Mother Nature knows best

Print Friendly

With Mother’s Day approaching, it’s time to celebrate all things maternal – including Mother Nature and those handy old wives’ remedies our grandmothers swore by, says Keeley Bolger.

When presenter Lauren Laverne’s son had a nasty cough recently, she turned to her Twitter followers to seek some good old-fashioned advice from fellow mums on how to treat it.

Laverne isn’t alone in looking to the wisdom of other mothers to help treat everyday illnesses. Most families have at least a couple of old wives’ tale remedies, passed down through the generations, that they use or swear by.

When GP Dr Rob Hicks wrote Old Fashioned Remedies: From Arsenic To Gin, his own family were a rich source of inspiration on natural ways to soothe common ailments.

“My interest in all of these remedies came partly from seeing the female members of my family using everyday products to treat common ailments,” says Hicks. “For instance, I’d see my aunty with bicarbonate of soda in her water and ask why she had done that.”

While old wives’ tale remedies may not always be suitable (or practical!), Hicks reckons it’s always worth trying some of these cheap and natural cures that our mothers and grandmothers have used.

“These treatments are readily available and generally harmless so they’re worth a try if it’s convenient for you,” he says. “Understandably there are going to be times when it’s not convenient to mash up a banana and apply it to your skin!

“Plus, there is often little, if any, research behind these old remedies but they’re generally harmless and worth trying if you want something natural.”

Here’s a round-up of Hicks’s favourite old-fashioned fixes.


If stomach cramps and travel sickness are blighting your belly, reach for your spice rack and dip into one of the hardest-working roots in the kitchen. “Ginger is rare as an old wives’ remedy in that there is actually research around its anti-inflammatory benefits,” says Hicks. “It has been used to treat morning sickness, travel sickness as well as nausea, as it’s thought that the ginger oils relax the stomach muscles, which in turn help ease the symptoms.

“My grandmother used to use crystallised ginger, which is something I never liked as a child but has now become one of my favourites.”

Ginger’s anti-inflammatory qualities can also be helpful for other ailments. “If you have a cold, I’d suggest adding gratings of fresh ginger into hot honey and lemon (mixed with hot water to drink), so that you then have the vitamin C in the lemon and the antiseptic properties in the honey, as well as the anti-inflammatory qualities in the ginger,” suggests Hicks.


Eau d’cold cabbage leaf might not be your scent of choice but the whiffy greens can lift breast tenderness and period pain.

“Cabbage leaves can be very helpful in relieving breast tenderness after you’ve had a child,” says Hicks. “They can also be effective in easing period pain. You can put the cooled leaves in your bra or apply them directly on your stomach. If that’s too cold, I’d recommend warming them slightly in the microwave.”


Get more out of your banana by using it to help lighten a headache. “If you have a headache, mash up a bit of ripe banana peel and apply it to the area affected – as long as it isn’t in your hair!” says Hicks. “Alternatively, place chilled banana peel on the painful area.”

Banana skin can help soothe a vexing verruca too. “There has been no scientific research as far as I’m aware into this treatment and it could just have been coincidence, but I have seen a few cases where a patient has applied banana peel to a verruca and the verruca has then gone,” says Hicks. “What I’d suggest is to cut a piece of banana peel big enough to cover the verruca and then tape it (with surgical tape from the pharmacist) to the area overnight. You could do this during the day, but it’s less likely to come off your foot when you’re in bed and don’t have stockings or socks and shoes on.

“Another person told me she rubbed the peel onto the verruca for about 15 minutes every day, so again that’s worth trying.”


If you’re struck by a spell of cystitis, raid your kitchen cupboard for a tub of trusty bicarbonate of soda – it could make going to the loo less painful. “To help with cystitis, just add half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to a pint of water and drink it,” says Hicks. “It’s thought that the bicarbonate of soda reduces the acidity in the urine, which will then ease the symptoms of cystitis.”


Get to the core of your diarrhoea drama by munching on a good old apple. “Apples are great for relieving diarrhoea,” says Hicks. “All you do is cut up or grate an apple and leave it for about 20 minutes so that it goes brown, then eat it. It’s thought that the pectin in the apple helps to solidify the faeces.”


If hot milk isn’t your cup of tea, try sipping on a calming mug of camomile before bedtime to send you off to sleep. The plant is also great for relieving irksome ulcers.

“I love camomile,” says Hicks. “It’s a great thing to drink before bedtime as it’s incredibly soothing but it also works as a mouthwash if you have ulcers. To try this, just put the camomile tea in the fridge for about 20 minutes and then swill it around your mouth.”


Forget bubbles – load your bath up with oats if you want to soothe itchy skin.

“Oatmeal is great to use if you have itchy skin because it is a wonderful emollient, which can relieve the symptoms of dry skin such as flaking and cracking,” says Hicks. “You can add some oatmeal to a piece of muslin cloth made into a bag, then add it to a bath or you can dab that straight onto your body. Many products designed for dry skin use oatmeal as an ingredient.”

:: Old Fashioned Remedies: From Arsenic To Gin by Doctor Rob Hicks is published by Remember When, priced £14.99. Available now

 Do you have any old wives remedies to share?



The following two tabs change content below.
Hello ... I am the Creative Director and Website Editor for Silversurfers and manage all the social media too. I hope you find the features and articles we have shared with you of interest and relevance. Please feel free to comment below and share your thoughts with us ... I hope you enjoy Silversurfers and all that we offer ...

Latest posts by Silversurfers Editor (see all)

Not a member?

Join the silversurfers community today! It's free, easy to do, and is packed full of features and amazing offers!

Join the community!
Click here if you have forgotten your password
Morag Towndrow
28th Feb 2013
Thanks for voting!
After five years of failed other treatments, I taped a square of banana skin over my 10p sized, horribly painful verruca with duck tape and left for several days (plastic bag over it in the shower etc.) It worked!
28th Feb 2013
Thanks for voting!
That's amazing Morag ... one to remember!
Lynette Myers
28th Feb 2013
Thanks for voting!
I can certainly vouch for Bicarbinate of Soda! I had a disease that gave me mouth and vaginal ulcers. They were very, very painful. I would put a cup of Bicarb into my bath and it would relieve the pain. I made a paste of it and applied it straight to the vaginal ulcers. I rinsed my mouth out with Bicarb and that eased the pain. If you're itchy, bath in Bicarb. It also takes the pain out of a Bee sting! Amazing product!

If I have an infected sore on my skin, I pour salt water onto it regularly, until it is healed. Wonderful stuff, salt. I also gargle with it if I get a sore throat.

I wash my eyes out with tea if I have Hayfever and it really helps. Make a nice strong cup of tea, don't add milk, pour it into a small eye-glass and rinse your eyes.

Those Cabbage leaves really do relieve sore, tight, aching, full breasts. My daughter did it when she was breast-feeding,
patricia wildman
28th Feb 2013
Thanks for voting!
My Grandmother always had a bottle of ginger wine handy ,for stomache aches and period pains ,one small glass always did the trick.
For small babies finding it hard to sleep with blocked noses ,she would cut an onion in half place on a saucer cut side up and put it next to the cot ,easy.
Jean Duke
28th Feb 2013
Thanks for voting!
My grandma would use Freshly ground Turmeric, made into a paste and applied to joins which suffered from Arthritis and Rheumatic pains. I had Rheumatic Fever as a 7 year old and remembered her getting my Mum to do this for me and the relief it brought to the pain was so welcoming.

Community Terms & Conditions

Content standards

These content standards apply to any and all material which you contribute to our site (contributions), and to any interactive services associated with it.

You must comply with the spirit of the following standards as well as the letter. The standards apply to each part of any contribution as well as to its whole.

Contributions must:

be accurate (where they state facts); be genuinely held (where they state opinions); and comply with applicable law in the UK and in any country from which they are posted.

Contributions must not:

contain any material which is defamatory of any person; or contain any material which is obscene, offensive, hateful or inflammatory; or promote sexually explicit material; or promote violence; promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age; or infringe any copyright, database right or trade mark of any other person; or be likely to deceive any person; or be made in breach of any legal duty owed to a third party, such as a contractual duty or a duty of confidence; or promote any illegal activity; or be threatening, abuse or invade another’s privacy, or cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety; or be likely to harass, upset, embarrass, alarm or annoy any other person; or be used to impersonate any person, or to misrepresent your identity or affiliation with any person; or give the impression that they emanate from us, if this is not the case; or advocate, promote or assist any unlawful act such as (by way of example only) copyright infringement or computer misuse.

Nurturing a safe environment

Our Silversurfers community is designed to foster friendships, based on trust, honesty, integrity and loyalty and is underpinned by these values.

We don't tolerate swearing, and reserve the right to remove any posts which we feel may offend others... let's keep it friendly!

More Health Features

Are you at risk of Pneumonia? shutterstock_240913606- lungs 900 x 550
Are you at risk of Pneumonia? We all are. Pneumonia can strike anyone, at any age, at any time...
What can you do about cystitis after the menopause? Closeup of pencil eraser and black cystitis text. Cystitis. Pencil with eraser.
You may be surprised to be suffering repeated episodes of cystitis when you thought it was a young...
Grab Your Fenetic Sprint for Active Aging Week Grab Your Fenetic Sprint for Active Aging Week
Come along for the ride, get involved in Active Aging Week this September by cycling to your...
Keep your blood pressure in check for Know Your Numbers Week doctor checking blood pressure with stethoscope and sphygmomanom
It’s Know Your Numbers Week; a campaign by Blood Pressure UK that encourages people to help...
Incontinence - It’s No Laughing Matter Lifestyle image
The sudden desperate urge to go to the toilet when away from home is something many people face...
10 tips for maintaining your dental health in the later stages of your life toothbrush-571741_960_720
Many older people have worries about their dental health and preserving their smile - indeed, many...
A Self Help Guide To Managing Menopausal Symptoms MENOPAUSE
Menopause is the time of life when a woman’s period of fertility comes to an end...
Celebrate No Smoking Day on the 9th of March No smoking signs
If you're trying to give up smoking, you're supporting a friend or family member who wants to quit...
Could a stairlift prevent you from having to move house? stairlifts-Washington_OakTree
If taking the stairs is beginning to get a little strenuous, it might not be too long until you...
Get holiday health savvy this summer Travel concept. Sunbed sunglass  map beach shoes sunscreen passport air tickets beach ball hat and old red suitcase for travel on the beach.
Whether you’re heading on that holiday of a lifetime or taking the grandkids on an adventure...
Buying an Adjustable Bed electric-adjustable-beds-HazelBed_OakTree
The decision to buy an adjustable bed is usually an easy one to make, and most people know when...
Made to Measure Recliner reclining-chairs-OakChair_OakTree
Arthritis, a condition that causes inflammation and pain in the joints, currently affects around...