Friday, 27 September 2013

Natural Remedies

Just a Minute
Willows in Stratford on Avon - headache cures
      Life happens while you're not looking: ever been sitting at a restaurant table waiting a seemingly interminable period to be served? - nothing happening and you chunner on about  'perhaps the chef's gone mad and murdered everyone in the kitchen. Chefs are very excitable - I saw a TV programme about one once - mind you, it was Lenny Henry and he gets excited about nothing', together with other possible causes  - 'kitchens are death traps, stands to reason doesn't it? All that heat and cooking oil , they used to pour it on the enemy off castle walls, for God's sake', and you ramble on about starving to death and 'we should have got a takeaway', then you nip out to the toilet.

      That's when it happens. You've only been gone a  minute but when you get back to the table I can guarantee the waitress has been, your food is sitting there going cold and your partner is smirking and well into the first round.

      The same if you're fishing: take your eye off the float for a second while you open your flask and pour a cup of hot tea and when you glance up, it's gone. Somewhere in the depths a giant carp is thoughtfully sucking the Spam off your hook while his mates look on laughing. They've been watching you all morning, waiting for this moment. So half the tea goes in your lap while you grab the rod, haul out a baitless hook and end up looking as if you've wet yourself. Well, you have - but not in the way people think, you've done it the more creative way by pouring hot liquid over the parts you didn't want it to reach, ruining your sex life into the bargain.

      Postmen have got the same sense of humour as fish: you're waiting for this parcel and don't want to miss the delivery, so you stay in all morning and he doesn't come. But you're out of milk. Could die for a brew. So you nip down to the corner shop. Only two minutes. TWO SODDING MINUTES and when you get back there's a note in the letterbox saying the postman tried to deliver a parcel but you weren't in - please pick it up from the local sorting office, three miles away, where there's a queue of fellow sufferers flowing right round the corner.

      And so the list goes on: you leave the football match a couple of minutes early in order to beat the crowd to the bus and that's when someone scores. You know they've scored from the crowd's roar but you don't know which side. You've spent one and three quarter valuable hours of your life sitting in a freezing stadium waiting for a moment that only came when you went, and now you've got to go on the internet to find the score; as a kid, you lie in bed determined to stay awake and see Santa when he comes. But you nod off - just for a minute- and that's when he comes. You miss the point that this 'minute' has stretched long enough for it to go light and, when you rush downstairs to check, the bugger's swigged the sherry and eaten the mince pies you left out. Still, he did leave the presents.

      When you aren't there, perhaps time lapse photography takes over: cars and people rush around like speeded up ants; or maybe none of them exist except for in your mind. You are the only reality and all the rest is an elaborate play constructed in your head. Come to think of it, if that's true, you, dear reader, do not exist apart from as an electrical impulse in my brain.

      For some reason that song 'They're Coming To Take Me Away' is constantly going round my mind. Anyone old enough to remember that one? Who sang it? (answer at end of blog).

      Anyway, coming back to time lapse -the same scenario is replaying in the garden: the border was absolutely weed free a couple of days ago and now it looks like a rain forest. You turned away and the time lapse clicked on: seeds bursting open to send writhing snakes of stems upwards, turning the rich soil green and competing with your chosen plants for water and nutrients. This happens with such regularity that the best way to deal with it is by taking the philosophical approach. Those dandelions could be useful in salads and in the health-giving vitamins and minerals they contain see here as can many other wild plants and those we call weeds. Most of our current day remedies originate from plants.
Hops -  to help you sleep
      Our fore-bearers were pretty creative, when you think about it - they had to be. There wasn't a chemist on every corner dispensing cures for most of the usual problems, so they looked around and used what was there: if you had a headache, willow or poplar trees had the remedy. Chew a bit of bark or bud and salicin within the plant changes to salicylic acid, a major constituent of aspirin, in your system. Interestingly this is not only of use to humans: when attacked by disease, some plants produce salycitates to combat it. This has led to the belief that we can actually improve a plant's immune system by watering it with aspirin. The technique is to add one and a half tablets to a gallon of water, plus a small amount of soft soap to act as a spreader, and spray it on every three weeks. Don't know if it works, but there's nothing lost in trying.

      On the same lines, herb pillows were once popular and are still used today to some extent. A herb pillow is simply a muslin bag stuffed with dried herb and placed in your pillow - case. The heat of your head releases the scent of the chosen herb. King George the third had trouble sleeping and pressures of state were becoming so great that he decided to hand over the reins to the Prince Regent. Then friends advised that a herb pillow filled with hops would help with the sleep problem, so he decided to give it a bash. Miraculously he got some good nights sleeps and felt completely refreshed. So improved was he that he changed his mind about handing over power and the prince regent went back to opening supermarkets and whatever else he'd been doing before. Apparently hops contain lupulin (the latin name of the plant is Humulus lupulus), and this is now known to be a sedative, giving scientific basis to the story.
Verbena - an aphrodisiac?
      Verbena is also used in herb pillows because it is believed to be an aphrodisiac. I don't know whether there is any scientific justification for this but, again, there's nothing lost in trying. However I have my own theory about this: if woody stalks are left in the herb mix, there is danger of one piercing your eardrum at the peak of sexual excitement, and this could be the source of that story about  too much of certain things making you go deaf.

      'They're Coming To Take Me Away' was sung by Napoleon X1V. Bit of culture thrown in, eh?

      Is there anybody there?

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