Being sick sucks. Here’s how to feel better even if you don’t have immediate access to medicine. Photo by: Maria Alejandra Feature photo: Rowshan Dowlatabadi, All Rights Reserved.
IT WAS 10:30 PM and the only pharmacy in the village was closed. My husband was suffering from heat exhaustion and couldn’t keep any food or liquid down.
I was beginning to worry we would have to find a way to get him to the nearest city for an IV drip. He called his brother, a pharmacist, who recommended a simple re-hydration drink made from common household ingredients: water, salt, and sugar.
The drink worked. My husband stopped vomiting, and by the next morning felt well enough to go hiking.
This episode reminded me of several other useful natural treatments made from ingredients found in households or the corner market in countries all over the world. Although most of them treat ailments that aren’t as serious as dehydration, they have all made my bouts with illness a bit lighter and my travels that much easier.
1. Emergency Re-hydration
If you are in a cosmopolitan city, you can grab a sports drink, but if you are in a tiny village, or an out of the way place, mix 1 teaspoon of salt and 4 to 5 teaspoons of sugar into 1 Liter of purified water. Use in case of vomiting or diarrhea.
2. Honey-Lemon cough syrup or soothing tea
My mother used to give us a cup of hot water mixed with a tablespoon of honey and the juice of 1/2 a lemon when we had coughs and sore throats. A cough syrup can be made by omitting the water.
3. Salt water gargle or sinus cleanser
To treat a sinus infection, mix 1/4 teaspoon of salt with 1/2 cup of water (some people add a little baking soda as well). If you don’t have a dropper, you can just pour it into your nostrils (one at a time) and snort it into the sinuses. It’s not comfortable but it works. Salt water can also be used as a gargle to treat a sore throat.
4. Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
Baking soda has many uses. I thought of it recently because I knew it could be used as an antacid (and is often used as an ingredient in commercial antacids). Mix 1/2 teaspoon with 1/2 glass of water.
You can find baking soda in the baking section of markets, often in little single serving packages under names like karbonat or biocarbinato.
You can also look for the chemical formula, NaHCO3.
It is worth keeping some on hand since mixed with water into a paste it can relieve insect bites or bee stings (remove stinger first), or be used as toothpaste in a bind. Pregnant women should not drink baking soda and water.
5. Mint tea
So far I seem to have encountered some form of mint in most of the countries I’ve been to. Boil a handful of leaves in hot water (or use the dried herb). This is a great treatment for an upset stomach as well as a refreshing drink.
All of the above treat fairly mild ailments. Should the problem continue or worsen, one should seek medical attention.
Sometimes, your illness just requires rest, often a difficult thing to achieve as one races from activity to activity and place to place. Remember, rest a day now and recover sooner rather than delay and spend a week in a hospital.