Sue Sprung is a Medical Herbalist operating in Liverpool and the North West of England. If after browsing this website you are still unsure if Herbal Medicine can help, please call for a no-obligation chat – 0151 281 4648
Caution: Information on these pages is purely for educational purposes and is not intended to be used as treatment.
A news item today highlights the long-term use of bisphosphonate drugs that are used for people suffering from osteoporosis by slowing the breakdown of bone. However, evidence now shows that they actually weaken bone by producing microscopic cracks.
Not many people think of using herbs to support bone health, but there are many that herbalists use for just this purpose and they’re not surprisingly really good at healing other parts of the body as well. Common ones are horsetail, boneset, comfrey, black cohosh, gotu kola and ashwaganda and they all act in different ways to support the health of bones, acting on the bone cells as well as the protein and mineral matrix that surrounds them. There’s very little published research on herbs and bone health; black cohosh has been the subject of a moderate amount of research and has been found to inhibit the osteoclast cells that cause bone breakdown and protect and stimulate the osteoclast bone building cells. When supporting bone health with herbs it’s important to not only address the activity of these important cells but also take into account the health of the connective tissue (gotu kola, ashwaganda and horsetail), the blood supply to the bones and reduce inflammation that leads to bone loss.
Children’s Mental Health Week was marked this month. Statistics around children’s mental health are worsening and it’s reported that half of schools struggle to get mental health support for their students. Not many people are aware of the benefits that herbs can bring for children struggling with mood and other cognitive issues. Herbs can help with problems such as anxious feelings, irritability, sleep problems and concentration. All herbs are different and can be chosen according to the individual; for example passionflower helps to calm a chattering mind and valerian will help to relax physical tension.
Often, mental health is related to digestive health. Poor digestion may cause nervous system problems due to imbalances in gut bacteria and irritations in the gut lining that lead to leaky gut. There are many gentle herbs that help with mood as well as promote healthy digestion and such as lemon balm and chamomile, St. John’s wort and passionflower.
Research studies on the benefits of herbs are limited, due mainly to financial constraints, but a recent study found that valerian and lemon balm helped hyperactivity, attention deficit and impulsivity in children (Ross, 2015) and valerian, passionflower and St. John’s wort helped with nervous agitation (Trompetter, Krick andWeiss, 2013).
While all those cold viruses are doing the rounds, I recommend using elderberries as a preventative medicine and to speed recovery – elderberries have been used traditionally in herbal medicine for prevention and treatment of colds and flu and recent research has confirmed this application. Many studies have been carried out on the antiviral and immune-boosting properties of elderberries, with a major focus on use in influenza; a clinical trial involving 60 patients with flu-like symptoms found 15ml of elderberry syrup daily decreased recovery time by 4 days on average compared to placebo (Zakay-Rones et al., 2004). In addition, a very recent trial involving 312 long-haul aeroplane passengers found that elderberry significantly reduced duration and symptoms of colds as well (Tiralongo et al., 2016).
Elderberry syrup can be bought over the counter, but I prefer to pick my own in late summer and preserve them for the winter. My favourite method of preservation is to:
- remove berries from stalks
- simmer gently in a pan for about 20 minutes,
- strain / squeeze off the liquid as much as possible using a sieve or muslin cloth,
- Add a bit more water and heat again to extract as much from the berries as possible
- leave the strained liquid to cool
- pour into ice cube bags (or trays).
- keep in the freezer until needed
- (An alternative is to add sugar to the liquid and make a syrup but I prefer to avoid sweeteners if possible).
I add a frozen block to a berry smoothie with other favourite smoothie ingredients or to a cup of hot lemon, honey, ginger and chilli for a potent cold remedy.