Acne and Young People

Acne and Young PeopleAcne can appear at any time but most often occurs during our teenage years.  The hormones produced during puberty can put extra strain on the livers ability to break down toxins for a time until the body readjusts itself (explaining why, in most cases, teenage acne eventually clears up).  Any time that adds extra workload to the liver can leave susceptible individuals with a ‘break out’ but puberty can be particularly problematic as the body begins to produce more oil at this time.  University days can be a difficult time for some too, a young person may well be fending for themselves for the first time – as well as perhaps indulging in more alcohol, they might be preparing more of their own food too.  Whilst many young people are extremely able in the kitchen, some might tend towards fast food, ready meals and not always see the necessity for keeping a healthy balance.

My approach to acne, as a Medical Herbalist, is to support the liver and other organs in the body involved in detoxifying, cleaning and elimination. This is usually the most effective treatment.  I would also ensure the patient is aware of the things likely to exacerbate their breakouts so they can make their diet as low impact as possible.

Self help ideas include keeping an eye on your diet – lean protein, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrain carbohydrates, 2 litres of water daily,  and keep the processed food to an absolute minimum with minimum caffeine and alcohol consumption.  Nettle tea, dandelion leaf tea, and dandelion root coffee can help support the liver, gall bladder and kidney  which might be enough to help the body through the short term changes.

Stubborn cases might need more specifically targeted individualised treatment, involving consultation and a course of herbal medicine.  I usually spend about an hour with people on their first visit, establishing exactly what is contributing to their particular symptoms and creating a unique formulation/prescription of herbs.

Lynda Jones BSc (Hons) Medical Herbalist

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Eczema

Eczema

What is eczema?

Eczema is a skin condition affecting all ages. Sufferers have either an intermittent or constant red/pink, hot and itchy rash appearing anywhere but commonly affecting the hands, behind the knees and inside of the elbow joints. The rash can be extremely uncomfortable and may become infected if left untreated.

What is eczema caused by?

It can be caused from exposure to external irritants when it is sometimes referred to as ‘contact dermatitis’. More often the cause is internal. Many herbalists view itchy red skin conditions as a result of too much heat in the body – it is an indication that, internally, something is out of balance. Perhaps the liver is overworked, maybe there are food intolerances or the elimination mechanisms may be disturbed. Stress may also be playing a part.

How is eczema treated?

If an external or dietary cause can be identified, avoiding it may alleviate the symptoms. Use of a cooling and soothing cream made from chickweed may help control the itch. Chamomile and marigold flowers are both antiseptic and promote healing – they may help nourish the skin and reduce inflammation.

For many people eczema is caused by a combination of factors and a course of internal treatment is usually recommended. Seeking the advice of a fully qualified medical herbalist may help establish the best way to tackle stubborn eczema.

Lynda Jones BSc (Hons) Medical Herbalist

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Migraine – The Herbal Approach

We all know somebody who suffers from migraine. We hear stories of hours in a dark room with flashing lights, horrific pain and vomiting. Those of you who have migraine attacks know all too well how disabling they can be. My patients tell me that the tablets available to alleviate an attack are, all too often limited or not effective at all.

What is migraine? It is a very particular type of headache, typically affecting one side of the head or eye. The word migraine originates from the Latin hemikrania, literally meaning “half skull”. Classical migraine is preceded by an “aura” often involving visual disturbances and altered sensations. This is due to the blood vessels within the brain constricting. Dilation of blood vessels in the brain that follows causes the intense pain. Sometimes the digestive system is involved producing nausea, and/or vomiting and photophobia (light sensitivity). Migraine attacks can last for hours and, on rare occasions, days. Not everybody who suffers from migraine gets all the symptoms and some people are affected more severely than others.

So, what causes migraine? Well, that is unclear. What is clear is that a number of factors seem to be involved. Diet can play an important part; cheese, chocolate, coffee and certain types of alcohol are typical culprits. Allergy testing may help identify problematic foods. Constipation, stress and overwork also play a part too. Interestingly, the majority of women who suffer from migraine do so during menstruation or ovulation, indicating that hormones play a significant role.

How can Herbal Medicine help with migraines?  The most effective way is to treat the person under consultation and address the causes in their specific, individual case. The main aim is to prevent the migraine from occurring in the first place. Often supporting the liver in its role as detoxifier of the body can have brilliant results. This helps to underpin the theory that migraine attacks can result from toxic overload. What’s more, the liver is strongly involved in hormone clearance so this approach is often useful for those who have hormone related migraines. A qualified Medical Herbalist may use liver supporting and relaxing nerve tonic herbs such as Verbena officinalis (vervain), Lavandula officinalis (lavender) and Stachys betonica (wood betony). If hormones are involved then maybe Vitex Agnus castus (chasteberry), Cimicifuga racemosa (black cohosh) amongst many others may be considered.

There are a number of remedies available “over the counter” which have a reputation for helping prevent and treat migraine. The most well-known is Tanacetum parthenium (feverfew) which helps by controlling constriction and dilation of blood vessels. Gingko biloba (maidenhair tree) also has a positive effect on the blood vessels, particularly those in the brain.

For advice on herbal medicine, both “over the counter” and under consultation please contact a fully qualified Medical Herbalist. Please seek advice before taking any herbal medication, particularly if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, very young or the elderly.

Lynda Jones BSc (Hons) Medical Herbalist

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