Do old-fshioned herbal remedies really work?

Northwich Guardian: Megan gets set for her nettle tea Megan gets set for her nettle tea

Staff at the Guardian have been going back to basics as part of our Making Do series.

So far reporter James Wilson has made a Victoria sponge using basic ingredients, Gina Bebbington is having a bash at growing her own veg and Frances Kindon has tried her hand at a spot of dressmaking.

This week work experience student Megan Renshaw finds out about natural and low cost alternatives to medicine.

I DECIDED to ‘make do’ for the weekend with herbal and old-fashioned remedies rather than the modern day painkiller or shop-bought product.

While many people dismiss the use of herbal remedies, more than a quarter of all drugs used today contain ingredients derived from plants.

It wasn’t until I began to research alternative remedies for common ailments that I realised the problem with my task.

I didn’t have a cold, a headache, or in fact any ailment to speak of. For the first time in my life, I found myself hoping for a bout of flu, or even just a banging headache.

However my dad injured his back last week, and my Mum regularly suffers from achy joints and headaches. I nominated them as guinea pigs and started whipping up some natural remedies to replace the usual paracetamol.

Both nettle tea and tea made from the berries of wild rose bushes are said to help joint pain and painful muscles.

While my dad’s backache and my mum’s various pains did improve throughout the day, it is impossible to say for certain whether this can be attributed to the teas.

However, I finally got a headache and was able to try out a natural remedy. This involved adding ground basil to boiling water and allowing it to infuse, before straining and adding witchhazel. I then soaked pieces of cloth with the mixture and applied them to the forehead and back of the neck.

My headache certainly improved and, although it cannot be proved that this is down to the remedy, I really think it helped.

Another natural product I tried was using cucumber as a lip softener, as the skin of the cucumber contains fats and oils which can moisturise the skin.

The method is – run the cucumber skin back and forth along the lips.

I think this may have worked, although I can’t say it is more effective than shop bought lip-balms.

An interesting remedy I would like to have tried is the use of honey to treat skin blemishes.

Honey kills bacteria and is said to speed healing. Unfortunately, although I prayed for a spot to appear over the weekend, my skin remained uncharacteristically blemish-free.

This is one to try for the future.

Ginger is said to be effective in reducing nausea, and I can vouch for this, having used crystallised ginger on journeys to prevent travel sickness.

Other remedies I was unable to test included chamomile to soothe stomach ache, aloe to heal burns, garlic to help prevent colds and onion juice to clear ear infections.

Although it is impossible to prove that any of my remedies worked, plants and other natural products certainly have many health benefits and I enjoyed experimenting with them.

On the whole, however, they are unlikely to be used over the more convenient painkillers and shop-bought products.

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