Tag: arthritis

Chaga – remember to be sustainable

It’s interesting to revisit this blog from a couple of years ago as I think things are starting to change. There does seem to be more awareness of sustainability, how to source herbs (and mushrooms safely).

If you’re in the UK I highly recommend checking out the work done by the UK Herb grower network and if you’re in the US the Sustainable Herbs Project.

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If you’ve ever read any of my blogs you will know I have a real passion for medicinal mushrooms, especially British ones.

Just as we need to protect our medicinal plants from over harvesting, the same goes for our medicinal mushrooms. Chaga has become a ‘wonder treatment’ for just about everything and it’s being added to smoothies left right and centre. This is extremely wrong and irresponsible.

1. Chaga needs to be extracted in hot water for it to extract it’s medicinal properties, so unless your smoothie is heated to over boiling point for at least 15 minutes you aren’t getting any benefit from it.

2. Chaga is black and course mushroom when ground and powdered, so if your chaga isn’t either a dark brown to black and course, it’s highly likely it’s not chaga!

3. Chaga is rare (growing on birch trees usually in Scotland or further north), it takes skill to harvest it sustainably.

Here’s a picture of real chaga powder on the left (dark and course), and on the right is a sample of chaga powder from a well known high street health food shop. I will allow you to draw your own conclusions about that!

Chaga is becoming endangered and imported specimens from the USA, Canada and Eastern Europe are often contaminated. Chaga a fantastic restorative medicine and is a great treatment for things like chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and people recovering from chemotherapy. That said, it should be harvested correctly and from a sustainable source.

There is growing research for the use of chaga which is only exacerbating the problems with supply. In laboratory studies recently, an extract of the medicinal mushroom Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) was found to protect liver cells.

If you have chaga powder in your kitchen or medicine cupboard, check the quality of it, it should be a black and course powder. If it’s not, it’s not chaga!

As of yet I have not found a sustainable source of chaga, but my hunt continues.

Herbal Medicine research blog – Nov – Dec 15

In November and December the following health research has caught my eye.

1. A new study showed that Andrographis reduced triglyceride levels in patients with raised celerytriglyceride levels (one of the measurements of high cholesterol).
2. A new study of celery seed has shown that when given to patients with arthritis, it reduced pain and inflammation to a greater extent than aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen.

3. A new study has shown that Ginkgo improved attention spans of children with ADHD and hyperactivity.

4. Turmeric has been shown to be effective at treating premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

hypericum_perforatum

5.Holy basil has been found to improve cognitive function and reduce stress in healthy people.

6. A new study has shown that patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy for head and neck cancer with radiation dermatitis, were treated effectively with a combination of St John’s wort and neem oil.

Herbs and Health Research blog – October 15

This month the following research on herbs and health has caught my eye.

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1. A study comparing the effectiveness of the herb rhodiola with the antidepressant sertraline (also known as Zoloft), found that while rhodiola had a slightly less anti-depressant effect, it didn’t have any side effects. The conclusion of the study was that rhodiola could be an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression.

 
2. A systemic Cochrane review was conducted looking at 49 trials (with a total of 5980 people) looking at osteoarthritis and the effectiveness of frankincense taken internally. The review found that frankincense was effective in the treatment of osteoarthritis but that further study was needed. (49 trials and 5980 people showing a positive effect was obviously not enough to draw a positive conclusion).

3. A small study in Brazil has found that applying an alcoholic extract of arnica to tendon injuries twice a day reduced pain and inflammation.

olive4. A new study published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging has shown that patients with osteoporosis showed a significant improvement when taking a medicinal extract of olive for 12 months.

 

I also wanted to take a moment to talk about the ‘scare mongering’ regarding health topics in the news.

Firstly it’s important to remember that these stories are often written by people who do not have any medical knowledge at all. A set of statistics are looked at by a researcher and they are written into a story.

Secondly, stories that have headlines like “bacon gives you cancer”, is trying to make money. It is not trying to provide any useful information about the science behind that claim.

There are doctors, medical researcher’s and other health professionals working on research studies of their own and looking an analysing other studies for merit and ways to understand more about health. For that to work that science has to be conducted without the input of someone trying to make money (i.e. drug companies). Unfortunately studies require a lot of money and the only people with the money are the drug companies. This means that the majority of medical research is biased.

My advice would be to take your medical advice from your doctor or health care professional and not the news or internet.

 

Herbal medicine research – March 2015

This month the following research on herbs and health has caught my eye.

1. A Cochrane review of 14 studies including 2050 people found that the following herbs were effective at reducing lower back pain. Devil’s claw, lavender, comfrey root, chilli, and white willow bark.

Wildflower Leptospermum grandifolium Bairne Track2. A study of 60 people with acne found that the use of tea tree essential oil in gel significantly reduced their acne.

3. A study of 278 participants with osteoarthritis showed that taking frankincense reduced pain, inflammation and improved function.

4. Preliminary research has shown that ginkgo may be beneficial in reducing macular degeneration.

5. A small study found that passion flower was more effective at reducing anxiety in children with ADHD in comparison with a common ADHD drug.

6. A small study found that valerian was effective at reducing obsessive compulsive symptoms in patients with OCD.

7. A study found that reishi mushroom taken alongside chemo and radio therapies increased their effectiveness.

elderberries8. A study of 147 people with the common cold found that a combination of elderflower, vervain, gentian and evening primrose reduced the length of the cold by 3.8 days.

9. A study found that taking 15ml of elderberry syrup four times a day for four days during flu reduced symptoms and the length of flu by four days or more.

 

Why use a natural cream?

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What is a natural cream?

A natural cream is one that does not use chemical based ingredients as fillers or preservatives.

 

Why use a natural cream?

Some people with sensitive skin are allergic to the chemical ingredients within creams. Or you may want to reduce the chemicals that you are coming into contact with as part of a healthy lifestyle.

 

What is the difference between a cream and an ointment?

The short answer to that is water. There are no water based ingredients within an ointment, only oil and beeswax.

 

When would you use an ointment?

An ointment is a much heavier application, it sits on the surface of the skin for much longer and does penetrate very far into the layers of skin. This can be really useful for slow release actions such as pain relieving. A chilli ointment for example, could be applied at before bed to provide pain relief throughout the night.

 

When would you use a cream?

Creams vary depending on their ingredients but in general they are much lighter than ointments and penetrate further into the layers of skin. They tend to soak in and don’t leave a film on the skin. They can have many uses from moisturising face creams to anti-inflammatory creams for sore joints and muscles.

 

Workshop2-lowHow can I make a natural cream?

There are lots of herbal cream recipes around, but this is one that is a classic traditional herbal cream. Change the water component and the type of infused oil in the recipe below to change the type of cream. E.g. chamomile infused oil with a chickweed infusion for eczema. Change the infusion and oil to plantain for an easy and safe nappy rash cream (remove the benzoin essential oil).

 

Traditional herbal cream recipe 

12g beeswax

50ml herbal infused oil

Benzoin essential oil (2 drops) (to act as a natural preservative)

Rosewater, distilled witchazel or warm herbal infusion (5 – 7ml) (water component)

Clean glass pots (mixture makes approx 60ml)

 

Melt the beeswax and herbal infused oil together in a double boiler over a low heat, once fully dissolved, remove from the heat, add the rosewater/distilled witchazel or warm infusion and essential oil and beat well until the mixture begins to thicken.

Spoon the mixture into the pots and allow to cool (with the lids off), and then label and apply the lids.

This cream will last up to 3 months in the fridge, remember to check for spoiling.

 

If you would like to learn more about natural creams and how you can make your own, take a look at my new natural cream making module.

 

 

July 14 – Research on herbal medicine and health blog

In July the following research on herbs and health has caught my eye.

1. A new report in the USA has been looking at antibiotic resistant infections and links to the overuse of antibiotics.

“Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, CDC Director, points out, “It’s clear that we’re approaching a cliff with antibiotic resistance. But it’s not too late. Clinicians and healthcare systems need to improve prescribing practices. And patients need to recognize that there are both risks and benefits to antibiotics — more medicine isn’t best; the right medicine at the right time is best.”

health-benefits-of-pomegranate

2. Pomegranate has been studied recently and found to have positive effects on musculoskeletal conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.

3. Turmeric has been studied recently for its potential use in the treatment of digestive problems, for example bowel disease.

4. Plantain (Plantago spp.) seeds have been studied in a laboratory and found to have anti-inflammatory properities.

5. A new laboratory study has found that feverfew can prevent skin damage.

6. A new study in Spain has been researching ways for patients to safely reduce their 

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benzodiazepine usage (drugs such as diazepam).

7. A new laboratory study on Trifolium spp. (clover) has found they can protect red blood cells from damage.

Herbal Medicine and Health research – May and June 14

In May and June the following research on herbs and health has caught my eye.

 Milk_thistle1. A recent laboratory study has shown that a constituent of milk thistle may be beneficial in treating prostate cancer, and may be synthesised into a drug.

2. A new study has shown that taking devil’s claw, turmeric and bromelain reduced inflammation and pain in patients with osteoarthritis.

3. A recent a laboratory study has shown that pomegranate may have neuroprotective effects.

4. Self heal (Prunella vulgaris) has been shown to have antioxidant and possible anti cancer actions according to a recent study.

5. Watercress has been found to be an effective treatment against E.coli, and is being considered for mass production high dose supplementation.

6. A recent report has shown a “complex link” between asthma and antibiotic use in children.

7. Rhemmania leaves were found to be beneficial in treating primary glomerulonephritis according to a recent study.

ginkgo leaves8. A new study on Ginkgo has found that it slows the progression of normal tension glaucoma.

9. A new report from the USA states that “walking may reduce the risk of death or need for dialysis in patients with chronic kidney disease”.

10. Several species of cranberry have been confirmed to have preventative effects for urinary tract infections.

11. An evaluation was conducted on research of herbal based creams used to treat psoriasis. The traditional preparation of Oregan grape (Mahonia aquifolium) was studies but the results were not conclusive.

12. An evaluation was conducted on research of herbal gout treatments. Results were promising but more data is needed.

13. Turmeric was found to be beneficial in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

dark-red-cherries14. Cherries have been studied recently and have been found to have cancer preventing effects.

Herbal medicine and health research – March 2014

This month the following research on herbs and health has caught my eye.

 TheobromaCocoa (Theobroma cocoa) has been found to have neuroprotective properties in a new laboratory study looking at the neuroprotective action required in Alzheimer’s disease. The neuroprotective findings of the study suggest that this action could be beneficial in other neurodegenerative disorders.

 A study in New York has found that sugar sweetened drinks increases blood pressure when looking at 410,000 study records.

 

Yoga is being prescribed by doctors in the USA for more than just relaxation, sleep apnea and arthritis have shown improvements.

 Milk_thistleMilk thistle (Silybum marinum) has been investigated as an Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s treatment, as well as for hypercholesterolemia.

Gene therapy is currently being used to help patients with Parkinson’s disease in the UK.

This month in research – September 13

This month I have found the following research particularly interesting.

 

Blueberry
Blueberry

1. A 300g portion of blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum) has been found to protect DNA from damage, in a study in men.

2. Korean ginseng (Coreanica ginseng) has been found to improve erectile dysfunction in men, when taken for 8 weeks.

3. There have been several studies showing that artichoke (Cynara scolymus) can reduce cholesterol levels and protect against heart disease, this new study has highlighted the lipid lowering properties, backing up the earlier research on its use in reducing cholesterol levels.

4. Walnuts (Juglans regia) have been shown to reduce the growth of prostate cancer in a new laboratory study.

Cinnamon
Cinnamon

5. A new study of the phytochemicals within Cinnamon (Cinnamom verum) has found it  protects neurons which could see it used in neurodegenerative disease such as Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and dementia.

6. Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) has long been used as both a treatment and preventative for migraines. A new report shows that its use as a preventative for migraines is backed up pharmacologically and it could be taken long term.

Feverfew
Feverfew

7. A component of Baical skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) has been shown to reduce colon cancer in laboratory studies.

8. A new five step plan to help patients cope with pain is being used in USA.

9. Chaste tree berry (Vitex agnus castus) has recently been studied for its use to treat migraines as part of premenstrual syndrome with good results.

10. A new report shows that an external preparation of comfrey root (Symphytum officinale) has been used effectively to treat painful joints and muscles, from sports injuries to degenerative arthritis.