The Japanese take a hybrid approach to health and wellness, one that combines both Western elements, such as pharmaceuticals, and kanpō, or Chinese-based holistic therapies, such as acupuncture and herbal tinctures, adapted to fit the Japanese aesthetic. Then you have traditional home remedies to treat symptoms such as coughs and congestion, which don’t differ much from those found in other cultures.
For example, whereas the British have the hot toddy, a warm, pleasant mixture of Scotch, herbal tea, lemon and honey, the Japanese have shogayu, an equally pleasant combination of warm honey, ginger and yuzu. Although these two drinks have different ingredients, they both serve the same purpose — to alleviate symptoms of the common cold.
Other Japanese home cold remedies include tamagozake, a delightfully warm sake-based elixir, and negi-miso-yu, a hot scallion and miso drink that could almost double as miso soup. You don’t have to wait for flu season to enjoy these small Japanese comforts though. In fact, you don’t have to wait at all.
Negi-miso-yu refers to a simple mixture of miso, chopped scallions and hot water. Alliums, such as garlic and onions, have anti-inflammatory and expectorant properties. Has slicing onions ever caused you to have a runny nose? That’s an expectorant in action.
Protein-rich miso stimulates digestion and provides ample amounts of vitamin B, vitamin K, vitamin E and folic acid. The mechanism in which miso stimulates digestion results from its fermentation. Fermented foods introduce beneficial bacteria to the digestive tract, which help break down certain food components and facilitate nutrient uptake. When combined with hot water, you get a delicious, savory mug of respiratory clearing magic.
Soothing and spicy, shogayu, a classic Japanese ginger tea, attacks symptoms of the common cold synergistically. Ginger root has long been used to treat a plethora of ailments ranging from colic and motion sickness to morning sickness and compromised respiratory function. Most of these claims, at best, are suspect and unproven. However, you might have already experienced ginger’s effect on cold symptoms empirically.
Ginger is a pungent, piquant spice, not unlike cardamom and galangal. Piquancy, as most foodies know, is responsible for that pleasantly spicy sensation in foods like karē-raisu, beef rendang and ma po tofu. Ginger has a way of opening the nasal passages and letting you breathe a little easier when you feel congested. But the cold-killing benefits of shogayu don’t end there — it also has lemon juice and honey.
The honey in shogayu might act as an effective cough suppressant. According to a study conducted by Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics, honey proved as effective as dextromethorphan as a cough suppressant. And although yuzu or lemon is optional in shogayu, the vitamin C in these citrus fruits might provide protection against immune system deficiencies, eye disease and cardiovascular disease.
Consider tamagozake a sake-based eggnog. Although too much alcohol might make cold symptoms worse, you’d be hard-pressed to deny the therapeutic effects of a warming cup of sweetened sake combined with the velvety smoothness of an egg beaten until frothy when you feel a chill coming on. For a touch of piquancy, steep a slice of ginger in the sake as you heat it.
The information contained herein does not claim to cure or prevent diseases or illnesses. It simply helps alleviate some of the symptoms of the common cold. If you think you are suffering from a medical condition see your doctor. Do not self diagnose.