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

Oct 312014
 

An apple a day…Whole apples and cloudy apple juice can reduce total cholesterol and LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels, a study conducted last year has revealed. Other foods that can help include turmeric, globe artichoke and garlic, all of which are used in tincture and tablet form in herbal medicine.

Eating apples, or drinking cloudy apple juice (full of fibre and antioxidants), has been shown to significantly reduce both LDL (aka ‘bad’) cholesterol and Total Cholesterol levels in a study (randomized, single-blind, cross-over) conducted last year. Clear apple juice (much lower amounts of fibre and antioxidants) resulted in an increase in LDL and Total Cholesterol.

Garlic, artichoke and turmeric…

Other foods that are great for helping manage cholesterol levels include garlic, globe artichoke and turmeric. I also use them in tincture or tablet form as part of a herbal medicine prescription. And there are so many other herbs that can help problems associated with high cholesterol such as high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.

For more information…

If you’re worried about your cholesterol and would like to find out more about how herbal medicine can help, please get in touch with me.

Sep 102014
 

Welcome to my new website, updated and redesigned to include a blog.

My Herbal Ramblings blog is a work in progress, btw, and it’s at the beginning, so please bear with me. In this blog, I’ll be letting you know what I’m up to, herbally speaking, and sharing new information, research and fascinating facts about herbs.