7 Russian Home Cures You Should Think Twice Before You Try

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Anastasiia Ilina

Growing up or living in Russia, it is inevitable that you will come across a selection of home cures that seem absolutely insane at first. Though most are experimental – to put it mildly – others can be quite effective. For the adventurous out there, here are some home cures not for the faint-hearted.


The ancient Chinese practice of cupping has experienced a renaissance in past years. Russians, however, have long since been making good use of this cheap but effective practice. Traditionally the small cups used need to be made of glass – they are then heated up inside and quickly attached to bare skin. The overall effect from the heat will increase circulation and stimulate certain organs of the body, and the practice is said to help cure colds and to aid pain relief. A word of advice though, be wary of wearing any revealing clothing afterwards, as you will be rocking some ladybird spots for a while.

The after effects of cupping

Gargling with kerosene

This sounds like preparation for a fire breathing act, whereas in fact it is said to eventually cure painful throat infections, migraines, and even oncological diseases. There is no medical backing to this cure and with so many precautions that need to be taken, it’s surprising anybody still takes this seriously. Yet, recipes of kerosene concoctions are roaming the internet. In fear of experimental readers burning their throats, we won’t share any, but sufficient to say, it does not involve using off-the-shelf kerosene – there is a purification process involved, but it won’t replace a visit to the doctor.


For most Russians zelenka, meaning a green-coloured liquid, is an antiseptic that every house will have in their medicine cabinet. For small scratches and wounds that require little medical attention, zelenka is always the call of the day. Although outside of the former Soviet Union this liquid wouldn’t be near a medical kit, generally because of insufficient clinical trials, zelenka is not unknown – it has been used to colour silk and wool, so strong are its colouring properties. When applied to the skin, it retains a bright green colour for days if not weeks, giving a slightly comic look to the patient.


Mustard plasters

If this doesn’t sound appealing, it’s because it really isn’t. Mustard plasters, or gorchichniki as they are called in Russian, are remembered with contempt by many children. Thankfully, mustard plasters don’t involve smearing mustard over your body – they’re compresses that come inside sheets of paper. You dip them into warm water, apply them to certain parts of your body (usually chest, back or calves) and cover up with a blanket. You’ll be sweating in no time and experiencing a tingling sensation where the compresses are. The first few minutes might be alright, but it all gets a bit too much eventually. The trick here is not to burn yourself – you’d think a potential cure wouldn’t have such harmful properties.

Sitting on a cucumber

This home cure for haemorrhoids received a lot of attention when a video published by a traditional medicine doctor went absolutely viral. His recommendation was fairly simple. Find a cucumber in your garden, rub the dirt off, leaving the cucumber attached on the stem, then lubricate the cucumber with your saliva and insert it into your backside. Doctor insists that this, um, procedure will heal haemorrhoids quickly and effectively, using the power of the earth. Any volunteers?

An unsuspecting cucumber in a garden

Breathing in potato steam

A very economical way to cure a cough. Basically whenever all your airways feel blocked, breathing in some steam is generally going to help the situation anyway – even better if you have some potatoes lying around. Turns out, potatoes contain elements that will speed up the healing process. If you’re going to try this, boil a pot of potatoes for about 10-15 minutes (with the skins on), and drain the water when ready. Then bring your face close to the pot, covering your head with a towel. Breathe deeply and enjoy the aromatic goodness. Oh, and try not to burn your face with the hot steam.


Playfully dubbed ‘the biting doctor’, leeches have been used for centuries to cure illness all around the world. To no surprise most countries no longer use them now that there are more pleasant cures than having a slimy black animal suck out your blood. The whole point though is not in the vampire procedure – the reason leeches are valued is for their saliva, which contains active elements. The bites leave small inflamed areas, where the body then replaces the cells. Which is apparently good for curing an extensive list of diseases. So if 270 small teeth chomping at your skin sounds fine, why not give it a try?

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