Topic: The herbalist

Autumnal bug-share

The school’s are nearly going back, the leaves have begun to fall (yup, I know, we’ve hardly had summery weather in the UK this year and we’re already heading into the darkness). And, after all this isolation, distancing and more with Covid-19 measures, we’re going to start mingling our germs too. Usually, that would be OK. In fact it still is, as being exposed to new mildly pathogenic microbes is part of keeping a strong and fit immune system.

HOWEVER, it also means that we are being bombarded with the potential for those seemingly endless Autumnal and Winter infections.

Do you seem to get every bug going? Are you constantly streaming with snot and snuffling, sneezing and coughing? Are you worried that you’ll catch everything the children do but worse?

I can help.

Herbs are brilliant at managing symptoms of these kinds of self-limiting, minor infections, shortening the duration and preventing them occuring in the first place.

You have a couple of options for working on this with me:

A mini consultation where we discuss you most usual symptoms and how the infection progresses and I make you up a special herbal tincture mix to take in small doses as prevention and then an ’emergency’ mix for if you do get something. These can be teas or tincture blends.

Children’s appointments – Children respond so well to herbs. They are brilliant as their bodies are less stuck in habits and habitual ways. I love working with them as they are so honest about what happens to them. My 4-year-old loves my ‘bogey picking nail’ (which is just a long pinkie finger nail which happens to fit up her nose for those chunky boogers she’s not yet old enough to care about! She loves taking her herbal syrups and often reminds me to dose her up each day.

A Winter wellness plan for the whole season. This is an in-depth treatment plan of herbs, food, lifestyle and tapping to prime your immune system for the winter. You’ll receive weekly emails filled with tips on feeding your immune system with great foods and herbs and a tapalong video. You have 1-2-1 sessions with me to keep yourself on track with the lifestyle changes specific to you. I’ll also create an emergency tincture mix in case anything passes your new resilience and a special early bird tea blend bonus. Click here to find out more. We begin in October.

Kills 99.9% of all known… life form?

Look around you. How many products in your house say kills 99.9% of all known germs? Does that feel good to you? I am really upset by those labels and I’ll share with you why that is.

Did you know that 99.9% also includes the beneficial ones which keep us healthy? These bacteria are called commensal. They live with us, on us and are there to protect us. Our skin requires a strong colony of specific commensal bacterium to remain in protective balance. Every time you use antibacterial agents, you wipe this away, leaving your skin potentially vulnerable to colonisation with other, possibly less ‘friendly’ bacterium.

WASH YOUR HANDS: We’re being advised to clean our hands every where we go. This is good practice. Sanitising agents are not.

SANITISERS: Anything with less than 60% alcohol will slow the growth of some tougher microbes but not kill them. 60-90% is the best at getting rid of them but there there’s the additional issue of alcohol drying out the skin on the hands which will make it less supple and more prone to cracking. Cracked skin is a much poorer defence making us vulnerable to bacteria invading our skin altogether. Doesn’t sound good, does it?

So, what should we do instead? It has been shown that plain old bars of soap and hot water do the job the best. It gets your hands the cleanest and doesn’t flood the waterways with antibacterial agents which contribute to bacterial resistance.

SOAP: Soap on the other hand, is good at destroying the membranes of the microbes which kills them. The friction of hand washing, combined with the addition of running water all help remove grease and grime as well as unwanted bacteria.

So, wash your hands as soon as you get home. Wash your hands before you eat. Wash your hands after you visit the loo. Most of this advice is not new. It’s good, normal hygiene practise.

DRY SKIN? Ultimately, all this additional hand washing is not great for the skin on our hands. In order to keep my skin supple and free from chapping, I make a beautiful, thick, nutritive and deeply penetrating ‘Skin Salve-ation’ in small heart shapes or in wooden trinket pots. I carry it and use it all the time but the best thing is to put it on thickly late evening and allow it to all penetrate through the night. BUY IT HERE

BREAD EXPERIMENT: Have you seen this experiment with school children and slices of bread? Whether or not it is a great experiment, what it shows is that using sanitiser doesn’t actually clean your hands all that well. And, if you use an anti-BACTERIAL one, it won’t be effective on viruses and fungi (dependent on level of alcohol present). [What is also shows is that sliced bread which hasn’t been wiped on grubby little fingers doesn’t go mouldy after a week in a sealed bag… hmmm, not sure that’s all that great either, TBH! My fresh, homemade bread without preservative beyond a little salt would be getting mouldy by then!]

CLOTHES: Do you really need your normal, everyday clothes free from bacteria? Do you think that using antibacterial agents in your washing machine is going to make much difference to your clothes? I would anticipate that once hung, these damp clothes are unlikely to remain bacteria free. But, even if they do get bacteria on them, are those bacteria actually *harmful to us? If they’re in the environment around us, they really shouldn’t be. Therefore, once again, if we choose those wash powders, what we are doing is polluting the waterways with antibacterial agents for no apparent benefit.

Like in a previous article, I wrote about my concerns about what we will do when we no longer have antibiotics to protect us from nasty infections. I have genuine fears as we have continually over-used them on everything regardless of what i would consider to be actual need. For my money, I would far rather use herbs to treat minor infections (at which they can be so effective), avoid the gut biome destruction and resultant thrush/windy gut etc that comes with it. I successfully treat cystitis, UTIs, coughs, colds and other bacterial sequelae of viral infections all the time.

If you are concerned about a minor infection, use of antibiotics, talk to me about my Mini Consultation where we discuss a current, acute medical concern after which I prescribe a short course of herbs to treat the condition.

*NOTE: This does not apply to eg medical uniforms where potential contamination with infectious substances is possible. But, soap and a hot wash should also sort that out.

**Photo is a screen snip from this article: https://www.matconlist.com/2019/12/school-science-experiments-for-kids-bread-experiment.html

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.

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.

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.

Chilli tincture

On the left is the 10-days of infusing and the right shows just as I’d put them together. That good change in colour shows that the constituents from the chillies are moving into the alcohol solution and, I’m pretty sure that were I to taste it, I would know that at least some of the properties of the chilli are in the alcohol!!! Ho-o-o-o-ot!

More fun in the kitchen with raw chillies!

Lots of chopping and really keen awareness of not rubbing eyes, noses or anything else! Last time I did this, even after washing my hands, I blew my nose and ended up with chilli burn up my nose!!!! Not to be recommended…

Many of the prescriptions I make are in the form of tinctures. These alcohol extractions are easy to blend, simple to take and quick and easy for the patient. Compliance is often better than with teas.

When I use chilli tincture in a prescription

If you think about what chilli does, it gets the blood moving, it warms you up and it clears the head. But, it’s likely that the main reason would be to create some stimulating action in the patient. There are a dozen reasons why someone might benefit from a proverbial kick up the bottom and chilli can do just that. Because of its heat, it’s moving. When things begin to move more in the body, other things can start to change.

There are physiological benefits but I’m often thinking about the energies in the body as well. If you have become really stuck in a rut of symptoms, then, especially if you really feel the cold, a dose of chilli can be just what you need to get things moving.

It’s not for everyone. Some people simply can’t tolerate the heat of it. And it would be disastrous in someone with peri-menopausal hot flushes for fairly obvious reasons – you don’t give a hot person more heat!

But, when it is right for you, it can feel like heaven and earth are moving, slowly, in the right direction. Finally!

How seeing a herbalist works – 1

Before we even meet…

I have a 15-min free chat with potential patients before we meet. I think this is crucial as it helps us to know whether we think we might work well together.

A big part of any complementary medicine appointment is the therapeutic relationship. If you don’t like me, that just won’t be there. And vice versa! 🙂

I explain how I work and give you some things to do before we even meet!

  • pre-appointment medical health questionnaire
  • food & drinks journal
  • quiz

Yes, I am a big fan of the quiz. It’s by Gretchen Rubin who looks at how we respond to making changes. Herbal medicine treatment generally requires quite a few lifestyle and dietary changes in addition to taking the herbs I prescribe. After all, you want something about your health to change. That’s why you’re seeking help.

BUT, those changes to your health don’t happen without you making changes too. And, if you aren’t ready for that, it’s going to be an uphill battle for us both. Frankly, there’s likely to be little point trying!

I sometimes say it’s a little like tying your non-dominant hand behind your back. You can go about your life pretty well, but it’s so much better when you can use both your hands. (In this little analogy, the herbs are your dominant hand and the changes I ask of you are your non-dominant hand)

This way, I know how you will best respond to suggestions of change, what other health challenges you have faced and will have a snapshot of how you fuel your body. I get a lot of fodder from these inputs and that enables us to focus our time together on why you are coming to see me.

HERBAL-REIKI RELAXATION

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I practised Reiki some years ago but stopped working with clients after moving but continued to use this marvellous energy medicine on myself.

Then, I qualified as a herbalist and moved into a different paradigm.

NOW, IT’S TIME TO BRING THEM TOGETHER!  So… what happens?

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  • ** medical history

  • ** a delicious infusion of relaxing and nourishing herbs

  • ** 45 mins of Reiki treatment

A quiet contemplative space to be you, where you are and at peace. The air filled with lush essential oils or incense and sounds of nature.

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After keeping Herbs and Reiki as separate practices, it now feels right to bring them together. I have a deep sense that the two modalities will complement each other.

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