From monk fruit tea to licorice, natural cures for summer sickness

  • If you have a stuffy nose or a sore throat and don’t want to go to the doctor, you can head to your local Chinese herbal medicine shop
  • Hong Kong’s heat and humidity can worsen sinus problems and even cause Athlete’s foot
Doris Wai |

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Feeling a little sore and stuffy but don't think it's worth seeing the doctor over? Try one of these natural remedies.

Getting sick in the summer can be a real bummer, and not all of us are willing to make a trip to the clinic over a stuffy nose. Thankfully, there are plenty of alternative treatments you can find at your nearby herbal tea shop or pharmacy, or that you can even make at home, to help you feel better.

A quick note: don’t try any of these remedies if you’re allergic to any of the ingredients, and if your symptoms last for more than a few days, make sure to see a doctor!

How to eat your way to a cool summer


Our mucus becomes thicker during the humid summer months, which can worsen existing sinus issues. That’s because the cilia (the small hairs that move the mucus out of the sinuses and the back of the nose) has to work double time. If it doesn’t, the mucus will clog the sinuses, resulting in bacteria accumulating in the cavity and causing infections.

Those dealing with sinus sniffles can take a page from India, where locals brew a tea using turmeric root and grated ginger root. Turmeric not only contains natural anti-inflammatory properties, but it is also rich in antioxidants. This tried-and-tested combination is sure to de-clog your stuffy nasal passages, relax the pressure in your sinuses and make you feel better almost instantly.

A bit of tumeric and ginger is sure to set you straight.

Sore throat

Before you pop by the pharmacy to grab a pack of lozenges, visit the nearest herbal tea shop and ask for some monk fruit tea. The round green fruit is usually dried soon after being harvested, and the brown hardened version that’s about the size of a tennis ball can be found in many Chinese herbal medicine shops.

Commonly used in TCM for its ability to soothe a sore throat, the dried monk fruit is brewed into tea and drank in many households during the summer because of its cooling benefits. It doesn’t hurt that the tea is really delicious, too.

You probably recognise monk fruit from Chinese herbal shops.

Licorice is another popular alternative for anyone who isn’t a fan of monk fruit tea’s caramel, toffee-like taste. Studies have even shown that licorice root tea and extract may protect against strep throat – a bacterial infection that can make your throat feel sore and scratchy – and prevent sore throat after surgery. You can steep a licorice tea bag in hot water (you can find these pretty easily at the nearest ParknShop or Wellcome for less than HK$100 a pack), gargle a mixture of licorice root and warm water, or do it the Dutch way: by eating a couple of salty dropjes to beat an inflammed throat.

Homemade desserts to help you cool down


Watermelon has been long regarded as an excellent tool for combating heat stroke. Its cooling properties come from a chemical called citrulline, which is turned into arginine, a type of amino acid that regulates blood flow, in the body.

We already feel refreshed!

Apart from sinking their teeth into the mouth-watering fruit, people in South Africa take it to another level by putting watermelon rinds on their foreheads to cool down. Watermelon pulp is also great for treating heat rash caused by excessive sweating – simply place the pulp on your rashes for 20 minutes and then wash it off.

If watermelon isn’t your thing, pick up a bottle of self-heal spiked tea from Hung Fook Tong or any of the city’s good old herbal tea shops. This traditional brew has a subtle minty, bitter flavour, and is a go-to drink among locals for preventing heat stroke during summer.

7 ways to cool off and beat the heat

Athlete’s foot

As the heat and humidity ramp up, so are your chances of getting Athlete’s foot, especially if you’re prone to sweaty palms and feet. If you feel a stinging sensation between your toes or raw skin on your feet, it’s a good idea to look to Australia, which has a long history of using tea tree oil for all sorts of skin infections due to its antifungal and antibacterial properties.

Tea tree oil is strictly for topical use and extremely toxic when swallowed. To bid goodbye to pesky Athlete’s foot, add 20 drops of tea tree oil to a bowl of warm water and soak your feet for around 10 minutes, three times a day.

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