Reviewing Old Wives' Remedies, One Illness at a Time

Biohacking my body, folk healing-style.
Nana Baah
London, GB
socks, garlic, onion and rum on a table
An assortment of ingredients. All photos: Nana Baah

I haven’t been “well” for the past six years. Like most people in their mid-twenties, my body is turning against me. It’s been trying to for years, but finally, here we are: constant nausea, a stabbing pain when I breathe in, the inability to get out of bed, a runny nose every time I step out of the house, a sudden potential allergy to all seafood despite eating it constantly. Is the spectre of death upon me or is it just being in your mid-twenties?


Waiting to get a GP appointment, just to be passed from person to person and being put on a ton of different medications is hell. But I don’t want to have to start bio-hacking and have to wake up at 4AM to suck down a sludgy meal replacement drink or dabble in cryotherapy. Instead, I’ve decided to turn to old wives tales. Surely, these folk remedies have lived long enough to earn the title? With age comes wisdom, right?

Sleeping with onion in socks to cure a cold

Every COVID test I’ve done is negative, so I assume this is an old-fashioned 2019-era “cold”. Apparently, placing slices of onions in my socks when I go to bed could help. According to Chinese medicine, there are meridians at the bottom of our feet that act as pathways to the internal organs, and onion slices are supposedly able to open those meridians and draw out toxins.

A pair of socks next to sliced onion

When I mention it to my partner, he says that I cannot by any means bring onions near the bed. Fair enough – I usually kick my socks off in my sleep like a newborn, so there would be raw onion everywhere. I opt to take a short nap on the sofa with my feet dangling off the end.

Can Booze Cure a Cold?

I’m not sure how quickly it’s meant to work, but I do know that I don’t feel any better the next day and these socks are ruined. The smell of onion has a way of sticking to everything that it touches.


RATING: 3/10. Even if I don’t get better, I can always move into making content for vegetable enthusiasts and foot fetishists. 

Raw garlic cloves next to a packet of tissues

Putting garlic up your nose to clear sinuses

These cold symptoms are persistent! Although they could just be allergy symptoms, I decided to take a stab at the next cold and flu “cure” on the list: sticking garlic up my nose.

It’s having a bit of a resurgence. In fact, people on TikTok have been plugging their noses with raw garlic since last year. They come on camera, eyes streaming and mucus flowing from their noses, all with a “snot” trigger warning.

Managing to shove a clove of garlic up my nose and getting it to stay put was the hardest part of all of this. Despite all my TikTok research, it didn’t work. Now my throat is itchy and I have a headache and need to lie down.

RATING: 0/10 Degrading.

A bottle of Wray and Nephew overproof white rum next to a shotglass

Rubbing Wray & Nephew rum onto your chest to ease congestion

While working on this, I met an old man who told me about a remedy that his family would use for congestion when he was growing up in Jamaica. He recommended that I take a capful of Wray & Nephew and rub it on my chest like it was Vick’s. Supposedly, the alcohol acts the same as the tingly ingredients in menthol rubs – like cedarleaf oil, nutmeg oil, thymol and turpentine oil – to clear any congestion.

It’s a skincare sin to just cover your skin in alcohol but after the garlic thing, I would do anything to breathe again.


The last time I drank Wray & Nephews was at a carnival afterparty. When I open the bottle, I vividly remember standing on a balcony telling some girl I just met that I’m sure she used to have a different name. If I don’t feel any better, at least I still have the embarrassing flashbacks.

An hour later, there’s no change. My throat is still burning and I’ve wasted money on a mini bottle of rum that I can’t drink anymore.

RATING: 0/10 This only served to create more awful associations with white rum. Now I’m £10 down and own a bottle of rum that will live in the back of a cupboard for years to come.

Being tucked in like a child to help sleeplessness

Like most of you, I have not had a good night’s sleep in years. I look tired and I feel it, too. No amount of coffee and early morning showers keep me feeling energised. It turns out that I’m severely Vitamin D deficient, but I don’t have months to wait for my levels to get back to normal.

Apparently being tucked in at night like a child can relieve stress from the day and lull you to sleep. I ask my partner to tuck me in tight enough that I can’t move and place a weighted blanket on top of me. Almost instantly I need to wee, but he agrees to tuck me back in and I fall asleep straight away.

RATING: 7/10 More cumbersome than simply popping a sleeping pill. You might have to ask one of your flatmates to tuck you in, which could create a weird energy in your home. If you live alone: unfortunately, never-ending insomnia for you.