As a scientist I try to apply a scientific mindset to most aspects of my life (well, except when it comes to matters of the heart, but that's a story for another day...). Which is why anything labeled "alternative" or "holistic" raises red flags for me until I see some good research* that turns the flags from red to yellow, and, in rare cases, green. 

My partner is also a scientist, a particle physicist who approaches everything with a scientific mindset (including matters of the heart, but that's a story for yet another day haha:)). So imagine my surprise when, about a year into dating, when an especially insidious flu was decimating Southern California, he said we should try this "natural remedy" that a hippie friend of his mom had taught him. But the real shocker came when it worked. And kept working. I call it Magic Hippie Potion.
I didn't think it would do much. The first time I only agreed to try it because I was pleased that the bf had offered to make it for me, and I wanted to reward his babying me behavior. Though I did worry that it would taste gross. Steeped ginger garlic and parsley? Yuck! But actually it was shockingly delicious! I could drink it everyday if I wasn't too lazy to make it (you do have to finely chop up things and stuff...). 

How you make it

A big mug of hot water, the juice of 1/2 lemon, 1tbsp organic honey, 1 inch fresh ginger root (peeled and finely chopped or grated), 1-2 cloves garlic (peeled and chopped or grated), 2-3 fresh parsley sprigs (stem and leaves). You can tweak the proportions (like add more honey or lemon if you like the taste) and it doesn't change the effectiveness much as far as I can tell though more honey does make it less healthy. I also sometimes skip the parsley and it seems to still work, but skipping the other ingredients is not advisable. 

As you see it's far from rocket science. All but the parsley are commonly thought to be cold and flu folk remedies all around the world. What was new to me was that there was some actual science to support their use (see below).

How you take it

The MOST important thing is to make it and drink it as soon as you start feeling the slightest inkling that something is off. Don't wait until you feel full-on sickness! Make this and drink a full cup as soon as you think your nose might-be-perhaps-just-the-slightest stuffier than usual. Or if you feel the faintest little tickle in your throat that might hint at the possibility of getting a cough. Or if you feel soreness in your muscles and you haven't worked out recently so hmmmm. Basically use it to attack at the first sign of suspicious activity on the part of your upper respiratory tract. 

Why it might work

Once I noticed how well Magic Hippie Portion worked for me, while everyone around me was dropping like flies, and then it kept working flu season after flu season, I decided to recommend it to my students last year. Fall midterms were upon them and half of the class was sniffling all lecture long. Since I wanted to set an example by how we should approach all natural remedies, I did some homework before sending them the recipe. I looked up the research on all five ingredients in Magic Hippie Potion. Here is what I found:

"Ginger is commonly used to treat various types of “stomach problems,” including motion sickness, morning sickness, colic, upset stomach, gas, diarrhea, nausea caused by cancer treatment, nausea and vomiting after surgery, as well as loss of appetite. Other uses include pain relief from arthritis or muscle soreness, menstrual pain, upper respiratory tract infections, cough, and bronchitis. Ginger is also sometimes used for chest pain, low back pain, and stomach pain." However, there is also some preliminary evidence for its effectiveness in treating colds and the flu, though it is insufficient.


"There is some evidence that fresh garlic, but not aged garlic, can kill certain bacteria such as E. coli, antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and Salmonella enteritidis in the laboratory". Also a recent double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that a garlic supplement reduced the frequency and duration of the common cold.


"In the laboratory, honey has been shown to hamper the growth of food-borne pathogens such as E. coli and salmonella, and to fight certain bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, both of which are common in hospitals and doctors' offices. But whether it does the same in people hasn't been proven."

"In a study that involved 139 children, honey beat out dextromethorphan (a cough suppressant) and diphenhydramine (an antihistamine) in easing nighttime cough in children and improving their sleep."


Super high in Vit C.  While there is no reliable evidence that Vit C prevents or cures the common cold, "some studies show that it may help prevent more serious complications… such as pneumonia and lung infections". In addition a recent meta analysis of the effects of Vit C supplementation on health found no effect on the incidence of colds but some evidence that Vit C supplements reduced the duration of cold symptoms.


Other than its antioxidant properties and high Vit A and C content I haven't found much else. But it really adds to the fresh taste.

So it's not so magic after all and not quite so hippie either! It actually made sense why it might help a tiny bit. But for me it helps A LOT; 9 out of 10 times when I feel a sickness coming on and drink a bunch of this for 3-4 days, I don't actually get sick even when I am surrounded by flu factories! I am so convinced that it works that I'm sure I'm also getting a huge benefit from the placebo effect too. I'll take it! 

I hope you give it a try and that it works for you and your loved ones as well as it has worked for me and mine! :)


As you can see in the picture at the top of this post, you can also pre-chop and mix all the ingredients except the parsley and keep it in a glass container, ready to go. You just boil water and drop a tablespoon of the stuff to steep then drink/eat it all. I find the ginger taste to be much stronger this way and I haven't had a chance to see if it works as well as freshly-made, but I thought I'd mention it.

* Hippie potions aside, interest in the principles of Eastern Medicine and alternative/holistic approaches to health and well-being is rapidly growing among well-trained academics and funding agencies are finally willing to support such research. And not just bad research, of which there is plenty, but the kind that uses double-blind randomized experiments, large random samples, and ends up in JAMA. For example, a recent meta analysis of randomized control trials supported the benefits of mindfulness meditation. There are also similar reviews on yoga, acupuncture, and others, which I will link to next time I am feeling researchy for my blog. It's not all about sewing! I think lol. 


12/23/2014 3:05am

Thank you for sharing :-)

12/23/2014 8:24pm

I tried it. It really works!!!!! :)

06/18/2015 11:20pm

This is really great information found here, I really like your blog. Thanks very much for the share. Keep posting.


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