Tag: turmeric

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).

 

Herb and health research – October and November 2016

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

1. In laboratory studies, an extract of the medicinal mushroom Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) was found to protect liver cells.

50030752 - single lion's mane mushroom
50030752 – single lion’s mane mushroom

2. In another medicinal mushroom study this month Lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) was found to not only protect against dementia but also gastric ulcers.

3. In a new study of a very ‘old’ herb, ginseng was found to have antimicrobial effects against infections.

4. Turmeric is a fantastic herb and one that’s been researched many times for different reasons. However, one of the problems with turmeric is that is can be tricky for the body to absorb when taken as a capsule, unless combined with black pepper. A new study has just confirmed the traditional way of preparing turmeric (usually in a milk product), makes the turmeric more bioavailable.

5. In laboratory studies, an extract of Andrographis paniculata was shown to reduce breast cancer tumours.

ginkgo leaves6. In another laboratory study, ginkgo has been found to be a treatment for spinocerebellar ataxia.

Herbal Medicine research blog – Nov – Dec 15

In November and December the following health research has caught my eye.

1. A new study showed that Andrographis reduced triglyceride levels in patients with raised celerytriglyceride levels (one of the measurements of high cholesterol).
2. A new study of celery seed has shown that when given to patients with arthritis, it reduced pain and inflammation to a greater extent than aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen.

3. A new study has shown that Ginkgo improved attention spans of children with ADHD and hyperactivity.

4. Turmeric has been shown to be effective at treating premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

hypericum_perforatum

5.Holy basil has been found to improve cognitive function and reduce stress in healthy people.

6. A new study has shown that patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy for head and neck cancer with radiation dermatitis, were treated effectively with a combination of St John’s wort and neem oil.

July 14 – Research on herbal medicine and health blog

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

1. A new report in the USA has been looking at antibiotic resistant infections and links to the overuse of antibiotics.

“Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, CDC Director, points out, “It’s clear that we’re approaching a cliff with antibiotic resistance. But it’s not too late. Clinicians and healthcare systems need to improve prescribing practices. And patients need to recognize that there are both risks and benefits to antibiotics — more medicine isn’t best; the right medicine at the right time is best.”

health-benefits-of-pomegranate

2. Pomegranate has been studied recently and found to have positive effects on musculoskeletal conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.

3. Turmeric has been studied recently for its potential use in the treatment of digestive problems, for example bowel disease.

4. Plantain (Plantago spp.) seeds have been studied in a laboratory and found to have anti-inflammatory properities.

5. A new laboratory study has found that feverfew can prevent skin damage.

6. A new study in Spain has been researching ways for patients to safely reduce their 

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benzodiazepine usage (drugs such as diazepam).

7. A new laboratory study on Trifolium spp. (clover) has found they can protect red blood cells from damage.

Herbal Medicine and Health research – May and June 14

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

 Milk_thistle1. A recent laboratory study has shown that a constituent of milk thistle may be beneficial in treating prostate cancer, and may be synthesised into a drug.

2. A new study has shown that taking devil’s claw, turmeric and bromelain reduced inflammation and pain in patients with osteoarthritis.

3. A recent a laboratory study has shown that pomegranate may have neuroprotective effects.

4. Self heal (Prunella vulgaris) has been shown to have antioxidant and possible anti cancer actions according to a recent study.

5. Watercress has been found to be an effective treatment against E.coli, and is being considered for mass production high dose supplementation.

6. A recent report has shown a “complex link” between asthma and antibiotic use in children.

7. Rhemmania leaves were found to be beneficial in treating primary glomerulonephritis according to a recent study.

ginkgo leaves8. A new study on Ginkgo has found that it slows the progression of normal tension glaucoma.

9. A new report from the USA states that “walking may reduce the risk of death or need for dialysis in patients with chronic kidney disease”.

10. Several species of cranberry have been confirmed to have preventative effects for urinary tract infections.

11. An evaluation was conducted on research of herbal based creams used to treat psoriasis. The traditional preparation of Oregan grape (Mahonia aquifolium) was studies but the results were not conclusive.

12. An evaluation was conducted on research of herbal gout treatments. Results were promising but more data is needed.

13. Turmeric was found to be beneficial in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

dark-red-cherries14. Cherries have been studied recently and have been found to have cancer preventing effects.

Endometriosis – What is it? How can it be treated?

Endometriosis is a condition that women rarely talk about but thankfully that is beginning to change.

It is estimated that 1.5 million women in the UK suffer from Endometriosis, (one in ten women), suffering unrelenting pain (http://endometriosis-uk.org).

 

So what is Endometriosis?

“The presence of uterine lining in other pelvic organs, especially the ovaries, characterised by cyst formation, adhesions, and menstrual pains.” (Random House dictionary, 2014)

 

What are the symptoms?

  • Pain during periods
  • Pain during ovulation
  • Pain during sex
  • Irregular periods
  • Infertility
  • Irritated bladder and bowel (during periods especially)

See understanding Endometriosis

 

How is it diagnosed?

If you are concerned about any of the symptoms above it is important that you visit your GP, they can then send you for tests.

There can be indications on blood tests and ultra sounds but the only conclusive way to diagnose Endometriosis is via a laparoscopy, where a camera is inserted into the abdominal cavity via key hole surgery. A sample of the suspected Endometriosis is taken and analysed in a laboratory.

If Endometriosis is confirmed it is usually given a classification between 1 and 4, 1 being minimal and 4 being severe.

 

How is it treated?

Once Endometriosis has been diagnosed via laparoscopy it is removed during the same surgery, however, it is important to remember that the trauma of the surgery can cause scar tissue and more Endometriosis can form in that area. Endometriosis often reoccurs and the removal of the tissue and cysts is for symptomatic relief.

The drug treatments are either hormonal or pain relief based, again these are for symptomatic relief. For more information visit http://endometriosis-uk.org/endometriosis-treatment.

 

Possible complementary treatments

Acupuncture has been found to relieve pain for some people, but remember to visit a member of the British Acupuncture Association.

 

Endometriosis Diet – anti-inflammatory based diets have been found to reduce pain in Endometriosis sufferers by reducing in the inflammation and pressure within the abdomen.

 

Gentle exercise has been found to be helpful as an increase in pelvic circulation can reduce inflammation and pain. Always remember to only do as much as you feel able and mention your condition to the session leader if you are concerned.

Examples include; Tai Chi, yoga, pilates, swimming, and walking

 

Feverfew
Feverfew

Herbal medicine – There are many research studies showing the fantastic anti inflammatory effects of herbs such as Frankincense, Turmeric, Baical skullcap and feverfew. Many herbal medicine companies sell pre prepared anti-inflammatory capsules containing mixtures of the herbs listed.

 

 

 

Always remember to check there are no interactions between any medication you are taking and any herbs you try. If you are ever unsure contact a medical herbalist before taking anything.

 

Herbal medicine can offer a more holistic approach to the treatment of Endometriosis, taking into account each person individually and tailoring a medicine to their individual requirements, but the main aims will be to reduce pain and inflammation, improve circulation to the area, regulate hormones, and improve energy.

If you are considering herbal medicine please speak to a medical herbalist, even if you do not want to commit to a consultation they can often offer free advice. To find a medical herbalist near you, visit The National Institute of Medical Herbalist’s website.

 

Further information sheets are available to download for free from the Endometriosis-uk website.

 

If you know someone with endometriosis please pass on this information.

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.

Hawthorn1. 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.

cocoa_fruits_1761197b6. 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.

Ginger
Ginger

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.

Herbal medicine research blog – December 13

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

1. A new study at Harvard Medical centre has shown that mindfulness meditation has increased brain functioning in patients with Alzheimer’s.

meditation2. A new scientific study found that nettle helped control the blood sugar of patients with type 2 diabetes.

3. Doctors in the USA are using new online tools to assess whether herbs should be recommended to their cancer patients alongside their orthodox treatment.

4. A new scientific study in the USA has found that women who took multivitamins with minerals and then developed breast cancer had a better survival rate.

5. A new laboratory study of turmeric has shown that it could be used to manufacture new antibiotics against MRSA.

Ginger
Ginger

6. Herbal constituents in ginger have been found in a laboratory study to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells.

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)