These soothing recipes come from herds and households across India.
Growing up in India, the changing seasons often meant battling a stuffy nose, constipation and a blurry feeling in the head.
India is a country with many seasons, and every seasonal change brings a wave of colds and coughs.
Fortunately, India offers an abundance of home remedies, often referred to as Dadima Ke Nuskhe (Grandmother’s Recipes). I have a few tried and true recipes from all over India that I have in my back pocket.
Sore throat were common for me as a child. To soothe aching tonsils, my parents gave me hot chai with a pinch of salt and pepper. This often gave me instant relief.
When a stuffy nose and overload became overwhelming, my father cooked his mutton curry with double the spice quotient. The hit of chilies and the soothing fat broth were a surefire way to get a peaceful sleep.
Indian households have a huge repertoire of such recipes. Some rely on the knowledge of Ayurveda and some are purely anecdotal.
“Ginger helps with a sore throat, while honey and lemon can help lubricate the throat and produce saliva, which reduces the dry tickling in the throat,” says nutritionist Kavita Devgan.
Something research has also suggested that honey is more effective than most over-the-counter medicines.
According to AyurvedaSeasonal changes cause kapha to increase, causing phlegm and coughing. Kapha is the energy that is responsible for lubrication in the body.
“Food elements with an astringent taste help reduce kapha in the body,” says the Ayurvedic nutritionist and chef Amrita Kaur. “Spices help with this, and that’s why we drink hot infusions to fight colds and coughs.”
KadhaA concoction of holy basil, peppercorn, and other spices boiled in water is the most common hot infusion.
While trying to find home remedies from different parts of India, I spoke to food writers, chefs, and friends to share the heirloom recipes from their kitchen.
While these recipes are anecdotal, many feel like a warm blanket on a cold night.
Food writer from Delhi Vernika Awal shares a recipe from her household that’s almost like a dessert. This pulpy preparation uses Bengal Grams of flour. It is believed to dry up phlegm and provide relief.
- 2-3 tbsp. Bengal gram of flour
- 1 tablespoon. sugar
- 1 1/2 cup of milk
- 1 teaspoon. Ghee
- 1 tablespoon. shaved almonds (optional)
- Heat a thick-bottomed pan and add the ghee.
- Once the ghee is slightly hot, add the bengal gram flour and fry until it releases a nutty flavor.
- You can also add shaved almonds.
- Add sugar. Once the sugar melts, add the milk, stirring continuously to avoid lumps.
- Boil for 1–2 minutes and consume hot.
Amrita Kaur shares a recipe she grew up with. The basis of this is ginger and garlic, both of which are touted as helpful fight a cold.
According to Devgan garlic has antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties that can help detoxify the immune system and expel phlegm.
Sometimes a clove of garlic is burned in mustard oil. The hot oil is then rubbed onto your chest and back, which relieves congestion as in a Rub menthol.
- 3–4 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 inch piece of ginger, grated
- 1/2 tsp. Rock salt
- 1/4 tsp. Turmeric powder
- 1 cup of milk
- 1 tablespoon. Ghee
- 1/2 tsp. red chilli powder (optional)
- Heat the ghee in a pan. Add ginger and garlic.
- Saute the ginger and garlic for 3 to 4 minutes, then add rock salt, turmeric powder, and red chili powder. Mix well.
- Add milk. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
- Serve hot.
Puspanjalee The Dutta is a food writer from Assam in northeast India. Her favorite home remedy for colds and coughs is khar, a preparation that involves burning the peel of a particular type of banana and filtering water through it.
The dutta enjoys a recipe called kharoni bhat, Rice cooked with khar, which is eaten to ward off a cold. Khar is also rubbed on the chest, back, and the soles of the feet for comfort.
- 1 serving of cooked rice
- 2 TBSP. khar
- 2–3 cloves of garlic, crushed with the skin
- 1 teaspoon. Mustard oil
- Salt to taste
- Heat the oil in the wok. Add garlic as soon as the oil starts smoking.
- Then add boiled rice and khar. Mix well and fry over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes.
- Try and add salt if necessary. In general, khar gives the dish a salty taste.
- Kharoni Bhat is ready to be eaten.
This purple dish is visually stunning and is considered a tonic for that Digestive system.
“My grandmother was adept at Ayurveda and made oils, kanji (a porridge made from jaggery, coconut milk and red rice) and simple spices to bring order to the digestive system,” says the chef Marina Balakrishnan. “I particularly remember mornings when she brewed Chukka Kaapi. ”
Chukku is the local name for dry ginger powder that is brewed with coffee. The preparation offers comfort against coughs and colds and can strengthen the immune system.
- 1 teaspoon. Chukka (dry ginger powder)
- 1 teaspoon. Coffee powder
- 1 teaspoon. Cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp. crushed peppercorn
- 1 teaspoon. Jaggery, coarsely ground
- 5–6 holy basil leaves
- 16 ounces. Water (two 8-ounce glasses)
- Heat water over medium heat.
- Add the chukka, cumin, crushed peppercorn, jaggery and holy basil leaves and bring to a boil. Cook over medium heat for 10–15 minutes.
- Add coffee powder.
- Strain and drink hot.
Hot, peppery Rasam is to the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu what chicken soup is to the rest of the world.
The hearty, spicy broth uses a special powder made from a mixture of spices and herbs. This usually includes coriander Seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin Seeds, peppercorns, and curry leaves, although it can vary from region to region.
Pre-made rasam powder can be picked up at a traditional Indian grocery store.
Meera GanapathiThe author and founder of the online magazine The Soup shares her recipe for this soothing broth.
- 1/2 cup mungdal, boiled and mashed
- 2 tomatoes, quartered
- 1 teaspoon. Rasam powder
- 1 green chili, cut lengthways
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- 6–7 curry leaves
- 1/2 tsp. Mustard seeds
- 1/2 tsp. Cumin seeds
- 1 pinch of asafetida
- 1/2 tsp. Turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp. red chili powder
- 1 lime-sized tamarind ball soaked in 1 cup of warm water to extract the juices
- 1/2 cup of water
- 1 tablespoon. Ghee
- Salt to taste
- Heat the ghee in a saucepan and add the mustard seeds, curry leaves, cumin, green chillies and asafetida. Stir briefly until aroma is achieved, but do not burn!
- Add crushed cloves of garlic and crushed black pepper. Sear.
- Now add tomatoes and cook until tender and start releasing juice.
- Add turmeric and red chili powder and sauté for another 5 minutes.
- Now add Tamarind-infused water and bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the rasam powder and 1/2 cup of water.
- Add cooked and mashed dal. Add salt. Let simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Drink hot.
Although these recipes may not have been medically proven, they are traditional remedies that have been used in India for centuries.
Whether rooted in the tradition of Ayurveda or simply passed on anecdotally from kitchen to kitchen, they can calm, strengthen and heal during Ayurveda Cold and flu season.
Shirin Mehrotra is an independent journalist who writes about the intersection of food, travel and culture. She is currently doing an MA in Anthropology of Food.