Sick In Croatia? Here Are Croatian Cures Of The Alternative Kind

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Sick In Croatia? Here Are Croatian Cures Of The Alternative Kind

So, you’re sick in Croatia. What do you do? Go to the doctor? Pharmacy perhaps? Nope, you head to the local farmers market, and liquor store are purchase these items:


Cough, cough, whinge, whinge… this post is being typed up in bed while I am sick. I hate being sick. I know everyone hates it – but I am such a sook. I need to be taken care of. So being home alone with an energetic toddler while sick is pure hell.

I’ve talked before about how I want to be a Croat and obtain my Croatian citizenship, and in a bid to study, I’ll be bringing you up to speed on all things Croatian. Today I present to you what to do if you get sick in Croatia. As for which of the five categories this valuable information falls into for my upcoming test, I think the minister will have this in #5 – Everyday Life.

After all, you can’t go about your everyday life if you are sick and do not know the traditional way to be cured.

Cold And Flu

A friend named Mikki here in Croatia sent me this recipe as a cure for my flu.

Take four onions of any kind, and cut them in quarters. Place 1 in the kitchen, 1 in the living room, and the last one in your bedroom closest to you. That’s it. Then you’ll be cured.


If you’re feeling really poorly, you should lay in bed for at least 1 hour, with the slices of one thinly sliced onion in a pair of socks, while the socks are ON.YOUR.FEET.  Her tip: Make sure the onion slices are touching the soles of your feet.

All of Mikki’s advice was not totally crazy new to me; she did insist I sip on lots of warm water to help.

Warning: Mikki also warned that the color of the onion you left in your bedroom overnight would be black, but the ones in the other rooms won’t be. Spooky. This ridiculous new health information led me to ask people I know here in Croatia their opinions.

Stomach Aches And Pains

This one I had heard back in Australia from my Father in Law (God rest his soul). You have a stomach ache; perhaps you overate? Maybe you have heartburn or some other kind of digestive issue… Never fear Rakija to the rescue.

Take one shot glass, fill with rakija (remember that Croatian kind of brandy), and add a dash of pepper. Drink. Now your stomach ache should be gone. Or perhaps it’s actually got worse, and now you feel so sick you have to lay down.

Bonus: You can substitute the rakija for pelinkovac and subtract the pepper if you so wish.

Uses For Rakija

While we are talking rakija, what else can this magic liquor do? Lots, let me list just a few.

  • Rub on mosquito bites. Itch be gone!
  • Drink to help a sore throat
  • Rub on your forehead to cure a headache
  • Lightly soak a cloth with rakija, and place the fabric over your (insert any type of pain here) & fevers
  • Use rakija to wounds that need disinfecting
  • Removes limescale from tapware and glasses
  • Drink to help relieve a toothache
  • Also, many believe it improves depression, anxiety, and even menstrual cramps.

Warning: This drink is lethal. No, seriously, it’s so potent; I recommend only using rakija under the guidance of a fully-fledged Croatian, such as your Baba or Dido (Grandma & Grandpa). No ex-pats such as myself should administer it. Stay safe, people.

Home grown onions #Croatia- Chasing the Donkey
Mr. CtD with the homegrown onions


Just like rakija, sage leaves here in Croatia are medically approved are said to have magical healing properties also. But do not even suggest to your Croatian friend or relative you plan to use dried sage leaves. They’ll just laugh at you as if you were some weird hippy. Fresh sage leaves cure:

  • Coughs
  • Sore throats and
  • Any kind of mouth pain and especially gum pain


Grgo, who lives in Dubrovnik, told me that his Mama has an excellent remedy for a dry cough. She would cook some sugar in a pot, and when it started to crack, she would add water. This would make a caramel-like (but clear) sugary mixture to which she would add milk.

Edit: This is known as spinano mlijeko, according to blog reader Neo who commented below.

Cough cough… I think I’d have a cough every day if I were a kid in her house growing up. YUMMY.


One blog reader told me his friend had a toothache and was advised to put finely chopped garlic on their wrist.

She did, and the toothache really did pass.

Warning: However, the guy forgot to tell her to keep the garlic in place for a short period. She kept it overnight and ended up with big blisters on her wrist.

Mr. CtD with the home grown garlic - Chasing the Donkey
Mr. CtD with the homegrown garlic

Blitva (Swiss Chard)

My buddy, Grgo, told me that his Father’s family on the island of Mljet uses blitva to resolve issues relating to constipation and also to lower blood pressure.

So given I am too sick to care, I have drunk many cups of sage tea, kindly made for me by my Teta {Aunt} downstairs, as well as sitting here with a rakija soaked cloth on my forehead, in the hope this banging headache will just go away.

Disclaimer: If you’re really sick and in pain, don’t be foolish and go to the doctor, and if you’re an ex-pat, make sure you have Croatian Health Insurance.

What other cures can I add to this list for ways to get better once you fall ill in Croatia? (Be sure to read the comments from Neo, who has a bunch more tips for you)


Comments (37)

  1. Oh rakija for sure. My dad always had bunch of bottles with different herbs, all cured someting else lol. Even made me bring a bottle from Serbia to USA. To use it in Serbia a lot, i remember as kids when we had sore throath they would wrap bandana with warm rakija and another cloth over stang so bad but it worked. Thats what brought me here now looking for home remedies

  2. You forgot the most important ones. ๐Ÿ™‚ There are all sorts of tea mixes from plants grown localy, you can get them in any market and a baka will always know what you need. Sage and thyme are a must, with respiratory problems you can get crni sljez tea. Maticnjak and stolisnik local tea mixes are in almost every cupboard. Hot tea with honey is most used, as are the vitamin pumped soups. Also, propolis drops and ”sache”, along with local homemade honey (the one without additives and still alive) are a common boost. Onions are said to pull out whatever is wrong in the system, and it is kind of true. Not sure about the feet though…But putting them around the space or just lighting up some genuine teatree or lavander oil in an aromalamp or making a homemade inhalation, also great.
    When having a dry cough, some sugar will be cooked into the milk, making a lolipop in a way. It’s called ”spinano mlijeko”. We all had to have some, if the cough was not a dry one, then juice from half a lemon with a spoon of homemade honey mixed together.
    When your immunity drops down, drink lots of lemonade without sugar, 3 glasses a day to keep you hydrated. And do that for about 2 days, while avoiding pasta and pastry’s for that time. There are natural untreated lemons all across Croatian coast, the zest of those can be grated into a yoghurt and is good for the system as well. The first glass of non sugar lemonade is to be taken first thing in the morning, before eating anything or consuming kava. Although, when it’s worse, kava is said to wake us up from the dead.
    Rakija is great for removing fevers, but when drinking rakija while sick, it’s best to have homemade travarica. The herbs in the mix will do you good, brusnica or borovicka if there isn’t any travarica left. Most will say that just about anything homemade like that will kill the infection, and it can be rubbed onto sore places. Some of the old medicine for respiratory issues include warm towels soaked in olive oil and placed on the lungs for a while, as the skin also acts as an absorbing factor for what the oil contains.
    Apple cider vinegar is always great to wake up the immune system, as the gut is connected to it, kiseli kupus is great for digestion or a cleanse. Basicaly, all the local herbs and spices you can find are with healing properties, origano is much too much left out. Basil and origano should be used more often. Fresh beetroot juice also does wonders, garlic is a great antiseptic, you can crush some anyday and add to your salad…What else…Pelinkovac is great for a sick stomach, red wine is to improve your blood statistics as they say. Teta used to make this giant vegetable soup with kale, potatoes, carrots, garlic, tomato, fresh chopped parsley and two spoons of vegeta. All were well after that. ๐Ÿ™‚ Especially when we had kobasice with it.
    A secret (not so secret) recipe that a baka gave, just that she grated everything by hand, you can use a blender. One whole lemon, one large carrot, one normal size parsley root, 2-3 cloves of fresh garlic, part of a celery root which equals the amount of the carrot. Just wash everything, don’t peel it. Then grate it finely, or put it in a blender. Add a spoon of olive oil and a small spoon of honey. Put it in a jar with the lid which can hold pressure, and you have a homemade ”antibiotic”, as she said. When it’s really bad, add a grapefruit. Cleans infections, balances out the body and helps it to fight whatever is attacking it. Showers, some soaking feet in the sea and inhaling the fresh air, sleep longer and laugh more. All ailments then go away.

    1. All true! My Baka used to call that caramel tea ล eฤ‡erl ฤŒaj. ๐Ÿ™‚
      But, honestly, some of you guys laugh and think these things are silly (and some are), but most of them ARE known antiseptics, antiallergenics, antibacterial, antiviral…
      And the uses of rakija- well it’s the common sense for most of them, just like you would use rubbing alcohol, or hand sanitizer…

  3. Ah gosh. Every place has them. I like that there’s always something you can do when there’s not much you can do – keeps people distracted as their bodies heal themselves? I think I’d be more comfortable with a dentist for a toothache, though ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. The only one of these I would try is the rakija. (Not that I have any, but I could do it with brandy.) At least with that one, even if my stomach doesn’t feel better, I might care less.

  5. Wow those are some interesting tips especially the onions! I’ve never heard of that one before but if it works it works! I find apple cider vinegar works great for indigestion. @SITSBlogging

  6. Onions, huh? Since I hate raw onions, maybe the smell would be enough to make me forget about my cold. Interesting stuff!

  7. I would have never thought to use any of these!! Thanks for the great tips. I will definitely keep them in mind in the future!


  8. This was really cute. My father’s cure for any ailment was always the same: “Put on a robe.” Had about the same efficacy as these.

  9. The rakija advice reminds me of the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding who used Windex to cure everything! #SITS

  10. I misread the title as Croatian curses. Perhaps you could do that as a blog post as well? If you haven’t already? The onion cure is quite popular in Spain too.

  11. hahaha I chuckled at the garlic one though I might try it. Oh magic liquor…in Costa Rica the locals like to drink the local alcohol, cacique and they say drink it to fix everything. If you’re sick – drink cacique. Broke your foot? drink cacique. Seems Croatians have the same philosophy! Funny!

  12. Great post! Love the remedy for a cough!! And putting garlic on your wrist for a toothache sounds a little unusual but I think I would be willing to try anything if I was in pain!

  13. So funny!! I have heard some of these, but others were a surprise. The rakija-cures-everything reminds me of the dad and his Windex in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Germans are big on sage, too, but I’d never heard about the hocus pocus power of cut onions!

  14. Oh, you’ve made me laugh! I am going to put some onions in the corners of the house and wait for my husband’s reaction. : D Hope you feel better soon!

  15. So rakija is a wonder drug – but may kill you if you’re not a local? We’ll do the gargling salt water or taking a spoonful of honey for the sore throats, but that’s as natural as my home remedies get. Otherwise, I prefer to suffer through it and whine.

    Hope you start feeling better! And that the little guy isn’t getting into more trouble since mama’s down and out.

  16. Lol, this is so Russian. Onions and garlic cure everything! And vodka and honey of course – especially together. Maybe with some garlic.

  17. Fantastic post SJ. I think every ailment is cured by rakija (you got to use it for something)!! I had a swollen knee, the answer, “rakija”!

  18. Ha, these seem really helpful!In Poland, it is bread with butter and garlic for colds, cloves for toothches, sage for a sore throat, honey for a sore throat, onion with sugar (put onions in a jar, cover with sugar, wait until the juice comes out, drink a spoonfull of juice), thyme syrop (which you can GASP! buy at the pharmacy), marjoram paste (also from the pharmacy) is used for… well if your nose is so hurt from being wiped off, you use that paste- it heals the sore skin under your nose and the smell helps you breath better- marjoram tea is also good for sore throat!

  19. Tip:
    any pain anywhere suddenly moves to your thumb, if you hit it really hard with a hammer ๐Ÿ™‚
    don’t be shy, give it a try.
    (great test too for checking your knowledge of less common Croatian words).

  20. Oh I really love this!!! I bet all of these work a charm – when I was travelling around the Czech Republic/Slovakia for 6 weeks I was ill and a local told me to try a local tea and it was amazing, I still to this day try to work out what was in it.

    Laura x

  21. I’ve been in Moroccofor 6 weeks now and recently had tonsillitis, normally I would go to the doctors get the antibiotics on prescription and that was it, here I was advised by the pharmacist to drink honey and lemon with hot water, gargle salt water and only if it persisted to go back for medication. I went back and was prescribed two sets of antibiotics setting me back the equivalent of ยฃ30! People definitely take the NHS for granted xx

  22. I love these tips. There are some great ones on offer in Italy too, such as putting smelly socks on your neck to relieve a sore throat!

  23. Haha, a great post! Of course rajika cures everything but the onion-in-the-sock thing is just a bit too weird for me…

  24. Vinegar gets a lot of use on bug bites. People will splash the vinegar directly from any restaurant table – everyone understands the “wine” stains on shins and arms. I’ve had a couple of colds there and had to explain to locals how to make a hot whiskey, a remedy from my Irish side. And Mt. Donkey is a “rock star” in the garden, I see. That beli-luk looks perfect!

    1. Oh vinegar, never knew that one. Irish and Croatian… what a firey mix ๐Ÿ™‚
      Ohh and that luk was grown by his cousin. Mr. CtD just gave moral support….

      1. Irish and Croatian is not an uncommon mix in the US – all Catholic, of course – and I would guess it’s also not uncommon Down Under. Pop singer Lorde is the same mix. And Mate is great at moral support, I’d say ๐Ÿ™‚

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