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.

 

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.

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.