Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Herbs for holidays

As I'm on holiday at the moment, and just beginning to unwind from the stress of the preparations, I was thinking  of how invaluable herbs are to me when I travel. I literally couldn't manage without them. You won't find any other medicine in my luggage than herbal medicine. Naturally we all take the type of medicine we think we are going to need when we go on holiday, and this depends on what we are most prone to get when away from home. In my case the most likely problem would be getting a cold after the long flight from Cape Town to London. I never get a cold, but I'm guaranteed one if I don't take my own immune booster which contains Echinacea and a couple of other South African herbs which act synergistically. This I take before, during and after the flight. Stress and anxiety were a problem for me this time so I added a good dollop of Valeriana. This worked very well.
I took a couple of tea bags for the flight, one of green tea and one peppermint tea, both herbs are good for the digestion and refreshing in comparison to the teas on offer. It's good to have a supply of your preferred tea for hotels too.
Tummy upsets can be a problem for many of us. The change in diet as well as travel itself can wreak havoc with one's digestion. For me Ginger is an excellent remedy to take along, either in tincture form where it can be added to green tea for a soothing digestive remedy, or in the form of ginger sweets. I like Gingerbon sweets. They are really strong and can even help for travel queasiness. For those who suffer from migraine headaches, they may be very helpful for the nausea too.

Most people take water with them where ever they go, as it is very easy to dehydrate when on holiday. However, even with the best precautions dehydration does sometimes occur, and can trigger a nasty bout of cystitis in those who are vulnerable. A bottle of Buchu tincture (Agathosma betulina) is a very good medicine for this and can be used prophylactically if dehydration occurs and you want to nip things in the bud.

Obviously there is no jet lag between Cape Town and London, but as this is about herbs for travel, I'll include  the medicine I formulated a few years ago when I travelled to New Zealand. I used Valeriana and Vitex agnes castes in equal parts and filled the last bit of the bottle with Liquorice root tincture. I took this mixture before, during and after the flight and had no jet lag whatsoever on either journey (there or back). Maybe it just worked for me, but it's worth a try. I'd love to hear from others who try it.

If you have a sensitive stomach and easily get diarrhoea on holiday then it makes sense to take along a bottle of Potentilla tincture. This will settle a case of diarrhoea. Take Echinacea with this for fighting any infection that    may be causing the problem. And some chamomile tea for soothing the GI tract.

Don't forget to pack your tinctures in the main luggage and have just one for the flight in your hand luggage. And do get your medicines from a phytotherapist. They have the best tinctures. Those you buy in the health shops are often not very potent and come in very small bottles. Bon voyage!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Herbs for fever

Most of the mums who bring their children to see me for the first time have been indoctrinated with the concept of suppressing a fever. Apart from giving medicine I see my job as one of helping people understand their bodies and how they work. Understanding fever is very important, because suppressing it is working against the body's defence mechanism. Fever is there to help kill the bugs that have invaded the body. I'm often asked why the child has a fever. Quite simply any pathogen which enters the body can cause a fever, and it's often difficult to diagnose. The main thing is to work with the body and not against it.

I encourage my patients to phone me if their child has a fever and I'll help them through it. We allow the fever to rise as much as possible (this would depend on how healthy the child is and how well I know him or her) and then give certain herbs to "break" the fever which induces sweating. Keeping the child warm is part of this process. The herbs help the body to eliminate the problem by encouraging kidney and liver action and promoting perspiration.

Herbs that I commonly use are Melissa (lemon balm) which is soothing as well as a good herb for fever, Elder flower, and Yarrow. I like to add some Echinacea, Chamomile and Peppermint. I might use all or some of the herbs mixed in a tea, and encourage as much tea drinking as possible!

A child with a fever will commonly have no appetite! Again many mothers ignore this and try to get the child to eat. This is also going against natural instincts, and will slow down the healing process. Fluids are most important at this time. Once the child starts to improve, the appetite will return ( a sign that the child is recovering.)

A child's immune system needs help to develop in a healthy way, and modern medicine mostly suppresses the body's natural responses.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Getting ready for Spring

We have had a very warm July (which is essentially the middle of winter) which has fooled quite a few plants into thinking that it's Spring. Recently I got stuck in to pruning the olive trees, opening them up like a "vase" as I saw on several videos on You Tube. Some of the sites one can visit, transport you into another world, like a mini holiday.
Anyway, no sooner was the pruning over, when the trees burst into blossom. And there's a lot of winter weather on the way ..... I"ll hope for the best. But if the manzanilla trees have olives this year, it will be a miracle. They have never borne fruit yet. After the pruning I gave them all a good feed - organic of course, and today we had a wonderful lot of rain to seal the deal.

In the veggie patch I've put a thick layer of home made compost on the beds and covered these with thick straw in preparation for planting in a couple of month's time. This should give the earthworms time to do their stuff, not to mention the microbes. The soil in this garden was once so hard you could not get a pick into it. It has taken 30 years of loving care to get it friable and nurtured. I like to see the soil teeming with life, and am still not happy that there is enough of it yet. Ants and centipedes are not the sort of life I want to see.

This weekend has been earmarked for seed sowing, so hopefully it will be sunny later. Tomatoes, peppers and brinjals must be sown now, otherwise they won't have a long enough season later. I learned that the hard way last year, when the brinjals and peppers only started bearing in autumn.
It's time for my Sunday lunch. I've cooked lamb and orange sweet potato. Some of those sweet potatoes will go into the soil (not the cooked ones obviously), as I really like them, and I'm sure they have better nutritional value than the white ones.