Sweet Smelling Meadowsweet
This fragrant, honey-scented plant has been used in Scotland for over 5000 years to flavour mead, cordials and in herbal teas as Nature's aspirin.
Scotland at this time of year is lush; the meadows, hedgerows and woodlands are alive with a wealth of medicinal plants, and the air is fragrant with their flowers.
One of my great favourites is Meadowsweet, Filipendula ulmaria, very aptly named in English as it grows abundantly in meadows, along the edges of canals, streams and ditches. Its creamy white fronds of flowering heads send out a delicious sweet scent with a distinct medicinal tang. That scented edge is created by one of modern medicine’s great discoveries, a form of salicylic acid, which in its synthesised form of acetylsalicylic acid is otherwise known as aspirin, invented some 37 years after Napiers opened.
Unlike aspirin, the salicylic acid in Meadowsweet does not have an irritant effect on the lining of the gastric tract and stomach that the pharmaceutical aspirin does and so herbalists use Meadowsweet specifically for problems of over-acidity in the digestion and for stomach ulcers. It’s also a great anti-inflammatory and is often used in conjunction with other plant medicines such as White Willow bark and Black Cohosh for muscular-skeletal pain.
As with all medicines, this one isn’t always going to be suitable for everyone; people with known allergy or intolerance in relation to aspirin should be cautious when trying this herb as should those suffering from asthma. Salicylic acid also helps to reduce platelet activity in the blood, which is good news in terms of avoiding heart attacks and strokes, but to be avoided if taking drugs such as warfarin or heparin and for the few days immediately prior to any kind of surgery. It should also be avoided in pregnancy.
You would have to take a lot of Meadowsweet to amount to the equivalent of a tablet; on the other hand, due to its soothing, anti-inflammatory effects it is a gentle but powerful medicine and works without the caustic side-effects of its pharmaceutical cousin.
If you would like to read more on aspirin, then there is a detailed article available on Wikipedia at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aspirin
Catriona Stewart PhD MSc is a trained practitioner herbalist and member of the College of Practitioners of Phytotherapy based in Napiers Glasgow tel: 0772 940 1111
How to Make Meadowsweet Cordial
Watch Monica Wilde's video on how to make yourself a Meadowsweet Cordial on our Napiers YouTube channel.
You can buy dried Meadowsweet flowers and leaf from our online herbal dispensary, but even better, get out for a walk on a lovely Summer's day and pick your own.
October 1858 - Napiers First Herbal Remedy
This May, 2015, we're celebrating 155 years of making herbal medicines at Napiers.
In October 1858, 155 years ago, our founder Duncan Napier bought a copy of "Brook's Family Herbal" from Mr Hastie, the second-hand bookseller in Nicholson Street. Duncan had been interested in plants for some time. He had attended Scientific Botany classes at the age of 15, encouraged by a friend and later patron Mr John Hope, and also joined the Edinburgh Botanical Society. This purchase changed his life and, a century later, ours.
This book was to prove a turning point in his life. As a baker, he had suffered a persistent dry cough since he was first apprenticed at the age of 15, no doubt caused and aggravated by the flour dust. His neighbours in these early years remarked “Pair laddie, he canna’ live long wi’ that grave-faird cough”!
This simple act of purchasing Brook's Family Herbal introduced him to the herb lobelia that he bought and made into his first herbal medicine, Lobelia Cough Syrup. The success of this in curing his 12 year-old cough inspired him to plan the opening of the first Napiers the Herbalist shop in Edinburgh in 1860, supported by John Hope who lent him the first six month's rent. The rest is history!
For a foundling like Duncan, abandoned at birth, childhood was exceptionally hard. The support and friendship of his mentor and patron John Hope was life-changing. We are all part of a community and it is the children, especially those who start with a disadvantage in life, that benefit so much from the interest and love of others.
In Africa there is a saying, that "It takes a village to raise a child". Sadly, for a very special group of children even their villages cannot protect them. This month, inspired by the early years of Duncan Napier and the courageous work of Josephat Torner - protector of children born with albinism - we are sponsoring Standing Voice.
Albinism is a genetically-inherited skin condition where babies are born with a defected melanin metabolism. Without melanin to darken and protect their skin, these children have pale skin, hair and eyes and suffer from impaired vision and skin cancer. Worse still, in many parts of Africa, they experience witchcraft-fuelled dismemberment and murder, their limbs and body parts taken, trafficked and sold for use in witchcraft ceremonies.
It is unbelievably tragic that these children are persecuted for a skin condition. Josephat Torner, an albino himself, together with Standing Voice, has created havens and schools for them where they are safe, educated and nurtured. Josephat also puts his own life in danger to travel around East Africa, trying to educate and enlighten communities, encouraging them to protect albino children from persecution and death.
This month, in honour of Duncan Napier and his protector John Hope, we will be donating 10% of our profits to the charity Standing Voice to further the work that Josephat's started in Tanzania.
The Benefits of Nettle Seed
Right now the nettles are all going to seed at Wychmoss Herb Farm. So no more nettle tea for a while! But all is not lost as the seed is excellent. Here is Monica Wilde on some of the fabulous properties of nettle seed.
You can get a cheery mood and energy boost from nettle leaf and particularly from raw dried nettle seed (technically fruits and seeds), rubbed through a sieve to remove the irritating hairs.
The ‘feel-good’ factor from eating raw dried nettle fruits/seeds is caused by the neurotransmitters acetylcholine nd serotonin, with choline and histamine also found in uncooked nettle venom. In herbal medicine they are used as an adrenal tonic for people who are burnt-out, run down, fatigued and low in energy, zest for life and libido.
Acetylcholine is the most abundant neurotransmitter in our brains. It stimulates the nervous system (ANS), improving mood and heightening sensory perception, attention span, vigilance and intuition. Acetylcholine disruption may be a primary cause of depression and possibly Alzheimer’s and muscle degeneration.
Serotonin is mainly found in the gut and it also acts on the nervous system (CNS). Its main functions include regulation of mood, appetite, and sleep, and it influences memory and learning.
HOW TO USE IT
Nettle seed is used therapeutically both as freshly picked seed and as fresh nettle seed tincture.
Chew 5-20 grams of fresh green nettle seed well, as a refreshing stimulant. You can take 1 to 2 tablespoons a day.
Some people experiment with nettle seed for recreation but I advise against exceeding this amount.
Be careful too, if you boil fresh nettle fruit/seed in a ratio of 1:12 (eg 50 grams fruit/seed to 600 ml of water), a large wineglassful (250ml) may keep you wide awake for 12-36 hours!
Serotonin in nettle spines causes pain when you pick them! Its abundance in many seeds and fruits may be to stimulate the gut to expel the seeds, and it can cause diarrhoea in quantity.
Incidentally, the prescence of acetylcholine in nettle venom may well explain the reason behind the ancient practice of urtification (being whipped with nettles for pain relief)! Anything that increases the presence of acetylcholine in the synaptic space is found to produce analgesia (pain relief). Benzodiazepines for example act as analgesics through their action of enhancing acetylcholine release.
NETTLE FOR DINNER
Nettle seed also tastes delicious toasted and can be used instead of poppy seed in crackers, bread and sprinkled with chopped nuts into salads. So enjoy and remember to wear gloves when you pick them!
by Monica Wilde
How to make your own herbal tincture
If you are a keen gardener or forager you may want to try making your own herbal tinctures from herbs that you have grown or collected yourself.
At Napiers, our tinctures are made using 100 proof sugar beet ethanol. This allows us to control the strength of the tinctures according to the part of the plant being used. Roots for instance need a stronger alcohol solution than flowers. But it is possible to make your own low strength tinctures at home using shop-bought vodka.
Try to get 40 proof if you can although most are around 37.5 proof
Finely chopped herb or plant material of your choice
If your plant material is very fresh it can be best to dry it overnight in a warm place to reduce some of the water content. A dehydrator is very useful if you are going to make a lot of tinctures.
Finely chop your herbs and fill a preserving jar up to three quarters full of the chopped herb. If you are using dried roots, only fill half way up as they will expand when they are soaked.
Pour over your vodka and make sure that the herb is completely covered. You can use a canning lid to keep the herb submerged. If the herb is exposed to the air it can start to get mould or bacteria – especially if it has not been dried first – and this will spoil your tincture. Alcohol is an excellent preservative but you want to avoid any contamination.
You can also use vinegar if you don’t want to use alcohol. The method is the same and apple cider vinegar or a good quality wine vinegar (either red or white) can be used. This is particularly nice with berries such as elderberry or hawthorn berry.
For children it is best to use a mixture of 50% vegetable glycerin and 50% filtered or spring water. If you use this method you must keep it in the fridge at all times both during and after making, because the preserving qualities of glycerin are lower than alcohol or vinegar.
Leave your jar to infuse for 6 to 8 weeks in a kitchen cupboard. Shake it every few days. You’ll notice the colour will get much darker.
After at least 6 weeks, filter it through a funnel lined with very fine filter cloth (winemakers cloth is best with several layers of muslin as the next best choice) into bottles. When it has stopped dripping, twist and squeeze the cloth to get as much out as you can. Dark glass bottles are best as it prevents sunlight from degrading the tincture so they keep longer.
Peanuts and Pregnancy
We hear so much nowadays about how many children have a peanut allergy
If peanut allergies are on the increase, one perfectly reasonable conclusion might be to avoid eating them while you're pregnant. Some mums also avoid wheat and dairy.... but a recently published study suggests that the opposite might be true.
Researchers from the Harvard Medical School looked at the associations between a pregnant mum's consumption of common childhood food allergens during early pregnancy, and the development of childhood allergy and asthma. They monitored the foods that 1277 healthy pregnant mothers ate during the first six months of their pregnancies. The researchers then followed up by examining their children at around 7 years old.
They checked the children for the development of food allergy, asthma, allergic rhinitis, and atopic dermatitis. Then they examined the associations between the mother's diet during pregnancy and childhood allergy and asthma. They found that a food allergy was common (5.6%) by mid-childhood, as was sensitisation to at least 1 food allergen (28.0%). However, if the mother had eaten a lot of peanuts during the first three months of pregnancy the chance of their child having an peanut allergic reaction reduced by 47%. Higher milk intake was associated with a 15% reduction in asthma and allergic rhinitis. They also found that eating wheat products during the second trimester (months 4-6) reduced the likelihood of the child developing atopic dermatitis (eczema). They did not find any link between eating eggs or soy products.
The researchers concluded that a higher intake of peanut, milk, and wheat by a new mum during early pregnancy significantly reduced the odds that their child would suffer from a mid-childhood allergy and asthma. It seems that an early encounter by the developing baby with food allergens in their mother's diet (via the placenta) during the critical period of immune system formation in early pregnancy, can lead to a tolerance of allergens rather than sensitisation.
They reported that although many healthcare professionals think that restricting certain foods by the mother during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and delaying the introduction of allergenic foods to infants, can prevent allergies and asthma, that systematic reviews do not support this belief. In fact, it seems that there is accumulating evidence that the early introduction of peanut, egg, wheat, milk, and fish to a baby's diet—rather than delaying or avoiding them — may be more helpful as it encourages a tolerance rather than an allergy.
Bunyavanich S, Rifas-Shiman SL, Platts-Mills TA, Workman L, Sordillo JE, Camargo CA Jr, Gillman MW, Gold DR, Litonjua AA. Peanut, milk, and wheat intake during pregnancy is associated with reduced allergy and asthma in children. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2014 May;133(5):1373-82. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2013.11.040.
Garlic-Mullein Earache Oil
A natural remedy for glue ear and ear infections in young children.
This is a classic herbal remedy for ear infections that I used on both my children and have recommended for countless others. Garlic is a natural antimicrobial, addressing infections of both a bacterial and viral nature. Mullein is an analgesic, relieving the pain associated with earaches. It’s very easy to make at home. You may well have mullein growing in your garden and garlic bulbs can be bought at any grocer or supermarket.
You will need
400ml olive oil
1 whole bulb of finely chopped garlic
1 oz mullein flowers
2 empty jam jars with lids ~ 454ml (16 oz) size
1 square of muslin or cheesecloth ~ about 6 cm square
How to make it
To prepare garlic-mullein oil, place the finely chopped fresh garlic and mullein flowers into the jar. Add olive oil until the jar is full. Stir with a chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon to release air bubbles. Cover the jar and place in the sunlight for 3 weeks (2 weeks in warm weather). Strain through the muslin square into a clean jar (discard plant material) and store in the refrigerator. This will keep for up to two years.
How to use it
To use place 3-7 drops of the oil into the affected ear while the child lays on his side with the affected ear upward. The oil should be at room temperature or slightly warm. To warm it, put the drops in a spoon or a glass eyedropper and briefly hold a lit match close to it. Test the oil against the underside of your wrist to make sure it is not too hot. Have the child rest with the affected ear up for 5-10 minutes, keeping a warm hot water bottle on the ear. After this time let the child roll over and rest on the hot water bottle for as long as this brings comfort.
Repeat on the other ear if necessary. This treatment can be repeated 2-3 times a day but may only be necessary once or twice as it is very effective.
IMPORTANT: NEVER PUT ANYTHING INTO THE EAR IF YOU SUSPECT THE EARDRUM HAS RUPTURED OR IF THERE IS ANY DRAINAGE FROM THE EAR.
Recipe shared by Breda Sneddon, Medical Herbalist. Linlithgow 07905 742695
Read more about how Breda tackles ear infections in children.
Is there such a thing as a natural contraceptive? We explore the herbs used in historical times.
Do you know why the heart is used as an iconic symbol for love and romance? Believe it or not, its use goes right back to the Romans when they used a little heart-shaped seed as a natural form of herbal contraception.
Did you know that a lot plants make their own phytohormones, such as phytoestrogen which is very similar to the oestrogen that humans later evolved? Many members of the Apiaceae family contain phytochemicals that affect hormones. Silphium was one of them. It was a type of giant fennel. The ancient Romans used silphium so widely that we believe they caused its extinction. Silphium's seeds were heart-shaped which is where the use of the heart as an icon for love originated! The Romans ate it extensively and also, like the Greeks before them, mixed it with resin to make contraceptive pessaries! Separately to this silphium was popular as a food spice and after it became extinct it was replaced with its close relative, asafoetida - also reputed to have a contraceptive effect.
Another relative, wild carrot seed Daucus carota, was also used as a contraceptive in ancient times and some empirical modern case studies have also been undertaken. One method recorded is to chew 1 teaspoon of dried carrot seed daily, for three days before and 3 days after having unprotected sex. No guarantees offered but a herbalist in the USA did run a pilot study and says it works!
You can read more about the work with wild carrot by Robin Bennett on wild carrot seed herbal contraceptives. You can also find other anecdotal cases on the Sister Zeus website and information about using tinctures rather than chewing the seeds.
Theoretically, there is no reason why herbs shouldn't work. There are a lot of herbs that should not be taken during pregnancy precisely because they are abortifacients. This means that they can cause a miscarriage by triggering contractions or causing shedding or damage to the lining of the uterus. It is also well-known amongst farmers, that grazing sheep in fields rich with red clover can affect their fertility. Red clover is very high in phytoestrogens. Soy is another. Which is why both are often used to balance hormones, for example: for difficult periods or the menopause.
Many people also do not realise that the first contraceptive pill in the 1960s came from phytochemicals in the plant wild yam Dioscorea villosa. Wild yam contains diosgenin which is a precursor of the semisynthesis of progesterone. It is also used to commercially synthesis cortisone and other steroid products.
In the middle East, a relative called zallouh Ferula harmonis is sometimes used as a male sex supplement but it has been shown in animal trials to actually reduce male fertility (Ayuob, Al-Harbi &Abdulhadi, 2014) so plants do not just affect female fertility but also men's too.
If you want to experiment we would strongly advise that the greatest care is taken. Firstly, don't experiment if you really would mind becoming pregnant. If chemical contraception doesn't suit you, other forms of physical contraception such as condoms may.
Secondly, be aware that if pregnancy did occur and you had been taking an untested herb, there could be an unforeseen, unintended effect on the health of the baby.
The only reliable, natural form of contraception (approved by some religions) that we are currently aware of that has been shown to be completely safe for both women and unexpected babies is the Billings Ovulation Method.
What causes Acne rosacea?
Recent research has suggested that the Demodex mite is the cause of Acne rosacea. Monica Wilde reviews the reports and starts to explore herbal extracts that may help.
Acne rosacea is the name of a common skin condition characterised by reddened and inflamed skin especially on the cheeks, nose and chin. In extreme cases, scarring lesions can form. Rosacea affects around 3% of the population – usually fair-skinned women aged 30-50 and particularly those with weak immune systems. Doctors often treat the condition with antibiotics, even though a bacterial cause has never been fully proven. About 1000 species of bacteria live naturally on our skin. This is normal.
Another natural inhabitant of our skin is a mite called Demodex folliculorum. It usually lives harmlessly inside the sebaceous gland and hair follicle shaft around the hair follicles of the face. This is perfectly normal. However, they increase in number as you get older and also if your skin gets damaged e.g. after exposure to sunlight. It is known that people with rosacea have higher numbers of Demodex mites living in their skin than people who don't have rosacea and the researcher believe that the mites may well trigger the onset of rosacea. An increase in mite density in the face is found in perioral dermatitis - a facial rash located mainly around the mouth and prevalent in young women, caused by long-term use of local steroids or other immunomodulating drugs2. Higher numbers of Demodex mites have been noted in patients undergoing immunosuppressive therapy, for example children receiving chemotherapy for leukaemia3, patients with HIV-infection or AIDS4,5 and chronic dialysis patients6.
Recently, a bacterium Bacillus oleronius was isolated from inside a Demodex mite. It was found to produce molecules that trigger an immune reaction in rosacea patients. Other studies have shown patients with varying types of rosacea react to the molecules produced by this bacterium – exposing it as a likely trigger for the condition. What’s more, this bacterium is sensitive to the antibiotics used to treat rosacea.
Researcher Dr Kevin Kavanagh explained, “The bacteria live in the digestive tracts of Demodex mites found on the face, in a mutually beneficial relationship. When the mites die, the bacteria are released and leak into surrounding skin tissues - triggering tissue degradation and inflammation.”
“Once the numbers of mites increase, so does the number of bacteria, making rosacea more likely to occur. Targeting these bacteria may be a useful way of treating and preventing this condition,” said Dr Kavanagh. “Alternatively we could look at controlling the population of Demodex mites in the face. Some pharmaceutical companies are already developing therapies to do this, which represents a novel way of preventing and reversing rosacea, which can be painful and embarrassing for many people."
From a herbalists' perspective, most plants contain natural antibiotics that may well help. In their own interest, they produce complex phytochemicals that help to defend themselves against insects, microbes and bacterium. Using gentle non-chemical, non-irritating skin care products that contain high proportions of herbal extracts is likely to confer these benefits from plants to help keep levels of mites and bacteria under control. As a single plants often has a range of compounds with antibacterial activity, plant extracts are also often still effective as complex 'combination antibiotics' even when bacterium have become antibiotic resistant.
Herbalists also often recommend liver herbs to stimulate a sluggish bowel. This helps to detoxify and restore a better state of well-being, allowing the immune system to function better, so that the patient can return to health. Sensible eating, a good intake of vitamins (especially A and C, and zinc) will support health balance. This should be done while also treating the rosacea topically.
Externally, creams and gels containing calendula flower extract, liquorice extract and lavender oil are often recommended by herbalists for use by people with rosacea. All three of these herbs (and many essential oils) are renowned for antibacterial and antimicrobial activity.
Herbalists also recommend internal remedies such as Echinacea angustifolia. This was originally used by American Indians for blood poisoning (septicaemia) and skin infections from wounds or bites. More recently echinosides, natural compounds found in this root, have been shown to have an antibiotic action with 6mg being equivalent to 1mg of penicillin. Clinical trials have also shown that in the treatment of Candida albicans, that topical treatment works better and is far less likely to reoccur if Echinacea angustifolia is also taken orally during the treatment. A useful compound of E. angustifolia root with antiseptic skin herbs wild indigo and fumitory is the THR licensed Elixir of Echinacea. Please note that the commonly available Echinacea purpurea does not contain echinosides and is only used for treating colds and flu so do make sure if trying Echinacea that you take the right species.
1. Journal of Medical Microbiology.
2. Fujiwara et al., 2010
3. Ivy et al., 1995
4. Aquilina et al., 2002
5. Dominey et al., 1989
6. Karincaoglu et al., 2005
Air fresheners can harm you and your baby
There has been a silent invasion of air freshener units over the last few years. Evidence is now emerging that they are bad for your health. If you are pregnant they are also bad for your baby.
I have to avoid public toilets. Not because I am fussy in any way, but because the electronic 'air freshener' units that are now everywhere trigger allergic reactions in me if I breathe them in, especially just after they have silently squirted some unknown chemical into the air.
There is a mounting body of clinical evidence that artificial, chemical 'air fresheners' are bad for many people's health. The rate of respiratory illnesses in care homes increases after they are installed. Parents of children with asthma are advised by their doctors not to use them in the home. Sadly, 'air freshener' chemicals do not fall under either the Cosmetics Regulations nor the Food Labelling Regulations. By law, in both cosmetics and food, you have to tell people what allergens may be in the product. But there seems to be no law governing the contamination of our fresh air! Now evidence is emerging that it is not just a few allergy-susceptible people who suffer, but unborn babies as well.
In 2013, a study was carried out to evaluate the effects of household use of cleaning products during pregnancy on infant wheezing and lower respiratory tract infections. In Spain, 2,292 pregnant women were asked about their use of various household cleaning products. When their babies were 12-18 months old, their children's wheezing and lower respiratory tract infections were reported and their use of cleaning products evaluated .
The researchers found that the instances of respiratory tract infections was higher when sprays or air fresheners were used during pregnancy. The odds of wheezing increased with spray and solvent use. The associations between spray and air freshener use during pregnancy and the incidences of both wheezing and lower respiratory tract infection was very clear. And even when the mums stopped using these products after pregnancy, if they had used them during pregnancy, their children were still likely to suffer albeit not quite as severely.
The researchers concluded that the use of cleaning sprays, air fresheners and solvents during pregnancy may increase the risk of wheezing and infections in the offspring.
If you are pregnant please avoid using air freshener sprays and plug-in dispensers in your home. Ask friends to kindly switch them off while you are visiting. In public places, like supermarkets, cafes, etc. ask them to let you use a fragrance-free loo and if they can't provide one, explain to the staff there about the dangers they are causing to you and your child. Eventually the message will get through that clean, uncontaminated air is as much your right as fresh water and a choice in allergen-free food or cosmetics.
Casas, L; Zock, JP; Carsin, AE; Fernandez-Somoano, A; Esplugues, A; Santa-Marina, L; Tardón, A; Ballester, F; Basterrechea, M; Sunyer, J (2013). The use of household cleaning products during pregnancy and lower respiratory tract infections and wheezing during early life. Int J Public Health, 58(5) pp. 757-64
Farrow, A., Taylor, H., Northstone, K. & Golding, J. (2003) Symptoms of mothers and infants related to total volatile organic compounds in household products. Arch. Environ. Health, 58(10), 633-41.
How to Make Your Own Calendula Salve
This is a very simple recipe for a very simple salve that you can make at home.
This is a very simple recipe for a very simple salve that you can make at home. But do not underestimate Calendula officinalis. This flower may look pretty and delicate but it is extremely effective and really helps to speed up healing. It does this by stimulating a faster rate of skin cell renewal and regrowth. It is also very calming if your skin is broken or irritated. I use it after I've been picking prickly bushes full of gorse flowers or blackberries and the relief is almost instant!
I use Calendula Salve on everything from patches of scaly, stubborn dry skin, to cracked skin around my nails after gardening. It helps any cracks or nicks to heal up fast and it does not sting or irritate in any way. I also put it on my cat's ears if she gets ear mites. She finds it very soothing and Calendula, like so many other plants, also has antibacterial and antifungal properties as well.
Making a salve is a two-step process as first you must make Calendula oil. Unlike a seed or a nut, you cannot press oil from the plant. Flower oils are nearly always infused oils. This means that they have been infused (soaked) also known as 'macerated' in a carrier oil. During the infusion period, the natural oil-soluble constituents from the flowers are dissolved into the oil.
Step 1: How to make Calendula Oil
First pick your Calendula flowers (you can also use dried flower heads) and fill a jar about 3/4 full. Then cover with a light oil like sunflower or sweet almond. You can use olive oil but it can be a bit greasy on the skin. Ideally you should pick the flowers on a dry morning, early, before it gets too hot and the essential oils start to evaporate.
Fill the jar to about an inch (2.5 cm) above the flowers and make sure that they stay submerged. Shake every day for the first 3 days and then occasionally. Leave in a warm place for 3 to 4 weeks, then strain off the oil, through some fine muslin cloth, and discard the flowers.
Step 2: How to make Calendula Salve
To make the salve take the oil and weigh it. It will make up 80% of your salve. You will need some beeswax pellets. They will make up 20%. So, for example, if you want to make 100g of salve you will need:
80g calendula oil
20g beeswax pellets
5 drops of lavender or rosemary essential oil
Melt the beeswax into the oil in a double boiler (bain marie) over a gentle heat. Remove from heat and add your essential oil (optional but it helps act as an antioxidant). Then pour into little tins or jars. Leave to cool (do not move them while they are hot) in a safe place out of reach of little hands (or paws!). When it has cooled it will harden to a lovely buttery consistency.
Always remember to label them! If you take care with the labels these will make lovely little Christmas or birthday presents for friends who appreciate the love in a hand-crafted gift!
Herb Safety Advice at Napiers
At Napiers we take herbal safety very seriously. This goes from the provenance of our herbs - the way they are grown and manufactured - right through to how our customers take them. Nowadays, many customers take pharmaceutical medicines as well. Here is some advice on the issues around taking herbs with prescription medicines.
1. ADDITIVE EFFECT: Herbs can accentuate the effects of drugs
If you take a herb and a medicine that have the same effect, then you can end up with too much of that effect. For example, if you take valerian - which has a sedative action - at the same time as you take a sedative medicine, then you may become over-sedated. Or, if you take a food supplement like red rice yeast that lowers LDL cholesterol while taking a statin at the same time, then your cholesterol may become too low.
This is not always a negative thing, as reducing your drug needs may well reduce any drug side effects that you are experiencing. However, it does need monitoring so that doses can be adjusted correctly. If you wish to take a herb or food supplement that has the same purpose as a medicine you are taking, please contact our herbalists or your doctor for advice on how to approach this.
2. COMPETITIVE EFFECT: Herbs can cancel out drugs
Some herbs are taken up (metabolised) by the body using the same route (pathways) as drugs. This means that they compete for absorption and may stop all of the drug being absorbed. The herb St John's wort is a classic example. It is absorbed through the liver via a pathway that many drugs use, and is well known for stopping the drugs from fully working. If you are on a critical medication, this may affect your health. Please contact our herbalists or your doctor before taking critical medications with herbs, especially St John's wort, or if you are taking the contraceptive pill.
3. OPPOSITE EFFECT: Herbs can work against drugs
Occasionally drugs and herbs work against each other. For example, an antidiuretic medication should not be taken with diuretic herbs such as dandelion or cleavers. Norr taking stimulating herbs if you are also taking sedatives or sleep medication. If you aren't sure about the potential effects of what you are taking, please ask your health care practitioner.
4. RESTORATIVE EFFECT: Herbs can change a managed condition
Sometimes a herb will improve a condition that is being managed by a drug. This may mean that you have to take less of the drug. For example, if you are taking levothyroxine for an underactive thyroid and your thyroid activity improves when you take a seaweed capsule, your GP may need to lower your dose of the medication. Consult your practitioner if you notice changes.
5. BARRIER EFFECT: Herbs can prevent absorption of drugs
Some herbs and food supplements like slippery elm and marshmallow root, produce a gel-type substance that lines your intestines. This can prevent other medicines from being fully absorbed so they may lose their effectiveness. In these cases it is better to take herbs and drugs at different times of the day, or a few hours apart from each other. Please contact our herbalists or your doctor if you are not sure.
6. REACTIVE EFFECT: Herbal preparations can react with drugs
When used appropriately herbs do not often cause side effects, certainly in comparison to the side effects caused by pharmaceutical drugs. However, some herb-drug combinations can cause side effects. For example, metronizadole reacts with alcohol to make you feel very nauseous. Avoid taking tinctures with metronizadole as they are made from alcohol. Also avoid herbs that accentuate the effects of alcohol such as valerian if you drink heavily.
7. PREGNANCY: Herbs may not suit your baby
Very few herbs have been rigorously tested during pregnancy and breastfeeding. So much of our knowledge on herbs that can be taken by mums is based on traditional use. There are also some herbs that could be harmful to your developing baby. If you are unsure what you can and cannot take during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, please ask us.
8. CRITICAL HEALTH: Operations and critical illness
Herbs can make a very positive contribution in serious health issues. However, if you have an operation, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or retroviral treatment scheduled, please contact our herbalists or your doctor before taking herbs. Some herbs, like high dose garlic, can increase your risk of bleeding or change the way that your blood clots. If you're not sure, stop taking herbs 2 weeks prior to an operation. Ideally, have a consultation with a medical herbalist who can liaise with your doctor to support you during this critical time.
YELLOW CARD SCHEME: Reporting side effects
If in doubt, please ask!
We are happy to look up your medications and give you the most up-to-date advice that we can. We try to stay up to date from our clinical experience, reference books, journals, databases and other sources. Please send us the name and dose of all the medicines you are taking, any supplements, and any herbs that you are intending to take and we will advise. Just email email@example.com or, preferably, make an appointment to see a medical herbalist.
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Gardner, Z. & McGuffin, M. (Editors). (2013). The American Herbal Products Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook (2nd edition). Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press.
Mills, S., & Bone, K. (2010). The essential guide to herbal medicine safety. Philadelphia, PA., Churchill Livingstone, Elsevier Ltd.
Mills, S., & Bone, K. (2013). Principles and practice of phytotherapy (2nd edition). Philadelphia, PA., Churchill Livingstone, Elsevier Ltd.
Stargrove, M.B., Treasure, J., McKee, D.L. (2008). Herbs, Nutrient and Drug Interactions: Clinical Implications and Therapeutic Strategies, St. Louis, Missouri: Elsevier
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Williamson, E., Driver, S., & Baxter, K. (2013). Stockley's herbal medicines interactions (Second edition). London, United Kingdom: Pharmaceutical Press.
Healthy Low-Sugar Vegan Easter Simnel Cake
Baked for us by Emilia, a nutrition student specialising in plant-based nutrition, this is an absolutely delicious cake! It's perfect for those who want to avoid the sugar overload which usually comes with Easter as it only contains a small amount of coconut syrup, dried apricots and dates and it's also got a fabulous spicy freshness to it.
250 g white self raising flour
150 g coconut flour
2 tsp vanilla powder
1 tbsp turmeric powder
100 g soaked raisins
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 tbsp coconut syrop ( golden syrup/ agave syrop )
4 tbsp avocado oil ( coconut oil/ any other good quality oil )
250 g organic soaked dried apricots
1 tbsp fresh turmeric
3 tbsp baobab powder
SIMNEL ALMOND BALLS
40 g almond paste
20 g coconut flour
4 tbsp coconut syrup
Do not worry than the turmeric will add a strong flavour. It doesn't but does contribute to an interesting texture and colour. It has some amazing health properties and I like to add it it to pretty much everything I make.
- Prepare the filling first. Simply blend the ready soaked dried apricots along with the fresh turmeric and baobab powder until smooth like a cream.
- Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees.
- Mix all the ingredients listed above for the cake in a large bowl until it has the composition of a dough.
- Place half of it on a flat medium size cake tray and mould it into a neat round flat-topped disc.
- Spread the 'middle layer cream.
- Add the rest of the dough on the top of the filling and gently mould into a flat disc.
- Now make the almond balls. Mix the almond paste, coconut syrup and coconut flour together.
- Roll it using your hands into a long 'sausage', cut off even-sized pieces and roll each one into an egg-shaped ball.
- Place them around the edge of the cake, or decorate it in any way that you like.
- Put the cake in the oven for an hour on medium heat.
Serve when cold with ice-cream, double cream or with your favourite tea. Enjoy!