Tag: Cinnamon

What is Polymyalgia rheumatica? Can herbs help?

pmrgcaWhat is Polymyalgia rheumatica?

Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is an inflammatory condition, often linked to Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA). The condition occurs mainly in women over 60, and the cause is not known.

Symptoms include muscle aches, stiffness in hips, shoulders, neck and mid body, weakness, general tiredness, and weight loss. Some people get swelling in their feet, ankles, wrists and hands. (Vasculitis UK)

PMR is becoming increasingly common, with an estimated 1 in 1,200 people developing the condition each year.

How is it treated?

The standard medical treatment for PMR is steroids, usually prednisolone, to relieve the symptoms. The NHS state that high dose steroids are used to start with and then the dose is decreased, and treatments can last for two years or more to prevent symptoms reoccurring. (NHS website)

Are there alternative treatments?

There are three main aims to alternative treatments.

  1. Reduce the side effects of the drugs

The following are the main side effects that patients of mine have experiences from taking prednisolone.

  • Higher blood sugar
  • Weight gain
  • Sleeplessness
  • Osteoporosis
  • Cataracts
  • Thinning of skin
  • Bruising

While these things can be addressed individually through a 1 to 1 consultation with a medical herbalist, here are some ideas for home treatment.

Herbs for side effects

Digestion

Meadowsweet
Meadowsweet

There are many very safe herbs to aid digestion and protect from damage the delicate tissues that are prone to ulcers. Examples are peppermint, chamomile, meadowsweet and marshmallow leaf.

Balancing blood sugar

There are several safe herbs that can be used to naturally bring blood sugar into balance. Examples are cinnamon and dandelion leaf.

Aiding sleep

There are several safe herbs that can be used to aid a good night’s sleep. Examples are chamomile, lime flower, passion flower and valerian.

Improving circulation

There are many herbs that can improve circulation. Examples include ginger, chilli, hawthorn and lime flower. Brightly coloured fruits and vegetables can also help to improve the functioning of arteries and veins.

Increasing cortisol

Often when taking steroid drugs for long periods of time the adrenal glands can stop producing cortisol. Cortisol is needed to fight infection and allow the body to cope with stress.

When you stop taking steroid drugs your adrenal glands can begin making cortisol again but it can often take time. There are a couple of things you can do to help, cortisol needs cholesterol so eating fats in your diet will help, cod liver oil and vitamin A is also important. It’s also important to reduce sugar, caffeine and alcohol.

 

  1. Reduce general inflammation to reduce pain

rose hipsThis is something that you can address yourself if you have PMR, there are some very useful studies on the use of herbs to reduce inflammation.

Arthritis Research UK lists the three main herbs for reducing inflammation as Devil’s claw, Frankincense, and Rosehip.

I agree with them, and these herbs are available as over the counter products, it is important to follow the directions for each individual product as directed on the bottle.

I would also add turmeric to the list, it is a very useful anti-inflammatory and is also available as an over the counter product.

 

  1. Get to the root cause of the problem

The key to a holistic treatment is treating the cause of the problem rather than just the symptoms; this is something you can work towards with a medical herbalist.

 

Remember to check with your doctor and/or medical herbalist before taking supplements or herbs, and it is important to source good quality ingredients.

To find a qualified, registered, medical herbalist near you they can be found on the following lists:

 


As an update to this blog, I actually gave a talk for a local branch of Polymyalgia Rheumatica & Giant Cell Arteritis UK and that really gave me a much greater understanding of the condition and the problems patients were facing.

The main thing I really took away from that was that people wanted help to reduce their medications, and almost every person in the room was already taking turmeric. I explained about how it is often not bioavailable in the body and ways to increase that (adding black pepper and or ginger).

 

What is medical herbalism?

After reading an excellent blog by Lynda Jones, a fellow medical herbalist, she gave me kind permission to make some changes to it. Click here to see the original blog.

 

Herb robert
Herb robert

“If I wasn’t a Medical Herbalist I’d be really confused about the difference between a Medical Herbalist and someone who knows lots about herbs.  Many people know about the healing properties of herbs and how to use them for simple, self limiting complaints.  Some GPs, pharmacists, health food shop assistants, gardeners, amateur experts, avid readers and those who have undertaken short term study all might have a sound understanding of herbs and their individual actions in the body.  Most people with a knowledge of herbs can tell you that Echinacea is good for helping the immune system deal with colds, that Elderflowers are anti-catarrhal and therefore help with hayfever and the sniffles, and that Garlic has a reputation for helping just about everything ;o) ! It’s pretty common knowledge among many that Sage is used to rub on stings, that Thyme tea might help coughs and Chamomile is calming and restoring to the digestive system.”

I hold workshops, distance learning courses, and herb walks to make sure we all know what herbs to pick from the wild, our gardens and the kitchen to use for simple, self limiting complaints. I also have some free downloads that cover simple remedies, herbal cosmetics, and much more.

Why the need for a Medical Herbalist?

“I’m all for people using ‘herbal first aid’ and trying simple remedies to see if that might help.  In fact, if I think that’s all that’s necessary I’m likely to suggest you try it before booking an appointment.  However, herbal medicine really comes into its own for more complex, long standing and difficult conditions.”

What makes a qualified Medical Herbalist different?

“We study for 4 years, and have a Bachelor of Science degree.  It is compulsory to undertake 500 hours supervised clinical training and be able to assess the patient medically as well as holistically. It’s vital to have medical as well as traditional knowledge, as primary health care professionals we need to be able to spot any danger signs of serious undiagnosed conditions and refer on where necessary.”

Meadowsweet
Meadowsweet

What happens in a consultation?

Initial consultations last approximately an hour and will cover not only the problem that you have come with, but also your past medical history, diet and general health. I will carry out a physical examination if appropriate (blood pressure and pulse will always be taken) and formulate individual herbal medicines for your needs. I may also refer you to other practitioners, including your GP, if appropriate.

The key difference when you go to see a medical herbalist instead of buying herbs from a health food shop is the individual prescription that is tailored to you. As each person is different, so too is every medicine made. A medical herbalist may have a dispensary of hundreds of herbs to choose from and combine together, whereas a health food shop only has a handful.

 

If you’re unsure about a herb or something you have read or heard about herbal medicine, please get in touch.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) – What is it? Can herbs help? New 2014 research

What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)?

PCOS is a complex endocrine and metabolic condition affecting between 6 and 15% of women. Cysts develop in the ovaries, there is an excess of testosterone, and often no ovulation.

There is also a condition known as PCO which means a woman has cysts that develop in her ovaries but she does not exhibit the other symptoms of PCOS. She may go on to develop the syndrome at a later stage.

What are the symptoms of PCOS?

  • Increased hair growth
  • Infertility
  • Irregular or no periods
  • Obesity
  • Acne
  • Anxiety and depression
Liquorice (Glycyrriza glabra)
Liquorice (Glycyrriza glabra)

What are the long term health problems associated with PCOS?

  • High risk of developing diabetes
  • High risk of developing metabolic syndrome
  • Obesity
  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Infertility
What are the current medical treatments for PCOS?
  • The contraceptive pill – helps with period regulation and excess hair growth but not suitable for women wanting to conceive and it does not address the metabolic aspects of the syndrome.
  • Progestins – help with hair growth and uterine bleeding but side effects include weight gain, liver problems and depression.
  • Anti-androgens – help with hair growth but not suitable for women wanting to conceive.
  • Insulin sensitising drugs – help with metabolic consequences but not weight gain, or cholesterol problems and side effects include gastrointestinal problems and kidney impairment.
  • Lifestyle changes – “Some patients with PCOS can resume menstrual cycles and ovulation after having reduced only 5% of their body weight.” Rooney et al (2014)

 

Herbal Medicine as an alternative for PCOS treatment

spearmintA recent study by Rooney et al (2014) found that Cinnamon, Liquorice, Spearmint and White Peony were beneficial in the treatment of PCOS. In the review of research studies on herbal medicine and PCOS they found that all symptoms of the syndrome were addressed and reduced. They concluded that herbal medicine is a viable first line treatment option for PCOS.

Rooney et al also found that when surveying medical herbalists who had treated women with PCOS the following problems were improved.

  • Improved menstruation
  • Reduced hair growth
  • Reduced acne
  • Reduced weight gain
  • Improved fertility
  • Improved energy
  • Improved mood

For more information on PCOS visit the NHS website.

To view the research paper “Phytotherapy for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: A review of the literature and evaluation of practitioners’ exerpience” by Rooney et al (2014), click here.

To speak to Sara Rooney about her research and how herbal medicine can help with PCOS, visit her website http://www.sararooneyherbalist.com/

If you suffer from PCOS and are considering herbal medicine as a treatment option it is important to see professional help from a medical herbalist. To find a medical herbalist in your area visit www.nimh.org.uk

 

 

Monthly research blog – Herbal medicine and health – Feb 14

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

health-benefits-of-pomegranate1. A new laboratory study has found that pomegranate can repair liver damage.

2. A new study in New York is looking at the affects poor diet has on brain function. In      particular the links between junk food and poor concentration and aggressive behaviour.

3. Ashwagandha has been shown to improve brain function in people with bi-polar disorder.

4. Phytoestrogens such as soy, red clover and liquorice in a new study have been shown to prevent and treat metabolic syndrome.

rosebay-willowherb-on-aarhus-campus5. A new laboratory study has shown that rosebay willowherb contains plant constituents that suggest its effectiveness in treating benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH).

6. Red sage has been used traditionally to treat fatty liver disease and has been studied recently to find out if it can be used in hospitals. Further studies are being undertaken.

7. Self heal (Prunella vulgaris) has been found to prevent atherosclerosis.

8. Cinnamon has shown a new mode of action in laboratory studies which may mean it can be used to treat some neurodegenerative diseases.

9. Beetroot juice has been shown to increase exercise tolerance in a new study.

hypericum_perforatum10. A new laboratory study has found that the root of St John’s wort may be effective against fungal infections.

11. An extract of broom could be in your next sun cream, as a new laboratory study has found that it can protect skin from UV rays.

12. A new controversial recommendation was announced that people with 10% risk of developing cardiovascular disease would be advised by their GPs to take statins. The threshold has halved as previously the risk was 20% before statins were suggested. Many believe a more natural approach should be tried before statins are introduced.

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.