Category Archives: Natural Home Medicines

The Wartime Housewife First Aid Post

Yesterday was a day of incident.  All three of us were injured in different ways and I think it is Nature’s way of telling us it’s the end of term and time for a rest.  We had a burn, a twisted muscle and a horrid scrape.  This is how I treated them.

For information on what you should have in your First Aid Kit, click on this link.

INCIDENT 1 –  Burn:
In the morning, I burned the palm of my hand really badly on a steam press, whilst assisting Lady Marjorie with her laundry.  Those things get jolly hot and, having finished pressing sheets and moved to the normal iron, I forgot that it was still on and grasped it firmly with my right hand, to move it out of the way.

I immediately plunged my hand into a bowl of cold water and kept the cold tap running on it for at least five minutes.  Every time it started to feel sore again, I put my hand back in the cold water.  When I got home, I plastered it with Lavender Oil – 3-4 drops directly onto the burn, which heals burns super fast and is a cicatrizant which means it speeds up the healing process.  I still have a big red welt across my palm, but it is quite minor in view of the initial burn.

INCIDENT 2 – Twisted Bicep Muscle and painful shoulder:
Boy the Elder fell off his bike and took the weight of his body on his arm but twisted it as he tried to avoid further injury from the bike.

A hot bath with 3 drops each of Lavender and Ginger oil to relax his whole body.  Then a massage of the arm and shoulder with 5 drops of Comfrey Extract, 5 drops of Arnica Tincture and 2 drops of Ginger in 25ml of sweet almond oil.  It will ache a bit tomorrow, but by the next day it should be fine.

INCIDENT 3 – Deep scrape on forearms, shock and bruising:
Boy the Younger fell 10 feet out of a tree, badly scraping both his arms on the way down and landing heavily at the bottom.  I had asked him to bring Jeremiah the cat in so I could give him a flea treatment and BTY had decided to climb up a tree to get him down.  The ivy had given way.

4 drops of rescue remedy directly onto the tongue.  Then I bathed the cuts with cool boiled water into which I had put 5 drops of Lavender Oil.  I then applied a sterile dressing pad to each arm, bandaged it firmly on and secured the edges with dressing tape.  He asked for a plaster cast in case his arm should break later,  but this request was politely declined.  Just before bed, I put another drop of Lavender behind each ear to help him sleep and calm down.  I also applied several generous cuddles throughout the course of the evening.

* * *

It is always a good idea to have a bottle of Lavender Oil in the house or in your handbag.  It is antiseptic, antifungal, antibiotic and antiviral.  It promotes healing particularly for burns and it also helps to reduce scarring.  It’s calming, is useful in the treatment of shock, it helps reduce headaches and promotes deep sleep.

Also, according to a slightly suspect Aromatherapy book I once read, it is helpful in the treatment of myocardial infarct.  I would not rely on this as a sole course of treatment.  However it has since become a family joke. ‘Oh my god, I think I may be having a myocardial infarct!’ ‘Quick, fetch The Lavender!’

As the Vulcans say “May your day be free of incident”.


Filed under Children, Natural Home Medicines

A luxurious home-made hand scrub

This hand scrub is so easy to make, very cheap and makes your hands feel like silk.  You will also be startled by how much dirt comes off your hands.  I used lavender oil to make it smell lovely, but you could use whatever you like: rose, bergamot, peppermint, ginger etc., and blended it with sea salt and olive oil

Of course you could also use it on your feet, and peppermint oil is wonderfully cooling and refreshing for tired feets.

Just before Christmas someone on a stand at the shopping centre tried to sell me a jar of what was, ostensibly, the recipe below, except the salt came from the Dead Sea.  His cost forty quid. Mmmm.


Simple ingredients


1 small bowl
1 x sealable jar to keep the remainder in

2 heaped tablespoons of coarse sea salt
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil (wheatgerm or sweet almond oil could also be used)
1-2 drops essential oil of your choice

Put the ingredients into a bowl and stir well
Scoop some onto your hands – a few teaspoonfuls should do it
Rub it all over your hands, in between the fingers, rub it into your cuticles etc
Keep going until the salt has all but dissolved
Wash the excess oil off with a little gentle soap
Dry your hands – they will feel like silk
Apply your favourite hand cream

As an extra treat for your hands, buy a pair of cotton gloves from the chemist.  Put your hand cream on, a little more thickly than usual, then pop on the gloves and go to bed or put your feet up for an hour.  The heat from your hands helps the cream to be deeply absorbed and more effective.


Filed under Hair, make up and stuff like that, Health and Fitness, Natural Home Medicines

Natural Home Remedies: Part 4 – Bee Propolis


This jar cost £5 and should last at least 3 years

In which I discuss the origin and medicinal usefulness of Bee Propolis, it being anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, emollient and cicatrizant.

 Back in September, I reported on our trip to Audley End in Essex for Boy the Elder’s 13th birthday.  One of the groups of people we encountered was The Essex Beekeeping Association.  I think Beekeeping is a practically magical pastime that has so many positive association; nature, honey, waggle-dances*, the inexplicable ability to fly and their vital role in the ecological balance of Earth.

For humans the medicinal effects of propolis are most efficacious and it is available directly from beekeepers and from health food shops in various preparations including raw propolis, creams, lozenges and tinctures.

Propolis is routinely used for the relief of various conditions, including inflammation, viral diseases, ulcers and superficial burns or scalds. It is also believed to promote heart health, strengthen the immune system and reduce the chances of cataracts. 

Old beekeepers recommend a piece of propolis kept in the mouth as a remedy for a sore throat and I can attest to the value of this.  Put a small lump of propolis into your mouth and press it firmly into one of your back teeth.  Allow the propolis to dissolve slowly throughout the day or overnight and the soreness or phlegm is significantly reduced or gone completely.

Claims have been made for its use in treating allergies but propolis may cause severe allergic reactions if the user is sensitive to bees or bee products.  As always, I would never recommend treatment for this kind of condition without consulting an accredited Naturopathic practitioner.

Propolis has also been the subject of recent dentistry research, since there is some evidence that it may actively protect against caries and other forms of oral disease, due to its antimicrobial properties. 

There are also clinical investigations being undertaken in Japan for the use of propolis as an anti-tumour agent as it would appear that propolis may induce cell cycle arrest and have an anti-proliferation effect on C6 glioma cells.

But what exactly is Propolis?

Propolis is a mixture of various amounts of beeswax and resins collected by the honeybee from plants, especially from flowers and leaf buds. Bees have been observed scraping the protective resins of flower and leaf buds with their mandibles and then carrying them to the hive like pollen pellets on their hind legs. It is assumed that at some point during the collection and transport of these resins, they are mixed with saliva and other secretions of the bees as well as with wax.

The resins are then used by worker bees to reinforce the structural stability of the hive.  It lines the inside of nest cavities and breeding combs, and is also used to repair combs, seal small cracks in the hive, reduce the size of hive entrance and to mix small quantities of propolis with wax to seal brood cells.  These functions also have the associated advantage that the antibacterial and antifungal effects of propolis seem to protect the colony against diseases.  It also reduces vibration and can be used to seal off any waste matter that is too big to remove from the hive and might otherwise putrefy and cause disease.

Further reading:    

* Five Boys by Mick Jackson – essential reading if you want to know about Waggle Dancing.  No, not the beer.




Filed under Health and Fitness, Livestock, Medical, Natural Home Medicines, Wildlife


Blue and green ectoplasm

I’m sorry, there will be no dazzlingly witty or useful article this morning because my head is full of snot.  Some unknown hand has filled my sinus cavities with ectoplasm and applied pliers to the back of my eyes.  I shall have a hot bath full of pungent and efficacious herbs, some thyme tea, some Olbas Oil on my chest and a warm bed and I will be back with you tomorrow.


For further information about natural remedies have a look at these posts:-


Filed under Natural Home Medicines

The Sting

Whilst pouring half cup of petrol, which cost me almost a thousand pounds, into my car on Monday, I was stung by a wasp which was hiding on the petrol pump nozzle.  If I get stung many times I get rather wheezy, but a single sting from a sleepy wasp simply caused me to embark on a protracted bout of loud and compound swearing.  There are quite of lot of sleepy bees and wasps around at the moment, so keep your eyes peeled.

It is always a good idea to keep a bite and sting remedy to hand in the house and, if you have family members who react badly, keep a packet of antihistamines in the medicine cabinet just in case.
 However, as I was at a service station in the middle of Corby (God help me – I swear I heard the distant twang of a banjo), I ran to the cafe and demanded vinegar.  The helpful and sympathetic assistant poured vinegar onto a napkin and wrapped it round my finger.  The relief was surprisingly quick.

If you can’t remember whether stings should be treated with acid or alkali, this works for me.
Bees    = Bicarbonate
Vasps  = Vinegar

REMEMBER:  Some people are highly allergic to stings.  If you see any of the following signs, see a doctor immediately:

*  wheezing
*  swollen face or hands
*  nausea or vomiting
*  dizziness
* shock or loss of consciousness

Wasp and Hornet Stings –Vinegar

Wasp and Hornet venoms are powerful alkalines.  Use an acid such as vinegar to neutralize them.  It can be applied via a piece of cloth or bandaging.  Make sure to keep the sting(s) soaked for at least 30 minutes.  Some vinegar will absorb thorough the skin, and it should greatly help eliminate the discomfort.

Bee Stings – Bicarbonate of Soda

In the case of bee stings, baking soda will help to neutralize their acidic venoms.  Make a paste by mixing a tablespoon of bicarb with water.  Leave this paste on the sting site(s) for at least 30 minutes.  Some of the dissolved baking soda will leech through the skin to help to neutralize the venom.

ESSENTIAL OILS: – Lavender and Chamomile

Add two drops of lavender to a tablespoon of cool boiled water and clean the site using cotton wool.
Then put four drops of chamomile onto a piece of cold, damp cloth and apply as a compress to further reduce the inflammation.

In the event of an attack by giant killer bees, have a word with the Director and suggest he changes the plot to something fluffy.  Killer bees are So Seventies.


Filed under Natural Home Medicines

A Jolly Good Wheeze

Last night I was taken into hospital because I had an asthma attack.  I started to get really wheezy at about 3pm and, no matter how much I used my inhaler, it didn’t really make much difference.  I rang out local cottage hospital at 8pm and asked if I could use their nebuliser but they said that their last appointment was at 8.45 and if I needed any further treatment they wouldn’t be in a position to give it to me, so it was better if I didn’t. 

At 9pm I called the out of hours doctor who sent a paramedic round immediately and I was put on an nebuliser and given an ECG.  My breathing eased quite a bit, but he was worried that my heart was not behaving itself, so he called an ambulance and I was carted off to hospital, while The Father of My Children came and took the boys to his house.  At the hospital they put me on another nebuliser, an ECG, blood pressure monitor and bloods were taken.  I was also given a large dose of steroids. I was discharged at 2am and left to find my own way home, which meant TFoMC was had to drag the children out of bed and come and get me.    

Asthma is an incredibly frightening and exhausting thing. Basically it’s a chronic respiratory condition characterized by difficulty in breathing, frequent coughing and a feeling of suffocation.  An attack of asthma is often precipitated by physical or emotional stress/anxiety, respiratory infections, air pollution and changes in temperature or humidity.  It can also be related to low blood sugar, allergies or disorders of the adrenal glands.

It usually starts with a tightness in the chest which develops before the wheezing.  Breathing and wheezing are often more difficult while trying to breathe out, but this depends very much on the individual and the causes of the attack.  There is usually a rapid pulse (mine was 118 which is considered severe) and a change in blood pressure.

During an attack, the bronchial tubes become narrowed, either because of a build up of mucous or a reaction to an allergen which caused the tubes to go into spasm.  An inflammatory process takes place causing the tubes to swell.  As the symptoms subside, the tubes relax and return to their normal diameter and breathing becomes easier again.  At this point the mucous may start to be coughed up in the form of mucous ‘plugs’ which soon subsides.

The following statistics have been provided by Asthma UK

  • 5.4 million people in the UK are currently receiving treatment for asthma.  Interestingly, although asthma is severe and can result in death, it was rarely fatal in this country before 1900.
  • 1 in 11 children has asthma and it is the most common long term medical condition
  • The NHS spends £1 billion a year treating and caring for people with asthma
  • Over a quarter of a million have missed days of work in the past year due to asthma
  • The UK has the highest prevalence of childhood asthma symptoms in the world

I had my first asthma attack on my 16th birthday and my boarding school didn’t take it very seriously.  I was not given any tests, but was handed a prescription for an inhaler and left to my own devices.  They didn’t even inform my mother.  I have probably only had half a dozen severe attacks since then, mostly in the last 15 years, and on only two of those occasions did I actually think I was going to die. 

The problem for me is that, because my asthma is so well controlled most of the time, I forget that I have it and do stupid things.  For me the triggers are excessive dust, over-tiredness and stress.  Interestingly today, when I saw my doctor, she suggested that I have a personal asthma action plan in place for if I’m getting excessively wheezy.  This is the first time this has even been suggested to me and seems really sensible. 

She has given me my own peak flow metre which measure lung capacity and we will meet again in two weeks to write the plan.  If I had had this metre yesterday, I would have known to ‘phone the paramedics hours earlier and would probably not have needed hospital admission.  According to Asthma UK, people who have a plan are four times less likely to require hospital admission.  Sounds good to me.

There are also practical and dietary pathways that can be followed to help strengthen the lungs, respiratory and immune system. 

  • Good posture and correct breathing techniques can have a most beneficial effect; asthmatics often have poor posture and I am one of those.  Yoga and Alexander Technique are excellent regimes for asthmatics. 
  • Psychological attitudes can contribute greatly, either through stress or feeling emotionally suffocated and unable to express oneself.  Psychotherapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy have made significant strides in this area. 
  • Vitamins A, Beta-carotene, Vitamins B complex, B6 and B12, Vitamin C and bioflavinoids are all very helpful and can be obtained in the first instance by including more foods containing these in your diet. Eg liver, eggs, yellow fruits and vegetables, milk, fish liver oil, cheese, marmite, avocados, brown rice, lentils, bananas, citrus fruits and juice, dark green vegetables, cauliflower, peas, green peppers, strawberries, kiwi fruit, whole grains and seeds, honey.  There are no surprises here. 
  • Juicing can be a great way of getting additional nutrients.  I love carrot, apple, parsley and ginger.  Spinach and carrot is great as well.

But please note, I would never, ever advise anyone to use complementary remedies in place of conventional medicine without consulting a qualified and registered naturopath.  People die from asthma and one should never take stupid risks.

I am now feeling fine, rather tired – I spent most of the day asleep – but by tomorrow morning I shall be ready to go again.  I just need to look after myself better and practice what I preach. 

Asthma UK
All about Asthma and it’s Treatment without Drugs by David Potterton, pub. Foulsham 1995
The Nutrition Almanac by G J Kirschmann & J D Kirschmann, pub. McGraw-Hill 1996
The Manual of Conventional Medicine for Alternative Practitioners by Stephen Gascoigne, pub. Jigme Press 1996


Filed under Health and Fitness, Medical, Natural Home Medicines, Nutrition & Sensible Eating

Sleeper – Part 3

Babies.  The guidelines for getting babies into good sleep habits are pretty much the same as for children and adults.  Plenty of fresh air, good routines and take away their mobile ‘phones.  Sorted.

But seriously folks babies are clever creatures and they pick up on how things are going to be run pretty quickly.  Now I am almost certainly going to get pilloried by someone at some time for my approach to babies and I must stress that these are MY opinions and ultimately you must go with your own instincts.  Midwives vary, in that some of them give you good advice and some of them feed you the party line.

The most obvious things to make babies cry are being hungry, wet, dirty or windy.   These things make me cry too.  Let’s assume that they have fed well, have a clean dry bottom and have burped like a builder on Special Brew.  Put them in the cot, wrapped appropriately, with the window open, tell them it’s sleep time and leave the room.  If they start to cry, give it a good long time before you go back, and when you do, don’t pick them up, tell them it’s sleep time, make lots of reassuring noises and leave again.  Be firm. This can be quite hard, but in the long run it pays off and they soon learn that you mean it.

If a child is constantly hungry, it may be that they’re not getting enough from you or their bottle.  Boy the Elder was a ridiculously large baby and although he fed well, he was still always hungry.  I started supplementing his feeds with thin baby rice, then pureed swede at 5 weeks and he was as happy as a sandboy.  Ask your midwife or family for advice if you’re not sure. 

Boy the Younger, on the other hand, was small, thin, yellow and had pointy ears.  He didn’t sleep, he was jaundiced, he didn’t feed properly, he didn’t stop crying.  For the first month I wished I’d never had him (and I can’t tell you how bad that feels).  And then I returned to my right mind and took him to see the cranial osteopath.  She diagnosed compression at the base of his skull and very tight membranes across the plates of his head.  It only took a few sessions before there was a massive improvement in his feeding and sleeping.

Cranial osteopathy is a wonderful thing.  During the birth process, babies are stuck upside down in a tight, nasty place for quite a long time and this can cause the plates of the skull and the vertebrae of the spine to compress and tighten.  This compression can lead to poor feeding, poor sleep habits and restlessness.  Boy the Younger had a permanent headache for three months so it was no wonder he cried all the time and was off his trough.

Boy the Elder simply couldn’t be bothered to be born and at ten days over his due date I was carted off to be induced.  After 18 hours of established labour, an emergency C.section was carried out to prevent the pair of us being carried off.  He was born with a very pointy head indeed, so he was whipped off to the osteopath within ten days.  He was the healthiest, most well behaved baby one could hope for and he was sleeping through the night at 8 weeks.  Osteopaths aren’t cheap, but my goodness it’s worth it.

If babies are restless, massage is a wonderful way, not just of relaxing them, but bonding with them as well.  There are lots of great books about baby massage and many health centres run classes.  Otherwise, a good Aromatherapist will show you how to do it.  It also improves circulation, muscle tone, digestion – it soothes the gut if they suffer from wind or colic, and helps to boost the immune system.  It can also form a mutually advantageous part of their routine if you get into the habit of doing five or ten minutes of massage after the bath and just before you put them down to sleep.  You can also add one drop of lavender essential oil to their bath which helps to promote deep sleep.

I always put my children to sleep in the pram in the garden during the day, summer and winter alike.  I remember Sister the First ringing me in November (BTE was born in September) and she remarked on how quiet it was.  I told her BTE was asleep in the garden.  “No wonder he’s quiet!” she said “he’s got hypothermia!”  Oh how we laughed.  The only time I brought them in was if it was really torrenting with rain, foggy or snowing.  The blankets were on, the hood was up, the apron was secured with the flap up and the pram was turned into the wind.  For BTE I had a normal sized pram in which he could lie flat, but for BTY we had renovated my mother’s beautiful 1950’s, coach built, Silver Cross pram which was big enough to hold small parties in.

If you really don’t feel safe putting your baby outside, then put the cot near the window and leave the window wide open to allow the fresh air in.  If it gets chilly, pop a hat on them and an extra blanket.  They don’t die of cold when you walk them to the shops so they won’t die of cold in their bedroom.

If you can manage to establish routines early on, it is easier to continue these when they start crawling and toddling.  I am not a morning person and if I’m woken very early I’m a very bad person indeed.  When BTE started escaping from his cot, we put a stairgate over his bedroom door and left a few toys and books where he could get them.  He soon realised that I would come and get him, but that no amount of yelling would get me there any earlier.  It was rather nice to pad down to his room and see him sitting looking at his books or playing with his toys. 

BTY was not so compliant, as he is a morning person (and still bounces about at a revoltingly early hour).  I used to leave a drink of water and a piece of bread and butter under his cot and this would keep him quiet until I got up; earlier than I would have liked, but still civilized by most people’s standards.

And one more thing.  Don’t put babies in front of the television.  Don’t laugh, I know lots of people who have.  When I was teaching baby massage classes, I had a mother come to me because her 3 month old baby would not sleep at all during the day.  It turned out that she was lying him on a rug in the lounge with the television on all day to keep him amused.  We had a conversation, she switched the telly off, put him to sleep outside and bingo.  Slept like a …. baby.

  • Make sure your baby has fresh air every day
  • Try to establish a routine as soon as you can and stick to it
  • Have soft lighting in the bedroom
  • Have some cuddly  ‘wind down’ before going up to bed
  • Keep the bedroom cool
  • Read even tiny babies a story, tuck them up, then leave the room
  • If they won’t stop crying  and you’ve eliminated possible health problems , consider massage and/or cranial osteopathy
  • Trust your instincts and if you’re not sure, ask someone.

That’s enough about kipping now.


Filed under Children, Family and Friends, Health and Fitness, Life in general, Medical, Natural Home Medicines