Kitchen Cupboard Remedies

Please send your own Kitchen Cupboard Remedies to for inclusion in this section.

As a trained nurse with three adult children and 35 years in professional health care, I have been exposed to all sorts of situations where medicine of any kind has been unavailable for some reason or another. On these occasions I have been deeply grateful for knowing how to use methods taught to me as a young traditionally trained nurse at Guy's Hospital in London and at home as the eldest of five children by my mother, how to alleviate pain and suffering using ordinary household equipment and staple foods. Even when medicine is available it is not the only way of relieving symptoms. Hands on care is always welcome - all hands are healing if there is a willingness to learn!

The humble onion

Always useful:

  • with any infection throats ears chest - cut an onion in half and leave by bedside over night. Seems to counteract the infection.
  • boil an onion in milk and take it before sleeping. It seems to get rid of excess mucus in the system
  • cut up an onion and put it in a saucer covered in honey preferably. If not available use brown sugar or white if no brown! The juices from the onion will combine with the honey/sugar and make an excellent cough linctus which can be left on the kitchen table and be taken whenever needed. The onion pieces do not need to be eaten. It breaks the most stubborn hard cough and helps bring up the mucus.-
  • take out the pip of an onion - put it in hot water then place in the outer ear canal. This can be done with a sliver of garlic instead. It will calm down the inflammation and soothe the pain

Throat infections are a common complaint.

In the UK an old remedy is to toast a thick slice of bread and pour vinegar over it. Put it in an old sock and wrap it round the neck.

Olive oil

In the Mediterranean countries it is common practice to use olives for many treatments. The therapeutic effects of olive oil are well known. The olives are mashed and warmed and put in an old sock and wrapped round a sore throat or made into a poultice applied locally (see notes on other poultices).
Babies are often wrapped in warmed olive oiled cloths especially if they are born small, underweight or ailing in any way.

Thyme baths for respiratory complaints

Take a few teaspoons of dried or fresh thyme and infuse in 1 pint or 1/2 litre of boiling water. Let it infuse for 5 minutes. Strain into bath or footbath or bowl for inhalation. The steam from the thyme will help reduce any spasm in the lungs - so good in an asthma attack - and will greatly relieve any chest pain or hard, painful cough.The patient often breaks out into a healing sweat after this and sleeps well. I used this on my asthmatic baby son for years. His two cousins of the same age are now chronic asthmatics dependent on inhalers - he needs nothing.

Mustard Baths 

For colds, feverishness and most especially, aching joints and muscles after a long day in the garden (or in my case, a long day pony trekking!).

Take two good handfulls of Coleman's mustard powder and mix well into as warm a bath as you can stand. Then soak and let the heat of the mustard draw out the heat in the body. Wrap up warmly and get immediately into a warm bed. It really works - especially for over-exertion and stiff, aching muscles. 

Libby Armitage, Aldwick, West Sussex, UK.

Comfrey (Symphytum)

Comfrey is a herbal heal-all.With lung complaints it is useful as a cream or poultice on the chest and is complemented and more effective if the soles of the feet are likewise covered with the comfrey. It is particularly helpful in childhood whooping cough.Comfrey leaves made into a poultice - ie. take a handful of leaves and pour boiling water over them. Apply directly to wound/infection as hot as patient can tolerate and bandage into place over night. I have healed many infections in this way without the use of antibiotics.


May be obtained from a chemist over the counter. It is of great use as an external application when the lips or hands are chapped and rough. Also when the skin is left dry and inelastic with eczema and other complaints such as psoriasis. Glycerine should be mixed with an equal quantity of water as without dilution there could be some smarting felt. It can also be used directly to the outside ear canal where the skin is dry and scaly. Glycerine water is also of use as a mouthwash/gargle where there is dryness and soreness of the mouth often experienced in chronic longterm disease.


Glycerine cream is one of the best preventatives for bedsores. Egg white may be applied to bedsores after cleaning with glycerine water.The sore is left exposd to the open air and a non adherent dry dressing applied at bed time. As pure protein it heals the wound.

Wet compress

Sores, ulcers, rheumatism, lumbago, sprains and strains are often benefited by local compresses
2/3 folds of soft linen/cotton wrung out of cold water applied to the affected part covered by waterproof material plastic or clingfilm is appropriate)to prevent evaporation from the wet cloth.Best applied at night and removed in the morning when the parts should be sponged with cold water to restore the tone of the skin.

Throat compress

Linen or cotton wrung out of cold water wrapped in 2-3 thicknesses around the throat and covered by x3 thicknesses of old fashioned flannel to maintain the warmth.Patient should go to bed and will feel much better in the morning.

Chest compress

In bronchitis and other inflammatory affections of the lungs the use of wet compresses after or before poultices greatly aids the actions of medicines -homeopathic and orthodox. The appearance of rashes or eruptions of pimples after continued use of compresses is regarded as a good sign. If the rash is a nuisance compress may be stopped and glycerine applied to soothe as described above.


These are often relieved by putting a cork in the bed at night! No one knows how this works - it just does! This is helpful throughout life not just pregnancy.

Migraines /pounding headaches

Get a bowl of hot water and put your feet in it. At the same time a put a bag of frozen peas or ice pack on the head in a towel. Often gives great relief. Be sure to give plenty of water to drink


These days convalescence - a period of regaining full health after an illness - is largely ignored to the detriment of the nation's health .The aim is to get back to work or education as quickly as possible so as not to waste time. In the event much more time is lost in the future because proper health was not properly established and further days "off sick " are needed for recurring illnesses. A more serious consequence of this short sighted behaviour is that of long term chronic illness necessitating hospitalization and early retirement or redundancy. In convalescence food should be presented attractively and in small portions - it is easier to manage a few mouthfuls at a time than a large plateful which may look very daunting to a recovering patient. Rest in the afternoons is essential for a good recovery. In many countries it is a habit not to work in the afternoons between 12 noon -2pm then to continue working until 8-9pm thereafter with a second wind. I have always run my practice in this way and it has worked well for both my patients and myself. As the person recovers in convalescence the afternoon sleep will be replaced by sitting out preferably in the open air and sunshine and a renewed energy for the evening.

Simple Management

Cod liver oil

It should be regarded as food rather than medicine. It contains minute amounts of iodine and phosphorous. It has been used traditionally in the various forms of tubercular disease - chronic discharge from the ears, enlargement of the glands, poor development of the bones and so on. It checks the development of emaciation, caused also by anorexia and bulimia. A small piece of ice in a dose of oil makes it almost tasteless. In a Mediterranean salad of Tabbouleh-bread and salad in olive oil it could be added with no taste. Ginger wine is effective in disguising any taste and of course is also tonic to the digestion. It may be taken as tasteless capsules available in health food shops or chemists. It removes exhaustion and increases general tone of muscular structure. As children after World War II we were given cod liver oil as a regular daily dose and orange juice.This was given to all of us as a supplement to the "rations" to which we were all subject because of the food shortages in the UK.We were also give a 1/3 of a pint of full cream milk every day at school as a requirement for good general health. I would venture to suggest that children today are not given any where near as good a start to the day - if they have breakfast at all it's a refined cereal product with 1/2 fat milk if not skimmed to avoid getting fat.

Old fashioned beef tea

This is an old recipe which gives great strength and nutrition to persons recovering from or subject to debilitating exhausting illnesses-ie long term chronic diseases, heart and lung problems, serious operations. Recipe - 1lb of lean beef ,from which skin bone and fat has been removed. A butcher will do this for you.Chop it up, put it into a large earthern jar with a cover, tie it up tightly in a cloth, put it into a saucepan and let it boil for 2 hours. Pour off the liquid essence, let it stand until cold, and skim off the fat. A few teaspoons may be given every 3/4 hours. Rice may be added as the patient grows stronger to make the beef tea more substantial.

Chicken broth

An old Jewish favourite which provides essential nutrients to aid recovery in an easily taken form.Current research shows that chicken soup contains essential nutrients and trace elements which are needed to heal any infection.When my younger twin daughter was a child with recurrent bad sore throats she would always ask for chicken soup in preference to any other to help her get better.
Recipe - Boil the whole chicken skinned until tender and strain off the resulting broth -serve with toast and season as required.

Oatmeal porridge

Wholesome and nutritious. It produces good muscular fire and strong bone.Boil water adding salt to taste.While boiling sprinkle the meal slowly on the surface and stir it in. When enough is added let it simmer for 1/2 an hour or longer stirring occasionally. Oatmeal is very soothing to the digestive system and in herbal and Homeopathic medicine is known as Avena Sativa. It has been proved to improve the nutrition of brain and nervous system. It is useful in nervous exhaustion and debility after exhausting diseases. Also used in nervous tremors of the aged, epilepsy and assists insomnia.

Pearl barley

Should be boiled for 4 hours tied in a cloth to allow the grain to swell. Only a little water added at a time so as to feed the barley and supply the waste of evaporation, lest the goodness of the barley be boiled out. May be served with milk or jam and butter if the patient can digest it.


Easily digested and suitable for disorders of the digestive system .Boiled rice and drinking the rice water can stop diarrhoea and modify dysentery. It takes less time to cook than barley. Old rice is better than new. Rice and other grain puddings are more nutritious are more wholesome when made WITHOUT eggs.

Barley water

Wash a tablespoon of pearl barley in cold water. Add to it 2/3 lumps of sugar, rind of one lemon and juice of half a lemon. Pour on 2 pints of boiling water and let it stand for 2/3 hours, then strain it. Currant juice or sliced licorice may be used to give flavour. It is useful in colds and affections of the chest and fevers. In urinary problems it reduces the pain of burning urine.

Linseed tea

Useful in soothing irritation in cough catarrh pneumonia diarrhoea and dysentery inflammation of the bowels difficult urination and other inflammatory diseases. Take 1 ounce of linseed 1/2 oz of sliced liquorice root. Add 2 pints of boiling water leave in a warm place for 2/3 hours.Then strain and 1/2 tablespoons taken as often as necessary. Sliced lemon and sugar may be more acceptable

Rice water

Valuable in diarrhoea. Boil rice for10 minutes strain off the water, add more and so on until the goodness is boiled out of the rice.The water is ready to drink when cold. Cream may be added and a pinch of salt.

Toast water

A slice of stale bread slowly baked through then put in a jug with 2 pints of boiling water poured over it, and allowed to stand covered till cool. May be flavoured with lemon peel. Barley water, toast water, and linseed tea are all useful in similar conditions and each may be substituted for the other for variety.

Ice - A valuable therapeutic agent

Inflammation of the tonsils sore throats and other acute specific fevers respond well relieving pain and stopping inflammation.It also checks secretions from the throat and so removes frequent painful efforts to cough up the mucus from the tonsils.Small pieces sucked frequently will be of great help in relieving these symptoms. In haemorrhages ice is extremely useful.To stop bleeding from the mouth, throat or nostrils ice should be applied directly to the bleeding vessels or to the surface. When haemmorhage comes from the stomach or lungs ice should be repeatedly swallowed in small pieces but if not quickly effective discontinued.

CAUTION - Ice should not be used in the following conditions: old age especially in feeble patients, suspected strokes or coma where the pulse is feeble. This is because the great sedative power of ice might overwhelm the patient and stop the action of the enfeebled heart. It is always advisable to avoid too great a shock to the system in any case.


Warm and hot baths are remedial agents of great value in many affections.They are used to equalize the temperature of the whole body, to soothe the nervous system to control the action of the heart to promote perspiration, to relax the muscular system and especially to to equalize the distribution of blood throughout the system. In the last instance too much blood in the internal organs is recalled to the surface and free circulation promoted. In children the warm bath is particularly useful. In the fevers of children it calms the nervous excitement - often followed by refreshing healing sleep. In infantile convulsions (fits with high fever) the application of hot water to the head often has a great calming effect. Warm baths aid the cure of inflammation of the kidneys, bladder and uterus.During the menopause a general warm bath taken for a long time cures or prevents many of the ailments by producing free action of the skin. In many spasmodic affections of the bowels, eg. colic, it is often very helpful.

Steam baths

This can be done simply at home by seating the patient on an open work chair (cane or wood) and covering them in a sheet and blanket tied round the neck. A large bucket or bowl of boiling water is put under the chair - the steam circulating freely inside the coverings. NB - CARE MUST BE TAKEN THAT THE SURFACE OF THE STEAMING WATER IS NOT TOO NEAR THE SEAT OF THE CHAIR AS THE PATIENT WOULD BE SCALDED IF THE STEAM WAS DIRECTED IMMEDIATELY UPON THE BODY.

During the bath 1-2 glasses of water should be sipped and the forehead bathed with a sponge dipped in cold water and rung out. The feet can be put into a bowl of lukewarm water which should be replaced every 15 minutes to maintain the temperature at a constant level. After the patient has perspired for 10-15 minutes he should be quickly washed with tepid water dried and at once go to bed.

The hot foot bath

Immediately before going to bed the patient should be undressed and covered with 1-2 blankets which should also cover the foot bath so the steam may have access to the body.The feet and part of the legs should then be put in the hot water 98ºF. The temperature should be increased by fresh hot water every 10-15 minutes according to the strength of the patient until free perspiration breaks out on his face. Perspiration is increased if cold water is drunk during this process. Should then be rapidly washed with tepid water, rubbed dry put into bed and warmly covered.More cold water should be drunk to encourage further perspiration. On getting up in the morning the patient (if better) should take a cold shower or quickly sponge over the whole body, then dry vigorously.

The local foot bath

This is used for many purposes and is very useful to promote speedy recovery from catarrhs, fevers, chills etc. In the UK and Europe an old tradition is to use mustard seeds or powder in the water. I have found this very effective: also with thyme infused in boiling water (2/3 teaspoons in a pint of boiling water) for 5 minutes then strained into the bath or foot bath. It has often relieved an acute asthma or croup attack and relieved the congestion in the lungs in pneumonia and bronchitis. When my father was dying from lung cancer these baths offered him great relief and he greatly looked forward to them on my arrival.

Blanket bath

This is an easy method of inducing perspiration. A blanket is wrung out of hot water and wrapped round the patient, then packed in 3-4 dry blankets and allowed to rest for 1/2 hour. The coverings are then taken off amd the body rubbed with warm towels then the patient is made comfortable in bed.

The wet pack

The wet pack is invaluable in the early stages of all fevers and in eruptive diseases such as measles, chickenpox and smallpox. It assists in bringing out the eruption. NB - WHERE THE ERUPTION DOES NOT COME OUT IN A SERIOUS INFECTIOUS DISEASE THE RISK OF SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES OR IN EXTREME CASES, DEATH MAY OCCUR. A plastic sheet should be spread on a mattress and over it a thick sheet preferably linen,well rung out of cold water. In fevers the colder the water is the better For fragile patients with poor reaction water at 68ºF may be used.The patient is to be extended on their back naked on the wet sheet so that the upper edge covers the back of the patient's neck, but the lower one is to project beyond the feet. Holding up the arms one side of the sheet is to be thrown over the body and tucked in; the arms are now placed by the sides and the other part of the wet sheet is thrown over all and tucked in tightly, turning the projecting ends under the feet.The blanket is then to be brought over all the sheet and well tucked in around the neck at the sides so as to completely exclude the air. A quilt or blanket is to be put over all. In a short time the patient will become warm and it is very soothing, especially in fevers. He may remain in the pack for up to1 hour depending on the patient's comfort .He should then be put in a shallow bath at 64ºF washed dried and put to bed.This may be repeated up to 3 times a day depending on the severity of the fever. Perspiration is encouraged by giving sips of cold water. If the head becomes congested or face flushed while in the wet pack a cold compress may be applied to the forehead. The wet pack promotes the removal of excess of heat by encouraging the breathing power of the skin and at the same time a large amount of heat is removed by the evaporation of the water in the sheet.


Poultices are chiefly used in the following complaints: Pneumonia, Pleurisy, Bronchitis, Pericarditis (inflammation of the heart ),Peritonitis (inflammation of the lining of the abdomen) Acute rheumatism,Lumbago and to mature and facilitate the discharge of matter in abcesses boils etc.

When used to mature abcesses or disperse inflammation poultices should extend beyond the limits of the inflamed tissue. After the discharge the poultices should be only slightly larger than the opening through which the matter is escaping. They should not be kept on long or be kept applied continuously. If continued too long they sodden and irritate the parts and may develop fresh boils around the old ones. They are recommended for the warmth and moisture they convey and are applied to the skin when it, or an underlying structure, is inflamed. They relieve pain by relaxing tension and promoting perspiration.

Comfrey poultice

Endlessly useful as has been mentioned above. As a young student nurse I used to play a lot of squash on the hospital courts but because I was broke, I could not afford the sports shoes and played in bare feet.This led to me getting a large splinter in my foot and within a few days a bad plantar infection. I was in a lot of pain and the inflammation and infection began to spread up my leg. I spent a week in the nurses' sick bay and was then discharged home off sick for another week as I still could not walk on it. Once I got home I found some comfrey in the garden and made a large poultice which I left on overnight. The next day I could put my foot to the ground and within a few more days it was completely better. I had had antiseptic dressings and antibiotics at the hospital but it was the comfrey which made the difference.

Years later I had my first child. At two years of age she got an infected eye due to a scratch from the Jack Russell terrier she had been playing with from next door. I did not know about this until the next day.That night she had complained of a sore eye and I put her to bed slightly feverish. By 10 pm she was delirious with a very high fever and the eye was very swollen and red. I feared for her vision and called the doctor out. He came very quickly and agreed it was serious and prescribed antibiotic drops every 15 minutes and oral antibiotics every hour. He was afraid she might lose her eye as the infection was so acute and she was so ill. An hour later I called him again as Helen was screaming uncontrollably every time I approached her with the drops, and was violently sick when I tried to give her the oral antibiotics. Unfortunately he was tied up at the local children's hospital.

I got out my herbal and homeopathic first aid books and gave her Belladonna 30 when she was screaming and poured some Calendula tincture in her eye. She really yelled and then just as suddenly fell into a deep sleep. I thought I had killed her and was overcome with remorse at what I had done However she seemed to be sleeping normally and peacefully, so then I made a big comfrey poultice by pouring boiling water over some comfrey leaves, putting them in a clean old gauze nappy, and bandaged it on to her head with a crepe bandage. I had only read about all this and had no real idea what I was doing, but as a nurse I knew how to make a poultice and bandage a head! The following morning she woke at 6am and sat up demanding her breakfast. The doctor arrived unexpectedly, full of apologies for not being able to come during the night, and was thrilled to see Helen looking so well.He asked about the big bandage over her eye and took it off to examine the eye. It was completely healthy and of normal size and appearance, bright and alert in expression. He said how wonderful modern medicine was and I told him what had happened. In fact she hadn't had any all night.His attitude changed abruptly when he found out what I had done and he left even more abruptly,very annoyed with me. Why I don't know. Any mother would have done the same for a suffering distressed child if she had the knowledge.

Linseed poultice

Boiling water should be poured into a bowl and into this sprinkle the linseed. Stir constantly with a knife or spatula until a thick paste is made. The dough should be quickly spread on a warmed piece of cloth, preferably linen, and applied as hot as can be tolerated. Please remember to ask the patient if the temperature is comfortable! Linseed meal retains heaat and moisture for a long time but may irritate delicate or inflamed skin.

Bread poultice

Put slices of bread into a basin, pour over them boiling water and put in a warm place for a few minutes, when the water should be poured off ,replaced by fresh boiling water, poured off again,and the bread pressed, beaten with a fork and made into a poultice. Bread poultices are invaluable for their bland non-irritating properties. Recently (Winter UK 2002) a friend of mine was working in the garden and put a garden fork through the flesh of his foot. The wound became badly septic and began to turn into a cellulitis ascending the leg.The patient felt very unwell, weak and feverish, despite continued antibiotics and a tetanus injection.There were several visits to the GP and changes of antibiotics but to no avail. I advised a bread poultice as the skin was by now sore and breaking down badly, black in places. A bread poultice left on over night grows its own penicillin in the warm moist environment. Over the following week he improved daily leading eventually, over about a month ,to complete cure.The patient himself felt much better in himself from the first days' application. He was also given well indicated Homeopathic remedies but on a local level it was the poultice that gave the greatest comfort and relief. Remedies used were Arnica, Hepar Sulph and a combination of Echinacea, Gunpowder and Pyrogen, all well known for their action in infection which if left could lead to generalized septicaemia (blood poisoning) and gangrene (death of tissue which will then rot).

Charcoal poultice

Mix charcoal (barbecue charcoal from hardware store or super market or art shop) crushed with bread poultice in equal portions and just before the application of the poultice sprinkle the surface with a layer of charcoal. Charcoal may be sprinkled on a wound or ulcer and a simple bread poultice applied over it. Charcoal poultices correct offensive smells from foul sores and encourage a healthier action. Makes wounds cleaner and healthier. Paw paw poultices are made and applied in the same way and recent studies in the UK in the Hospital for Tropical Diseases showed their effectiveness in keeping wounds clean and free of infection.


These are cloths of lint or flannel wrung out of hot or boiling water and used for similar purposes as poultices, but are lighter. The hot cloth is placed on toweling and twisted round till as much water as possible is squeezed out. If well wrung it may be applied very hot without any danger of scalding the skin.Fomentations with hot water are useful in relieving pain, stopping inflammations and checking the formation of matter. Acne and inflamed pimples can be reduced in size by them.They encourage the passage of matter to the surface and also assist its subsequent expulsion. As the water becomes cool it should be added to with more hot water and thereafter poultices should be applied as hot as possible. In inflammations, spasms and pains affecting deeply seated structures such as in the chest or abdomen great and quick relief often follows hot fomentations. The addition of Arnica tincture to the hot water will greatly enhance pain relief and reuce the trauma and shock felt. It will be even more effective if a dose of Arnica 6 or 30 is given frequently at the same time until no longer needed. If pain returns the Arnica may be repeated as often as necessary. NB - External use of Arnica is not to be used with broken skin or tissue, but may still be used internally. Calendula tincture is also very helpful used in hot fomentations where the skin is broken, grazed or burned on a superficial level. It will stop further bleeding, keep the wound clean and help remove the pain felt from the open wounds. Urtica Urens Tincture is very soothing if added to the fomentation in superficial burns.Hypericum tincture should be added if there is more than superficial cuts and grazes or deeper burns It has the property of preventing tetanus as well as healing tissue.

Dry fomentations

When heat alone is required to avoid the relaxation of the tissues which moisture would encourage, dry heated substances, bran, chamomile, calendula, or lavender flowers, salt and so on should be placed in a bag and heated in the oven, or in these days a microwave. If this is not available hot stones from a fire wrapped in thick material will work just as well.


This is a useful methol of administering various medicines into the air passages, especially where their action is needed on the mucous surfaces of the lungs. All that is needed is a jug of hot water over which the face is held and a towel put over the head so as to completely cover the head neck and shoulders.and the jug. A few drops of the medicine to be inhaled is put into the hot water and inhaled.

As a child in London after the war we had very bad pollution.We lived on the 5th floor of a block of council owned flats opposite Battersea Power Station which belched out thick yellow /black fumes 24 hours a day (we moved out into the countryside when I was 10). Smog - a combination of smoke and fog - was a common occurrence and I was severely ill as a young child with recurrent bronchitis, enlarged TB glands and eventually meningitis for which I was hospitalized in an isolation unit, and then sent for convalescence with other sick children to the sea side for 6 weeks. Whenever I was sickening for something, my mum used to make me have inhalations of hot water poured over Friar's Balsam which always helped relieve the congestion. I would then be rubbed down and put to bed to sleep it off overnight. She stopped me from having too many antibiotics by doing this and eventually her careful nursing care paid off. I became very healthy once we had moved out into the country. My mum was not a trained nurse - everything she knew came from her mother who had been "in service" to a doctor with a busy practice in the days when there were no antibiotics - or in fact any drugs as we know them today. Her father had been a "hedger and ditcher" who had spent his life trimming the hedges and digging out the ditches of the highways and byways of rural Sussex. He was illiterate and came from a poor peasant background so all his knowledge of the hedgerows and plants was passed down orally through the family. Thyme, as mentioned under "Baths" makes a good inhalation for people with any respiratory diseases, especially colds, flus and asthma. If no bath is available or perhaps not enough hot water to have a full bath, a good compromise is to sit the patient at the kitchen table with their feet in a basin of hot water and thyme and their heads over an inhalation.Eucalyptus is a popular remedy here in Australia and has long been known to assist in respiratory problems.

Everyday Management

I would venture to suggest that children today are not given a good a start to the day - if they have breakfast at all it's a refined cereal product with 1/2 fat milk if not skimmed to avoid getting fat.

For us lunch at school was always a hot meal with jugs of water available and strict supervison at the lunch tables by teachers who regarded it as an important part of their duties in caring for the children in the school. Nowadays children (and adults!) often skip breakfast and have a "cold packed lunch"consisting of an inadequate meal made of white refined bread sandwiches with poor quality filling, sugary drink and a chocolate bar. The alternative is often a hot meal in the school or office canteen or local fast food restaurant, consisting of "fast food" high in fat and low in nutrients. In the case of children at school, long queues often exacerbate the poor digestion of food as they end up eating on the run back to the classroom.

This is a sad state of affairs and as a practitioner I am constantly advising parents about simple matters such as a good breakfast in correcting the excessive tiredness and lack of energy in young children and, indeed, adults. When asked if they would prefer bacon and egg (or equivalent for vegetarians) they love the idea of it. Families that make the effort find it very worth while, as parents have to get involved, set an example and sit down with their children. It therefore creates a valuable meeting point for the family providing support and conversation together before the trials of the day. Society today does not encourage these habits - "Fast " being the mantra of the times.

After starting the day with a well balanced meal children have got the energy they need to get on with their day.This is particularly true of children in puberty and teenage years. Recent research from Harvard University in the USA shows clearly that the mental faculties are immediately increased by 50% if a good breakfast is taken in the mornings. Since this is the time that children are receiving their main lessons it would make sense for them to be working at maximum intellectual capacity.

Regular meals at breakfast lunch and supper

A rule of thumb is that the first two meals of the day should be substantial, high in first class protein, carbohydrate and fat and that the last meal of the day be a lot lighter. Carbohydrate after 5/6pm is not easily digested and should be avoided at this meal - the last meal of the day if possible being no later than 6pm.
Breakfast: Egg/ bacon/ beans /on toast glass of juice hot drink if desired
Lunch: Vegetable soup/salad with bread/ cheese and or baked potato live yogurt and/or piece of fruit
Evening meal: Protein -meat/ fish /soya product with at least 3 vegetables steamed, fruit. In addition 2 litres of water or 8 glasses a day should be taken. If tea or coffee are desired a glass of water must be taken after each of these drinks to prevent dehydration as they have a diuretic effect, ie. they increase the volume of urine passed. A glass of red wine a day helps to keep the body healthy. Organic wine is much better as it contains none of the "finings" that ordinary wine contains. It is slightly more expensive but at one glass a day should last until the weekend!

Rest and sleep

After each meal a short rest should be taken to assist digestion. Indigestion is a common cause of rushing food intake and will create chronic digestive problems in the future which may lead to:
irritable bowel syndrome where the bowel action is very erratic and unreliable, ie. constipation followed by uncontrollable diarrhoea, stomach or bowel ulceration, bowel cancer - the most common cancer in the western world today. In convalescence food should be presented attractively and in small portions - it is easier to manage a few mouthfuls at a time than a large plateful which may look very daunting to a recovering patient. Rest in the afternoons is essential for a good recovery. In many countries it is a habit not to work in the afternoons between 12-2 and 4-5 and to continue working until 8-9pm thereafter with a second wind. I have always run my practice in this way and it has worked well for both my patients and myself. As the person recovers in convalescence the afternoon sleep will be replaced by sitting out preferably in the open air and sunshine and a renewed energy for the evening.

Common Problems with Digestion

Due to a poor diet and not enough exercise constipation and its opposite number diarrhoea are a common problem today and need to be addressed.


A glass of hot water poured over a slice of lemon on sleeping and on waking seems to make a big difference to bowel habits. Coupled with an increase in the intake of water - 8 glasses a day - this should soon make a difference.

Another old remedy is to fill a bottle with prunes and top up with gin. Leave for a month to soak. When needed for constipation take one prune morning and evening and Bob's your uncle! If tea or coffee is taken a glass of water should be taken afterwards to correct the diuretic effect of the caffeine, ie.these drinks will cause more urine to be passed than normal. I ask patients to reduce tea and coffee to 2 cups a day or one of each. Most people drink in excess of caffeine whether it be in coca cola tea or coffee. Live or bio yogurts high in acidophyllus cultures should be taken every day to recolonise the gut with healthy bacteria. Where these are not present there will be stagnation of waste material in the gut and constipation. Acidophyllus may be obtained as a powder or capsules from good health food shops and some chemists.

Massaging the stomach in a clockwise movement round the umbilicus helps promote bowel activity - conversely anti clockwise movement slows down diarrhoea. Psyllium husks may be bought in most chemists - these are an Indian product - indigestible fibre which will hoover out the gut taking with it any unhealthy retained products. The crushed husks are usually taken in a glass of water or juice stirred well and easily swallowed. It is usually advised to take a furthur glass of water as they swell up and need more liquid in order to be digested. Meals taken regularly as mentioned above starting with a good breakfast will stimukate the bowels to act. People going without breakfast do not stimulate their metabolism to work and the gut consequently becomes lazy. Engines do not work without petrol -we have to regard the human body in the same way. It needs fuel in the form of good food in order to function properly.


Old fashioned treatment for piles is to obtain' flowers of sulphur' powder from your local pharmacy. A teaspoon in a small glass of milk before going to bed may well do the trick!


In small children grated raw eating apple is a good way to stop diarrhoea -the pectin will help to coagulate the stool and is pleasant for the child to take. Arrowroot from the chemist or grocer can be mixed with water and taken - it is tasteless and easy to swallow. Cornflour may be used instead.
Where there is a chill with the diarrhoea in tropical climates a broad flannel belt should be worn round the abdomen day and night. This will prevent chills and was a common item in soldiers' kits on active service in the tropics in the past.


An old remedy is to fast from fats in the diet for a month. For the next three days only pulped apple juice is taken when the person feels hungry and water when thirsty. On the evening of the 3rd day mix in a small tumbler 1/2 olive oil and 1/2 raw lemon juice, beat well. Every 1/2 hour take a few mouthfuls until finished. If you feel very nauseous do not continue. Go to bed when completed. The following morning the stool will be passed as soft and yellow and any gallstones will pass easily as they will have been softened by the pectin in the apple and evacuated by the stimulant action of the olive oil and lemon juice. I have done this successfully several times in the past and was astonished by the effectiveness of this simple treatment.


Healing takes place while a person is asleep. Sleep deprivation is one of the commonest causes of ill health in people today. Think of a stressed busy person unable to sleep at night, a house wife kept awake by restless demanding children, children kept awake by nightmares. All of these prevent us from being happy, healthy human beings.

In the western world today the habit is to go very late to bed. Natural rhythms are to be in bed by 10. An old saying which holds good today is to be in bed by 10 and up at 6am - the eight hours.
Sleep before midnight is said to be worth twice what it is before midnight and is certainly more refreshing. However busy you are, a bed time at 10pm twice a week will get you in the habit and greatly increase relaxation to the whole system. Even a brief nap is of great benefit to the human body - the metabolic rate - the rate at which tissue changes, building up and breaking down, is greatly reduced once the body is at rest. A way of restoring the circulation of the body during the day and returning energy to the heart is to lie against the wall and put one's legs at right angles to the trunk. Within 5 minutes the circulatory system is restored to what it would have been after a full nights rest in bed. Today air hostesses are given this instruction to help avoid DVT or deep vein thrombosis -clots forming in the calf muscle which could cause death by moving through the blood vessels causing blocking of the circulation of blood to the heart muscle. If sleep is broken for any reason, it is better to get up and do something than lie awake fretting because you cannot sleep - this only makes the problem worse.The human body can adapt to catching up later on with short sleeps -nowadays called "power naps".

I used to lie on the kitchen floor when my three children were all toddlers (I had a 2 year old and the twins so many nights were arbitrarily interrupted) and fall asleep with them all safely in the playroom next door for up to 2 hours. I would wake instantly if they needed me. I would find I was often asleep in bed by 7.30 pm straight after the children had been put to bed and could then operate in the night when someone always seemed to wake up - often waking one if not all of the others!
As a nurse on night duty in my late teens and early 20's working very irregular shifts day and night I got into the habit of sleeping wherever and whenever I could. As a normal healthy young woman with a busy London social life this was invaluable.

Children do need regular bed times as well as sleeps in the day -the small babies and children need a morning and afternoon nap. Their habit is to wake early, feed and be back in bed by 9-10 am and again around 12-1pm.I worked throughout my life and the children went to childminders who kept them to the same routine for me. They often cooperate better with carers than their mothers! This regime is also applicable to the elderly who often run out of steam and need naps to restore their energy. It has been said that the healthiest people are those who can catnap when needed.

With Acknowledgements to Dr Ruddocks 'Vade Mecum'

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