herbs for health

  • Herbs for Health - California Poppy

    Herbs for Health - California Poppy

    It’s been a little while since we posted a blog – things have been a bit hectic for us busy bees! So, since it seemed appropriate for us, this week’s herb for health was chosen thanks to its calming properties – California Poppy, sometimes called ‘golden poppy’.

    An annual flower, the California poppy is native to North America and is the state flower of California (there might have been a clue in the name!). Its beautifully colourful flowers brighten any garden and were first introduced to Europe as purely ornamental. However, as a member of the Papaveraceae family, this is a cousin to the better-known opium poppy and, though not as powerful, has some very similar effects. It was originally used by the Native Americans as a remedy for toothache and colicky pains, but in the last century its medicinal uses have been likened to a non-addictive alternative to the opium poppy. It can calm excitability, anxiety, restlessness, act as pain relief, aid insomnia and in some cases is used as a remedy for bed wetting and diseases of the bladder and liver. It has both sedative and anxiolytic properties, and recent research shows that when combined with magnesium and hawthorn it can treat a variety of anxiety disorders.

    California poppy is most commonly taken internally, in the form of teas or tinctures. However, it can also be applied externally in lotions or liniments, to help ease tension headaches, sciatica, earache, back pain and arthritic pain. It is also antimicrobial and so can be applied to cuts and scrapes to ease pain and minimise risk of infection.

    Though effects of long-term usage have yet to be determined, California poppy is safe to use for most people when taken orally for three months or less. As with many medicines, usage should be avoided during pregnancy or breast feeding. As one of the properties of California poppy is that of a sedative, it can cause the central nervous system to slow down. It should therefore not be mixed with anaesthesia or other medications used before or after surgery, or other sedative medications such as Benzodiazepines or CNS depressants.

    *This article is intended for interest only – use of herbs given are traditional and do not reflect the herbs efficacy. It is not intended, nor should be taken as medical advice. If you have a medical condition please consult a qualified health professional prior to using any herbal preparation. Although the facts have been checked carefully, we cannot guarantee the reliability of information provided. Essential oils should not be used on children or vulnerable adults (elderly, breast feeding or ill) or during pregnancy. Some essential oils and herbs can be toxic, whether taken internally or used on the skin – your health care professional will advise.

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  • Herbs for Health - Valeriana officinalis

    Herbs for Health - Valeriana officinalis

    There are many herbs that are useful in a medicinal capacity but perhaps none are so well known as valerian. Valeriana officinalis, of the Valerinaceae family, is also known as valerian, Baldrian, cat’s love, cat’s valerian, kesso root, St George’s herb and garden heliotrope. Its medicinal properties lie in its root, which can be dried for use in tea or capsules, or distilled into oils and ointments.

    valerian.flower

    Though it has a relatively wide range of uses, valerian root is most commonly used for sleep disorders – particularly insomnia. It acts as a sedative to the brain and nervous system, allowing for sleep to come easily. As a remedy for insomnia, valerian is often combined with hops or lemon balm, either in a tea, pill, in a sleep pillow or even added to bath water. Many people choose valerian as an alternative to prescription sleeping pills, such as Valium, as it is less likely to leave you feeling groggy the next morning. Its sedative properties also lead it to be used in combination with other herbs as a remedy for conditions such as anxiety and stress, as well as symptoms related to these conditions, such as hysteria, panic, excitability, fear, migraines, stomach upset, depression and mild tremors. It is thought to help with sciatica and multiple sclerosis, shingles and rheumatic pain, as well as being useful to stabilise blood pressure and regulate arrhythmias. Some people also prescribe this for epilepsy, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder and chronic fatigue syndrome. Some women use valerian to help with pain from menstrual cramping and symptoms associated with menopause. It is not recommended as safe for use when pregnant or breast-feeding. The usual dose of valerian is 1 teaspoon in oil form, 1 – 2 cups of tea or 1 – 2 capsules, though as you are unlikely to overdose on valerian you can play around until you find what suits you.

    Though it is commonly used as a remedy for insomnia, there are many things to think about before taking valerian – including whether medicine is the best optionyou’re your condition. More information can be found here. Valerian tends to be most effective when used regularly, with the best results seen after around 2 weeks. However, there has been no research into the effects of long-term use of valerian. There can be side effects to taking valerian root, including headaches, dizziness and (counter-intuitively) sleeplessness. Due to its nature as a sedative, there can be reactions with other drugs and if you are due to undergo surgery under anaesthesia it is recommended you stop taking valerian at least 2 weeks beforehand.

    *This article is intended for interest only – use of herbs given are traditional and do not reflect the herbs efficacy. It is not intended, nor should be taken as medical advice. If you have a medical condition please consult a qualified health professional prior to using any herbal preparation. Although the facts have been checked carefully, we cannot guarantee the reliability of information provided. Essential oils should not be used on children or vulnerable adults (elderly, breast feeding or ill) or during pregnancy. Some essential oils and herbs can be toxic, whether taken internally or used on the skin – your health care professional will advise.

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  • Herbs for Health - Arnica

    Herbs for Health - Arnica

    Spending a lot of time at a desk or in front of a computer can leave you with a lot of aches and pains to deal with – my bad posture when sitting has definitely taken its toll. That’s why this month’s herb for health is arnica, the only thing that’s managed to soothe my crippling shoulder pain!

    arnica.scented.oil

    Arnica is a pretty flower, reminiscent of a daisy, belonging to the Asteracae family. It is also sometimes referred to as ‘leopard’s bane’ and ‘mountain tobacco’. It grows in Europe, Asia and the US and has a huge number of beneficial effects, having been used in medicine since the 1600s. Applied to the skin, it can be incredible for pain relief and swelling – whether caused by strain, sprain, arthritis, cartilage pain or even bruising. An arnica gel applied to the skin immediately after a bump or fall will reduce bruising, pain and swelling. It makes fantastic massage oil for sports injuries, or just to relieve pain from aching muscles such as those caused by bad posture. It can also be applied to the skin for insect bites and acne – where it’s anti-inflammatory properties will significantly reduce redness. Arnica is also used in hair tonics and anti-dandruff preparations; applied to your scalp it can help increase local blood circulation, which promotes hair growth. Mouth rinses containing arnica are often used to soothe sore gums, mouth or throat – particularly after the removal of wisdom teeth.

    Though arnica is used in minimal amounts as a flavour ingredient in drinks, frozen desserts, gelatines and puddings, it is very important never to digest pure arnica. It can cause abortions, heart irregularities, nervous disturbances, dizziness, tremors, weakness and vomiting. It is said that Goethe, German poet and philosopher, consumed arnica tea to relieve chest pain and it used to be common practice to smoke the leaves of arnica plants (hence the name mountain tobacco), but it’s best to stick to topical uses to avoid accidental poisoning! It is also very important not to apply arnica to broken skin or open wounds, so as to avoid its entry to the bloodstream. People who are allergic to sunflowers, marigolds, daisies or chrysanthemums should be wary of using arnica, as it is part of the same family of plants.

    *This article is intended for interest only – use of herbs given are traditional and do not reflect the herbs efficacy. It is not intended, nor should be taken as medical advice.  If you have a medical condition please consult a qualified health professional prior to using any herbal preparation.  Although the facts have been checked carefully, we cannot guarantee the reliability of information provided.  Essential oils should not be used on children or vulnerable adults (elderly, breast feeding or ill) or during pregnancy.  Some essential oils and herbs can be toxic, whether taken internally or used on the skin – your health care professional will advise.

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  • Herbs for Health - Ginger

    Herbs for Health - Ginger

    Easter is one of our favourite holidays – who doesn’t love an excuse to gorge on as much chocolate as you can? It’s all over now though and that chocolate has not left us feeling too healthy! That’s why this week’s herb for health is Zingiber officinale, better known as ginger.

    The spice we know as ginger is the underground rhizome of the ginger plant. It can be yellow, white or red in colour and has a rough, though firm texture. The taste of ginger is incredibly distinctive; strong, hot and seemingly both sweet and savoury at the same time. As a spice for flavouring food, ginger has become increasingly common in everyday cooking. Here in the Westcountry, we love a ginger fairing with our cup of tea, but there’s nothing like a gingery hit to spice up an evening meal – I really love this recipe for soy & ginger salmon, perfect for summer! But it’s not just found in home cooking; ginger is used as flavouring in the food and drinks industry as well as for fragrance in soaps and cosmetics.

    Ginger is also a main ingredient in a lot of antacid, laxative and anti-gas medications. It has been used in Chinese medicine for around 2,000 years to treat nausea, diarrhoea and stomach upsets.  It is still recommended by doctors to ease morning sickness in pregnant women, and there is currently research being undertaken into the uses of ginger in preventing nausea from chemotherapy, reducing inflammation of the bowels as a preventative measure for colon cancer and as a possible component of future asthma treatments.  As a home aid to digestion, ginger can be taken as a tincture, eaten raw or cooked, on its own or as part of a meal, or even as an easy to make tea.

    Both the medicinal and culinary uses for ginger can be traced back to Southeast Asia, to which ginger is native.  Its exportation to the Roman Empire accounts for its modern widespread usage, though it was not until medieval times that it became a popular addition to sweets and cakes.  As ginger became more popular, its price increased – until the sixteenth century, when 1lb of ginger cost the equivalent of an entire sheep. Nowadays it is much more affordable and easy to pick up from your local supermarket.

    *This article is intended for interest only – use of herbs given are traditional and do not reflect the herbs efficacy. It is not intended, nor should be taken as medical advice.  If you have a medical condition please consult a qualified health professional prior to using any herbal preparation.  Although the facts have been checked carefully, we cannot guarantee the reliability of information provided.  Essential oils should not be used on children or vulnerable adults (elderly, breast feeding or ill) or during pregnancy.  Some essential oils and herbs can be toxic, whether taken internally or used on the skin – your health care professional will advise.

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  • Herbs for Health - Tea Tree

    Herbs for Health - Tea Tree

    This week’s herb for health is inspired by our dreary winter weather. After turning up to work with my boots soaked through every day this week, my feet were in sore need of some tlc – so of course I turned to tea tree.

    Tea tree oil, also called melaleuca oil, is distilled from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) tree. It is well known both for its strong, camphor-like scent and its antifungal, antiseptic, antiviral and antibacterial properties. Previously used in dentistry and surgery to clean wounds, tea tree oil is still recommended as an antiseptic for use on fresh piercings as well as a treatment for fungal infections such as athletes foot. A study published in Tropical Medicine & International Health found that 80% of patients suffering from toenail onychomycosis (a fungal nail infection) were cured through the use of tea tree cream. The antibacterial properties of tea tree also make it suitable for use as an adjunctive treatment for wounds. One of the most common modern uses for tea tree oil is as a cure for acne. It is also suggested that tea tree oil has potential for treating dandruff, lice and gingivitis. In aromatherapy,

    In aromatherapy, tea tree oil is used to alleviate symptoms of cold and flu, such as congestion and blocked nose. This is most likely due to the camphor-like smell and is used in steam inhalation to clear the nasal passages. Tea tree oil is also fantastic for reducing the itching of insect bites, sores and spots, as well as a natural treatment for warts.

    Tea tree is also a natural insect repellent, can be used as a mould treatment when combined with baking soda and as a laundry freshener, amongst other surprising uses.

    *This article is intended for interest only – use of herbs given are traditional and do not reflect the herbs efficacy. It is not intended, nor should be taken as medical advice. If you have a medical condition please consult a qualified health professional prior to using any herbal preparation. Although the facts have been checked carefully, we cannot guarantee the reliability of information provided. Essential oils should not be used on children or vulnerable adults (elderly, breast feeding or ill) or during pregnancy. Some essential oils and herbs can be toxic, whether taken internally or used on the skin – your health care professional will advise.

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  • Herb of the month - Oregano

    Herb of the month - Oregano

    January is a good time for sowing oregano seeds under cover or indoors. Perennial, frost hardy plants, they like full sun and well-drained, nutrient rich soil (though I find they grow well in any soil).   Easy to grow and maintain they make a lovely, fragrant addition to any garden.

    This fabulously under rated herb is great with tomatoes and is of course used to season pizza topping.   A brilliant culinary herb, we use it to season our tomato relish, but it is also found in many Mexican dishes and gives a distinctive flavour to enchiladas. In fact it is a very versatile culinary herb.  High in Omega 3 and anti-oxidants, oregano is antibacterial, anti parasitic, antiseptic and antiviral, as well as being insect repellent.

    Medicinally the plant and essential oil have been used for a wide range of problems from dandruff and skin conditions to bronchitis and croup, it has even been used to treat warts.

    Infuse for a relaxing bath or as hair conditioner, use in pot pourri and herbal pillows. Add essential oil to baths, ointments or compresses to relive pain and tension. Place few drops near pillow to promote sleep.

    Said to have been created by the Greek goddess Venus it is a symbol of happiness. It is recorded as having been used to make crowns for healing and as being used as an oil massaged into the forehead and hair. In the language of flowers oregano is the herb of love and protection.

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  • Herbs for Health  Eucalyptus

    Herbs for Health Eucalyptus


    HERBS FOR HEALTH - EUCALYPTUS     

    eucalyptus-bottle

     We all know herbs can smell and look beautiful in your garden and be great for cooking, but what about herbs for health?*  Every month we’re going to be introducing you to a new herb and its traditional medicinal uses – starting with seasonally appropriate Eucalyptus.

    This is a fast growing tree with beautiful bluey green leaves., it grows well in most soils and will reach a height of up to 30m. If you want to grow your own here is some good advice.

    Eucalyptus essential oil is obtained from the globulus variety and is a common ingredient in medicinal inhalation preparations. Although taken in large doses the plant is toxic (it should not be taken orally, or put on the skin undiluted), its medicinal benefits are well documented, where it’s decongestant properties make it useful for cough, cold and chest preparations.. It is also widely used in dental preparations such as mouthwash and toothpaste, as it has a unique, fresh aroma. This aroma also has uses in the perfume industry. Eucalyptus can be used in oil burners to freshen the air with its lovely fresh fragrance

    The leaves can be used to repel fleas and for pot pourri.

    Cosmetically the plant can be used to make deodorant and is antiseptic.

    *This article is intended for interest only – use of herbs given are traditional and do not reflect the herbs efficacy. It is not intended, nor should be taken as medical advice. If you have a medical condition please consult a qualified health professional prior to using any herbal preparation. Although the facts have been checked carefully, we cannot guarantee the reliability of information provided. Essential oils should not be used on children or vulnerable adults (elderly, breast feeding or ill) or during pregnancy. Some essential oils and herbs can be toxic, whether taken internally or used on the skin – your health care professional will advise.

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