometimes) salt, very refreshing in hot summer days) – these always help!
    Headache – Put some mint oil on your fingertips and gently press and rub the temples of your head for a minute. Be careful not to touch your eyes – the mint oil will make you cry! (very effective, especially for stress-related headaches, or the ones caused by too many hours in front of the PC screen)
    Bug and mosquito bites – rub some mint oil on them! It will stop the itching for a while.
    Wasp bites – press a peeled clove of garlic to it! It takes away the pain.
    Oh, and egg whites are really great for burns, as you’ve mentioned! When my husband was 2, he poured a pan of hot oil on his head. The only thing that saved him from scarring, was a carton of fresh eggs his dad smashed on his head!

  • Vidya

    Cuts – India

    Smear generous amount of Turmeric powder on the cut, it arrests the blood flow imediately, This works brilliantly. I have been practising this since i was young and recently when my husband cut his finger along with his nail at the kitchen, this worked like magic. Its been 2 weeks now and wound has healed up 90%.

  • Carly Stolle

    Here’s a tried and true fix for bee stings. As soon as you get the sting, apply a wet (saliva) copper penny directly to the sting and apply pressure. It will just take a few minutes and the sting will subside. Worked like a charm on a wasp sting a few weeks ago. For me, it also stops all the swelling. It has to do with the copper from the wet penny getting into your skin. Will NOT, however, work if you are allergic to bees. That’s an entirely different situation.

  • Courtneysuzh

    Bay leaf & chamomile tea for painful cramps. I buy them in bulk section of the health food store. Use a tablespoon of each in two cups of boiling water. Let steep for 10 minutes and sip. My friend from Brazil introduced me to bay leaf for cramps, and it takes an edge off!

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