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

Post author SJ

Written by our local expert SJ

Sarah-Jane has lived in Croatia for 10+ years. SJ, as she is known, has been traveling the Balkans & beyond since 2000. She now shares her passion for traveling with her husband & kids.

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)

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Comments (37)

  1. 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 £30! People definitely take the NHS for granted xx

  2. 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

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

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