A Cuban Cure for All That Ails You

I know that there are lots of things we Cubans do that are dancing on that fine line between tradition and superstition. This gets dialed way up when we get sick.

We have quite the plethora of Old Wives Tales to choose from when it comes to remedies. 

And we Cubans don't just have plain Old Wives, our Old Cuban Wives (read: 'Abuelas') not only invented the genre, they took it up a notch. No sooner do you say, "I think I'm getting sick," than you have an abuela running right over to make you a 'cocimiento.'  I'm not lying.

Give a Cuban abuela some olive oil, a potato, vinegar, chamomile, and of course VapoRub and you'll be back on your feet and salsa dancing before you can say, "Abre que voy! Cuida'o con los callos."

My Big Fat Cuban Family - Cuban Cures

1. Cold with a Cough

Easy peasy. Let's just start with the most basic of all cures. We Cubans not only know the secret healing power of Vicks VapoRub  ("VI-VA-PO-RU!"), we also know the application tricks for maximum efficiency.

Vicks VapoRub. That's where the magic begins.

Vicks VapoRub. That's where the magic begins.

  • Get the largest vat of Vicks VapoRub you can find.
  • Slather it on the bottoms of both feet and put on a clean pair of socks. I've chosen my wording very carefully here. When I say 'slather,' I mean, don't just dab. Slather. Generously.  
  • Also, rub a nice big helping onto your chest and cover that bad boy with a brown paper bag. (Does anyone use a paper bags anymore? I stockpile them for moments like this.)
My Big Fat Cuban Family - sick with a cold gif

Stops coughs dead in their tracks. This also has the added bonus of keeping people away from you so you're not likely to share your germs. Nothing says, "I'm sick" like Eau De ViVapoRu.

My Big Fat Cuban Family - Stay Away gif

2. Ear Ache

  • Take a spoonful of olive oil and heat it up over an open burner. Take care, please.
  • Pour the warm olive oil onto a cotton ball.
  • Squeeze a drop of the warm olive oil into the sore ear.
  • Get a clean cotton ball and stick it in your ear.
My Big Fat Cuban Family - ear gif

Warm olive oil? In your ear? I know. Shut up.

But don't be surprised if you start craving bruschetta. It's the scent of the olive oil that does it. Here's my recipe for Cuban Bruschetta. Por si las moscas. 

3. Nausea

  • Take a thick slice of *baguette-type bread and slice it in half. (*Cuban, Italian, etc.)
  • Pour some vinegar onto each half.
  • Go lay down, placing the vinegar bread onto your stomach.
  • Breathe in the vinegar fumes.
My Big Fat Cuban Family - nausea gif

As you are lying there inhaling the vinegar fumes, you will begin to question the life choices that led you to this moment.  Also, now that you are feeling better and you've got the bread, that bruschetta should be super simple to make! 

4. Headache

  • Cut a potato into 3 pieces. 
  • Lay down with a pillow under your head, placing a piece of the potato on your forehead and one on each side of your head. 
  • Lay there, holding the potato to your temples until the headache goes away.

While you're waiting for this one to work and you're prone and holding a potato on either side of your head, you'll be tempted to question your sanity. This is good. It means there's nothing wrong with your mental health. 

A word of caution: It's okay to question the veracity of your abuela's allegiance to this particular headache cure. Just don't do it out loud where she can hear you. Trust me. 

My Big Fat Cuban Family - spock headache gif

When your headache is gone, you'll probably want some bruschetta. Because, let's face it, that raw potato is not very appetizing.

5. General Malaise

Un Cocimiento de Manzanilla is the answer. <--That's Spanish for Chamomile Tea.

This cures everything. 

  • Boil some water and drop some Manzanilla in it. 
  • Puffy eyes? Soak some cotton balls in this concoction and apply to your eyelids. Goodbye puffiness. 
  • Trouble with your digestion? Drink this. 
  • Did you burn yourself on the stove when you were warming the olive oil? (See #2.) Dab a cotton ball soaked in the Manzanilla and you won't even scar. 
  • Did you just give birth? Manzanilla reduces the inflammation from childbirth. Just ask any Cuban abuela. 
My Big Fat Cuban Family - malaise gif


  • Warts? Snakebite? Vampire curse? Well, no. Obviously Manzanilla won't help you there. Everyone knows that what you need to remove that vampire curse is garlic. 

And won't that be so tasty on that Cuban Bruschetta

Be sure to share some with your abuela to show your gratitude. Wash it down with some Manzanilla. It improves your digestion, you know.


Do you know what else will make you feel better? Having my Cuban Food Poster in your kitchen. What a fun way to celebrate your Cubanity!

Marta Darby Designs on Etsy. Word Art to Make You Happy.