I tend to think of herbs as slow medicines. As a gradual shift back into health and wellness. As a re-education. But, sometimes, they are just as powerful as pharmaceuticals. And, they can surprise me at how little can have such a positive impact on someone!
I gave a talk for a local WI this week. After a few days, I got an email. It went like this:
I was at the W I on Tuesday evening,and I had the best nights sleep I have had for months
WOW! What an amazing testimonial. I am so thrilled that herbs have had this effect for her (I don’t think it was the effect of my talk as I am far too bouncy for that!)
One of the actions of Rosemary is sedative but I had always assumed it was only mild because it has such a perky smell and is stimulant in some of its actions! A great lesson for me.
I gave each person in attendance a fingerful of tea in a cup. To my mind, it was enough to truly get a taste of it and that was about all.
It seems I was wrong.
And, I am delighted to have been wrong. It shows me that there are other ways to think about what I do and reminds me that there are other outcomes from those which I might expect. It’s good to be pushed out of our zone of comfort.
It also reminds me not to underestimate the power of the herbs. After all, our most potent anodynes come from plants, as do our most addictive substances.
I now welcome Rosemary with open arms to my sleep herb armoury. I have used it in many ways prior to now but never considered it for a sleep mix. This also has a poweful potential in symbiosis with the other actions of Rosemary. There are many situations in which I would now add this herb to a blend for someone. How very exciting.
Thank you for showing me your other side, little green one.
So, we all know how it feels to be stressed. We all know what it’s like in our bodies, in our minds and how it impacts on us.
Or, do we?
Do you notice the relentless micro-stressors in your daily life? Do you feel the constant onslaught of more things to do and get done, more blips on your phone nagging at you, your children tugging your sleeve wanting things and maybe your partner asking for things from you too?
Sometimes, you will and you feel ok about it and sometimes, it all builds up into TOO MUCH and that’s when we might eg shout at someone we love and then feel guilty. It’s a relentless cycle sometimes.
How can herbs help me with that? That’s just in my head, isn’t it? It’s up to me to be more controlled and in control of myself. Right?
How’s that been going for you?
As a herbalist, I have an entire armoury of wonderful medicines at my disposal to support you. There are different ways of approaching it. If you are feeling stressed and that’s the predominant feature, I can prescribe one out of many different adaptogens. These literally do what they say – they assist your mind and body adapt to stress.
My most recent work with a patient who is taking the lovely adaptogen Withania somnifera has been remarkable. Withania is indicated in many scenarios but particularly for the ‘tired and wired’ and can be brilliant for busy, working mums. We’re also using EFT-tapping and she’s finding the ramifications of the double-pronged approach and subtle changes to be really far-reaching:
She is calmer at work, choosing to lead with love (she’s in what she describes as a ruthless industry)
She has told me that she has chosen the humble path with her husband and that an argument was diffused and she felt much stronger and less petty
These changes are not directed by me, she is growing them from within her as she feels stronger and more at peace. How much more peaceful (and less stressful) are the choice of humility and love? Those outcomes may not completely resonate for you but these outcomes feel right for this person.
Don’t forget nervines…
A medicinal preparation, usually of herbal origin, which is said to act on the nervous system, reduce anxiety and tension (nervine relaxant), and stimulate or strengthen neural function.
Nervines calm you by soothing and nourishing the nervous system. We have a wide variety of nervine herbs with subtly differing actions – some also support the digestion, some support the gynaecological system, some the muscularskeletal system and others the cardiovascular system. I choose the herbs which align most closely with your experience. Is feeling stressed sending your blood pressure through the roof? There’s a herb for that. Are you getting palpitations when you’re uptight? There’s a herb for that. Do you get bloating in your belly? There’s loads of herbs for that!
I would use a nervous system trophorestorative when someone’s body is far out of whack with what would be considered normal rhythms and responses. Perhaps you’re a hypervigilant new mum who can’t fall asleep as every noise triggers an ‘alarm’ response preventing the ‘permission’ to sink into sleep. Or a distressed student who is feeling totally overwhelmed and panicked by the volume of work they have to tackle and the upcoming assessments and deadlines. Maybe the business person who lies awake half the night, then eventually oversleeps and ends up dashing for the train every morning…
Maybe one of those describes you?
When we work together and using herbs and healthful food choices to nudge the body back to a state of wellness and the EFT to clear out habitual patterns of emotional responses, we can, almost literally, move mountains. Those old thought patterns get tapped away so that the herbally nourished body can flourish.
I have seen it time and again. When our frenetic brains lead the way and we forget our bodies, then we can move out of balance and into a situation of illness. Often something with no name but a collection of life-impacting symptoms. Maybe it’s a dodgy digestion, hurting head, aches and pains, tired all the time…? There are so many annoying ways our clever body devises to send out the SOS signals. My job is to hear them and help you to find the best ways to soothe them and take notice in a constructive, reparative way.
Sounds difficult? Not got time? We do it in ways which work for you and with your routines. Baby steps or giant leaps, whatever you need and are ready for. There is no set path as it is entirely tailored to you. Every prescription is different. Every bit of advice on food and lifestyle. Each takes into account what you can do and manage. This mountain is not moved in one day and not by you on your own. We’re in this together, picking up the pebbles and step-by-step, moving your mountain.
Let’s do it! Contact me to support you in choosing the pebbles to move to become a less stressed and healthier you.
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 planfor 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.
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.
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.
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
You’re not sleeping well. You feel like you haven’t had a proper night’s sleep in a long time. I hear you. It’s an awful feeling. You know that everything in your body is not functioning optimally and you are putting yourself at higher risk of every ailment and serious disease going.
So, what do you do?
First things first, the research shows that the more we worry about not getting to sleep or having enough sleep, the less well we sleep! So, STOP WORRYING ABOUT IT!
What do you mean that didn’t work?
It’s so much easier said than done. I remember right in the midst of my new-baby no sleep phase that I felt like I was broken. That my ability to sleep had been broken. I thought I would never sleep again. And, I thought I would die through lack of sleep. I felt terrible. I spent so long teetering right on the edge of being asleep but as soon as I noticed, or my partner moved, or the radiator creaked, I would ping back into wakefulness. I lay awake in my bed for hours failing. It became a place I loathed.
So, how do we stop thinking about not sleeping? How do we shift out of being ‘a bad sleeper’ into being someone who doesn’t have a label for their sleep, they just do it.
Warning: no quick solution!
We start with the daytime. We listen to our inner voice and hear how we are talking to ourselves. How are we mentioning our sleep? What do you hear?
What do you hear?
‘I’m such a bad sleeper’ ‘I’m an insomniac’ ‘I just can’t seem to get a good night’s sleep’
I think our brains and our thoughts are very powerful. When we tell ourselves these things repeatedly even if it seems as though it is just the truth of the situation, how can our bodies do anything but continue to obey?
I think this is a very powerful concept and one I use a lot when I work with my herbal patients and EFT clients.
I needed a lot of extra help to get back the skill of sleep. I wish I had known of the tools I now have and use with my patients. I think I would have been in a very different situation from the one I actually found myself in. And, in spite of that wish, I know that I learned a huge amount from my experience as that drove me to look for more tools. I also firmly believe that the best we can do with our toughest paths is to find the silver lining and use it to our eventual advantage which is where I am now. I know that my skill set is so suited to that kind of situation that I can help more and more people who feel like they are beyond help.
Read Part 5 in my series on sleep to hear about how I help myself and others to get a good night’s sleep.
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.
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:
Drink more water
Eat caviar (!!) or any fish roe, or oily fish
Eat dark leafy greens
Eat berries (including the ones which don’t have vast carbon footprints!)
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.
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!
The jar on the left was immediately after putting the oil and chillies together. The jar on the right is after they have been infusing for just 10 days! What an incredible change in colour.
Chilli oil. Sounds yummy, right? But, I’m not making it for oral consumption! What do I use it for in my practice? Well, it goes particuarly nicely in creams for conditions such as arthritis and psoriasis.
Chilli is what’s called a rubefacient and we deliberately use those properties to stimulate a healing response from the body.
rubefacient [ roo-buh–fey-shuhnt ]
adjective causing redness of the skin, as a medicinal application.
noun: Medicine/Medical. a rubefacient application, as a mustard plaster.
Nettle stings are a rubefacient. Now, I can imagine that you are wincing at the thought of a deliberate application of nettles… yes, it’s not fun, but what does it do and why do some people choose to do it?
The essential purpose behind it from a herbalist’s point of view, is to stimulate circulation. When you stimulate circulation, you bring nutrients in the form of oxygen and all the other goodies in your blood and you take away all the waste such as by- products of inflammation.
So, you see, there is method in the apparent madness…
Nettle stings are a traditional rubefacient for arthritic joints – and many swear by it. The Romans were reputed to use them to warm themselves when in cold, damp Britain. Anecdotally, I know the wife of a man who fell into a patch of nettles, was horrendously stung all over but has never had his severe and stubborn hayfever again. (That’s definitely not worth trying at home – it’s hardly a clinical trial – but is still a great story)