Say what you like about folk medicine, it certainly has an irresistible fascination for me, especially when I learn that there are people that believe nettles will cure boils, cleavers a carbuncle, and Hawthorn is a remedy used for hemorrhoids. Chickweed is useful for boosting sperm count (apparently you just add a spoonful of the dried weed to your usual herbal tea mix and infuse for 15 minutes and drink to give you ‘the strength of a stallion’! A country remedy for migraines is a feverfew sandwich, which according to my good friend, Anne, does reduce the pain!
Easy to grow, these herbs are ready for picking when the flowers are about to open, as this is when they are at their most potent. For yarrow, chamomile and marigolds and many others, it’s best to wait until they are actually flowering. Leaves are best picked early in the day, just after the dew has evaporated.
If you intend to dry the leaves, flowers, and stems, hang them in small bunches in an airy, shady room. Roots must first be washed, then sliced up and stored in brown paper bags. Both flowers and leaves usually keep for a year or two, the roots and bark for two.
It’s important not to ever make your own remedies without first making sure that the plant is not toxic. Be sure to do a patch test too, to make sure your skin does not have an adverse reaction. The inner forearm is a great place to do a test since the skin is delicate.
Age-old recipes for beginners
Macerate a large bunch in 455g of olive oil and 60g of beeswax for a couple of hours in a bain-marie over hot water. Then force the herb-scented oil through a muslin bag into small jars. Cool and seal. Massage the cream into sore feet and joints after a busy day gardening and before going to bed
Rub fresh elder leaves onto your skin when working in your flowerbeds and it will ward off insects for around 15 minutes, which is the time it takes to plant a shrub or pull and few weeds! For lasting effects steep five handfuls of elder leaves in boiling water and after around 10-15 minutes strain and cool the liquid before rubbing it into your exposed skin. Store in a glass jar.
Halitosis, or bad breath, is usually caused by the presence of bacteria. It’s usually worse in the morning and can be a real turn off for partners waking up to be given a good morning kiss!
Amongst the many country remedies, worth trying is drinking a glass of milk during dinner and drink coffee at the end of the meal as doing this will inhibit the bacteria, which causes the ‘morning after’ halitosis.
In the morning also try gargling with a small cup of lemon juice, as the acidity will kill any odour-causing bacteria. Then before breakfast eat a bit of plain unsweetened yogurt, which contains beneficial lactobacillus bacteria. These so-called probiotics compete with and replace the reeking bacteria.
Whiten your smile
Every few months, pulp a few fresh strawberries and mix with a pinch of stain-removing baking soda and enough water to make a paste. Apply the mixture to a soft-bristled toothbrush and polish for a few minutes. It should clean coffee and red-wine stains you’re your teeth
Soothe a sore throat
Gargle twice daily with a solution of six pressed garlic cloves mixed into a glass of warm water. Follow the regimen for 3 days. The warm liquid will soothe inflamed tissue.
Get rid of a barking cough
The theobromine compound in dark chocolate is said to be more effective than codeine at suppressing persistent coughs without the side effects of drowsiness and constipation, so be good to yourself and eat a couple of squares daily.
Stop sweaty feet
Providing your feet are free of cuts, take a daily footbath in strong black tea for 30 minutes and the tannins will kill bacteria and close the pores in your feet, keeping them dry and smelling sweet.
Try Cleopatra’s favourite bath time treat and add two cups of powdered milk to the bath while it’s filling. Milk baths are also great for soothing burns and skin after spending too much time in the sun!
Before bedtime, eat a handful of fresh cherries or drink unsweetened cherry juice. Cherries contain melatonin, which is the same hormone created by your body to regulate sleep patterns.
Then steep yourself in a hot bath to relax your muscles and your mind. Soaking in a bath of Epsom salts will help reduces muscle inflammation, so great for when you’ve been digging over the veg plot. The natural properties in lavender are famous for their ability to relieve stress & tension. Lavender will also help to reduce inflammation of stiff, tired muscles. So soaking in a relaxing lavender bath will help relieve tension knots that build up over the course of a long, stressful day.
When you eventually climb into bed, rest your head on a lavender-filled pillow—the fragrance induces sleepiness.