Tag: home remedies

Eczema – what is it?

Part 1 – What is eczema?

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to write a blog about eczema as it’s actually something that I not only see a lot of in my clinic but also suffer from myself. It was also what started me on the journey of becoming a medical herbalist.

Accrording to the Eczema society, one in five children and one in twelve adults suffer from eczema.

So what is it?

Eczema is actually a very broad term meaning ‘itchy red skin’, and that covers a lot of different skin conditions with different causes.

So what are the main types of eczema?

  1. Atopic eczema

Atopic eczema is the genetic type of eczema, it often runs in families and has links to hayfever and asthma.

  1. Contact eczema or dermatitis

This type of eczema flares up when in contact with for example harsh chemicals. It is most commonly found on hands but can show across the body, if for example the irritant to blame is washing powder.

  1. Pompholyx (sometimes known as dyshidrotic) eczema

This type of eczema presents with blisters of clear fluid on hands and feet, restricting movement and causing pain.

There are other forms of eczema but these are the main types, for pictures and more detailed information visit http://www.eczema.org/types-of-eczema.

I personally suffer from all three of the main types of eczema. As I’m typing this my hands are covered in red scaly and dry skin typical of atopic eczema. I used a hand wash that was too strong my skin and it has taken over a week for my skin to recover.

In the next parts of this blog I will talk about the role of diet, and natural treatments that are available.

For more information on eczema please see the NHS website and the National Eczema Society website.

If you suffer from eczema and would like to see a medical herbalist, you can find one local to you via this link.

Are herbs suitable for children?

This is a question that I get asked quite a lot so I thought I would write about a few herbal remedies for children.

So are herbs suitable for children?

The easy answer is yes, but with all things there should be an element of caution. If you are ever unsure whether herbs are appropriate, please speak to your local herbalist. If a child is undergoing treatment for a medical condition, it is important to get advice from a herbalist before starting home treatment.

Matricaria recutita
Matricaria recutita

The most common condition that I get asked about is eczema, and that really deserves a whole blog of it’s own (which I will be writing shortly). But here are a few tips to try before considering going to see a herbalist for treatment.

1. Eczema in children is often linked to dairy intake, in particular cow’s milk. Try switching to a goat milk for a period of a few weeks and see if there’s an improvement. Don’t be tempted to switch to soy milk, this can have the same effect as cow’s milk.

2. To reduce the itch, try chamomile and oat baths. Fill an old sock with oats and a handful of chamomile flowers (if you don’t have these you can use chamomile tea bags (6 should do it)). Tie the old sock over the hot tap of the bath so that the water runs through it. When the bath is full squeeze the excess water out of the sock (you should get a lovely foamy, creamy liquid come out).

3. Ensure that the eczema gets air to it and is allowed to dry out, try to ensure it’s not scratched (I know this can be difficult). A cold (used) chamomile tea bag can be applied to particular hot areas of eczema to provide relief (remember to dry the area well afterwards).

 

Another question I get asked is, how can I get my child to take herbs?

And this doesn’t just go for children, there are plenty of my adult patients who don’t like the taste of herbs! Here is my recipe for cold and flu fighting lollies.

 

ice lolliesCold and flu fighting ice lollies

Getting children to take any form of medicine can be challenging but immune boosting ice lollies always go down well.

Based on 900ml worth of lolly mix making 6 lollies (adjust accordingly if your lolly mould is smaller).

You can use a ginger syrup or tincture if you have it (2tsp to the mix), or 15g of grated ginger (about a thumb size piece).

1tsp lemon juice

Add in 6ml of Echinacea tincture (for ages 6+ only) – Optional

Add in 200ml of elderflower infusion (2tsp to 1 cup of water) with 2 tsp of honey dissolved in it.

Add 690ml of fruit juice of your choice.

Mix together and pour into the lolly moulds, once frozen two lollies can be given a day to treat a cold in a child of 6+ (up to four daily if over 10yrs or no Echinacea in the mix).

(These can also be used for adults who won’t take medicine in a liquid form, double the amount of Echinacea and elderflower and reduce the amount of fruit juice).

 

teddy bearWhat about helping children to sleep?

Children respond very well to herbal baths, so why not try some lavender flowers, chamomile flowers, and oats. You can use the old sock trick described above. This can help children relax before bed.

Another excellent remedy for children who struggle with getting to sleep, try a small amount of cold chamomile tea. Add to fruit juice or a hot drink to disguise the taste, and have at the last drink time before bed.

For more information about children’s remedies I thoroughly recommend Aviva Romm’s website. She is a herbalist and doctor and has some excellent tips and recipes. http://avivaromm.com/

 

Herbs and Health Research blog – October 15

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

Rhodiola_ishidae_(200607)
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.

 

It’s the time of year for mushrooms!

cropped for twitterIt’s that time of year again and if you follow me on Facebook and Twitter you will have probably noticed I post quite a bit about medicinal mushrooms.

I love medicinal mushrooms, they’re a fantastic medicinal resource and they are right on our doorstep.

One of my first YouTube videos will be on medicinal mushrooms.

But while I’m getting on with that why not take a look at the blog I wrote last year on medicinal mushrooms.

The wonders of medicinal mushrooms

A brand new clinic

I began my journey in herbal medicine in 2001, and since then I have dreamed of having my own clinic. While working in different clinics in different parts of the country have been rewarding, there’s nothing like having one of your very own.

 

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My new clinic is based in my home in Wellington, Somerset.

My main clinic days are Mondays and Tuesdays from 8am until 6pm but I also have clinics on other days, for more details click here.

 
If you would like to book an appointment or find out more information please call 07946150721 or email info@lauracarpenter.co.uk.

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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.

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.

  • health-benefits-of-pomegranate2. 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.

Lavender8. 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).

Food

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.

Exercise

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.

aspirin-for-primary-prevention-clopidogrel-meta-analysisOver 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.

NHS

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

Total

£1286.15

 

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.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

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.

hypericum_perforatum

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.

 

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.