5 All-Natural Japanese Remedies To Fight And Prevent Colds

Japan's Best Natural Home Cures

By Emi Schemmer
February 8, 2018
Health & Beauty

Prevent any colds and boost your immune system with these five age-old natural cures.

Despite having a lot of sunshine in Tokyo lately, it’s still cold and the flu season is likely to stick around for at least another couple of weeks. While drugstores offer a variety of products that help prevent colds, there are also some traditional obachan-approved Japanese natural ways that do exactly the same (without pumping your body with artificial chemicals). If you’re in need of a quick fix for your condition or you just don’t want to end up as the rest of your coughing colleagues and friends, here are five of those home-made “cold cures” that have been used throughout Japan’s history to battle early symptoms of unpleasant fevers, colds and the flu.

1. Umeboshi (pickled plum)

Umeboshi, or pickled plums, are known for their very distinctive sour yet pungent flavor, but each is in fact packed with wonderful medicinal qualities, stretching from having an alkalizing effect on the body, helping to fight fatigue, being a great rescue to a hangover, and aiding digestion. The umeboshi are found in almost all Japanese households and bentos, strategically placed in the center of the rice to kill germs and preserve the fresh taste. They can be eaten on their own, with rice, even added to tea or hot water.

If you are feeling unwell, try adding one or two umeboshi to some boiled water and stir until you have broken up the umeboshi into tiny little pieces. Drinking this tea will help fight flu-like nausea and will also help to eliminate any toxins from your body. It will also cause you to sweat which will help stimulate your immune system, thus helping you to get better faster. Umeboshi can be found in supermarkets and convenience stores.

2. Hachimitsu-Daikon (Honey with Daikon)

The name itself is probably making you cringe, but hachimitsu-daikon is an old grandma-guaranteed natural remedy for colds, coughs, and even sore throats. Daikon (white Japanese radish) is packed with Vitamin C and rich in special enzymes that act as mucolytic agents — in other words, help to dissolve and expel mucus. Honey has natural antibiotic as well as anti-inflammatory properties which are effective in soothing throat inflammation. Basically, hachimitsu-daikon is a Japanese form of cough and throat syrup.  

To prepare it at home, simply chop about a handful of daikon and put it into a glass container, then cover the chopped daikon evenly with honey and put the lid on. Leave the honey-daikon mixture at room temperature for approximately three to four hours. The prepared syrup can be taken 2-3 times a day (1 Tbsp./time) either straight or by adding a tablespoon to a cup of hot water to make a soothing tea. The mixture will last for about a week when stored in the fridge. It is preferable to use pure organic honey, such as manuka, as cheaper options often have corn syrup mixed into the bottle or jar.  Manuka honey has incredible healing powers and if often even used to treat open difficult-to-heal ulcers and body sores, severe inflammation of the esophagus, amongst many many other illnesses and symptoms.

3. Shoga-Yu (Hot Ginger Tea)

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Shoga-yu, or hot ginger tea, is one of the most common and easily accessible home remedies for colds in Japan. Tea made from ginger has high levels of vitamin C and amino acids, as well as various trace elements such as calcium, zinc, sodium, phosphorus, and many others. Ginger also has a warming effect which is ideal for those combating a cold or flu.

To make the tea, boil a small pot of water with a medium sized ginger root which has been peeled and cut into small pieces. Boil with the lid on for approximately 20-30 minutes. You will notice the water become pale yellow. When serving, add a tablespoon of organic regular or manuka honey. Do not heat the ginger water with honey as this will change the composition of honey and lose its active healing properties. Drink 3-5 times per day.

4. Okayu (Boiled Rice Porridge)

Okayu is boiled rice or Japanese congee (porridge) made of rice, water, and some mild seasoning. It is often prepared in a clay pot, starting with a small piece of kombu to add some flavor. Once the porridge has reached the right consistency, various toppings, such as chopped green onions, julienned ginger, sometimes shitake mushrooms, and umeboshi, are added for extra flavor.

Okayu is a staple to serve to family members who are battling a cold or flu because it’s easy to eat and digest, while still containing important nutrients. If you have a rice cooker at home, check the settings: you will find a お粥 or おかゆ (okayu) button, which will make cooking this dish even more simple to make. 

5. Tamago-zake (Hot Sake & Egg)

寒い夜は #卵酒

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Tamago-sake, otherwise known as a type of eggnog made by heating up sake with honey and raw egg. While it doesn’t sound very pleasant, it is an ancient Japanese natural remedy for stubborn colds and flus. Said to bring on deep sleep while strengthening the immune system, this drink is best consumed before bedtime, and of course, in moderation.

To prepare, mix one beaten egg with two teaspoons of honey and heat 180ml of sake over low-heat. Slowly add the egg-honey mixture to the warmed sake and stir continuously until a thick and creamy drink is formed. Tamago-zake should be consumed while still hot, and for children and/or those who do not drink alcohol, the sake can be boiled to evaporate the alcohol and cooled slightly before adding the egg-honey mixture over a low flame.

Get well soon!

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