The Doctors' Book of Australian Home Remedies

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

My family doctor must have been overjoyed the day I decided to have children. I almost never went to the doctor in the days before children (B.C.) but with each child (I have three), the number of visits increased logorhythmically. It wasn’t because I was neurotic, or that I enjoyed spending half the morning sitting in a germ ridden waiting room, it was just that children tend to get sick a lot, and you just can’t take the chance that that little cough or inexplicable rash is something serious. At times though it can seem like you spend more time in It really helps if you have a good home guide, not only to help you determine what is, and what isn’t serious, but also to help deal with some of those minor, but chronic conditions that need ongoing management, like acne, athlete’s foot, bed-wetting, or teething.

The Doctor’s Book of Australian Home Remedies is a good overall family guide which isn’t just for children. There are over 140 different health problems covered in this comprehensive guide, and every section contains information in the form of a sidebar about when to consult a doctor. This is just what the um, doctor ordered, and can save a lot of emotional and physical stress as you try and determine whether your child’s earache requires antibiotics, or just a few days of rest. Each section also contains information on how to manage the condition – ease pain, prevent worsening, treat with gentle herbal or other home remedies, simple kitchen remedy, or best of all, prevent it in the first place (or at least next time). The contents are arranged in a neat alphabetical order which will allow for easy reference to the condition which ails you or your children, and the authors provide some really useful and well written advice on how to cope with problems as diverse as anxiety, breast pain, conjunctivitis, gingavitis, hiccups, infant colic, teething, wrinkles, or nappy rash:

Nothing is more pathetic than a baby with a bad case of nappy rash, says clinical herbalist Douglas Schar. Babies express their misery through tears and it’s enough to make a grown-up cry too. But herbal medicine can come to the rescue. A strong brew of calendula tea, regularly applied, with quickly clear up the condition. Add two tablespoons of dried calendula flowers to 500 ml of water and simmer in a covered pan for 20 minutes. Strain the brew, use it to wash baby’s bottom every time you change the nappy, and the inflammation will quickly subside, says Schar. (417)

The authors have clearly spent some time in the company of children and parents, as each chapter has been carefully designed to be read by groggy and desperate parents, with a clear point by point format (eg “10 easy solutions,” “25 ways to end the aching,” “17 skin-soothing remedies,” etc), and, in some cases, a suggestion for the one most important thing you can do. The scope is broad, but this is the kind of whole family guide which will be used and re-used, saving you stress, potentially significant amounts of money in doctor’s bills and expensive medications, and when necessary, guiding you to the doctor when nothing else will do. This is a responsible, thoughtful, and quite fun to read guide full of home remedies, many of which come straight from the kitchen fridge, like tomatoes and cucumbers for sunburn, frozen grapes for teething, aloe vera for cuts and grazes (we use it on spots to very good effect). This is a book which belongs on every parent’s bookshelf. You may find yourself reading through it just for the serendipity of discovering a new cure for an old ailment.

The Doctors’ Book of Australian Home Remedies
Medical Consultant: Dr Linda Calabresi
Natural Therapies Expert: Pamela Allardice
Pharmacist: Michael Cross
Rodale (Prevention)
Paperback, ISBN 1405077360, $35.00aud, November 2004

This review first appeared at Preschool Entertainment. It reappears here with permission.