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Simple Chinese remedy for cold (boiled ginger and dark brown sugar drink)


When I was in Manchester, I worked part-time in the International society of Manchester universities for a few years while studying my MA and PhD. Every year this time, when the new students arrived, the weather became very variable, and flu & cold affected all of us, one by one. In the office, you could hear coughing, sneezing, all over. — Writing this makes miss the time working with my dearest friends, well, saying working isn’t exact, chatting, laughing, eating and much more…

Anyway, I should not spell too much nostalgia here, as it seems late autumn is already here, and it has brought along the coldness and darkness.  What I want to say is that, because of the changing weather, it is so easy to catch a cold or the flu. So I meant to share a simple Chinese recipe/remedy for the cold — a boiled ginger and dark sugar drink. In fact, the drink is so tasty, you don’t need to be having a cold to enjoy drinking it. :)))

Since I am in England, I realize that Chinese and Western people treat cold very differently. For example, when treating fever, Western people normally try to cool down the body temperature by using, for example, ice — from outside to inside; in contrast, traditional Chinese methods are all about making you sweat,
sweat a lot, then the body temperature drops — from inside to outside.

Many Chinese medicines for cold (herbal based medicines) normally, in a way, can help you sweat. Of course, in this situation, you need to be 200% careful that you are wrapped very well, even you feel very hot and sweaty, do not remove the covers immediately, otherwise, you will end up experiencing the opposite result. And after sweating so much, you do need to recover the nutrients that you just lost, drink enough and eat well, for sweating too much might make you feel weak.

There is a traditional herbal drink called ‘Ban Lan Gen’, which works wonders for the cold. It is made from the root of woad, normally in the form of sachets or cubes, to be mixed with hot water for drinking. Although its taste carries a little bit bitterness it is generally rather sweet — quite a pleasant drink. When I was little, I remember for some time, I always pretended that I was having cold, in order to have this drink. ha..

Ban Lan Gen can quickly ease down the symptoms from the cold, like, fever, sore throat. But since it is not really considered a proper medicine, (actually, in many English interpretations, it is translated as a type of tea), it only works best when used immediately after noticing the very early signs of cold, or for preventing you from having cold in advance. It is very mild, suitable for kids and can be taken during pregnancy, which is probably the only thing Chinese doctors would allow you to take during pregnancy if you are having cold.

Does it really work? Ha… All I can say is, all of my Western friends, including my husband, are all relying on these sachets nowadays, just ask them. :)))

Ok, coming back to our home made simple remedy — ginger and dark brown sugar (Muscovado) drink. This is a very traditional Chinese recipe for treating cold, make you feel warm from within, and also calming down your unsettled stomach caused by the cold. In fact, ginger has been widely used in Chinese healthy ‘recipes’ — too much to talk about, I will talk about it in another separate post.

Dark brown sugar, in Chinese is called ‘red sugar’; it contains many nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. There are many remedies that use it for health purposes. For example, it is recommended for women who just gave birth or during menstrual cycle to have dark brown sugar drinks, which can help making up the blood loss. It is also good for blood circulation, keeping stomach ‘warm’…

It tastes good too. So it can really be taken regularly,  serve it hot (it can be re-warmed up). But it can make you sweat, so don’t worry if you are soaked in sweat, do wrap yourself well. And only remove the cover when the sweat gets dried.

For making this remedy —


Ginger ( a good block of ginger), dark sugar, water.


1) Slice the ginger into thin pieces.

2) In a deep sauce pan or a pot, add in sliced ginger, at least 4 full tablespoons of dark sugar (or more), 4 cups of water.

3) Keep the fire medium to low, keep on boiling for around 30-40 mintues.–

Boiling the ginger

— Then drink it when it is hot.

The taste is supposed be quite sweet from the dark sugar, mixed with a little bit ‘spicy’ from the ginger. — Ok, now, wrap yourself well, relax. :)) Of course, my best wishes, hope you are not catching any cold at all, just enjoy the autumn. :)

Related posts:

Cooking note: the Chinese wok
Meal idea: Chinese dinner for two at home
Mung beans in Chinese cuisine
Sea kelp (Kombu or Haidai): a healthy Chinese ingredient


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