by: Cherry Chappell

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Grandma's Remedies
gathers traditional home-made remedies, handed down through the generations. It presents an A-Z list, by ailment, of remedies and advice gathered from all over the world. For example, did you know that chewing toasted fennel seeds will help combat indigestion? Grandma's Remedies is more than a guide to traditional treatments; it also paints a vivid portrait of the world of our grandparents and great-grandparents. It shows how inventive and resourceful they were with the materials near to hand, and how it was the women of the household who, despite being barred from the medical profession, were relied on to safeguard family health. Follow in their footsteps, build your own home pharmacy and make the most of nature's healing properties.
270pp, 128mm x 195mm, illus. in b&w, Paperback, 2010

Immune System (boosting)
Some physicians will tell you that it is not possible to boost the immune system directly, but you can create the energy - with good diet and rest - that will enable the body to restore its own defence mechanisms. Our grandmothers seem to have recognised this by giving their families foods and remedies full of vitamins and minerals that were aimed at helping the body ward off infections.

One of the many tasks of national importance undertaken by members of the Women's Institute during the Second World War was to arrange the collection of rosehips. These were an excellent source of vitamin C for children living in the cities, since other fruits, such as lemons and oranges, were in short supply. Two teaspoons a day of rosehip syrup will help protect you against colds and flu, and here is an easy-to-make recipe adapted from Rachel Hunt's The Wholefood Harvest Cookbook:

2 lb (1 kg) ripe rosehips
4 1/2 pints (2.6 litres) water
1 lb (500 g) demerara sugar

Wash and mince thr rosehips. Bring the water to the boil in a large pan and add the rosehips. Bring back to the boil and simmer for 45 minutes. Allow to cool, then sieve through muslin or a jelly bag. Leave overnight to strain to make sure all the juice has run through. Return the juice to the pan and reduce the quantity by half by simmering. Add the sugar and simmer again until it has dissolved. Bring to the boil for a further five minutes. Pour into clean warm bottles. Cork or seal them tightly. The syrup will keep for only a few weeks once opened, so it may be better to use small bottles

'Starve a fever, feed a cold,' runs the old adage. This makes sense, if only because with a high fever no one feels like eating anyway. And you may not taste much if you have a heavy cold, but you will feel less depleted if you take in nourishing foods. In my childhood home dairy products - milk, cheese and butter - were banned at the first sign of a cold on the grounds that they tend to encourage the production of mucus. I have since discovered that this is a tenet of both Ayurvedic (traditional Indian) medicine and traditional Chinese herbal medicine.

There are literally dozens of remedies to alleviate the misery of colds. Steam vapours were popular at one time, and in the 1950s and 1960s they often included a touch of eucalyptus oil, a traditional medicine of Australian Aborigines whose use of the tree probably dates back many thousands of years:

Fill a shallow bowl with hot water and add a drop or two of eucalyptus oil. Drape a towel over your head. Lean over the bowl, trapping the steam with the towel. Allow the steam to rise to your face. Close your eyes and breathe deeply for at least two minutes. Repeat several times a day - perhaps once before bedtime - if your cold is acute.

A useful remedy was gathered from Carola Augustin from Vienna for that stage in a cold when the inside of your nose becomes cracked and sore. She suggests that you reach for the honey.

Put a little on to your little finger and gently wipe the inside of your nose. Honey has antiseptic as well as calming properties that will benefit your nose and, by breathing it in, your sinuses too.

A number of older people remember being given blackcurrant jam, made into a syrup-like tea.

Take a good heaped tablespoon of blackcurrant jam and pour hot water over it.

Enid Troubridge of Godalming was given this remedy when she was a child, but she is unsure how effective the remedy was, although obviously it was a source of vitamin C. Whatever the health benefits may have been, she says that it tasted delicious.

An interesting suggestion comes from Judy Townsend, who lives in Stratford-upon-Avon. Her grandmother, Ruth Farmer from South Africa, swears by nasturtiums: 

Take two nasturtium leaves and one flower and eat them fresh to ward off colds. They are very peppery.

Anne McIntyre, the herbalist, would agree. In her book The Complete Floral Healer she says: 'Nasturtium has antimicrobial properties. It is particularly useful for chest infections, and because it also has decongestant properties it is well worth using to clear the phlegm that accompanies bronchial problems. The fresh juice or an infusion of the leaves relieves colds, catarrh and chronic bronchial congestion.'

The following two remedies were reported in the Women's Institute magazine, Home & Country. They originally appeared in a section headed 'Recipes and Ancient Remedies' in The Worcestershire Book, produced by the Women's Institute:

Rosemary and cider
Boil a sprig of rosemary in half a pint [300 ml] of cider for fifteen minutes and drink it at bedtime as hot as possible. It is advisable to drink when in bed as it causes great perspiration.

Elderflower and peppermint
For colds, inflammations etc. take a handful of elderflower and one of peppermint, put in a jug and pour over it one and a half pints [900 ml] of boiling water. Let it steep for thirty minutes on the hob. Strain and sweeten with black treacle or honey. Drink hot in bed. The more you drink, the sooner the cure will be effected.

Mrs Grieve also gives the elderflower and peppermint remedy, specifying the use of dried elderflowers. She warns that heavy perspiration is likely to follow but insists that the patient will wake up well on the way to recovery and the 'cold or influenza will probably be banished within thirty-six hours.'

From Grandma's Remedies, ?2009 by Cherry Chappell, published by Random House.