Vinegar Socks is a beautifully presented collection of natural remedies in a fantastically designed hardback book with excellent photography. The authors are Karin Berndl, a London based photographer and Nici Hofer, an art director and they have collaborated together on many projects. Both authors were born in Austria where home-made remedies are more commonplace than in other European countries. They decided to share some of their favourite home remedies which have been in their families for generations. This is apt as I find that this book always makes me start singing "My Favourite Things" from the Sound of Music whenever I look at it. This is because there’s a picture of a bee and some plasters on the front, which brings to mind the line: "When the dog bites, when the bee stings…" at least to my mind anyway.
I've always been a fan of traditional and “home” remedies for healing myself as much as possible. Of course Western medicine has its place and is very good at certain things like major traumas and surgery. I recently became very ill with a rare autoimmune condition and I know that I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the swift medical attention which I received. However now more than ever perhaps, with my immune system suppressed, I find myself looking towards traditional remedies to help me combat things like coughs and colds which I am now more susceptible to.
Each remedy in the book is divided into sections with helpful notes at the top, a section on what you need, how to complete the remedy, and why they believe that it works. The book, Vinegar Socks, is named after a popular Austrian home remedy to reduce fever by the wearing of vinegar socks. It’s a simple recipe just requiring water, vinegar, long woolly socks and a couple of towels. Organic and unpasteurised cider vinegar is recommended, into which the water is added. The socks are then soaked and applied to the patient's feet, and then the feet are wrapped in a towel to stop the bed from getting wet. The fever should reduce in about 45 minutes, however if not, then a fresh pair of socks should be soaked in the solution and placed on the patient's feet. The theory behind it is that vinegar has a stimulating effect on the blood flow and a fever reducing effect. It also acts as a boost to the immune system and helps waste products to be eliminated more quickly.
But why stop at vinegars socks, when you could make yourself a whole home remedy outfit? For example, you could wear a horseradish necklace for fever and tonsillitis and an onion hat for ear infections to complete the ensemble! Vinegar Socks has a fantastic selection of resources for the everyday ailments which we may encounter during any given year, and they don’t all involve strange herbal fashion accessories. It includes an array of different herbal teas and infusions for the sniffles, sinusitis, and sore throats.
Over the winter I’ve used their recipe for sage tea for sore throats and croakiness, and fennel tea for inflammation in the mouth and throat many times. We probably don’t think of herbal teas as medicinal remedies when we are drinking our usual peppermint or chamomile tea, but they definitely have their place when it comes to fitting in healing into your everyday routine. I also suffer with a lot of sinus pain from seasonal allergies and I found the mustard seed compress very useful in helping to relieve this.
In summary, if you are looking for an accessible introduction to herbal medicine using every day and easily obtainable ingredients, many of which you might find in the spice cupboard in your kitchen, then this book is a fantastic resource and a great place to start. Just watch out for random songs from The Sound of Music coming into your head. Or maybe embrace it while you dance around in your vinegar socks, onion hat and horseradish necklace with a skirt made out of your curtains!
Vinegar Socks by Karin Berndl & Nici Hofer
Published by Hardie Grant Books