Hello my friends! It’s Frugal Frannie. How’s tricks?
I’m a wee bit under the weather so I’m going to make this week’s blog a short one… well, short for me. That’s probably not all that short, to be honest…
So this week I’ve been scrabbling around the house for some relief from my niggly little ailments, and so far I’ve avoided a trip to the doctor or pharmacy. I’ve always been a keen collector of home remedies. I admit this week’s tips will not save you a fortune overnight. Adopting this practice as part of a wider philosophy of “making do”? That definitely will.
For me, a big part of frugal living is making do. Remember that term? Our elders used it to live as best they could through wars and the great depression and we can still use it today. I’m going to do my best to avoid launching into a Frugal Frannie rant the length of War and Peace, but I’m sure many of us will agree that we are very much conditioned in our society to solve our problems by buying. “Problem” skin, breath, weight? There’s a product for that. They say love makes the world go round… well, in terms of our economy, it’s not love at all. It’s spending. Our whole system relies on production and consumption and it really has reached fever pitch.
So, to avoid sickness, we are encouraged to buy one-use antibacterial wipes because a company stands to make a whole lot of money by convincing us that the cloth we’ve been using for centuries to wipe down benches is just not going to do the job.
The hand wash phenomenon
I remember when I was a community-based worker, a certain brand of hands-free handwash began spreading like wildfire to people’s homes. I’m sure many of you have seen them. Perhaps some of you even have one. No offence if you do – the world is full of gadgets and gizmos and if you like them, great. Anyway, an electric sensor goes off if you wave your hands within cooee of the dispenser, squirting out handwash, hopefully onto your hands. I detested the things because they seemed to go off all the time, squirting goo all over the sink and making a mess. The marketing genius here is that you have to buy refills for the dispenser in the same brand, ensuring brand loyalty for as long as you use the dispenser. Very clever way to lock people in, I thought. My point is not that any of this is wrong, per se. It is just not necessary, and all these little costs add up.
I’m not trying to say there is anything wrong with enjoying luxuries or foregoing the bar of soap for an automatic hand wash dispenser. If you enjoy those creature comforts, then by all means, buy them.
The same applies to home remedies
Progress and technology aren’t always bad, but there are alternatives. This is certainly the case for home remedies. I’m not saying any of the suggestions I offer will cure cancer, but time and repeated use has proven they work for minor ailments. I would even venture to say that in many cases they will work as well as any product you might buy. Your ancestors have been working on them for centuries and they are worth knowing, especially with distressed kiddies feeling sick and miserable at some godawful hour in the morning.
So, you have a sore throat, a headache, car sickness, tennis elbow, postman’s knee or any other number of annoying but relatively minor ailments. You can either head out to the chemist and grab yourself an over-the-counter pick-me-up, or you can find things lying around conveniently at home that might well provide just as much relief. Also, it’s good to know these tricks when your little ones get sick in the wee hours when the shops are shut.
A couple of little disclaimers: I am not a doctor or any sort of allied health professional. I am just someone who has always dabbled in home remedies and these are a few that I have found to be most effective. All of my remedies are designed to replace the basic, non-prescription things you might pick up at a pharmacy. I have added a footnote at the end full of my amusing attempt at legal mumbo-jumbo, so you know I’m not pretending to be a GP or anything.
My remedies are all harmless, unless you have some sort of weird allergy, but you would know if that applied to you. Obviously, they are not meant to replace proper treatment for serious problems. To quote the label on the Panadol box, ‘if symptoms persist, please see your doctor’.
Honestly, this should probably go without saying. You’re smart people, mamas. I am sure you have enough commonsense to know when the home remedy is just not going to cut it.
So without further ado, here is my list:
I’ve been beset by sore throats ever since I was a youngster. There have been times in my life when it felt like my tonsils were permanently inflamed and it drove me to distraction. If there’s a lozenge or syrup out there purporting to ease the pain of a sore throat, I’ve probably tried it. It might not taste as good as the other remedies but salt water has been the most effective.
To use, take a teaspoon of salt and dissolve in a small glass of warm water. Gargle with this several times a day, as needed. The salt water also seems to dislodge any mucous that might be sitting at the back of your throat. As a side note, I love a bit of science, so I decided to look into why salt water worked so well and so instantly on my sore throat. I found THIS. Also, this.
The colloidal oat bath
This can be an absolute godsend for those desperately seeking relief from all manner of rashes, including eczema, chicken pox, insect bites, allergy rashes, sunburn, wind burn and dry or inflamed skin. Oatmeal is purported to have anti-allergenic properties, can restore your skin’s natural PH and a colloidal bath can moisturise your skin and provide a natural protective barrier against further irritants.
I will never forget the relief this remedy gave me when I had chicken pox as a teen. The itching that kept me up at night and had me clawing at my skin until it bled: gone, in an instant. I’m serious! Gone!
The lovely thing about oats is that they are gentle for babies and littlies who tend to have very sensitive skin. Oatmeal can even be used as a mild, gentle cleanser. Oatmeal is well recognised for its skin-friendly properties and you will often see colloidal oats listed in the ingredients on skincare products.
The term “colloidal” means that the oats are a suspension – tiny bits of powdered oat float about in the water like glitter in a snow dome. This creates a soothing, protective film on your skin that can provide the most wonderful relief.
To make the colloidal oats, take about half a cup and whizz them in the blender until they look like flour. You want a really fine powder so it remains suspended in the water instead of sinking to the bottom. Tip this oat flour into a nice warm bath. The trick is to not have really hot bathwater, as this can dry out the skin. After your bath, blot your skin dry with a towel, instead of rubbing.
If you have any oat flour left over, you can also make yourself a lovely…
This mask has a lot of the same lovely nurturing properties for your skin as the colloidal bath. To make an oat mask, take some of the oat flour, about 1/4 cup, and add an equal quantity of warm water. Mix to a nice paste that will spread easily on your face. Add a teaspoon or two of honey.
If you have some around, you can add some lavender or chamomile flowers or rose petals to the mix, just for some nice smelling luxury, but that’s not necessary. Spread it over your face and leave it on to dry a bit, or until you are sick of having it on your face. Rinse it off and admire your soft, glowing skin for a minute.
Oh honey, you can’t go wrong! Read that sentence however you want but whatever you do, don’t ever run out of honey. The stuff is amazing! Honey has amazing anti-bacterial properties, for a start. Our ancestors have been using honey to treat all kinds of ailments from ulcers to coughs and although the evidence is inconclusive, many have stood up to the test of time.
Honey is a well-respected and time honoured folk remedy and I have used it by taking a teaspoon full and holding it in my mouth to relieve discomfort from ulcers and again, for a sore throat. I have also used it as a base to make up a cough syrup by mixing it with water and dried herbs, steeping the herbs before straining and reducing to a syrup on the stove.
If you are interested in making your own cough syrup, I recommend speaking to a naturopath about herbs to use which are safe for you and the kids. Failing that, a warm ginger, honey and garlic drink is wonderfully soothing and therapeutic when you have a cold. It sounds like a disgusting combo, but I think it doesn’t taste too bad – omit the ginger or garlic if your kids don’t like them.
Speaking of ginger…
I will always be grateful for the stuff because it got me through the first 18 weeks of my pregnancy. I was one of those women who seemed to develop a nose like a bloodhound and everything smelt sickening. I remember even dashing to the loo because I saw a TV show about a lavender farm and the concept of smelling those lilac fields made me green at the gills. I have never vomited so much in my life.
In between, there was ginger. I am amazed at how quickly drinking ginger tea or even eating ginger powder in a biscuit can calm a raging pregnant belly. It felt like a miracle at the time.
Since then I have consumed ginger every time I get a little queasy. Most of the time it works like a charm and the times it doesn’t, it’s probably a good thing that whatever nasty lurgy it was GETS THE HELL OUT OF MY BELLY. For those times when only a spew will do, I recommend…
The tepid, wet cloth
Ahh, the wet cloth, loved by mamas everywhere. For generations, we mamas have been using the wet cloth to provide psychological support as much as anything else. Sometimes, for those minor little scrapes, bruises and bumps, there’s not a lot we can do, and getting a child to hold a wet cloth on their wounds gives them a sense that they can do something to alleviate the pain.
In this sense, the wet cloth can stand in as a bit of a surrogate cuddle, giving our kids the feeling of being nurtured and cared for when we are busy and running around. Kind of a middle ground between cuddling a distressed child and watching them run away as if nothing has happened.
Wet cloths can be great for keeping babies cool – give them a little sponge down with a tepid cloth. My little guy loved this when he was a wee one!
Then there is the wet cloth applied to the forehead during fevers. The jury is out as to whether this does much good and as someone with no real training in health I do not feel equipped to really offer any advice.
The best folk remedy is commonsense, I say. Mother knows best. I do know that there is something comforting about holding a wet cloth to my forehead when I feel like vomiting and it won’t do any harm so I will leave it at that.
This is my final offering. I have tried not to go into the more expensive remedies out there. Hopefully, most of my little helpers will already be readily available to you at home. I just had to make an exception with lavender oil.
This fragrant elixir has many promising properties and although researchers are still building evidence for many of its purported benefits, it is something that I have had much success with. I am offering anecdotal evidence here, but given that lavender oil is a pleasant and relatively innocuous treatment option, I figure it can’t hurt to give it a try. May it help you as much as it has helped me!
I admit it does cost a bit to buy, but a tiny bit goes a long way and in my view the money spent is well worth it. I had a phase when nasty headaches were my permanent and unwelcome companion. It drove me to distraction at the time, and although numerous tests did not reveal any specific problem, they really impacted everything from my mood to my ability to concentrate. I must admit I am not one of those stoic anti-panadol types who won’t take painkillers even if they are crying out in pain. Even so, I did not want to take the stuff every day.
A good friend recommended applying a dab of lavender oil at each of my temples. I figured it was worth a try and I did just that.
Now honestly, I have spent a fortune on herbal remedies that have not done a whole lot. I am not saying they don’t work, but I do suspect that many of them don’t offer the instant relief that medication does. That is what I was looking for: an immediate end to the pain. I honestly think that I am too skeptical for placebos to work on me, so I was thrilled that lavender oil turned out to be incredibly helpful.
These days the weird headaches are a thing of the past, but there was a time when I was never without a bottle of lavender oil.
A couple of things: lavender oil is considered safe to use for adults but seek professional advice before you use it and watch for skin reactions. Also, definitely seek a second opinion before using it directly on young boys’ skin. Aromatherapists generally recommend using oil from lavandula angustifolia (non-hybrid English lavender) and although I could not find too much clear information about this, I tend to look for that on the label.
Do you have any good home remedies? I’d love to hear about them. I’ve bitten the bullet this week mamas and now I have my very own Facebook page. I’m excited about it! I plan to fill it with great ideas on how to save those precious pennies and redirect them into the things that mean the most to you. I would love to see your frugal tips. Let’s support each other! There will be discussions, there will be tips and tricks, and there will be wacky drawings. It’s going to be so much fun. Join me!
That’s my lot for this week. Next week, I plan to write about a subject dear to my heart: building a really cheap and kick-ass craft cupboard. Think you’re not crafty or that you have no time for craft? Let’s see if I can change your mind!
Until then, I remain
Your Frugal Friend, Frannie xo
PS. My gosh, I forgot aloe vera! We are never without aloe vera in our garden and squeezing the gel out of the leaves is a wonderful way to soothe sunburn.
Frugal Frank’s Footnote
Whenever I feel a cold or flu coming on, I finely chop up 2 decent sized cloves and spread them on a piece of toast with honey (to soften the blow). Works like a charm: I’d say 75% of the time I wake up raring to go the next morning. Crisis averted! I also keep munching garlic throughout my illness if it persists. A warm drink of ginger and garlic is also a really powerful tonic. I’ve also been known to add a clove to my veggie juices. Amazing stuff.
Warning: don’t eat garlic on an empty stomach, it really puts you through the ringer for 5 minutes!
See you next time ~ Frugal Frank
Frannie’s amateur-hour legal disclaimer
My attempt at a legal mumbo-jumbo disclaimer so you don’t sue me: There is so much nonsense on the net. People read and regurgitate all kinds of poorly-researched and unsubstantiated claims, and this is particularly true of home remedies and subjects of that ilk. I have made an effort to research and fact-check all the remedies I have listed here, visiting reputable, independent sources that are known for their commitment to backing up claims with scientific proof.
I try to be a professional journalist, but in the realm of home remedies I am really just an enthusiastic amateur. The main proof I have for all these remedies are that they have worked for me.