New Term Challenges

New Term Challenges

A Medical Herbalist’s approach to this seasons’ childhood problems

The summer (what we had of it this year!) is over, autumn is nearly here and our children are returning to school.  Some will be just getting used to starting school, and the parents of these children may be new to the common complaints and ailments associated with lots of children mixing together. How do we deal with head lice, coughs and sneezes, warts and verrucas without resorting to pharmaceutical drugs?

Pediculosis capitas, otherwise known as head lice, are common amongst primary school children, especially those with long hair.  The lice are transmitted from head to head contact and the females lay their eggs (nits) close to the hair shaft.  A balm containing natural insect repellents and insecticides will help destroy living lice without the use of chemicals. Examples of such oils would be Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary), Lavendula officinalis (lavender), Pelargonium graveolens (geranium) and Eucalyptus spp. (eucalyptus).  It is important not to use essential oils undiluted so always seek professional advice on appropriate preparations.  Regularly rinsing the hair with a cold infusion of Picrasma excelsa cortex (quassia bark) may also act as a deterrent to re-infestation.

Coughs and colds are an inevitable part of a child’s first years at school.  The immune system is still developing and it can seem that some children have an endless cold, cough or runny nose.  Whilst the immune system needs to deal with these bugs so that it gets plenty of practice, herbal medicine can help it on its way, making it more efficient and stronger.  Many people already use Echinacea spp. (purple coneflower) which is a proven support for the immune system. Medical Herbalists know that there are many other suitable alternatives available, protecting the most overused herbs like Echinacea from becoming endangered.  Both the flowers and berries of the native Sambucus nigra (elder) tree are useful.  Elderflowers are diaphoretic (induce heat dispersion via sweating), immune stimulant, anti-inflammatory and anti-catarrhal so can be useful for high temperatures, infections, colds and sneezes.  Elderberries have been proven to be effective against the flu virus!  A gentle tasty syrup, made from Thymus vulgaris (thyme) and Glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice) with its expectorant and soothing properties may help ease a tickly cough.  Tussilago farfara (coltsfoot) also has these properties and immune enhancing action too.

We all want our children to learn to swim, but young, or compromised immune systems may lead to verrucas from frequent visits to the swimming pool.  Verrucas are caused by the same papova virus that causes warts and an efficient immune system will deal with the problem itself.  Stubborn, or multiple outbreaks are much better treated under consultation with a fully qualified Medical Herbalist, who can create an individual prescription of herbs aimed at supporting the immune system, considering the patient’s unique medical history/family history/symptoms/diet etc. Simpler cases may respond to frequent use of an emulsion made from Thuja occidentalis (arbor-vitae) which is anti-viral and has a long tradition of use against warts and verrucas.  Similarly, the latex of Chelidonium majus (greater celandine) contains a protein dissolving enzyme which breaks down warts.  Greater celandine, however, is only available through a qualified Medical Herbalist.

Lynda Jones BSc (Hons) Medical Herbalist

 

Share

Snuffles and Sneezes!

Snuffles and Sneezes!

Do you seem to have year round hay fever? Wake up with that ‘all bunged up’ feeling? Are you constantly blowing your nose or fed up with sneezing all the time?

I see many people in my clinic who have been told they have to live with Rhinitis, meaning generalised inflammation of the upper respiratory channels. Most often this is put down to an unidentified ‘allergy’ which is causing inflammation! Whatever the cause, as a sufferer, you will know how irritating it can be.

Sometimes dietary changes can help. Whether there is an environmental allergen involved or not, identifying food intolerance can often lessen the load on the body if certain foods are eliminated from the diet. Dairy products and sugar are common mucus forming foods that can irritate any problems involving phlegm.

Diet may not be a problem at all, or may only be part of the whole picture. A detailed consultation with a professional herbalist is often helpful to piece together the symptoms and case history to identify patterns that you might not have noticed.

In terms of self help pure essential oil of tea tree (anti-septic) and eucalyptus smithii (decongestant) might be helpful to blocked sinuses if applied topically. Dilute a couple of drops of each in 25mls of carrier oil and massage into the painful areas. Elderflowers are anti-catarrhal, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic so can provide relief from a runny nose and sneezing whether allergy is implicated or not. These are often available in health food shops and best made into a tea from the dried flowers. You might be lucky and find a combination herbal tea with added eyebright and/or plantain – both these herbs also have anti-catarrhal effects and support the upper respiratory system in general.

Widely available nettle and chamomile possess anti-allergic properties so, whilst having no direct anti-catarrhal action may help if allergy is a feature.

Echinacea or elderberry may help as immune system support but it’s always best to seek professional advice if infection is present or the problem is persistent. Recurrent infection of the sinuses can be extremely painful and would call for more detailed help involving full consultation with a herbalist.

Lynda Jones BSc (Hons) Medical Herbalist

Share

Tackling Hypertension (High Blood Pressure) – The Herbalists Approach

Tackling Hypertension - The Herbalist ApproachThe NHS claim that as many as 30% of the population have a blood pressure reading above what is currently considered normal.  This reading reflects the level of pressure blood vessel walls are subjected to; the theory being the higher the level the more demand is put on ones heart and circulatory system.

There are some herbs with a common reputation for use in hypertension – the use of hawthorn, valerian and garlic is well documented.  As a herbalist, I believe hypertension develops differently in each person; what contributes in one person will not be the same as another and so their prescription of herbs will be different too.  Blood vessel health is important so I might use blueberry or yarrow; kidney function is often implicated so I may choose a diuretic – dandelion leaf, celery seed and/or limeflower.  Often my  consultation reveals the nervous system and adrenals need attention, using supportive herbs such as oats, borage, valerian, limeflower, and skullcap may contribute to lowering blood pressure here.  If tension is an issue anti-spasmodics like cramp bark is often added for its effects on smooth muscle.  As we age our bodies become less able to cope with stresses and strains and hypertension can be one manifestation of this, including a heart supporting herb like hawthorn or rose is almost always indicated in these cases – traditionally, these herbs were referred to as cordials and were common place a couple of generations back!   Attention to diet can also help the body cope with age related hypertension.  Keep caffeine and alcohol to an abosolute minimum, same with salt (or try pink Himalayan salt instead), avoid processed foods, eat plenty of wholegrains and be careful with full fat dairy products.

Whatever method you use to control blood pressure, its vitally important to ensure you are regularly monitored by regular trips to your Medical Herbalist, GP, or practice nurse. Those with existing medical conditions or taking pharmaceuticals should always take advice from a Medical Herbalist before taking any herbal medicines. Do contact me for no obligation advice!

Lynda Jones BSc (Hons) Medical Herbalist

Share