The Jew And The Carrot

Cures for the Common Cold from Maimonides to the Shtetl

By Elizabeth Alpern

  • Print
  • Share Share

The arrival of cold season is loudly heralded by advertisements for flu shots and the sounds of sniffles on buses and trains. Colds are inescapable and still, year after year, armed with folk medicine and fierceness, we resolve to cure the incurable. Thankfully, Jewish tradition, from Maimonides to the shtetl, offers us some guidance for using food to cure the common cold.

wikicommons

In the category of folk medicine falls the “guggle-muggle,” a milk and alcohol based drink, or the “Jewish echinacea.” Adored by such contemporary Jewish heavyweights as Barbra Streisand and Ed Koch, this beverage is consumed by the larger Eastern European world, but is most distinctly associated with Yiddish culture.

The exact recipe for the guggle muggle varies, but generally consists of egg yolk, sugar, milk and alcohol. This drink (also spelled gogl-mogl, gogol-mogol, gogel-mogel, kogel mogel, gurgle-murgle, and uggle-muggle) is particularly “effective” for the sore throat and cough that accompany a cold. Its origins are a bit murky, but the remedy may have its roots in the “Shulkan Orech”, or code of Jewish law, written in 16th century Spain by Rabbi Yosef Caro. It specifies that a drink of this type may be consumed on the Sabbath for it’s medicinal qualities, without violating the Sabbath laws (Chapter 92:1).

Herbal remedies to treat a cold also exist in Jewish traditions. The website zeigezunt.com, which is devoted to providing a Jewish perspective on health, explains, “Bubbe had a remedy for regular colds as well. Eating garlic cloves or onion was just the ticket when a sore throat signaled the beginning of a cold.”

Bubbe’s remedy has biblical roots as well, garlic is considered a multi-purpose plant in the Bible and Talmud. “We remember the fish which we ate in Egypt freely: the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic,” Jews longed in the desert, according to the book of Numbers. In ancient Egypt garlic was thought to help with general vitality and it was fed to workers to keep them strong. Indeed, the Mishnah (in referencing the Romans’ name for the Jews) refers to Jews as “garlic eaters” and in the Baba Kamma (82a) five things were said of garlic: “It satisfies hunger, keeps the body warm, makes the face bright, increases a person’s potency, and kills parasites in the bowels”.

For the more adventurous, who wish to use a non-food approach to treat a cold, there is the “bankes” or cupping method, which in ancient times was accompanied by blood-letting (but not the kind using leaches). Though it is an undeniably Jewish practice, it is also Chinese, Vietnamese, Balkan, Persian and beyond. Perhaps it’s ubiquitous nature the world over speaks to its perceived effectiveness.

The process of cupping involves placing a heated bell-shaped glass on the chest of someone suffering from a cold. In the shtetl, this cup was supposed to pull phlegm from the chest, relieving pain and pressure. But cupping in association with blood-letting goes back much further and is mentioned in the Talmud (Git. 70a ) and much later in the writings of Maimonides (Yad, De’ot 4:18) as a practice which should be used in moderation to maintain general health and a balanced constitution. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, cupping and blood-letting techniques are also described in later Hebrew literature.

Finally, there is “Jewish penicillin” or chicken soup. The purported effectiveness of chicken soup is most heavily described in the medical writings of Maimonides in his book, “On the Causes of Symptoms,” written in the 12th century, and by Jewish grandmothers the world round. Dr. Fred Rosner, a renowned doctor, who has also written extensively about Maimonides’ medical texts, explains that “boiled chicken soup neutralizes the body constitution” and that “chicken soup can help cure an upper respiratory infection.” Maimonides gets detailed, stating that fresh coriander or green fennel can be added to the soup in the wintertime, and, in writing of the type of chicken to be used to make soup he states: “one should not use the too large…neither the too lean.” Chicken soup as a cold remedy has thus been practiced by Jews for centuries. In Gil “Marks’ Encyclopedia of Jewish Food,” he describes the Sephardic custom of preparing caldo de gayina viejo (old hen chicken broth) for anyone ill.

Having tried all of these remedies during a recent bout with a cold, I can testify to their placebo affect (which is significant in its own right) and nothing more. In the end, most likely, one must simply suffer while the cold runs its course because truly, all of these methods, as the old Yiddish phrase says, “Es vet helfen vi a toiten bahnkes! (Will help like blood-cupping on a dead body!”)

Guggle Muggle
(one interpretation)

1 cup milk
1 raw egg yolk
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon brandy

1) Heat milk until it is warmed, not scorched.
2) Quickly whisk egg, sugar and brandy into milk until it becomes foamy.
3) Gulp for cold relief.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Jewish, Chicken Soup, Cold Remedy

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.