Medicine Cabinets are Revealing Places

At Foyle’s Bookshop on Charing Cross Road in London, we discover a humorous collection of travel guides.

Americans GuideThe titles begin with The Xenophobe’s Guide to… and end with the name of a country. We thought The Xenophobe’s Guide to the Americans especially funny (and quite accurate) and bought two copies. One section in the book outlined the contents one is likely to find in a typical American medicine cabinet (it turns out medicine cabinets are interesting revealers of cultural maladies and worries). The American cabinet is likely to contain:

Deodorant, because Americans worry about odor.

Antacids, because indigestion is part of the American way of life (and diet).

Allergy, sinus and headache medication, especially during pollen seasons.

Tranquillizers or anti-depressants, to alleviate the stress of being American.


On a tour of a Hearst Castle, I am eager to study the contents of the 1920’s-30’s medicine cabinet I find in the huge and wonderful kitchen. It’s interesting to see if our maladies (and worries) have evolved over time.

Hearst Castle med cab

If you peek closely, you might be able to see:

Psyllium seed (natural remedy for digestion)

Mother’s Mustard Plaster

Collyrium, a “soothing eye lotion”

Boric Acid

And something called Butesin Picrate, a local anesthetic (probably for burns)

Aussies Guide


The Xenophobe’s Guide to the Aussies is just as interesting as the guide for the Americans. Furthermore, we learn that one is likely to find different things in their medicine cabinets. In addition to calamine and insect bite lotions, “sunburn prevention creams and at least three different degrees of sun block, each in 57 different luminous shades, plus sunburn treatment for the times when prevention didn’t work.” The worry about sun makes sense, as Aussies have a high incidence of skin cancer due to the intense sun.

Among a few other things in our fairly empty medicine cabinet, you will find Natalie’s and my homemade deodorant (see recipe at,  a bottle of black elderberry extract for fighting a cold, Boiron’s chelidonium majus (a homeopathic remedy for occasional acid indigestion), and arnica gel (for sore muscles).  I think it might be true that our medicine cabinets reveal interesting things about who we are!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Anti-Spam Quiz: