Dr Penny Stanway

The Natural Apothecary [Book Review]

Author: Dr Penny Stanway | Self-published

I received three Natural Apothecary books via Netgalley: Baking Soda, Lemons, and Apple Cider Vinegar. I was quite excited about them, as I can always use some new tips for household cleaners and making my own products – particularly while I’m knee deep in this zero-waste challenge.

All three books were heavy on the science upfront, which I assume was designed to give them an air of credibility. While I don’t know enough about said science to authoritatively dispute the claims made in these books (more booklets, they were quite short), anytime someone starts claiming that common household products can cure all society’s ills I start to get suspicious. I mean, who am I to say that baking soda doesn’t help with gout and lemons aren’t a good cancer treatment? Maybe they’ve simply been overlooked all these years… But I’m sceptical. I’m not saying they don’t all have real benefits as part of a balanced diet… Lemons, obviously high in vitamin C – we all know that. But I found some of the health claims to be a tad unrealistic, even outlandish.

For that reason, I decided to go and look up the author. Dr Penny Stanway is apparently a GP and nutritional expert. While that does make me more inclined to trust her, I would still take any books which make these kinds of claims with a pinch of salt (my own nutritional advice).

In my researches, I also discovered that these books had been published about 8 years ago under a slightly different name and that Dr Penny had published another book called Breast is Best. One presumes this is not a slightly off colour romance… Either way, considering what I know about the breast feeding debate, it didn’t make me feel reassured.

Baking Soda wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. All three books contained some fabulous recipes for household cleaning and beauty products, but Baking Soda went a step further and recommended what the author called “an alkaline diet”. I found the idea of eating baking soda a little repugnant. There was also a somewhat uninspiring list of “alkaline” foods, which we should supposedly all be eating more. It also wasn’t exactly a shocker. Obviously, herb tea and tofu are better for you on a regular basis than steak and chips… I’m just not sure the reason for that is because of their PH level….

All in all, while I liked the recipes for different cleaning and beauty products, I can’t say I was convinced by some of the health claims. I think that making those sorts of claims is irresponsible, at best, and I won’t be recommending The Natural Apothecary books. Sorry, Dr Penny, not for this crunchy…

1 Archimedes


7 thoughts on “The Natural Apothecary [Book Review]”

  1. Oh wow, this sounds troublesome. I also love finding new uses for products like this, and baking soda can be a cleaning lifesaver for me sometimes…but when they get into serious health claims, I start getting skeptical. Like you, I also don’t have enough of a science background to be able to know right away when something is stretching the limits of what’s possible, just that too-good-to-be-true sense.

    I just read the book The Angry Chef, and he debunks a lot of claims that have been made about superfoods, and foods we’re supposed to avoid, etc. He spends a lot of time on that alkaline diet, and it is nuts! His background is in biochemistry so he’s able to explain where the thinking comes from and why it doesn’t do what it’s alleged to do. It’s not a book with helpful recipes or ideas for using certain products like it sounds like this one is, in some part, but was a really good and informative read. You might like it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The Angru Chef sounds great! I definitely need to check that out. Yeeeh, with this one it just struck me as a tad suspicious. I’m sceptical, to say the least! And it kind of annoys me when people make those sorts of claims. I just think it can be really dangerous. I mean, I like essential oils. I’m fully on board with using them to support certain things or in certain ways. But the minute people start claiming they magically cure anything, I’m out. And don’t get me started on diets…!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I get what you mean, and I think it’s the best attitude to have. If something makes you feel better in some way and you use it as a complement, that’s great. But so many people try to sell things as cure-alls or attribute near-magical abilities to them that they just scientifically don’t have. And it ends up being so sad because others place faith in them that’s unwarranted, especially when they’re desperate, and that bothers me. There was another book that came out last year about the Australian blogger who conned people into believing she’d cured her brain cancer (which she didn’t have in the first place) with her special diet, juicing, etc. The journalists who exposed her interviewed doctors and researchers who basically said if any of these things worked, we’d already be using them. There’s no conspiracy or oversight.

    Definitely try The Angry Chef, I liked it a lot and he makes the science very accessible. I’m trying to get the review together to post this week. He doesn’t address products as much, like the baking soda thing, but more myth-busting of fad diets that make broad claims but are always more about restriction. The alkaline one is quite a doozy.

    Thanks for this post, by the way, was great to read your thoughts on these!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ye, that’s my issue with it as well. People get conned by these claims, and it can end really badly. I saw that about the blogger! Madness!

    I’ve added The Angry Chef to my book list! It definitely sounds like something I need to read. And I’ll look out for your review!

    Aww, thank you!


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