Topic: The herbs

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.

The Spring has sprung herbalist

April 2014

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 displaying their rich colours and Winter’s grey starts to ebb away.  What a relief it is.  Spring has definitely started when Sunday’s dawn chorus is followed by the hum of lawnmowers!

Now is the time to think about those detoxes 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 a Spring clean:  A cold infusion of fresh herbs

These can be gathered from your local park, 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, whereby standard diuretics leach potassium from your body, dandelion assists in the elimination of excess water but replaces the potassium which leaches away with it.  Clever plant.   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 weed to many but a herbalist’s dream.  For the spring detox it is a wonderful addition.  It imparts a light flavour and the medicinal properties for which it is renowned is that of lymphatic drainage.  The lymphatic system contains clear fluids which are recycled from blood plasma.

Pick a large handful of each herb, place in a jug and cover with cold water.  Leave overnight and drink the following morning.  Feel the power of green as you imbibe this pleasant tasting fresh and natural infusion!  To make a more fragrant version, add a few leaves from a lavender plant.

Dandelions and Cleavers are gentle herbs but be very sure that what you are picking is suitable – 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. Please do not pick everything from one area, leave plenty for others and for the wildlife. It is also advisable to steer away from sites where dogs may have peed!

DISCLAIMER:  Before undertaking any form of self-medicating health activity, 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

 

 

HERBAL-REIKI RELAXATION

Advert poster

HERBAL-REIKI RELAXATION

Never heard of it before? Well, that’s because it’s probably a new thing… I think I’ve invented it!!

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?

How your appointment goes:

  • ** 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.

ALL THIS FOR JUST £35

IT’S NEW!
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.

BETA TESTERS REQUIRED :-)
As this is a new venture, I am offering you the opportunity to experience this marvellous therapy combination at a reduced price. In return, I ask that you rate & review on Google and Facebook and fill in a feedback form.

This is a one-time hugely reduced price offer so, book your places now. :-)

Hawthorn – at the heart of it all

It’s September and the hawthorn berries are looking glorious. Plump and juicy. Time to get picking.

History and folklore

Hawthorn is ominous and magical, holy to Pagans and Christians. Scottish farmers traditionally harvest 13 weeks after the blossom scents the air. It’s gorgeous and heady. ‘Cast ne’er a clout til the May be out’ – refers to remaining dressed for winter until the mayflower (or hawthorn) blossoms. Rather wonderfully, if you have hawthorn in your perimeter hedging, it will ward off the bad faeries. And, who doesn’t need a bit of protection from them in their life!?

Identifying hawthorn

But what about the berries? There are a few types of hawthorn and one way to tell the difference is in the stones inside the fruit. Crataegus monogyna has a single seed, Crataegus leavigata has more and the cross between the two plants, Crataegus oxyacanthoides usually has more too. However, for once, this distinction is more important to botanists than herbalists as we can use them all. Hurrah!

The medicine

Some of the best medicine comes from mixing the flowers, leaves and berries together. In order to do that, you have to pick them at different times. So, in September, it is the time of the berries. You can allow them to dry by laying them on a sheet of paper in a very dry, warm place such as an airing cupboard or use a dehydrator.

The flowers have a distinct almondy taste to them. This indicates the presence of constituents which are known to be active on the heart. Harvest these with the new leaves in May. Herbalists generally like to make two hawthorn medicines (leaf and flower / berries) and sometimes blend them together.

Why use hawthorn?

Herbalists use hawthorn for heart conditions in order to encourage a greater flow of blood through the heart, to strengthen and slow the heart beat without raising blood pressure. It is said that sportsmen use it as it may enhance exercise duration. It has a very low incidence of side effects and has no known contraindications. Always preferable in a medicine.

Seeking help

There are many more ways to use hawthorn which are best done with a medical herbalist. Those conditions range through arteriosclerosis, atheroma, thrombosis, angina, tachycardia, atherosclerosis and intermittent claudication. If you suffer from any of these get in touch with a herbalist and see if you work well together.

Just for fun

I made a rather tasty Hawthorn vodka (as per Sloe Gin) which has the distinct notes of almonds which indicate the presence of constituents which work with your heart. However, this is purely an occasional drink, not a medicine – there’s way too much sugar which is renowned for damaging the cardiovascular system.

Notes: None of the information included here is intended as medical advice. Please seek help from a medical herbalist when using herbs for serious, life affecting conditions. Foraging is fun so don’t forget to leave plenty behind. Pick only what you will use and pick no more than 10%. Wildlife depend on wild foods to survive.

Box Moor Trust Discovery Walk

Gloriously sunny dandelion. The lion of medicines

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.