A Homegrown Medicine Patch - Part 1

Date published: 01 Apr 15

48 people found this feature helpful

Our Travelling Pharmacist, Dave Harcombe, recalls what he learned from his childhood days about the natural skin and other remedies to be found just outside the back door. Enjoy Dave’s tips passed down through the generations. 

Joe and LilyJoe and Lily were my grandparents. Grandad was tall and elegant, Nanna smaller, cherubic and mischievous. Both generous in love and spirit.

Joe was a magnificent gardener and had an award winning garden. Nanna could create culinary magic from anything he produced. Although we did have a chemist in the village she rarely visited it. She would use one of her remedies, so effective in most cases and readily available just a few feet from the back door.

The medicine cabinet was almost always empty. It was hardly ever used. A couple of plasters, a bit of fluffy white lint, a cream and a blue glass Optrex bottle.

Nanna’s secrets to perfect skin

Lily had flawless skin - pity I didn't inherit her genes. She always used a skin tonic, homemade of course. A mixture of honey and rose water (ratio 1:10) was a superb tired skin reviver.

Nanna would slice Joe's home grown tomatoes and rub over her face. I would laugh as bits went everywhere. But it worked. The result - glowing skin. Often she would soak the pieces in honey for about an hour and smear everywhere.

"An apple a day keeps wrinkles at bay and Doctor Bob (our local GP) away" was her mantra. Castor oil softens skin and prevents wrinkles. Slices of lemon are effective too.

I can remember her crushing cloves of garlic and mixing with water to make a good all round skin cleanser. When in season she would rub her face with slices of strawberry and then wash off. A great face brightener.

Grandad Joe’s homegrown remedies for travel sickness, tired feet and more

Joe spent hours in the garden especially after he retired. At the end of the day he always soaked his feet in a bowl of hot water and tea bags. As an instant warmer in winter, he would add a spoonful of mustard powder. Slices of onion, lemon or garlic rubbed onto the feet are all effective answers to tired aching feet.

Optrex bottle

Constipation was an ugly word in 55 King George Square. Both drank carrot juice daily to prevent it. An alternative was rhubarb pieces drizzled with honey. They devoured prunes by the kilo - pounds in those days.

Fresh onion juice is an effective toothache remedy which was used often. Simply dip a cotton wool ball into the juice and apply to the annoying tooth. It does work.

When washing hair they would always use a small amount of beer as a final rinse. And then drink the remainder of the bottle.

Neither could drive so they were avid fans of coach holidays. Lily often felt queasy on a coach. A quick remedy, sniffing slices of lemon, sucking an ice cube helps stop nausea. Apparently sucking an olive is good for motion sickness too.

They usually walked miles on holiday. To avoid blisters, a week before a holiday they would rub their feet morning and night with surgical spirit and allow to dry. Works for athletes foot too.

Foot odour was treated by wiping with vodka. Don't go premium brand.

Splinters were treated with sellotape. Place the tape over the area and pull off.

Broad been pods were always rubbed onto a wart or verruca. Rub daily and gently file every night. Today I usually recommend applying the mushy side of a banana skin and leaving for a day or two. And then reapply.

Another tip try duct tape. Have a shower or bath and dry the skin. Place the tape over a wart or verruca and leave for two days. Remove, pumice and reapply.

Joe and LilyOther treatments - they always crunched and munched on celery. Good for dark circles around the eyes and puffiness too. Itching after a bite. Dab on toothpaste.

Grandad used to mix toothpaste and water into his hands and rub vigorously. He always said it removed any odour especially after gardening.

His favourite remedy for colds was to have a soak in a warm bath. Take a bottle of whisky (other alcoholic drinks are available) and a candle to bed.

Light the candle at the foot of the bed. Hop into bed and drink the whisky until you can see two candles. Blow them both out and go to sleep. Works everytime.

And finally ... Joe always brought back from holiday at least one whisky miniature. They were always displayed proudly in the corner cabinet - always locked.

After he died we found the key and looked forward to toasting his life. But he had got there before us. All the whisky had been drunk and every bottle refilled with tea water. And I wonder where I get my sense of humour from.

You may also find interesting:

  Beauty on the holiday menu

  Good enough to eat! Beauty and healthcare on the holiday menu
  Medicines on the Holiday Menu - Part 1 as featured in the New York Times
  Medicines on the Holiday Menu - Part 2
•  A Homegrown Medicine Patch - Part 2

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Other Members' Thoughts - 4 Comment(s)

  • Lottie
    over 2 years ago
    I enjoyed reading this and there are some good tips which are valid today. I also recall my Mother always recommending Witch Hazel too. I wouldn't advise the candle method today though.
  • travelling-pharmacist
    about 5 years ago
    Thank you both for your kind words.Glad you enjoyed the article.I particularly enjoyed writing it and reminiscing
    about life with Nanna and Granddad. They were a major influence on my life and i miss them both very much.
  • discerning-traveller
    about 5 years ago
    Thank you, Dave for such an entertaining article. My friends nickname me 'The Witchdoctor' as I usually have a natural remedy i my bag or one that I can think of.
    Have done a few of the above but not the whiskey and candle remedy :)
    What else can I think can of?
    lavender for burns and insomnia
    Aloe Vera for burns. Neat juice or cut leaf.
    Tea tree oil for insect bites and cuts
    Vinegar for wasp stings
    Manuka honey for sore throats, sore stomachs and wounds
    Lots more too! Think I'd have liked your Nanna!
  • ESW
    about 5 years ago
    What an amazing list. I shall have to try some of them

    We've also chewed crystallised ginger as a remedy against travel sickness. I've heard that ginger biscuits help car sickness in dogs too!