Topic: Self care

Food Plate

Working with my patients on their health, I always look at their food choices. I say that the herbs are like your dominant hand – really effective on its own at getting things done all day long – but when you bring your other hand (food!) along to the party then that’s when we really make a difference to your health. And, those differences are the ones you are empowered to continue by yourself.

What we think we eat and what we actually eat are often quite different. We also tend to think we eat pretty healthily but once we examine it, the things we’ve put in our mouths e.g. after temptation (shop tills, TV adverts), stress and comfort eating and so on have come our way, it can turn out to be quite different to the things we have intentionally put in our mouths.

5-A-DAY? It’s just not enough. And, many of us don’t even achieve that. Aim for 8-10 instead with only two of those being sweet fruits.

My favourite way of thinking about what to eat is based on rainbows! Eating a daily rainbow of fruit and vegetable colours is a great way to get a good variety of the nutrients we need. The BHF talk about it here but mostly we don’t eat 5-a-day let alone the much more ideal 8/10-a-day. If counting portions isn’t your thing, imagine your lunch and dinner plates are 50% covered by colourful veg. Then you will hit that target. It doesn’t have to be 50% steamed veg, it includes pulses, beans and a whole heap of fun, tasty and exciting ways to eat veg like in warm or cold salads.

In my opinion, the NHS eatwell plate is not the best balanced version. I much prefer the Alliance for Natural Health plate instead (there is a different one for children under 6 years old). Look at how differently it is balanced with a strong emphasis on vegetables, low emphasis on fruit and only gluten-free grains, plenty of protein and fats and a good wallop of spices and herbs thrown in for good measure.

A wobbly screen shot of the ANH food plate!

Just think of all the wonderful meals you could eat and feed your family with if you ate like this! Does your diet look like this?

HOW I DO IT: Currently, most of my fruit eating goes on my breakfast with stewed apples (sweetened with cinnamon), some berries or dates if we’ve neither of those in the house. Lunch is often a big salad with a slice of homemade brown Spelt bread with seeds and a protein – tuna & beans, smoked salmon, occasional mortadella/salami/ham etc. We have been experimenting with recipe boxes and the veg portions in our evening meals are generally too few but as I get to know the recipes better, I will be padding them out with more veg or beans.

Sleep part 6 – Sleeping soundly

Do you sleep well?

I used to. I used to sleep so many hours and so easily. And then, I started to share a bed and, even worse (for my sleep!), became a mother… both of which seem to have interfered with my ability to fall asleep, stay asleep and remain that way until the alarm wakes me.

My sleep got broken!

How do you fix broken sleep? After all, it should be so natural, right? We’re born to it and whilst it can take a few years, we usually sleep really well as children – deep, peaceful, restful and undisturbed sleep. Not always, of course, because life happens as well, but generally, it’s that way.

I think I have fixed my sleep…

What did I do?

I have been using the most unlikely practice.

I am using ‘sleep tape’ at night. No, it isn’t an old fashioned way of talking about pre-recorded music on a cassette, I am putting medical tape over my mouth at night! Sounds weird, huh? I started 3 weeks ago and my sleep is transformed. It’s really as simple as that.

The full glory of sleep taping…

I have had the best sleep in years since I started doing this peculiar thing and I hear from others that they are experiencing the same.

CAUTION: this is not suitable if you have sinus congestion or a cold

However, there are many, many scenarios in which this may improve your sleep too!

Are you game to give it a go? What have you got to lose?

Let me know if you experiment with sleep tape and how you got on.

With thanks to Ben Wolff and James Nestor for awakening me to this idea.

The Spring herbalist

As the sun warms us up and the blossom cheers our spirits, we unfurl from our Winter hibernation ready to face the world again, much like the sticky buds of the Chestnut trees revealing their fresh, green new leaves.

The garden has leapt into life, the bulbs are gifting us their vibrant colours and Winter’s grey is finally starting to ebb away. What a relief. Spring has definitely started when Sunday’s dawn chorus is followed by the hum of lawnmowers!

Now is the time to think about those health changes which were too difficult as optimistic New Year’s resolutions in dark, dreary January.  When better to ‘spring clean’ yourself than with the lightening of the days?

Tips for aiding your Spring clean:  A cold infusion of fresh herbs

These wonderful can be gathered from your local park (watch out for dog toileting areas!), or if you’re really lucky, your garden!

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis) leaves in Spring are less bitter than later in the year. Add a few to your salads and dose yourself with natural nutrition. Dandelions are diuretic but also a rich source of potassium. So, where a pharmaceutical diuretic leaches potassium from your body, dandelion assists in the elimination of excess water but also replaces the potassium! Clever plant. I get goosebumps when I think about how complete that is. You’ll find dandelion in most places where there is grass.  The yellow flowers are a giveaway but seek out the younger, smaller leaves.

Cleavers (Galium aparine) is a rampant, climbing weed which gest everywhere but it’s a herbalist’s dream! For your ‘spring clean’ it is a wonderful addition. It gives a light green flavour with a touch of the cucumber about it. One herbalist once said to me ‘imagine all those tiny hooks scrubbing and scouring through your lymph system’; a really great analogy and something for the post-Winter remnants. Readying you to spring into Spring.

Pick a large handful of each herb, place in a jug and cover with fresh cold water. Leave overnight and pour out a cup to drink the following morning. Feel the power of the green flowing through you. Drink in the fresh vitality of live plants from this simple and natural infusion! To make a more fragrant version, add a few leaves from a lavender plant.

Herbal ID

Dandelions and Cleavers are gentle herbs but be very sure that what you are picking is the correct thing – herbal mis-identification can be serious.  It may be natural but so are plenty of deadly plants!  To be sure, use a good ID guide or ask your local herbalist. I have written about mindful foraging

DISCLAIMER:  Before dosing yourself up with wild crafted herbs, be aware that if you suffer from long-term health conditions or are pregnant, it may not be suitable for you to follow these ideas.  Please check with a qualified medical herbalist first.

It didn’t work for me

Sometimes, it just doesn’t. A bit like if you attempted to fix your car when it breaks down. If you aren’t a mechanic, you may or may not get it right.

Also, mechanics don’t always get it right first time as cars (and bodies) are complex.

However, if you tried an over-the-counter herbal preparation there may be many reasons why.

  • It wasn’t prescribed for you

When you visit a medical herbalist, you are being assessed using the same approach to understanding your body that nurses and GPs do.

A herbalist looks at everything about your health before prescribing for you.

In a shop, the staff may not have had a medical training.

  • You chose it from a list of herbal options in a book

Whilst there is nothing wrong with this, it is a symptomatic approach and which can be very helpful, it may also simply not work for you.

Herbs are complex and so are we.  To get it right may require some understanding of the herb’s full action picture before being used.

  • You chose it for symptomatic relief

Again, there is nothing wrong with that but the cause of your symptoms is not addressed when you just treat the symptoms. Symptom relief is often very effective with herbal treatment but is not going to stop the illness. It also doesn’t take into account how a few apparently minor symptoms may all contribute to the same condition and the herb of choice wasn’t treating all of those things.

  • It wasn’t good quality

Some of the herbal supplements available in shops use different plant parts than those which are used by herbalists. For example, Echinacea is a brilliant herb. Herbalists use the root. Some capsules contain leaf and root. Now, the leaf also contains some of the good stuff but nothing like as much as the root.

Book in to see a medical herbalist for the choice of herbs which will best suit your body’s needs. 07492 511 366

Sleep Part 4 – Over-The-Counter remedies

Over-The Counter remedies

There are lots of over-the-counter (OTC) sleep preparations. They can really help and some are excellent. There are two things about them which I don’t like:

  • They are often standardised extracts rather than full profile herbs
  • They usually contain valerian root
  • They may not actually have all that much herb in them.

Valeriana officinalis is a go-to sleep herb for many people and lots of herbalists. However, if you’ve ever taken it and found yourself MORE AWAKE after taking them than before, the chances are you’re like me (and roughly 5% of people), and you react in the opposite way to valerian!

Wow. Yes, it is possible to take a sleep herb and be more awake.

That kind of experience tends to give herbs a bad reputation. If you take something and it doesn’t work, you’re then likely to assume that all things like it also don’t work. After all, it’s been manufactured and then sold in a pharmacy, so it must be good.

Also, valerian root can leave people feeling a little muggy the day after, like they have a bit of a hangover. So, taking larger quantities may not be a great idea.

I prefer that the herbs I take are whole plant. If it is root, then I mean all of the root rather than pulling out the known constituent from the herb which is currently shown by research to be the active one. As a herbalist, I like the synergy which occurs between the constituents and how they inter-react. This is something which is hard to quantify and get scientifically accepted proof for. But, it has been shown that for example, the plants from which we can derive salicylic acid have constituents which protect stomachs unlike the synthetic derivative known as aspirin. There is an intelligence in the full spectrum of the plant and I prefer to have that in its entirety in my medicines.

I like collections of different herbs in a sleep mix. Then you get the benefits of a range of different ways in which your sleep is improved. It might be that you need to still your mind, relax your body or cool down from overheating.

I talk more about the different ways to improve your sleep in further posts on sleep. Look for Parts 5 and beyond.

Do you want to work on your sleep? Please get in touch as herbs are a gentle, non-addictive way to really improve the quality and length of your sleep.

Eating for Retirement

 

Saving for your retirement is now an absolute necessity if you wish to have any chance of autonomy over your living care arrangements. Perhaps you have a private and state pension and feel well covered for eventualities.

Eating for your retirement may sound like a strange concept. For me, it’s like an additional pension.

Dr Lisa Mosconi is a brain specialist who began in the field of genetics. Tough science. As her career progressed and her knowledge increased she started to find questions from her patients were unanswerable. “My parents both have Alzheimer’s, so my genetic predisposition is higher than average, what do I eat to change that?”

So, first of all, we have to get our head around the idea that genes are NOT SET IN STONE! We don’t have to live out our parents’ diseases. We can influence the expression of our genes with our environmental choices and that means lifestyle and food choices.

Dr Mosconi sees brain scans a lot. On those scans, she finds the somewhat shocking information that our brains can show signs of the deterioration of dementia in our 40s and 50s. Long before the cognitive symptoms that become visible usually in our 70s.

What if we could do something about that?

Well, actually, we can. Dr Mosconi studied nutrition to start looking for answers for her patients. And suggests these are 5 of the top things we can do for our brain health:

  1. Drink more water
  2. Eat caviar (!!) or any fish roe, or oily fish
  3. Eat dark leafy greens
  4. Eat berries (including the ones which don’t have vast carbon footprints!)
  5. Use lots of extra virgin olive oil

I don’t know about you, but I can hear a dozen recommendations but unless I know the whys and wherefores, they don’t have as much impact on me.

 

So, number 1 – every function of the brain requires water for the chemical reactions taking place. When we don’t have enough, we impair those functions and dehydration causes our brains to shrink! Our brains are 80% water. 2l per day is enough.

Set an alarm, reminder or put notes about the house. Drink more water!

Number 2 – Eat caviar. Fish eggs are like a microcosm of the macrocosm of our brains! They contain a very similar balance of brain chemicals and so eating it is direct brain food. All fish eggs are beneficial. Oily fish (including wild tinned salmon or anchovies) is also useful and, they all contain the DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) part of Omega 3 fatty acids which the brain needs.

Number 3 – Berries! Everyone tells us to eat berries. Blackberries (are free!) have the most comprehensive antioxidant properties. Gooseberries are also marvellous. Grow a few bushes in the garden and allow some blackberry plants to remain! Blasted weeds… they always win out in the end. 🙂

Number 4 – dark leafy greens. We’re all talking about them but the phytonutrients contained in leafy greens are protective of the plant and also of us. They have disease fighting capabilities! Wild greens are even better (a-ha, the herbalist awakes once more…)

Number 5 – Extra virgin olive oil. Full of goodness in the form of Omega 3s and vitamin E – which is renowned for its anti-ageing properties. It is also protective of the heart so it’s like a 360 degree goodness.

Get used to having these things on the menu. Get creative. So far, I can only think of fish eggs as a topping for eg blinis but there must be more ways than that!

Nigel Slater says that tinned salmon is only useful for fish cakes. Now, that sounds like a great way to get that oily fish in and use up left over spuds.

Stick a big handful of organic spinach leaves on your plate under your meal. It will wilt if it’s hot and contribute to the salad if it’s cold. YUM!

Water – tap is fine. Spring is ideal. Plastic free is best. 🙂

And berries, well, let’s get picking this Autumn…..

If you are concerned about your brain health, call me to chat about herbs which can support your brain and cognitive health alongside these wonderful foods.

Lockdown. Loneliness

21 Jan 2021 Written By Lucy Blunden. Image by Anthony Tran.

I hate it. I really hate it.

I am extrovert and so I gain energy from interactions with others. I restore my soul in conversation and connection. This is not natural for me.

At the same time, I am accepting, feel that it is necessary, understand that others believe that it isn’t but that we’re all gripped by something we can do nothing about. NOTHING. ABOUT!!!!!

Feel the pain in acknowledging that. We can do nothing about it. We are beholden to the political whims whether or not we agree with them. We can do nothing about it.

Or can we?

This is not an invitation to insurrection or even an incitement to use your right to demonstrate.

This is an invitation to Tap with me.

WHAT? How will hitting myself be of benefit in this situation? Surely that borders on personally damaging not fortifying?

Yes, I am inviting you to use EFT-Tapping to address the things you can change and find the strength to accept those that you cannot.

What am I talking about? Well, your feelings, of course.

I am a Tapping Evangelist and make no apologies for it. After years of talk therapy (which I value highly, BTW) I have found that my ‘truth, way and light’ is in tapping. It is truly transformational on a deep personal level for both me and my clients. (I do love a therapy which benefits both sides at the same time.)

The beauty of tapping is that you can release the ‘grrrr, arrrrrgh and uuuumph’ without even saying what they are. Without accessing their potent depths and without even re-awakening them from their slumber. And, because we are using the meridian lines within our bodies, we are also using that which we already possess to bring relief and resolution to ourselves.

I would love you to join me as we address our feelings in lockdown. My fortnightly ‘Catching the Tapping bug’ is a fantastic way to release feelings, connect with others (yes, online) and share the relief of release.

Each session is 45 mins and happens every other Thursday at 2030 GMT. I address all things which are requested for inclusion and we all tap together.

The community feel is wonderful. The togetherness is nourishing. The support of sharing is uplifting.

AND, your first session is free. I look forward to welcoming you.

Click the link to join us. ZOOM DETAILS: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/73875049349?pwd=U2RUQmpSNlVVUjE1Z3AwQ0xhM1hUUT09 or use the following access information:- Meeting ID: 738 7504 9349 Password: Welcome

Eat yer greens

Eat yer greens

We all know we need to eat our greens. But, why?

For me, both as herbalist and human, the most important aspect of eating up greens is that they stimulate your liver into action. Our livers are a fundamental organ which we cannot live without (and ’tis strange therefore that we have only the one!). It breaks down for elimination the ‘non-self’ chemicals in our bloodstreams. Greens contain nutrients which trigger the break down process. This is the normal and natural part of detoxification which our body undertakes every day.

Once broken down, we then need the colour chemicals in dark fruits and veg which then remove the things we no longer need.

This includes hormones (it’s not just about sex you know! but also the hormones triggered by stress and other bodily processes), microbes, things we breathed in as we walked down a busy street… the list is endless. But, can you see how important it is?

Don’t like greens?

Well, at this point, I’m tempted to say “TOUGH LUCK” as my parents would have!!! However, as that’s probably not very constructive, I’ll modify it to…

Find different ways of preparing them.

Perhaps you’ll like them better stir fried and crunchy with sesame oil and sesame seeds instead of steamed or boiled to death?

Chop spinach finely and liberally smother with a home-made olive oil vinaigrette – what’s not to like?

If all else fails, look for some green smoothie recipes (but keep the fruit content low).

Include them daily and watch your health improve. And, you’ll start to find you like them after all…

Box Moor Trust Discovery Walk

Wonderful weather and despite the dry months, plentiful medicines.

We started right outside the Trust centre with the only remaining green on the lawn – the trusty dandelion. In herbal medicine, we use all parts of the dandelion, the leaves are good bitters which are also diuretic, enabling the body to rid itself of excess water. The roots stimulate the production of bile which acts as a natural laxative. The medicine of the flowers is a recent discovery for me and when infused in oil, they make a great rub for sore muscles and arthritic joints.

The next stop was the elder, a folklore fantasy and medicine maker’s dream. Medicines can be made from every part. Flowers for toning the nasal mucous membranes, the berries as a powerful anti-viral to keep you well all winter and the leaves an ointment for bruises and sprains.

The dreaded thug, the bramble delivers a tannin-y tonic tea from the leaves and when taken strong and frequently, can assist with diarrhoea. The berries deliver a fruity punch when added to elder and rose hips for winter elixirs.

Broad leaved plantain growing along the centre of the track up the lane (it likes a grubby spot!) as an anti-histaminic allergy reducer and a poultice to draw out snakebite venom!

A couple of sprigs of St John’s Wort still with its bright yellow flowers, radiating the suns rays.

Hawthorn, the bread and cheese plant which used to feed travelling wayfarers and a stalwart of the herbal apothecary with medicines in leaves, flowers and berries.

I had a great audience from the Box Moor Trust and interested listeners. It was great to see plenty of new faces and greet some familiar ones. Thank you to all who came along. A thoroughly enjoyable meander up the hot and dusty lane.