Health Tips From My Asian Mum

As you know, I am packing up my life and moving to New York City. Part of this transition has meant a temporary shift back home to live with my parents. It’s taken a bit of getting used to, I’ll admit, but I’ve discovered one excellent perk.

I woke up last week with an excruciatingly sore throat, the result of lack of sleep, stress, the change of routine and an above average number of nights out. I freaked out. I can’t afford to get sick right now! I thought. I’ve got so much to do!

Luckily for me, there’s no better place to get sick than at home. My mum loves nothing more than taking care of her babies, so when I emerged from my bedroom all croaky, she jumped into action, firstly commandeering my blender (“No cold smoothies!”) then pumping me with her supply of herbal teas, drops and other magical sickness fix-alls. A day later, I felt much better and within two days my sore throat was gone and I felt 100% again. Thanks Mum!

Being Chinese-Malaysian, my mum has some cold and flu rules and remedies that people from non-Asian cultures may find a bit odd. But I’d like to share them with you today, and who knows, they may just help you stave off your next cold!

1. Don’t eat or drink cold foods

When you’re sick, your body is stressed and needs energy to heal itself. Cold and icy foods take more energy to digest and stress your body further, therefore your body’s energy is directed away from the healing process. Stick to warming soups, casseroles and teas, drink water at room temperature, and leave the ice out of your smoothies.

2. Put ginger in your tea

The Chinese believe in yin and yang – to be in harmony, everything should be balanced. When you’re sick, you’re imbalanced ie you have too much yin or too much yang. Ginger is very ‘hot’ (or ‘yang’), which helps to balance out an excess of ‘cold’ (‘yin’). It’s also an amazing immunity booster.  I like to steep a few fresh slices of ginger with my green tea; I also add fresh ginger to my smoothies and even my Paleo Brekkie-To-Go.


3. Don’t eat chicken

Yeah I know, this totally contradicts the Western remedy of chicken soup. My mum doesn’t know exactly why chicken and poultry is off-limits, but it’s something to do with its ‘yin and yang’ qualities. And that’s how she was brought up, so that’s the way it is!

4. Take Chinese herbal tea (if you’re brave enough!)

When my mum gets sick, she gets packets of dried herbs from a Chinese herbalist, and boils it into a tea. Fixes her right up, she says. The only issue? It tastes HORRIBLE. The smell alone is enough to make you dry retch. In fact, mum boils her tea outside the house so we don’t all complain. Luckily for me, she found me some herbal tea bags that I found palatable. And they worked a treat!

You may have to ask friends in Malaysia or Singapore to find these bad boys for you...
You may have to ask friends in Malaysia or Singapore to find these bad boys for you…

5. Start doing these things as soon as you feel a cold coming on

My mum describes it as feeling a “chill”. If you experience this,  follow the above rules (no chicken, no cold foods, have lots of ginger and herbal teas, plus a good night’s sleep) to help you nip that cold in the bud before it turns into a full-blown illness.

So next time you’re sick, give the Asian Mum health tricks a try. You may be pleasantly surprised!

What are some unusual health remedies from your mum? Do any other Asians agree with the no chicken rule? Does anyone know WHY there is the no chicken rule? I’d love to hear your thoughts!