Tag: homemade

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.

Cold 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).

What 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/

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).


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.


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.

Over 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.


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



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.

Why use a natural cream?



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.



Homemade Winter Remedies

forage1 - Green city

Homemade Winter Remedies blog featured on Green City Events.

“Here are Laura’s top tips (and two recipes) to beat those winter sniffles…


Garlic is well studied for its antibacterial, antiviral and antibiotic properties. It has been my experience when taking garlic that it has shortened the length of the duration of the cold. You can of course add more garlic to your food to get those effects but it is better as raw as you can stand it.

Garlic and onion syrup recipe

1 bulb of garlic (peeled and thinly sliced)
1 large white onion (peeled and thinly sliced)
Sugar or honey to cover
A jam jar or sealable container

Take onion and garlic, peel them and slice them thinly. Place a layer of the slice onion and garlic in the jam jar and then cover with sugar or honey. Add another layer of sliced onion and garlic and continue until you have used all of the onion and garlic. Seal the jar and leave in the fridge overnight. The next day you will have an onion and garlic syrup. You can use that as a cold and flu treatment, it is especially good for coughs. The syrup will last for three days in the fridge. Take 4-5 tsp per day until you feel better (I recommend holding your nose while you drink it!).”

Read more …

Urinary tract infections (also known as cystitis) – What is it? What can be done? Are herbs useful?

What is a urinary tract infection?

A urinary tract infection, or UTI (also known as cystitis), is when bacteria enter the urethra and cause an infection (although in some cases there are other causes). Due to the female urethra being shorter and more exposed, it is much easier for women to get UTIs then men.

Changes in pH that often occur before menstruation can often mimic the symptoms of a UTI .

What are the symptoms?
  • pain or a burning sensation when urinating
  • a need to urinate more often
  • pain in the lower abdomen

The conventional medical treatment of UTIs is antibiotics and in some cases antibiotics are needed to ensure the infection does not become a kidney infection.

The NHS recommendation is to visit your GP on day 5 of a urinary tract infection and that is important because as stated above antibiotics may be needed.

If you would like to try alternative treatments before you reach the day 5 point, here are some things that you can do.

If you fall into any of the following categories it is important that you see a GP or medical herbalist before proceeding with any treatment.

  • you develop a high temperature
  • your symptoms suddenly get worse
  • you are pregnant
  • you have diabetes
  • you have blood in your urine

Alternative treatment plan for UTIs


Dietary changes

Reducing the pH of your urine by making the following changes can reduce the irritation/pain of passing urine while having a UTI.

  • Avoid meat and protein
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Avoid sugar
  • Avoid processed foods
  • Avoid tea and coffee

Increasing your water intake will dilute your urine avoiding further irritation.

Herbal medicine

There are strong urinary antiseptics available that can be taken as either tinctures or teas to kill off the bacteria, change the pH of the urine and dilute the urine. This multi action approach has made them the go to choice for alternative UTI treatments.

Herbal medicines are not necessarily safe because they are natural (a common misconception), it is important to get the correct dose and correct prescription for your needs. If you want to treat your UTIs with this type of herbal medicine then I recommend seeing a medical herbalist (visit www.nimh.org.uk to find your local medical herbalist).

A simple herbal remedy that can be used is yarrow tea, yarrow is a urinary antiseptic.

Use 1 tablespoon of herb per cup of hot water, steep for at least 20 minutes and drink as hot as you can stand and drink the tea constantly for at least three days.

Please note: Do not use in pregnancy or if you have any form of kidney disease.

Remember, if you have tried this alternative method and your symptoms remain at day 5, or worsen before day 5, you must visit your GP.


Prevention is better than cure and the following are recommended by the NHS to prevent UTIs. I would also add a healthy diet to the list because without that your immune system will not be able to function correctly and more infections will occur.

  • Ensuring you remain hydrated
  • Emptying your bladder after sex
  • Wiping from front to back after going to the toilet
  • Avoiding constipation
  • Drinking cranberry juice

Recurring infections

If you suffer from recurrent UTIs and are requiring several courses of antibiotics, herbal medicine may be able to help you. The cells of the urinary tract can become damaged after recurrent infections, and the damage can mimic the symptoms of a UTI but there is often no infection. Herbal medicine can often be used to repair the damage and break this cycle.

For more information visit the NHS website.

If you are unsure if you have a UTI or if an alternative treatment plan is right for you, it is important to speak to either you GP or your local medical herbalist.

Upcoming workshops, herb walks and herbal medicine talks – Feb – Aug 14

January is always a time for reflection for me and I have been planning furiously for the coming year, I love planning. I am one of those people who have a list saying “write list”. So here is my plan for all things herbal in the year ahead to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the founding of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists.


15th February – 10.30am – 3pm – Winter Remedies Workshop

I am running a winter remedies workshop at The Whitchurch Clinic. A light vegetarian lunch is included.

We will be discussing how to increase immunity naturally and the myths of Echinacea. We will also be making cough syrups and throat sweets. The course costs £45, minimum of two people required.


Wednesday 19th March – 7pm – 8pm – Talk at The Whitchurch Clinic, Whitchurch, Cardiff. “Herbal Medicine – Nature’s pharmacy”

I will be talking about herbal medicine, its history in Wales and how it is now used around the world alongside orthodox medicine. £2 entry. Free herbal tea and homemade cake.


Saturday 5th April – 10.30am until 3pm – Natural cream making workshop

I am running a herbal cream making workshop at The Whitchurch Clinic. A light vegetarian lunch is included.

We will be looking at how herbal creams are made and making individual creams to take home. The course costs £45, minimum of three people required.

First herb walk of the season on Sunday 6th April, meeting at the Melingriffith water pump,Ty-Mawr Road, Whitchurch at 2pm. The walk is free and lasts approximately an hour.


2nd – 5th May – Medicinal plants weekend, Ravenshill woods, Worcestershire, with Native Awareness (http://www.nativeawareness.co.uk/courses/medicinal-plants/) Book through Native Awareness.

Sunday 11th May – Free Taff trail herb walk, 2pm – 3pm (meeting place to be announced).

Saturday 17th  May – 10.30am – 3pm – Summer remedies workshop

I am running a summer remedies workshop at The Whitchurch Clinic. A light vegetarian lunch is included.

We will be looking at hay fever remedies, natural first aid for sun stroke, sun burn, bites and stings, etc. We will make an insect bite cream and a natural after sun lotion. The course costs £45, minimum of two people required.


Sunday 8th June – Free Taff trail herb walk, 2pm – 3pm (meeting place to be announced).

Wed 25th June – 7pm – 8pm – Talk at The Whitchurch Clinic, Whitchurch, Cardiff.

“Herbal Medicine – Nature’s pharmacy”

I will be talking about herbal medicine, its history in Wales and how it is now used around the world alongside orthodox medicine. £2 entry. Free herbal tea and homemade cake.

Friday 27th June – Bute park evening herb walk (meet outside the Pettigrew tea rooms by the gate to ButePark, opposite the water bus stop) 6pm – 7pm. £2 per person.


Sunday 6th July – Free Taff trail herb walk, 2pm – 3pm (meeting place to be announced).

Saturday 26th July – Summer remedies workshop

I am running a summer remedies workshop at The Whitchurch Clinic. A light vegetarian lunch is included.

We will be looking at hay fever remedies, natural first aid for sun stroke, sun burn, bites and stings, etc. We will make an insect bite cream and a natural after sun lotion. The course costs £45, minimum of two people required.


Sunday 10th August – Free Taff trail herb walk, 2pm – 3pm (meeting place to be announced).

Saturday 16th August – 10.30am – 3pm – Herb harvesting and preserving

I am running a herb harvesting and preserving workshop at The Whitchurch Clinic. A light vegetarian lunch is included.

We will be learning different harvesting, drying and preserving techniques for herbs. We will make herb infused oils, vinegars, teas, and more. The course costs £45, minimum of three people required.


Sunday 7th September – Free Taff trail herb walk, 2pm – 3pm (meeting place to be announced).

Introduction to herbal medicine 4 week course begins. More details to follow.

If you would like more information about any of these courses, workshops or talks please get in touch.

To book on to any of the workshops a £10 deposit is required to secure your place, with the balance payable on the day of the workshop. Deposits can be paid via paypal (please send me an email and I will send you a payment request.)

Natural cosmetics workshop – I was right about the chocolate orange lip balm

After setting off for The Whitchurch Clinic I realised that I had packed what seemed like half of my kitchen cupboards worth of bowls and spoons!

Natural cosmetics workshop
Natural cosmetics workshop

The workshop began with a talk about natural cosmetics in general and where different ingredients come from and what they’ve been used for traditionally and today. We looked at all of the ingredients and had a good feel and smell of everything (a very important part of natural cosmetics making, and good fun too).

We started off by making two types of lip balms, peppermint and lemon balm, to protect against cold sores and chocolate orange (with real dark chocolate). While those were melting we went on to make face mask powder from clays and various grains and seeds.

Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time in the workshop to make bath bombs but I did give out my favourite bath bomb recipe.

Natural cosmetics workshopMy favourite product was the bath salts; I always think they are the prettiest natural cosmetic gift to make. Hibiscus flowers rose petals, Dead Sea salts and grains with rose and geranium flower water was the clear favourite.

At the end of a productive morning we had made 8 lip balms each, a face mask power, a body scrub, a foot scrub and bath salts.


Herbal cosmetics

If you would like to download my natural cosmetics workbook of recipes to make at home please see my downloads page.

My next workshop will be in January making winter herbal remedies.

A fantastic cream making workshop

I have learnt to make all manner of herbal products and remedies over the years, from lip balm to arthritis liniment, to immune boosting sweets and cough syrups. But the one thing that has always eluded me is the herbal cream. To be able to perfectly blend the water and oil together to form a cream that absorbs into the skin well is an art, and one that I have tried in vain to perfect. Many a rainy day has been spent in my kitchen trying to mix herbal waters into beeswax, and no amount of whisking will make the two gel together!

I recently attended a fantastic cream making workshop, by Dawn Ireland, a fellow UEL graduate and a fantastic herbalist. Dawn makes her own products through her website www.greenwyse.co.uk, and also practices as a medical herbalist at the herbs and honey health food shop in Torbay, Devon.

When I heard that Dawn was running a course on herbal cream making I was thrilled, but slightly nervous due to my earlier failed attempts and my allergy to nuts which often excludes me from making herbal creams due to the nut oils that are often used.

Ollie enjoying being by the sea.
Ollie enjoying being by the sea.

Dawn was fantastic and organised the event to be completely nut free so that I could attend. So off I went to Torbay, with my husband and dog in tow, and a fantastic time was had by all.

The course started with Dawn explaining the basic science behind herbal creams and how herbal constituents are absorbed into the skin. The high point of the morning was seeing Dawn make a hydrosol from her still from yarrow leaves.

After a delightful (nut free) vegetarian lunch we moved on to tailor making our creams, one lady made a hand cream specifically for her dry skin, with wheat germ oil and chamomile,  another lady made a pain relieving cream from rosehip oil, St John’s wort and chilli, for her swollen knee, and I decided to make an eczema cream with marshmallow and liquorice.

We were all slightly nervous as the cream making process is part science part art and I don’t think any of us were particular comfortable with either part! Dawn was extremely supportive throughout the process but did test us on our knowledge by setting us the task of coming up with a recipe for another cream we would make.

The creams we made came our perfectly and we were all thrilled with the results, unfortunately I didn’t take a picture of my cream but here is a picture of similar creams that Dawn makes so you can get the idea. As I was travelling back from Torbay I met my Mum and my sister, both eczema sufferers so the two jars of cream I’d just made went straight to them before I could take a photo!

I was filled with such inspiration after visiting Dawn that I planned the workshops and courses for 2014, including a winter remedy workshop in January, an evening course in February and March, as well as several others.

As a group we also came up with a fantastic chocolate orange lip balm recipe and that will be one of the lip balms I will be teaching at my natural cosmetics workshop in November.

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.