Tag: herbal medicine

So why herbal medicine?

The growing field at the Organic Herbal Trading Company
The growing field at the Organic Herb Trading Company

I often get asked what made me want to study herbal medicine, and I usually give the shortened version of this story.

About 13 years ago my Mum was receiving acupuncture and taking Chinese herbs for her eczema, I was a bit sceptical that anything could help her as she’d suffered from extremely bad eczema for most of her life.

I was also rather unconvinced at the bag of roots and leaves that she would boil up every day and then drink the most foul smelling liquid I’d ever seen. The results however started to make me question what was going on. In a very short amount of time she had a big improvement in her eczema, something that 40 years of steroid creams had failed to do.

So I began to research Chinese herbal medicine and the theories behind the treatment, this is where I got rather bogged down in the different states in the body and the theories that go with TCM (traditional Chinese medicine). After reading the first few chapters of the book I had taken out from the library I gave up and took it back. As I was looking in the alternative medicine section I found another herbal medicine book, one that looked a bit more appealing. It was Penelope Ody’s “The complete medicinal herbal”, and it was full of recipes and information on Western herbal medicine. In part it reminded me of old recipes my Gran used when making jam, but with something else, this knowledge that with some simple plants you could heal yourself.

Symphytum officinale (Comfrey)
Symphytum officinale (Comfrey)

I devoured the book in less than a day and I was hooked! From that point on I read everything I could get my hands on about Western Herbal medicine. After about 6 months worth of reading I decided that I had to study herbal medicine properly. So I applied to study a degree in Herbal Medicine at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN).I thoroughly enjoyed my short time at the UCLAN but after only 6 months I had to leave the course due to ill health in my family. My passion for herbal medicine was as strong as ever and I still read as much as I could, I also completed a distance learning course to feed my obsession.

I treated myself and my family for many years with great success, and finally I got to a point where I could not continue without completing my degree. I went to an open day at the University of East London not intending on signing up to the course at that time, but by the end of the morning I’d already decided that that was the course for me. I signed up to the course and the next 5 years flew by.

Studying herbal medicine on a blended learning course meant that I had to travel to London for clinic and seminars about once every two weeks while also working full time, while this was a strain, my joy of working in the Stratford clinic of herbal medicine kept me going through the more difficult modules (pharmacology, yuck!).

Wild flower meadow
Wild flower meadow

My passion for herbal medicine grows year on year, the more patients I see the more I am surprised at how well herbal medicine works. Yes I can explain the theory and the scientific research and biochemistry behind the herbs but there is nothing like seeing a patient come into your clinic with a huge smile on their face because their life has been improved with herbal medicine. A new direction for me will be teaching courses on herbal medicine, I am planning on running some day workshops, evening classes and also an online course in 2014.


Autumn herb walks and delicious autumn recipes

Forest Farm herb walk

At the Forest farm herb walk we were lucky with the weather but unfortunately not so lucky with the plants. We did manage to see a lot of blood cleanser herbs, like dandelion, burdock, yellow dock, red clover and nettle.

Forest Farm herb walk
Forest Farm herb walk

The herbal tea tasting went down well, with elderflower and honey the firm favourite, and the hawthorn and apple fruit leather was preferred to the carrot cake!


Unfortunately a slight mix up with the times of the walk meant that several people missed out, but another Forest Farm herb walk is planned for Spring 2014.




Taff trail October herb walk

This herb walk was slightly sad as it was the last one until April next year, but it made up for it by being prolific in herbs.

Hedgerow jelly
Hedgerow jelly


As well as gathering blackberries and rowanberries for hedgerow jelly and fruit leather, we gathered hawthorn berries for hawthorn brandy.


There was some new growth of mugwort along the river Taff which we gathered to use as herbal tea. Not one to use before bed however as traditional it was used for prophetic dreams.


We also gathered comfrey leaves to be made into comfrey ointment for sprains, as well plantain for wound healing.


Comfrey leaves
Comfrey leaves

I learnt about the joy of popping Himalayan balsam seeds, and how delicious they are!

The pulp in fruit leather was a big hit, as was the hawthorn brandy we sampled (for educational purposes obviously!).


I am already looking forward to the herb walks next year as we look at the spring greens and using herbs for nutrition as well as medicines.

For some autumn recipes to try yourself, see my free download section.


This month in research – September 13

This month I have found the following research particularly interesting.

Blueberry1. 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.

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.

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.

This month in herbal medicine research

This month I have found the following pieces of research interesting.1. The effect of ginger for relieving of primary dysmenorrhoea (a type of period pain). In this study 70 woman with primary dysmenorrhoea were given either a placebo or ginger capsules for the first three days of their menstrual cycles. Their pain levels were then scored, and when compared, the women who took ginger capsules found their pain had reduced. An additional benefit that was identified was the reduction in nausea when taking the ginger capsules.

2. Filipendula ulmaria (meadowsweet) has been found to have antihistamine qualities by laboratory studies.

3. Fenugreek has been shown to reduce cholesterol in laboratory studies.

Fenugreek4. Inflammatory bowel disease has been shown to flare up in hot weather, a study in Switzerland found.

5. Cognitive behaviour therapy has been found to be effective for treating people with tinnitus.

6. Oats have been found to improve liver function and prevent obesity in laboratory studies.

Oats (Avena sativa)7. Turmeric (Curcuma longa) and hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa) have been suggested as possible treatments for metabolic syndrome.

8. Antibiotic resistance has been declared a crisis by the World Health Organisation, “as pharmaceutical companies are no longer developing new antibiotics and antibiotic abuse is widespread”.

9. Astragalus membranaceus (milk vetch) has been suggested as a possible alternative treatment for Parkinson’s disease.