Tag Archives: Herbal Remedies

The health benefits of a jolly good cuppa…

It is snowing where I live today.  In the UK, snow is either greeted with unadulterated glee or with unadulterated dread.  I am not that bothered by the white stuff myself, but I will confess to loathing attempting to get around in this weather.  I am a capable driver.  It’s the other idiots on the road that I worry about.


Anyway, with this cold and snowy weather, I love making steaming hot cups of tea.  I love tea.  I love coffee as well, but I do feel that tea is somehow encoded in my DNA.  My Mother’s family were tea planters, and some of their knowledge has been passed down to us.  We know a lot less than they did, of course, but I find the best cup of tea is without milk, possibly with a slice of lemon.  Obviously, you make it in a pot, preferably with leaves rather than bags, and you always warm the pot before pouring the hot water over the leaves and leaving it to steep.  If you have to put milk in tea, then put it in after the tea has been poured.

tea and lemon

A few years ago, my husband and I made a deal with one another.  If we were going to drink more tea and coffee than we strictly ought to, then we needed to make it the absolute best quality we could.  That is what we have done.  We get fabulous tea from a supplier in Canada (yes, I am serious!).  It is my best friend’s favourite tea shop, and when we were visiting there last year, we went in and bought stocks of my favourite blend.  Seriously this tea (The Baroness, by The Tea Girl) is the most restorative cuppa I think I have ever had the delight of tasting.  It takes me from utter exhaustion to back up on my feet and raring to go.

It got me thinking though.  We all know that tea is an antioxidant and it doesn’t deliver as much caffeine as coffee does, but does it help with anything else?  Turns out yes.  Black tea reduces the risk of kidney stones and artheroclorsis, osteoporosis and helps to raise low blood pressure.  Oolong tea is great for mental alertness and Green tea… well, this might be the biggest super food out there.  People have claimed it has cancer prevention properties, but that might be accounted for by the fact it is an antioxidant., but it also lowers high cholesterol and helps with the old mental alertness.  I really don’t like green tea.  I don’t like the taste of it.

oolong tea

Then I looked into  Tisanes.  Well, first of all what is a tisane is any hot drink made of something not from a camellia bush.  Yes, really.  Tea is the only hot drink that comes from the camellia bush.  Any other infusion is strictly a tisane.  (My tea planter Uncle, a mild mannered man, was extremely vociferous on this topic).  Herbally, we know that chamomile calms and peppermint is great for soothing stomach pain.  But a Thyme tisane is great for coughs.  And Ginger infusion is brilliant for nausea, dizziness and menstrual cramps.


I think, in this cold and snowy weather, hot drinks are a must.  And if they do you good, then so much the better!  Keep safe and warm!


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.


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!

More autumn tree herb lore…

So I was at the kitchen sink today, doing the dishes, and I happened to glance at our little seedling oak tree.  We have been given one to grow, and it’s leaves are just changing at the moment and it is rather pretty.  It got me thinking about whether oak can do anything for us herbally speaking.

oak tree

Back to my rather lovely “Backyard Medicine” book.  This is the one that I picked up when we were on holiday in Canada.  I have been hankering after it for AGES and it was cheaper to buy over there then it would ever be over here.  Anyway, it has a lovely bit all about oak.


At one time the British Isles had lots and lots of Oak forests.  In fact, in days gone by, where my house is would have been in Sherwood Forest, (as in Robin Hood, Maid Marian and the Merry Men) with lots and lots of Oak trees around it.  Unfortunately, Oak is rather a victim of its own success and because it was fabulous for building with, has been used for houses and ships and all kinds of things.  Oaks produce acorns and they feed pigs; acorns also stand as a famine food and are a coffee substitute known as ersatz coffee.  Apparently it tastes quite palatable and it is low in caffeine.  The Oak galls, also known as oak apples, are constituents for ink and the bark can be used as an astringent.  In fact it is as an astringent, a tightener or a drier, that it is used for mostly in herbalism today.

Oak Leaf

Oak leaf tea is used as a diarrhoea treatment, as is the young oak bark made into a tea as well.  Another use is as a tooth powder made from the dried oak bark.  You can add fennel seed powder, cinnamon powder, and bicarbonate of soda and use it to brush your teeth.  I am quite intrigued by this.  I might look into it a bit more.

And if that weren’t enough uses for oak, you can also use the twigs to clean your teeth.  Amazingly versatile isn’t it?!

Baldness and how to prevent it…

Some Ladies would say that men are lucky because balding is the “only” thing they have to worry about.  I am not one of them. Losing your hair must be a terrible shock, and I am sure I wouldn’t like it if I were a man.


Balding is a problem which can be genetic.  If your Dad looked like a cue ball at 20, then chances are you will too.  However, you can potentially slow the process down.  There is a scientific term for it  – Androgenic Alopecia.

from steroidology.com

from steroidology.com


From my reading, scalp stimulation seems to be the general advice.  Rosemary and Peppermint rinses are great and they are also good for dandruff and other scalp conditions.  Stinging Nettle is also suggested.  It has purifying properties and acts as an astringent.  It has been used to speed up the metabolism and circulation.  You could also use the nettle root, as this affects hormones and proteins carrying sex hormones in the human body which explains why it might help hair growth too.


Male pattern baldness, the genetic kind, is down to the body’s genetic predisposition to be inefficient at removing excessive androgens in the body.   Androgens are a group of hormones which regulate and influence the male reproductive system.  In combination with 5 alpha-reductase, a naturally occurring substance in the body, it can  poison the follicles in the scalp, thereby causing baldness.  You have to address this excessive androgen issue, because otherwise you can stimulate your scalp until it is black and blue, but it will not help.


from gotherbs.net

from gotherbs.net


Taking a supplement of Saw Palmetto might help.  It helps to remove excess androgens via the liver and it helps the liver stay healthy into the bargain.  Zinc is also good.  It inhibits the 5 alpha-reductase activity.  And Green tea might helps as well.  The polypenols are a powerful anti-oxidant which inhibits Dihydrotestosterone (one of those androgens from earlier!).


The biggest thing to remember gentlemen, is that losing your hair is a sign of male virility.  You clearly have lots of sex hormones and I can assure you there are people out there who like a bald man.  Don’t worry, be confident and enjoy your life!


Introduction to the multifarious uses of Coconut Oil

Eventually, I hope my herbalist practice will include a line of beauty products which will be natural and not full of preservatives and additives.  I really do worry that the things I use on my skin, the biggest organ of the body and the best indicator of health there is around, might be causing health issues because of their ingredients.


From my research into recipes, I know that Coconut oil is an ingredient of choice.  It is also a much hyped super ingredient for all kinds of things from frying oil for food to a hair tamer for curly hair.  I like things that multi task!  Here is an article with lots of ideas for uses of coconut oil.  http://www.treehugger.com/green-home/12-uses-coconut-oil-your-body-and-around-house.html.  There is also a rather cool post on http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/10/25/coconut-oil-benefits_n_4164278.html with more information about WHY coconut oil is apparently so good for you.


There are a few cautionary notes to issue first.  As it is an oil, it is high in calories.  So, if you are on a calorie controlled diet, then you need to be careful about how much of it you eat.  Also, it is high in saturated fat, so if you are watching your intake of that, then talk to your health professional of choice before you start imbibing with gusto.  The hydrogenated version of the oil is probably the worst kind to take, so look for “virgin coconut oil”  if you are going to buy some.


In addition, there is currently no fair trade or sustainable source of coconut oil.  As someone interested in environmental issues, I need to weigh up the benefits of using it, along with the potential environment impacts of harvesting, extracting, processing and shipping the product from the South Pacific.  I am currently undecided.

coconut oil

So, what can it be used for?


It is great as a moisturizer.  You don’t even need to do anything to it.  Just slap it right on your face.  It might feel a bit oily at first, but the skin will absorb it quickly and it is great for chapped and sore skin.  If the straight oil is too oily for you, you might conisder making a whipped lotion using 1 cup of coconut oil and 1 cup of shea butter.  If you whip that mixture with a hand mixer until it is light and fluffy, then you will get just as much benefit with less of the oily texture.


Still on skin uses, it can also be used as a natural shaving cream.  I am considering making the whipped lotion, maybe with a few drops of sandalwood essential oil and making a male beauty product.  I wonder if my dear husband would use that?  Hmmm.  Sandalwood is a lovely scent, a manly scent, without being too floral and heady.


I was surprised to read that coconut oil can also be used as a spot and stain remover.  If you rub a piece of coconut oil on a piece of upholstery or carpet, it will loosen the stain.  If you mix it with baking soda, it becomes a very effective stain remover.  You can use this mix to clean your teeth as well.  Apparently it whitens your teeth very effectively.

coconut teaspoon

I even read that the coconut oil can be used as a butter replacement or as a sweetener and whitener for tea and coffee.  I am afraid those are two steps too far for me, but I am in total awe of this ingredient.


Do you use coconut oil?  What are you favourite uses?  Where and how do you source it?



Feeling very pleased with myself…

Not only have I posted every day for a full two weeks (and attracted  a lovely bunch of followers from WordPress and Facebook and Twitter), but I have also managed to start two of the tools which I know will be invaluable to me in my Herbalism practice.



I have a feeling that a Herbalists learning is never done.

I have read so many Herbal books in the last few months, and fascinating though the information is, I do feel that my brain is suffering from filing cabinet syndrome.  So much stuff is going in the front, I am a bit worried about what is falling out of the back!



However…  I decided to harness the power of technology and to use my accountant’s passion for spreadsheets and start my own Herbal.  At the moment it is just a list of remedies and ingredients.  But what a list!  I have details of several complaints and the recommended remedies for them.  So far, so boring, but through the power of spreadsheets (and some natty magic called pivot tables) I can manipulate this list.  If I diagnose your complaint, say Cystitis, then with a couple of clicks of the mouse and  I can then tell you that Echinacea and Celery Seed might be able to help you.

Still not impressed?  Okay, then name a remedy.  How about Caraway?  Well, I can equally give you a list of the conditions that is can help.  They range from Breast Milk Stimulation to helping with Painful Menstruation.

Now, I think that is really cool.

The next step is to make a database of recipes for the actual remedies as well.  I might leave it for a couple of weeks before I do battle with Microsoft Access though.

from wikipedia

from wikipedia

Oh, that is just the first tool.  What is the second?  A timetable of when it is best to gather and harvest herbs.  Again, not really exciting?  Well, for someone who wants to grow the herbs she uses for the remedies she makes for her patients, this means I can plan my herb garden that bit better.  Oh, and for the bits that I can’t grow, I might be able to forage for them if I know when they are going to be at their best.  Oh, and it also tells me some really cool stuff.  Like January is a good month for gathering Dandelion Leaves, Chickweed and Horseradish.

The best bit of both of these tools is that, although I have used one herbal book to get them started, I can keep adding to them when I read a new book.  Hopefully, this will mean that I will have a superb reference for making my herbal remedies.




I hope you all have a lovely Sunday.


Herbal Remedies for Eye Function

This morning, just as I was surfacing from sleep, I heard an article on the BBC Radio about a gentleman who had received ground breaking gene treatment to the back of his eye which appears to have significantly assisted his recovery from a rare eye disorder.  (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-25718064)



My first reaction was “Wow!  How amazing!”.  My second reaction was “I would NOT want to be on the business end of that needle” (yes, I am a profound needle-phobe!) and my third reaction was wondering about what the long term implications of that kind of therapy might be.  However, that might be the theme of a future blog post.

As this treatment was used to treat a rare genetic condition, I would not claim Herbalism could help cure it.  But what Herbalism can help with is the function of the eyes generally.  Eyes are important.  You only have 1 pair of them, so what can you do to help keep your ocular function tip top?

from ocado.com

from ocado.com

Isn’t it strange?  Clinical trials recently have found that the given folk wisdom about eating carrots to help eyesight is actually true.  You see, Mother is ALWAYS right!

You should also maintain your hydration and eat a diet high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids.  If you are looking for health supplements, then you need one which has a combination of selenium, Vitamin C and E and beta carotene.

Other herbal remedies to improve vision include herbs which strengthen the small capillaries around the eyes and indeed increase the circulation to them.  Bilberry is widely used, as is Gingko Biloba, also known as Ginseng.  In fact, gingko is the herb of choice for natural treatment of conditions like peripheral vascular insufficiency and macular degeneration.

I can’t write about herbal treatments for the eyes without mentioning Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis).  It can be used internally or externally in all eye problems and will help the eyeball and the surrounding tissue.  It is particularly efficacious when treating styes, conjunctivitis or other inflammation of the eyelids.  When dealing with these sorts of inflammation, it is usually best to use internal and external treatment.

Internally, the remedy should be antimicrobial which will help to detoxify and tone the whole body which will help get rid of the infection.  Youcould make up a tea using equal measures of Blue Flag, Cleavers, Echinacea, Eye bright and Pokeweed Root. A cup of this, drunk three times per day should really help.  Additionally, you could make eyewash or a compress with Eyebright.  One tablespoon of the dried herb in 1 pint of water, boiled for 10 minutes and then cooled, can be either sluiced around the eye, or put onto a cotton wool pad and placed on the eye for 15 minutes.  It should be repeated several times per day.

cartoon optician

To be honest, the best way of ensuring good eye health is to have regular optician appointments.  I have had to wear glasses since I was 8 years old, and I have heard many stories about people going to the optician and being sent directly to the hospital when the optician has found something suspect.  If you are given a prescription for glasses (or contact lenses) then wear them.  It is so important. 

Have you got any family cures for eye strain or other eye conditions?