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

The Casualties of Life

Thursday was an interesting and varied day.  As you know, we all went to the pictures on Wednesday night (Orange Wednesday – 2 tickets for the price of 1 – excellent).  However, because the earlier showings were all full, we had to see ‘Karate Kid’at 8.15pm.  It was only 6.15pm so we went over to Frankie and Benny’s for a feed, which was earth shatteringly expensive – I’d been planning to take them to MacDonald’s on the way home.  Consequently, we didn’t get home until quarter to twelve, which is very late for young chaps and chappesses.

I had agreed to help Lady Marjorie with some spring cleaning first thing on Thursday morning but I had to take my car to the garage at 8.30am.  Luckily they lent me a car for the day as after Lady M, I had to pick up The Boys and leg it over to Mrs Cromarty as I have been helping her partner to make something for his disco rig.  We have had to design it almost as we go along and there is a lot of sewing involved.  A lot of sewing.  We were still working on it late into the night, with only a break to pick up my car (now purring along happily) and get some fish and chips.    At one point, there was a crash and a lot of yelling and Boy the Elder came hobbling downstairs in great pain.  He had tripped over a cable and a large television had fallen onto his foot. Ow.

I inspected it closely, put a cold pack followed by a stabilising bandage on it and made him lie on the sofa with his foot up.  By 11pm his foot had turned many different and exciting colours and it was decided that Thursday night in A&E would conceivably be quicker than Friday.  Mrs Cromarty is much nearer to The Leicester Royal Infirmary, where they also have a dedicated Children’s A&E, but I’ve never been there, so she opted to come too.  We left Boy the Younger at her house.

It could have been much worse.  We were given a wheelchair so that we could avoid Boy the Elder’s inevitable RADA audition, as he hopped, grimacing and groaning along the corridor like a low rent Long John Silver.  After only half an hour, we were ushered into Triage or ‘See and Treat’ as it was helpfully labelled, where the nurse started giggling as Boy the Elder described what had happened.  “I’m so sorry”, she said, “It’s just that we have another boy in the waiting room who had a really large clock fall on his head at about the same time. Strikes me as quite funny”.  We agreed in principle that it was quite funny.

There was then the usual A&E Foxtrot between X-Ray (BTE: “Why have you put that heavy sheet on my privates?” Nurse: “In case you want to have children when you’re older”), The Adolescents’ Waiting Room and the Treatment Cubicle.  The Adolescents’ Waiting Room was fun.  There were posters everywhere about AIDS, drugs (all types), STDs (and how to catch one), chlamydia, female circumcision and forced marriage.  These stimulated some interesting conversations, I can tell you. 

We were delighted to discover that we were waiting with Clock Boy who had a hole in his head.  I told him all about trepanning to cheer him up.  His lovely parents were with him and we chatted happily until both boys were called in to the treatment room.  Boy the Elder was feeling quite cheerful by now and regaled the nurse with his tale in articulate and gruesome detail.  “I bet it hurts like buggery” she said, which got The Boy firmly on her side.

There appeared to be no bones broken and, having dropped Mrs Cromarty at her house, we finally arrived back home at 2.45am, tired, cold and hungry.  After a brief pause to shovel down some cheese on toast and Ovaltine down us, we retired to bed at 3am.  I had an appointment at 9am.  Not happy.

I collected Boy the Younger and we gave ourselves the afternoon off.  I made up some of my special Bruised Bone Liniment (Top Secret formula, incredibly efficacious), applied some to the offending foot, after which we retired to the sofa in a big heap with cake, tea and ‘Blazing Saddles’ on the DVD.

It could have been worse.


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

Natural Home Remedies: Part 3 -Pets: Cuts & Grazes in cats and dogs

It’s not just humans who can benefit from a more natural approach to health, and medicines from vets can be horrifically expensive.

My cat, as I have mentioned previously, becomes a psychotic killer when exposed to fresh air and the beauty of open fields, reverting to a velvety, snuggling, purring thing of beauty the minute she steps into the hallway.  Last week she came home having clearly been in a fight.  We discussed it.  She brought me a dismembered vole to say sorry.

Cat bites are really horrible and they will usually attempt to bite each other in places that they can’t lick clean, the back of the neck and the topside of the base of the tail being favourite targets. If you suspect your cat of being in a fight, always check it’s tail, as a bite can quickly turn into an abscess which, if left untreated could result in an amputated tail.  Hey presto! One Manx cat you haven’t bargained for.

If your cat has a cut or graze, mix 1 drop of Thyme essential oil with ¼ pint / 150ml of cool, boiled water.  Using clean cotton wool, bathe the area with the thyme water until it looks clean. 

If you can see the beginnings of an abscess apply 1 drop of neat tea tree oil onto it to bring it to a head.  If the cat can reach, it will ingest the oil which will also help the healing process.  Keep doing this daily until it bursts.  When it does, mix 1 drop lavender oil with 1 tablespoon cool boiled water and bathe the area a couple of times a day to keep it clean, bacteria free and to promote healing.

The same remedies apply to dogs, but you will need to increase the quantities:
A cat-sized dog can be treated as above
A medium sized dog eg. Spaniel use 2 drops thyme to ¼ pint / 150ml cool boiled water
A large sized dog eg. German Shepherd use 3 drops thyme to ¼ pint / 150ml cool boiled water
A giant sized dog eg. Great Dane use 4 drops thyme to ¼ pint / 150ml cool boiled water

The area can then be kept clean with the lavender and water as you need it.

Thyme, Tea Tree and Lavender are heavy duty anti bacterial agents and they are also antiseptic, antiviral and antifungal. 
Lavender is a cictrizant (ie. it promotes healing) and it is calming to animals and humans alike.  
Thyme is particularly effective for the treatment of wounds and sores and acts as a stimulant to the immune system
Tea Tree helps to soothe inflammation and is effective at treating shock.

Remember.  If you are in any doubt about your pet’s health, be sensible and consult your vet first.


Filed under Animals, Natural Home Medicines

Germs and the con of cleaning products + a recipe for a natural surface cleaner

I burst out laughing the other night when I saw an advert suggesting that using an anti-bacterial soap dispenser would expose you to an horrific cocktail of germs just by touching the pump!  Happily they had just the product; a movement sensitive dispenser for the home that could just possibly save your life.

Permit me to suggest that the human body is a beautiful, thriving, crawling ecosystem of bacteria, viruses, parasites and terrifying microscopic nasties that, by and large, is kept in balance by a healthy immune system?  

Now I do understand that these days many people would appear to have sustained some compromise to their immune systems.  May I also suggest that if they ate decent food, got a bit more fresh air and encouraged their children to climb trees and fall over, they might just develop an immune system that was up to the job. 

Naturally I am talking about every day living here.  My views on hospital cleaning and the appropriate feeding of the infirm, could well have you eating topsoil just to take your mind of my ranting, so I will leave that for another, angrier and longer blog.

All I’m saying, dear ones, is that we must maintain a healthy perspective; I would not advise scraping week old raw chicken off your chopping board in order to butter your toast on it without a thorough scrubbing.  And if you promise to pay attention, I won’t even mention our urgent need generally to consume less of everything.  But what I will do is give an excellent natural recipe for an all purpose cleaner and disinfectant for your home with not a plastic bottle or an anionic surfactant in sight.


1 x large saucepan
1 x fine mesh sieve
1 x bottle with a lid or stopper

1 x handful of fresh sage OR
2 x handfuls of fresh thyme OR
1 x handful of fresh rosemary

1/2 pint water
2 tblspns baking soda
1 tspn lemon juice

Put the herb into the pan with the water
Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes
Remove from the heat and leave to cool
When cool, strain the liquid through the mesh
Pour into the bottle and add the baking soda and lemon juice
Put the top on the bottle and shake well
Label the bottle and store in the fridge for up to a week


Filed under Cleaning, Household Hints, Medical, Natural Home Medicines

A bit of a pick me up: Benger’s Food

I spend most of my waking hours trying to think of items for my ever increasing audience, which they will find entertaining, informative, amusing and diverting (although not necessarily all at the same time; I would hate for any of you to actually explode with excitement as I am not insured for such an eventuality.). 

I am also always on the look out for ephemera or items which are of interest to a Housewife who, whilst having not actually been born at the time of the last War, disports herself in the kitchen as though she was.

Consequently, I have shelves full of ‘Housewife’ Magazine, wartime cookery books, kitchen utensils dating back to the 19th century and the quiet conviction that if one’s grandmother wouldn’t recognise it, it isn’t food.  I’m also fascinated by the ingenuity of our forbears, particularly during wartime, when so much was unavailable or on ration, and yet they still managed.  When one compares that skill with these ghastly television programmes depicting ghastly middle class families spending £400 a week on groceries and throwing a third of it in the bin, it motivates me still further to be as resourceful as possible.

I was therefore very interested to notice, particularly in ‘Housewife’ Magazine, the amount of advertisements for products which we simply don’t have any more – various medicines, tonics and supplements which acknowledged and supported how valuable and tiring it was to run a home.  One of these adverts was for Benger’s Food.  I did a bit of research and found that it was somewhere between baby milk and invalid food.  The entry in ‘Family Doctor’ (1938) described it thus:-

”As it contains a very small quantity of fat, Benger’s Food is made with milk to make good the deficiency.  It is a mixture of wheat-flour and an extract containing the digestive ferments of the pancreatic juice.  When a mixture of the food with milk is kept at blood heat, these juices partly digest the proteins of the milk and the food, and convert the starch in the food into sugar.

This action may be allowed to go on for five to forty-five minutes, and in the end there may be very little starch remaining unconverted.  This makes it a very suitable food for babies and invalids.  According to the time allowed for preparation, the milk mixture may be graded to the capacity of the child.  As the baby grows, and its own pancreatic juice comes into operation, less time will be required.”

There was also a mention of Benger’s in a soldier’s memoirs of Red Cross Parcels which were distributed during WW2:-

”Sometimes a parcel would have something different in it like a tin of cocoa or Horlicks or a tin of Benger’s food. Benger’s food is not unlike dried milk – it can be used to make a milkshake or can be added to food like a sauce. Mixed in with a custard, there were lots of different ways it could be eaten. I think it’s main advantage was it was ideal for people with tummy troubles, and since it was enriched with vitamins and minerals to enable the sick to cope better with their malady.”

Nowadays, I always have a box of Complan in the larder.  Complan has long been used as an easily digestible food for invalids, but I often use it when I simply don’t have time for breakfast or as a good re-introduction to food after an illness.  I buy the plain variety because it’s cheaper and you can mix it with cocoa and a bit of sugar, or one could use a banana and honey for a really nutritious and filling ‘meal in a drink’. Because I do a lot of manual work and I have to get up very early (for me anyway), my breakfast has usually worn off long before lunchtime and I find that a glass of chocolate flavoured Complan is an excellent way to keep me going and stop me going face down in a plate of Jaffa Cakes.

When we were children, I remember being given Fairy Milk if we’d been poorly.  This was a glass of full fat milk with an egg and a teaspoon of sugar beaten into it.  It was absolutely lovely, although for my own children, I sometimes  add some pureed banana or soft fruit to make it a more complete food.  It was certainly a better option than the tinned chicken soup which was later considered the answer to everything from a gippy tummy to plague!


Filed under Collecting, Food, History, Natural Home Medicines, Nutrition & Sensible Eating

Trouble at Both Ends: How to cope with Diarrhoea & Vomiting

The winter diarrhoea and vomiting (D&V) bug appears to have reared its ugly head once again.  I have known several people with it over the weekend and it has absolutely knocked them for six, children and adults alike.  So be sensible and remember if D&V continues unabated for more than 24 hours, consult your doctor:

  • Keep off school and work until you are better – it’s not fair on other people to go in and spread it round everyone else.  Particularly stay away from babies and the elderly
  • Cover the mattress, covers and pillows with thick layers of towels which can be removed layer by layer if D&V is uncontrolled.  Cover the floor similarly with newspapers and put the buckets or bowls on these
  • Buy some pull-ups (nappy pants) for young children – it will save a lot of sheets
  • If your young child has a temperature, keep them cool – if they’re in bed, just cover them with a sheet.  Shivering is not necessarily a sign that they are cold, it’s the body’s way of cooling down
  • Adults: if you can keep water down, keep on sipping away, if not don’t drink
  • Children: if they can’t keep water down don’t give it to them until things have eased up and they can keep down fluids and have stopped vomiting or running to the lavatory
  • Then start giving them tiny amounts of cool, boiled water, using a medicine syringe if you have one, until they can start drinking properly
  • Mint tea is also very cooling – put 1 heaped teaspoon of dried mint or a small bunch of fresh minto into a teapot and add about a mugful of boiling water.  Leave for 5 minutes, strain, leave to cool slightly and sip gently
  • As soon as diarrhoea strikes, start taking some electrolyte powders eg. Dioralyte (or shops own) which are just as good.  This will keep you hydrated. 
  • If you don’t have any, a glass of warm water with a squeeze of lemon and a small teaspoon of honey is the perfect re-hydrant
  • Make up a plant spray containing water and 6 drops of lemon or peppermint essential oil.  Spray this around the room as it is an effective antiseptic and air freshener.
  • Keep some antiseptic wipes close, so that you can keep hands clean even if you can’t get to the washbasin
  • If anyone has a sore bottom, mix 3 drops of chamomile or lavender essential oil into a tablespoon of zinc and castor oil cream, remembering to wash your hands thoroughly after applying it
  • Ask your family or neighbours for help; they don’t need to come in, but they could do some washing for you or make you a pan of soup, or sit with your children if you’re not well yourselfOnce fluids are staying in and the D&V has stopped, try some very light foods, with not too much milk in
  • Scrambled egg
  • Mashed banana
  • Stewed apple or pear
  • Bread and thin butter
  • Poached white fish
  • Mashed potatoes, pureed parsnips or carrots
  • Porridge
  • Complan – I buy the plain Complan (much cheaper) and mix it with milk & water with a little bit of cocoa and sugar.  It tastes nice, is very easy to digest and gives you the strength to start eating something more substantial
  • Another version of this is what we used to call Fairy Milk: a glass of milk, with an egg and a teaspoon of sugar mixed in, is frothy, tasty and nourishing

Soup – I make up a pan of Leek and Potato soup which can be thinned out with water at first, then gradually served on its own.  It is nourishing and cleansing, and the mint and parsley in it are cooling and antiseptic to the digestive tract (recipe below)


1 x large saucepan
1 x chopping board
1 x vegetable peeler
1 x sharp knife
1 x stick blender

2oz / 60g butter
2 large leeks – thinly sliced
½ onion – chopped
1 ½ lbs / 720g potatoes – peeled and cubed
1 heaped teaspoon dried parsley (double if fresh)
1 flat teaspoon dried mint (double if fresh)
a twist of black pepper
1 ½ pints / 900ml chicken stock
¼ pint / 150ml double cream

Melt the butter in the pan
Add the leeks and onions and cook until soft
Add the potatoes, herbs & pepper and cook until the potatoes are softening
Add the stock and simmer until the potatoes are soft
Blend until smooth
Stir in the cream


Filed under Children, Cleaning, Food, Natural Home Medicines, Nutrition & Sensible Eating, Recipes

Natural Home Remedies – Part 2: Colds, coughs, flu, indigestion and thrush

In which I discuss digestive, throat problems, phlegm, colds, coughs and thrush in both men and women.

Plants on windowsil 08.09.09Natural medicines seem  to be very much in demand, judging by your visits to the Wartime Housewife recently, so I will tell you about a few more. But before I do, I want to have a little chat about alternative and complementary treatments. 

I am a qualified Massage Therapist and Aromatherapist (oh how I loathe that term) and I have a special interest in nutrition.  I tend to see people with chronic illnesses such as Parkinsons, arthritis, shingles, depression, but occasionally people come to me with acute conditions such as back pain, muscle spasms or because they feel run down.   I take a full medical history, listen to their heart rate, take their blood pressure and, most importantly, listen and observe very carefully while they tell me about their condition.  Sometimes alarm bells ring and I refer them straight to their GP.  If they have an acute condition such as a muscle strain I can generally make them better, providing they do as they’re told.   With chronic illness, I can support circulation, immune system, nervous system, muscle tone, digestion and promote relaxation.  This ‘me time’  helps people to feel better able to cope, so that although I can’t make them better, I can help them to feel better.

But what I always tell people with more long term health problems is this.  It has taken a long time for you to become unwell and if you really want to get better it will take a while for your body to right itself. And it will only do this if you change your behaviour, your diet and how much you move about.  This can be very hard these days as we put ourselves under enormous pressure at home and at work, but part of the ethos of The Wartime Housewife is to re-examine how we live our lives.  Food is our fuel and if we don’t nourish our bodies properly we will break down.  Exercise keeps us fit, speeds up our metabolism and releases endorphins which lift our spirits.  Our families and friends provide us with love, support, entertainment and physical and intellectual stimulus so we must nurture them and make time for them and for ourselves.  We must learn to understand how our bodies work and look after them appropriately.

I am not anti doctors, but we have to give them a fighting chance.  The NHS is massively burdened with people who become ill  because they eat rubbish, don’t move about enough, and generally abuse themselves.  GP’s are asked to work longer and longer hours in the interests of accessibility, when I can’t help feeling that if people genuinely need medical advice, they should make the time to visit the doctor during reasonable surgery hours. 

The whole issue of work, illness, trust and personal responsibility will have to wait for another article.  In the meantime, The Wartime Housewife says ‘Eat proper food and not too much of it, move about more, get regular fresh air and have a decent night’s sleep’.  In case of malfunction , here are a few remedies to help you out.  (Remember if symptoms persist, consult your GP – at a respectable time!)

Indigestion, acid reflux, bloating, wind

Get a large handful of fresh mint leaves or a flat tablespoon of dried mint and put into a jug or teapot.
Pour about ¾ pint of boiling water
Leave to infuse for about 10 minutes.
Strain and sip gently and slowly until it is all gone
Repeat when necessary.

You can also use peppermint essential oil if you have it.  2 drops to 1 pint of very hot water, stir well and pour out the required amount into a glass.  Sip gently until completely gone.


As above but use an equivalent amount of thyme instead of the mint.  Thyme is a very effective anti-mucolytic – if you really don’t like the taste add a tablespoon of honey which has the added advantage of being an anti-inflammatory.


Chop 1 medium onion very finely and place in a small bowl
Pour 2 tablespoons of honey over the top
Cover and leave overnight.
Strain off the juice and take a dessertspoonful every hour or two until the cough is easing


Obviously, I only recommend putting the whisky in for teenagers and adults.  And use your common sense and use a painkiller that suits you, don’t exceed the stated dose etc etc. 

Put into a tall glass:
1 bulging tablespoon of honey
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 tablespoon of whisky
Top up the glass with very hot water and stir well until the honey has dissolved
Drink it all before it goes cold.
Take 2 paracetamol or ibuprofen. 

If there is any fever lurking around, this will bring it out and usually guarantees a good night’s sleep at the end of it.


Firstly, make sure that you keep your bits and pieces very clean indeed and wash with a non-fragranced soap.  Wear cotton underwear.  Then thoroughly mix:

1 tablespoon of zinc and castor oil cream with
1 drop tea tree oil

For women, apply gently to the external area.  Put some of the cream (1/4 teaspoon) onto the end of a tampon, pop it in as usual and leave for a couple of hours, then do it again.

For men, apply gently to the whole end of your willy, making sure you get it under your foreskin where micro-organisms roam free.

Both:  Keep treating until symptoms subside.  If it doesn’t clear up within about 48 hours, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.


Filed under Family and Friends, Natural Home Medicines, Nutrition & Sensible Eating

In which the Wartime Housewife is a little Run Down

I’m sorry to say that the Wartime Housewife is not always very good at taking her own advice and has become a little run down.  I know this because in the last week, I have had three sties on my eyelids (which I have never had before), a permanently sore throat and I have fallen asleep on the sofa every evening, which I never normally do. 

I seem to remember a naval manual for dealing with a shipwreck which read “Number 1.  Do not get yourself into this situation” (or somesuch teeth-gnashingly self-righteous statement).  Of course we should all look after ourselves because we are very important, both to ourselves and to those who rely on us.  We should go to bed early, always have breakfast, drink lots of water, don’t drink too much alcohol, watch our fat and carbohydrate, take regular exercise and don’t get cross.

But no matter how hard we try, life has a nasty habit of sticking its grubby fingers up in a most un-gentlemanly way and we fall by the wayside.  Coupled with that, what would life be without, wine, chocolate, Badger Beers, late nights, the odd scrap and the occasional Marlboro red? 

The Wartime Housewife insists upon courtesy at all times, but the other day, when interrupted in the queue at The Pictures by a young woman asking if I wanted to enter a prize draw to win a week at a Butlin’s Holiday Camp, I am ashamed to report that, without drawing breath, I replied “Do You Know? I would rather sit in a bath of acid” and walked away.  It was rude and unforgivable, but Do You Know, I felt just that tiny, tiny bit better?  However, my swollen, suppurating eyes are clearly God’s way of telling me to count to ten.

In case any of my dear followers are in the same boat, here are a couple of home remedies for those who have fallen by the wayside.

Just for interest, the official name for a stye is a ‘hordeolum’, which sounds suspiciously like a bedding plant to me…

Not my eye

Not my eye


What you need
1 medium sized bowl
2 drops Lavender essential oil
2 drops Chamomile essential oil
1 clean flannel

Wash your hands very thoroughly.
Pour some boiling water into the bowl and leave it until it is hot enough to put your hands in.
Put in 2 drops of lavender and 2 drops of chamomile essential oil and stir well
Put the flannel into the water in readiness
If possible, find the eyelash sticking out of the pustule and try to pull it out
If you can’t do this, pull your eyelid out with one hand and apply pressure to the pustule with the other.  The pus should come out quite easily.
Even if it doesn’t, wring out the flannel and immediately apply it to your closed eye
When the flannel has cooled, put it back in the hot water, wring it out and apply again
Keep doing this until the water has cooled.  Put it in the fridge.
When the water is cold, wring out the flannel and apply it to your closed eye
Do this for about 10 minutes, then put the bowl back in the fridge.
After an hour, do it again
Keep repeating this process until you go to bed.  EARLY.

My sties went completely within 36 hours.

Neither is this my throat

Neither is this my throat



What you need:
1 small bottle or jam jar – very clean
3 tblspn cider vinegar
1 tblspn honey
3 drops ginger essential oil
5 drops lemon essential oil
2 drops thyme essential oil

Blend well and mix 1 (one) tablespoonful of the mixture into a tumbler of warm water and gargle energetically.  Do not swallow.
Put the remaining mixture into the jam jar and seal tightly.
Repeat ever two hours


Put a few drops of grapefruit essential oil somewhere near your head ie. behind your ears or on your collar.  Grapefruit is a brain stimulant and will help to get you going.  Try sprinkling a few drops around the boardroom before a potentially dull meeting – it works wonders!  It is also a powerful antiseptic.  If you can’t get grapefruit, lemon oil is a reasonable substitute.


Have a warm bath into which you have added 10 drops of lavender and 5 drops of chamomile essential oil.  Turn down the lights and soak. 
Make a lovely mug of Ovaltine or Horlicks and sip it in bed whilst reading something light and unchallenging.  This way, if you feel sleepy, you can simply snuggle down and nod off.

If you wake up in the night, don’t immediately start fretting about not being asleep.  Get up, make yourself a warm drink, go to the loo, go back to bed and read or listen to the radio.  Television is too stimulating and the programmes that are on in the middle of the night will probably encourage you to gamble, which will really give you something to worry about.

Herbal preparations such as Kalms and Natrasleep are unexpectedly effective.

Sleep 29.08.09

This, however, is my bedtime drink


Filed under Family and Friends, Natural Home Medicines, Nutrition & Sensible Eating

Natural Home Remedies: Part 1

In which The Wartime Housewife Nurse Natural rememdies 1 - 24.08.09explains the medicinal
uses of essential oils, specifically Lavender, Eucalyptus,
Tea Tree and Peppermint.

I had been planning to include articles on the use of natural remedies sometime next month, but following a trip to Hardwick Hall, which had the most exquisite herb garden, I feel moved to start straight away.

I would recommend keeping a few bottles of essential oil in the medicine box at all times.  These are the concentrated essences of plants obtained by predominantly by distillation, and these are available from all good health food shops and quite a lot of chemists these days.  Just make sure that they are 100% pure and if you are in any doubt as to their use, consult your chemist or a qualified practitioner. The Wartime Housewife is a qualified Massage Therapist but I am not teaching you to be professionals. These are home remedies so use your common sense.

Lavender:  This is the all round good egg of the natural pharmacy.  It is antiseptic, antifungal, antibiotic and antiviral.  It promotes healing particularly for burns and it also helps to reduce scarring, it’s calming, helps reduce headaches and promotes deep sleep.

Burns and scalds – put a drop or two directly onto the burn every day until it heals.  Remember, if the burn is over 2″, consult a doctor.

Cuts and grazes – clean the wound and the area round it with 5 drops in a small bowl of warm water.  Then put one drop neat onto the wound.

Sleep – 10 drops in the bath water will help to promote quiet sleep, also add one drop to the pillow or sheet.  For babies, put 1 drop in the bath water and 1 drop on the cot sheet.

Mild shock – if you’ve had an minor accident or injury, a drop or two of lavender oil either onto the skin or on to clothes near the head is very beneficial in alleviating distress and has a very calming effect in adults and children.

Tea Tree:  Another powerful  antiseptic and a very effective antifungal.  Use for any fungal infections such as athletes foot by putting 10 drops in the bath or a foot bath.  For an ointment use 5 drops mixed thoroughly with zinc and castor oil cream or put 2 drops on a cotton wool ball and smear it on the affected area.  An emergency treatment for vaginal thrush is to mix very thoroughly one drop of oil in 1 tablespoon of zinc and castor oil cream and apply ½ a teaspoon of the cream to the end of a tampon, use a little to rub gently on external areas.  This cream also works for the gentleman’s area.

Peppermint: This is excellent for the digestion, is also antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and very cooling.

Indigestion, flatulence, diarrhoea – 2 drops in a pint of hot water.  Sip this slowly until it is all gone.  If it is not relieved in an hour or so, do it again. (the vapour will initially make your eyes water a bit – keep them closed)

Tired feet – put 4 drops in a bowl of lukewarm water and soak your feet

Bad breath – mix 4 drops in a tablespoon of brandy, gin or vodka.  Add to a small tumbler of warm water and use as a mouthwash.

Eucalyptus:  this is well known for it’s usefulness with colds, coughs and sinus problems but is also a useful cradle cap remedy, insect repellent and deodorant.

Colds, stuffy noses:  Put 5 drops in a bowl of very hot water and inhale deeply for at least 10 minutes, making sure that you keep you eyes closed.  Put a drop on your handkerchief or tissues as well.

Cradle Cap:  mix 2 drops in a tablespoon of olive oil and rub very gently into the affected area, taking care to avoid the soft fontanelle at the front of the head.


Filed under Natural Home Medicines