My Dominican Abuela's Watercress, Aloe Vera, and Honey Syrup Remedy Is Keeping Me Healthy This Winter

Johanna Ferreira
Johanna Ferreira

When the pandemic first hit, many Latinxs started turning to ancestral knowledge and rituals to boost their immune systems and nourish themselves through these difficult times. But the idea of healing our bodies with plant and herbal medicine is nothing new for our communities. Like many Latinas, I too grew up with my abuelita cooking up a remedio casero for every possible ailment. Many of these remedies – or what I like to refer to as healing potions – have been passed in our families for generations. It's what our mothers and abuelas were preparing after migrating to the states and finding themselves skeptical of the Western medicine that oftentimes didn't prioritize the health of brown and Black lives. It's what our bisabuelas and the abuelas before that were preparing when the only real healthcare option was the medicine they could get from the land. And it's the remedies that still work today because of the ancestral wisdom that's been passed down from our Indigenous and African ancestors.

Growing up, I remember every fall looking forward to Abuela preparing her popular jarabe de sábilla, berro y miel (aloe vera, watercress, and honey syrup). It was the only time I wouldn't give my mom a hard time about taking cold medicine or cough syrup, and that's because this natural remedy is also delicious. Abuela would scoop out the gel from a few aloe vera leaves and throw it into a blender along with a cup of honey (that's where the delicious taste comes from), and a bunch of berro (which translates to watercress), and she'd finish off by squeezing out the juices from a few ripe lemons. Then she'd let it all blend and add to a mason jar or glass bottle and store it in the fridge.

What Is Jarabe de Sábilla, Berro y Miel (Dominican Aloe Vera, Watercress and Honey Syrup Remedy), and Why Is It Good For You?

The aloe vera in this remedy is loaded with antioxidants and antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties, which is why it works so well in healing wounds and treating numerous skin conditions. Watercress is packed with nutrients including vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin E. Its high antioxidant content helps protect against cell damage caused by free radicals while the antimicrobial ingredients in honey fight the pathogens that cause the cold. It also works to soothe the throat.

Most of my life, Abuela was the one that prepared this for me and my family, but last year I found myself preparing it for her and this year I decided to make myself a jar to get through this brutal January. For prevention, Abuela recommends taking a tablespoon a day, but if you're fighting off a cold, take at least three tablespoons a day. One in the morning, one after lunch, and one right before bed.

Johanna Ferreira
Johanna Ferreira

Dominican Aloe Vera, Watercress, and Honey Syrup Remedy

Prep Time10 minutes
Yield16 ounces

Original recipe


    • 1 aloe leaf
    • 3 lemons
    • 1 cup honey
    • 1 bunch watercress


    1. Peel the aloe leaf off with a knife, take out the pulp, and add to the blender.

    2. Squeeze the juice from the lemons, add about a cup of honey and a bunch of watercress to the blender.

    3. Blend.

    4. Take 1 tablespoon a day for prevention or three tablespoons a day to treat a cold.

    5. Store in the fridge and always shake before serving.