Tis The Season: Caribbean Cold and Flu Fixes

November 25, 2010

Words by J-Rockaz


Cold season is upon us and it is high time for some Caribbean holistic remedies for the common cold. If you thought that stuff was all mystical hocus pocus–you were almost right. I mean, you have to give the witchdoctors credit. These guys have been healing people without insurance since the days of the woolly mammoth. Placebo effect or not, their patients live on and on to tell the stories, generation after generation, about the magical remedies that cure whatever troubles you. Having said that, let’s not forget the Caribbean is a melting pot. The region is ruled by all kinds of cross-cultural mixes and mash-ups from food, to fashion, music and dance (and everything else under the sun) and that pattern holds true for medicine. Read on for a few standbys to add to your arsenal/medicine cabinet:


Our first stop on the cold season’s road to recovery is a dreaded rite of passage for some West Indian kids (what they do as adults depends on how long they want to stay sick) only this medicine is no island native: Vick’s Vapor Rub. Sounds normal until your overbearing granny rubs so much into your chest that you can feel your lungs start to freeze, while your epidermis slowly begins to melt away. But the drama hasn’t started yet. Next she forces you to drink tea made from an herb called cerassee or what Guyanese folks call chorilla bush (right now the herb is being used in cancer research). I say “force” because drinking the tea straight up is torture. Bitter is an understatement. Lets just say it’s worst than having to wash your mouth with soap because you called your cousin a bumba-something. (FYI, a large enough dose will kill you!)

Enough with the Jokes. Now enters Buckley’s, a serum company founded in Canada in 1920, and well known around world including the West Indies. If you are talking about the diaspora, there is a bottle in almost everyone’s cabinet. The taste is harsh, causing you to squint upon contact. It’s similar to a cerebral slap across the face, from the master of British wit, Sir William F. Buckley (not the same CEO William F. Buckley). As advertised, “It Tastes Awful. And It Works.” I’ll testify that the stuff is gross but if you’re serious about your health you’ll close your eyes, pinch your nostrils, shed a tear and take it like a soldier.

Sidebar: admittedly I’m a fan of good corporate creativity and Buckleys makes my list. What other medicinal company invites you to create and submit your own musical mash-ups? Watch below:

And the moment you’ve been waiting for, keeping in mind that there are hundreds of remedies depending on what island you are on, here are a few of our favorites. (Feel free to bless us up with your Caribbean remedies and recipes for keeping healthy all year round).

The Dominican Republic:
Honey and lemon mixed with a blended onion for coughing and chest congestion

Boil Rose Hips together with garlic for about 20 minutes. Add lemon for the citrus agents and honey to mask the taste, then sip the tea.

Add a couple of onions to a cup of brown sugar then heat until it develops into a syrup (be careful not to mix). Then, take two teaspoons, followed by Vick’s vapor rub over the chest, back and nose

Trinidad & Tobago:
Chew raw ginger for one or two days, in conjunction with a tea made from fever grass, also known as lemon grass or citronella. The Fisherman’s Friend brand of cough drops helps as well.

If you do get sick while on vacation and forget to bring the Robitussin, no worries. Just ask for the local stuff but keep away from shamen, magic circles and Ms. Cleo types, unless you want to return home with more than sand and seashells. Meanwhile, cover your heads, stay warm, and heed the words of this musical reminder, courtesy of my good man Mikey Jarrett. Be healthy and Happy Thanksgiving.