Long before the discovery of modern medicines, families used remedies based on plants to treat everyday illness. Instructions were passed down through the generations, until fast-acting antibiotics and analgesics became available and folk medicine gradually fell into disuse. Now there's a tremendous revival of interest in these home remedies. Not only are they often gentler than manufactured drugs, but many of them are now known to be effective too. It has been discovered that meadowsweet and willow bark, used by families 150 years ago to soothe pain and relieve fever, contain salicin - aspirin. Today, plants are a source of many powerful drugs for those modern plagues, heart disease and cancer.
Like other drugs, plants can harm as well as heal, which is why this book concentrates on remedies that are safe for all the family. Even so, none should be taken in pregnancy or for major illnesses, combined with other medicines, or given to babies under one, without medical advice. As a rule, if your symptoms are new for you, or continue for more than a week, you should see your GP. Many of the remedies recommended in this book are in the form of herbal teas, and you can make them up to suit your own taste. It's better to take a weak infusion regularly than an unpalatably strong one occasionally. Keep all medicines, including essential oils, out of the reach of children.
Traditional medicine is based on natural plants rather than isolated chemicals, often for good reason. Dandelions, for example, can help prevent water retention. But unlike other diuretics, which can deplete the body's potassium supplies, dandelions contain stores of this valuable mineral to make sure the correct balance is maintained. This holistic or 'whole body' approach means that many old fashioned remedies need time to act. Teas, washes and compresses are best incorporated into your everyday routine, especially if you want to treat chronic conditions or stress. Try them. They're safe, effective, simple to use, and a living link with the past.