Monday, 28 February 2011

Dandelion Infusions

 Yes, more dandelion, this concludes my reporting of my February work! As I couldn’t find any Burdock or Mullein I have kept myself occupied with my herbal ally.The second Herbal Ally Challenge from Dancing With A Field of Tansy suggests making an infusion of your ally and drinking it every day for a week and noting any experiences or effects. In my case this is meant using a dandelion infusion.
Felt a bit apprehensive about drinking this, what if I didn’t like it, what if it has strong effects on my digestive system; I didn’t want a laxative effect before I started a 12 ½ shift at work!
I first tried a cold infusion, quite refreshing and calming and weakly bitter but definitely bitter. A slight bitter taste remained on the tongue afterwards; I also became aware that my tongue felt a bit dry and furry.
 I thought the infusion had done this to my tongue but when I got up the next day my tongue felt the same so I think the infusion just helped me to become aware of this. I looked in the mirror and saw a thin white coating on tongue; I have heard that the appearance of the tongue can indicate the health of the body which prompted me to search on the internet for tongue diagnosis. I decided my tongue looked pale, had some red spots on the tip and had a thin white coating, was I seriously ill?!
 I found some information from the Daily Mail with the view of a naturopath and traditional Chinese herbalist.

Pale colour:
 The naturopath says: If the tongue appears pale this could mean that your blood is lacking in haemoglobin - the iron-containing protein found in red blood cells. This will often result in tiredness and lethargy. Eat a well-balanced diet containing plenty of iron. This is possible, as a vegetarian of 23 years I am sometimes a bit anaemic.
The Chinese herbalist says: In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) this means you have a cold tongue and you probably lack energy or feel tired. White is the colour of metal element and in TCM this refers to the lungs and colon. A pale tongue could indicate problems in these two organs. Treat with warming herbs such as garlic, ginger and cinnamon. I have been feeling tired and run down, I like ginger tea so will try some, but not until my dandelion week is over or I won’t know which herb has helped.
Red spots:
 The naturopath says: A strawberry-like patch on the tip of the tongue is often caused by hot drinks. This sounds probable; my husband says I have an asbestos mouth when it comes to hot drinks!
The Chinese herbalist says: Patches of spots on the tongue reflects an allergic constitution, such as eczema and asthma. A Chinese herbalist may prescribe a mixture of herbs such as Devil's Claw, Red Clover and garlic for eczema and liquorice or Gingko for asthma. My only allergy I’m aware of is hay fever.
White coating:
The naturopath says: A thin coating on the tongue is healthy and normal. A heavy white plaque however could indicate candidiasis or oral thrush - a fungus infection of warm, moist areas of the body.
To clean the tongue use a natural mouthwash twice a day. Mix cider vinegar with two cloves of garlic, one teaspoon of dried sage and one table spoon of honey poured into one pint of boiling water. Store in the fridge and use within three days.
The Chinese herbalist says: This reflects the state of the digestive system. If the tongue lacks coating, it means the stomach enzymes which break down food in the digestive system are not functioning properly. The coating of the tongue should be thin and white.
So a thin white coating is normal! I like the mouth wash recipe but wouldn't use it when I needed to breathe near anyone else!
 The next day I tried the infusion at room temperature, the flavour seemed stronger. I tried a cool one later and enjoyed it more; I felt a warm sensation just above my naval while drinking it and warmth in my stomach and gall bladder area nearly an hour afterwards. This was a bit confusing as bitters are supposed to be cooling, maybe the dandelion found my gall stones.
 Kristine Brown used dried herbs, I used fresh as this is what was available to me. I have watched Susun Weed’s You Tube video on herbal infusions, she uses dried herb and lots of it so I’m not sure if my infusion was strong enough. I can’t say I felt a big difference over a week, I did seem to have more energy by the end of the week. I never expected to be looking into tongue diagnosis when I started this task, it's funny where life takes us.

Dandelion Roots

As there seems to be such a lot to learn about dandelions I decided to break them down into parts, this month I looked at roots; the properties and what you can do with them. Susan Weed says that the dandelion is a plant of opposites; this seems quite obvious now it is pointed out to me. The top has flowers which are yellow, cheerful, warm and sun-like or clocks that are light, dry and airy and below are the long roots which live deep in the dark, damp earth.
From what I have read dandelion seems to be a cure-all and general tonic but different parts of the plant have different properties. The roots are best harvested in autumn or winter. In autumn they are the sweetest as they contain the most inulin, a sugar stored to give energy through the winter. For bitter roots, harvest in the spring before the buds start to form. Inulins are a group of naturally occurring polysaccharides produced by many types of plants. They belong to a class of fibres known as fructans. Inulin is used by some plants as a means of storing energy and is typically found in roots or rhizomes. Inulin increases calcium absorption and possibly magnesium absorption, while promoting the growth of intestinal bacteria. In terms of nutrition, it is considered a form of soluble fibre and is sometimes categorized as a prebiotic. Due to the body's limited ability to process polysaccharides, inulin has minimal increasing impact on blood sugar, and—unlike fructose—is not insulemic and does not raise triglycerides, making it considered suitable for diabetics and potentially helpful in managing blood sugar-related illnesses (Wikipedia).
 Inulin is soluble in alcohol and water from fresh roots, but only in hot water if from dried roots. A tincture can be made from fresh root and 10-100 drops taken each day in water, a tea or decoction from fresh or dried roots, ½ - 2 cups each day. Alternatively put your chopped roots into a juicer and drink 3-6 tablespoons a day. Inulin from the root provides food for friendly bacteria in the bowel.
 The roots are also rich in taraxacin, a bitter substance found in the milky juice of the dandelion that is used as a tonic and diuretic.
 Susan Weed writes a lot about dandelion in a very inspiring way so forgive me for referring to her a lot, she gives lots of uses for the roots.
 Roots can be used for a distressed liver; stress from pregnancy; after rich food; chemotherapy; alcohol and drug abuse; jaundice and hepatitis. They aid bile duct swelling and blockage, cholesterol-based gall stones, indigestion, chronic constipation, poisoning and the beginnings of liver cirrhosis.
 This all round tonic nourishes, soothes and heals. It stabilises blood sugar, lowers cholesterol, and assists chronic pain, bronchitis, pneumonia and TB. A warm infusion with milk will help you get to sleep, a day or two of tincture helps deal with skin eruptions, and regular use loosens arthritic joints.
 For ladies, regular use helps menstrual cramps and pre-menstrual breast swelling. As well as being ingested grated root can be used on breast sores, cysts and impacted milk glands. As the liver is the site of breakdown of natural steroid hormones, a sluggish liver may result in hormone imbalance. Improving liver function can help to correct hormone imbalances, for example in pre-menstrual syndrome, by breaking them down.
The root is a good diuretic, hence the common name Wet-the-bed or Piss-the bed. The sodium in the plant is needed for kidney function and the potassium content ensures that potassium levels are maintained, many prescribed diuretics lead to loss of potassium. Potassium helps with nerve conduction including the functioning of the heart, impulses keep the heart beating.
 Dandelion roots are a good source of iron, manganese, phosphorus, protein, aluminium, and vitamin A and also contain calcium, chromium, cobalt, magnesium, niacin, potassium, riboflavin, silicon, sodium, tin, zinc and vitamin C.
Dandelion Coffee
 Dandelion coffee is made from the roasted roots of dandelion. I have seen a variety of methods of preparing the root.
·         Drying the root for 2 weeks before roasting and then grinding.
·         Roasting fresh roots either whole or in chunks and then grinding.
·         Grinding fresh roots and then roasting.
The roots are roasted until brown. All authors are of the opinion that this tastes like real coffee but is healthier as it is caffeine free. Dandelion coffee is steeped in hot water for 10-15 minutes, 1tsp – 1dsp per cup according to taste.
Pickled Roots
 Although I had read books about its virtues and had verbal encouragement from a herbalist I could never quite bring myself to uproot a dandelion and eat a weed. On my first visit to Sarah Head’s Herb Sanctuary in the Cotswolds we made dandelion vinegar. We dug up, scrubbed and chopped roots and before I knew it there was a piece in front of me and Sarah said “try that”. It was bitter and I was not used to it and did not enjoy the flavour, the next month when we strained the vinegar I was again asked to “try that”  and it tasted much better than the plain root we had tried the month before. We made a foragers salad to go with our packed lunches, including pickled roots and we all enjoyed it. They could be put with any salad.
Stir-Fry Dandelion Roots (Susun Weed) - An idea for cooking roots (seasonal too!)
1lb/475g young dandelion roots
6oz/170g mushrooms
1 cup/250ml sliced onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
3tbsp/45ml olive oil
3tbsp/45ml tamari
1tbsp/15ml dark sesame oil
Wash and chop young dandelion roots from early spring garden. Drain. Sauté oil and sliced mushrooms in oil until soft and a little brown. Add garlic and drained dandelion; cover and cook 5-10 minutes, until tender, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat; add tamari and dark sesame oil. Let sit a minute or 2 before serving.
Warm Winter Spice Tea: (Prodigal Garden)
• One cup roasted Dandelion root
• Half cup dry orange peel.
• Half cup of Cinnamon bark
• Dry Ginger root – three-fourth cup
 Add one tablespoon of the mixture of above per cup of water. Simmer it for ten to fifteen minutes. Add some honey to sweeten it (optional).

Dandelion Properties and Actions

One of Kristine Brown’s Herbal Ally Challenges is to list your ally’s properties and actions, so here’s my effort. I have listed properties I have found attributed to dandelion in books and internet articles and put in an explanation of the term and examples of other herbs with the same properties. It’s amazing how many properties are attributed to dandelion, some just to specific parts of the plant.
Alterative: gradually restores the proper function of the body, increases health and vitality by doing so. Helps the body to absorb nutrients and eliminate waste. Thins fluids and reduces heat
Also: Black Cohosh, Boneset, Buck Thorn, Burdock, Cleavers, Echinacea, Golden Seal, Kelp, Liquorice, Nettle, Red Clover, Yarrow, Yellow Dock.
Anodyne:  (flower) pain easing when applied externally.
Also: Chamomile, Meadowsweet, Mugwort.

Antibilious: helps the body to get rid of excess bile.
Also: Golden Seal, Wormwood.
Anti-inflammatory: help the body to combat inflammation.
Also: Ashwaganda, Calendula, Chamomile, Cleavers, Liquorice, Meadowsweet, St. John’s Wort, Wormwood.
Antirheumatic: relieves or protects against rheumatism.
Also: Celery, Kelp.
Aperient: gentle laxative, usually a bitter herb that stimulates the production and release of bile which lubricates the digestive tract.
Other examples: Oregon grape and Yellow Dock.
Astringent: causing contraction of tissue which can also reduce secretions.
Also: Cleavers, St. John’s Wort, Yarrow.
Bactericide: stopping growth of bacteria or creating an environment in which they cannot survive.
Also: Burdock, Echinacea, Garlic, Thyme
Bitter: herbs that taste bitter and stimulate the digestive system. They improve digestion, stimulate the appetite and the liver, relax muscle spasms, dispel gas in intestines and break down fatty foods.
Also: Blessed Thistle, Buckthorn, Burdock, Chamomile, Golden Seal, White Horehound, Wormwood.
Cardio-tonic: acts to improve heart function.
Also: Hawthorn, Kelp, Motherwort.
Cholagogue: promotes gall bladder contraction and release of bile.
Also: Angelica, Calendula, Celandine, Golden Seal, Horehound, Milk Thistle, Oregon grape, Yarrow, Yellow Dock.
Choloretic: encourages bile production in the liver and flow to the gall bladder to increase.
Also: Angelica, Calendula, Celandine, Golden Seal, Horehound, Milk Thistle, Oregon grape, Yarrow, Yellow Dock.
Depurative: removes impurities and cleanses the blood.
Also: Black Walnut, Blessed Thistle, Blue Flag, Buckthorn, Burdock, Elder, Oregon Grape, Red Clover, Yarrow, Yellow Dock.
Diuretic: increases the flow of urine and in doing so can help in removal of toxins/waste products from the system. Dandelion acts by affecting reabsorption and secretion of fluids in the kidney.
Also: Angelica, Blue Flag, Buckthorn, Burdock, Celandine, Celery, Cleavers, Hawthorn, Marshmallow, Yarrow.
Emollient: soothes, moistens, protects.
Also: Burdock, Liquorice, Marsh Mallow, Plantain
Fungicide: Destroys fungus or creates an environment in which it can’t survive.
Also: Thyme
Galactagogue: (leaf) promotes milk production.
Also: Dill, Fennel, Marshmallow, Nettle
Hepatic: strengthens and tones the liver and stimulates the flow of bile.
Also: Buckthorn, Celery, Cleavers, Fennel, Golden Seal, Milk Thistle, Motherwort, Oregon grape, Wormwood, Yarrow, Yellow Dock.
Hypnotic: producing sleep.
Also: Hops, Passion Flower, Skullcap, Valerian.
Laxative: promotes evacuation of the bowels.
Also: Boneset, Buckthorn, Burdock, Cleavers, Golden Seal, Liquorice, Oregon grape, Yellow Dock.
Lithotriptic: breaks down stones such as kidney stones.
Also: Cleavers, Horsetail, Parsley, Nettle.
Sedative: reduces nervous excitement.
Also: Chamomile, Hops, Motherwort, Passion Flower, Skullcap, St. John’s Wort, Valerian.
Stomachic: easing stomach pain.
Also: Chamomile, Fennel, Ginger.
Tonic: strengthens and tones either specific organs or the whole body through nutritional stimulation.
Also: Angelica, Black Walnut, Boneset, Calendula, Chamomile, Cleavers, Echinacea, Fenugreek, Golden Seal, Hawthorn, Liquorice, Milk Thistle, Motherwort, Red Clover, Skullcap, Wormwood, Yarrow, Yellow Dock.
Vulnerary: (flower) relating to the skin, wound healing.
Also: Calendula, Comfrey, St. John’s Wort

Where Did February Go?

I can't believe this month is over already. I have put the work I have been able to do for this month’s tasks on this blog. Despite searching my local area and roping in my hubby with this I have found neither mullein nor burdock which is so disappointing as I love to get stuck into my tasks and want to learn about them, so if anyone knows of their whereabouts please let me know.
 In the meantime I have not been idle, I have strained my Four Thieves Vinegar and Fire Cider Vinegar. The Fire Cider Vinegar smells very powerful and the Four Thieves Vinegar is a beautiful red colour and should be antibacterial and antiviral. I have strained my Wild Cherry tincture; it has a faint cherry aroma and taste to it which I never expected as there was no hint of it in the bark. I am giving the Morello Cherry bark another week to compare with the Wild Cherry. I have also started an elderberry glycerite but as I had to use dried elderberries I’m not sure how successful it will be. I have not tried a glycerite before; if this works I want to mix it with the Wild Cherry bark tincture for a cough remedy. The Rosemary fairy left a big branch of Rosemary on my garden bench (Dad? Thanks x) and I made a big jar of Rosemary cider vinegar.
 I have been working a lot with my ally, dandelion and following Kristine Brown’s suggestions. I have taken dandelion infusion, looked up the actions of dandelion and dabbled with a bit of dandelion art. I have also looked into the properties of dandelion root. I do not have any dried dandelion to make vinegars, tinctures and oils but shall make these as more fresh plant becomes available. I shall post my dandelion work next.

 We have been allocated our plot at the allotment but it will be ploughed again at the beginning of March so we can’t do much with it yet which is frustrating. We have ordered three trees to go along the wall; Sweet Cherry, Apricot and Greengage and we are all chitting potatoes. I am making lists of herb and vegetable seeds I have and those I need to get and I have found a web site showing how to make plant pots out of toilet roll inners which can be planted straight into the earth when the seedlings are ready and I am going to use egg boxes in the same way.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Making A Bitter Tincture

This month we have been asked to make a bitter tincture based on Jim McDonald’s recipe.
You also need to gather a good bowlful of dandelion roots and create your own bitter tonic using Jim Macdonald’s recipe for guidance and working on the principle that bitters are cold and need to be balanced with something warming.
I love dandelions and as they are my herbal ally this year it is good to be asked to make a bitter tonic. I did not realise bitters were cooling until it was mentioned recently at one of Sarah’s workshops.
Bitter tincture (Jim Macdonald)
Dandelion root (mixture of roasted and raw or dried) (Use gentian or yellow dock root if available)
Orange peel
1tsp dried ginger or ½-1 inch root ginger
Fill a glass jar with chopped root and peel, cover with vodka for 3 weeks in dark cold place, strain and use. Dose is 15-30 drops 15 minutes before eating or after a heavy meal to release stagnant feeling. I couldn’t find many large dandelions so gathered the biggest I could find. The recipe suggests a mixture of dandelion roots, fresh and dried or roasted. As I have no dried roots I decided to try to roast the largest ones. After a while a delicious smell wafted out from the oven and I took my roots out. The ends were a bit well done and brittle, the insides were still a bit squashy, I decided to taste one and I liked it, the taste reminded me of Jerusalem artichoke, but more bitter. I wasn’t sure whether I should have roasted them until they were totally dried out but used them anyway – it’s the only way to find out!
 I have reread Jim McDonald’s article called Blessed Bitters. The orange peel in the recipe gives orange oil which is carminative to help expel gas and the ginger adds warmth to the cooling bitters of dandelion and citrus peel but Jim also mentions that bitters are drying so I could have added a moistening herb, he suggests liquorice or a bitter herb such as fenugreek, something to bear in mind for next time.
Roots and peel in vodka

Horse Chestnut Bud Flower Essence

This month’s seasonal task is to collect an amount of horse chestnut/sticky buds and make a flower essence using the heating method. This is the first time I have used the heating method, usually infusing flowers in the sun. I have used Sarah’s recipe from a great Horse Chestnut article on the Herb Society web site.
“To make the flower remedy, pick 6-8 sticky buds. Place them in a stainless steel or glass saucepan and cover with spring or distilled water. Place a tightly fitting lid on the saucepan, place on the heat and bring to the boil slowly. Simmer for about twenty minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and leave to cool. When the infusion is completely cool, remove 50ml and place in a sterilized glass bottle (dark glass is best). Add 50ml brandy to the infusion to help preservation.
This is your mother essence. It can be taken as it is using 4 drops under the tongue or in water or fruit juice 3-4 times a day or every half hour in a crisis. The mother essence can be diluted further with distilled water in a 1:10 dilution if you are comfortable with making homeopathic remedies.”
Sam and I collected sticky buds from the tree where I had gathered my bark from for my salve last month; it is a grand old tree, very giving with hundreds of branches. I have simmered for 20 minutes and added brandy as in the instructions. The sticky resin is apparently part of the remedy but I’m not sure that my milk pan will ever be the same again! I was surprised to see that my sticky bud infused water was as dark as the brandy, maybe a little redder. Whilst I was cleaning up my mess it struck me as being odd that something so sticky is used as something releasing, to help us break free from a cycle of troubling thoughts or repetitive behaviour. Perhaps this will become clearer to me in time and after trying it.

Sticky buds after simmering in well water
 This flower remedy or essence from the Horse Chestnut or Aesculus Hippocastanum, to use the Latin name, is known as Chestnut bud when the buds are used and White Chestnut when the flowers are used.
  White chestnut is used to be able to focus thoughts more clearly, stopping mental chatter by taking attention away from annoying or distressful thoughts and helping them to turn to more positive thoughts. It could help someone who can’t sleep because their mind is full of negative thoughts which won’t settle down. Sometimes it’s hard to forget or let go of upsetting events from the past and they keep playing again in our thoughts. Dr Bach called this the “gramophone record remedy” as the sufferer is unable to stop thoughts going round and round leading to exhaustion and an inability to concentrate.
 Chestnut Bud essence is, according to Dr Bach, for those who cannot learn the lessons of life, making the same repeated mistakes without drawing on the experience of the first incident. This could be due to error of judgement or at a deeper level, problems with personality. Sometimes people do not recognise that they have made the same mistake before. Chestnut bud helps people observe the lessons of past experiences to save the distress of repeating the same mistake again and to enable them to move on in life.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Sweet Medicines

Last Saturday's workshop was about honey, our remit was to make an infused onion honey and an electuary.  We started by tasting infused herb honeys, I tried bergamot, mixed flower, angelica, elderberry and onion. My favourite was the bergamot; my least favourite was the angelica which surprised me but it was too perfumed I think.
 Honey has healing properties of its own, it is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. It makes a good medium for herb infusion as it is hydroscopic, which means it absorbs water-soluble constituents and volatile oils.
 We made an onion honey; onion is antimicrobial and is used as a cough remedy. Into my jar went chopped onion, dried bergamot leaves and flowers and the juice of half a lemon, topped up with honey and then “podged” with a chop stick to remove air bubbles. It is ready to use the next morning, it is a matter of personal preference as to whether or not the herbs are left in or strained. It tastes a lot better than it might sound.
 We also made an electuary; I made a longevity electuary using powdered herbs and honey which came to a paste-like consistency. The ingredients were:
3tsp Ashwaghanda powder, ½ tsp. spirulina powder (would have been 3tsp but we ran out), 3tsp slippery elm powder, 2 tsp. Siberian ginseng (eluthero) powder, 1 tsp. cardamom powder, ½ tsp. turmeric powder, covered with local, raw honey.
 This electuary is intended for daily use, I tsp. eaten daily, this can be straight from the spoon, on toast, in a milky drink, in yogurt or in a smoothie. It is said by Ananda Wilson who wrote the recipe to give stamina, clarity, physical and mental energy, good digestion, strong mucous membranes and to be an aphrodisiac.
 Sarah had bought some elecampane root to the workshop. It was a large white root; I had only seen it dried before. Some of us had a taste, it was very perfume-like at first and then the bitterness started, and gradually increased until it was strongly bitter and we all dashed for a drink. Elecampane is one of my chosen herbs to study so I was pleased to see and taste the root. Sam kindly made me up a jar of honey with elecampane root which I have left to infuse for a few weeks; this will be used for coughs. Sarah also gave me a piece of root to plant which I have done and I am hoping to have a beautiful “wild sunflower” in the summer.
Elecampane flowers on an elecampane leaf

 After the workshop Sam and I went to gather our sticky buds for the Horse Chestnut flower essence which is the next task I shall complete. Sarah told us the story of the fairy horsemen which explains there being little hoof prints along Horse Chestnut branches, this helps with remembering how to identify the tree at this time of year with no leaves.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Support for Acne Rosacea

Research why people develop acne rosacea. Which herbs can be used to help support this condition and why are they helpful?
What is Acne Rosacea?
Acne Rosacea is a skin condition affecting primarily the face, in the region of the nose, chin, cheeks and forehead. It starts off with redness, small thread veins and pustules develop with inflammation and dryness to the skin. The nose can become enlarged and the eyes can become involved.
Why do people develop acne rosacea?
Acne rosacea is most common in fair, middle-aged females and there is also a genetic base for occurrence in some individuals, but no real cause is known.
 A high proportion of sufferers have been found to have inadequate production of gastric acid in the stomach or lowered levels of pancreatic lipase. This would lead to digestive problems, lower absorption of nutrients from food and a possible overgrowth of bacteria which would aggravate the skin. The skin is left to eliminate toxins that an impaired digestive system is not processing.
 Food intolerance or food that makes one blush such as spicy food, hot drinks or alcohol can be responsible for flare-ups.
 Over exposure to sunlight, mental and emotional stress, over exertion and excessive exercise, extremes in temperature and a skin mite, Demodex folliculorium, are also linked to exacerbation of symptoms.
Doctors can prescribe antibiotics, azelaic acid cream, vitamin A cream, hydrochloric acid supplements and pancreatic digestive enzyme supplements. Sometimes laser surgery is used for thread veins.
 B vitamins may help, vitamin C strengthens membranes that line the blood vessels and the connective tissue between skin cells and zinc heals the top layer of the skin, the epidermis, and regulates blood levels of vitamin A.
 Fatty acids in evening primrose and flaxseed oils reduce inflammation, control the cell’s use of nutrients and produce prostaglandins which stimulate contraction of blood vessels.
 Cider vinegar is recommended by some as it stimulates the digestive system and helps normalise the bacterial balance in the intestines.
Herbs to support Acne Rosacea
Herbs probably will not show results as quickly as prescription medications but can be used to treat the person as a whole, in conjunction with lifestyle changes and continuing after visible symptoms have disappeared. The problem is obviously more than skin deep so herbal support needs to look at a variety of body systems.
·         Digestive system
·         Skin
·         Nervous system
·         Easing symptoms of inflammation, heat and redness
·         Support for blood capillaries
Topical Application
HORSE CHESTNUT salve made in one of my January blogs could possibly help with thread veins by toning capillary walls.
PLANTAIN in a poultice of crushed leaves is good for reducing heat and inflammation.
LIQUORICE powder with Aloe Vera gel makes a soothing mask to reduce redness, rinse off after 10 minutes.
OATMEAL used as a face wash relieves itchiness and  enhances the skin’s barrier function by way of proteins and polysaccharides binding to the skin, creating a protective barrier. Blend oatmeal with water and gently spread on the skin, leave it to dry for 10-15 minutes and rinse off. Oat meal is anti-inflammatory and a cleanser; it contains saponins that absorb dirt, oil and sebaceous secretions.
ROMAN CHAMOMILE is anti-inflammatory and soothes itching. Steep a handful of flowers in 3 cups of boiling water for 10 minutes, strain and refrigerate. Once cool a cotton cloth can be dipped in and then applies to affected areas.
Internal Use
MILK THISTLE improves liver function and detoxification and promotes optimal skin health. It is a cooling bitter.
Milk Thistle

GREEN TEA has photo protective properties which may lessen reactivity to ultra-violet light. It reduces disruption of the skin barrier seen in patients with the disease. Green tea also has anti-oxidant properties to fight against free radicals.
OREGANO  oil kills bacteria that causes acne and contributes to rosacea and kills skin mites associated with rosacea.
BURDOCK cleanses the blood; it is useful in chronic inflammatory conditions of the skin and can be taken as a tincture of root or seed, 10-20 drops 3 times a day. It will give slow but steady improvement and needs to be taken for several months after symptoms have gone.
GENTIAN root is a bitter which helps overall digestive function enabling nutrients to be absorbed more readily.
NETTLE seed is an adaptogen, helps to cope with stresses and balance the body.
DANDELION root infusion can be taken 3 times a day as a bitter to help digestion and liver function.
YELLOW DOCK is used as a laxative in cases of poor digestion and low stomach acid and also promotes the flow of bile.
RED CLOVER is anti-inflammatory and improves circulation over time. It contains magnesium, niacin, calcium, phosphorus, thiamine, potassium and vitamin C.
ROSE HIPS are anti-inflammatory, stimulate the immune system, have high vitamin C content and help combat exhaustion, stress and nervousness. They act as a skin rehydrator, restore moisture balance, can strengthen broken or damaged capillaries and act like an astringent to help heal and reduce redness.
SKULLCAP relaxes and strengthens the nervous system so helping with psoriasis along with WILD OATS, PASSIONFLOWER, CHAMOMILE and HOPS.

Herbs to Support Psoriasis

Research why people develop psoriasis. Which herbs can be used to help support this condition and why are they helpful?
What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis presents as a skin disorder with silver white and red raised plaques of skin with dry areas that flake off and can sometimes cause itching. It takes 27 days for healthy skin to replace itself with new mature cells, in psoriasis the cells are replaced in 3-4 days with immature cells forming the thick psoriatic patches. It is not infectious, you can’t catch it.
Why do people develop psoriasis?
 “The skin and nervous system are closely linked, both originating from the same embryonic tissue in the developing foetus. In many ways the skin can be seen as the mouthpiece, as it were, of the nervous system - 'speaking out' when things are getting difficult” (Claire Choudhury). I never knew this but have long held the belief that our mental and emotional health shows in our physical well-being.
Although the exact cause is not known, psoriasis is thought to be an autoimmune disease, where the body’s own immune system turns upon itself as in rheumatoid arthritis. Psoriasis can also be inherited, so if it’s in the family there is an increased chance that you will have it.
 Triggers known to bring on some people’s psoriasis are streptococcal throat infections, previous injury to the same area of skin and allergies or food intolerance.
 Some literature suggests that if the digestive and urinary systems are not working effectively then toxins are not eliminated from the blood. One of the functions of the skin is elimination so the body relies on the skin more for excretion while other methods are not fully functional.
Conventional medicine seems to treat the symptoms and not the causes. Steroid creams and coal tar are prescribed and intensive light therapy is sometimes used. Creams can ease the symptoms, improve appearance and therefore self-esteem and reduce itchiness. Sensible sunbathing has been shown to improve the skin.
 There is a lot of dietary advice; Kolbjorn Borseth recommends a diet low in acidic food and more alkaline. Spicy and salty foods can be a trigger in some people and alcohol should be avoided. Omega 3 and omega 6 are recommended which are found in oily fish and flax seed. To ensure the bowels and kidneys are working efficiently a high fibre diet and plenty of water are required.  When skin flakes off continually, nutrients are lost, in replacing these consider carrot juice contains vitamin A, kelp provides trace elements and wheat germ has vitamin E and these can all help the skin. Richard Mabey says psoriatic skin contains abnormally high amounts of cholesterol and recommends lecithin from sunflower and soya oils to disperse it, he calls it “natures washing up liquid”.
 Aloe Vera cream resolved psoriatic plaques in 83% of patients in a double-blind, placebo-controlled  study compared with 6.6% placebo cure rate (Bensouilah & Buck).
 Stress plays a big role to play in psoriasis, causes need to be identified and looked at to see how mental and emotional well-being are affected. Sufferers could reduce stress by doing regular exercise and practicing relaxation techniques or medication.
Herbs to support Psoriasis
Considering the many causes and then the symptoms of psoriasis, a lot of herbs could be considered. I thought herbs could be included which are useful for the following:
·         Immune system support.
·         Nervous system and adrenal gland support.
·         Urinary system.
·         Digestive system.
·         Healthy skin.
·         Easing symptoms of inflammation, dryness and itchiness.
Topical Application – herbs to put on your skin
EVENING PRIMROSE oil, ST. JOHN’S WORT oil, CALENDULAR and CHAMOMILE are anti-inflammatory.
 CHICK WEED eases itchy skin.
Claire Choudhury says COMFREY ROOT cream normalises cell replication.
OAT MEAL or YARROW in the bath is soothing and anti-inflammatory.
 CLEAVERS in a poultice can also ease inflammation.
Herbs for Internal Use
RED CLOVER gently improves elimination over a period of time by increasing the flow of urine, moving mucus out of the lungs, increasing the flow of bile and acting as a gentle laxative. It has a high content of trace minerals which we need to replace with psoriasis.
Julie Bruton Seal and Matthew Seal recommend red clover tea and red clover and curled dock tincture.
Red clover tea: 1-2 teaspoons of clover flowers per cup of boiling water, allow to infuse for 10 minutes before straining then drinking.
Red clover and curled dock tincture: put equal amounts of red clover blossom and chopped curled dock root in a jar and pour on enough vodka to cover the herbs. Leave in a dark place for a few weeks then strain. Dose: ½ teaspoon 2 to 3 times daily.
DANDELION is a bitter and a diuretic so can be used to aid digestion and urine output. It can be taken as a tincture to aid skin problems, sluggish liver, constipation, urinary problems and chronic illness. Take ½ - 1 teaspoon 3 times a day in water.
BURDOCK is a cleansing, blood purifying, detoxifying herb which is particularly effective for skin problems. It stimulates the release of waste products from cells. Susan Weed suggests frequent light applications of burdock root oil and internal use of infusion and tincture to continue after the visible symptoms have gone, she says it works “thoroughly and slowly”.
BIRCH leaves can be used in a pleasant tea for general detoxing, urinary complaints and fluid retention.
NETTLE SEEDS are an adrenal adaptogen; good for helping us adjust in stressful situations and give more energy.
Nettle in seed

LIQUORICE may help the adrenal glands.
VERVAIN works on the nervous system, liver, kidneys and digestion and also balances hormones.
SKULLCAP relaxes and strengthens the nervous system so helping with psoriasis along with WILD OATS, PASSIONFLOWER, CHAMOMILE and HOPS.
Anne McIntyre says herbs containing psoralens such as ANGELICA, WILD CARROT, WILD CELERY SEED and FENNEL help clear the skin in combination with sunbathing.  
OREGAN GRAPE can reduce free radical damage to the skin and reduce inflammation.

Bensouillah,J. and Buck,P. (2006) Aromadermatology Radcliffe Publishing: Oxford
McIntyre, Ann (2010) The Complete Herbal Tutor Gaia: London
Mabey, Richard (1988) The New Age Herbalist Simon & Schuster: New York

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Starting February Tasks

We have had our February tasks for our apprenticeship and another busy month is ahead of us!
This month my theory work is to look at Acne Rosacea and Psoriasis, I need to research why people develop them, which herbs can be used to support these conditions and why are they helpful.
My seasonal task is to collect an amount of horse chestnut/sticky buds and make a flower essence using the heating method; I have only used the sun method before so this will be something new. I now know several places from which I can gather the horse chestnut.

Horse Chestnut sticky buds
Here is the practical bit:
Within your harvesting space, look for burdock and mullein rosettes and dig up roots. You may find it easier to dig burdock root with a sharp stick rather than a fork, mullein roots are very shallow. Both should come from a second season plant i.e. it grew from seed last year and is entering its second year. If you are able to find these roots, make a tincture or vinegar and research what you would use these for. Also try stir-frying peeled burdock root and chew a small piece and note what happens. You also need to gather a good bowlful of dandelion roots and create your own bitter tonic using Jim Macdonald’s recipe for guidance and working on the principle that bitters are cold and need to be balanced with something warming.
 There is a slight problem here in that I have never seen burdock or mullein growing anywhere near my home and I haven’t a clue where to look. The bitter will be using my herbal ally for this year, dandelion, and I shall continue to get to know my ally this month. I read a nice quote this week which I thought could relate to our herbal allies.
 “Informed relationship with a plant requires botanical understanding, as well as awakened senses and a feeling heart…”
                                      (Jesse Wolf Hardin)

There are also two new words for the herbal glossary, astringent and carminative, the definitions are below.
An astringent is a local anti-inflammatory. You can use astringents for all inflammations of the skin - topically. You can also use astringents for all inflammations in the mouth and through the whole digestive tract: they act locally, they can't get beyond the mucous membranes or skin. They are anti-inflammatory because they tan both skin and mucous membranes; they dry them up, leaving no growing space for possible unfriendly neighborhood microbes. They'll also shrink any inflamed tissues, because as tanning agents, they remove moisture from tissues. Astringents are very straightforward. (Henrietta’s Herbal)
Promotes digestion and peristalsis; assists in expulsion of intestinal gas ( )