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!)

Dec 122014
 

The health of the nation!White willow (Salix alba) is a renowned herbal anti-inflammatory and painkiller used in herbal medicine. It is a herb medical herbalist Deanne Greenwood often uses in her practices in Falmouth, Helston and Penzance in Cornwall.

The Health Survey for England published this week revealed that almost half the population is taking some form of prescribed medication, ie I in 2 people. This doesn’t include over-the-counter medication such as painkillers, laxatives, sleeping tablets and antacids, and the contraceptive pill. Imagine what the figure would be if it did! Also, more than a fifth of men and nearly a quarter of women are taking at least three prescriptions.

Multi prescriptions

Earlier this week a neighbour told me that her father had just returned home after a brief stay in hospital. He’d become increasingly incapacitated, physically and mentally, she explained, and so the hospital had decided to withdraw all his medication (a very long list!) to try to get to the bottom of it. He was soon feeling a lot better, and the conclusion was that it had been the medication that had been making him ill.

Statins and painkillers

None of this comes as any surprise to me. Nor will it to any herbalist or holistic practitioner, I would imagine. We see so many patients who have been on a catalogue of drugs for many years – statins, anti-inflammatories, painkillers, antihypertensives, thyroid medication and antidepressants are common – often including medication to relieve the side effects of other medication they are taking.

Alternative approaches

These patients often feel that their prescribed medication is not helping, and sometimes is making them feel worse, and they are looking for an alternative approach to dealing with their health problems.

Herbal medicine

Herbal medicine, coupled with quite simple and straightforward dietary and lifestyle advice, can help. Sometimes it can go all the way, and help people resolve their health problems so that they no longer need to take medication. In other instances, it can help reduce a person’s reliance on prescription drugs, so that they are able to take fewer and lower dosage drugs, and hugely improve their state of health and quality of life. It also helps people take control of their own health and lives, instead of just trotting down to the pharmacy clutching their repeat prescription.

Willow v aspirin

In herbal medicine there are thousands of plants with many different therapeutic properties and actions, including anti-inflammatories, anti-hypertensives, antidepressants and analgesics. But each and every one of them contains a myriad of other constituents, too, that all work together to support the body as a whole and help it heal. Without causing other problems. For example, White willow (Salix alba) is a renowned herbal anti-inflammatory and analgesic. (See About Herbal Medicine for more information.) In fact, aspirin was originally synthesised from willow. But by extracting the active constituent of the plant, salicylic acid, and creating a chemical version known as acetylsalicylic acid, some of the healing power of the plant was lost. Hence, perhaps, the fact that aspirin can have rather unpleasant side effects such as internal bleeding and stomach ulcers, whereas taking the original herbal version does not.

Hormonal help

There are also many plants that can help rebalance hormones and relieve gynaecological problems such as PMS, fertility and conception issues, PCOS, fibroids, endometriosis, menopausal symptoms. I believe that the contraceptive pill/implant is often at the root of, and also a contributory factor in, many of these health problems, as well as others such as some autoimmune disorders. Stopping using hormonal contraception is usually helpful, but often not enough to resolve the problem, and a natural approach incorporating herbal medicine, diet and lifestyle factors is needed to bring this finely tuned body system back into balance and optimum function.

The cost of mass medication

Going back to the Health Survey for England, the cost of all these prescriptions for last year alone was over £15 billion. Who benefits? The drug manufacturers, big fat global conglomerate businesses…