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Cold season is just hiding around the corner. Stupid sneaky cold season. While we have a variety of modern medicine to help us stay healthy, have you ever wondered what people did before lozenges and cough syrup? The answers might make you sick.
Before modern medical science, the English thought health was a balance of what they called the "four humours": blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. Each of these humours were associated with a sickness, and blood was considered to be the cause of all overheating. If your temperature was too high, they would bleed you dry. Well, not dry, just a little blood sucking with the help of an adorable little leech. It’s a cute cuddly pet that really grows on you!
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According to Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management — which was published in 1861 — wrapping your chest in a flannel blanket dipped in boiling water and sprinkled with turpentine (a kind of oil used to mix paint as well as wood varnish) will relieve the hoarsest of coughs and toughest congestion. Modern chest vapour rubs use the same idea, but we’ve traded up from turpentine to menthol.
Mustard has been used as a cure for the cold since the ancient Roman times. While it may sound a little saucy, spreading a mustard paste between two pieces of clothes and laying it on your chest used to be a go-to to get rid of the flu.
A timeless potion for cold and flu relief, using chicken soup to help fight disease dates back as far as 60 AD, with reports of Roman surgeon Pedacius Dioscorides praising the dish as more than just delicious. Today, we know that an amino acid found in chicken soup called cysteine acts as a decongestant — and the source to all the soup-based praise these chickens get!
A nice warm cup of tea always makes a cold feel better, but for 3,000 years the Chinese have been drinking a very special blend. Ma Huang is a plant which is brewed into a tea that is known to clear even the snottiest and stuffiest of noses! We now know that the traditional Ma Huang plant contains pseudoephedrine, which is a common modern decongestant.