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Common Russian Medicines Posted by on Sep 4, 2014 in General reference article, Russian for beginners

If you are traveling to Russia or staying in the country for a longer period of time, chances are you might need to run to the pharmacy (аптека) at some point. I would like to give an overview of Russian medicines (лекарства) and their uses. This post is for reference only and is not meant to constitute medical advice. Feel free to follow the links to the drug pages so you can research them, consult a doctor, if needed, and make informed decisions if you ever feel sick in Russia.

The first thing you need to know is that Russian pharmacies normally only sell medicines, medical products and devices like heat pads, and occasionally diet supplements (known as БАД, or биологически активные добавки). You cannot pick up milk or a birthday card in a Russian pharmacy.

Comparing the type of medication taken in Russia and the US, I would say Russians take more medicines on an as-needed basis, and more drugs are available over the counter (без рецепта). Any Russian traveling or going on vacation will probably have a mini first-aid kit with them, full of medicines for every occasion. At the same time,  barring chronic conditions, people seem to take fewer prescription drugs on a regular basis, especially when it come to mental health.

Painkillers

The most common painkillers (болеутоляющие, обезболивающие) in Russia are аспирин/ацетилсалициловая кислота and цитрамон. Other popular painkillers are нурофен and ибупрофен. Acetaminophen/paracetamol (парацетамол) is usually reserved for treating inflammations and is not taken for headaches and the such.

Fever

However, people do take acetaminophen for fever and colds. You can get it as парацетамол or as a component of various proprietary trademarks, such as терафлю. Some of these come in a powder (порошок) that is taken with warm water.

Stomach trouble

Indigestion is another common reason for Russian people to take over the counter medicines. Popular options include мезим and antacids like Маалокс/Альмагель. For diarrhea, people take лоперамид/лопедиум/имодиум. In addition, activated carbon (активированный уголь) may be taken for food poisoning.

Home remedies

Anyone who has been to Russia can attest to the fact that Russian gladly and actively use what’s herbal/home remedies. For example, camomile (ромашка), usually in infusions, is supposed to help with colds, as is шалфей (sage) and чабрец (thyme). Russians also drink a lot of hot, sweet tea to fight colds. Unlike in the US, you don’t drink soup in Russia — I would not recommend it, anyway, since Russian soups tend to be chunky!

I hope brief overview of Russian medications was useful. Have you encountered any of these while in Russia? Did you ever need to buy medicines these? I would love to hear your stories.

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About the Author: Maria

Maria is a Russian-born translator from Western New York. She is excited to share her fascination with all things Russian on this blog. Maria's professional updates are available on her translation site and on Twitter at @intorussian.


Comments:

  1. Gedeon:

    Особенность русской аптечной сети ещё и в том, что даже если лекарство выдается только по рецептам (например антибиотики, противозачаточные), то всегда есть шанс купить без рецепта просто объяснив ситуацию продавцу-фармацевту, особенно это работает в коммерческих аптеках.

    Ещё одной особенностью русских аптек в том, что ты можешь рассказать о своих жалобах и тебе сразу назначат лечение, т.е. ходить к врачу как бы и необязательно.

    Это особенности русской культуры.

    • Maria:

      @Gedeon Согласна на 100%! К рецептам в России вообще относятся не очень серьёзно.

  2. Sarov:

    “Unlike in the US, you don’t drink soup in Russia — I would not recommend it, anyway, since Russian soups tend to be chunky!”
    Strange statement, as in Russian there are plenty of wholesome soups (supchik) liлу the world famous borscht (борщ) and the fish soup Ukha (ука)
    p.s. As a non-US citizen but native British English speaker, how about writing more from an international or ‘Western’ perspective. You know plenty of other countries exist except for Russia and USA!

    • Maria:

      @Sarov Sarov, thank you for your comment. Much as I love borsh, I still certainly wouldn’t recommend drinking it for fear of choking! You really want to use a spoon with Russian soups.
      I love the UK (from the little that I’ve seen of it) and certainly don’t mean to make people feel excluded. If anything, people learning English in Russia are much more likely to be exposed to the UK variety, with things like “I go in for sports” or “I’m fond of reading,” and to learn about UK culture and traditions.
      However, when sharing personal experiences, it is only natural that I rely on my 4 years in the US more than my combined 4 weeks in the UK. For a more international perspective, please see my articles on Russian abroad and on countries Russians like to travel to for their summer vacations.
      Hope to see you again on this blog!

      • Dmitri:

        @Maria are you sure about there being other countries worthy of being mentioned besides Russia and the us?

  3. Nina Kirkland:

    my dad loved his ромашка tea and was very fussy over what it was … no teabags for my dad!

    I also like it. I find it very calming. For everyday tea, my preference is sour cherry tea.

    • Maria:

      @Nina Kirkland Yes, tea and infusions are a huge part of Russian life. It’s impossible to imagine a household without a tea kettle.

  4. VRS:

    Please kindly advice me the anti inflammatory and antipruritic cream available in Russia ( like Candid – B)

    • Maria:

      @VRS Hello VRS,
      Thank you for your comment. We cannot really give medical advice, but you are welcome to check out what the Russian name for the corresponding medication would be at http://www.drugs.com/international/. http://www.vidal.ru/ has information on different prescription drugs in Russian. Good luck!