Natural First Aid

Natural First Aid

I often get asked what to keep at home instead of conventional first aid items. I try to use things that are easy to source, and some that might even be hanging around for culinary use too!

Marigold is useful for many simple self limiting complaints.  It helps damaged skin tissue repair itself so use topically for cuts and grazes.  Carry on using it and it might limit scarring, especially if you mix with a little wheatgerm oil.  Marigold is anti-fungal so can be helpful for athletes foot or other such conditions like ring worm or thrush.  It’s been used by nursing mothers to help heal sore nipples and similarly on babies bottoms to help treat nappy rash, the anti-fungal action can be an added bonus here too if thrush is present. You can buy the dried marigold flowers at specialist herb outlets (contact me for details if you need help with that) or you may have them growing in the garden (check the variety is Calendula officinalis). Try freezing into ice cubes so you always have some to hand.

Lavender pure essential oil from a reputable supplier.  Try rubbing a drop into your temples to ease  a tension headache or a little on your pillow to relax at bedtime.  You can apply neat onto burns, bites and stings providing the skin isn’t broken; it’s anti-inflammatory so helps take the itch and heat from swelling or discomfort. I would dilute in a teaspoon of carrier oil if using on children though and be careful not to get it near the eyes.

Fresh Sage leaves can be rubbed onto bites and stings for quick relief in a hurry.  Made into a tea they help ease a sore throat and many ladies swear by sage tea to help hot flushes.  I usually find menopause requires more a more complex approach but I have met some for whom sage has been enough.

Honey is a wonderful food but also a great remedy to have to hand.  Add to luke warm water (with or without lemon) to help sore throats;  drink as it is or gargle too. It’s also great to slap onto a burn immediately after the accident to take out the heat and minimise blistering (providing the skin remains intact). Runny honey is the best for this but no expensive type or brand needed.

Try making a simple onion and honey syrup by slicing an onion into a clean jar, cover with honey and store in the fridge.  Give the mixture a shake every now and then and after 48 hours you will notice how thin the honey has got as it absorbs the constituents and properties of the onion.  Strain into a sterilised bottle and keep in the fridge for up a month, use the discarded onions in cooking asap – don’t leave them hanging about too long now.  Upto 8 teaspoons a day of the syrup can be given to adults to help sore throats and coughs.

Chamomile tea is sold everywhere these days! It can be helpful if you have had a heavy night or simply got a bit of a bad stomach following over indulgence or a bug.  Chamomile is known as ‘mother of the gut’ helping to calm and support most disturbances of the stomach and digestive tissue. Once it’s been brewed it can be drunk immediately or left until cool/cold.  Chamomile mixes well with peppermint and fennel that are also widely available and good tonics for the digestive system.

Lynda Jones BSc (Hons) Medical Herbalist

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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

 

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Blooming Summer…

With the warm sun in the sky, the soft grass under our feet and the beautiful array of Summer flowers in full bloom its hard for most of us to see how anybody could not be enjoying this time of year. (Mind you, at the time of going to press who knows what the Kent weather will be like, but we can hope…) However, there are a number of health conditions made worse by the heat of Summer.

Blooming Summer

Some conditions are exacerbated by heat, some even being caused by an excess of internal heat within the body. Eczema can be particularly bad during the Summer months and a real danger period (especially for children) is the warm nights. It can be more difficult to concentrate on not scratching when half asleep, causing skin to break and be more susceptible to infection. A soothing wash with cooled and refrigerated tea of Chamomilla recutita (chamomile) and/or Mentha piperita (peppermint) may provide some relief. The latter has the benefit of also being a mild insect repellent too! Remember to keep the tea in the fridge though, and discard after 48 hours. More difficult cases may respond to a cream made from Stellaria media (chickweed) – this helps cool the skin, heal and relieve the ‘itchy’ sensation. Chronic cases of eczema may require consultation with a qualified Medical Herbalist to address the condition internally too.

Another irritating problem of the Summer is insect bites. Some lucky people just don’t get bitten… others do but only mild irritation is caused. However, some approach the Summer with dread, knowing that they will be covered in huge, inflamed bites once the insects are around. To help reduce inflammation, relieve the itch and provide antiseptic protection you can try applying pure essential oil of Lavandula officinalis (lavender). Herbal lotions are available too with a combination of ingredients should you need something stronger. If you are very prone to being bitten you might benefit from a one to one consultation with a Medical Herbalist – it may be that the toxic load of your body is too great and there may be changes you can make to make you less susceptible. An individualised prescription of herbs may be necessary to help balance your body – hypersensitivity to bites can be indicative of a poorly functioning immune system.

Lynda Jones BSc (Hons) Medical Herbalist

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