Amma’s Hacks to Cure Common Ailments

These traditional remedies have our mom’s stamp of approval.

Annabelle D’Costa

When young, I would often wonder if my grandmom was Getafix from Gaul who could brew the magic potion to cure all our niggling ailments and restore our strength, just like Asterix and his crazy Gauls. From kadhas (bitter af) and other home remedies or gharelu nuske, worked and how!

There’s something magical about home remedies. Most of us (read all) have seen our kitchens getting converted into drugstores and everyday ingredients transforming into medicines. Bitter kadhas, steaming hot kasayam, pastes and powders that took care of late night ear and tummy aches, little cuts and bruises, cough, cold and wheezing, and often, the seasonal fever and chills.

Haldi doodh to cure everything!

Don’t underestimate the power of golden milk – it’s benefits have been validated by scientific studies. Turmeric milk, now sold as golden latte, has a place of prominence in most Indian homes. For 23-year-old Sohail Joshi, turmeric milk comes to the rescue for almost everything  - From helping relive a sore throat to helping boost immunity and everything in between.  

Betel leaves, ginger and honey

Growing up in a typical Marwari household, a concoction of betel leaves, ginger and honey has been Anita Mehta’s home remedy that always worked for son Kartik. “A spoonful of my mother’s medicine is all it took to fight those annoying bouts of a cough. Nothing’s changed even today,” says the lad.

Sindhi Kadha: Ginger, black pepper, tulsi and cumin seeds

For Simran Ahuja, her mom’s kadha always worked. “When down with cold, one sip on this kadha was all it took to feel better. We still have it a couple of times a day, if we’re sniffling.” What goes into this magic potion? “I inherited this recipe from my mother-in-law and it has always worked for the family,” says her mom Ekta Ahuja.

Tulsi leaves, ginger and cloves

Now a mother to two, Sonam Gupta continues to rely on her mom’s tried and tested home remedy to build immunity and beat cold and cough. “No over-the-counter medicine can beat my mother’s special kadha made with these ingredients. It is the best remedy for an irritable throat, which can sometimes we triggered by high pollution levels,” she says.

Kashmiri Kahwa with ginger and saffron

In times of a fever or flu, when you crave a warm drink to soothe an aching body, the Kashmiri Kahwa is Vidushi Verma’s manna. “My mom added crushed ginger, kesar (saffron) and a dash of salt to the pot of Kahwa. It was delicious, warm and soothing!” recalls Vidushi.

Piping hot Rasam

Everyone loves Rasam rice, but this peppery soup is part of the south Indian mom’s arsenal to beat back common ailments like a sore throat and cold. “Rasam was made regularly with rice, but when we were down with a runny nose or a sore throat, amma made this spicy soup with ginger, black pepper and lots of garlic,” says Arun Nair.

Black coffee with pepper

Most of us have suffered recurrent episodes of cold and cough as children, and our moms left no stone unturned to boost our immunity to beat back these common ailments. “My mother’s all-time favourite remedy would be a peppery black coffee. The drink is brewed with black pepper powder added to coffee and this is allowed to boil. Not only does it taste good, it also works like magic,” says Jyothi Elza George who hails from Kerala.

Black tea with ginger powder, pepper, tulsi and jaggery

For Priya Prakasan, this drink has always worked. “Whenever I feel a bit sick or tired, amma brews this drink. It is refreshing and provides immediate relief from throat pain and tiredness.”

Hot steam infused with onions

Khushi Bhatia, originally from Surat, Gujarat recalls a peculiar remedy for relief from a runny nose. “Ma would make us inhale steam from a hot water tub, infused with onions. It really provided immediate relief.”

Neem oil to reduce itchiness

Before chickenpox vaccination got popular, this common childhood infection meant a week-long absence from school, spent at home nursing the rashes. Indian moms have nursed their kids to health with a generous infusion of neem oil added to bather water. Mumbaikar Tejas Mayekar remembers his mom applying neem oil to soothe the skin. “The oil was applied even after the infection subsided, to reduce the marks. Aai gave us a neem soap to bathe with, and then neem talcum powder to dust on the rashes,” he recalls.

Neem juice with turmeric

Jesus Vivian Raja from Chennai remembers drinking neem juice with a dash of haldi powder when I was recovering from chicken pox. It was horrible to taste but there was no getting away from amma’s watchful eye,” he laughs.

Salted lemon, boiled rice and moong dal

“For an upset tummy, I’d eat this really tangy lemon pickle which is basically whole round Assamese lemons preserved in salt, with boiled rice and plain moong dal. It was delicious, and helped my tummy get right back on track,” says Joyoti Mahanta who hails from Jorhat.

Raw banana, raw papaya and boiled fish

Raw papaya and raw bananas are a Bengali mom’s go-to ingredients for an upset tummy. You may be living with her or a 1000 miles away, she’ll advise you to eat “kachha kola and papita,” Promita Mukherjee remembers the mouthwatering simple meals her mother served her when she suffered from a stomach bug. “Ma made a delicious simple curry using kachha kela (raw bananas), papayas and boiled fish. This, when mixed with rice, would instantly nurse my tummy back to health.”

Methi seeds soaked in water

A runny tummy needs instant relief and some kitchen ingredients have the power to do just that! “Mom made me chew on a Methi (fenugreek) seeds and chase this with a glass of water,” says Chelsea Santos, It didn’t taste good at all, but man did it work!

Buttermilk with cumin and ajwain seeds

This always worked. Buttermilk provided the good bacteria and cumin and ajwain relieve plain, says Jesus Vivian Raja.

Pomegranate peel and seeds

Deepa Sirur recalls her grandmom grinding dried pomegranate peels on a stone rolling board, and feeding her half a teaspoon of the paste to stop loose motions. “It also relieved the pain. I now eat pomegranate seeds and the inner septum, and it works like magic. Grandmom is no more, but her recipes and ideas survive,” she says.

Turmeric for cuts and bruises

Moms did two things to relieve the pain and anxiety after a fall. They kissed our boo-boos, to provide instant relief (and boy, it always worked!) and they applied some turmeric powder over those bumps. Known for its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, turmeric has various benefits. “in my home, the turmeric powder box could be found anywhere but the kitchen. Almost every second day, my sister and I would return home with bruised knees. Ma would make a smooth paste with turmeric powder and gently apply it over the affected areas. At little girls we squealed in the fear that it would burn,” says Khushi Bhatia.


Editor’s Pick

Recipes of the Day