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



Herbal Corner – The Winter Chills!

When it’s freezing outside, so how can we combat those winter chills?  Well, there are some things we can do that don’t involve taking herbs at all.  Firstly, when you go outside wrap up warm; putting a scarf around your neck to cover your nose and mouth will help to filter the cold air and shelter your respiratory tract from the wind.  Many years ago, before the days of electricity and gas, our sleep patterns were more in line with the day and night time hours.  It’s during the season of long nights and short days that we need more sleep. When our body is resting it helps repair itself, sleep is indeed a great healer!

Drinking hot water with lemon and honey added can give your immune system a boost; a slice of fresh, or pinch of dried ginger added is tasty and helpful to boot!!  Using plenty of garlic and other hot spices helps prevent the body from getting too cold.  Try ginger tea or use it in cooking along with other heating spices such as cinnamon, black pepper and chilli. So, the best thing to do if you feel yourself coming down with something is to eat something as hot (spicy heat not just temperature heat) as your taste allows – chilli or curry perhaps and make sure you get lots of sleep. Echinacea spp (purple coneflower) is well known these days for helping to boost the immune system.  It certainly does do that, supporting the body to do what it needs to do to fight winter infections and viruses.  As well as helping prevent infection, Echinacea may reduce the duration too!!  Another helpful herb is Sambucus nigra fructus (elder berries).  These rich berries also have antioxidant properties and have been proven to support the immune system and help fight the flu virus.

You might also be interested in my previous blog post Winter Herbs for some other great tips how to stay healthy in the winter.

Please do not hesitate to contact me should you need more information, and remember, seek professional advice from a Medical Herbalist if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or taking any medication.

Lynda Jones BSc (Hons) Medical Herbalist


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