Joan Wilen and Lydia Wilen are folk-remedy experts and home tipsters based in New York City. They have spent decades collecting “cures from the cupboard” and are authors of several books, including Secret Food Cures.
Hiccups are a common nuisance with a lot of cures. In fact, outlandish ways to get rid of hiccups are a common joke both in real life and fiction. The fact that some of these cures seem to work and are actually viable ways to get rid of hiccups just adds to the humor.
In the following excerpt from Secret Food Cures authors and sisters Joan and Lydia Wilen share some of the favorite ways to get rid of hiccups they’ve found.
A hiccup is a spastic contraction of the diaphragm— the large circular muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen.
Hiccups are a great conversation starter. If you’re in a room with 30 people, ask each one of them how they get rid of the hiccups, and you will probably get 30 different remedies.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records (Guinness), the longest recorded attack of hiccups is that which afflicted Charles Osborne of Anthon, Iowa. He was born in 1894 and got the hiccups in 1922, when he was slaughtering a hog.
The hiccups continued but didn’t stop him from marrying twice and fathering eight children. (Who knows, maybe they helped.)
In 1983, Guinness reported that Charles Osborne had hiccupped—and was still hiccupping—about 420 million times. By the time he died in 1990, the hiccupping had slowed down from 40 times a minute to 20 times a minute. You do the math.
To prevent a case of the hiccups, do not slaughter a hog. To cure a case of the hiccups, try one or more of the following remedies.
Drink a glass of pineapple or orange juice.
• Make believe your index finger is a mustache. Place it under your nose and press in hard for 30 seconds.
• Drink a glass of water that has a tablespoon in it—the bowl of the spoon being the part that’s in the water. As you drink, be sure the metal handle of the spoon is pressed against your left temple.
• Swallow a teaspoon of fresh onion juice.
• Mix a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in a cup of warm water and drink it down.
• Drink a glass of water from the far side of the glass. You have to bend far forward to do this without dribbling all over yourself.
• When children between the ages of seven and 14 have the hiccups, promise to double their allowance if they can hiccup once more after you say “Go!” Chances are there will not be one more hiccup after you say “Go!” We don’t know why, but it works…most of the time.
• Men should place an ice cube right below their Adam’s apple and count to 150.
• Take a mouthful of water and keep it in your mouth while you stick the middle fingers of each hand into your ears and press fairly firmly. Count to 100, then swallow the water and unplug your ears.
• Pretend you’re singing at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera House without a microphone, and the foremost opera critic is in the last row of the uppermost tier. One aria and the hiccups should disappear. (Of course, so might your roommate.)
• Take seven drinks of water without taking a breath in between swallows. While you’re drinking the water, keep turning the glass to the left.
• Put a handkerchief over a glass of water and suck the water through it as you would with a straw.
• Stick out your tongue as far as possible and keep it out for three minutes. Be careful, one big hiccup and—ouch!
• The sole of the foot is an acupressure point for curing the hiccups. Massage the center of the sole for as long as it takes for the hiccups to stop.
• Mix 1 ⁄2 teaspoon of sugar in 1 ⁄2 glass of water and drink it slowly.
• Place a pencil between your teeth so that it sticks out on both sides of your mouth. Chomp down on it while drinking a glass of water. (You might want to wear a bib.)
• Locate the area about two to three inches above your navel and between the two sides of your rib cage. Press in with the fingers of both of your hands and stay that way long enough to say to yourself—“One, two, three, four, I don’t have the hiccups anymore.”
If you still have them, try reciting “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”—it’s a very, very long poem written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1798.
• Close your eyes, hold your breath and think of 10 bald men. Let us start you off—Sean Connery, Montel Williams, Howie Mandel, Paul Shaffer, Michael Jordan, etc.
• Pardon our name-dropping, but…television news journalist Jane Pauley told us that her husband, Garry Trudeau (creator of the “Doonesbury” comic strip), gets painful hiccups. His remedy is to put a teaspoon of salt on half a lemon and then suck the juice out of the lemon.
• Our great-aunt Molly used to soak a cube of sugar in fresh lemon juice and then let it dissolve in her mouth. She did it to get rid of the hiccups. She also did it as a shortcut whenever she drank tea.
• Just visualizing a rabbit—its cute little face, quivering nose and white whiskers—has been known to make the hiccups disappear.
• One of the most common remedies for hiccups is a teaspoon of granulated sugar. It supposedly irritates the throat, causing an interruption of the vagus nerve impulse pattern that is responsible for triggering the spasms of the diaphragm. (Just reading the previous sentence aloud may help you get rid of the hiccups.) In Arabia, people have been known to use sand in place of sugar.
• Another way you might interrupt the diaphragmatic spasms is by holding your arms above your head and panting like a dog. Well, you might not get rid of the hiccups, but you may end up with some table scraps.
• Lay a broom on the floor and jump over it six times. If you want to update this remedy, try jumping over a vacuum cleaner. For all of you rich people, jump over your maid.
• Turn yourself into a “T” by spreading out your arms. Then give a big yawn.
• Pretend you’re chewing gum while sticking your fingers in your ears, gently pressing inward. “What did you say? I can’t hear you. My fingers are in my ears.”
• If nothing else works, take a hot bath. This has helped cure severe cases of hiccups.
• Take something cold that’s made of metal—a spoon is good—tie a string around it and lower it down the hiccupper’s back.
• Suddenly accuse the hiccupper of doing something he/she did not do—“You left the water running in the tub!”…“You borrowed money from me and forgot to pay it back!”… “You skipped the best part!”