May 042017
 

Three-cornered leeks are delicious in salads and cooking.Wild foraging

I do loads of foraging for medicinal plants to make herbal remedies, but also to add to salads and use in cooking. Yesterday, I’d run out of garlic, so dug up some Three-cornered Leeks, which are all over The Lizard (southernmost point of England) at the moment, used the bulbs in my cooking and the lovely white flowers to decorate (and munch on because they’re as tasty as they are pretty). Another favourite to add a lemony zest to salads is sorrel – the young leaves are particularly succulent in the Spring.

Urban foraging

You don’t have to live in a rural area to forage, though. This week, there was a wonderful photo feature in the online Guardian about foraging courses being run in different parts of the country, including urban areas such as London! It turns out one of the joint course leaders, Alex Laird, is a medical herbalist I did work experience with at The Haven Breast Cancer Care centre, when I was a student. She is an amazing teacher and guide. So if you fancy doing a bit of foraging, I’d encourage you to check out this Guardian feature here and/or visit the Foraging Courses website here .

Apr 232017
 

Medical herbalist Deanne Greenwood gets cross about HRTHOW EXCITED I was to discover that there was going to be a documentary style programme about menopause on prime time TV, led by notable journalist and current affairs broadcaster Kirsty Wark. HOW DISAPPOINTED I was to discover that the programme was little more than an acknowledgement that the menopause is something all women go through, that it isn’t talked about enough, and that your best option for managing the symptoms is probably HRT unless you want to try wearing a little magnet in your knickers.

Menopausal symptoms

It neither explored why women experience the many varied symptoms that they do, or why some suffer far more symptoms, of widely differing intensity, than others (there is a lot more to it than simply a drop in oestrogen levels!), or what they can do about it. Apart from taking HRT or inserting a magnet into their knickers. I’m not knocking said magnet, by the way, as it is something I have no experience of and my feeling is that if the woman who talked about it in the programme found it helpful, and that her hot flushes were reduced, and she didn’t feel the need to take HRT, then it can only be a good thing. But I am knocking the fact that this was the only alternative to HRT mentioned in the programme.

Herbs for menopause

What about herbal medicine, for example, for which there is considerable supporting scientific evidence, not to mention female personal experience, to vouch for it. Or what an incredible difference diet and lifestyle changes can make. It was mentioned almost in passing – as the programme participants baked and scoffed an array of cakes and pastries – that a healthy diet was helpful. No mention of the damage refined sugar and saturated fat can do to our hormonal system, stress levels, BMI etc, though. And it was stressed that smoking and excess alcohol were bad. But there is so much more to be said (an understatement if ever there was one!). Starting with ‘What is a healthy diet?’ It’s astounding how many patients I see who believe they have one, but when we take a close look, it is not that healthy at all. It may be healthier than the diets of other people they know, but it is a long way from optimum nutrition.

Phyto-oestrogens

When it comes to diet and menopause, it’s important to consider, for example, foods containing substances called phyto-oestrogens, which can help reduce menopausal symptoms including hot flushes and night sweats, vaginal dryness and low bone density. Phyto-oestrogens are found in soy products, legumes (beans, peas & lentils), nuts, seeds (particularly flaxseed), grains, berries and other fruits. And to be aware that the body’s response to hormones is controlled by prostaglandins, which are derived from essential fatty acids found in oily fish, seeds and seed oils such as flaxseed and extra virgin olive oil.

Hot flushes

Hot flushes – one of the most common symptoms complained about by perimenopausal women – were discussed in Kirsty Wark: The Menopause and Me a lot, joint pain and osteoporosis, mood swings, sexual problems and insomnia were touched on. Specific dietary and lifestyle approaches can make a huge difference to all these complaints, especially when combined with herbal remedies.

Black cohosh

Herbal medicine works on an individual basis, because we are all different and we all experience symptoms and health problems for different reasons, warranting a bespoke mix of different herbs. To mention a few: Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) often works particularly well in helping to relieve hot flushes and night sweats, and also helps maintain bone mineral density and protect against osteoporosis; Chaste berry (Vitex agnus castus) is a renowned hormone balancer, but can also influence melatonin levels and sleep patterns. There are many other herbs with similar properties and effects, and the key to success is finding the right herb, or usually combination of herbs, for the individual.

Anxiety and insomnia

Medicinal plants have scientifically proven therapeutic properties and actions, btw. We have herbs that are anti-hydrotics and so can help alleviate hot flushes; sedatives to help with anxiety and insomnia; stimulants to boost energy levels; herbs to help maintain bone density and strength, boost memory and concentration. There are also herbs that make excellent tonics for mucous membranes and are used in ointments, creams and pessaries to help lubricate and plump up vaginal tissue… The list goes on.

Natural HRT

And there are herbs that contain the aforementioned phyto-oestrogens found in many common foodstuffs, which act on the oestrogen receptors in our bodies. They are sometimes referred to as the natural alternative to hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Menopause Matters

I was disappointed that Dr Heather Currie, chair of the British Menopause Society and consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary in Scotland, didn’t stress the importance of diet and lifestyle issues. Although she is an advocate of HRT, as the editor of the Menopause Matters website and magazine she regularly features articles on natural approaches to managing menopause, and has run one written by me about herbal medicine.

HRT benefits

It was a pity that the effects of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), in the short and long term, weren’t examined in more depth, or an alternative viewpoint to its use provided. The Women’s Health Initiative – a series of clinical trials and observational study looking at HRT and involving over 160,000 post-menopausal women – was quickly dismissed and we were told that the current view is that the benefits of HRT outweigh the risks, for most women. (I agree that this may be the case for women who have had an early or ‘unnatural’ menopause, by the way.)

HRT risks

Our hormones don’t need replacing, they need balancing. And I am quite sure that HRT will eventually prove to be a big and very harmful mistake. I have followed all the arguments over the years for and against the safety of HRT, with past ‘evidence’ being contradicted, and new ‘evidence’ being brought to light, and feel strongly that nobody really knows the truth. Yet.

Natural menopause

If, as the Kirsty Wark: The Menopause and Me programme agreed, menopause is a natural and normal process, then why seek to subvert it? Trying to change the course of nature invariably leads to problems. Much better to work with nature, harness and feel rejuvenated by its power.

If you’d like to find out more about this ‘alternative’ viewpoint, please visit www.naturalhelpformenopause.uk

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.

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.