Tag: meadowsweet

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).

 

Rediscovering British herbs with Native Awareness

11203591_10153299665834282_3942814190489003464_oA few years ago I decided to go on a Native Awareness course, native skills one, which is an introduction to bushcraft skills and the skills of native peoples’. Learning those native skills really got me thinking about how medicinal plants are used by native people across the world as well as our ancestors in Britain.

At the time my knowledge of British medicinal plants was limited and I suddenly saw that for the shame it was. I was a herbalist living and practising in Britain but the number of British plants I was prescribing could be counted on one hand. It was also obvious that my plant ID skills could also do with updating, especially poisonous plants.

That realisation sent me on a bit of a journey of personal study, and working with other herbalists who use a lot more British plants, expanding my knowledge and skills.

10258698_10152426354399282_4605565856819452484_n

 

When James (the founder of Native Awareness) asked me if I would be interested in teaching a medicinal plants course with him, I was excited but also very nervous. James has a vast knowledge of plants himself and I was unsure what I could bring to such a course.

 

 

After months of planning we taught the first medicinal plants course in 2014, and it involved lots of experimenting. Neither of us had dried medicinal plants using fire before, and the results were interesting! But it forced me to look at alternative ways to make medicines like infused oils, balms, and poultices.

10314020_10152426359889282_4783032923788498560_nI couldn’t help feeling a deep connection with the medicine people across the world who must have had (and still do have) these problems. How breaking a plant down with a stone makes a very different poultice to one done in a food processor.

I was thrilled to be asked back to teach again in 2015, and I was raring to go with new ideas. The fire drying was improved and the infused oil was the strongest I’ve ever seen made. I also introduced a few new topics to the medicinal plant ID, wild crafting, and medicine making; poisonous plants and medicinal mushrooms.

11160059_10153299700634282_7411604696093964325_oYear on year as my knowledge and skills grow I add new things into my workshops. So no two courses are ever the same, this also stops me from becoming bored!

I also learn a great deal from the people on the courses, everyone has a story to tell about how they have used a plant, or how their granny always used to swear by nettle tea.

This year I will be back teaching with Native Awareness again, from 29th April to 1st May, Ravenshill Wood, Worcestershire. For more information or to book, please contact James at Native Awareness.

Click here for more great photos from the medicinal plants courses.

 

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.

This month in herbal medicine research

Filipendula ulmaria - Meadowsweet
Filipendula ulmaria – Meadowsweet

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.

Fenugreek
Fenugreek

4. 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
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.

Astragalus-Membranaceus-Root-Extracts
Astragalus membranaceus (milk vetch)

 

Medicinal plants at the Glamorganshire Canal Nature Reserve

Woody nightshade (Solanum dulcamara)
Woody nightshade (Solanum dulcamara)

After moving to Whitchurch a few years ago I was thrilled to find a nature reserve on my doorstep, and one with such diverse plant life was the icing on the cake. As a herbalist I am constantly looking at plants, (even while stopped in traffic) and the reserve has so many rare and wonderful specimens.

Last year I saw Solanum dulcamara (Woody nightshade) for the first time in the reserve and also the first time anywhere. The particularly wet summer saw an increase of this poisonous plant.

This year the warmer weather has shown some more wonderful specimens, Filipendula ulmaria (Meadowsweet) which was rarely seen last year is now out in abundance. This wonderful herb was used as the base of aspirin along with willow bark, and is used today in modern herbal medicine as an anti-inflammatory for arthritis and rheumatism.

It’s not only the rare plants that interest me, the cleavers and plantain have all been prolific and all still hold an important place in treating skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)

A hugely under rated plant is the humble nettle, still used in herbal medicine today for its high mineral content and as an anti histamine, but it has so many other uses.

In the First World War nettles were used to make military uniforms, and they are also wonderful in soups and sauces (if picked early). In 1693 it was recorded that nettle was used to treat kidney stones, and today research shows that nettle has a diuretic effect.

If you are interested in learning more about the herbs in the reserve and their medicinal and historical uses, come along to the herb walk on 28th September, 2pm til 4pm.