I was pretty healthy as a child (I had the usual childhood illnesses quite early in life long before I started school) We were given a daily dose of Vimatol which I loved. It was a thick sweet mixture of malt and vitamins and in those days of sweet rationing it helped stave off the sweet cravings.

Although Mum paid into a health insurance scheme pre NHS we rarely visited the GP. On the odd occasions a germ dared to settle on me, my treatment varied with whichever house I happened to be in. My father referred to his grandmother’s book of herbal remedies. For a cold we were dosed with a mixture of marshmallow and and sweet nitre, put to bed with a hot water bottle and covered with extra blankets or eiderdown, and “sweated it out”. For a sore throat we gargled with a thymol mixture. 

Grandad R was a great believer in Famel’s syrup for colds, this was a creosote smelling liquid and tasted foul. For an upset stomach he gave us Dutch Drops on a sugar cube. I have no idea what was  in it.

Great Aunt Clara had the usual Victorian obsession with bowels and dosed us with brimstone and treacle, whatever the symptoms.

Aunt Cis beat up butter, sugar and vinegar for a sore throat—I think it was the nearest she could get to honey and lemon 🙂

Dad was always a great believer in the powers of what he called Angelica, but I suspect was comfrey. For an upset stomach he brewed a tea from it, added peppermint and sweetened it. For sprained ankles or wrists,  insect bites or odd spots, the braised leaves were bound over the affected area!

Mum occasionally suffered from bursitis (housemaid’s knee) and Dad made a poultice of glycerine and ichthyol, a thick glutenous mix, warmed it and bound it round her knee.

I don’t know how effective these remedies were but we didn’t suffer any lasting effects and I had very little time off school, so I suppose they had their uses, even if it was only the psychological one of getting better to avoid any further treatment!

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