Category Archives: Health Topics

Looking for longevity…

Maybe it is the fact it is the beginning of a new year, or perhaps it has something to do with packing away the Christmas decorations for another year.  Whatever it is, I am thinking about things in a long term way, and I am trying to extend that long term for as long as possible.

longevity

I have been putting away my Christmas pressies as part of undecorating the house from the festivities and one of my presents was from my lovely hubby who bought me a book called “Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health” by Rosemary Gladstar.  The boy knows me well.  Perfect present, right up my street.  So, in the bid for longevity of this blog, I decided I would do what I did for the month of November and plan out my blogs from here until Easter.  I am also borrowing from the #NaBloWriMo methodology I employed, and I am going to base my blog posts on the contents of this very book.  There will be interesting snippets to share and recipes for herbal treatments, combined with some extra research from me, and maybe the odd snippet about the rest of what is going on in my life.  The one thing I will not be doing is posting every day.  That nearly wiped me out entirely, and with the stuff I have planned for the rest of this year, I am not really going to have the time to write a blog every day.  So, I am going to attempt to blog regularly, three times a week, but maybe not always on the same days or at the same time.  2015 is looking like it is going to be really, really busy… so my devoted readers are now on notice!

book pressie

Handily enough, there is a section in the “Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health” book about herbs which help with longevity.  It is interesting that the author states that herbs which help to increase life expectancy tend to be related to the Eastern style of herbal medicine.  Her argument is that the Western and Native American herbal traditions were effectively stamped out due to persecution of those who were skilled in the herbal lore – be that because they were condemned by the Inquisition, or were deemed to be witches or whatever – whereas the traditions in the Orient and India were effectively handed down via oral tradition.  I know that a lot of the herbal traditions of Europe have been lost, but instead of dwelling on the negative, let’s see if there are some herbs which help to extend life, or at least increase the verve and vigour for life.

My research indicates that western herbal medicine says that herbs for longevity are mostly about being a tonic.  That really means that the herb is taken in small amounts and over long periods of time.  It is not intended to alter or effect any symptom particularly, but rather it is meant to give long term benefits.  Ideally, the tonic will nourish the mind, body and spirit… but to be honest, I will take something that can guarantee to banish the colds and coughs flying around at this time of year.

fire cider

In this spirit then, here is a recipe for a Fire Cider.  This is a tonic designed to “light your fires”…. judging by the ingredients, they are not kidding.  No open flames around your mouth after drinking some of this stuff!!  You take half a cup of chopped ginseng root, either fresh or dried, a quarter of a cup of grated ginger root, a quarter of a cup of grated horseradish, an eighth of a cup of chopped garlic and cayenne pepper to taste.  You place all of these items into a glass jar, pour in enough apple cider vinegar to cover the herbs by an inch or to and then seal tightly.  You need to let this mix sit for 4 weeks.  After this time, strain out the herbs and sweeten with agave nectar or honey to your own taste.  I would suggest a tablespoon of the mixture daily ought to be enough to put some pep in your step… but perhaps I might suggest brushing your teeth after imbibing!!  Though I do understand that it makes a very nice salad dressing, so that might be another way of taking your longevity tonic!

Let me know if you have any success with the fire cider.  But one health warning…. do NOT sniff the grated horseradish root… it is very, very powerful and extremely tear inducing.  Great at clearing the sinuses… but… OUCH!

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Slip sliding away…

How many of you now have that tune running around your head?  You are most welcome!!

Actually, here in the UK, the temperatures have plummeted and we are finally getting some wintry weather.  November was freakishly warm, so people have been taken by surprise that yesterday we got some snow flurries and this morning we have black ice and other icy patches.  But that is usual December weather.  Unfortunately, it appears the council and schools might have been caught on the hop as well, and there have been some incidents of children slipping over and hurting themselves.  Be careful out there.

So, if you do slip over and fall, here are some remedies you can use to help with your bump and scrape.  Obviously, be sensible.  If you have fallen over and cracked your head on the path, or if you can’t move a joint now you have greeted the pavement with some force, then go to the hospital.  You could have concussion or a broken limb, and with the best will in the world, Herbalism is not going to help you much.

rescue remedy

However, if your pride is dented more than your body, then there are some things that can help.  First of all, I am a HUGE fan of the Bach Flower Remedies, and the Rescue Remedy in particular.  It is a combination of flower essences which work together to calm you down and keep you stress free.  It seriously works.  I have seen a young boy who had taken a tumble from a trampoline go from screaming ab-dabs to total calm in under 5 seconds with 3 drops of the Rescue Remedy.  I also used A LOT of it when I was moving house.  It totally got me through the day – and those directly after!  You can usually pick this up at a health food store, and I would suggest having some in your handbag or your first aid kit.

arnica

Then I am going to recommend some Arnica.  You can get it as a cream or in sugar pill form, and either is great.  I prefer the pills, but it is purely a matter of choice.  It is a homeopathic remedy rather than a herbal remedy per se, but it works by bringing out the bruising quickly.  It means the body can heal itself quicker.  Yes, it hurts more to start with, but believe me, it is worth getting it out and dealt with.  You might curse me to begin with, but it does aid healing.

turmeric and honey

If you feel stiff and sore, then take some turmeric and honey tea.  Turmeric is a very strong anti-inflammatory spice, and honey – well that just makes it taste nice!

Actually… that is a good point… hot sweet tea has been a good remedy for shock for generations.  If you are feeling shaky after falling over… then go make yourself a nice cuppa and relax.

I am now off to walk very carefully down the road.  Take care everyone!

Gnashing my teeth…

I am feeling a little tense just at the moment.  As you might have picked up from my blog, I have a to do list with it’s own field of gravity on the best of days, but with a meeting with our social worker earlier this week, that list just developed its own asteroid field which is in grave danger of obliterating me if I stop to long to contemplate it.

stressed comic

Having extended that metaphor so tight it might snap, I know that one of the things I will do when I get stressed is that I grind my teeth.  This is called Bruxism, and I have done this at one time or another all my life.  Apparently stress is a common cause of it (sorry Hubby dear… you might need ear defenders on while you sleep!) but it can also be caused by a parasite!  Goodness!  I am pretty sure mine is stress though.

Is Bruxism dangerous though?  Well, only if your spouse decides to smother you with a pillow for the sound which is roughly equivalent to nails going down a blackboard.  But it can chip your tooth enamel.  Grinding can also wear down the jaw joint.  Bruxism can also cause headaches and pain in the face and jaw.

grinding teeth

So, according to my reference of choice this month, “Home Remedies from a Country Doctor”, there are several things you can do to help stop you from grinding your teeth.  Resting your neck is quite important apparently, and there are some contoured pillows which can help you to hold the bones between your shoulder and your chest, known as the cervical collar, in the right place.

You could also wear a mouth guard at night, which might not stop the grinding, but it will protect your teeth.  Although I am not sure about the fashion statement that would make.  Mind you, I am happy in fleecy pyjamas myself, so I am not exactly cutting edge on that score either!

water drop

Avoiding stimulants like coffee and chocolate makes a great deal of sense.  Not just because you will get a better quality of sleep, but you will also quite possibly be less on edge.  More relaxed equals less bruxism.    One surprising tip from the Country Doctors was to make sure you are keeping properly hydrated.  Apparently dehydration is one of the forms of stress which makes you grind your teeth.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

No, I am not talking about an irritating tap, although to be fair, if I hear one I will hunt it down and deal with it immediately because the sound of water dripping is my number one irritating sound.  I am talking about something even worse.  Post Nasal Drip.

dripping tap

It is common at this time of year because it is the cold and flu season.  Post Nasal Drip is essentially how all the gunk from your sinuses gets down onto your chest and gives you that trademark graveyard hack that we all know and love.  If you want to totally gross out some dinner guests sometime, you can tell them that on an average day we will swallow down a quart or two of mucus.  It sounds worse than it is, because this mucus is the good kind – clear, watery and great at keeping the membranes in the nose clean, moist and free from infections.   However, if you get allergies or a stinker of a head cold, then the mucus producing glands go into overdrive and the, how can I put this nicely, overflow, goes down your throat.  Ugh.

So how do you deal with it?  Well the first thing is to make sure you are well hydrated.  Lots of lovely water and hot liquids will help keep the mucus free flowing so you don’t notice it too much.  Not too much whiskey in the hot toddy tough.  Alcohol will dehydrate you and cause more of a problem.

tea

If you really suffer with post nasal drip, then consider moving to more temperate climes – a really cold climate will exacerbate a post nasal drip issue.  The nose is kind of an air conditioner for the body, running the humidity and temperature levels that make everything else run properly.  If you are constantly going from dry indoors to humid outdoors and from hot house to freezing polar ice cap, then your nose will be working overtime.  The best advice is to keep indoors damp(ish) using a humidifier if you live in a dry climate (not necessary in the UK) and don’t set the indoor thermostat to tropical – keep it cool as you can stand.  Ours at home is at 17 degrees.  Partly so we have somewhere to go when it gets really cold (limit of 20 degrees though… if we need it to be warmer, then we will go and fetch another sweater) and partly because we do not like hot, hot, hot.

If you have chronic post nasal drip, then you might have an allergy.  Go and get it checked and see if you do.  Dust mites are a common cause, but then so is animal dander.  If you do get congested, try using an over the counter decongestant – although don’t use it for long periods of time.  Go back to the tried and tested inhalations with some nice powerful essential oils in the water.  Rosemary and Eucalyptus are great, but a teaspoon of Vicks Vaporub does WONDERS.  Take Honey and Lemon for the inevitable tickly cough that will result as well.

honey and lemon

Also, ask your doctor to check if you have a deviated septum.  The septum is the wall inside your nose that divides it in two.  A sharp blow or even a birth defect can cause the septum to be twisted or deviated to one side.  A sharp turn in the septum can cause mucus to accumulate and when it all collects, then it drips down the back of the throat.  It might be an idea to check if this an issue.  There is a simple surgical procedure which can be done to correct the issue.

Phlebitis and what you can do about it…

I will confess.  I have heard of Phlebitis.  My Mum suffers from it and my Grandmother did as well as I recall.  But I have not got a scooby doo about what it actually is.  Just as well I am learning along with you guys this month!  Let’s see what my book of choice is saying about Phlebitis then, shall we?

phlebitis

If you have a bruise on your leg and you cannot remember bumping into anything, you need to take a close look.  One of your veins might be bright red and appear hard to the touch.  Chances then are pretty high that the vein has become inflamed due to a mini blood clot and that has caused blood to back up.  This inflammation is phlebitis.  Usually it occurs in your legs as gravity lets your blood pool there, but you can get them in your arms as well.  If the inflammation is on the surface, then we can treat it with home remedies.  If the inflammation is deeper, then please seek attention from a medical professional as it can be very dangerous.

So what can you do?  When you are sitting down, elevate the legs.  My Mum has a natty tilting chair, but you can use a pouffe, or put your legs up on the sofa as well.  Ideally you should elevate the legs to above your heart, so you might need to monopolise the cushions as well as the sofa.

leg elevation

I am afraid it is not very pretty, but adding support hose to your wardrobe will really help matters as well.  It takes some getting used to, I understand, but once you are, it isn’t really that bad.  Your doctor can prescribe which sort of pressure stockings are right for you and major pharmacy chains have some choice as well.

You might want to take an aspirin every day, and if the inflammation is mild, then some ibuprofen might help with the discomfort as well.  And obviously, if you are overweight, then lightening some of that load will help with the blood pooling in the legs.  Drinking a glass of red wine with dinner every day can help, and anything which improves your circulation has got to be a good thing.

chillies

Some other things you can do to improve your circulation include eating some hot chillies – they improve blood flow all around the place (you know, that hot sweaty feeling when you have just eaten a hot, hot chilli?) and application in an embrocation externally might help as well.  You might also like to look into taking a ginseng supplement.  It has been used for hundreds of years as a circulation tonic in Eastern herbalism, and should not be overlooked as a potential help.  Start with a low dose ideally.

If you don’t have phlebitis, but want to prevent it. the get walking, fast, swinging your arms as you do so.  A daily stroll which increases your heart rate will also make sure your circulation is in tip top shape.

A rant about tipping the scales…

For the long time readers of this blog, you will know that I struggle with my weight.  I have always struggled with my weight and I suspect it is something I will ALWAYS have to have an eye on, for the rest of my days.  However, in the last 3 weeks, I have decided that I am back on the dietary wagon, and I am bound and determined to get the excess weight off this time.  I have given myself targets, I have decided on the treats I am going to give myself when I reach those targets, I have even given myself time scales in which to do it (though I am going to be flexible on those!).

There is nothing that irritates me more though, then people telling me that “losing weight is simple.  Just eat less and move more.”  What a pile of horse hocky.  If it were that simple, don’t you think that we all would be stick thin and no one would be overweight at all?  For some people, maybe it is that easy, but for others?  No, it is more complicated than that.

And who decides who is overweight anyway?  Well, in most western countries, the medical profession relies on an Index called the Body Mass Index.  It is a conjunction of your weight and your height.  Depending on where you come on the matrix you are classified as being overweight, clinically obese or morbidly obese.  What they fail to tell you though, is how that Index was dreamed up.  You might think it was the greatest medical minds of their generation putting their heads together and coming up with something that truly reflects the health of the citizenry and that it is a number and a score with a lot of research behind it.  Ummm… no actually.

The BMI was dreamt up by some doctor who had been given the job of proving that the Soliders in WW1 trenches were being given enough food and weren’t poorly nourished.  Patently, they were poorly nourished, and patently it caused all sorts of health problems, but the index was put together as “proof” that Private Joe Bloggs, this tall and this weight, was actually the right weight for his height, even though he really, really wasn’t.

So, the tool which I have been judged against for most of my life is actually a tool of 100 year old war propaganda?  Great.  Just great.

Please do not mistake me.  I am fully aware that I carry too much weight.  This is partly because of appallingly bad choices I have made in the past, and partly due to genetics,and even partly due to a desire to squash feelings down by using poor food choices (and no, that really doesn’t work and is not a very positive way of doing things.)  But I am done with feeling guilty about this.  I know what needs to be changed, and I am doing something about it.

Recently, I rejoined a slimming class.  In two weeks I have dropped 8 pounds, and altogether, I have lost 12 since I started on my health kick, way back in May.  I feel a lot better for it, and I know what to do in order to eat healthy meals, feel full and happy and have the energy to do what I need to do.  And that is what I am going to do.

So, if you feel like you want to be healthier, or carry less weight, then the best thing to do?  Go and see a Nutritionist.  Take their advice and do what you know is healthy in order to get to your healthy weight.  And do not let some stupid position on an outdated and scientifically dubious index tell you whether you are healthy and happy.  Let your own body do the talking.

“To sleep: perchance to dream”

That quote comes from Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet.  The Danish Prince thought that sleeping sounded a great idea.  It was the dreaming that caused problems.  Mind you, the guy was under some stress at the time, and that probably contributed to his nightmares.

hamlet

You may be relieved to know, that having nightmares is very normal.  Everyone gets them once in a while, but if they happen often and you wake up in a sweat, or worse, screaming, then it may be a reflection of something a bit worse at work.  Nightmares can be symptomatic of a psychiatric illness or distress of some kind and are often experienced by people who have sufffered some trauma, such as abuse, war or a natural disaster of some kind.  In Hamlet’s case, seeing your Dad assassinated probably fits into two out of those three categories.

Apparently nightmares are most common in children.  Specialists think it is because they find it difficult to process things cognitively, so if they have a sudden shock or see something they can’t make sense of, then nightmares can be the way that they process the information.  Nightmares, and other dreams, happen during periods of rapid eye movement sleep, so the scariness of the dream can jolt you awake and make you feel very disoriented.

nightmares

So how can you help prevent nightmares for the young or old?  Facing the cause of the nightmare is a good way of doing it.  If it is difficult to work out what is causing the nightmare, then try and work out what situations in your life are causing some stress and try and work out those situations in a positive way.

Another good piece of advice is to remove the scares.  If you do not like zombie movies and have nightmares after watching them, then… ummm… don’t watch them.  If you are like me, i.e. a complete wuss, then your range of pre-bedtime viewing is quite limited.   But I don’t like having nightmares either, so I would rather limit the viewing then freak out and leave my imagination to work it all out.

Apparently having a bedtime ritual is a good idea for limiting nightmares.  Do the same things every night at the same time.  If your child seems to have a nightmare at the same time every night, then waking them up slightly before the nightmare and then settling them down to sleep again is a great way of breaking the dreaming pattern and hopefully stop the regular problem.

bedtime snack

If you are an adult and get regular nightmares, look at your food and drink intake just before bed.  Do not drink alcohol at night, and do not eat before bed either.  It is not good for your dreams, and it isn’t good for the diet either.