No wonder Pooh is so healthy.

Winter means the onslaught of coughs and colds, and for me (especially when I was a kid) this always meant taking a day of school to recover in the comfort of my grandmother’s lounge room. My grandmothers have taught me many things, but their skills in combating the common cold and keeping their family’s immune system in tip top shape are second to none. Read on to find out what my grandmothers told me about making it through Winter with nothing worse than a slightly cold nose.

“That cough sounds terrible! You better have some honey.”

According to my grandmothers, number one weapon against a cough or sore throat in the winter is simple and delicious – honey. At even the slightest hint of a chesty cough, a jar of honey would be whisked out of the cupboard and immediately administered. What I always thought was a treat to prop up flagging spirits when sick or mask the taste of antibiotics actually has many secret health benefits. One grandmother always gave me honey mixed with butter for a sore throat, while the other combined it with tea and some lemon. These days, I find as soon as I even feel a tickle of a sore throat or cough coming on, I make myself a mixture of hot water and lots of honey, which usually clears it up, or soothes it marvelously.

Honey is has lots of antioxidants and is well known for its anti-bacterial properties. Although mostly used as a way to kill the special bacteria that often causes a sore throat, a teaspoon of honey is an excellent way to help you when you are feeling a little run down. Because of the different types of natural sugars in honey, it gives you an instant energy boost when taken and a more sustained release of energy to keep you going through the day. Honey is also an alleged effective cure for a hangover, when mixed with orange juice and natural yogurt (although this is obviously not something either of my grandmothers would divulge to me. Don’t tell them I told you!)

“Don’t touch the onion, I’m putting it in here to absorb your germs”

One day, when I was down with a fever at my grandmother’s, she brought a chopped up onion into the sick room and placed it in front of me. At first I thought I may have been delirious, but I was quickly assured that I was not. According to my grandmother, her mother had always placed a cut onion in her room whenever she was sick, in order to draw the germs out of the room, and help with any coughing and sneezing. Although it seems rather far fetched, onions do in fact draw harmful bacteria out of the air around you, clearing the air of any germs hanging around. And you don’t have to wait for a cold to come to test the method out – placing a chopped up onion around your dorm this winter may help stop you coming down with a serious case of flu. Don’t forget to replace the onion or throw it out after a day or two – and make sure no visitors mistake the bowl of onions for a snack!

Onions are also full of an anti-oxidant called quercetin. This anti-oxidant boosts the response time of your immune system, something especially important in the colder months! If having chopped onions hanging around the place is not your style, you can still give your immune system that boost by boiling the onions into delicious winter soup.

“Don’t forget to keep your kidneys warm!”

I always found this piece of advice from my grandmothers particularly perplexing. Why should I keep my kidneys warm? What did my kidneys have to do with my health? Quite a lot, as it turns out. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, in Winter our kidneys are particularly vulnerable and susceptible to the cold, and can therefore also make us more susceptible to it! In order to remain in tip-top shape during the season, we should take extra care to keep our kidneys and lower backs warm to prevent getting sick, back or knee pain or infections. Rugging up in winter may seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes we can forget its importance. Another piece of advice from my grandmothers is to always keep your chest warm, to prevent coughs and colds. Or perhaps that was just their trick to prevent the appearance of any low cuts shirts…