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People often ask me what qualifications you need to become a medical herbalist. It’s not a profession that you can do an online or weekend course in! In order to practise in the UK, you need to have studied a degree in Herbal Medicine (that’s one of the BSc (Hons) you see after my name). The degree very rarely takes the usual three years to complete as we had the added requirement of at least 500 hours of clinical experience – I was lucky enough to do over 750, including in an NHS hospital dermatology department – so if you study it full time it tends to take at least four years. Longer if, like me, you had a full time job as well!

In the news recently, there’s been a couple of articles about cancer patients using alternative or complementary medicines (such as herbal medicine – Western or Chinese, vitamin regimes, homeopathy, naturopathy and specialised diets) and sadly, not having a good outcome. I just wanted to add my thoughts on this.

First of all – it is ILLEGAL IN THE UK FOR ANY PRACTITIONER OF ANY KIND TO TELL YOU THEY CAN CURE CANCER. If anyone tells you they can do this (and that includes herbalists), run a mile and report them. No reputable practitioner should be doing this in the UK!

(This post is part of a week-long series on my Facebook page starting herefor Mental Health Awareness Week - click "not now" if it prompts you to join).

I see a large number of people with stress. Even if that’s not why they come to see me in the first place, it often underlies the symptoms they describe, or makes them worse. Prolonged periods of stress can have a negative effect on your physical and mental health, causing problems with your digestive system, hormones, cardiovascular system (possibly even leading to high blood pressure, angina, heart attacks) and perhaps contributing to inflammation in the body. Many people with long term conditions such as psoriasis, arthritis, eczema or depression feel that stress makes their symptoms worse.

Dinosaurs used to activate our "fight or flight" response!

...continue reading "How can herbal medicine help with stress?"

Chelidonium majus (greater celandine) - sometimes used in endometriosis

You may have read in the news last week that the actress Lena Dunham has had a hysterectomy at the age of 31 after battling endometriosis for many years. Endometriosis is where the cells that make up the lining of the womb (the same ones that gradually build up throughout the month in preparation for egg fertilization and then break down as your period) are found elsewhere in the body.

...continue reading "Endometriosis"

Have you been listening to Women's Hour on Radio 4 this week about the menopause? I felt I should stick my oar in to say that you do have a choice - it doesn't have to be HRT! Are you suffering from any of these symptoms?

  • Hot flushes/night sweats
  • Depression, anxiety, irritability
  • Poor memory, insomnia
  • Palpitations, raised blood pressure
  • Joint pain
  • Vaginal dryness, UTIs, low libido
  • Fatigue, exhaustion

Hopefully not all of the above!

...continue reading "Herbal medicine and the menopause"

Have you got an embarrassing health problem - one that you might just about manage to mention to your GP, but nobody else? Perhaps you're constipated, got piles, heavy periods, fungal skin infections, excess hair, urinary tract infections, thrush, mood problems...(hopefully not all at once!) You may think that talking to a medical herbalist would be just like talking to someone at work or at the gym, you can't really trust people to keep quiet, and what if they laugh!
...continue reading "Embarrassed to talk to a herbalist?"

Image courtesy Colorado clinic

 

You may have read in the news recently that Lady Gaga has had to cancel her tour as she is suffering from fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a long term, extremely debilitating condition that causes widespread pain and tenderness in many parts of the body. It affects 4% of the population, (women:men ratio is 10:1), and is often brought on by a stressful or traumatic life event.

...continue reading "Lady Gaga and fibromyalgia"

Following on from my Facebook post, some more info about psoriasis: Psoriasis is a skin condition thought to affect up to 3% of people in the UK. It's characterised by red, flaky "plaques" of skin covered by whitish-silverish scales and is most often found on knees, elbows and scalp but can manifest anywhere on the body, including the nails, genitals and the soles of the feet. Your skin renews itself in a cycle of about 21-28 days but in psoriasis this is greatly sped up over just a few days. There are other types of psoriasis, including guttate (small “droplet” patches over the body) and pustular.
...continue reading "Psoriasis"

I’ve been interested in St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum – if you hold a leaf up to the light you can see the tiny holes or perforations) since I was studying for my first degree in Psychology in the 90s and it ended up as the subject of my final year dissertation. As with many herbs there is plenty of folklore surrounding its common name.

I’ve been interested in St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum – if you hold a leaf up to the light you can see the tiny holes or perforations) since I was studying for my first degree in Psychology in the 90s and it ended up as the subject of my final year dissertation. As with many herbs there is plenty of folklore surrounding its common name. One theory is that it tends to flower around the time of St. John the Baptist’s feast day, June 24th; another is that the red stain when you crush the yellow flowers signifies the blood of St. John, who was beheaded. In days gone by, people used to hang a fresh sprig over their beds as they slept to see if they would live for the rest of the year – if it wilted overnight then it was bad news! A similar test was used by young ladies to see if they were likely to find a husband…

...continue reading "St. John’s Wort – not just for depression"

The books start to take over!

 

When you come to see me, I emphasise how you will be prescribed a bespoke mix of five or six herbs in one bottle.

During your first consultation, even if you turn up with the most common of “common ailments”, I’ll almost never decide while you’re still sitting there exactly what I’m going to give you. I don’t leave you, go to my dispensary, and reach for my large bottle of “IBS herbal mix” or “eczema herbal mix” or “insomnia herbal mix”, decant it into a smaller bottle, and write your name on it. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, your herbal mix is specifically for you only and takes into account the whole of you.

...continue reading "What do you get for your money?"