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Food as medicine

Dave Harcombe, the Travelling Pharmacist, is known for his natural remedies. His suggestions range from using mustard powder to clear nasal congestion to munching on raw carrots to get rid of that unpleasant bad breath.

The pharmacist from Doncaster found success in the media - nationally and internationally - with his articles on Medicines on the menu and Beauty on the holiday menu, where he suggests natural home remedies to solve simple health and beauty problems while on the road.

His travel blogs have something of a following too. He's written about his trip to the Dutch bulb fields, his river cruises and first voyage on the ocean waves, which he and wife Babs embarked on with lively humour.

Old remedies are the best

Dave’s enthusiastic curiosity for the natural world of medicinal matters and travelling has its roots in his northern upbringing, with particular influence for the former being attributed to his grandparents

The Harcombe family were based in Kirk Sandell near Doncaster where Dave lived close to his grandparents, Joe and Lily (pictured right). ‘Grandad was tall and elegant, Nana smaller and mischievous. Both were generous in love and spirit’, is how he describes them. Joe was a keen and successful gardener, growing produce from which Lily created ‘culinary magic’. It was this complementary combination that inspired Dave to become a pharmacist.

David Harcome's grandmotherLily’s natural remedies and near empty medicine cabinet got him wondering about what other readily available ingredients could have curative properties.

'To a future pharmacist, my nana’s ability to turn garden produce into medicine was exciting and mystical’, Dave recalls. What an inquiring mind that young lad must have had.

‘How often these days we take mass produced toiletries and medicines for granted. But it’s worth taking stock and thinking about what we are putting into and onto our bodies, because there may well be a healthier and equally effective alternative down the garden path’ Dave muses.

Harcombe family's 10 natural remedies

Here are some of Dave's personal and family traditions. Most of them are easily accessible while travelling the world.

Soothed sore eyes with an apple

For most of us an apple is just a piece of fruit, but not for Dave’s Nana who believed in the old wives’ tale: an apple a day keeps the doctor away. She ate mashed, cooked apple with honey and butter if she was hoarse. Her eye inflammations were treated with apple juice and soothed further with a slice of apple on the eyelid.

Maintained healthy gums with a pineapple

This prickly fruit was used in Kirk Sandall for healthy gums, indigestion and sinusitis. It was brought back from Doncaster market by Grandad Joe. Even his green fingers couldn’t produce one in Yorkshire.

Figs helped them go

Figs were also picked up at the market. They have a calming effect on an irregular digestive system, which makes them ideal for a quick constipation fix.

Cabbages cured those savage headaches

Cabbages were grown, often to excess, by Joe and sold to the greengrocer. Lily used them to cure headaches by rolling crushed cabbage leaves in a hot cloth and placing them on her forehead.

Tomato made their skin glow

Grown each year by Joe and tasting so different to supermarket varieties, Lily used these for her skin. Soaking slices in honey for an hour and then placing them on her face gave her skin a natural glow.

Garlic mixer made a terrific cleanser

Crushed cloves mixed with water are a wonderful skin cleanser.

Brighter skin with a strawberry

Slices of these delicious home grown fruit, when in season, would be rubbed over the skin to brighten it! And to give a good smell too.

Sucked lemons to avoid travel sickness

This may have been the start of Dave’s wanderlust. His grandparents couldn’t drive, so he loved to take coach holidays. To prevent travel sickness, they sucked on lemon slices or ice cubes.

Banished veruccas with broad beans

Picked in quantities from Joe’s garden, then, if necessary, rubbed on warts and veruccas daily, which seems to banish them.

Crunched on celery to ditch dark eyes

Happily munched and crunched to reduce dark circles under the eyes, celery was also eaten to reduce puffiness in general.

These are just some of the things that Dave learnt at his grandparents’ house and in the vegetable patch as a child. Who would’ve thought that such simple fare and wholesome remedies would have contributed to the career of a pharmacist and been shared around the world?

This article was brought to you by Silver Travel Advisor. A longer version of this article was originally published on the Silver Travel Advisor website.

Please note that these are all gentle natural remedies used by a qualified pharmacist based on his own experiences. They are not intended as medical advice.

Further information

For more information: Call Age UK Advice: 0800 678 1174