Tag: eczema

Herbal remedies for children – new distance learning course

Would you like to know more about treating children with herbs?

If you enjoyed my blog on herbs for children, you might be interested to know I have now written a herbal remedies for children distance learning course!

As with all of my distance learning courses you will be emailed the course material to work through (although in this particular module there is no quiz or test at the end).

You will also receive a herbal goody box containing herbs specific for children, as well as jars, bottles and sundries needed to make the herbal remedies in the module.

What does the course cover?

  • Safety – when to give herbs and when not to
  • Dosages and how they are different for children
  • Herbal preparations for children – from sweets to ice lollies
  • A developing immune system – when to boost immunity
  • Herbs for babies – colic to nappy rash
  • Herbs for toddlers – coughs and colds
  • Herbs for infants – eczema and ear infections
  • Herbs for primary age – conjunctivitis and diarrhoea and vomiting
  • Herbs at 11+ – tonsillitis and acne
  • Plus lots of tips and recipes to use at home

How much does the course cost?


Who can complete the course?

Anyone with an interest in herbs and health. There is no prerequisite for this course.

For more information please get in touch.

To book click here.

Frequently asked questions – what to herbalists get asked?

Here are some of the most common questions I get asked and the answers I give.

1. Can herbs be used to treat children?

The simple answer is yes but with everything that depends on what the situation is, is the child taking medication? For more information on herbs and children take a look at my recent blog.

2. Can herbs be used to help eczema?

The answer is yes in most cases but dietary and lifestyle changes also need to be taken into account. The treatment will be taking herbs both internally and externally, while treating the whole person and the cause. I have written three blogs on eczema, “Eczema – what is it, What role does diet play in eczema, and Can herbs help to alleviate the symptoms of eczema?

3. Can helps be used by people taking medication?

That depends on the type of medication they are taking, the dosage and the reason they are taking it. There are many medications that are sensitive to not just herbs but foods too. It is important to always consult a medical herbalist if you are taking medication and want to take herbs too. They are trained to understand the interactions between herbs and drugs and they will be able to offer alternative herbs that do not interact with your medication.

I will be writing more about how herbs interact with drugs and safe herbs to use at home in a new blog.

ollie4. Can I give herbs to my dog?

Lots of people want to look after the health of their pets in a more natural way and it’s understandable that they would want to look at using herbs for that. However, it is important to remember that only a veterinarian can prescribe medicines of any kind, whether herbal or not to any animal.

The rules around herbal medicines for animals are quite similar to people in that you can buy some herbal products over the counter from your vet. They are approved herbal medicines and include things like anti-anxiety drops for dogs which contain valerian.

There is a bit of a crossover however with herbs that are more foods than medicines. There are lots of recipes where culinary herbs are given in homemade dog food to improve nutrition. If you are wanting to do this make sure the information is from a reputable source (i.e. approved by a vet).

5. Can I make my own herbal medicines?

Yes, and I encourage you do to so. I have some tips and easy to follow recipes for using simple herbal medicines at home. Take a look at my free downloads here.

6. Can herbs be used in pregnancy?

There are some herbs that can be used in pregnancy, for example raspberry leaf tea, but I always recommend anyone who is pregnant and wanting to take herbs to speak to a medical herbalist before taking herbs.

DSC_25947. Can herbs cure cancer?

This is a very important point. There is no ‘cure’ for cancer whether herbal or pharmaceutical. Chemotherapy for example is a treatment of cancer, not a cure.

The law states very clearly that no-one must claim to cure cancer. So if you see an advert for a new Amazonian herb that can ‘cure’ cancer please don’t go out and buy it.

Herbalists can support people with cancer and who are undergoing cancer therapies, for example, herbs can be used to reduce the side effects from chemotherapy.

Please remember if you are unsure or have any questions about herbs and whether they are right for you, it is important to get the advice of a medical herbalist.

You can find a qualified medical herbalist using any of these lists, or you can get in touch with me.

Eczema blog part 3 – Can herbs help to alleviate the symptoms of eczema?

Traditional herbs for eczema

Traditionally herbal treatment of eczema would be two fold an external preparation to alleviate symptoms and an internal medicine to ‘cleanse the blood’.

Traditional blood cleansers would have been dandelion, burdock, yellow dock and nettle.

Modern herbal medicine treatment is very similar, although we now know that the blood cleansers are allowing the liver to detoxify, reducing circulating metabolites, decreasing inflammation and inflammatory markers.

An easy and safe remedy to try at home

An easy and safe remedy to try at home is nettle leaf tea. You can either gather your own (in the spring or summer) or buy the tea bags at a health food shop or supermarket.

I recommend drinking three cups a day.

External treatments for eczema

External treatments for eczema are many and varied but they usually consist of herbs that are antimicrobial (to stop infection within the eczema site), anti-inflammatory herbs (to alleviate the redness and swelling at the eczema site), and often an anti-pruritic (or anti-itch).

Clinical research

A study of 72 patients with moderate eczema showed that when half of the patients were given a chamomile cream, and half were given a hydrocortisone cream, they were equally effective.

herbal medicine 3 picChamomile is one of the key herbs that I use in my practice for eczema. A cold, used, chamomile tea bag can be effective and relieving the itch and inflammation on very irritated eczema where the skin is completely broken.

Another study showed that St John’s wort when used topically on eczema can reduce inflammation and the condition of skin in the area. A study of 28 patients with moderate eczema used the St John’s wort cream in comparison to a plain cream. The St John’s wort cream was more effective and decreased the eczema symptoms.

Other herbs that have been studied clinically and found to be effective at reducing eczema symptoms are: gotu kola, Oregon grape, liquorice and pansy.

Could herbal medicine help you?

If you or a someone you know suffers from eczema, I recommend they go and see a medical herbalist. A medical herbalist can make an individual prescription, for both the external and internal symptoms.

Find a qualified herbalist through any of these lists.

Eczema blog part 2 – What role does diet play in eczema?

Herbalists have made the link between diet and skin health for some time but it’s taking modern research a little while to catch up.

Dairy products, are they bad for eczema?

As far as I am aware (please send me the link if I’m incorrect), there isn’t currently a published study can shows the link between dairy products and an increase in eczema symptoms. However, some doctors think there is a link and some are recommending that it is removed from the diet.

I always recommend that people with eczema may find that switching to a nut, oat or goat milk may find a reduction in their skin inflammation. It’s important not to use soya milk however, as that can have the same inflammatory action as cow’s milk.

Are pro inflammatory foods a problem in eczema?

The simple answer is yes. While each person is different, eczema is an inflammatory condition and therefore foods that increase an inflammatory state in the body may well increase the symptoms of eczema.

Foods to reduce
  • Soya
  • Alcohol
  • Refined sugars
  • Preservatives
Foods to add in

Just as there are inflammatory foods, there are also anti-inflammatory foods. I recommend my patients increase these in their diet if at all possible.

  • Oily fish
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fruits and vegetables (as many different colours as you can)
  • Wholegrains
  • Beans and pulses

Don’t forget external irritants for eczema, as the skin is the body’s barrier it has to be strong to avoid infection. In the case of eczema that barrier is damaged and broken.

Where possible try to get the most natural form of the following products to avoid reactions:

  • Washing powder/liquid
  • Soaps and shower gels
  • Shampoos and conditioners
  • Any beauty products that may come in contact with the area affected e.g. make up or perfume
Laura Carpenter
Laura Carpenter

If you or a member of your family suffers from eczema and you are interested in finding out if herbs could help, give your local herbalist a call.

If you’re in the Wellington area (in Somerset) feel free to give me a call or email to find out how herbal medicine could help.

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.

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.