Salty Sam’s Fun Blog for Children

Number 457

Ancient Medicines


Hello Everyone



Last week, Bill and Bob had a cold.


Being brothers they like to share everything.


Their mum had double trouble with all their moaning and groaning.


She made them some hot, lemon drinks to warm them up and make them feel better.


They had some sucky sweets for their bad throats as well.


She made a note of the time she gave them some medicine on a note pad so that they didn’t have too much – which would have been very dangerous.


Sometimes when you are busy, it is difficult to remember everything you have done and when exactly you did it. That is why she wrote down when she had given them medicine.


Bill and Bob only had medicine that their mum gave to them.


They did feel better after a few days – well enough to start going on adventures with me again.


Nowadays, we have large pharmaceutical companies bringing new medicines onto the market all of the time.


But, all through human history people made medicines from what they had to hand.  Most of it was from nature and a lot of that was from plants.


They either grew medicinal herbs in their garden for easy access or went foraging for them in woods and hedgerows.


lt was this way for thousands of years.


Knowing which herbs would help was information handed down from generation to generation and a lot of trial and error probably took place to find out what plants would help what ailment in the first place.  And probably lots of terrible mistakes were made!


Common ailments were eased with herbs from the garden and more serious conditions would have needed more expert knowledge.  This could have been obtained from a herbalist in the village or a monk from a nearby monastery.


Marigolds were used to reduce soreness and inflammation.  Echinacea was used for wounds and burns. 


Of course, different medicine men and healers in different parts of the world would use different plants according to what was available to them.


Even today, people use concoctions from plants to help restore their metal and physical well-being.  And we have the benefit of being able to import all sorts of different seeds and barks and fruits from all over the world.


One of the really important tools in a herbalist’s tool kit might be essential oils.


They are very concentrated essences taken from plants which have therapeutic chemicals in them.


Chamomile and lavender can relax you and geranium can give you energy. Sage can help boost your immune system which fights infection and disease.


Because essential oils are so strong, they often have very powerful scents and can be used in making perfumes or used in aromatherapy.


Oil burners release scent into the air in a room.  The smells from the plant oil can make you feel better.  They can ease anxiety and lift your mood.  They have an effect on your brain when you breathe them in.


These essential oils can be taken from flowers but also leaves, seeds, bark, roots, fruit peel and resin – which is the sap from a tree.


lf the plant material needed to make essential oils is plentiful in the wild, it can be taken from there.  But as demand rises, the plants needed have to be grown on farms to ensure there is enough material to sell.


The way the oils are taken from the plant is called extraction.


There are different methods of extraction according to which kinds of plant material you are dealing with.


The most popular method is steam distillation which has been used for around 5,000 years.  The first stills were made of earthenware but the ones today are made from copper or stainless steel.


The plants are placed in a large container then heated so that the tiny sacs that contain the plant’s oils are broken. 


The oil rises up in the steam produced by the heat. 


The steam with the oil in it makes its way through a tube and as it cools it becomes a liquid that drops into a container. 


The oil that was in the steam rises to the top of the water in the collection container and is taken off the surface of the water to be used.


You would be amazed at how much plant material you might need for a small amount of oil.


The easiest way to get oils from a plant is called expression and is just basically pressing your plant material.  This is easily done with orange or lemon peel.


But with delicate flowers like jasmine, neither of these methods can be used, so a solvent is added to a bulk of flowers and then removed from the extracted oils afterwards.


An extraction of a plant using these methods can be kept for a much longer time than the plant in its natural state.  The medicine from a flower that only blooms for a short time of the year could be kept in this way to be used all year round.  Once kept away from heat and light and oil could be stored for a year or more.


Ceramics and pottery was used to store medicines in ancient times but from the 1700s onwards, glass pots and bottles were used.  The glass was coloured to stop bright light getting to the potions. Blue glass was used and green which was cheaper, nowadays bottles can be dark brown.  From the 1900s, medicine that should not be taken internally was put in ribbed bottles so that people with poor eyesight could feel that the bottle contained something poisonous.


A plant oil can have up to maybe 100 different chemical components; which make it unique.  Different plants can help with different physical or even mental complaints. 


You might breathe in eucalyptus oil to help unblock your nose when you have a cold for example.  This method is called inhalation.


But other oils help with digestion or blood circulation or pain relief.  They can reduce inflammation and clear toxins and waste products from your liver, skin, digestive system and so on.


They can be used as antiseptics.  Many have been proved to destroy viruses, bacteria and fungus that cause diseases.


Throughout history, using herbal medicines often took a holistic approach. 


This means trying to address the root cause of a symptom not just the symptom. 


The herbalist would use medicines to treat a patient’s body, mind and spirit and get them all in harmony. 


Meadow sweet was used as an early form of aspirin from the late 19th century, for example.


lt has been found that when a body is relaxed, it heals much faster.  The body has the most enormous capacity to heal itself if it is helped to do so.


This could be with rest, tackling stress in a person’s life, eating certain nourishing foods and medicines made from natural sources.


So ancient medicines, now called alternative remedies, are becoming more and more popular in modern times, and new ones are being taken from the plant kingdom all the time.  The hedgerows, deserts and rainforests of the world contain, who knows how many, more miracle cures that are waiting to be discovered.


Of course, you have to know exactly what you are doing before you use plants as medicines.  And any essential oils used in a bath or directly on skin must be mixed with a carrier oil because they are too strong used on their own.  Once absorbed through the skin, the essential oil gets into your blood stream and is taken all around the body.


You can make ‘mini-baths’ in a bowl for just your hands or feet to soak in.


You can make gargles out of herb teas – or tisanes to ease a sore throat.


Many religions have traditionally used scents from plants in candles and incense in their places of worship.  The Ancient Egyptians used oils in their burial rituals and the Ancient Greeks and Romans used them in everyday life too.


The modern use of essential oils started in the 1930s when the French chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé made up the word ‘aromatherapy’ after finding out that he could heal the burns on his hands with lavender oil – and what is more, he had no scarring.


During WWll a French army doctor called Jean Valnet used oils on wounded soldiers to great effect.


Then Austrian beauty therapist and biochemist Marguerite Maury is credited with starting to use essential oils in massage therapy.  Being massaged can be very soothing and relaxing.  lt has been found to ease brain stress as much as psychotherapy (that means talking to someone about your problems).


The easiest way to use plants to help you nowadays, is to buy teabags with plant material in them.  Then you know they are safe to use.  Peppermint tea can soothe your stomach and chamomile tea can help you to sleep.


Adding hot water to herbs is called infusion.


lf you don’t like herb tea much, you might like adding honey and a few drops of vanilla extract.


Some everyday herbs such as sage can become poisonous if taken in large amounts.  You shouldn’t keep taking herbal teas or remedies long-term either.  Some herbs cannot be taken internally and some cannot be put on wounded skin.  So you have to know what you are doing!


And of course, please remember that only adults should take responsibility for oil burners, using essential oils and any herbal remedies to ease any medical conditions.



lf you like my blog, please support it by telling all your friends and followers about it.


Thank you!


And see you again next Fun Friday!


Love and kisses



Salty Sam





Bill and Bob’s Joke of the Weekjokejoke


Bill:  Bob, do you know the saying ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’?


Bob:  Yes.  Does it work?


Bill:  Well yes, as long as you aim the apple well enough!



Salty Sam © Christina Sinclair 2015

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of material from this blog without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited.

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Picture Gallery

A traditional way to grind things up






Teabag Clip Art, Vector Images & Illustrations - iStock

Tea bag







Last weekend, the whole family went up to visit Smiley Sid in London.

He is our cheerful, Cockney cousin.

He spends all summer manning a tourist souvenir stands but now the summer season is over he has more time to himself.

We went on a boat trip on Saturday morning and then took a car ride down to see the Thames Barrier in the afternoon.

On Sunday we all took a trip out of London and went out for a walk on the North Downs.  It gave Smiley Sid a chance to breathe in some fresh country air for a change.



Bill and Bob like the boat trip best.

The river looks dirty but it isn’t.  It is muddy.  It is muddy because it is full of currents that stir up the silt on the river bed. 

The currents are dangerous to anyone who falls in.  The river can move at 7 knots which is faster than 7 miles an hour.  Nobody can swim against the currents.

The RNLI station situated on the river is the busiest in the country but a police launch can also be called to pull someone out if they have fallen in the river.

There were lots of boats going up and down the river besides the clipper that we were on.

Nowadays, the boats are mostly pleasure craft, but there are a few barges too.

We went from Westminster Pier to Greenwich and there are lots of interesting buildings to see on the way. 

There are the old, familiar landmarks like St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tate Modern Art Gallery. 

There are lots of modern blocks of flats with a good view of the river as well. 

One of the most popular sights is Tower Bridge with its mediaeval-type architecture designed to match in with the Tower of London built many centuries before.

Any vessel with a height over 30 feet – that is about 10 metres can email the bridge and ask for the leaves of the bridge to be lifted to let them through; as long as they give twenty-four hour’s notice.  Traffic has to stop as the road is lifted up.

Bill and Bob had seen the bridge lift before from the bank, but had never seen the bridge from underneath before.

The boats you see in modern times mostly carry tourists and commuters – that is people going to work.  There are boats for having parties on too.

Years ago the river was very different.  It was crowded with trading vessels.

Lots of boats with lots of valuable goods attracted pirates and an early police force was set up to try and protect the ships from theft.

The River Thames is at the heart of London, and is in fact, the reason why London was built in the first place.

The Romans thought a settlement on the north bank of the river would be well-serviced by water transport bringing goods in from all over their empire.

Up to 2,000 years of history can be found by archaeologists buried in the ground or sometimes even washed up by the shores of the river.

The Thames is a long river, running 215 miles into the North Sea.  It used to be known as the Thamesisis and nowadays the people in London call it the Thames and the people in Oxford, which is situated further up the river, call it the Isis.

It is, and always has been, a working river.  But there were a lot more boats on it a century ago that there are now.

In the early 20th century, London was the busiest of ports and at the centre of a vast trading empire that covered the world.

The 8 miles of docks could accommodate large ships.

A lot of people were needed to unload the ships because all the goods were contained in boxes, sacks and barrels.  These were all manoeuvred off the ship by hand and once lowered onto the dockside moved and loaded into warehouses and onto ongoing transport by hand too.

There was a very close-knit community working in this densely populated centre of activity.

Before WWII two-thirds of our food was imported but when the war broke out U-boat blockades meant that the Dig for Victory campaign was started.  People were encouraged to grow food in their gardens and any spare ground suitable to grow fruit and vegetables.  It was very dangerous to bring food in from abroad.

In the 1960s everything changed.

Containerization arrived.

This meant that all goods were put into large metal containers.

These boxes were so big you could walk around inside them.

They were taken off ships by powerful cranes and piles up onto the docks.  This way of unloading goods was faster and more efficient.

The dockers were not happy about the new arrangements and eventually 30,000 people were to lose their jobs.  Their fears were realized.


Canary Wharf is situated just under the word Poplar


The ships grew bigger as well and were often too big to fit into the river so operations moved down to the docks at Tilbury which was down river, away from the centre of London and much nearer to the sea.

This way London could still trade in the way that it had done for so many years.  The ships didn’t have so far to come up the river and they can be unloaded and out of port in as little as 35 minutes.

But the ships still keep getting bigger even today.

The docks in London fell out of use.  A lot of the land became derelict and stayed like that for nearly a decade.  Weeds grew just like they had done on the abandoned bomb sites of WWII.


Rosebay willow herb grew on old bomb sites

It is supposed to be good for migraines


Then things changed.  Such prime real estate in the middle of an important city could be put to good use.

A financial centre of world importance was built at Canary Wharf.  Lots of other businesses moved in as well. 

There are quite a few tall buildings there.  The tallest has a flashing light on top to warn aeroplanes of its position and was the tallest in Europe when it was built.

Now four times as many people work in the area as worked in the old docks.

There are new developments all along the banks of the Thames.  Many of the buildings are flats; built to offer homes to a growing population.

The river has long been a place for festivities with royal pageants and frost fares held on ice that could be up to 25cm thick.  In Modern times, at New Year, the large firework display put on in London is situated by the Thames.  The fireworks reflect in the water to give you twice as much display!

Greenwich is interesting as well. This is where Henry VIII was born and it has the Old Royal Naval College designed by Christopher Wren.

It is now a World Heritage Site with the Royal Observatory and Planetarium.

The National Maritime Museum is there and lots of other interesting buildings.


Greenwich Park with Canary Wharf on the horizon




What do these words and phrases mean?


  1. Bed rest
  2. Bedridden/bedbound
  3. Under observation
  4. Invalided out
  5. Given a desk job









Quick Quiz


Draw a column of boxes 4 across and 11 down


Put the 4 letter answers to these clues across inside the boxes


The first letters of the answers will spell a phrase


  1. words
  2. a place to bake food
  3. the quick movement of a bird
  4. covered in hard sugar
  5. without sensation
  6. pigeon
  7. a minute particle of matter
  8. to form hair into ringlets
  9. the opposite of beautiful
  10. to harvest
  11. to prepare for publication






lt’s the Weekend!




This is a lovely set for your doll to wear when she goes to a hairdresser, beauty salon or spa.

You could make it in white, pink or another colour.



Using 4mm knitting needles and white dk yarn cast on 40 stitches

Knit 4 rows of garter stitch

Knit 1 row

Knit 3, purl 34, knit 3

Repeat the last 2 rows 13 times

Knit 4 rows of garter stitch

Cast off

Crochet 70 chains into a length of white yarn and thread it through the channel at the top of the knitting so that the gown can be tied behind the client’s neck



Using 4mm knitting needles and white dk yarn cast on 24 stitches

Knit 2 rows of garter stitch

Knit 20 rows of stocking stitch

Don’t cast off – cut your yarn off leaving an end long enough to thread the stitches through

Sew up the front seam using over-sew stitching and right sides together

Pull in the top of the cap and put running stitches down the front of the cap

Pull the cap up into folds and secure the end of the yarn you are using for sewing

Neaten all ends



Please note that the material on this blog is for personal use and for use in classrooms only.

It is a copyright infringement and, therefore, illegal under international law to sell items made with these patterns.

Use of the toys and projects is at your own risk.

©Christina Sinclair Designs 2015sand



Answers to the News Desk Quiz


What do these words and phrases mean?


  1. Bed rest – when you are poorly like when you have flu and need to stay in bed for a while
  2. Bedridden/bedbound – when you are too ill and weak to leave you bed
  3. Under observation – the nurses and doctors are watching you while you are in hospital because you are too ill to leave alone
  4. Invalided out – when you have an accident or illness and are incapable of doing your job anymore (for example a soldier)
  5. Given a desk job – you are taken off active duty because maybe you have been injured and given a job in the office in stead (for example a policeman)


Quick Quiz Answers


  1. words – text
  2. a place to bake food – oven
  3. the quick movement of a bird – flit
  4. covered in hard sugar – iced
  5. without sensation – numb
  6. pigeon – dove
  7. a minute particle of matter – atom
  8. to form hair into ringlets – curl
  9. the opposite of beautiful – ugly
  10. to harvest – reap
  11. to prepare for publication – edit


Answer = to find a cure


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