Kurt Tucholsky; Flu Remedy

Flu Remedy

At the earliest signs of the flu—recognizable by a slight tingling in the nose, foot cramps, coughing, a shortage of money, and an aversion to going to work the next morning—one should gargle a pinch of ground cocaine mixed with half a drop of iodine. This helps the flu to take hold.

The flu, also known as Spanish flu, influenza, and the common cold (in latin: the sniffles), is spread by nervous bacteria which have themselves come down with a cold: the so-called infectious animalcules. The flu is sometimes accompanied by fever, which begins at 128 degrees Fahrenheit. On days when the stock-markets are strong, the flu is somewhat milder; when the markets are weak the flu is stronger—so it’s generally stronger. In order to expedite contagion, male flu-sufferers are advised to kiss a woman; female flu-sufferers, a man. Consult a medical professional if you are unsure of your sex. Contagion can also be achieved by visiting a cough-house (or so-called “theater”). But avoid covering your mouth when you cough: this is unhealthy for the bacteria. The flu is not strictly-speaking contagious, but it is an infectious disease.

Cold compresses always did my husband the world of good—for best results cook up a warm batch of semolina pudding, pack it in a linen cloth, eat it, and then give the patient some brandy—within two hours the patient should be tipsy; after another hour, blind drunk. In lieu of cognac, furniture polish can also be used.

It’s best to avoid all vegetables, soup, butter, bread, fruit, compote and dessert. Homoeopaths are advised to lick a five-Pfennig stamp three times a day, or, if the fever is particularly high, a ten-Pfennig stamp.

One must not leave the bed under any circumstances—it does not necessarily have to be one’s own bed. In case of chills, woolen stockings should be worn, preferably around the neck. To avoid bare legs, wrap each leg in a detachable shirt collar. The main thing is warmth: so a trip to the thermal baths is in order. On the return journey, make sure to sit on the top deck of the omnibus, but have the other passengers close their mouths to avoid a draught.

Conventional medicine is powerless against the flu. It is therefore a idea good to hang a pendulum over the belly: if it swings from right to left, it’s influenza; but if it swings from left to right then you’ve got a cold on your hands. Wash your hands immediately and proceed to Dr. Weissenberg for treatment. Take the white cheese he prescribes and smear it directly onto the flu; sticking it to the underside of the bed is a sign of medical ignorance and hard-heartedness.

Under no circumstances should you bring this mysterious ailment to a so-called “Doctor.” If you have the flu you’re better off asking Frau Meyer. Frau Meyer always has a remedy. If there is an outbreak of flu within a circle of acquaintances, it is sufficient for one member of the circle to seek treatment—the others can just follow the same instructions.

Principal remedies include: Camomile tea, elderberry tea, magnolia tea. rubbertree tea, and cactus tea.

These remedies go back to our grandmother’s days and are not particularly effective. Our modern age has seen the advent of new means of supporting the pharmaceutical industry. Popular flu remedies include: Aspirol, Pyrimidine, Bysopeptan, Ohrolax, Primadonna, Bellapholisiin, and Ethyl-Phenil-Lekaryl-Parapherinan Dynamite acetylene Koollomban-Piporol—In the latter case, it’s enough to pronounce the name several times in quick succession. Take all these remedies immediately—for as long as they help—in alphabetical order (“Ph” counts as a single letter). Bicarbonate of soda also does wonders for one’s health.

Prophylactic injections (lac, from the Greek. Lit: “milk” or “lake”) are proven to be particularly successful after treatment. These injections have a 100% success rate in cases of flu which are already over.

Americans are known to treat flu by filling cold compresses with hot Swedish punch; Italians keep their right arm extended in the air for long durations; the French ignore the flu, just as they ignore the winter, while the Viennese write lengthy feuilletons each time they fall ill. We Germans tend to treat the matter more methodically:

We go to bed, catch the flu and don’t get up again until we have a really high fever—at which point we rush off into the city to take care of some urgent business or other. A telephone by the bedside of female patients can considerably lengthen the course of the illness.

The flu was invented by the English priest, Rev. Jonathan Flue in 1725; it has been scientifically curable since 1724.

The signs of a full recovery include back pain, coughing, foot cramps, and a slight tingling sensation in the nose. These symptoms however do not belong—as the layman might be inclined to believe—to the old flu, but to a new one. The duration of a common domestic house-flu is three weeks with medical treatment, twenty-one days without medical treatment. Additionally, male patients suffer from so-called “self-pity” with roughly the same amount of fuss that women exhibit during childbirth.

Julius Caesar’s go-to remedy for flu was laurel-leaf soup; at the Vanderbilts’ palace they prefer platinum-broth with soft-boiled pearls.

I’d like to conclude my remarks on the subject with the words of the world-renowned Fluologist Professor Dr. Dr. Dr. Ovaritius: The flu is not a disease—It’s a state of being!


Translated by Daniel Kennedy



Kurt Tucholsky (1890–1935) was a German-Jewish writer, journalist and one of the most influential satirists of his time. He wrote under multiple pseudonyms for a variety of magazines and newspapers, most notably die Weltbühne. He tirelessly and mercilessly satirised those he considered to be the enemies of democracy and human rights, but grew increasingly pessimistic about the future of his country.
He left Germany in 1924 and travelled widely before eventually settling in Sweden in 1930. In 1933 the Nazis revoked his German citizenship and burned his books.

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