The 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!
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.