Herbs for Healthy Living

A Warm Glow

Ginkgo biloba is probably one of the oldest known medicinal herbs as its use can be traced to the oldest Chinese Materia Medica dating back to around 3,000 BC.

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Agnus castus: Marriage Saviour

Many women, and men for that matter, are well aware that Agnus castus is good for women’s hormones. I used to have a neighbour who would come round and beg for more Agnus for his wife, as it was the only thing that kept her PMS within reasonable bounds and therefore made his life worth living.

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Alfred Vogel on Fresh Breath

Fresh Breath – naturally

Decades ago, when both toothpaste and mouthspray were unknown, it was customary to eat an apple before going to bed. People were convinced that this kept the gums and teeth healthy. It was probably the best and cheapest means of mouth hygiene, because the malic acid cleaned the teeth excellently and was beneficial to the mouth flora. Nowadays children take brushing their teeth for granted. But, although all kinds of antibiotic and chemical oral products are in use, tooth decay has increased so much that most children are affected.

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Alfred Vogel on the Bladder

The urinary bladder is a hollow organ made up of muscle fibres and lined with mucous membrane. Ordinarily, the bladder has the capacity to hold about 750ml of fluid. Since the fibre cells are elastic, like rubber, the bladder is able to expand greatly without suffering any damage.

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Chew, Chew, Chew

Hands up anyone who never, ever has the slightest complaint about anything that happens from their gullet to their gut? Digestive bliss, from start to finish; never a grumble or a rumble from the insides; smiley happy tummy at all times? Not many, that’s for sure.

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Clearing Coughs Naturally

Strangely, coughs may be good for us. The cough reflex is actually quite a healthy thing, designed to prevent us from choking by clearing debris from the respiratory tract.

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Coping with Head Lice Resistance

Many parents face the misery of head lice. For most this means a variety of failed lotions, sprays and mousses. Worst of all are the endless weeks of combing in a desperate attempt to rid your children of that last head louse. But why is this problem getting worse? Can natural products succeed where the most potent synthetic products have failed?

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Daisy, Daisy, Give me your answer do

What do I do for the flu?

If the Daisy you are speaking to is Echinacea purpurea, then it’s quite likely to assist you considerably in any battles with flu. Yet another member of the Daisy family, Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), is powerless against viruses.

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Discovering Herbs: Aesculus (Horse Chestnut)

This beautiful tree not only gladdens the eyes in May with its white flowers, but also gives us shiny brown conkers, which have been making themselves useful ever since the tree was imported from Asia in the sixteenth century.

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Discovering Herbs: Agnus castus

The common name of this pretty herb is Chaste Tree, harking back to the Crusaders’ belief that it would crush their wives’ libidos whilst they were off crusading.

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Discovering Herbs: Arnica montana

The German scientist and writer, Goethe (1749-1832) claimed Arnica had saved his life. The history of this superb herb, Arnica montana, goes back centuries. Known also as Leopard’s Bane, it was discovered as a medicinal plant by Europeans in the 16th century.

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Discovering Herbs: Avena sativa

A warming bowl of porridge in the morning is a great way to start the day. As well as being tasty, it is an excellent restorative breakfast and actually has many health benefits. It helps lower blood cholesterol, stabilises the blood sugar and has a gentle calming effect helping us to face the day ahead.

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Discovering Herbs: Berberis

If your garden contains Berberis, you will be aware that it is not a shrub to tackle lightly. It has thorns!

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Discovering Herbs: Black Cohosh

This is a perennial herb that belongs to the buttercup family. It grows in shady hardwood forests in the south of the USA, and its roots, which are used medicinally, may take up to three years to mature.

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Discovering Herbs: Calendula

Most people will be familiar with this bright, cheerful plant with yellow or orange flower heads, a favourite in many gardens. It is used not just for its attractive colours but also as a companion plant that keeps pests away from other plants. Calendula (Marigold) is a cultivated plant that is not found in the wild, with the alternative name of ‘Summer Pride’ due to its habit of flowering throughout the hot weather.

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Discovering Herbs: Cynara (Globe Artichoke)

The Latin name derives from the Greek, combining a word meaning ‘pointed stake’ with the name of an Aegean island, ‘Kinara’. Globe Artichoke is a robust perennial that grows up to two metres in height. These days they tend to be cultivated without spines. They flower from July to August with blue-violet tubular blossoms, up to 15cm wide.

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Discovering Herbs: Frangula

Frangula, or Buckthorn, has sometimes been called Purging Buckthorn, which gives you some idea of its traditional use. The purging in question is from the lower rather than the upper part of the body, and centres on the bowel.

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Discovering Herbs: Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

‘Let Food be your Medicine’ might have been a phrase written to indicate just this very herb. We are so used to ginger in biscuits, cakes, and spicing up our herb teas, that it is rather strange to think of it as a medicine. This knotty root is, however, full of healthy potential, both as a food and as a herbal remedy.

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Discovering Herbs: Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo biloba is extremely well known as a wonderful remedy for improving circulation and memory. The biggest problem for people with poor memory can be remembering Ginkgo’s name when asking for it in stores, and remembering to take it…

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Discovering Herbs: Hypericum (St John’s Wort)

Student who can’t sleep?
Frazzled mum who worries all the time?
Feeling low during the menopause?

All of these scenarios and more can be helped by Hypericum, the Sunshine Herb, known all over Europe for its ability to raise the spirits and lift clouds that settle on the mind.

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Discovering Herbs: Milk Thistle

Milk Thistle is a Mediterranean herb, although it grows wild all over Europe, North America and Australia. Some of the earliest herbal texts mention it for protecting the liver. It was called Marian thistle at one stage, having been dedicated to Mary in the Christian tradition.

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Discovering Herbs: Passiflora incarnata

Passiflora is known taditionally as an excellent herb for nourishing the nervous system, working gently and safely to reduce anxiety.

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Discovering Herbs: Saw Palmetto

Saw Palmetto grows exclusively in Florida, in the southeast of the USA. Sabal serrulata, which is the Latin name for American Saw Palm, is found to the north of the Everglades, where the climate is hot and dry.

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Discovering Herbs: Solidago

Solidago is the Latin name for the beautiful Golden Rod that graces many gardens with its fine summer display of golden-yellow flowers. It has been used medicinally for many years, often to heal wounds; indeed, its name comes from the Latin ‘solidus’, meaning ‘whole’ or ‘solid’, referring to the plant’s supposed ability to heal.

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Discovering Herbs: Urtica (Stinging Nettle)

We have all been too close to Nettles at some point in our lives. It is usually a brief, unexpected and none too pleasant experience. This doesn’t tend to endear the plant to the unfortunate victim, but in fact it has many medical uses and can be a great friend to those who take the time to get to know it.

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Discovering Herbs: Uva-ursi

Over two million women in the UK suffer from cystitis every year. Cystitis is an infection of the bladder caused by bacteria from nearby skin travelling up the urinary tract and growing in the bladder. Bacteria from the colon are common culprits. Women get cystitis more than men because their urinary tract opening is nearer to the anus, so the distance for the bacteria to travel is shorter.

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Discovering Herbs: Viola tricolor

Many of us grow violets or wild pansies in our gardens but, whilst we appreciate their beauty, few of us grasp the importance of such special plants.

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Discovering Herbs: Yarrow

One of the amazing things about herbs is the diverse range of actions they have been seen to have. It seems astounding that just one herb can have a beneficial effect on a whole range of conditions, but here we look at Yarrow, which is one of these multi-skilled herbs.

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Effective Echinacea and the flu

Recent laboratory research has shown, for the first time, that fresh Echinacea extract is highly effective against the swine flu virus. Recent studies showed Echinacea purpurea fresh plant extract inhibits the H1N1 ‘Mexico influenza’ virus, with the ability to inactivate the infectiousness by over 99%. The pioneering laboratory-based research, carried out using an extract of fresh Echinacea purpurea, also worked against bird flu and all other examined influenza viruses.  They carried out the ‘in vitro’ infection model on five influenza A strains.

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Feeling a bit anxious?

Some people are anxious about being anxious. This may sound like a bizarre statement, but often those experiencing this symptom cannot pinpoint a specific reason - they simply feel a bit anxious or worried.

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Get Going

Working as a nutritionist, I hear a great deal about people’s bowels and am frequently astounded by what they consider to be normal behaviour on the part of their nether regions.

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Get Some Sleep

Sleep is designed to restore us to full function after a period (usually a day) of wearing ourselves out. During the night, tissues are repaired, organs rest or finish cycles such as flushing out toxins, and the brain filters the day's events. It’s as if a crew of cleaners move in to sweep, dust and repair the building, filing information, emptying bins, and restoring the building to working order for the next day.

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Happy Holidays

It’s the time of the year to pack the swimming costume and sun lotion and head off to the sun for that well deserved break. Rest and relaxation are the watchwords but, along with the guide book and the phrase book, it’s always best to be prepared with a few remedies so that your holiday is not spoilt by that unexpected upset.

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His Prostate; Her Menopause

Why would so many women benefit from helping their men to reduce the symptoms of benign prostate enlargement? Not just because they care for their men’s health and want them to be happier and healthier, but also because reducing symptoms for the husband means fewer night time trips to the loo and so less interruption of their own night’s sleep!

If you’re already having disturbed nights due to menopausal symptoms, this is particularly pertinent because the last thing you need is your husband breaking into the times you actually manage to get to sleep, with his nocturnal urination.

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How Clean is Your Body

We spend lots of money and heaps of effort keeping our houses, clothes and children clean and tidy. We worry about germs getting into our food and beasties burrowing into our beds.

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Jan de Vries discusses Cynara

The Swiss naturopath, Alfred Vogel wrote: 'Since our present-day diet is so rich in fat, it is good to take a remedy which acts as artichoke does.'

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Jan de Vries discusses Devil’s Claw

Devil's Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) originates from the Kalahari and Savannah desert regions of Southern Africa. It is called Devil’s Claw because the plant displays finger-like growths that are protected by thorns and are of unusual appearance. We sometimes wonder how descriptive any name is. In this case it is extremely apt in that Devil’s Claw really seems to put its claws into the problem, i.e. it reaches out to the heart of it.

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Jan de Vries discusses Digestion

The term Digestion covers all the activities of the digestive tract, involving preparing food to be absorbed by the body and the rejection of its residues. Whatever foods are ingested, the remains should be exported, preferably within a period of 24 hours. If this does not happen, we may well experience problems.

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Jan de Vries discusses fungal infections

It can be very embarrassing when you shake someone’s hand and find that the hand has a fungal condition. This is usually visible on the palm of the hand, where the skin feels hard and is of a reddish, cracked texture

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Keep Moving

As many as one in ten adults in the UK suffer from some form of arthritic condition, with a variety of different names and consisting of a huge consortium of symptoms. There is no accepted conventional cure to be had. Fortunately natural treatment can help in alleviating symptoms.

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Listen to Your Body

His face said it all. Disbelief was written all over it when, in response to his complaint of pain behind the knees, I suggested a kidney tonic! “But the pain is nowhere near my kidneys!” he exclaimed in frustration. Patiently, I explained how referred pain could indicate an organ in distress, and that in turn might be the cause of the pain.

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Living with Allergies

Whilst allergies are prevalent amongst the UK population, the following case studies show how simply their unpleasant symptoms can be alleviated.

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Natural Solutions for Stress

We humans need a certain amount of stimulation to get us out of bed in the morning. Motivating stimulus is fine but, as with most things, there is a point beyond which something healthy and positive becomes negative.

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Neem - the Village Pharmacy

For centuries, the Neem tree has been known in India as ‘Heal all’ or the ‘Village Pharmacy’ due to its many and varied healing properties. Since the advent of synthetic insecticides and the promotion of conventional medicines this important natural resource has been sadly neglected. However, over the last few decades, the Neem tree has enjoyed a revival, being rediscovered by the people of India where it is now the centre of a thriving industry, producing goods ranging from cosmetics and medicines to natural insecticides.

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New Life Resolution

Forget about that resolution which only lasts through January and maybe a little of February; why not start something that will see you through the whole year and maybe even last the rest of your life?

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Pumping Action

Do you know where your blood goes?
Do you know what it is meant to be doing whilst meandering around the body?
Do you know how it changes as it circulates?

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Show a Leg

Women's legs get noticed! Whether we like it or not, women more than men are judged on how shapely and well groomed their legs are. Derogatory or admiring remarks are seldom made about men's legs.

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Sprucing Yourself Up

We all learn as we go through life that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover or a person by their looks. Without wishing to throw these great truths into doubt, I’d like to suggest that a great deal could be learned by casting an assessing eye over the outer coverings of both literary feast and our fellow humans.

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The Devil of the Kalahari

In the 1960s the well-known Swiss naturopath Alfred Vogel travelled into southern Africa to meet the tribespeople. With his natural curiosity and unassuming ways, they found him easy to relate to and were happy to teach him about the herbs they used to stay healthy or to treat illness.

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The Eyes Have It

Blue, green, grey, hazel and brown. Big, small, wide, round, almond. Eyes are our windows to the world but it is important to remember that windows can get dirty and misty and need looking after if you want to see amazing views through them!

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The Sage Age

Have you ever wondered just how herbalists in the past found out that certain herbs had certain effects? How random were their choices and what guided them to the herbs they used? One influencing factor was the ‘Doctrine of Signatures’ by which the look or habits of a plant were thought to indicate its likely action.

In this way Sage, the pretty purple leaves of which sweat in the sun, was seen to be a sweat-regulator. Sage has been used for this purpose for centuries and based on this long-standing use, is accepted as a traditional herbal remedy for relief of menopausal sweats and hot flushes.

Many women have cause to be grateful to those who originally spotted Sage’s potential as a sweat regulator. The most common menopausal symptoms are hot flushes and night sweats, episodes that can ruin sleep and severely undermine a woman’s confidence at work and in social situations.

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The Special Senses

The capacity to see, hear, smell and taste the wonders of the world around us once allowed us to survive. Nowadays they are not imperative to existence: we don’t need to listen for enemies, sniff out food sources or scan the far horizons for smoke signals; we have endless amounts of technology to do the work of our senses and the power of these senses has therefore diminished with disuse.

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The Truth about Echinacea

Have you ever wondered why the only trials on herbal remedies that seem to be reported in the press are negative ones? How irritating this is when we know full well that many, many people are being helped daily by simple, effective herbal remedies with no side effects. Actually there are many clinical trials showing the benefits of herbal medicines, but they don’t have shock value and are rarely reported.

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Vein Hope

  • Tired, heavy legs
  • Aching, painful legs
  • Leg cramps
  • Swollen ankles

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What are the Natural Options?

I’ve been diagnosed with mildly elevated blood pressure. I want to avoid heart medication – what can I do naturally?

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Why can’t I sleep?

As a nation, we're increasingly tired and find it easy to fall asleep when we shouldn't - at our desks, on the train, during lectures.

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