Homegrown Medicine – Natural Remedies – Part 2

Travel Talk

Down the wiggle waggle and up the apples and pears

Grandad Joe had an apple tree. It was down at the bottom of his productive vegetable garden to the right of his compost heap and left of the gate which lead to the track which paralleled the train line to Hull and Doncaster. The apples were oh so good and often as large as doorstops.

Joe and Lily's house A proud tidy man, even his compost heap was immaculate! I can still picture him in the garden, collar and tie (always a tie) and long trousers tucked into his wellies, even in summer.

Lily, my Nanna, created culinary magic with those apples. Her crumble was amazing. Yet she produced other things too. Household remedies. And to a young future pharmacist this was exciting and mystical.

Every morning she would cut an apple into pieces with the red handled fruit knife we bought her on a day trip to Bridlington and proceed to eat it mid-morning.

For hoarseness she would bake an apple, allow it to cool for about ten minutes. Then add three teaspoons of locally produced honey and a generous knob of butter and mash it well. Nanna would then eat it slowly with a spoon, keeping it in the mouth as long as possible.

Joe’s tip for an itchy scalp

Every morning and night he would dip his metal comb (I still have it) into apple cider vinegar and comb through the hair until it became wet through. As he got older and the hair became thinner he needed less and less strokes and less and less vinegar. Nanna used it as a skin toner.

For styles Lily swore by rubbing it with her gold wedding ring. Blepharitis was treated with an apple! Simply slice an apple and bend and squeeze the slice allowing a little juice to escape.Then rub the juice and the apple slice over the inflamed eye lid. It does work.

Apple is so versatile. Chewing an apple produces lots of saliva in the mouth and reduces tooth decay. They hardly ever went to the dentist.

Joe and Lily Joe always went into Doncaster on a Tuesday and Friday – both market days. He always bought my brother Jon and I a multipack of Galaxy Ripples from Woolies in the Arndale Centre. And he always came home with a pineapple and some figs. Jon and I always preferred the chocolate.

Pineapple strengthens gums and helps produce strong teeth, Nanna would say. Good for indigestion as well. Another favourite. Crush pineapple and mix with milk and egg. Whisk and leave for ten minutes. Hey presto a home made foot softener. She always said to eat fresh pineapple to treat sinusitis.  And figs to strengthen her nails and cure a sore throat.

Old folk are obsessed with their bowel movements. Fresh pears were eaten daily to prevent constipation. Figs have a laxative effect too. Always eaten as part of breakfast. Rhubarb grown under upturned buckets was lovely in a crumble and good for severe constipation also. Glasses of cooked cabbage were popular too – though I hated the taste.

Grandad supplied Reg, the village greengrocer, with his surplus cabbage. Jon and I would pile up to 24 onto a trolley, homemade by Joe. Instead of taking the direct route along Lancaster Avenue we always went through the “wiggly waggly” into St Helens Square and then up to the shops. So what is a wiggly waggly?  It was an alleyway, a ginnel, a cut through. It wasn’t straight, it wiggled and waggled like a snake, hence the name.

Lily would use a cabbage compress if anyone had a headache. She would crush the cabbage leaves, put them onto a hot cloth, roll it up and place on the forehead. Paracetamol were banned in this home remedy land.

My favourite memory of this wonderful couple

Sat, on a wintery Saturday afternoon, on the red vinyl sofa (it looked better than it sounds), watching rugby with Grandad and then wrestling with Nanna – it was on TV, I wasn’t actually wrestling with her. And drinking dandelion and burdock or hot lemonade and eating lemon curd sandwiches on bread slices that were as thick as a paperback book. Everything home made, of course.

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

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Dave Harcombe

Travelling pharmacist

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