Chinese Home Remedies for the Common Cold


Chinese Home Remedies

I hope it’s just allergies, because I’ve been feeling a little ticklish in the throat for the past few days. Of course, with all the reports of this being one of the worst flu seasons in years, I get a little paranoid.

While most reasonable people would take a few vitamins and perhaps use this as an excuse to spend some extra time on the couch watching trashy reality shows, what do I do? Drive to the nearest Chinese market, of course.

Because when it comes to the common cold, I have to admit, I have a cover-all-your-bases philosophy. Sure, I’ll pop a vitamin C and swig some Robitussin. But I’ll also stock up on Pei Pa syrup. And if chicken soup is good for the soul, isn’t it better with a little ginger? And while you’re at it, it doesn’t hurt to throw on another sweater!

Once, when Little Brother was a baby, I was planning to take him with to the grocery store in the evening. My mother was over and begged me not to take him. “He’ll catch a cold being outside at night!” she warned. Did I listen to her? Of course not. Everyone knows it’s germs that make you sick, not cold. So I bundled him up and took him out. A few days later, his little nose got all congested and he was up all night… sick.

Coincidence? Depends on who you ask. You can guess what my mom said.

A few months ago, my dad came back from Taiwan, and brought over some candies and treats. He slipped me a baggie of these Chinese herbal candies. They don’t taste great (although they are much better than some Chinese medicines I’ve had). He swore that if you start eating them at the first sign of a sore throat, it will go away. When my throat started feeling a little weird recently, I reached for them. While I still feel like I’m fighting off a little something, it hasn’t developed into a full blown cold, either.

Chinese candy

Here are some Chinese remedies for the common cold:

  • Hot water with lemon and honey. Add some fresh ginger if you’re really sick.
  • Homemade chicken soup. Again, with lots of ginger.
  • Bitter melon soup — this cured me of a case of laryngitis once. I swear by it!
  • Salted dried plums. Eat them slowly, like a natural cough drop for a sore throat.


Do you put any stock in traditional Chinese home remedies? What tricks do you turn to when you (or your kids) are sick?



  1. says

    My Mum is a Chinese doctor so she made us drink all types of concoctions growing up. She also swears by much of what you talk about. She’d also boil coke, ginger and lemon for us when we were younger!

  2. says

    My mom always said the same thing – that the cold weather outside will make you sick (it was never because of germs, but because we “didn’t zip our jackets up all the way.” I do think some of this Chinese herbal meds work, though I don’t use them a lot mainly due to lack of knowledge. But I do like your suggestions on remedies as those are pretty easy and don’t require odd ingredients.

  3. says

    I missed out on the Chinese cold remedies since my American parent was the primary caregiver, but I do love hot water with lemon, ginger, and honey when I’m feeling sick! I’m not sure I could bring myself to do bitter melon, though, even in the name of good health.

    • says

      @Annabelle, I have to say after my miraculous experience with bitter melon, the taste has grown on me. I even eat it sometimes in stir-fries when I’m not sick!

  4. says

    A sister of mine who is a family and emergency services physician does recommend chicken soup for straightforward ordinary colds and lots of rest. If antibiotics doesn’t help, that’s one thing one can try first..

    So it’s not Chinese medicine per say..


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