Detox: “What on Earth does that Mean???”

With the new year festivities behind us we are forever being reminded what a good idea it is to ‘detox’.  Many expensive and branded so called ‘health’ products, as well as juices and smoothies, are sold to us to ‘aid detox’.  How many of us actually understand what ‘detox’ means?

Well, we all know how our bodies feel when we have over-indulged – tired, heavy, bloated, digestive problems.   Some  may develop skin problems or aches and pains.

If you are generally healthy and normally look after yourself your body will ‘detox’ itself given a little time – it is perfectly designed to do this.  Return to your healthy diet including low fat protein, essential fatty acids, wholegrain carbs and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.  Drink plenty of water and your liver and kidneys will take care of the rest.  Alcohol, pharmaceuticals, caffeine and rich foods are first to be broken down by the liver as they are identified as being more damaging to the body than its own naturally occurring waste products of metabolism.  So, the more of these detrimental elements there are in your diet, the less effective the liver will be at reducing the backlog from a period of over-indulgence; and the longer it will take to return to a state of balance and good health.

Herbs known to support the liver and eliminatory organs may help alongside a healthy diet.  Taraxacum officinalis radix and herba (dandelion root and leaf) help support the function of the liver and kidneys respectively.  Cynara scolymus (artichoke) may help support metabolism, the liver and gall bladder whilst Urtica dioica (stinging nettle) can help break down certain acids that may accumulate in joints and help the kidneys do their job too.  Galium aparine (cleavers) and Calendula officinalis (marigold) both help the lymphatic system cleanse the body of toxic build up.  These herbs have a number of other actions in the body, so for advice concerning which of these may be best for you contact a qualified medical herbalist.

If you have any pre-existing health problems, are pregnant, breastfeeding or taking any medication then please contact a qualified medical herbalist for appropriate and professional advice.

Lynda Jones BSc (Hons) Medical Herbalist

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Can’t Shift Those Winter Coughs & Sneezes?

Well, here we are at the beginning of 2012, a new year and a new start!  With the festivities behind us often people feel sluggish and generally over-indulged.  The body is still working hard to deal with the animal protein and fat rich foods we all love to eat over Christmas and the New Year.  Not to mention the alcohol!!  From a Medical Herbalists point of view, the sharp increase in illnesses such as coughs and colds we see at this time of year comes as no surprise.

Whilst the liver is busy recovering from an overdose of rich foods and alcohol its attention is taken away from its role in the body’s immunity.  This can leave us more open to picking up the coughs and sneezes associated with the winter months.  You can help protect your body and combat the symptoms with herbs.  Echinacea spp. (echinacea), Sambucus nigra flos. (elderflowers) and Sambucus nigra fructus (elderberries) all help assist the immune system.  Cynara scolymus (globe artichoke), and Carduus marianus semen (milk thistle seeds) are both stimulant and protective to the liver aiding detoxification and digestive processes.  Achillea millefolium (yarrow) and Eupatorium perfoliatum (boneset) are diaphoretic (sweat promoting) herbs which can be helpful to reduce fever in colds and flu.  The latter helps the body fight viral and bacterial infections as well as loosening and expectorating phlegm.

And, on another note…  I have been asked lately about the small number of news stories published recently questioning the efficacy of herbal remedies.  It is helpful to understand the distinct difference between buying herbal remedies “over the counter” from health shops, supermarkets and online and receiving herbal medicine following advice from a Medical Herbalist.  If you want to buy herbs “over the counter” it is vital to seek proper, professional advice from a fully qualified Medical Herbalist.  Medical Herbalists are the recognized experts in prescribing herbs and have Bachelor of Science degrees (at least!) in Herbal Medicine (or Phytotherapy).  We have a full understanding of how the body works, which herbs are suited for use alongside pharmaceutical drugs, and which herbs are contra-indicated in particular health conditions.  Just as importantly, Medical Herbalists fully understand dosage.  I often find that patients say they have taken an “over the counter” remedy with no effect only to find that the preparations dosage suggestion to be totally inappropriate.  Herbal medicine is very safe, and very effective when advice is sought from a fully qualified Medical Herbalist.

Lynda Jones BSc (Hons) Medical Herbalist

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