Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Why Aloe Vera?

Dr Peter Atherton MB.ChB., D.Obst. R.C.O.G., F.R.C.G.P.

Qualified at Leeds University and after six years in the Royal Army Medical Corps, he became an NHS General Practitioner and GP trainer in Buckinghamshire, where he practiced for 25 years.

After leaving the NHS he spent two years as a visiting fellow at the University of Oxford. After which he was appointed as Director of the Tyringham Clinic, Europe's largest residential naturopathic clinic.

During his medical practice, he developed an interest in Dermatology, having spent three years in the skin department of a District Hospital. This interest combined with an understanding of herbal remedies gained whilst serving in the Far East led to his fascination with Aloe Vera. He lectures extensively on the medical aspects of Aloe Vera and is the author of three books on the subject. The latest entitled 'Aloe Vera the Medicine Plant 'is already on the way to being an international best seller.

He has just been elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Practitioners, the highest recognition in his branch of the profession.

Holistic Health 2010 - Lemon myrtle essential oil

It seemed to me the most interesting beauty therapy application of essential oil at the show (besides our own products of course!!) was on the Bush essentials stand with their Lemon myrtle based range. I am going to add the essential oil and part of this range to the factory shop and catalog.

With each region we deal with we aim to buy local products and promote them to a wider world market through our catalog. We send essential oils to australia and new zealand to our distributors and in return import the excellent book by Salvatore Battaglia, The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, the students favourite.

Holistic Health 2010 - Riley Fletcher and Energetic healing

Also at the show was Better by Nature founders Michael Riley and Jane Fletcher. You can find out more about their ground breaking work on energetic aspects of essential oils and herbs and much else besides below. Watch this space as we plan a collaboration on the hydrolats as a base to provide an energetic and restoring tonic based on their wealth of experience and research. This handbag sized spray will be sold through Shirley Price distributors worldwide.

Holistic health 2010 - Occupational Therapy call for case studies

It was a great pleasure to talk to Jane Harrison at Holistic Health. Jane and Helen Sanderson and Judy Ruddle do groundbreaking work in occupational therapy with severely disabled people using essential oils, the sense of smell and sense of touch to promote communication and learning. The results speak for themselves. (British Journal of Learning Disabilities 1995). If anyone would be interested in contributing case studies to Jane for an update to the excellent book - Aromatherapy and Massage for people with learning Disabilities (1991) this looks a possible project for 2010. Let me or jane know

Self publishing books has never been easier and we are very happy to support books in the core areas of the aromatherapy diploma

The essential oils
Essential oil chemistry
Blending and using essential oils
Aromatherapy massage
Anatomy & Physiology - Body systems
Clinical aromatherapy
Aromatherapy for pregnancy and childbirth
Baby massage
Aromatherapy and massage for people with learning difficulties
Aromatherapy in Hospices
How to succeed as a therapist

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Clinical aromatherapy massage

Now you can download the clincal uses of aromatherapy to your iphone with this excellent resource. Find out more

Clinical uses of Aromatherapy - Depression

Depression is a mood
disorder in which
feelings of loss,
anger, sadness, or
frustration interfere
with everyday life.
Although everyone
feels sad sometimes,
depression is
persistent and
disrupts your daily
life. Depression is
one of the most
common illnesses. It
can be mild,
moderate, or severe
and occur as a single
episode, recurring
episodes, or chronic
depression (lasting
more than 2 years).
Many experts
consider depression
to be a chronic illness
that requires
long-term treatment.

Preventive Care:

Although there is no guarantee you
can prevent depression, the following
steps may help prevent depression or
decrease the chances of relapse:

* Getting adequate sleep and
regular exercise, and eating a
balanced, healthy diet may help
prevent depression and reduce
* Mind-body techniques, such as
biofeedback, meditation, and tai chi,
may help prevent or reduce
symptoms associated with depression.
* Psychotherapy directed at coping
skills may help prevent relapse.
* Family therapy may prevent
children or teens of depressed
parents from becoming depressed
later in life.
* Adhering to your prescribed
treatment decreases the chance of

Massage and Physical Therapy

Studies of formerly depressed teen
mothers, children hospitalized for
depression, and women with eating
disorders suggest that massage can
help decrease stress, anxiety, and
symptoms of depression. Giving
massage may also be help people
who are depressed. Elderly
volunteers with depression showed
improvement in their symptoms when
they massaged infants.

Aromatherapy, or using essential oils
in massage therapy, may also be a
supplemental treatment for
depression. The benefits of
aromatherapy appear to be related to
treatment's relaxing effect, as well as
the person's belief that it will help.
Essential oils used during massage
for depression include:

* Lavender (Lavandula officinalis)
* Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
* Orange (Citrus aurantium)
* Sandalwood (Santalum album)
* Lemon (Citrus limonis)
* Jasmine (Jasminum spp.)
* Sage (Salvia officinalis)
* Chamomile (Chamaemelum
* Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
* Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Nutrition and supplements

A comprehensive treatment plan for
depression may include a range of
complementary and alternative
therapies. Preliminary studies
suggest some nutritional supplements
may reduce the symptoms of some
depression. It's important to talk to
your team of health care providers
about the best ways to incorporate
these therapies into your overall
treatment plan. Don't try to treat
moderate or severe depression on
your own. Always tell your health care
provider about the herbs and
supplements you are using or
considering using.

These supplements may help reduce

* SAMe (s-adenosyl-L-methionine),
1,600 mg daily, is a substance that is
made in the body that may raise
levels of the brain chemical
dopamine. It has been studied for
depression, but results are mixed and
not all of the studies have been of
good quality. However, some of the
studies suggest SAMe can help
relieve mild-to-moderate depression
and may work faster than prescription
antidepressants. If you are taking
other medications for depression,
speak to your doctor before taking
* 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan),
100 mg three times per day, may help
raise serotonin levels in the brain.
5-HTP is a precursor to serotonin,
and some early studies suggest it
may work similarly to antidepressant
drugs. Although rare, contaminants in
5-HTP, caused by poor
manufacturing methods, have been
associated with a potentially fatal
condition called eosinophilia-myalgia
syndrome. Combining 5-HTP with
other antidepressants can cause
serotonin levels in the brain to rise to
dangerous levels, a condition called
serotonin syndrome. As a result, you
should not take 5-HTP without the
supervision of your doctor.
* Omega-3 fatty acids, such as
those found in fish oil, 3 - 9 g per day,
may help relieve symptoms of
depression, but evidence is mixed.
Some studies suggest that fish oil,
when taken with prescription
antidepressants, works better than
antidepressants alone. However, a
meta-analysis (a statistical review of a
number of studies) failed to find any
benefit. Fish oil taken in high doses
may increase the risk of bleeding, so
do not take it if you also take
anticoagulants (blood-thinners), such
as warfarin (Coumadin).
* Vitamin B6, for women with
premenstrual dysphoric disorder. A
few studies suggest that vitamin B6
may help relieve depressive
symptoms associated with
premenstrual syndrome, although the
evidence is mixed. High doses, which
require a doctor's supervision, we
reused in the studies. Some other
studies suggest that B6 may also help
with other types of depression, but
there is not enough evidence to say
for sure.


Herbs are generally a safe way to
strengthen and tone the body's
systems. As with any therapy, you
should work with your health care
provider to get your problem
diagnosed before starting any
treatment. You may use herbs as
dried extracts (capsules, powders,
teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts),
or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless
otherwise indicated, you should make
teas with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot
water. Steep covered 5 - 10 minutes
for leaf or flowers, and 10 - 20
minutes for roots. Drink 2 - 4 cups per
day. You may use tinctures alone or
in combination as noted.

* St. John's wort (Hypericum
perforatum) standardized extract, 300
mg two to three times per day, for
mild-to-moderate depression. St.
John's wort has been studied
extensively for depression, with most
studies showing it works as well as
antidepressant drugs for
mild-to-moderate depression. It has
fewer side effects than most
antidepressants. It may take 4 -6
weeks when taking St. John's wort
before any improvement is noticed.
St. John's wort interacts with a large
number of medications, including birth
control pills, so check with your doctor
if you are taking prescription
medications. Do not use St. John's
wort to treat severe depression.
* Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)
standardized extract, 40 - 80 mg
three times daily, for depression. A
few studies examining gingko for
treating memory problems in older
adults seemed to show that it also
improved symptoms of depression.
One laboratory study found that
gingko, when given to older rats,
increased the number of
serotonin-binding sites in their brains.
It had no effect on younger rats, so
researchers speculated that it might
relieve depression in older adults by
helping their brains respond better to
serotonin. However, much more
research is needed to say for sure.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Focus on Hydrolats with Louise Carta MIFPA

Rose Hydrolat

Rose also is divine it smells almost exactly like a fresh rose.
Once you have smelled and tasted real rose hydrosol, you will certainly tell the difference from the many artificial rosewaters in the marketplace.
It is good for almost everything but it is highly recommended as a hormone balancer for all ages particularly when used internally in dilution.
It helps to combatPMS, cramps and moodiness.
rose oil adds and retains moisture and it is suitable for dry, mature, sensitive and skin that has lost its nautural vitality.Rose is cooling and is midky astringent so it is wonderful added to masks, steams and compresses or even add it to your favourite beauty product for boths its frangrance and effects!!
Try rose hydrosol in desserts, beverages and also in a glass of champagne!!!

Rose Iced Tea
1 cup of fresh mint, chopped
1 organic orange,sliced
1 Organic lemon, sliced
1 cup of English Breakfast tea
1 tablespoon of Rose hydrolat
2 tablespoons of honey
1 litre of springwater
Put mint leaves in a jug and use a wooden spoon to bruise them against the sides. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight and serve over rose hydrosol ice cubes.


This floral, fruity, refreshing hydrolat is one of the most complex-smelling hydrosols.
The flavour is sweet but almost too perfumed to drink neat but diluted it is unbelievable and must be tried!
Neroli is a fantastic anti-stress and calming agent so it is a perfect chioce for hyperactive childern, babies and even adults and can be used both topically and internally for this purpose.
It is an excellent digestive aid and can help relieve heartburn and reflux.
For the skin neroli is a wonderful treatment for delicate sensisitive and oily skin and is very helpful for acne or irritations of the skin.
Use in face masks with clay and honey for the ultimate in luxury.
It is delicious in sweets and beverages, with fruit or in jam and preserves.

Buck's Fizz

Brut champagne or sparkling wine
freshly squeezed orange juice
Neroli hydrolat
Fill champagne flutes one-third full with orange juice, add two to three spritzes of neroli hydrolat, and top up with champagne and enjoy!!!

Monday, 12 April 2010

Shirley Price Rose essential oil

Its easy to become poetic when talking of the flower of the heart the Rose. Floral oils are associated with the reproductive system and rose oil is associated with love and romance.

By plane we travel to Sofia, Bulgaria. From here its an easy drive to Toundja and Struma the two "valleys of the roses". The soil here is ideal being underlain by gravel, limestone and sand. Sp's rose oil supplier is located in Zimnitsa near to Kazanlak. The oil comes from fields near Shipka. Keeping the rose fields is labour intensive and things reach a peak with the harvest around my birthday on June 16th. With filtration the rose oil becomes available in August.

The maths - from field to 3ml Sp bottle

At harvest 35 pickers descend on the 25 hectares of fields in early june to pick the roses. It takes 3 hours to fill a 15kg bag to yield 3ml bottle of Sp rose oil. Our purchase of 1kg (333 bottles of 3ml) requires a hectare of Roses.

I like to go personally to meet and get a feel for the harvest where I can. Depending on the seasons climatctic conditions it takes between 4000kg-7000kg of flowers to distill our 1kg of oil. The oil comes to us in a traditional 'concoum' with its government certification.

Of course the price varies and a buyer must be well informed! There is an English saying "the buyer must have 100 eyes, the seller needs only one!"

One of the buyers bibles is a monumental work published in the USA in 1949. The Essential Oils by Guenther is in the college library. Volume V pages 3 to 56 covers the oils of the Rosaceae plant family.

Passing steam through the Rose flowers would only result in a glutinous mass. In fact the flowers have always been boiled from early times and the steam from the twice boiled water yields the oil. Its not hard to imagine neanderthal man placing hot stones from the fire into a container of water with flower petals to yield a sweet smelling water. We go from these primitive beginnings to the impressive agriculture and industry that produces rose oil today.

Rosa Damascena or 'pink damask rose' is part of the Rosa Centifolia Group. True Rosa Centifolia L or 'light pink cabbage rose' is very hard to get hold of. Even our moroccan suppliers have gone over to the damascene rose. Most rose oil is extracted with volatile solvents which yield an absolute for perfumery. Rosa Alba 'white rose' is kept as hedging to protect the pink roses and can be found in coarser Rose oils.

The odour of the oil is powerful and characteristic. On cooling at 16-22 degrees a thin skin of crystals forms on the surface. On further cooling the oil congeals to a transparent soft mass.

Despite this distinguishing characteristic adulteration has been raised to such a science that the congealing can be fabricated (spermaceti to simulate a normal stearoptene content Guenther p25). This goes to show Rose Oil should only be purchased from a reputable source. There is no substitute for personal contacts. That cannot be adulterated.

With every 10ml Rose oil bottle RRP £220 we sell Sp also provide 10ml of our finest Lavender Fine Wild Lavender RRP £19.

On this blog we share something of our daily experiences in the Hinckley Factory as we tend our range of aromatherapy products.

Vitamins and their sources - Vitamin E

Vitamin E

Many facial creams contain Vitamin E as an active ingredient. Not all forms of Vitamin E are of value. The body only recognises one form of Vitamin E. This can now be obtained from a natural source for use in creams so this week we are looking at this. An excellent natural source is argan oil which Sp use in our best selling frankincense hydrating and nourishing creams.

Vitamin E is known to be a powerful anti oxidative. When the body burns fat potentially damaging oxidative species are created in great numbers.

Below is a table of how to obtain daily requirements through nutrition. Some vegetable carrier oils used in aromatherapy serve as a good source of Vitamin E. For example Wheatgerm Oil we use as a preservative in our Carrier Oil Mix and creams but it is also an excellant source of Vitamin E. Vitamin E is often deficient as even eating a whole tomato a day provides only 4% of daily requirements.

Vegetable carrier oils need to be used fresh as the value of the vitamins they contain declines over 18 months. Some carriers such as jojoba should never be consumed internally. Cosmetic and edible vegetable oils can differ markedly. Always read the label.

Food Milligrams (mg)
per serving Percent DV*

Wheat germ oil, 1 tablespoon 20.3 100%
Almonds, dry roasted, 1 ounce 7.4 40%
Sunflower seeds, dry roasted, 1 ounce 6.0 30%
Sunflower oil, 1 tablespoon 5.6 28%
Safflower oil, 1 tablespoon 4.6 25%
Hazelnuts, dry roasted, 1 ounce 4.3 22%
Peanut butter, 2 tablespoons 2.9 15%
Peanuts, dry roasted, 1 ounce 2.2 11%
Corn oil, 1 tablespoon 1.9 10%
Spinach, boiled, ½ cup 1.9 10%

Link to Food Standards Agency website

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Lavender Essential Oil

The active part of lavender is the volatile oil with relaxing, sedative, antispasmodic and antiseptic and insect inhibiting properties. In aromatherapy the whole oil shows synergies when used with other oils for particular specific effects in skincare and in the treatment of common ailments. The oil can be used topically, used in baths or inhaled from a diffuser or aroma stickIt is advised that topical preparations be tested on a small area of skin before widespread application.

Lavender has traditionally been used for pleasure, sleep disorders, anxiety, as well as to treat minor cuts and bruises and insect bites and is commonly found in cosmetics and toiletaries.Lavender contains substances which are being tested for cancer prevention.Source: Sp College Notes

A query today is what kinds of lavender Sp stocks. In fact we stock as many differant kinds as we can find and to suit all budgets!!!

1182 Lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia 'Super')
1183 Lavender Fine (lavandula angustifolia) F
1184 Lavender Fine Wild (lavandula angustifolia)* F O
1185 Lavender (lavandula angustifolia) F
1185 Lavender (lavandula angustifolia)* F O
1188 Lavender High Altitude AOC (L. angustifolia)* O
1189 Lavender Bulgarian (Lavandula angustifolia)* O
1190 Lavender Fine organic (Lavandula angustifolia)* O
1191 Lavender Officinalis (Lavender Angustifolia)
1193 Lavender Spike (lavandula latifolia)* O

For simplicity of marketing we sell conventional oil at £5.58 RRP and organic oil at £12.48 RRP

Lavender Fine is a conventional oil but has 40-50% ester content which is favoured by aromatherapists.

Harvest time will be soon upon us so I will be travelling around to see how the grower/distillers are getting on. The French farmers always complain of drought which has made English oils of more interest with sunny and wet growing conditions in recent years. England is at a little northerly latitude for the finest lavender and does not have the high altitudes we look for. English producers do produce some excellent oils which we will be showcasing this summer. Latitude plays a big part in Lavender production which is why Australian Tasmanian Lavender is so well regarded.

Lavender in history

The ancient Greeks called the
lavender herb nardus, after the Syrian
city of Naarda. It was also commonly
called nard.

Lavender was one of the holy herbs
used in the biblical Temple to prepare
the holy essence, and nard is
mentioned in the Song of Solomon

nard and saffron,
calamus and cinnamon,
with every kind of incense tree,
with myrrh and aloes,
and all the finest spices.

During Roman times, flowers were sold
for 100 denarii per pound, which was
about the same as a month's wages
for a farm laborer, or fifty haircuts from
the local barber. Lavender was
commonly used in Roman baths to
scent the water, and it was thought to
restore the skin. Its
late Latin name was lavandārius, from
lavanda (things to be washed), from
the verb lavāre (to wash). When the
Roman Empire conquered southern
Britain, the Romans introduced
lavender. The Greeks discovered early
on that lavender if crushed and treated
correctly would release a relaxing fume
when burned.

Chemical composition and antioxidant

The antioxidant activities and the
determined major components of six
popular and commercially available
herb essential oils, including lavender
(Lavendular angustifolia), peppermint
(Mentha piperita), rosemary
(Rosmarius officinalis), lemon (Citrus
limon), grapefruit (Citrus paradise),
and frankincense (Boswellia carteri),
were compared. The essential oils
were analysed by GC-MS and their
antioxidant activities were determined
by testing free radical-scavenging
capacity and lipid peroxidation in the
linoleic acid system. The major
components of the essential oils of
lavender, peppermint, rosemary,
lemon, grapefruit, and frankincense
were linalyl acetate (28.2%), menthol
(33.4%), 1,8-cineole (46.1%),
limonene (64.5 and 94.2%), and
p-menth-2-en-ol (34.5%), respectively.
The highest DPPH radical-scavenging
activity was obtained by the lavender
essential oil and limonene, with RC50
values of 2.1 +/- 0.23% and 2.1 +/-
0.04%, respectively.

The most expensive for us to buy is the Lavender Fine Wild Organic which I buy for my own family use and for use in our skincare creams. This is gathered at high altitude from bushes growing in the wild. They are naturally more fragrant as they have to work harder to attract insects. It costs £3.50 for every 10ml but I always tuck away a litre each season for those who love its high fragrance for diffuser use. You can find a similar fragrance without all the notes of wild lavender in Lavender Mailette. This is the oil I diffuse at exhibitions along with neroli and rose so you can always find our stand!!

Use of Aromatherapy and Aroma Sticks in Hospices

Use of Aromatherapy and Aroma Sticks

Willen Hospice

Willen Hospice is situated in Milton Keynes and provides specialist care for adults with life-threatening illness. The services provided include; In-Patient Unit, Day Hospice, Community Care Team, Social Care and Lymphoedema Clinic.

The Day Hospice operates 3 days a week, on these days patients are offered a range of complementary therapies. We have used lavender and chamomile oils to relieve anxiety and patients have reported that this helped them. Another useful oil is ginger which when put into the aroma stick, is beneficial to manage episodes of nausea.

Our community team have also used the aroma sticks and found them to be effective. Melody Hornblow, Activity Co-ordinator, Day Hospice.

Aromatherapy is also used within the in-patient unit and the nursing team are able to formulate individual blends of oils to meet the patient's need, which depends on their psychological and physical requirements. A blend of oils used in the aroma sticks is formulated following consultation with the patient.

The aroma sticks can also be used between treatments such as chemo and patients often take the aroma stick home when they are discharged. We always stress that the aroma sticks are used to complement conventional medication and should not be used to replace medication. Our patients have certainly found benefit since the introduction of this complementary therapy. Badria Gates, Nursing Auxiliary, In-Patient Unit.

Making your own cosmetics with essential oils

making your own cosmetics is easy with Shirley Price Soil Association certified organic cosmetic bases - cream, lotion, shampoo, showergel/bodywash.

The best oils - Frankincense is good for anti aging. Lavender is good for oily skin.

People with oily skin do not like putting oil on the skin but they are light and help rebalance the skin.

Balms - for a geranium cleansing balm melt 30ml olive oil and 10g of beeswax in a pan with a bain marie. When cool add 10 drops of geranium and stir and transfer to the jar. Massage onto the face and remove with a muslin cloth. Shirley Price always Beeswax makes a good base for a chest vapour rub or eczema cream.

Skin toner - a lavender hydrolat Face mask for oily skin - mix 2 egg whites with two drops of rosemary oil. Always sterilise your jars and do a patch test. Apply a small amount to your inner arm immediately below the elbow, cover with a plaster and leave for 24 hours. If there is any soreness, redness or irritation your skin is reacting to an ingredient and you should avoid using this product.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Womens aromatherapy

Treating everyday ailments, looking after skin and hair, creating a pleasant atomosphere in the home and making the world a sensual as well as hard working place, these things traditionally fall to women.

Men simply do not have the same hormonal changes and cycles, depression, emotional turmoil, and gynecology that women do. Its easy to be sceptical of what you have no direct experience. I dont know of any female sceptics of aromatherapy though of course female doctors, nurses and scientists approach the subject with professional caution.

So I have a handicap here in that I am a man. It is difficult to write about matters not in your direct experience. It is fair to say that 95% of essential oil usage for aromatherapy is by women, 95% of aromatherapists are women. There are though distinguished male aromatherapists like Tisserand, Schaubelt, Battaglia and Mojay.

Men with a well defined purpose and imperative to work are far less prone to common ailments before the age of 50 though more and more women have breadwinning as well as nurturing roles in a society less dependant on muscle and warfare. Men have a responsibility and an interest to see to it that their homes are a happy and healthy and also remains a sensual and communicative place which is fundemental sustaining relationships and marriages.

So an interest in the traditional uses of essential oils, touch and aromas and their properties is no handicap to a man. Everyone has their own experience with essential oils and their uses and mine has been a privileged one. Numerous people from many cultures have been prepared to share their professional and personal experience as I go about my work.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Mens aromatherapy

May I introduce James to the Sp blog who joined us in spring 2009. Here he is a few weeks old and taking an interest in the world of polo. A dash of lavender at bathtime has been very relaxing for him and made bathtime a delight. Fresh jojoba applied after nappy change has eliminated any soreness. I am a new man and play my part in looking after him (between chukkas!). I do enjoy time with James and do my bit.

Mens skin is never more sensitive when a baby. Aromatherapy seeks to minimise the use of cosmetics by both men and women with plant oils replacing damaging synthetics. It is important to minimise the use of sythetics and essential oils in children under 6 and to always test for sensitivity.

Some essential oils are hormone mimicking and should not be used around young boys. Always seek the advice of a trained aromatherapist before applying essential oils to the skin. these days local authorities run classes on baby massage and the practicioners there can advise on the safe use of essential oils.

Among older boys when playing sport the use of geranium is valuable if they are too aggressive and getting into trouble.

Mens skin is not sensitive to the hormonal changes that female skin is and there is more scope for eliminating cosmetics altogether for most men. To the despair of our distributors and shareholders when asked about mens shaving oil I replied why bother? Men can gain a really close shave by shaving in the shower with not a cosmetic in sight. Just a trick learned in the navy. (Thankyou for helen's husband for this tip).

Talking of the military I remember as a young university officer cadet being on military parade and being inspected by the Queen Mother. I could not help it my eyes moved when she arrived(!). This was a lady who inspired the what we have in the world for an international settlement that has lasted 65 years and god willing will last for 100 years.

I do not accept that we in England lecture other nations in democracy when our own is not in the best of shape and there is a lack of commitment to the United Nations process. To my mind if there are two candidates for a post then that is the essence of democracy and that is the case in most of the world these days. It is sometimes easy to forget that democratic Athens was the size of the small locality I live in. Yet Athens had the energy and foresight to launch 100 triremes powered by male muscle against an army and navy of incredible size even by modern standards.

To improve muscular performance the greeks believed in what Celsus a roman writing at Romes peak called massage and what we call strapping. This is used today in preparing performance horses like racehorses.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Focus on Herbal teas and honey

Below are notes prepared by a herbalist on Lothian Herbs (Edinburgh) herbal tea ingredients. Pictured is Tams Loup Quarry which is being restored to a 200 acre eco park. It lies on Junction 5 of the M18 between Edinburgh and Glasgow. Restoring quarries is one of my other interests. Like aromatherapy it requires a lot of innovation and study.

Please note you should avoid herbal teas if taking medicines. WARNING Comfrey may be fine in a topical ointment with yarrow for wounds but do not take it in a tea at any time. Comfrey contains unsaturated pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which are hepatotoxic and hepatocarcinogenic.

Find out more about herbs, their uses and interactions with medicines. The Memorial Sloan-Kettering center has a resource of the greatest value.


Aniseed has a long history of both culinary and medicinal use. It is
commonly used as a flavouring for sweets and liqueurs such as pastis
and ouzo. Traditionally this spice has been highly regarded by various
cultures for the treatment of digestive discomfort and coughs.

Aniseed contains aromatic volatile oils giving it profound carminative
(relieves discomfort of flatulence and bloating) and antispasmodic effects
on the smooth muscle of the digestive tract. Aniseed has been used for
centuries in the treatment of flatulence and colic, helping to move wind
through the digestive tract. It is also particularly useful in the treatment of
spasmodic coughs.


Black Cohosh is native to North America and was traditionally used by
Native Americans in the treatment of women’s health problems and

More recently, herbalists have advocated Black Cohosh as an alterative to
hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in the treatment of menopausal
symptoms. Several well designed clinical trials have now provided
evidence of a reduction in menopausal symptoms with regular use of this

The actual mechanism of action of Black Cohosh in the management of
menopause has not been clearly established to date. It appears to exhibit
an oestrogen-like effect which helps to alleviate menopausal symptoms,
many of which are caused by the decreased levels of this hormone in
menopausal women. Recent investigation has suggested that
constituents in Black Cohosh work on certain parts the brain to exert this
effect, rather than having a direct oestrogenic effect.

It also has a reputation for nourishing the nervous system, and may
therefore help relieve symptoms associated with menopause through
acting on the nervous as well as reproductive system.


Calendula is a powerful blood cleanser and healing agent of the skin.
This combination makes it extremely valuable in any skin condition. It is
one of the best herbs for treating burns, scalds, cuts, abrasions and
infections because of its antiseptic and healing qualities. By improving
blood flow to the affected area, it can greatly speed up the wound healing.
It also helps small blood vessels to seal, stemming bleeding and
preventing bruising.

Recently, scientific studies have shown that topical applications of
Calendula are useful in the prevention of dermatitis following
radiotherapy treatment.


This common garden plant has a long history of use in many cultures. It
was valued by European herbalists of the 16th century for ‘comforting the
heart and soothing the spirit’, while the Egyptians believed it to have
rejuvenating properties and the Greeks garnished their food with its
vibrant golden petals.

Popular as a tea, Chamomile has been used as a medicinal plant for
centuries, primarily for digestive complaints and as gentle relaxant. The
essential oil is also a popular ingredient in skin care products and is one
of the most commonly used oils in aromatherapy.

Apigenin, a constituent of Chamomile, has been shown in clinical studies
to decrease anxiety and act as a mild sedative. This gentle, calming
action makes it an ideal herb for restless and anxious children.

Apigenin and various components of the volatile oil of Chamomile, have
also been shown to inhibit the formation of inflammatory chemicals in the
body and to have antispasmodic activity. These actions make it useful as
a digestive tonic. A study showed Chamomile, in combination with pectin
(found in fruits & vegetables), to be effective in reducing the duration and
discomfort of diarrhoea in children.


Native to Europe and Asia, Comfrey has been cultivated as a healing herb
since around 400BC. Its name derives from the Latin ‘confere’, meaning
‘to bring together’, reflecting early traditional uses of the plant by Greeks
and Romans to heal wounds and broken bones.

Comfrey is considered the remedy par excellence for healing damage to
muscles and ligaments. Used for sprains, fractures, torn ligaments,
crush injuries (eg. closing a finger in a door), bruises and non-infected
wounds, the herb will rapidly heal tissues and prevent the formation of
scar tissue.

Comfrey’s remarkable actions are due to a substance called allantoin,
found in the root and leaf of the comfrey plant. Allantoin occurs naturally
in the body and has the ability to stimulate cell growth in connective tissue
(muscles and ligaments), bone and cartilage. In addition, allantoin
diffuses easily through the tissues enabling its healing effects to
penetrate deeper. This means injuries heal more quickly and with less
chance of scar tissue forming. It’s effectiveness in reducing swelling and
bruising has been demonstrated in both pharmacological studies and
clinical trials.


These days Dandelion is more commonly known as the bane of lawn
cultivators and as a wish making toy for children, however throughout
history this herb has been held in high regard as a food and medicine.

Traditional uses include digestive disorders such as lack of appetite,
constipation, indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, biliousness, nausea;
liver and gallbladder problems such as cirrhosis, hepatitis and gall
stones; toxic conditions associated with intestinal congestion such as
skin & autoimmune diseases; and as a general detoxifying agent.

The bitter compounds in the root activate a reflex action that results in the
production of bile by the liver and the flow of bile from the gall bladder. As
a result of these actions Dandelion root acts as a gentle laxative and
digestive aid. Bile aids the digestion of fats, and generally promotes
better digestion. Through its action on the liver and bowel, Dandelion root
is highly valued by herbalists for aiding detoxification of the whole body.


Endemic to North America, this attractive plant is a traditional remedy for a
wide range of infectious and inflammatory conditions. Its use was
adopted by European settlers and quickly became one of the most
popular herbs in North America, but with the introduction of antibiotics in
the 1930’s the use of Echinacea began to decline. In Europe however, the
popularity of Echinacea continued to grow and today it is renowned
worldwide as a valuable immune support herb and powerful natural tool
for combating winter ailments.

As with many herbs, there is often scientific interest in establishing
exactly which plant-chemicals are responsible for its medicinal activity.
These studies are important as they can provide accurate ways to
measure the potency of a herbal preparation. In Echinacea, a group of
compounds called Alkylamides have been shown to be particularly
important for its immune stimulating action. Whilst other constituents in
Echinacea have also demonstrated immune activity, many of these are
not very well absorbed into the bloodstream and it seems unlikely that
they are useful indicators as to the quality of an Echinacea preparation.

Alkylamides are found in the highest concentration in the dried root of the
plant and interestingly, root based preparations were traditionally
favoured over those made from leaves and flowers. Alkylamides alsohave
the interesting effect of causing a mild tingling sensation on the mouth
and tongue. An early way of determining the quality of Echinacea roots
was to chew them – with a strong tingling sensation indicating superior
quality. This test still remains true today, and is an easy way to determine
a high quality Echinacea product.

Clinical trials have shown Echinacea to be useful in both preventing as
well as treating bacterial and viral infections including colds and flu.
However, trials involving low doses of Echinacea products, or products
with very low levels of Alkylamides have failed to achieve beneficial
outcomes and resulted in much adverse publicity for Echinacea in
general. As with other medicines, it is crucial to take sufficient doses of
herbal remedies that provide effective amounts of the active plant-
chemicals in order to produce a therapeutic effect.


Ginger has a long history of use in many different cultures, particularly to
enhance digestive processes and relieve digestive problems such as
colic, flatulentence, cramping and loss of appetite. It has been employed
in the treatment of nausea and loss of appetite, gastrointestinal cramping
and, as a circulatory stimulant, for cold extremities. Hot infusions were
used to ‘break-up’ colds and relieve the discomfort of painful

In recent years a number of pharmacological and clinical trials have
provided scientific evidence which supports the traditional uses of this
herb and its actions. A number of clinical trials have demonstrated
significant antiemetic (antinausea) effects of ginger. Pharmacological
studies have also demonstrated the ability of Ginger preparations to
stimulate digestive secretions and assist the whole digestive process.

Ginger has been shown to inhibit enzymes involved in processes
causing inflammation in the body, accounting for its use as an anti-
inflammatory agent. Clinical trials have subsequently demonstrated the
effectiveness of ginger in the treatment of arthritic and rheumatic

Ginger and its aromatic components have demonstrated fever reducing
qualities and were found to have a significant antiviral action against the
common rhinovirus, thus providing support for it’s traditional use in colds
and flu.


Ginkgo is one of the world’s oldest living trees, having survived for more
than 200 million years. Ginkgo trees were revered by the Chinese and
planted around their temples, a practice that may have helped ensure its

The leaves of the Ginkgo tree were first shown to have beneficial effects
on circulation by German scientists in the 1960’s, and a patent for a
highly concentrated extract, standardised for flavonoid content, was
issued. Since that time Ginkgo extract has become one of the most
thoroughly researched agents in herbal medicine.

Conditions Ginkgo is used to treat include cerebral insufficiency
(impaired or insufficient blood flow to the brain) and mild to moderate
Alzheimer’s disease. These conditions are usually associated with
aging, thus Ginkgo is considered a primary herb for promoting a healthy
aging process. Ginkgo has also been shown to be effective in improving
memory and attention in healthy young people, even when taken for short
term use.


Lemon Balm has traditionally been used as a mild sedative and calming
agent, and was a favourite ingredient in medieval ‘elixirs of youth’.

Studies have shown Lemon Balm to increase feelings of calmness, and
to improve the quality of memory in young, healthy volunteers. Recent
research also demonstrates positive findings with using Lemon Balm in
the treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

Lemon Balm also has calming properties in the digestive system,
helping to ease bloating, excess wind and a ‘nervous stomach’.Lemon
Balm has traditionally been used as a mild sedative and calming agent,
and was a favourite ingredient in medieval ‘elixirs of youth’.

Studies have shown Lemon Balm to increase feelings of calmness, and
to improve the quality of memory in young, healthy volunteers. Recent
research also demonstrates positive findings with using Lemon Balm in
the treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

Lemon Balm also has calming properties in the digestive system,
helping to ease bloating, excess wind and a ‘nervous stomach’.


This sweet tasting root has traditionally been used in Western, Chinese,
and Ayurvedic herbal medicine, and remains a favourite in modern herbal
medicine as well as confectionary.

Liquorice helps soothe and decrease inflammation in the respiratory and
digestive tracts.

In the respiratory tract it is used to treat chest complaints, and is an
excellent soothing ingredient in medicines for coughs and sore throats.

It is also beneficial for treating inflammation and ulceration of the
digestive tract including stomach & duodenal ulcers, gastritis, and
recurrent mouth ulcers. Liquorice root extracts and derivatives were used
in treatment of peptic ulcers for many years, and various components of
Liquorice root have been shown to accelerate the healing of such ulcers.


Manuka is one of the most popular and well-known New Zealand native
herbs with a wide variety of therapeutic actions and indications. It is
probably most famous for its powerful antibacterial and antifungal
actions, which have been well investigated in a laboratory setting. It has
been shown to be effective against some 20 different types of bacteria,
including the notorious methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus

Activity against various species of fungi has also been demonstrated,
including those responsible for athletes foot and candida (thrush). In
recent years many herbal practitioners and patients have used topical
preparations containing Manuka oil for such infections with impressive

Manuka contains many tannins and is extremely astringent (that is, it
tightens tissues – the feeling you get when you drink black tea). This
action, combined with its impressive antimicrobial properties, helps
relieve symptoms of diarrhoea and dysentery, as well as making it useful
in wound healing and to decrease inflammation and bleeding in the case
of gum infections.


Manuka Honey is unique to New Zealand and is produced from the nectar
of the Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) and Kanuka (Kunzea
ericoides) trees.

Honey has long been used topically as a healing agent for wounds and
ulcers. Recently there has been renewed interest in the medicinal
applications of honey, particularly for the treatment of slow healing
wounds in hospitalised patients.

Whilst all honey possesses healing properties, Manuka Honey is
considered superior in this regard. This is because Manuka Honey has a
powerful additional antiseptic property not found in other types of honey -
this property is termed Unique Manuka Factor (UMF).

Research has shown Manuka Honey to be effective at killing a variety of
pathogens including Staphylococcus aureus and Helicobacter pylori, and
even some strains of bacteria which are resistant to antibiotics.


Traditional uses of Meadowsweet include treatment of gastrointestinal
conditions associated with flatulence and acid stomach including
indigestion, gastric reflux, gastric ulceration and halitosis (bad breath). It
is mildly astringent and is said to be useful for diarrhoea, particularly in

A number of studies have demonstrated the ability of Meadowsweet
preparations to have protective effect on the stomach, including against
lesions induced by aspirin use. As such, Meadowsweet can be useful for
treating peptic ulcers and acid stomach.


The ancient Greeks knew Sage as the immortality herb and believed it to
cure many ills. It was included in many medieval prescriptions for health
& longevity.

Sage is known for its ability to reduce excessive perspiration. Medical
herbalists have prescribed it for many years for the treatment of
conditions of excessive perspiration, particularly to treat hot flushes and
night sweats associated with menopause.

Another traditional use for Sage is as a relaxant and restorative for the
nervous system. Several old European texts note the use of Sage for
memory enhancing properties. Nicholas Culpepper, possibly England’s
most famous apothecary, recorded its ability to “heal the memory,
warming and quickening the senses”.

These combined properties of Sage make it an ideal herb for
menopause as it can tackle not only symptoms of excessive sweating,
but also neurological symptoms such as poor concentration, ‘brain fog’
and decreased memory experienced by many women during this time.


Tanekaha is a slow-growing evergreen conifer endemic to New Zealand.
Its common name ‘Celery Pine’ comes from the celery-like foliage of this
graceful tree. Historically, Tanekaha bark was used as a tanning agent
and for the production of a reddish-brown dye.

Tanekaha was used medicinally as an astringent and antimicrobial agent
by Maori people and early European settlers. Decoctions of the inner bark
were used in the treatment of diarrhoea, dysentery and internal
haemorrhage. Externally, it was used as a healing remedy for burns as
well as for boils, abscesses and septic infections. The anti-microbial
action of tannic acid has been well documented, and it has been shown
to be effective against a range of bacteria, yeasts and viruses.

The combination of astringent and antimicrobial actions makes this plant
an ideal addition to mouthwash formulations. The strong astringent
action helps tighten and heal the gum tissue while the anti-microbial
action helps kill the bacteria responsible for dental caries, as well as
conditions such as gingivitis and periodontal disease. In vitro tests
conducted on preparations containing a combination of Manuka
(Leptospermum scoparium) and Tanekaha were shown to be effective
against the common oral bacteria Streptococcus mutans, Streptococcus
mitis, and Actinomyces naeslundii.

Thyme has a long history of traditional use for respiratory tract conditions
including sore throats and coughs, helping to aid the removal of mucus
and ease spasmodic coughing. It has also been used for inflammatory
conditions of the mouth, gastrointestinal upsets, and topically as an anti-
microbial and counter-irritant.

Extracts of Thyme have demonstrated antibacterial activity against a wide
range of bacteria, and against some yeasts and moulds. The broad
spectrum of antibacterial activity against bacteria involved in upper
respiratory tract infections supports the long use of Thyme in the
treatment of these conditions.


Valerian is a traditional European herb with a long history of use as a
mild sedative. Relatively recently in historical terms, it was used during
World War II to treat people with nervous debility following air raids.

These days it is commonly used by medical herbalists to treat stress,
anxiety, irritability and nervous tension. Larger doses have a more
sedating effect therefore making it very useful in the treatment of
insomnia. Studies have shown a reduction in the time taken to fall
asleep as well as improvement in sleep quality with Valerian treatment.