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May 142016
 

dandelion flowerdandelion leaves are an incredible natural diureticI have just harvested and tinctured my first herb of the year: the humble dandelion leaf (Taraxacum officinale folia). And I have a lovely tale to tell of one of my patients, last year, whose quality of life was transformed, in days, by this plant.

Swollen ankles

She is an 84-year-old woman, who came to see me with a number of health complaints, including “swollen legs”. Her legs, feet and ankles had retained so much fluid that she couldn’t get her shoes and boots on. She also had so much fluid retention around her midriff that she had difficulty bending down, which was particularly distressing for her as she loves gardening.

Feeling bloated

“I feel bloated and stout,” she said. “Puffed up and massively uncomfortable.” She was very indignant about her GP, who had told her that, at her age, she must expect her legs to swell a little during the summer months.

Instant ‘weight’ loss

My most immediate aim was to ease her discomfort, so I packed her first herbal prescription with dandelion leaf tincture. She emailed me three days later, saying: “The swelling in my legs and ankles is considerably reduced. Hooray and thank you!”

In just one week from when she started the dandelion leaf tincture, she had lost 4lbs in weight/retained fluid.

Medication review

Together we went on to resolve her other health problems over the next few months. Which, incidentally, involved having her conventional medication reviewed and changed. The rapid relief from her oedema, through using herbal medicine, gave her the fortitude to insist that her GP conduct this review. She was fed up with being given the brush-off, especially once she knew there was a simple, and effective, alternative.

Natural diuretic

I always ensure my dispensary is well stocked with dandelion leaf (and root, actually, but that’s another story). It has many other therapeutic uses, as well as being a natural and potent diuretic.

Water tablets

One of the side effects of conventional diuretics (so-called “water tablets”), by the way, is that the body leaches potassium due to increased urination. This can be very dangerous, as potassium is vital for organ function, including the heart. Dandelion also increases urination, but neatly avoids the potassium loss crisis because its leaves are packed with potassium – so any loss is simply, and naturally, counteracted/replaced.

Take a bow, you little beauty!

May 112016
 

As a herbalist, I am passionate about protecting and nurturing plants, many of which have medicinal properties. Bees are essential to this, and I have been an avid supporter of the drive to ban bee-harming pesticides by the likes of Friends of the Earth. Bee on echinacea

This has resulted in the EU ‘restricting’ the use of three neonicotinoid insecticides because of the risk to the bees. Courtesy of Friends of the Earth, I’m delighted to spread the word that, despite the National Farmers Union predicting that the ban would cause major problems for growing oilseed rape, last year’s figures reveal that rapeseed yields were actually higher than in 2014.

This totally supports the call for a permanent ban on these pesticides. Which is why it’s important that everyone who cares about and appreciates the value of bees, buzzes their local MP to support a total ban on bee-harming pesticides. It’s really easy to do: just go to bit.ly/neonicban. Pleeezzz……

 Posted by at 9:52 pm
Apr 072016
 

The menopause is a sea of changeAs I’ve been doing so many talks and workshops about the menopause recently, and helping an increasing number of women through this natural transition in their lives, I’ve decided to dedicate a whole website to…The Menopause.

You don’t need HRT

The idea is that women can use this website to learn more about what’s going on in their bodies, and find useful information about how they can help themselves move through the perimenopause using diet, lifestyle changes and herbal remedies. It’s also aimed at women looking for help withdrawing from HRT.

Please refer anyone you think might be interested in taking a natural approach to the menopause, to my www.naturalhelpformenopause.uk website.

Mar 132016
 

Black cohosh is one of the most widely researched herbs related to menopauseFor some women, going through the menopause can be hell. But there are ways in which we can help ourselves glide through this natural period of transition with grace, understanding and the minimum amount of physical and emotional upset. Seriously, it can be done!

The menopause is a natural, normal process.

It is one of many transitions in life that women’s bodies adapt to. Strictly speaking, this period of change and adaptation is known as the perimenopause, as it can span a number of years.

Symptoms associated with the menopause

These include changes to the menstrual cycle (periods can become less, or more, frequent; heavier, or lighter), anxiety, irritability, mood swings, depression, poor memory and concentration levels, sleep problems, fatigue, loss of libido, hot flashes, night sweats, dizziness and palpitations, vaginal dryness and soreness, urinary problems such as cystitis and thrush, and stiff, aching joints.

Stress plays a part

Some women experience the odd symptom or two, and others, unfortunately, have a really tough time of it. Reasons for this include factors such as how much stress they have in their lives, and more importantly how they manage this, along with many other lifestyle factors. Diet also plays a very important part in preventing and relieving symptoms associated with the perimenopause.

Herbal remedies for the menopause

There are many herbal remedies that really do work like magic when it comes to relieving menopausal symptoms. But here’s the thing: they are not a magic bullet. They work best when used in conjunction with a healthy diet and lifestyle. They help to support a woman both physically and emotionally as her body adapts to its changing status, making it a smoother, easier ride, if you like.

Natural HRT

There is a group of plants called phyto-oestrogens, which behave like oestrogen and help ease the adjustment period, and relieve symptoms of the perimenopause. These plants are sometimes referred to as natural hormone replacement therapy, or natural HRT. The distinction between these and pharmaceutical HRT is that phyto-oestrogens are natural compounds, not synthetic or chemical substitutes, and that they do not ‘replace’ oestrogen. Without wishing to get too complicated, they work on different oestrogen receptor sites in the body.

Black cohosh and the menopause

There are many other herbs that can be extremely useful during the perimenopause. For example, by supporting the digestive system, the nervous system (moods, emotions, sleep etc), and the musculoskeletal system (aching joints and muscles), by boosting memory and concentration, and helping us cope with fatigue. There is also a group of medicinal plants known as adaptogens which, as the name suggests, help us adapt to changing circumstances, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Black cohosh (pictured above) is one of the most widely researched medicinal plants associated with menopausal symptoms.

Support for women during the perimenopause

I have supported many women through this natural transitional period, seeing women as patients, writing articles, giving talks and running workshops, and by being a woman who has been through menopause herself. I have also helped women withdraw from hormone replacement therapy (HRT), for which herbal medicine, in combination with a healthy diet and lifestyle, can be very effective.

Early menopause

Taking a natural approach, using diet, lifestyle and herbal remedies, is also a positive strategy for women who are going through an early menopause, due to health problems or genetic factors.

Getting help for the menopause

I do consultations via Skype, FaceTime, telephone and, if you live in travelling distance, face-to-face in Cornwall. I am always available in between consultations, while I support you through the perimenopause.

Workshops

My next workshop, for those who live in Cornwall, is on Saturday March 19th 2016, 10am-12.30pm, at the Inspiring Health natural health clinic,17 Fish Strand Hill, Falmouth TR11 3BD. As the workshops are for small groups only, booking is essential. Please phone 01326 212112 or email info@inspiringhealth.org.uk to book your place. For more information about me, and herbal medicine, please visit my website at www.deannegreenwood.com. Or email me at deannegreenwood@me.com.

 

Jan 132016
 

TestimonialElder flower is one of the key herbs for tackling hay fever

“I seem to be hay fever-free… completely… at this point! I even worked in the garden yesterday without problems…”

Valerie Spargo, Falmouth

This is a quote from one of my patients, who tried herbal medicine to see if it would help relieve the very debilitating hay fever symptoms she had been experiencing for many years. She had started taking conventional medication a few years previously, which helped, but with the drawback of a number of side effects. Her symptoms sometimes started as early as March.
I suggested taking a herbal prophylactic approach, starting at the end of January, with a view to avoiding having to take medication, if nothing else! The opening quote is from April 2015. Although she did not remain completely hay fever-free through to the end of July, when her symptoms usually subsided, her symptoms were significantly reduced. This enabled her to enjoy her summer, including spending time in the garden. And she did not need to take her previous medication. She was delighted. Here are some quotes from May and June:

May: “I have sneezing fits every once in a while, and sometimes sore, itchy eyes, but really, not a great deal of a problem.

June: “I have occasional short periods of crazy sneezing and some evenings I need to wash my eyes, but these periods are short and hardly worth mentioning. All is very good.”

The herbal approach

Using a personalised approach and herbs chosen specifically for you, a herbalist can help rebalance, strengthen and, in effect, desensitise your body, reducing and hopefully preventing a reaction to the substances it was previously sensitive to.
A herbalist will take into consideration any other allergies or sensitivities you may have. Allergies tend to have a cumulative effect, so the more substances you are sensitive to, the more you are likely to become sensitive to, or the more severe your symptoms may become, as your body becomes more and more stressed and weakened, and less able to cope.

Anti-histamine herbs

There is a wide choice of herbs to choose from, including those with antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, anti-pruritic (anti-itching) properties, and it is the skill of the herbalist that determines which herbs are best suited to you.

Natural vaccines

I believe that using local plants is particularly beneficial, in the same way that many people find eating local honey helps alleviate their symptoms. The theory is that the local bees are feeding off the same pollens to which you are allergic, so their honey has an immunomodulatory effect. In other words, it acts like a natural vaccine.

Herbs for hay fever

I collect many of the herbs I use in the treatment of hay fever locally, and prepare tinctures from them. I live on The Lizard peninsula in Cornwall, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, where much of the land is organic, and the medicinal plants and herbs I harvest here are rich, strong and vibrant, and have an almost tangible energy. Those that commonly feature in remedies for hay fever include nettle, plantain, elderflower and eyebright.

Pre-hay fever season

The sooner someone with hay fever seeks herbal help, the better. Ideally, I like to see patients a couple of months before ‘their’ hay fever season starts. That way, we can strengthen and rebalance all the body systems, including the immune system, so that it recognises, and stops overreacting to, natural substances.

Find out more about herbal medicine

If you’d like to find out more about how herbal medicine works, please take a look at my About Herbal Medicine page. Also check out the Inspiring Health natural health clinic for details of a Hay fever and Allergy workshop we are running on March 12.

Nov 152015
 

Deanne Greenwood Medical Herbalist in her herb gardenI am not a healer, I don’t ‘treat’ people, and I don’t make people better. I am a facilitator. I facilitate a person’s innate ability to heal themselves. We all have that ability. The body is perfectly capable of rebalancing and healing itself given the right support and environment – which includes a healthy diet and lifestyle, and, of course, the right herbs! I try to make that clear to everyone who comes to see me. You can heal yourself. I will help you.

Let’s join forces

When you come to see me with a health problem, I will explain that working to resolve it is a two-way process, and that we will be working together to help your body heal itself. I will select and prescribe the most appropriate herbs, and the most appropriate combination of herbs, to suit you. I will also provide dietary and lifestyle advice, that must be taken on board and acted on by you, the other person in this contract.

There is no magic bullet

When someone already has a reasonably healthy diet and lifestyle (although there’s almost always room for improvement!), taking the herbs as prescribed may be enough to rectify their health problem. When someone has a poor diet and/or lifestyle, herbs alone are much less likely to do the trick. They are not a magic bullet. They are part of the facilitation process.

My success rate

I can honestly say, without any doubt, that my success rate in helping people to heal is much higher among those who follow the dietary and lifestyle advice given, who take their herbs as prescribed, and provide me with feedback during the healing process. That is, among those who work with me, instead of treating herbs simply as an alternative to the drugs prescribed by their doctor.

Here’s the deal

It is demoralising for me – not to mention the person who has come to see me – when they do not get better because they have not fulfilled their part of ‘the contract’. If I tell you to stop eating fast food, include lots more fresh fruit and vegetables in your diet, and drink more water, then that’s what you must do, if you want to get better. If you are not prepared to do this, you are wasting your time (not to mention mine!) and your money. If I suggest you cut out dairy, or wheat, from your diet, at least for a short period, you will be helping yourself, and speeding your recovery, if you do so. It’s as simple as that.

You need to swallow the herbs

It’s also important to take your prescribed herbal medicine as per instruction. It’s not unusual for me to see someone at a follow-up consultation who complains that they are not feeling any better, and then informs me that they have over half a bottle of their herbal mixture left because they haven’t been taking it as prescribed. Hello?

Just say yes

A positive attitude is also extremely supportive of the healing process. When someone says, ‘Yes, I want to work with you, I am going to take everything you say on board, I am going to make the necessary changes to my diet and lifestyle, because I really want to get better,’ they do get better. Mind and body are inextricably linked, so the way you think is as important as the things you do. Even if you are depressed, you can still be determined to get better. And I can help you feel more positive and determined if you are open to it. All these things, that only you can do, facilitate the healing action of the medicinal plants, and the healing capacity of your body.

The end result

I am committed to help every single person who comes to see me, to get better. If you are one of those people, you must be committed to work with me, and committed to your healing journey. And then you will get better.

Oct 282015
 
Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst, ‘Lullaby, the Seasons Spring’ (detail), 2002

I love this Damien Hirst print. I could easily create my own with the amount of medication some of my patients are taking when they first come to see me. A large number of them are experiencing symptoms caused by these drugs. This is mainly medication prescribed by doctors, but also includes drugs bought over the counter, such as painkillers and antacids.

Read the label

Sometimes the patient is aware that their symptoms are, or may be, caused by the side effects of medication, but often they are not. And I’d just like to say here that it’s important to read the list of potential side effects, and contraindications with other medication and health complaints, that accompanies any medication you are prescribed. Doctors don’t always give you all, or even some, of this information.

Polypharmacy

Just to complicate matters, some of the patients’ symptoms may stem from medication prescribed to help counter the side effects of the first lot of medication prescribed. It’s part of a syndrome known as ‘polypharmacy’, aka, ‘over-prescribing’ (my definition).

Recent research has revealed that approximately two-thirds of the drugs given to polypharmacy patients can safely be stopped, with no ill effects. In fact, often with very positive effects. There was a great article in the New Statesman in October last year, called ‘The old lady was taking lots of pills – and then she got confused’… Kind of sums it all up.

Statins, painkillers, anti-inflammatories….

Some of the commonly prescribed drugs that my patients have problems with include a whole range of antidepressants, statins, blood pressure and heart medication, thyroid meds, asthma medication, HRT and the contraceptive pill, painkillers, anti-inflammatories and steroids. Specifically, a few names that spring to mind because I hear them so often, are Omeprazole, Lansoprazole, Levothyroxine, Carbimazole, Propranolol, Tamsulosin, Finasteride, Tranexamic acid, Alendronic acid, Clopidogrel, Atenolol…. to name but a very few.

A natural approach to side effects

What I help people to do, is work out which meds may be causing problems for them, and look at ways to help them either stop, or reduce, that medication, using herbal medicine – medicinal plants – as an alternative and/or support while withdrawing from medication. At the same time, I will be trying to find the underlying cause of their health problem, and using herbal medicine, dietary and lifestyle advice to help them resolve it naturally, without any further damage to their health. At the very least, I aim to reduce the amount of medication they are taking, improve symptoms and quality of life, by supporting the body’s innate ability to heal itself.

Oct 252015
 

CalendulaAs the clocks went back today, I thought this gorgeous picture of preserved Marigolds (Calendula officinalis), that have all the colour and warmth and vibrancy of sunshine, might cheer everybody up a bit. I grew masses of marigolds in our organic vegetable garden this year (they attract beneficial insects and deter pests), then harvested, preserved and made healing remedies from them.

Medicinal properties of calendula

Calendula is an incredibly potent medicinal plant, with many uses in herbal medicine. I steep the flowers in oil on a sunny windowsill, strain and use the resulting calendula-infused oil in creams and ointments to help relieve a wide range of skin complaints. Calendula has antiseptic, antifungal, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, and soothes and heals everything from cuts and grazes, to red, angry and itchy conditions including allergies, eczema, sunburn, varicose veins and haemorrhoids, fungal infections like athlete’s foot, and viral infections such as cold sores. It also features in a powerful medicinal mouthwash I mix up for patients with gum infections and mouth ulcers, that works like magic.

Herbal detox

I also make tinctures, of differing strengths, from Calendula flowers, for internal use. Calendula is one of the great detoxifying herbs, supporting and strengthening the immune system, in particular the lymphatic system. It features in remedies for so many health problems, including inflammatory disorders of the digestive system, such as gastritis, and gastric and duodenal ulcers, and systemic skin disorders such as eczema and acne. There is a lot of scientific evidence behind its use in supporting people with cancer and aiding recovery from conventional cancer treatments.

Eyesight

And finally, some traditional herbal texts claim that just gazing at these radiant, deep orange flowers strengthens the eyesight. (Although this is slightly belied by the fact that I have spent many months and years visually drinking them in, and am extremely shortsighted!)