I’m So Sick of This... Sickness? - Korean Home Remedies

By Tran Trieu

Every year, there comes this dreaded time when you get sick—everything sucks, you'd love to just stay in bed forever, and when will this sickness be over? Apparently never because it seems to drag on weeks and weeks on end. Are the usual meals and drinks that you have not exciting you anymore (I'm breaking up with you!), and you crave something new? Here are some (mostly) uncomplicated Korean drinks and dishes that you can make while you're sick that will be sure to help you recover faster!

  • Yuzu Tea

Yuzu tea is made from the citron, or in Korean, yuja fruit; and can be enjoyed cold or hot. Yuja-cha (유자차) is either made by mixing yuja fruit jam with water or by slicing yuzu and adding honey to give the tea some subtle sweetness. Yuzus contain a much higher amount of vitamin C than lemons (is it time to ditch lemons for yuzu?); however, they are much harder to come across. But don't worry, most Asian markets sell yuzu jam!

Consumed regularly, it helps you avoid getting sick in the first place; but if you do end up getting sick, it will help you get over the sickness much faster! Consumed as a hot tea, it soothes sore throats. (Supposedly, it also helps to get over hangovers.)

  • Maesil-cha (매실차)

Maesil-cha is a tea made out of Korean plums that helps with fatigue, digestion and stomach problems. Enjoyed hot or cold, this tea is usually only made with Korean plum jam or syrup (called cheong maesil). The actual fruit is too bitter and tart to be consumed on its own.

Aside from the pit, there's no waste when making the tea yourself! The fruits are mixed with sugar and left to rest for two months. The whole mixture is then strained. The syrup is used to make tea or acts as a substitute for sugar in recipes while the fruits can be used again to make alcohol.

  • Bori-cha (보리차)

Boricha is perhaps the simplest tea to make on your own: roast barley to your personal preference and then simply boil it. If you're impatient and want to drink it as soon as possible, you can buy pre-roasted barley or tea bags. Sometimes, roasted corn is added to the tea to give it a slightly sweeter taste. The tea itself can be enjoyed immediately or refrigerated for a refreshing summer drink!

In Korea, this tea is sometimes served in place of water at restaurants as it helps with your digestion. Thanks to the high levels of fiber and melatonin, it soothes any stomach pains and also helps with sleeping better.

  • Baesuk (배숙)

Baesuk is a delicious and simple dessert that is made by steaming or cooking a whole Korean pear and filling it with honey, ginger, peppercorns and sometimes jujubes. While pear and honey are sweet, the ginger and peppercorns give the dessert a little spice, creating a balance between the two. Of course, you can add more honey if you prefer to have it really sweet or more ginger and peppercorns if you like a bit more spice! This dessert helps to soothe a sore throat and relieve coughs.

  • Ginseng

One of the most popular ingredients for when you have a cold is ginseng. It can be used for cooking but can also be enjoyed in teas, a real multipurpose weapon for when you're sick or need a little energy boost. Ginseng helps to reduce stress and also has anti-inflammatory properties, helping the body to upkeep the immune system and strengthening it.

Ginseng tea is available in tea bags, in jam teas, or if accessible and if you're really hardcore, you can also boil the actual ginseng root! Tea made from tea bags usually has a more intense ginseng taste as opposed to the jam teas that give it a slight sweetness. For some, the taste of ginseng can be a little too unfamiliar to be enjoyed in teas, but worry not! Many Korean dishes feature ginseng, such as samgyetang.

  • Kimchi  (김치)

As a staple of Korean cuisine, kimchi is another weapon against colds. Kimchi is a mix of all things good as the fermentation brings more benefits, such as probiotics. Containing a significant amount of vitamin C and antioxidants as well as probiotics, this dish helps especially with yeast infections, digestion and keeping your gut healthy and happy.

Kimchi helps with getting over a cold faster as the probiotics strengthen your immune system and "boosts antioxidants that help the body fight diseases."

  • Samgyetang (삼계탕)

Samgyetang is a chicken soup made by stuffing "a whole small chicken with glutinous rice, garlic, jujubes, peeled chestnuts, and ginseng." Chicken soup is a known remedy for colds but combined with all the other ingredients in this soup, it is a real power boost for your body.

While samgyetang might be more well-known as a summer soup to combat the heat, it can be consumed all year round. This principle is called 이열치열 (yi yeol chi yeol) which means "fight heat with heat," meaning this soup can also help with overcoming a fever quicker.

  • Kongnamul-guk (콩나물국) and Miyeok-guk (미역국)

This is a simple soybean sprout soup that helps with your overall wellbeing. It has a high content of vitamin C, thus helping your body to maintain its immune system and keeping you healthy! (Also supposedly helps to cure hangovers.) For additional taste, gochugaru (고추가루; red pepper flakes) or kimchi can be added. It is made by just boiling soybean sprouts on low heat.

Seaweed is known to be a powerful remedy for everything with its high content in minerals such as iodine, and vitamin C. Iodine is especially important for the thyroid gland to work properly and provide your body with hormones to stimulate energy production. Miyeok-guk is also an excellent soup for when you have an upset stomach as it helps to maintain a healthy gut and soothes any stomach aches.

  • Jook (죽) and Ogok-bap (오곡밥)

For when you don't have so much appetite but still need the energy to keep you up on your toes throughout the day, these two dishes will be your heroes. Jook is rice porridge, ogokbap is also referred to as five-grain rice. Both can be enjoyed by themselves or spiced up a little by adding some side dishes like kongnamul-guk or kimchi.

Jook is a rice porridge made with red beans and sesame. In its simplest form, it is only prepared with these ingredients. However, if you want a little more taste to it, you could add some of your favorite vegetables or chicken.

Ogokbap is usually made with different kinds of rice and grains and beans. The combinations generally differ from region to region, and are also heavily influenced by personal preferences. As an example, this recipe from Maangchi features short-grain rice, sweet brown rice, barley, black sweet rice, and green peas.

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Written by Tran Trieu

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