Longwinded short-of-breath remedies


In some ways, you could call me lucky because the first time I went overseas to Hong Kong, I knew I wouldn’t be seeing any of the same familiar stores I was used to, save for the same fast food chains. Strangely, on that one trip nothing managed to faze me in the slightest, I slotted into Hong Kong life so well I felt like I’d always loved there… or lived there — freudian slip! That is, apart from standing on the wrong side of escalators.

Nonetheless, I never encountered the phenomenon of being provided hot water when asking for water in Hong Kong that I can remember. It’s a possibility this is a more uniquely Singaporean trait, or my Asian-cultured mind is simply used to the assumption that if you ask for a beverage in any Asian establishment you are likely to be served hot tea. At the least, this almost never happens in Australia unless you’re at Yum Cha.

But I digress. Majorly. This is a followup post to Ruben’s ode to hot water which he requested, on Asian remedies. While herbal remedies are somewhat reputable, not all Asian remedies are always scientifically proven, but there’s a lot to be said about the placebo effect which never fails to deliver.

Let me be clear here this reflects my opinion only.

Dinner at 'Kai' Japanese Restaurant

A Cup of Hot Water?

Whenever I was sick as a kid, my parents would always tell me to drink a lot of water. It didn’t really make much of a difference whether it was hot or cold, but my parents would always make me a cup of warm water, just slightly below the scaldingly hot stage as their explanation was that this made it more pleasant to drink. Cold water would simply render you cooler.

The Chinese have a concept of ‘hot’ and ‘cold’, that is somewhat similar to yin and yang. I don’t pretend to understand it completely, but eating hot and fatty foods can render your body too ‘hot’ and therefore you would need to eat cooler foods in order to render your inner energy back to normal. In this sense, it seems reasonable to me to drink cold water, however it doesn’t necessarily work that way.

By this reasoning, if you’ve caught a ‘cold’ though, does that mean you should drink hot water to swing your inner state further across to the ‘hot’ side of the spectrum?

I, as a kid, and even now as a young adult am not a fan of hot water, since the sensation of a burned tongue is not particularly comfortable, in addition to my being particularly heat sensitive. When my parents and brother happily gulp down cups of hot water, I’ll be staring at mine for half an hour waiting for it to cool and being unable to drink more than a drop to the frustration of my parents. Or I’d be giving up and mixing it with ice water from the fridge even in the dead of winter. Personally I prefer cold water only because it completely numbs the pain in my throat until it warms up again.

In my opinion, the drinking of water has more to do with the flushing of toxins out of the body than anything else, which seems to imply whether it’s hot or cold doesn’t make that much of a difference. While I wholeheartedly agree that if you’re ill already, freezing cold water would not be a great help, this does not necessarily mean scalding will do the job either.

As a high school student, I was also told the story of a young child being ‘forced’ (obligated) to drink scalding hot soup daily by his grandmother. This scalding hot soup burned his esophagus, and whatever implications that has I’ll leave it up to your imagination. For this reason, my parents will always warn that if it’s scalding hot spit it out immediately rather than force it down. It’s also possibly the biggest reason I would avoid the boiling stage of water anywhere near my orifaces.

While I wouldn’t drink boiling hot water, more power to you if that’s what works for you.

FUSION Cafe in Eastwood

Congee, or juk

Congee is like the Asian’s take on the Western tradition of making their children chicken soup when they get sick. Perhaps this is a stereotype and not done by all Western families, what would I know — I’ve never taken a sick day at home before, least of all with a Western parent (since I’m all Asian ;D).

To my understanding or hypothesis, the purpose of chicken soup is to deliver children those essential minerals and whathaveyou while children feel too weak or aren’t hungry enough to eat properly, thereby giving their bodies continued nourishment, energy and hydration to keep fighting their illness. There are more ‘calories’ contained within certain liquids than you would think.

The concept is somewhat the same with congee, which is mostly water to start off with, although more filling and nourishing because of the dissolved rice in suspension. I can also imagine that as Chinese people used to be poorer, making a thin gruel out of water and rice will make the child strong enough to fight on while still being able to intake their bowl of rice at mealtimes even while being too tired or ill to chew.

Of course, this is mostly conjecture. Proven through anime, because we all know anime is an accurate reflection of reality, it’s not only the Chinese that do this, but the Japanese make a big deal of omimais to visit sick friends. Girlfriends or close friends will often cook their sick boyfriends/friends respectively a pot of congee to eat while they’re too poorly to cook for themselves.


Fruits Basket, or fruit salad

Your mileage may vary on how much vitamins you actually are able to gain from fruit, however the healthy selection of foods eaten when you’re sick will continue to help you fight off illness. Besides, even a little Vitamin C through eating an orange is better than not intaking any Vitamin C at all, right?

As an added bonus, that’s extra hydration for those people that don’t like water, as well as natural sugars to keep up blood sugar levels.

My parents like to take the fruit salad approach, which is basically to force feed as many varieties of fruits to you as possible in the one sitting, but it’s not always quantity that counts.

For those doubtful about this method, believe in the placebo. Eating fruits and vegetables makes me feel healthier just from the act of eating them, rather than eating ‘easy’ foods I can grab off the shelf during this time, or drinking coup from cans — guilty, I admit, of providing this, but only as substitute for being unable to do anything more because of time constraints.

Hot and steamy

We return to the subject of steam in the clearing of noses and the mysterious sinuses. While I don’t know that steam necessarily works for me, it certainly does for others, and the hot shower is the one chance for you to sweat out more toxins with the added bonus of allowing them to simply wash away with your bathwater, rather than being bathed in sweat — so to speak.

When I was little and had more lung-related sicknesses, such as a bad cough, and fevers my mother would soak a towel in near-boiling water and place it on my back until it turned warm (near body temperature). Nowadays as a variation of that, I simply wash scalding hot water, though not hot enough to burn me, across my back. This seems to help clear out my lungs somewhat, it could be a mixture of the hot water soaking as well as steam.

As a remedy against pain though, my grandmother likes to boil water and place it inside a tubular bottle, which is then placed inside a thin stocking and pressed against places that hurt, like her back. I expect the scalding hotness of the water numbs the pain and is the same as those deep heat rubs, and the same concept as using a warm pad to ease menstrual cramps and the like.

Boiled watercress soup, made with pork and carrots

Let’s say that in my time I’ve had a lot of coughing sicknesses which has usually resulted in my losing my voice. Because of my constant and persistent coughing which hangs out with me even for weeks or months after I’ve been sick, my grandmother frequently makes my family watercress soup, which is said to help.

I have no idea how though, but that’s a herbal remedy for you.

Boiled Cola with Lemon

Same with this, I have no idea why it helps, but it apparently helps. Perhaps it’s the mixture of it being a warm drink as well as the lemon. My grandfather liked to prepare it for me.

I don’t understand the cola part, but if it helps, I’ll drink it.

Lens cappage.

Just get to bed already

Sleep, the greatest healer. Whenever I’m coming down with something, I’ll drag myself off to bed to sleep for 10 or so hours and when I wake up, I’ve managed to suppress most of it again. I don’t know how I do it, but it could simply be a by product of being young, once again.

Regardless sleep is definitely a great healer, you know this because people that are sick usually spend their time in bed, sleeping on and off and when they can’t sleep maybe just lying in bed watching or reading stuff.

Being sick, as I am given the impression, is all about not overexerting yourself and saving your energy to get better, rather than wasting it on meaningless activity that will keep you sicker for longer. Not everyone has that luxury if they have jobs and responsibilities though.

Of course, most times when I do get sick, it’s because I didn’t sleep enough in the first place, to the state that it has weakened my immune system which was what caused me to succumb to sickness. Naturally actually sleeping helps to build up that immunity once again.

Echinachea and garlic

I’m out of Asian remedies I can think of for now, but my English Advanced tutor always told us to take echinachea when we were sick. They can be bought as pills in bottles to help your immune system, and you can take them when you’re not sick as well in order to boost your immune system.

Garlic is a natural defender, of course. From vampires amongst other things.


Internet remedies

A remedy I found on the internet which I’ve tried to dish out to Ruben lately (though I’m not sure how often he drinks it) is a mixture of lemon slices, ginger slices and honey. This mixture is placed in the fridge until it becomes ‘jelly-like’ and then a spoonful can be used to make a tea which is soothing on the throat.

While I recall it though, Manuka Honey is what my family like to keep around and sometimes drink when we have a sore throat. Reasons?

While Manuka honey has long been enjoyed by honey lovers, laboratory research has shown that active Manuka honey has a unique and remarkable level of antibacterial activity, which has been clinically tested to be helpful on wounds, skin conditions, immunity & vitality, and stomach ulcers.


Active Manuka honey is also medically tested to feed and nourish the skin to assist the healing of wounds, cuts, burns and scars, promote new tissue growth, and eliminate surface bacteria. It has also been found to assist conditions such as acne and eczema.

According to Professor Peter Molan, former biochemist at the University of Waikato in New Zealand, Manuka honey “works on bacteria, fungi and protozoa. We haven’t found anything it doesn’t work on amongst infectious organisms.”

Plus I’m not one to argue with my dad. Or am I? I don’t usually take my honey with lemon and ginger, but separately they’re healthy and beneficial so together they should be right?


When you're allergic to paracaetamol

My approach to illness is a bit unorthodox and a result of both my allergy and the fact that my parents have never allowed me to take a break when I am sick. To be fair, it’s not like they take one when they are sick either. We love to infect everyone else.

I usually just wait to weather out an illness rather than try different remedies, which means I don’t take medication, I don’t drink cough syrup and I don’t eat throat lozenges. Perhaps it’s just the fact that I’m young I can deal with it, or perhaps it’s the fact that I’m allergic to paracetamol which means that my experiences being sick are just that much worse because there is close to nothing that I can take to feel better, so I’m used to it.

One medication for people with my allergy is Sudafed PE, which is basically the only ‘cold’ tablet medication on the market without paracaetamol the last time I asked at any chemist I came across. Unfortunately it also doesn’t seem to do a thing for me, and ibuprofen does close to nothing other than help to ease my headaches somewhat. Throat lozenges also taste disgusting, and I can only withstand them for short periods, but cough medication can ease coughs a little.

On the other hand, if I take a Lemsip which contains 1000mg of paracaetamol, I feel as though I wasn’t sick at all, which is amazingly tempting for me to take even though I have horrendous rashes over my body a few days after taking just 1000mg.

That doesn’t mean I don’t eat fruit, make an attempt to sleep and drown myself in hot showers though. My best memory of being ill is sitting in maths class, blowing and wiping my nose every minute, my nose burning from the wiping, head swimming, eyes watering and feeling like I was about to drop dead faint, whereupon my maths teacher comments I don’t seem very well and all I can do is nod mutely, trying to regain my swimming vision.

My parents were never really big on the letting me rest when I was sick thing, so hopefully I’ll do better when people I’m close to are sick and give them the chance to rest. With luck some of that was interesting to hear about at least, even if it wasn’t necessarily helpful. I take no responsibility for any burns or choking as a result of hot showers or grapes. ;)