Tag: depression

Herbs and Health Research blog – October 15

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

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.

4. 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 and Health Research Blog – May 15

The following research on herbs and health has caught my eye.

1. New research shows that mindfulness may be an alternative to antidepressant use.

  • 2. Clostridium difficile is a bacterial infection that is often present in hospitals and health care environments and can cause diarrhoea and fever. A new study has found that pomegranate reduced the C. difficile bacteria and could be used as a preventative.

3. A new study has found that garlic, aloe vera and gotu kola are effective to treat burn wounds and are being considered for future drug production.

4. A new laboratory study has found that lemon balm reduces colon cancer cells.

5. Panax ginseng has been found to be a possible treatment for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

6. A new study in the USA has found a link between statin use and an increase in diabetes and diabetes complications.

7. Baical skullcap is currently being researched for its use a treatment and preventative for stroke.

8. A new study in the USA has found that using lavender essential oil either in a foot bath or as a cream can reduce anxiety and stress in pregnant women.

9. Frankincense has been found to improve blood sugar levels in diabetic patients.

10. A new study has found that women taking fennel capsules over three months, had reduced period pain, reduced nausea and reduced length of menstruation.

What is the cost of health?

I’m often asked why herbal medicine is ‘so expensive’ and it got me thinking about the cost of health in general, whether you want to use herbs or not. As I got to writing it I realised I’d written rather a lot so I’m going to split it into two, the first part on how much does health cost us, and the second on how you can improve your health on a budget.

Firstly, what is the cost if you are unwell?

If it’s a cold or flu it might mean a few days off of work, you may lose a small amount of money, you may not be well enough to look after family members.

If you’re unlucky enough to have a chronic long term condition the cost of your condition is often much greater than lost work hours and NHS prescription fees, it’s the loss of ‘quality of life’ and that really can’t be put into monetary terms. If you were to suffer from a condition where you experience chronic pain and your mobility is greatly reduced, how much would you pay to be pain free for a day, and able to play games with your children?

What do we spend keeping well and healthy?

Shelter and Water

The first thing we need is shelter and water, without that we certainly wouldn’t have good health, so mortgage/rent, council tax and household bills for heating etc all go towards health.

So as an example let’s put that figure at £700 per month (mortgage/rent + heating + council tax+water).


One of the most if not the most important factor in health is food.

According to an article in the Guardian in 2013 (http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2013/dec/11/families-spend-489-each-week-on-what) an average household spends £227 a month on food.


The second most important factor in health is exercise, so while walking the dog doesn’t cost anything, sports clubs, gym memberships, sporting equipment etc does. So for the sake of argument let’s estimate that at £30 per month per person.

Vitamins and supplements are often seen as a quick and easy way to improve your health (this is not always the case – more on this on a later blog). A survey in 2009 showed that the average person in the UK spends £12 a year on vitamins and supplements.

Over the counter medicines

From aspirin and neurofen to cough syrup and indigestion tablets, the Proprietary Association of Great Britain estimates that we spend £35.80 a year per person on OTC medicines.

NHS prescriptions

If you happen to live in an area where you have to pay for NHS prescriptions, which also adds to your bill of health, at £8.20 a prescription. An article on the NHS website in December 14 stated that 50% of women and 43% of men in England were taking prescription drugs at least every week.


While many people consider the NHS to be ‘free’ it is actually paid for by anyone who pays tax. If for example you earn £20,000 a year, you will pay on average £80.00 a month (via tax) to the NHS.

Mental health

Mental health and having joy for life are often over looked but they actually contribute to a large part of our health. Therefore the cost of anything that you enjoy and is contributing to your good health should also be included, e.g. hobbies, religious activities etc.

So let’s recap that into a month bill for a family of 4 (2 adults and 2 children).

Shelter and water £700
Food £227
Exercise £80
Vitamins and supplements £2
Over the counter medicines £8.95
NHS prescriptions £8.20
NHS (through tax) £160.00
Mental health £100



1That’s a lot of money we’re spending already on health a month, no wonder anything additional to that is seen as ‘an expense’ or even ‘a luxury’.

So like anything in life you get what you pay for and herbal medicine is no different.

I am always willing to help people on a budget find a way of using herbs that is the most cost effective for them. For some people they don’t have the time or energy to go out and gather herbs themselves, or grow them themselves. Therefore they are paying for someone else to do that for them. If the herbs are then processed and made into medicines by someone else then that is going to have an added cost.

In the next part to this blog I will be talking about ways to improve your health on a budget.

Herbs and Health Research blog – April 15

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

1. A new research study has confirmed that the traditional use of using feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) to treat migraines works when applied in a modern clinical setting.

2. A recent study regarding the treatment androgenetic alopecia (often know as male-pattern baldness) found that rosemary oil worked as well as the drug minoxidil.

3. A new set of studies in the USA has found that an extract of Ginkgo reduced anxiety and depression in patients.

4. A cream containing lavender, peppermint, black pepper and marjoram essential oils was found to relieve neck pain in patients in a study in Taiwan.

5. The medicinal mushroom Ganoderma lucidum has been studied recently for its powerful anti-inflammatory actions and if those effects could be isolated and made into a new drug.

6. A new research study in Switzerland has linked anti-depressant use to seizures.

7. A new study in China has found that St John’s wort is effective at reducing menopausal symptoms.

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

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

A 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

Herbal medicine and health research in August 14

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

1. A laboratory study of garlic showed that it inhibited the growth of dental plaque bacteria, even at a low strengths.

2. A laboratory study looking at ginger and it’s anti cancer properties found that the whole ginger compounds were more effective than ones made into synthetic extracts.

3. A laboratory study found that ashwagandha had neuroprotective effects against HIV induced neuropathogenisis.

4. A new UK study on IBS and chronic constipation have stated that a gluten free diet may be beneficial to some IBS suffers and probiotics are recommended.

5. New pharmacological tests have shown that taking ibuprofen and aspirin together can make the aspirin ineffective.

6. A new study found that athlete’s taking beetroot had improved performance.

7. A new study in the US has found that St John’s Wort is more cost effective and therefore a valid option instead of generic antidepressants.

Monthly research blog – Herbal medicine and health research stories in January 14

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

1. A new laboratory study has found that an extract from hawthorn berries reduced breast cancer tumours.

2. Vitamin E has been shown to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s according to the Alzheimer’s research centre in New York.

3. A new study has shown that people who are suffering from depression have lower levels of zinc in their blood and supplementation (or dietary changes) can make a significant      difference.

4. A new study has shown that red clover significantly reduced hot flushes in menopausal women.

5. Tulsi (holy basil) has been found to contain anti cancer chemicals.

6. Cocoa has been found to have anti cancer chemicals as well as cancer preventing chemicals.

7. Cognitive behavioural therapy is now being used to help people with health anxiety (also known as hypochondriasis).

8. A new study has found that babies who took probiotics in the first three months of their lives did not develop colic.

9. A new study involving mistletoe found that its use alongside orthodox treatments increased the survival rates of patients with pancreatic cancer.

10. Gout is on the increase and while there are new drugs being developed, the main advice is dietary and lifestyle changes.

11. A new study of ginger and turmeric has shown effectiveness in treating rheumatoid arthritis.

12. Ashwaganda has been shown in a new study to reduce the tiredness felt after chemotherapy.

13. A new study from the USA has shown that the traditional remedy of sage for hot flushes is accurate.

Monthly herbal medicine research blog – November 13

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

1. With MRSA infections a growing problem in hospitals this piece of Australian research shows that both lemongrass and tea tree oils applied after surgery prevented infection, including MRSA.

2. New laboratory research in Korea has found that rosemary could prevent skin cancer.

3. Another study of rosemary in Spain has found that it reduced tumour growth.

4. A global study has found that depression is now the second most disabling condition in the world.

5. A new study has found that walking just 2 and a half hours a week can prevent depression.

6. New research has found that Panax ginseng can reduce fatigue in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome.

7. A study on the biochemistry of corn silk has found that it could help to treat diabetes.

8. Research in Hong Kong is looking at the anti-inflammatory effects of several herbs in the possible treatment of rheumatoid arthritis including nettle, liquorice, angelica and centella.

9. Rhodiolia has been found to increase exercise performance in a new study.

10. A summary of several studies on the use of herbal topical applications in osteoarthritis has found that in some cases the herbal cream/gel was more effective than the orthodox medical counterpart.

11. Research is mounting for nutritional supplements and targeted diets for cancer patients to prevent reoccurrence of cancer.