Consultant sees study on Roald Dahl’s ‘George’s Marvellous Medicine’ published by British Medical Journal | Research news

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Consultant sees study on Roald Dahl’s ‘George’s Marvellous Medicine’ published by British Medical Journal

George's Marvellous Medicine graphic

A Consultant has published an interesting piece of research based on Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book ‘George’s Marvellous Medicine’ which discourages children from creating their own remedies to treat illnesses and injuries.

Dr Graham Johnson, Emergency Medicine Consultant at Royal Derby Hospital, has co-authored a study with Dr Patrick Davies at Nottingham Children’s Hospital, called ‘Is George’s ‘Marvellous Medicine’ medically useful, dangerous, or both?’, and it has this week been published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

The study looks into what the effects would be if someone did ingest George’s medicine that he famously concocts in the 1981 book to make his grandma a little less grouchy.

The study was conducted with their children as a project during the first lock-down. Dr Johnson said: “We have looked at data which suggests that most unintentional poisonings happen at home and so we decided to investigate the toxic and therapeutic potential of this medicine and compare the known effects with those described in the book.”

The five children read the book, noting the ingredients of the medicine, which includes ingredients don’t like the word things…..such as lipstick, shoe polish and ‘extra hot’ chilli sauce. They provided the list to Drs Johnson and Davies who then cross referenced them against the National Poisons Information Service (ToxBase) poisons database.

Dr Johnson said: “Essentially, if ‘grandma’ had ingested the medicine in real life, she wouldn’t have done very well! We worked with the children to show them that the effects of the ingredients would be nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and potentially life-threatening conditions such as kidney injury, convulsions, unconsciousness and damage to the stomach and oesophagus.”

The aim of the study was to highlight to children how dangerous ingesting such concoctions can be and ensure that they don’t practice such medicine-making in their own homes. The Drs Johnson and Davies are however keen to promote scientific experimentation and further the understanding of science in a fun way. They, together with their children, have produced two additional versions of the paper that are reading-age appropriate for primary and secondary school children.

The study concluded that: “It is unlikely that children will recreate each step in the making of a marvellous-type medicine, but it is worth being cautious as some of the household ingredients used by George are considerably dangerous and commonly cause severe morbidity in children.

“Although parents might encourage scientific exploration and experimentation in their children, it would be wise to check any medicinal ingredients for potential toxicity before use,” they conclude.

Access the journal entry on BMJ website (opens in new window) >

Download child-friendly version for reading age of 9-10 (opens in new window) [pdf] >

Download child-friendly version for reading age of 14-15 (opens in new window) [pdf] >