Home Remedies

By - February 28, 2007 (Updated: November 28, 2014)

While we all know there’s no real cure for the common cold, it seems that everyone has a tried and true recipe for a speedy recovery. Even if our cures are only psychosomatic, there are definitely things we turn to, to make us feel better. Often these are the same remedies that our mothers gave us.

Yesterday, while curled on the sofa, surrounded by tissues, with a bright red nose and bloodshot eyes, all I could think of is Neo-Citran.

Neo-Citran is a lemon flavoured powder that you poor into hot water to make a soothing, hot drink. Its medicinal value is questionable but it does seem to be the only thing that will knock me out for a good night’s sleep when I am sick.

In desperation I asked Andrew to search for Neo or a suitable substitute while he was in London. He returned last night bearing Lemsip. While it was a lemony power for a hot drink, it was definitely not Neo-Citran. I choked down the foul mixture anyway and it did eventually help me sleep.

I turned to the web, to see if my cold cure was available anywhere in Belgium, and was dismayed to find posts from Canadian expats living around the world who were as Neo-less as me. No one had found a suitable substitute abroad and many people talked about how they stock piled it every time they went home for a visit. If you aren’t Canadian, you’ve probably never heard of Neo, or so I learned today. Even my American friend had never heard of my lemony brew.

My experience made me wonder about the cold remedies we turn to and how it varies depending on our childhood experiences.

My American friend suggested Vicks Vapo Rub, which I also remember from home – a menthol paste that my mother smeared on my chest as a child to help clear my stuffy sinuses.

My Kiwi friend fondly remembered the Lemsip I had choked down the previous evening (Note to self – pawn the Lemsip off on the Kiwi).

Back on the forums, somebody mentioned Buckley’s Cough Syrup. Any Canadian readers are now grimacing with painful childhood memories. This purely Canadian concoction tastes so horrible; I’m convinced that Canadian mothers give it to their children as a form of revenge for childbirth. In fact (and I promise I’m not making this up) their slogan is ‘Buckley’s It tastes awful. And it works.’

Without any of my tried and true Canadian remedies, I will have to make the best of what I can buy here in Belgium, until my next trip home (when I will definitely join the hordes of Neo stockpiling expats). For now, Neo-Citranless, I will fight off my cold the only way I can – with rest and plenty of liquids. Unfortunately for me and my fellow Canadian expats around the globe, none of those liquids will be hot, lemony Neo-Citran.

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Alison Cornford-Matheson
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
Alison Cornford-Matheson
- 19 hours ago


  1. Comment by Alison

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    Alison February 28, 2007 at 12:18

    Ash – Good to know about Greece… haven’t been there yet but it’s on the list 🙂 We have the same problem here with having to ask for everything at the counter. I miss Shopper’s Drug Mart 🙁 I’m so stocking up when we go home in July 🙂

  2. Comment by Ash

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    Ash February 28, 2007 at 11:30

    One of the things I find difficult about living in Holland is that all the cold and flu remedies are on a shelf behind the counter!
    You have to describe your ailment and then wait for the ‘assistente’ to produce the remedy that he or she feels will do the trick. No browsing of the cold medicines!
    Luckily we haven’t any special specific cold remedies ourselves, although when the husband was in the US he brought back some cough suppressant (for a dry cough) that has been invaluable.
    The things we miss the most are kid’s medicines. In South Africa you can get a thing called Stopayne syrup which is like a wonder drug for sick kids – it puts them to sleep (not permanently 😉 In the UK there is Medised which has a mild antihistamine in it and also helps. There’s Piriton syrup, also an antihistamine and Ponstan which is a great anti-inflammatory.
    This is our list for when anyone comes our way, or if we go to Greece or the UK we stock up. A tip for expats going on holiday – your usual cold/cough/headache remedies cost a LOT less in Greece.

  3. Comment by Alison

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    Alison March 1, 2007 at 11:24

    eM – Thanks for stopping by 🙂 You are so right on the vitamin C. I always used to use it but now unfortunately I’m not allowed because of a medication I take. Actually just about all cold remedies are off limits now. So I tough it out (and whine a bit) 🙂 Thank goodness the cold is over now 🙂

  4. Comment by eM

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    eM March 1, 2007 at 10:48

    I am stocking up medicines everytime I go home. I too have to ask there what exactly I want, no browsing through the shelves. But it is not bothering me, cause I know exactly what I want. 🙂
    A tip for all of you guys, suffering cold – try to use simple Vitamin C. It helps me immenselly and they have it really everywhere. If I start to feel sick, I just go and have 1 or two pills (500 mg/1 pill). I do that for two or three days and voilá – problem fixed. 😉
    Get well!

  5. Comment by Alison

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    Alison March 4, 2007 at 14:47

    Christina – Sudafed? Illegal substance? wow, who knew? 🙂 Wonder what the Germans would have to say about Coedine…

  6. Comment by christina

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    christina March 4, 2007 at 11:42

    I could have sent you some Neo-Citran! We always stock up when we’re on vacation. Mr M just loves that stuff. I know there is a German equivalent now but I can’t for the life of me remember the name of it. But yeah, all the good druges are held hostage behind the counter. I tried to get something like Sudafed once, showing them the empty package I had from Canada, and they freaked out, telling me that it was an illegal substance.

  7. Comment by Susan

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    Susan March 7, 2007 at 10:33

    I was going to reccommend Hot Coldrex, which is an add-to-hot-water lemony powder of paracetamol and vitamin C, but as you can’t have any vit.C that won’t work 🙂
    There’s also Citrosan, but since we swear by Hot Coldrex I’ve never tried that.
    Lady Grey tea with a dollop of honey also works well.

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