sickness For Members

How to get over a cold, according to the Germans

Rebecca Spiess
Rebecca Spiess - [email protected] • 8 Jan, 2020 Updated Wed 8 Jan 2020 16:33 CEST
image alt text

It’s the time of year where many of us can expect to get the sniffles. From onions in socks to some rather unique teas, here are some of the most tried and true remedies in Germany.

In general, Germans are very concerned about their health…as well as yours. 
Prepare for friendly passers-by to remind you to wear your scarf or advise you on the perfect type of tea to help with that runny nose.
Here’s a rundown of some other home remedies you may be recommended while in Germany. 


The first German line of defense against colds is usually tea. Brews of all kinds will be prescribed to you by doctors and neighbours alike. Garlic tea, ginger tea, elderberry tea, thyme tea, lime blossom tea and onion tea are all preferred for colds and flus. The extra liquid is meant to help lubricate irritated mucous membranes, and the herbs are believed to soothe coughs or sore throats. 


Onions aren't used just for brewing unappetizing tea: you'll find they are often the holy-grail of cold treatment. Whether placed inside your socks, chopped up on a bedside table, or diced and mixed with honey or sugar to create cough syrup, it seems that if you cough in Germany, the onions will soon follow. 


Another incredibly important protection measure against colds in Germany, scarves are a must-have. At the slightest hint of a sniffle, Germans will reach for their holy (and wooly) body armour. Keeping your neck covered is an essential part of maintaining your health. If you dare to leave your house with a bare neck in the winter months, grandmothers will likely stop you in grocery store aisles to scold you. 

Photo: DPA

Neck Wraps

Hot or cold “neck wrappings," or Halsumschläge, are also common methods of treatment. A German dairy product (similar to a fresh cheese or yoghurt) called Quark should be applied at room temperature on a cloth around your neck for a cure. Meanwhile, boiled, unpeeled and slightly mashed potatoes or onion peels are the go-tos for hot wraps.

READ ALSO: The German words you need to know as flu season begins

Hot Baths

Another method for cold treatment is baths. The bathwater can be infused with eucalyptus, sage or essential oils. But beware: Germans say you should not bathe if you have a fever, because it allegedly adds strain to your already-warm body. But if you do feel feverish, feel free to wrap your calves in cold towels in what is known as a Wadenwickel to lower your temperature quickly… 

Foot Baths

And speaking of legs, foot baths are also advised, especially in the early stages of an illness. Salts or other herbs like eucalyptus can be added to the water. This also goes for nose rinses and throat gargles. Inhaling steam, or warm humid air in general, is also considered helpful.

Extra points if you add other herbs as well. This is usually achieved by pouring hot water into a bowl and, once the temperature is bearable, leaning over it with a blanket over your head to create a steam bath for your face and neck. 


While all of these remedies aim to help you once you’re already ill, Germans also believe weather plays an integral part in coming down with something.

The German weather service even provides "Biowetter” maps for all areas of Germany. They explain what type of illnesses are to be expected depending on the weather.

READ ALSO: Frosty German sayings which will make you a winter wordsmith

Ailments that are tied to weather include everything from asthma and blood pressure fluctuations to more general grievances like concentration problems or listlessness.

But even with all of these strange cures, Germans and Americans are still united on one thing: hot chicken noodle soup with do anybody good. 

Tea vocabulary: Der Ingwer (ginger), Die Salbei (sage), Der Holunder (elderberry), Der Eukalyptus (Eucalyptus), Die Lindenblüten (lime blossoms), Der Thymian (thyme)




Rebecca Spiess 2020/01/08 16:33

Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also