Botanical members of the Fagaceae family

Botanical members of the Fagaceae family

Botanical members of the Fagaceae family
autumnal oak leaf

Often, on herb walks, people are surprised to discover beech and oak trees are related. Both the beech and oak are botanical members of the Fagaceae family. The scientific name Fagaceae means beech family.

Whenever I add a new medicinal plant profile to the blog I include the botanical family and scientific name. That way readers can easily identify other plants within the same family.

The plant scientific name generally includes two names, the Genus and the Species. Medicinally it is important you have the correct Genus and often, species. That being said, for some plants similar Species are used medicinally interchangeably. Others not. For example if we look at the lime flower or linden blossom tree medicinal use of three different Tilia species is interchangeable.

However, today we discuss some of the Fagaceae or beech family.

Fagaceae botanical features

Members of this family

  • Are trees or shrubs and either deciduous or evergreen.
  • They have single nuts attached to scaly or spiny caps.
  • Leaves are simple, alternate and often toothed or lobed.
Fagaceae medicinal properties

Members of this family

  • Contain varying amounts of tannic acid – astringent and diuretic.

Genus and Species

The following are some of the more common examples of botanical members of the Fagaceae family with Genus and species scientific names provided. Common names included within brackets.

  • Fagus sylvatica (European beech)
  • Castanea sativa (sweet chestnut)
  • Quercus robur (pedunculate or common or European oak or English oak)
  • Quercus petraea (sessile oak)

In addition, botanical features and medicinal properties break down further within the Genus and sometimes species too. You can see from the examples below the similarities and the differences between each medicinally.

Genus – Fagus

Medicinally utilised historically. However, beech is now generally out of favour. Branches or bark of 2-3 year old branches were utilised. A decoction was brewed as an astringent and disinfectant mouthwash and gargle. Some older sources suggest use as a quinine substitute.

Beech nuts, or masts, contain high saponins and an alkaloid called fagin. Therefore, in quantity, they can make you feel unwell although pigs seem to thrive on them. Horses are particularly susceptible to beech nuts.

Beech nuts are becoming quite popular in wild foraging courses. Remember not to eat in quantity and perhaps avoid if you are prone to an upset stomach.

Genus – Castanaea

Botanical members of the Fagaceae familyLeaves, bark and the nuts of the sweet chestnut can be utilised. Leaves are expectorant and sedative. Historical use of leaves for coughs particularly whopping cough. In addition also for dandruff. The bark is antidiarrhoeal and febrifuge. Therefore, traditionally utilised for dysentery.

As we know chestnuts are nutritious eating. Another popular find on a wild foraging course. Traditionally decocted for mild diarrhoea.

Genus – Quercus
Oaks and alcohol…

Botanical members of the Fagaceae familyFinally the oaks. There are lots of different oaks within Europe. As a result of my living in one of the largest wine regions in Europe a mention of oak in the wine making industry is pertinent.

Wine makers prefer sessile oak (Q. petraea) for casks. While the peduculate (Q. robur) is preferable for cognac. However, the sherry makers choose the Portuguese oak (Q. pyrenaica) for their casks.

Finally, last but not least, one needs a cork for that wine bottle, not a nasty screw top, and that is from the cork oak (Q. suber).

Oaks medicinally…

Pedunculate and sessile are the native oak trees in the UK. The medicinal uses of these two species are interchangeable. The dried inner bark and dried leaves are medicinal. Medicinal use, as with most of the Fagaceae family, is predominately externally.

Traditionally used topically for haemorrhoids in an ointment, or in a lotion for cuts and abrasions. Also used as a douche for leucorrhoea or a gargle for tonsillitis and chronic sore throat. The gargle use similar to the beech above.

Internally both oaks were used, like sweet chestnut, for dysentery. In addition, Maud Grieve recommended as a quinine substitute, again a similarity with beech.

The above gives an indication into the benefits of learning a little about a botanical plant family. Furthermore, in the above example, you can clearly see some similarities within the botanical members of the Fagaceae family. In conclusion, medicinally, this is largely due to the astringency (tannins) generally toning and beneficial for conditions ranging from sore throats to diarrhoea.

Natural Remedies to Help with Menopausal Itching

Natural Remedies to Help with Menopausal Itching

This post is the fourth in the menopause series of articles. While the advice is predominately natural remedies to help with menopausal itching it may be helpful for any itchy skin conditions. If your menstrual cycle is beginning to change and your skin starts to itch it is often an indicator of approaching menopause, the peri-menopause phase.

The medical term for itchy skin is pruritus. It may be mild or may be severe enough to disrupt sleep. It can be due to any number of factors or medical conditions. Sourcing the cause is equally important in treatment.

If your itching skin is due to peri-menopause or menopause it can cause misery especially if coinciding or aggravating other menopausal symptoms. In addition, if you have previously struggled with problem skin the onset of the menopause often aggravates this.

So why does your flesh feel like it is crawling?

Peri-menopausal or menopausal itching skin is unfortunately, still not completely understood. What is known? There are a variety of changes to the skin due to declining hormone levels. The main declining hormone being oestrogen.

Scientific studies of post-menopausal women found a lack of oestrogen associated with atrophy, dryness and poor wound healing. This reduction in moisture and elasticity of the skin, also unfortunately, leads to those dreaded wrinkles!

So … the natural remedies to help with menopausal itching

First up dietary …

Many of these have been covered in an earlier nutrition based article for menopause. Certainly reduce ‘drying’ alcohol and increase ‘moisturising’ water. Drinking a glass of water with some added freshly squeezed lemon juice every morning rouses the liver. This can be warm water, after boiling, if preferred.

Natural Remedies to Help with Menopausal ItchingIncreasing omega 3 in the diet is another important one for skin health. Foods to increase include salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines.

These are great sources of omega 3 but not so great if you don’t like fish or choose not to due to a vegetarian or vegan diet. Hemp seeds, chia seeds and walnuts are other sources.

I would also include avocados or avocado oil in the diet. Although not an ‘essential’ omega, avocado does contain omega 9 and vitamin E. Both have an important role in skin health.

and herbal remedies to help with menopausal itching …

There are several natural remedies to help with menopausal itching that spring to mind. The following are some of the more effective and easily obtainable.

The humble dandelion. Often neglected as a garden weed, dandelion is a wonderful herbal ally. Taking two or three cupfuls of a dandelion root decoction each day supports the liver aiding the natural cleansing processes of the body.

Red clover is a herb I initially studied for the skin. It is so much more. A herbal lymphatic best taken as a herbal tea for fluid retention. I also included it in an earlier article for menopausal hot flushes. Make up as a herbal infusion, allow to cool, strain and soak a flannel in the liquid and dab over itchy skin.

Stellaria media (chickweed) is frequently used by medical herbalists in a lotion, cream or ointment to help with itching skin. It is a common wild medicinal. If you know the plant you can gather and harvest yourself.

Alternatively you will often find pre-made products available to purchase from herbal stores online (Neal’s Yard Remedies are one of the larger stores) or from your local medical herbalist. Here in France there are some consultants selling Neal’s Yard Remedies Stellaria cream.

Coconut oil is utilised in Ayurvedic medicine for persons of a Pitta constitution. In some individuals it can bring a cool relief to an itching skin or scalp. Source good quality coconut oil. Melt the coconut oil in your warm palms and massage into your skin.

Natural Remedies to Help with Menopausal ItchingAny keen porridge eaters are certain to have oats (Avena sativa) in their kitchen cupboard. Oats naturally moisturise the skin, remove dead skin cells and are effective in healing and relieving dry and itchy skin.

Take a bath with a handful of oats in a cotton sock or tied in a muslin cloth. Squeeze the sock in the water over the skin to soothe the itch.

Showers have often become more popular than baths. As a result many homes no longer have a bathtub. Alternatively use a warm basin of water and apply to the skin.

some final suggestions to reduce that itch …

Soaking in a warm bath with two cupfuls of Epsom salts is an age old remedy for relief of itching sunburn or insect bites. It works equally well for relief of any itchy skin conditions including those of a peri-menopausal or menopausal origin.

In addition, Epsom salts baths soften skin, reduces stress and eases sore, aching muscles. It is important to avoid the use of any soaps or body wash products which may interfere with the benefits of the salt bath.

However, remember that overly hot showers and baths can aggravate itchy skin and hot flushes. Ensure the water is warm but not hot.

Many synthetic highly perfumed products may also aggravate the skin. Products containing SLS (sodium laurel sulphate) are widely known to cause skin sensitivity and dermatitis in some individuals. It is best to avoid shower gels and lotions containing SLS with any skin conditions. Should you suffer with an itchy scalp seek out shampoos without SLS.

The above are a few natural remedies to help with menopausal itching. A combination of the above factors will bring welcome relief. If your problem is more severe or persistent you would be well advised to consult with a medical herbalist or your family physician.

Free food foraging of wild edible plants, a popular pastime

Free food foraging of wild edible plants, a popular pastime

Over the springtime I am frequently asked about plants for wild foraging.  Free food foraging of wild edible plants is a popular pastime.

Naturally my main interest lies in the medicinal properties of plants. However, often there is overlap where these plants have nutritional virtues. Wild flowers in foraging recipes may be added for nutritional value, colour or texture.

Free food foraging of wild edible plantsSome more common wild foraged foods such as dandelion many have heard of adding flowers, or particularly leaves, to a salad. The leaves are rich in potassium. A favourite diuretic herb of many herbalists. There is a reason the French common name is pissenlit!

Also well-known, the humble nettle. A great spring time tonic whether prescribed by a herbalist, added to soups or cooked similarly to spinach in a recipe.

I have added a wild foraging tag. Although these are not, strictly speaking, wild foraging posts some such as elderflower and red dead nettle include forage recipes.

Common sense must prevail. Be a courteous and cautious forager. Check out the rules of your own country. Ensure you have the correct plant. If even the slightest doubt, leave it. Never pull roots. Take care where you gather plants from.

Most importantly free food foraging of wild edible plants is fun, a popular pastime so, enjoy!

Are conifer trees important medicinals?

Are conifer trees important medicinals?

Are conifer trees important medicinalsThere are a number of conifer species throughout the world. Conifers are trees or shrubs with needle or scalelike leaves as opposed to broadleaves such as oak, ash or beech.

In the UK there are only three native conifer species. These are Pinus sylvestris (Scot’s Pine), Juniperus communis (common juniper) and Taxus baccata (yew). There are a wide range of introduced and naturalised species. These naturalised conifers seem to have a somewhat tarnished reputation in the UK. Many think they are permanently altering the traditional woodland landscape. In France, as with most of Europe, there are more native conifer species than in the UK.

Whatever your personal feelings about conifers many are majestic beauties.

So are conifer trees important medicinals?

Yes, many are. In the UK the three native conifers have a long history of medicinal usage. Many introduced conifers have documented medicinal uses too. Even better you don’t need to have knowledge of the individual tree species. Simply spending some time in a forest, with many trees, has its own health benefits.

Interestingly the Japanese practice what they term “forest bathing“. Forest bathing is basically relaxing wherever there are trees.

are conifer trees important medicinalsIt may sound like another crazy Japanese fad. However, after $4 million on research, science has proven forest bathing lowers heart rate and blood pressure, reduces stress and boosts the immune system. These benefits were found to be due to the therapeutic benefits of the volatile oils of the trees i.e. essential oils.

Tree bathing includes various trees, not simply conifers. However, many conifers produce essential oils. Essential oils make it possible to bring a little bit of the forest into your workplace or home even if you live and work in a city. It may not be quite as good as relaxing in a forest but there are still health benefits.

Some popular conifer essential oils…

The following are more popular and well known essential oils from conifer trees.

  • Abies alba (silver fir)
  • Abies balsamea (Canadian balsam)
  • Cedrus atlantica (cedarwood)
  • Cupressus sempiverens (cypress)
  • Juniperus communis (juniper)
  • Juniperus oxycedrus (cade)
  • Pinus sylvestris (Scot’s pine)
  • Piscea mariana (black spruce)
  • Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas fir)

There are of course, many other essential oils from trees. All of the above trees, although not all native European species, can be found in Europe.

Nosey Problems? Hay Fever or Infection?

Natural Advice for Rhinitis

I had the following article published when I was practicing in the UK. I just came across it in my files and thought well hay fever season shall soon be upon us!

Nosey Problems!

Rhinitis is defined as an inflammatory condition of the lining of the nose. It is characterised by nasal obstruction, nasal discharge, sneezing and itching.

Rhinitis may be perennial (all year), seasonal (hay fever) or infective (acute or chronic).

Both perennial and seasonal rhinitis can be caused by allergens. Seasonal rhinitis may be due to grass pollen or certain trees. Perennial allergens could be cats or house dust mites. Nutritional deficiencies and imbalances may also aggravate, or even promote, an allergic response. Acute infections with the common cold or chronic sinusitis are other triggers.

There are other non-allergic and non-infective reasons for rhinitis. In some instances the cause may be emotional or hormonal although there are others.

Herbal treatment begins by considering the cause or trigger. Treatment is tailored to each individual. No two people would present with exactly the same symptoms or trigger(s) and so no two people can be treated with the same herbs.

Symptoms may be dry nose and dry eyes while others may complain of constant nasal discharge. Remedies with moistening or toning actions would be selected accordingly. Other patients may describe congestion as hot or burning requiring cooling and soothing remedies.

Boost the Lymphatic System…

Often, with rhinitis, the lymphatic system requires a boost. This can be achieved by using herbs or alternatively with a course of manual lymph drainage.

Manual lymph drainage (MLD) is a specialised therapy which is designed to improve the functioning of the lymphatic system.

Nutritional Factors to Help with Menopausal Symptoms

Nutritional Factors to Help with Menopausal Symptoms

So first up the sad part … those to reduce or avoid

Caffeine Fix

In clinical research, caffeine has been shown to cause more frequent flushes and night sweats. Unfortunately, research does not show how many cups of coffee a day it takes only that it does! So try cutting back or cutting out the coffee for a couple of days and see if it has any benefit for you.

Remember tea includes some caffeine too so if you are a heavy tea drinker you may well benefit from reducing consumption of your favourite cuppa. Finally some fizzy drinks also contain caffeine too.

It is not only night sweats and flushes that are aggravated by caffeine. Caffeine intake may be part of the problem for other menopausal symptoms such as joint pains, panic attacks, anxiety or trouble sleeping.

Coffee exacerbates symptoms of bloating and fluid retention too. This is thought to be due to enzymes in the coffee rather than the actual caffeine.

Just one more glass of bubbly…

Alcohol is another culprit. We all know that alcohol increases body heat and flushing.

Unfortunately in women prone to hot flushes alcohol is sure to trigger a flush. So if you are out at lunch with a potential new work client you may want to reduce or avoid the alcohol consumption or risk resembling a Belisha Beacon.

In addition, alcohol is drying. If you feel like your skin is crawling and itchy alcohol will exacerbate this symptom too.

Feeling a little fruity…

Some women find acidic foods aggravate hot flushes and night sweats. Foods we more commonly think of as being acidic include fried foods, beef or seafood, sweeteners and sugar, processed cheese and processed foods. However, many fruit juices are acidic too. Indeed, some women find some of the more acidic citrus fruits and even tomatoes (mildly acidic) increase flushes or night sweats.

Some women struggle with stiff joints or even joint pain when menopausal. Some foods are believed to aggravate joint pain. This can vary considerably with individuals however, citrus fruits and tomatoes are often condemned.

Some sources suggest it is not only tomatoes but all foods in the Solanaceae or nightshade family. The nightshade food group includes a number of popular foods such as potatoes, peppers, aubergine as well as tomatoes. I’m not personally convinced the whole food group are culprits. For one, people often respond well to chilli (another nightshade food) for arthritic or joint pains. It really is down to the individual but it is certainly worth avoiding these foods for a couple of weeks and reintroducing one at a time to monitor any effects.

How about that bacon sarnie?

Unless you are vegan or vegetarian the smell of bacon cooking undoubtedly tingles the tastebuds. Several years ago I worked in the Middle East. In Saudi Arabia bacon was banned. People invariably sneaked it through customs and into the country. I will never forget the smell of someone cooking bacon. It was torture knowing you couldn’t go out and buy some even though I was never personally a great lover of bacon butties but oh that aroma.

We’ve already mentioned fried foods can increase flushes and night sweats so if you really need a bacon sarnie opt for grilled bacon.

However, if you have feelings of anger, grumpiness, irritability, low moods or depression with your menopause then it is definitely best to avoid all fatty foods. Sorry that includes bacon. Fatty foods lower serotonin levels.

Serotonin is extremely important in helping to maintain moods, stabilise sleep and lift libido. Three common menopausal symptoms.

Anyone for a little spice?

This is a difficult one. Countries with hotter temperatures (India and Thailand, South America and the Caribbean) often eat lots and lots of what we would consider hot spices. The irony here is hot foods do make you sweat and of course, sweating is your bodies natural way of cooling you down. So they actually can help cool you down. However, when you are already flushing over your hormones perhaps an added hot flush from your Thai or Indian food is not much fun.

Not convinced the above have any effect on you?

If in doubt keep a food diary. Note what you eat and drink. Add the number and severity of flushes or nights sweats. How did you feel? Were you more anxious, irritable, impatient or tearful?

No two women are the same and so no two women will experience exactly the same menopausal symptoms.

This post is a guideline of nutritional factors to help with menopausal symptoms. Keeping a food diary will allow you to tailor your own nutritional plan to help with your individual menopausal symptoms.

And now the good part … those to enjoy

Craving that Caffeine Fix?

Try replacing with a herbal tea. Often it is the habit of sitting down for a cuppa that people miss most. Opting for a herbal tea you are still having a brew. Try choosing a herb or blend of herbs that will actually help relieve your menopausal symptoms.

Feeling Jaded without your Fruit Juice?

Opt for vegetable juices instead. Cucumber is a cooling refreshing drink. It has so many wonderful health benefits. Add a little apple or a carrot if you prefer it sweeter.

Battling the Bacon aroma?

Instead of destroying your serotonin levels and knocking your moods for six help boost serotonin with good quality fats. Foods highest in tryptophan are turkey and chicken, whole milk, salmon and eggs. Serotonin is synthesised by tryptophan in the body.

Instead of the bacon butties for breakfast opt for ‘tryptophan breakfast’ of poached salmon with a poached egg for a serotonin boost. Delicious and much better for your moods and libido. In addition, salmon is bursting full of omega-3. Much needed for healthy skin to ease itchy skin and beat those wrinkles. Go for a brisk walk after breakfast or on your lunch break to further boost your mood.

Struggling without that Spice of life?

If you want a flavour burst with some spice try some of the less heating spices such as coriander or turmeric. Food doesn’t need to be boring and tasteless.

In Final, a summary of Nutritional Factors to Help with Menopausal Symptoms

Remember if you do find a favourite food is exacerbating any of your symptoms don’t despair. You can still enjoy these foods occasionally and once you have conquered the menopause you can probably reintroduce them without any problem.

In general eating a good, healthy and balanced diet includes all the nutritional factors to help with menopausal symptoms.

Using Herbal Medicine and Natural Methods for Sciatica

Using Herbal Medicine and Natural Methods for Sciatica

Earlier in the week I was contacted and asked for advice on sciatica. As sciatica affects so many people I decided it was worth a post. So here is a posting on using herbal medicine and natural methods for sciatica.

Sciatica – what is it?

The term sciatica actually means pain in the sciatic nerve. It is a symptom and not the cause of the pain. Ideally for the best treatment of the symptom, sciatica, you need to ascertain the cause.

The sciatic nerve runs from the back (lower lumbar region) through the buttock and thigh and down the leg. People can experience pain anywhere along the nerve, even down to the toes.

The pain may be described as burning, searing, tingling, sharp, shooting or cramping. It may cause weakness or numbness. Pain may be sudden onset or gradual. It can be intermittent or persistent.

The cause may be due to any number of factors although it is usually due to pressure on the nerve. This pressure may be caused by a slipped disc or a tight piriformis muscle. The piriformis muscle is located deep in the buttock and is important in hip rotation.

It can be very difficult to ascertain the cause and often after a month the pain subsides. The cause remains unknown. In the meantime life can be a misery. Even simple things can exacerbate sciatica. Avoid keeping objects like mobile phones and wallets in the back pocket as this adds more pressure.

Using Herbal Medicine and Natural Methods for Sciatica

Natural Methods

There are many natural methods for dealing with the pain. If mobility is an issue then seeing an acupuncturist and or osteopath is essential. You may need to find someone to help you get to the appointment but it will be worth it when you gain some mobility back.

If you have some mobility yoga is an excellent route. The pigeon pose and cow’s face pose both work on stretching the piriformis muscle. You can find information on these poses online but it would be advisable to seek out a qualified yoga teacher to ensure you are carrying out the stretches correctly. In addition, if you find the poses too difficult, a yoga teacher would be able to provide simpler poses and would work with you and your limitations.

Herbal Medicine

Finally help from the plant world. First off some people find using ice packs (or a bag of frozen peas) helps ease the pain. Others find a hot water bottle better. And others find alternating between hot and cold to be most beneficial. Whatever is better for you determines the best herbs for you.

For example if you find heat to help then using warming or heating herbs will be most beneficial.

Two popular herbs with a relaxing effect on the nerves are Hypericum perforatum and Passiflora incarnata. Both of these herbs would be popular choices combined with other herbs depending on the individual.

Topical Use: Hypericum perforatum – St John’s Wort

Anyone knowing this particular plant usually know it as an anti-depressant. Any herbalist will tell you it is so much more. In this post we will focus on its remarkable nerve anodyne action. Hypericum has a longstanding use topically as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic particular for nerve pains such as sciatica.

For sciatic pain, massage with some Hypericum infused oil daily. A few drops of essential oil, or combination of essential oils, added to this will further enhance the properties. For example should you find a hot water bottle eases your sciatica then warm the painful areas first. Follow this immediately by massaging with Hypericum infused oil with a few added drops of a warming spicy essential oil like Piper nigrum (black pepper) or Zingiber officinale (ginger).

If an ice pack helps your pain more than heat then use a few drops of Mentha piperita (peppermint) essential oil in the Hypericum oil for massage.

In addition, add some cold water and ice cubes to a shallow dish. Then add two or three drops of peppermint essential oil. Oil and water do not mix so the oil will ‘sit’ on top of the water. Disperse the oil through the water as much as is possible. Place a flannel on top of the dish and soak up the ice water and oil mixture and place the flannel over the painful area.

Using Herbal Medicine and Natural Methods for Sciatica
Matricaria chamomilla (chamomile)

Chamomile essential oils are also beneficial for nerve pain. Unfortunately both of these essential oils are more expensive to purchase than the three essential oils mentioned above.

Matricaria chamomilla (blue or German chamomile) is particularly expensive. Anthemis nobilis (Roman chamomile) is the least expensive of the two. So if budget is a factor source the Roman chamomile.

Herbal Tea: Passiflora incarnata – passionflower

A common problem with sciatica is poor sleep. Ngan et al investigated the effects of a Passiflora herbal tea on sleep quality in a clinical trial and found passionflower significantly improved sleep quality. Passionflower has a long traditional use in herbal medicine as a sedative. It is also a nerve analgesic and anti-inflammatory.

Using Herbal Medicine and Natural Methods for Sciatica
Melissa officinalis (lemon balm)

Passiflora tea is a little bitter for some palates if you find it is not your cup of tea then try blending with another more palatable herb.

Melissa officinalis (lemon balm) is a particularly pleasant tasting herb and would enhance the overall action when combined with Passiflora.

Matricaria chamomilla herb (mentioned as essential oil above) would also blend very well with the Passiflora in a herbal tea.

Zingiber officinale – ginger

Herbs with an anti-inflammatory action are of benefit here. An easy one to use from home is ginger. Simply slice some ginger root and add to pot of water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for approximately 20 minutes. This tea can be sipped freely during the day. You can also make sufficient quantity for a flask to take to work.

The young bark or leaves and young twigs of Salix alba, or willow, is another anti-inflammatory. Whereas ginger is warming, Salix is cooling. It is energetically a herb of the moon.

As always, anyone on medications would be advised to seek advice from their local medical herbalist prior to self medication. Salix is one herb where this is important as it may accentuate blood thinning medications such as Warfarin, Clopidogrel, Heparin or Aspirin.

The above are a few suggestions in using herbal medicine and natural methods for sciatica. The herbs and oils recommended are easy to source for self use.

Natural Remedies to Help with Hot Flushes or Flashes

Natural Remedies to Help with Hot Flushes or Flashes

Whether you prefer to call them hot flushes or hot flashes they are a misery. Although an unfortunate natural reaction, some women find them embarrassing particularly when flushing in front of work colleagues. Also called vasomotor symptoms or VMS. They start suddenly with a heating sensation predominately in the head and neck and upper body including the back.

There is some suggestion that if flushing starts in the peri-menopausal period you will suffer longer and it can go on for several years. If the flushing commences after cessation of periods symptoms tend to last no more than 3 years.

Other suggestions include flushes last longer in smokers, anyone overweight or women suffering from stress or anxiety. However, no two women are identical in any menopausal symptoms. Duration, frequency and severity of hot flushes varies considerably in women.

Using Natural Remedies to Help with Hot Flushes

Aromatic Waters, Hydrosols or Hydrolats

Aromatic waters in a spray bottle are excellent on-the-go natural remedies for hot flushes. Easy to keep a spray bottle beside the bed, in your handbag or desk drawer and simply pull out and spray when you feel a hot flush coming on. I find them particularly refreshing on the face and pulse points of the wrist.

Three of the favoured ones for menopausal flushes are lavender, peppermint and rose. Each have slightly different benefits for menopausal symptoms. The descriptions below are a guideline to help you make the best choice.

Lavandula angustifolia – lavender

Using Natural Remedies to Help with Hot FlushesHot Flushes with accompanied anxiety, irritability, stress or poor sleep are often helped with Lavandula angustifolia or lavender aromatic water. Irritability, stress and poor sleep aggravate hot flushes.

In traditional Chinese Medicine lavender is energetically considered cooling particularly for the liver.

You could also spray the lavender aromatic water on your pillow to aid sleep.

Mentha piperita – peppermint

Mentha piperita or peppermint has a somewhat contradictory warming and cooling effect on the body. In small amounts it has a cool, fresh feel on the skin making it ideal for hot flushes.

The clarity of peppermint also makes this a better choice for those with menopausal mental fog, lack of focus or concentration.

Rosa damascena – rose

Finally, Rosa damascena or rose aromatic water. This is one of my personal favourites. I find it immensely uplifting, yet cool and calming. Rose is described as a cooling astringent.

I would favour this aromatic water for women with acne rosacea and have prescribed the aromatic water, in combination with other herbs, for patients with acne rosacea. Acne rosacea can affect some women during menopause.

Rose is a traditional aphrodisiac so may also help with a low libido. I often add rose buds or petals to a herbal tea blend. In addition to the medicinal benefits, it makes a particularly aromatic and pretty tea.

Sourcing Aromatic Waters

Note: Please be sure to purchase pure aromatic waters, hydrosols or hydrolats for therapeutic use. Some products are simply a few drops of essential oil in water and alcohol. These are not aromatic waters and must not be taken internally.

The three discussed above will have a shelf life of at least 18 months, if stored correctly, and probably longer for rose.

Herbal Teas

My top choice for herbal tea natural remedies to help with hot flushes are sage and red clover. As mentioned above I also like rose added to a herbal blend.

Salvia officinalis – sage

Natural Remedies to Help with Hot FlushesFirst of all the wonderful Salvia officinalis, more commonly known as sage. This is a great herb to have growing on hand in the garden or in a pot as it has so many wonderful medicinal uses. However, in this post, we focus on its well deserved reputation for menopause.

It is probably the number one in my go to herb list of natural remedies to help with hot flushes and would be particularly suitable if additional problems with lack of concentration and focus or poor memory. Common symptoms of the menopause. The studies below highlight these qualities.

A clinical study by Bommer et al in 2011 found the mean total number of hot flushes per day decreased significantly each week over a period of 8 weeks in 71 women taking fresh sage.

Sage has also been reviewed quite extensively for its benefit on cognitive function. Miroddi et al in 2014 reviewed six of these studies and found Salvia officinalis enhanced cognitive performance in healthy subjects and patients with dementia or cognitive impairment.

Trifolium pratense – red clover

Red cloverNatural Remedies to Help with Hot Flushes is another beneficial herb for menopausal hot flushes. This would be a favourable choice with any associated skin problems. In addition a study below highlights its benefit in vaginal dryness another common menopausal symptom.

The Journal of Phytomedicine published a review early in 2017. Myers et al reviewed several studies of Trifolium pratense (red clover) in the treatment of menopausal hot flashes and found a clinically significant benefit.

In addition, a study from 2016 published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology found symptoms of vaginal atrophy were significantly helped with Trifolium pratense (Ghazanfarpour et al).

Sourcing Dried Herbs

Many herbs are easily grown in the garden or in pots. Sage is one of these herbs. Use herbs from the garden fresh and dry some for use overwinter or alternatively make into a plant tincture.

Red clover is a common wildflower. Caution is advised on picking where there may have been pesticide use.

Should you wish to purchase and use dried herb there are several options. In the UK stores like Woodland Herbs and Neal’s Yard Remedies offer an online delivery service. You should also be able to source these herbs from your local medical herbalist. In France several dried herbs are available from stalls in many of the outdoor markets or in the bio (organic) food stores.

Other Suggestions…

Wearing layers is definitely best. Removing a layer at the onset of a flush can help the body adapt. Loose fitting clothes in breathable fabrics are also better.

As much as possible avoid stressful situations. This will aggravate flushes. Of course, this may not be easy if the stressful situation is work related.

The above are some of the more popular and easy to obtain natural remedies to help with hot flushes.

Natural Remedies to Help with Menopausal Symptoms

Menopause!

Natural Remedies to Help with Menopausal SymptomsWe’ve all heard the jokes about menopause. The similarities to the 7 dwarves with the new names of Itchy, Bitchy, Sweaty, Bloated, Psycho and whatever other symptoms fit the bill.

And of course, the joke about all female problems start with MEN: menopause, menstruation, mental anxiety etc, etc. However, one thing menopause is not, is a joke!

The last couple of months I’ve had an increase in people contacting me about night sweats, mood swings, poor sleep. All menopause related. So, I thought an article about natural remedies to help with menopausal symptoms was long overdue.

Menopause and the Role of Herbal Medicine

Many women opt for the HRT route. Sometimes they are apprehensive about taking this step but know of no other options. I’m often surprised by how little women realise herbal medicine can help with the menopause.

Research is expensive and, for the main part, carried out by pharmaceutical corporations. However, in 2007, the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH) actually conducted research into treatment of menopausal symptoms by qualified herbal practitioners.

Most studies are of single herbs. The NIMH research looked at actual clinical practice and was ground breaking. The research showed the treatment by medical herbalists can reduce menopausal symptoms. Some particularly effective symptom treatments were raising libido, reducing hot flushes and night sweats.

It is quite a complex issue to write about in one little article. This is largely due to the fact that no two women have exactly the same symptoms, in fact they can vary widely. We are all individuals.

Natural Remedies to Help with Menopausal Symptoms

So where to start? As a traditionally trained medical herbalist, the synergy of all constituents within a plant, or plant part, is most important. That being so, I am not in favour of ‘herbal supplements’ such as capsules sold in health food stores. My training was in the whole plant and not an extract of individual ‘active’ constituents. As a result, I only recommend herbal teas, tinctures, and other naturally made products with the plant rather than a so called active constituent or standardised extract.

Over the next few weeks several articles posted will include menopausal symptoms such as those listed in the cloud box above. Please check back regularly to learn about natural remedies to help with menopausal symptoms.

Also if there is a particular menopausal symptom you would like natural remedy advice for please feel free to add a comment to this post.

ADDENDUM:

Some of the posts written including natural remedies to help with menopausal symptoms:

The following are medicinal plant profiles including indications for menopausal symptoms:

A Winter Tea to keep those bugs away…

A Winter Tea to keep those bugs away….

Recently I wrote about fighting winter chills with kitchen herbs. For this post I thought I would share a popular herbal tea for winter colds and sniffles.

winter tea to keep those bugs away
Achillea millefolium – yarrow

The tea contains three herbs: yarrow, mint and elderflower. The scientific names for these medicinal plants are: Achillea millefolium, Mentha piperita, Sambucus nigra flos.

This combination of herbs is best taken as a warm infusion. Generally peppermint (Mentha piperita) would be the mint of choice although you could substitute this with milder spearmint (Mentha spicata) if you prefer.

So to make the tea…

Ideally you would gather the herbs in the spring time and dry for winter use as tea. You can also buy small amounts dried from your local medical herbalist. Alternatively stores like Woodland Herbs and Neal’s Yard Remedies, both UK based, offer online shopping options. Whereas in France, you can generally find these dried herbs for sale at local markets or bio shops.

Herbal Infusion Recipe

Ingredients for a winter tea to keep those bugs away
  • a teaspoonful of dried peppermint
  • a teaspoonful of dried yarrow
  • and a teaspoonful of elderflower
  • 2 cups of boiling water
  • 1 pinch of powdered ginger or other powdered or ground warming spice (optional)
Method
  • Combine all the herbs and pour over boiling water.
  • Infuse* the herbs in the boiling water for at least 5 minutes, ideally 10.
  • Strain. Drink freely every few hours until symptoms abate.

winter tea to keep those bugs away* when choosing highly aromatic herbs, such as these, for an infusion the herbs must be covered to avoid escape of volatile components.

Use a teapot or, if making a single cup, you can often purchase cups with inbuilt tea strainers and lids specifically for infusing aromatic plants. The lid and ceramic infuser can be removed to enjoy the tea when ready.

Benefits of a winter tea to keep those bugs away with mint, yarrow and elderflower

The combined benefit of this pleasant blend helps induce gentle perspiration to reduce fever.

Mentha piperita, or mint, is a popular herbal tea. Many people enjoy the taste. There are many traditional uses for peppermint. One use is alleviating the symptoms of colds and flu. For the respiratory tract, it is particularly beneficial for both bronchial and nasal catarrh, for the common cold and for breathing difficulties (Hoffmann). Mint is highly aromatic in nature. Inhalation of the aroma between sips of the tea provides further health benefits. The benefit of keeping the lid on it during infusion.

Sambucus nigra is the elder tree, or shrub. Both flowers and berries have medicinal properties. Elderflowers are used in this tea blend. However both elderberry and elderflower have a lengthy use in traditional medicine for febrile illnesses such as influenza (more commonly known as flu). Research has found it particularly effective clinically for influenza. In fact it inhibited at least ten strains of influenza (Zakay-Rones).

Last though not least, Achillea millefolium, more commonly known as yarrow. Yarrow is a circulatory stimulant. It really gets things shifting. It is also an astringent. This gives the plant drying and toning properties, ideal for drying up mucous loaded coughs and runny noses.

I would also add a little pinch of powdered ginger or another tasty, warming spice. This not only adds to the flavour, it provides its own medicinal kick. A delicious warming winter tea to keep those bugs away!