Sep 292019
 

Had a fantastic weekend gathering winter fruits from the garden and beyond.

First and foremost, got a load more elderberries (top right) – even fatter and lusher than the last lot, I think. That’s probably it for this year, as I didn’t see any more still-ripening berries. Gathering helped by husband, hindered by three dogs (in various ways!) Most of tomorrow will now be taken up making more Elderberry, Thyme & Liquorice Linctus.

Then we gathered hawthorn berries (top centre), which I will macerate and add to my hawthorn blossom tincture made in the spring, making a most fulsome blend for healing the heart on a physical and emotional level, among other things.

Also collected and examined the fallen sweet chestnuts (bottom left), but the nuts were not quite ripe, so we left for the squirrels. They usually ‘come to fruition’ after the horse chestnuts. They’re delicious roasted.

And oh the blackberries (top left), still in such abundance. Combined with apples from the garden (bottom right), and drizzled with honey from my neighbour’s bees, they make the most divine apple & blackberry crumble, completely devoid of any refined sugar! Picking of these also hindered by three dogs, who will keep sticking their heads in the bags and eating the blackberries as fast as we can pick them, even though they’re perfectly capable of picking their own!

There were even a few more raspberries (bottom centre) to gather, in the garden, which were quickly scoffed (by husband and self – no dogs!)

The horse chestnuts (centre) came courtesy of my dear friend Lisa and her kids, who have been collecting them for me for the past week. Beautiful shiny, succulent things, already macerating in buckets in my kitchen, to produce the most amazing remedy for the relief of varicose veins, among other uses.

To add to the bounty, husband caught squid and mackerel yesterday – not pictured because we ate those last night. And very yummy they were too.

I love this time of year. Like I love every time of year. There is always something nature has to offer.

Sep 262019
 

Fresh, handpicked elderberries from The Lizard in Cornwall, gathered by medical herbalist Deanne Greenwood, to make elderberry, thyme and liquorice cough linctus. Deanne Greenwood practices in Falmouth, Helston, Penzance and The Lizard in Cornwall.I’ve just finished making this year’s Elderberry, Thyme & Liquorice Linctus – amazing stuff for coughs, colds, sore throats, and as a general winter tonic… Elderberries are packed with vitamin C and other antioxidants, and I add tincture of thyme for its antiseptic and antibacterial properties, and tincture of liquorice as it’s a great expectorant for bringing up phlegm, and also a soothing demulcent for sore throats and chests. It tastes delicious – and it works!

This year there were some exceptionally fat and juicy berries for me to pick (alongside masses of similarly lush berries and fruits, including blackberries, hawthorn berries, horse chestnut and sweet chestnut, which I’ve also been collecting). But elderberries are particularly time-consuming to prepare, and I didn’t have time to make as much linctus as I usually do.

First of all, I make sure all my utensils and bottles are sterilised, as this stuff quickly goes off if you get any bacteria in it. Then I pick the elderberries, getting stung by nettles and scratched by brambles along the way, but then I’m used to that in my line of work! Next comes the painstaking separation of the ripe ‘n’ ready berries from the still green ones, and the shrivelled up ones, on each panicle. Then I make the syrup – ensuring I don’t over heat it and lose some of its medicinal properties. Once cool, the tinctures of thyme and liquorice are added, and the resultant elixir bottled and labelled.

This year, I factored in the manpower, i.e. the number of hours it took me to do all this, paying myself £18 an hour, whereas previously it’s been more a labour of love. Although a lot of love has still gone into it, because I love what I do, and herbal medicines prepared with love always have the edge when it comes to healing properties.

elderberry, thyme and liquorice cough linctus made by medical herbalist Deanne Greenwood, who practices in Falmouth, Helston, Penzance and The Lizard in Cornwall.So I’m charging more for my linctus this year: £8.50 for a 200ml bottle.

You can, of course, make your own Elderberry Linctus, using culinary herbs such as ginger root, cinnamon and/or liquorice sticks in place of the thyme and liquorice tinctures I use. You’ll find a recipe for it in a website blog I wrote way back in 2015. Click here.

 

Jun 132018
 

ForagingDeanne Greenwood Medical Herbalist in her herb garden

This is my favourite time of year with regard to all things herbal. For the next few months I will be very busy indeed, with all the lush medicinal plants that are sprouting up everywhere in a glorious and wild profusion of colour and aroma.

When the plants are in their optimum state for harvesting, and the weather conditions are right, I’ll be off gathering what I need to create potent herbal tinctures.

Hot, sunny mornings

Typically, I’ll be waiting for a hot sunny day, which will first take the morning dew off the plants, and then bring the therapeutic saps and oils to the surface of the leaves and flowers. I try to get out late morning, before the day gets too hot and the plants, and I, start to wilt a little.

Elder flowersElderflower is a popular hay fever remedy

Recently, I’ve gathered fluffy heads of elder flowers and spread some of them out to dry on racks above the boiler in my boot room. The heady scent they give off is quite intoxicating – especially when I first open the boot room door in the morning. I’ll use the resultant dried plant, mixed with similarly dried peppermint and yarrow, to make a herbal tea which is the absolute best for colds and flu as it makes you sweat, as well as having lots of other therapeutic properties.

I am also macerating some of the elder flower heads in diluted organic grain alcohol to make a tincture (takes about two weeks) that I often use for prophylactic treatment of hay fever – mixed with other herbs, such as eyebright and nettle.

My fingers were stained nicotine yellow after harvesting the elder – not a good look for a health practitioner!

Nettle

The nettle – gathered when it was heavy with seed heads, is also currently in maceration.

Sage & Rosemary

From the allotment, I’ve harvested pungent sage – bravely fending off the fat bumblebees that were buzzing all round the purple flowers on the sage and didn’t take kindly to me chopping down their nectar supply – and rosemary, of which I have several large bushes.

My fingers and nails this time were engrained with a thick layer of brown and green oils. (At this time of year, I often have to explain to patients that my disgusting looking nails are not the result of having just done an oil change!)

St John’s wort

Next on the agenda is St John’s wort, which is said to flower on June 24th – St John’s Day, hence the name. Today (June 13th) the rather large bush in my garden has one fully opened flower, and many buds, so I’m hoping it will be in full flower pretty much bang on target!

Lemon balm, Meadowsweet & Yarrow

And so many more still to do – lemon balm, meadowsweet and yarrow being a few of my favourites.

Healing energy

It is such a rewarding practice, because the herbal medicines I prepare myself are always the very best, most potent in my dispensary. You can smell and taste the vibrancy and healing energy in them.

Spirit of Plants and People

That is not to say the herbal medicines I buy in from accredited suppliers in other parts of the country, who also grow many of their own plants, aren’t of the highest quality and therapeutic efficacy – it’s just that I feel home-prepared have the edge. Partly because the sole herbalist is better able to harvest at the absolute optimum time, but mainly because, I believe, the spirit of the person who picks and prepares medicinal plants infuses into the plant and gives the medicine an extra power and energy.

Hence always gathering and preparing herbal medicines with respect, love and gratitude.

Jul 142017
 

By Deanne Greenwood, Medical Herbalist, BSc (Hons) Herb Med

Gymnema sylvestre is a plant that helps balance blood sugar levels

Gymnema sylvestre is a medicinal plant that actually anaesthetises the taste buds in the mouth, reducing sugar cravings and helping balance blood sugar levels

Herbal medicine can help you lose weight and stay slim. But it’s not a magic bullet. It works in conjunction with a healthy diet, exercise and lifestyle.

Efficient metabolism of food

In herbal medicine there are many medicinal plants, aka herbs, used to optimise gut function. These herbs help us digest and metabolise food efficiently, and to excrete toxins and other unwanted matter so that they don’t accumulate in the body, making us feel bloated and sluggish. They do this by stimulating the flow and correct balance of gastric juices, helping to regulate bowel movements, urine output and blood sugar levels, and by supporting the immune system – 80 per cent of which is in our gut!

All this has the knock-on effect of making us feel great, full of energy and enthusiasm – which makes it a lot easier to take regular exercise and adopt a new eating regime.

The ‘feel-good’ factor

There are herbs we use to help balance our emotional and psychological state, clear the skin, ease aches and pains, help us sleep, all of which boost our emotional wellbeing – the ‘feel-good’ factor – which gives us added incentive to look after and love our bodies.

When we’re feeling low, this affects our physical health; when we’re feeling happy and enthusiastic, our physical wellbeing is boosted. Mind and body are inextricably linked.

Successful dieting

Anyone who has been on a diet or to a slimming club will know that if you see the recommended changes in diet and lifestyle as a hardship, something that makes you feel miserable, you’re unlikely to achieve your aim; but when you embrace these changes as an enjoyable way of eating and living your life, the desired effects are easier to achieve and maintain.

A holistic approach

Herbal medicine is ‘holistic’. That is, it supports the whole body to achieve optimum health. If you have a consultation with a herbalist, he or she is likely to give you a ‘tonic’ made up of a combination of herbs that will help your body rebalance and energise itself on a physical and emotional level.

You are unique

Herbal medicine also works on an individual basis. To be most effective, you need herbs based on your particular body type, your unique physical and emotional state. We are all different.

The power of herbs

Herbal medicine may not be a magic bullet, but make no mistake, it has very powerful, and scientifically proven, actions.

For more information about herbal medicine, visit www.deannegreenwood.com

Oct 032016
 

There are lots of herbs and spices that you’ll find growing in the wild, or in your kitchens, that make fast and effective remedies for coughs, colds and flu. They all, variously, have potent antibiotic, antiviral and antiseptic properties, and promote sweating (which is the body’s way of reducing temperature and fever). They’re soothing, comforting and taste good, too!

Ginger, lemon and honeylemons are placed with vitamin C

The classic herbal cold and flu remedy. It’s best to use fresh ginger (Zingiber officinale), chopped or grated (you don’t have to peel) and freshly squeezed lemon juice (Citrus limon). Make a tea with the ginger and leave to infuse for at least ten minutes before straining and adding honey and lemon juice. The stronger the better, but make to taste – the idea is to enjoy it!

liquorice, cloves and cinnamon add warmth to herbal teasCinnamon (Cinnamomum spp.), clove (Syzgium aromaticum) and cayenne (Capsicum frutescens)

Lovely warming spices that are so comforting when you are feeling cold and shivery. They stimulate circulation, warming you right down to the tips of your fingers and toes. Add to your infusion, as above.

Thyme and lemon balm

These are my favourite herbal teas to help relieve the muscular aches and pains you can get with colds and flu. I grow them in the garden, harvesting and drying in the summer. Elderflower (Sambucus nigra) helps too, and blends well with thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis).

Inhaling the vapours of aromatic herbal infusions is part of the healing and comforting process, by the way!

You can also add strong infusions (use about 25g dried herb) of thyme and rosemary to a bath to help relieve aching muscles and soothe the senses.

Sage (Salvia officinalis) and rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

The antiseptic and astringent properties of these garden herbs make them ideal for sore throats and infections. Use the cooled teas as a gargle. Thyme works well, too.

GarlicGarlic is a potent antimicrobial remedy

If you can bear it, garlic (Allium sativum) is one of the best herbal remedies for colds and flu. Its antimicrobial properties are unsurpassed. The best way to take it is to squeeze through a garlic press, or pound in a pestle and mortar, mix with honey (ideally local and organic), and eat it. Smelling it on your breath indicates that it has passed through your lungs, confirming its deep, penetrative action.

And finally, look after yourself…

Drink plenty of fluids such as herbal teas, and juices and smoothies made with antioxidant-packed berries. Cut out dairy products, as they are so mucous-forming. Keep warm. Rest as much as possible. And trust in the healing powers of nature and the body’s innate ability to heal itself, given the right support!

For more advice, take a look at the following blogs, which you can find by scrolling down the side panel entitled Herbal Ramblings Posts.

  •  ‘A soothing herbal remedy for coughs and sore throats’ : Make your own cough ‘n’ cold linctus using fresh elderberries and kitchen spices.
  • ‘Echinacea and the immune system’: Does it really work?
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 242015
 

Hay fever seasonNettles (Urtica dioica) have antihistamine properties and are often used in herbal medicine for the prevention and relief of hay fever and other allergies. Medical herbalist Deanne Greenwood prepares many of her own herbal remedies at her home on the Lizard in Cornwall, for use in her practices in Falmouth, Helston and Penzance.

Depending on which particular plant pollen you are allergic to, you may already be dreading the start of the hay fever season. People who are allergic to tree pollen can start experiencing symptoms as early as February (usually lasting through to June). Grass pollen is released from May to July, and weed pollen spans April to September. Some particularly sensitive individuals may be allergic to all or a combination of plants, meaning that they can suffer for many months. People who are allergic to mould (a big problem in Cornwall, where I live and practice) may suffer symptoms all year round, although peak season is September and October.

Hay fever symptoms

People who suffer from hay fever often only seek treatment when they start experiencing symptoms, which include streaming and itchy nose, throat and eyes, or blocked nose and sinuses, fatigue, headache, poor sleep and low mood. Prior to the onset of symptoms, they tend to take an optimistic ‘wait-and-see’ approach: it might not be as bad this year. And sometimes it isn’t. But when it is as bad as ever, or worse, there is little to be done apart from treat the symptoms (and stay indoors).

Side effects

Herbal medicine can help relieve and manage the symptoms of hay fever and alleviate the need to take conventional medication which can have side effects and lead to other health problems. When you see a qualified, experienced herbalist, the underlying cause of hay fever, ie why you react adversely to substances that other people cope perfectly well with, will also be addressed, the aim being to reduce your sensitivity and therefore your allergic reaction.

Desensitise your body

A more effective strategy  is to seek herbal help before the hay fever season starts and you start experiencing symptoms. 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 your are allergic, so their honey has an immunomodulatory effect. In other words, it acts like a natural vaccine.

Herbs for hay fever

I harvest my own herbs, and prepare my own tinctures for use when treating people for hay fever and other allergies. 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 2-3 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.

Nov 062014
 

A holistic approach to breast cancer  Ginger, chilli and garlic are all used in herbal medicine to support the immune system, boost circulation and reduce inflammation, among other things. Deanne Greenwood is a medical herbalist practicing in Falmouth, Helston and Penzance in Cornwall, and also offering consultations by telephone, Skype and FaceTime.

I’ve been moved to write this blog after recently meeting yet another woman with breast cancer and a distressing tale to tell about the management of her illness.

Chemotherapy

She had just come to the end of a grueling course of chemotherapy, with repeated bouts of nausea and vomiting, and loss of hair and eyebrows. Nobody had talked to her about these side effects pre-treatment… nobody had talked to her husband and children about what might happen and how to cope….

Radiotherapy

She is now about to start radiotherapy, and unsure what to expect this time… She thought perhaps she should have done some research about breast cancer treatment and how to look after herself in between and afterwards, but she just hasn’t felt strong enough, physically and emotionally….

Support during breast cancer treatment and recovery

I’ve heard similar tales from other women with breast cancer who have come to see me in the past 12 months. One had had a mastectomy and been ‘signed off’ post surgery with a cheery “see you in six months’ time for your check up”. Not even any dietary and lifestyle advice provided…

Diet and lifestyle

As this young woman was being discharged, she asked if there was anything she should be doing, and was told to just relax and enjoy herself, do whatever made her feel good. As she pointed out to me, her way of relaxing and enjoying herself could have been going to the pub and getting drunk as a coot every night… Luckily she’s not a big drinker. Nor is she a fan of junk and fast food… but she doesn’t know what the best diet for keeping her healthy is either, or what else she could do that might help prevent a recurrence of this devastating illness.

Herbal medicine and breast cancer

Apart from life-enhancing dietary and lifestyle advice, there is so much more holistic therapies can offer women with breast cancer. Under the care of a qualified and experienced herbal practitioner, herbal medicine can safely be used during treatment for breast cancer and the recovery period, helping to relieve symptoms such as nausea & vomiting, hot flushes, skin rashes, constipation, poor appetite & digestion, insomnia and anxiety. For example:

Ginger

There is good scientific evidence, (including a large study conducted by The National Cancer Institute in the US), that ginger can significantly reduce nausea and vomiting experienced during chemotherapy. (Nausea and vomiting is experienced in about 70% of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.)

Black cohosh

Another herb, called Black cohosh, has been the subject of a lot of research recently, revealing that it can help reduce the side effects of breast cancer medication such as Tamoxifen, including menopausal symptoms like hot flushes, and reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence. One 11-year retrospective study suggested that Black cohosh was more effective than Tamoxifen at reducing breast cancer recurrence.

Herbs, scientific research and breast cancer

There are many other herbs that have traditionally been used to support the immune (including lymphatic) system and help reduce metastatic spread; optimise liver and bowel function to encourage detoxification and processing of oestrogen (particularly important for ER+ breast cancer); improve digestive function for nutrient absorption, support the nervous system to boost mood and sleep, etc… There is supporting scientific evidence for many of these actions, but for me, traditional use and knowledge of herbal medicine passed down through the ages, plus personal experience of using and working with herbs and people, is more important!

The power of self-healing

Also, just want to say, the body is capable of healing itself (referred to as ‘spontaneous remission’ in conventional medicine!) given the right support and environment. Our bodies produce, and destroy, cancer cells every single day. Sometimes they lose control of this finely tuned process. The operative words here are ‘finely tuned’. Herbal medicine is a gentle and safe way to support the body and nudge it back into self-management mode.

More information about herbal medicine and breast cancer

If you are considering using herbal medicine to help you through breast cancer, please seek professional help from a qualified and insured medical herbalist. To find one in your area, contact the College of Practitioners of Phytotherapy at www.phytotherapists.org, or the National Institute of Medical Herbalists at www.nimh.org.uk. I am happy to provide more information and can be contacted by email at deannegreenwood@me.com.

The Haven breast cancer support

For general holistic advice for women with breast cancer, including emotional/psychological and physical support, I recommend visiting The Haven breast cancer support website at www.thehaven.org.uk