A New Year means a fresh start, and an extra helping of motivation to get fit, eat better, start a new hobby or give up a bad habit.
However long our good intentions may last, here are six herbal ideas to get you started:
Look after your liver with milk thistle
We can’t live without a good liver – it processes every substance that enters our mouths, and therefore usually has to work overtime during the festive season.
Symptoms like tiredness, nausea, constipation, headaches, low mood, skin problems and allergies are a sign that your liver is not happy. Luckily it has an amazing capacity for regeneration, and a good milk thistle extract combined with a break from alcohol and coffee for just four weeks can make a big difference.
Milk thistle has been shown to prevent the absorption of toxins in the liver as well as reduce inflammation and scarring. As a bitter herb it also aids digestion and is best taken 30 minutes before meals. “Solgar” do a good supplement.
Stop smoking with Lobelia
For those looking for herbal help to kick this nasty habit, Lobelia inflata (Indian tobacco) is well worth considering. Its nicotine-like compounds sit on receptors in the brain and fool us into thinking it’s the real thing, causing unpleasant nausea when a cigarette is smoked.
A few drops of Lobelia tincture (alcoholic extract) on the tongue can help put you off cigarettes, but only if taken responsibly. Consult a herbalist for sources of the herb as well as professional, supportive advice.
Cut down on alcohol with St John’s wort
With its uplifting yet calming properties, St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) tincture can be a really useful substitute when letting go of this addiction.
For a ‘Hypericum tonic’, just add a tablespoon of good quality tincture to tonic water with a slice of lemon. It tastes just like gin & tonic and is a great conversation starter! Consult a herbalist for good sources, and don’t take this herb alongside pharmaceutical drugs.
Let go of anxiety with lavender
If it’s your worries you want to get a hold on, start by getting hold of some good quality lavender essential oil from your nearest health shop.
Inhaling a few drops on a tissue is really effective for acute anxiety, and drops on the pillow help night-time over-thinkers get to sleep. Carry it around with you for quick fixes on the go or even use it as perfume.
Herbal treatment for anxiety works best if combined with good food, exercise and techniques like yoga, meditation and positive affirmations.
Boost overall health with turmeric
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is an ancient Indian spice with profound anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving and health boosting effects – some even think it was the ‘gold’ given to Jesus along with frankincense and myrrh!
Since most diseases have inflammation at their core, turmeric has the potential to protect against all sorts of conditions including heart & liver disease, arthritis, depression, inflammatory bowel conditions, endometriosis and cancer. It’s also effective against pain of all kinds, especially period pain and joint pain.
To make ‘golden milk’, mix 1 teaspoon of organic turmeric powder with ½ teaspoon of ginger, cinnamon and cardamom, simmer in hot milk for 5 minutes and add a spoon of coconut oil or butter. Drink before bed, or three times a day for strong pain relief.
Get outside and meet some weeds
Another great way of improving overall physical, mental and spiritual health, is to spend more time in nature. Blue-green space has been shown to improve immunity through greater contact with our ancestral ‘friends’ – mainly bacteria and fungi.
This spring, go outside, pick some weeds and look them up. You’ll feel more in touch with your surroundings, and learn how to treat common ailments with plants like nettles, dandelion, cleavers, yellow dock, chickweed, sweet violet and plantain.
If you’re interested in learning more about how you can improve your health with common garden weeds, register your interest in my upcoming workshop,
About Poppy the Herbalist
Poppy holds a first-class Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Herbal Medicine from Middlesex University in London, and is a member of the College of Practitioners of Phytotherapy (MCPP). She’s been practising as a medical herbalist for three years and holds a Level 3 certificate in First Response Emergency Care.
Poppy’s interest in complementary health care began in India where she studied for a certificate in Ayurvedic medicine. After completing a year of study, she decided to return to the UK and continue her education closer to home, focussing on Western herbs and methods of diagnosis. Through completing her BSc, Poppy learned how to integrate conventional knowledge of anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and pathology with holistic medicine theory and practice.
Following graduation, Poppy practised in London and Sheffield before setting up her clinic in Portugal’s Algarve, offering consultations and treatment from two clinic spaces in Aljezur and Praia da Luz . As a traditional medical herbalist, she specialises in treating long-standing (chronic) conditions in almost all body systems, and employs nutritional and psychosocial healing approaches as well as herbal medicines in her practice.
Consultations are up to 1.5hrs, and herbal prescriptions are dispensed on an individual basis. Poppy will refer you for further medical testing if necessary, but otherwise will diagnose solely from the case history and physical examination.