The first time I got sick in Japan, I was at work and I just felt too crappy to get myself over to the doctor (and figure out how to do all that doctor-stuff in a new country).
The second time I got sick I was encouraged to visit the doctor, and I’m so glad I did! (In Japan, there’s not a lot of medicine you can buy in a drug store…) My doctor handed me a few pills for my cough, and a few packets filled with brown powder that was described to me as “ancient Chinese herbs”. Lovely.
Turns out that these “ancient Chinese herbs” are actually called “kakkontou” in Japanese, which translates to “kudzu root extract” or “arrowroot extract” in English. Don’t worry, I’d never heard of it either. I was just happy I wasn’t being prescribed ground rhinocerous horn or something. (Wow, how the rampant stereotypes fly. Maybe next time I should live in China for a while).
Now, I’ll be honest, I’ve looked online for concrete studies about kakkontou, and there isn’t a lot. I did find a wikipedia article that mentions some Harvard Studies done, but none of them seem to relate to curing colds. But who am I to question my doctor? The truth is, there are lots of herbs that we don’t have a lot of concrete proof for, and if you’re interested in trying this one, you can pick it up at your local Japanese drug store.
If you decide to try some kakkontou, take it when you feel you’re starting to get sick, twice a day. Pour the powder on the back of your tongue (to avoid its somewhat bitter flavor). Then, wash it down with some warm water. Who knows, maybe you’ll feel better like I did.
Of course, if you’re not into ancient Chinese herbs, you can always try the tradition of my previous co-worker and drink C.C. Lemon whenever you start to get sick — it’s got 70 lemons worth of Vitamin C in every bottle (which you’ll subsequently pee out, but we can ignore that part).