Old fashioned remedies for troubled skin

Michelle Berriedale-Johnson interviews a retired pharmacist whose simple creams have brought relief to eczema and psoriasis sufferers.

June 2009. Soon after this interview Sheila had a stroke (see below) and although she is much better attempts to restart making the creams have not been successful. Sadly, the recipes for her creams are very muddled and although she obviously understood them, her family have been unable to make enough sense out of them to recreate them safely.

Sheila Davies’ cottage, buried deep in the Cornish countryside outside Bodmin, was once owned by her gamekeeper uncle. When it came up for auction 20 years ago, even though it was in a bad state of repair, Sheila knew she had to buy it. The cottage is not luxurious but it suits her well and along with her labrador, her highly productive hens and her amazingly lush garden, she is largely self-sufficient.

Sheila is a retired pharmacist whose baby grandson, 18 years ago, suffered badly from eczema and skin problems - as had his father before him. Concerned by the fact that her daughter was vegan and that the child was not getting sufficient nutrients Sheila crushed B vitamin tablets in boiling water, pounded them in a pestle and mortar and mixed them with a little safflower, sunflower, wheat germ and olive oil to make an ointment which she sent home with him. Within weeks, his skin was clear.

Sheila thought no more about it until her daughter started to forward requests from other mothers at her son’s school asking for some of that excellent ‘pink cream’ that cleared up Orie’s eczema. So, she made some more, and some more, finally setting up a little dispensing room in her back bedroom and taking orders from word-of-mouth customers who came to see her from all over England.

Sheila believes that many skin problems are triggered by poor nutrition - particularly a lack of B vitamins as a result of the almost total lack of offal in our diet. Experience has also taught her that certain foods almost always exacerbate skin problems - especially eczema - in atopic people. Top of her list are tomatoes, followed by oranges, cheddar cheese and highly coloured sweets. To achieve a nutritious diet she is particularly keen on offal, goat’s milk, full cream organic yogurts, pure butter, wheat germ and cod liver oil.

Anyone who visits her or wishes to order any of her creams will be quizzed about their diet and given or sent a very simple diet sheet as well as a list of suggestions for coping with eczema and psoriasis. She suggests tiny amounts of tea tree oil and oil of lavender in bath water (although not for very small children), dead sea salts and a home-made solution of marigold flowers as soothing and cooling. She maintains that aqueous creams should only be used for washing as 65% of children are irritated by them when used as a hydrating cream.

Sheila makes two creams for eczema and psoriasis - the lemon cream and a stronger ‘pink’ cream. Both contain vitamins and oils plus old-fashioned skin soothing remedies such as camomile, zinc oxide and coal tar - a long-established treatment for psoriasis. The creams should be used in rotation (she gives you strict instructions) and little and often - up to 12 or 14 times a day to begin with.

Sheila makes no claims for her creams or her regimes - but has sheafs of letters from skin problem sufferers (and parents of eczematous children) thanking her for her help. One Foods Matter subscriber to whom we sent the creams to try on his psoriasis has also reported significant improvements.

The eczema and psoriasis creams are very reasonable at £8-9 for a 45g pot plus postage and packing. Sheila also makes two cleansing creams based on Cornish beeswax - also £9 for a 45g pot.

Nota Bene - 2009

We are very sad to have to report that only days after the above article had been printed we heard that Sheila Davies had had a stroke and was in hospital in Truro.

We have spoken to her son several times since - he has come from New Zealand to look after her. He says that she is making good progress, but still has a way to go. He had been hoping to be able to adapt her cottage to accommodate her reduced mobility as, understandably, she is desperate to get home to her dog, her chickens and her garden - not to mention her pestle and mortar to make her creams!

We will update you on Sheila’s progress as soon as we hear of it.

Nota Bene - 2013

Sadly, we have received no further news regarding Sheila or her creams.

August 2015

We have just heard that Sheila died only a few weeks ago, with her family around her. She had had to stop making her creams after her stroke as her memory was no longer quite good enough to remember all her formulations, but she had a very happy and fullfilled last few years and died at peace.

First published January 2007, updated 2009, 2013 and 2015.