Topic: Uncategorized

Echinacea

This super herb is one of the most well-known herbs for supporting immune systems. A key herb in any herbalist’s armoury, it forms the basis of most immune blends I make up. I like to blend two: Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea angustifolia inline with the preparations made by our highest quality herbal supplier.

Which bit should I use?

All parts of the plant are useable but the most potent is the root. Obviously, if you use the root of a plant, you lose the plant so it’s best to allow it to grow for a while before digging it up so you get larger roots and to keep plants for the following year.

What’s it like?

A really good extract and a herb decoction have the most surprising and peculiar effect in the mouth! I find that the super-strength Echinacea can leave me with a tingling tongue for about 30 minutes. I feel as though my taste buds are fizzing! However, whilst this might be pretty odd, it is a sure-fire indicator that the echinacea you are taking has a high level of the currently understood primary constituent: alkylamides.

Ensure it’s good quality

Like with any natural product, the quality is affected by many things such as harvesting methods, post-harvest production (such as drying) and the manufacture into a product. This can leave proprietary products with as little as zero active constituent! Be sure to buy a good quality over-the-counter brand.

Adulteration

There is the inevitable issue of adulteration with Parthenium integrifolium being substituted in particular in the US. This is likely due to the dwindling stocks of wild echinacea due to loss of habitat and over-harvesting.

SNAKEBITE!

Traditionally used for snakebite: after the observation of rattlesnakes who, when provoked, bite themselves (!) and then suck the plant before hiding to recuperate. Modern herbalists now use it in a multitude of ways.

What for?

Actions: these are so many it would seem pointless just listing them here but amongst the most commonly used for would be the enhancement of many aspects of the immune system’s defenses, the external application for infected wounds, ulceration of different types, gastrointestinal disturbance and skin disorders.

Why am I sick?

Whilst there are obvious benefits from taking a herb in order to boost oneself, and echinacea can be a brilliant prophylactic, as a herbalist, I feel the imperative to ask why the situation arose in the first place. We don’t ‘catch’ every bug going even though we might have been in a crammed train carriage next to someone who is full of cold.

When we are feeling physically run down, it may due to eg lack of sleep or poor dietary choices and that makes us more susceptible to catching infections. If we have had a row with a loved one, or are feeling unloved, lonely, rejected and those intrinsic places of emotional need are depleted, our defenses are lowered. It is also the environment which we create in our bodies which the herbs is acting in. So, even the most fabulous herbs are not miracle workers. Listen in to your body and as well as taking the herbs, take the actions to keep yourself as well as you can. If we can get curious about the circumstances of our catching in infection and take responsible action for gauging our own choices and activities in relation to our health then future illnesses may be much better circumvented.

NOTE: A generally safe herb, it is best avoided as long-term therapy in immunosuppressed conditions.

Winter Wellness plan

A tapping and herbal well-being defense plan for you this Autumn-Winter.

My wonderful plan is designed to see you through 20 weeks of Autumn and Winter being as well as you can be! What’s included?

  • Tapping videos;
  • Weekly emails;
  • 3 sessions 1-2-1 with me;
  • A brilliant blend of herbs;
  • Emergency herbal tincture

Plus an EARLY BIRD gift if you sign up by September 18th!

Individual 1-2-1 sessions with me

3 sessions of 30m where we discuss your wellness needs, your progress and the bits you struggle with. These can be in-person in my Hertfordshire clinic or on Zoom.

Tailor-made herbal tea blend

Keeping yourself well with immune supporting herbs with a long-held tradition for wellness. Preparing your daily tea, drinking your daily tea and investing in your health has limitless value.

Tap-along videos

A series of weekly short tap-along videos for you to view and tap with at a time which suits you. Each one is designed to address an aspect of winter health and wellness by boosting the areas of your immune system. A great way to give to yourself the healthy help you need.

Weekly emails

Need support and help with new things? My weekly emails are designed to get you fired up, engaged and ready to be the best you throughout the calmer, darker days of Winter.

Emergency tincture blend

So, something snuck through, despite all your efforts? Keep this tailor-made blend to hand just in case you begin to feel those tell-tale signs of something ‘coming on’. Knock it on the head with strong blend of tinctures created and blended just for you.

Early bird special gift – pay by 18/9/21

Sign up by September 18th and receive a 25g pack of 3 super-special herbs specifically chosen for assisting in the prevention of colds and ‘flu. A wonderfully tasty tea blend used by herbalists all over the world. This great tea is yours if you sign up by September 18th.

The cost to you?

Just £350 per person for 20 weeks of high-quality medicines and great health support. The value of this plan is immense as you will be focussed on keeping yourself in the best of health throughout Autumn and Winter.

Pay here: www.paypal.me/herbalist/350

Want to know more? Click here

NOTES

  • Medicines are tailor-made and not suitable for sharing
  • Refunds are not made for unused medicines
  • You retain full responsibility for your own health
  • Not suitable for pregnant women, those with long-term chronic health conditions, those on immuno-suppressants
  • Medicines are collected from Hemel Hempstead or posted – posting incurs additional costs

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

Antimicrobial overuse

Throughout the pandemic, I have been so upset to see the plethora of anti-bacterial wipes, hand gels, sprays everywhere.

This pandemic is the result of a virus, not a bacteria. Stating the obvious? Well, of course, but why then this proliferation of anti-bacterial products?

We’re all obsessively cleaning with products which are designed to kill bacteria and whilst that is helpful in the presence of a pathogenic bacteria, hot water and a plain bar of soap are actually more effective than all these sanitation products. Just don’t put your hand in your mouth until you’ve washed it! But, even then your stomach pH is so high, it is designed to kill off most things.

The biggest issue and the reason it upsets me is that all these anti-bacterial chemicals are also killing our own beneficial microbiome layers such as those on our skins. Without this protective later, we are more susceptible to infection and proliferation of things we don’t want there and which will make our skin unwell.

They are going also into our water systems and being exposed to the bacteria in the waterways, sinking to the bottom of our oceans. Bacteria are clever. They live in colonies and only one in a colony needs to be introduced to an anti-bacterial agent for them all to understand how to overcome it. This is leading us at great speed into the frightening world of total anti-biotic resistance which renders us all vulnerable to the super-big infections such as MRSA. My fear is that CoVid-19 is nothing in face of what might be round the corner.

A recent article on Medscape told of animicrobial overuse in hospitals throughout the pandemic as well. So, even the experts are at it.

Not only this but the overuse of antibacterial agents on our bodies and homes mean that we aren’t exposed to microbes which support us and keep us healthy. A documentary a while back showed that children with allergies had much lower varieties of bacteria in their guts and that was one of the reasons they were so sick. Grubbing about in the soil is good for us. And, all the additional variety of microbes we are exposed to when we play in parks is also beneficial and will protect us.

To this end, I was delighted when my baby started putting soil-y stones in her mouth. A little bit of grub would hopefully go some way to improving the gut microbiome baptism she was denied due to the emergency caesarean section I had when she was born. There are of course limits…

Not only are these products damaging our personal environment but they are damaging the environment at large too. All those plastic wipes which won’t break down and will form microplastics in our oceans, soils, fish and meats. All those disposable masks, aprons, gloves made from plastics. We are shoring up some huge problems which we can’t see right now because our heads are in survival mode. Whilst CoVid-19 is a very real threat to certain vulnerable groups, the survival rate is high for most others. As a healthy 40-something, I feel more afraid of what we are creating in response to this pandemic than I am by the virus itself. I don’t fancy long-covid and I am fortunate not to know anyone who has died from CoVid. Perhaps I would feel differently if I did but, right now, I am more afraid for our futures than our present.

New plant joy!

Today was like Christmas! I received a vast plant order from Herbal Haven a marvellous live plant herb supplier in Saffron Walden.

All these little plant babies are now entrusted to me and our garden. I have bought a mix of plants which are medicinal and attractive, purely medicinal and purely as space fillers. We have a BIG garden and it is mostly filled with weeds – all mostly medicinal but which don’t look great as they’re not intentional.

We have a wild bit, a shady bit, a really exposed sunny bit and are at times, overwhelmed by brambles – blasted things! Yes, I know they’re medicinal too but there are soooo many of them.

I have given up on sowing from seeds. I am not very successful and it is too time consuming for the level of disappointment! Last year, I really gave it a go during lockdown and got some great results but nothing like the number I had hoped for. I don’t have a proper greenhouse – just a plastic cover on a frame – and don’t really like covering every available indoor space with seed trays. This year, I sowed 72 seed pods and have 1 measly little Alyssum seedling to show for it! NOT WORTH THE EFFORT…

I have things I have heard of before and things I haven’t. Some reds and pinks to add to our flower bed of white (oxeye daisies, feverfew, foxgloves) and pink (foxgloves). There are red and pink creeping thymes to nestle amongst the rose garden – which was supposed to have some peachy foxgloves this year – harrumph. Cosmos for my mum who tried valiantly and in vain annually to get some to grow in our reclaimed marshland garden in Hackney.

What I have learned is that I try to spread plants out and that they look best in clumps. My gladioli are in 5 small groups of 3 but they’d be so much more beautiful in a large clump of 15 in the flower beds not the herb garden.

This year, I have killed my abundant sage, thyme and rosemary by an over zealous pruning after the snow made them totally bedraggled and semi-dead – they’re fully dead now! The neighbour’s cat has sat on the catnip until it gave up the ghost and the Betony does not like its spot as it has grown but a few cm in the 3 years it has been there. Time to relocate it… but to where? Where would it prefer?

Despite those losses, the herbs I bought last year from Herbal Haven are mostly all back and looking marvellous. I seem to have lost my liqourice but the valerian is a treat! The ladies’ mantle is overshadowed by the bear’s breeches but still going strong. The perennial sweet peas I sowed from saved seed are about to give forth their abundant cerise glory and the foxgloves which self-seed everywhere are magnificent. no sign of the marigolds self-seeding despite being fabulous last year.

This amateur gardener who has heard Gardener’s Question Time all her life, is accepting that time limits mean seeds are out but that baby plants are IN!

Essential oils for sleep – part 9

I love essential oils and have been using them for years. They are powerful tools in a herbalist’s armoury. They are great for inhalations on tissues, diffused in a room, adding to base oils and creams and, for emotional and physical health.

Essential oils are strong, concentrated extracts from specific plant parts – often the fragrant flowers but not always.

So, how can these beautiful remedies aid your sleep?

Many of the essential oils suggested here are also used as whole plant herbal remedies. Just like with herbal remedies, blends of essential oils are a great way to partner and amplify the benefits of each oil.

Choosing the right oils for you can be a bit of an art. If you read up on an oil, look at all of its benefits and find the best fit for you. After all, plants are complex and full of wonderful and often differing actions.

Oils for insomnia: Lavender, Marjoram, Mandarin, Clary sage, Valerian, Hops, Chamomile roman, Sandalwood, Lemon, Cistus.

Choose based on liking the smell as well as its potential action. Hops are very bitter to taste and don’t smell all that great to me and as a result, it woudn’t be high up my list. However, they are cooling and oestrogenic so could be very useful for eg insomnia due to menopausal hot sweats. I don’t find lavender soporific but it does help clear my mind and I love the smell so I would put it in a blend for churning mind insomnia.

As I am not an aromatherapist, I have borrowed some recipe blend suggestions for insomnia of specific causes from Valerie Ann Worwood’s marvellous book ‘The Fragrant Mind’

  • Nightmares: Lavender 15, Chamomile roman 5, Mandarin 10 drops.
  • Noise waking you: Lavender 10, Lemon 15, Vetiver 5 drops
  • Restlessness: Vetiver 10, Clary sage 10, Lemon 10 drops
  • Fitfulness: Marjoram 5, Lavender 15, Lemon 10 drops
  • Anxiety: Chamomile roman 10, Sandalwood 15, Lemon 5 drops
  • Worry: Cistus 5 drops, Lavender 15 drops
  • Exhaustion: Valerian 5, Lemon 10, Mandarin 10 drops

Exercise caution and use only 1 drop of a blend when you first try it out – I find that too much of a smell, however much I like it will keep me awake as I have a keen sense of smell. Blends can take a little while to settle after making them so don’t give up if you think ‘yuck’ immediately after blending.

please source essential oils responsibly. Like any plant, they need to be grown sustainably in order for all of us to continue benefitting from them.

Essential oil companies I like to use: Materia Aromatica, Neal’s Yard Remedies and Aqua Oleum. I also source from herbal suppliers. Buy from your local health food shop as they will have thought carefully about whose ranges they choose to stock.

CAUTION: most essential oils should be put in a carrier oil for application to the skin, most are not suitable in pregnancy unless under practitioner direction and none are suitable for self-directed internal ingestion.

Just as an aside, essential oils have become very popular recently and the company promotes internal use of oils. This is not a good idea unless you are trained in medicine and pharmacology. It upsets me greatly that people are being invited to put multiples of drops in drinking water as a regular thing. It is commonplace eg in France to take essential oils internally but they are bought in pharmacies, produced for that purpose and have regulations surrounding them.

12 top sleep tips – part 8

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about sleeping well, it’s that, the harder you chase it, the more elusive it becomes.

So, my top tips for sleeping well are:

  1. Avoid caffeine after 12pm – the half life of caffeine is 12 hours so if you drink a coffee at 2pm, you will still have half that caffiene in your body at 2am. And, even if you have become used to its effects and don’t notice it, the caffeine will impair your sleep quality
  2. Avoid alcohol – I know, it seems boring and predictable but, alcohol impairs the quality of your sleep too so, it’s just not worth it – at least not daily!
  3. Set a ‘time for bed’ alarm chances are, you have an alarm to wake in the morning but having a bedtime, like for children is really useful for adults too. Work out how long it takes you to get ready for bed, how long you are usually awake before you get off to sleep and how long you need to sleep for to feel refreshed when the alarm goes off. THAT’s your bedtime.
  4. Get ready for bed after dinner – if you struggle to go to bed in good time because you’re too tired to make it there, do all the things you need to to be ready earlier in the evening. Brush your teeth, get your pyjamas on, get cosy, breathe nice and deep and let the day drift away.
  5. Screens… yes, they feature in our lives, yes, they have an addictive allure but, they are likely to be impacting on your sleep. Blue light filters help.
  6. Relax during the day – good nourishing relaxation during the day enables us to store up the energy required to get a good night’s sleep. Watching TV does not count! #sorrynotsorry TV is passive zoning out and whilst it’s fabulous and has its place, it isn’t relaxation. Zoning out just puts us in a different brain space for a while. Once we then climb into bed, the to-do list, the argument you’re turning over… all come flooding into your brain again. Trying breathing exercises or guided meditations and any other things which bring you out of your mind and into your body are really key. My favourite is the 6:6 breathing – breathing a long slow in-breath for 6 seconds and then a long slow out-breath for six seconds and repeating that, ideally for 20mins. It slows your body right down and gets you into a nice calm and relaxed space. The counting and focusing on doing it really slowly keeps your brain busy.
  7. Write a to do list for tomorrow loooong before you get into bed so that your brain is not turning over all the things you need to remember as you start to relax.
  8. Journal… or do something to work through the events of today so you’re not up all night replaying conversations and more.
  9. NO SUGAR! Sugar is also a stimulant so eating sugary snacks (including raisins, grapes, dates and bananas) in the evening is not a great plan. It’ll fill your blood with fizzy energy which needs to be burned off before your body is ready to sleep.
  10. Sleep time is ‘me-time‘ – if you’re drawn into another episode of your fave TV show or feel desparate for that little bit of time alone once everyone else is in bed, but end up dragging yourself through the day, reframe sleeping as the ultimate in self-care me-time. It’s the chance to recharge your batteries and renew so that tomorrow really is another day.
  11. Nasal breathing – yes, ensuring you focus on breathing through your mouth for most of the time you’re awake and asleep, will probably improve the quality of your sleep. It certainly has for me.
  12. Watch your inner dialogue – how often do you tell someone “I’m such a bad sleeper” or “I’m a terrible insomniac”. When you think about this, you don’t give you or your body the opportunity to be anything other than those things if constantly reinforcing the negative. It’s not that it might be very true but it remains the truth the more we reinforce it. So, listen to yourself and your words and how you speak about it. Worth a try, eh?

Not all of this will be helpful if you struggle to get to sleep, stay asleep and more of those thing associated with insomnia and most of it won’t be a miracle cure but, stick to it. It’s really worth it. After 4 years of poor sleep length and depth which was interrupted easily and frequently, I have just had 6 weeks of mostly great sleep. I am a transformed woman. So, I know it’s possible.

If you want more help, join me for The Sleepy Sessions, my fortnightly Wednesday event.

Ugh, hayfever…

If you have hayfever, you’re probably right in the middle of feeling sniffly, snotty, itching eyes and generally rather groggy. It’s miserable.

And, anti-histamines can make you feel terrible too.

Well, help is at hand. During May & June I am your ‘Hayfever Hero’ and I am offering mini consultations for just £45! That includes your first 2 weeks of tea.

During that consulation, I will ask you about about your symptoms, how they affect you and about any medications you take. We will also discuss foods which you can reduce and foods to increase.

At the end of the consultation, I will write a prescription for a hayfever tea. The tea will include herbs which get really focussed on reducing your symptoms as much as possible.

So, whether you have runny eyes, itchy eyes, bunged up sinuses, can’t stop sneezing or have a river of snot, there are herbs to suit you. Herbs which have traditionally been used for symptoms like those for millenia.

Contact me for your Hayfever consult today!

Cowslip – sleep part 7

Should we re-name these flowers ‘Cowsleep’?

These pretty flowers literally litter the grassy banks of the A41. Until recently they were protected as they had been wild harvested until near extinction – hard to believe when you see the swathes of them between the M25 turning for Hemel Hempstead and then at the slip road going back on at Hemel!

Like so many herbs, all the parts of the lant are useful medicines but, it’s the yellow corolla – the flower part of the flowering heads – which are particularly sedative.

I have recently begun using the flower as my main herb for sleep mixes. I always combine several herbs in order to address the multiple aspects of sleeplessness that the person I prescribe for is experiencing. It has a light taste which I have read described as aniseed-y but I don’t agree. Or, certainly not as a tincture. I see the point but if you don’t like aniseed don’t be put off as it’s really not that strongly so!

As with all sedatives, the ideal is that they wouldn’t be taken over a long period of time. That they be used for a short burst during a temporary sleep disturbance. If your sleep continues to be poor quality, slow in coming, short in duration, disturbed and more, it’s a really good idea to begin the journey to address why that is.

That’s what we do together. There’s loads of research about sleep and what happens to our bodies when we don’t get enough. We still don’t fully understand why we sleep or what really happens when we do. But, I have only heard it said in one place that in order to sleep and sleep well and gain good nourishment from it, we need to have plenty of energy. In chronic sleep deprivation and chronic fatigue states, we become so depleted that we don’t have enough energy to sleep!

The daytime is as important as the night! Nourishing yourself with good foods, avoiding depleting stimulants, and getting really goot relaxation are all key to replenishing the stores for better sleep.

Cautions: This remedy should not be prescribed for pregnant women, patients who are sensitive to aspirin, or those taking anti-coagulant drugs such as warfarin. Long-term use may also be inadvisable if taking hypotensive medications – PFAF

Wild harvesting: Please don’t pick these flowers yourself as we don’t want to get into the situation where they are near extinction again. It’s fine to pick a small handful to try out as a tea but if you want a plentiful supply, I suggest buying them from a sustainable source. I stock them as both a dried flower and tincture.

Sleep part 5 – The importance of being well-rested

Do you know how many things happen when you sleep?

We tend to think of sleep as a passive thing during which we rest and recuperate. Well, we do, but we are also really busy during the night!

Take a look at this list of things your body does whilst you are sleeping:

  • tissue rebuilds
  • toxins are eliminated
  • your brain consolidates the day’s events turning them into new knowledge

When we don’t sleep well or enough, it messes up our cortisol rhythm. Cortisol when it is out of whack impacts on how we feel, often creating the tired and wired state where we are ready to drop into a dead sleep in the middle of the day and wide awake when we need to be asleep. Altered cortisol rhythms affect all of these things:

  • weight – you can eat fewer calories and weigh more if you sleep less than 5 hours per night than if you sleep 7
  • food choices – appetite control and satiety hormones are suppressed when we haven’t slept leading to ‘fatigue eating’
  • personal choices
  • mood
  • hormones (sex hormones as well as all the others)
  • immunity
  • mental clarity
  • memory
  • cognitive function
  • sex drive
  • pain levels

If you have been awake for 17 hours continuously, you will have the same cognitive impairment as when drinking alcohol! WOW – just think of all those medical professionals on double shifts making decisions about our health…

So many good reasons to get more sleep.

If you are having trouble with sleeping, get in touch as I have a few super tricks, herbs and tapping routines up my sleeve to help you improve your sleep.