I’m not sure if «банки» [cupping] are still used to treat chest-colds, but this used to be a popular treatment in Russia. Although I was told that the application didn’t hurt at all and was even kind of pleasant, I never wanted to give it a try. Fortunately, there were many other folk remedies to choose from.
The approaching winter brings not only «холод» [cold weather], but unavoidable «простуда» [cold].
Everyone around you is sick. «Как дела? Что новенького?» [How’s life? What’s new?] you ask and a friend replies «Всё по старенькому, вот только я, кажется, заболеваю» [Things are as usual, but I think I’m coming down with something].
A passerby, rushing past you, «кашляет, прикрывая рот рукой» [coughs, covering his mouth with his hand]. Another one «громко сморкается в носовой платок» [blows his nose loudly into a handkerchief]. «У него насморк» [He’s got runny nose].
Then a friend calls to cancel a long-planned «девичник» [girls’ night] and you don’t recognize her «хриплый» [hoarse] voice. «У меня самой горло болит» [I have a sore throat myself] say you and jokingly remark that it’s safe for the two of you to hang out since «зараза к заразе не липнет» [lit: contagion doesn’t stick to contagion]. But you’re only half-earnest since you «неважно себя чувствовать» [don’t feel so good] – «болит голова» [head hurts] and you’ve got «температура» [temperature, implication -mild fever]. You just hope it doesn’t turn into «жар» [fever].
Russian terms for seasonal illnesses can be very confusing. In addition to «простуда» [cold], one might have «грипп» [flu]. If your main symptom is sore throat, then you’re likely to have «ангина» which is not angina, but tonsillitis. However, if you have a bad chest-cold, you’re most likely to be diagnosed with «ОРЗ» that stands for «острое респираторное заболевание» [acute respiratory ailment].
Of course, the exact diagnosis is something best left to «врач» [doctor] or rather «участковый врач», a doctor at a local «поликлиника» [policlinic, outpatient clinic] responsible for a particular district.
But if the symptoms are mild, who needs a doctor. «Самолечение» [self-treatment] is pretty popular in Russia (as it is in the US, but probably for different reasons). Here we have two choices – stop by «аптека» [pharmacy] to pick up some «безрецептурные лекарства» [over-the-counter drugs] or to rely on «народные средства» [folk remedies] and «нетрадиционная медицина» [alternative medicine].
The OTC drugs are the same the world over, I suppose. Aspirin is available in Russia and is called «аспирин». And you probably won’t need a dictionary to understand what «анальгин» is for – a generic name for analgesics.
Folk remedies are much more interesting and unheard-of outside of Russia. You start with «тёплое молоко» [warm milk], but add «сода» [baking soda] and «мёд» [honey] to it. Next, if your throat still bothers you, start gargling with warm «соляной раствор» [brine, salty water] or with «настой ромашки» [chamomile infusion]. To clear up stuffed nose, don’t forget «ингаляция» [inhalations] over a basin of hot water with garlic, sage and more chamomile. Now, this actually feels good, kind of like a day at a spa.
The next part is a lot less pleasant – «закапать нос» [putting drops in your nose]. If you are sticking to the home remedies, the drops would be home-made, using juice of «алое» [aloe plant], «лук» [onion] or «свёкла» [beetroot].
Here in the US we reach for orange juice at the first signs of a possible cold. However, Russia, with its cold climate is not the land of «апельсины» [oranges]. But «лук и чеснок» [onion and garlic] grow well. So forget orange juice and reach for a big onion instead. Grate it, mix with honey and sugar, cook for a few minutes on low heat just ‘til the smell gets really intense. Now make sure to swallow 1 teaspoon of this mixture every hour on the hour until you feel better.
Whether you’re chilly or hot, don’t forget to put on warm socks. After all, as every Russian knows «держи голову в холоде, живот в голоде, а ноги – в тепле» [keep your head cold, your stomach empty, but your feet warm]. Besides, socks are where you sprinkle some dry «горчичный порошок» [ground mustard] into your socks for added warming effect.
It’s time to make tea with even more honey, «мята» [mint], «шалфей» [sage], «анис» [aniseed] and «гвоздика» [whole cloves]. Spread a thick layer of «малиновое варенье» [raspberry jam] on dark Russian bread. That is, if you don’t feel like having some «горячий куриный бульон» [hot chicken broth].
Then put a slightly wet «горчичник» [mustard plaster] on your back and calves, rub your chest with «согревающая мазь» [heat rub], and try to get as much rest as possible since «сон – лучшее лекарство» [sleep is the best cure].
If such as aggressive regiment fails to restore you to good health in the morning or if you feel exhausted by following it or if you smell too strongly of onion and garlic, in short if you need a day off, stop by your «участковый врач» [district doctor] for «больничный лист» [a sick-list].