Join The Retro Remedy Revival


This article has been reproduced by kind permission of The Mail on Sunday YOU Magazine.

When GP Dr Rob Hicks was growing up, his family often used natural remedies from the garden or kitchen. ‘It wasn’t because they were particularly passionate about them, or against other kinds of medicine, but the belief that you didn’t trouble the doctor unless something was serious,’ he says. At work, he offers patients natural remedies and complementary therapies as well as conventional treatments. And now, so we can safely treat ourselves, Dr Hicks has put them in a book, called ‘Old-Fashioned Remedies from Arsenic to Gin’ – here are his tips for spring.

NB The advice given here is for general information only and not a substitute for the advice of your own doctor or other healthcare professional.

Hayfever: to relieve sore eyes brew camomile herb tea, allow to cool, and apply to closed eyes as a compress. Leave for five minutes or as long as you have. (Wonderfully refreshing if you can lie down too.)

Insect bites and stings: break a leaf from an aloe vera plant in half and apply the gooey gel to the bite; this works with any skin problem, including rashes and cuts.

Verrucas: tape a piece of banana peel over the verruca and leave overnight. Repeat each night until verruca has gone. Banana peel contains mucilage, which is thought to be anti-viral.

Dry skin: put a handful of uncooked oats in a muslin bag (or tie in a cloth), and pop the bag in the bathwater, or hang under a running showerhead.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS): for breast tenderness or lower abdominal pain, place chilled or warmed cabbage leaves in the bra or against the abdomen, for a few minutes as often as you like. Heating the cabbage releases anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and glutamine.

Cold sores: infuse lemon balm (melissa) tea, then cool and apply on cotton wool to the sore, to shorten the attack. Lemon balm contains polyphenols thought to have anti-viral effects. Also try Lemon Balm Cream by Granary Herbs, £9 for 60 ml from Victoria Health.

Bad breath: eat two or three tomatoes each day. Tomatoes contain ionones, which are believed to neutralise the odour-causing sulphur compounds in the mouth. Eating mint leaves, or drinking mint or lemon balm tea also sweetens the breath.

Athlete’s foot: crush a clove of garlic lightly and rub it on the affected area three or four times daily. Garlic has anti-fungal properties that can help treat this fungal infection.

Joint pains: apply a paste of anti-inflammatory turmeric, a yellow spice (mix a few pinches of the powder with a little water) to the sore joint and keep in place with cling film for up to half an hour once or twice a day. Also use one to two teaspoonfuls in cooking every day. (Also available in tablets, Turmeric by Lamberts, £19.95 for 60.)

Toothache –Apply grated fresh horseradish to the gums near the aching tooth. Horseradish contains allyl isothiocyanate, which acts as a topical anaesthetic.

Bloating: drink one or two cups of peppermint or fennel tea after each meal.


We all know carrying a shoulder bag isn’t good for neck and shoulders but it’s so much easier to have your hands free. London-based chiropractor Dominic Cheetham (bit of a genius by the way) suggests wearing a bag ‘messenger style. Choose one with a wide adjustable strap and wear it across your body so the weight is evenly spread. If you have to carry it on your shoulder, switch sides every ten minutes – and never carry it in the crook of your arm Mrs Thatcher-style, as it can cause long-term damage.’ Always remember your handbag should weigh under five per cent of your body weight, he adds. If your ship has come in, gorgeous ‘cross body’ bags can be found from £350 at Anya Hindmarch (; and more budget but attractive versions at Marks & Spencer from about £49 ( Dominic Cheetham, tel: 020 7730 3031,


I’m having a little love-in with a pair of trainers. My FitFlop Supertone sneakers are silver-y leather (they call it ‘platinum’), which looks great with bright pink socks), and – amazingly – live up to their optimistic claim of making you feel bouncier and more energetic. Plus they feature the FitFlop ‘Microwobbleboard midsole’ that helps tone your leg muscles (and with any luck your bottom too). £85, in six colours, for stockists, PS do give your body time to get used to them by wearing them for short periods at first.

Website of the week:

There’s an increasing range of special foods for coeliacs, and others living on gluten/wheat, dairy or nut-free diets, but which taste best and are also nourishing? The 4th FreeFrom Food Awards, organised by Foods Matter – a comprehensive resource of allergy/intolerance information – presents the winners across 17 categories including breads, spreads, yogurts, breakfast cereals, cakes, and even beer.

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