Top ten herbal remedies

Arnica, courtesy of A. Vogel (Bioforce)
Arnica, courtesy of A. Vogel (Bioforce)

The top ten herbal remedies are the ones most popular with the public. They provide a more natural alternative to drugs, and are often worth trying (but if you are on medication, check first with your doctor or a medical herbalist that you can take them).

Arnica:  the Arnica flower is native to the Alps but its qualities for healing bruises have been recognised for many years. It cannot be taken as a herb internally but is available as a homeopathic tablet. Arnica Gel or cream is excellent for healing bruises and also for soothing stiff joints, aching muscles and osteoarthritis.

Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum): found in the Kalahari desert the natives have traditionally used this herb for digestive complaints. It has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and is therefore very suitable for arthritis, rheumatism and sports injuries. Fears that the herb would become extinct have been alleviated by schemes to grow it sustainably in southern Africa.

Echinacea, courtesy of A. Vogel (Bioforce)

Echinacea: taken as a tincture or tablets it boosts the immune system. The native Indians have used it for thousands of years to put on snake bites and other wounds. More often used now to help resistance to colds, flu and other infections, but has been proven in trials to be effective against respiratory infections.

Ginkgo biloba: from one of the oldest trees in the world the Ginkgo tree was one of the first prehistoric plants on the earth over 150 million years ago. Best known for enhancing circulation and thereby improving the memory it has other uses too. The leaves are used to make tinctures to improve circulation and the function of the brain as well as asthma. The seeds are used by Chinese doctors for urinary problems and wheezing. Read more in Boost Your Memory.

Horse Chestnut (Aesculus): good old conkers that so many children enjoy collecting have another use – they have excellent properties as an astringent to help to prevent and soothe varicose veins. It can be taken as a tincture or the gel can be rubbed into the legs.

St John’s Wort: has become a popular choice for depression but people have to be careful about taking it in conjunction with other medication or even with light boxes (that are used for Seasonal Affective Disorder – see Features, SAD). Also known as Hypericum which is used as a cream to heal wounds. is widely available through health food stores, chemists and at Nutricentre (see the Nutricentre ad). If you are taking medication you should always check with a registered medical herbalist or your doctor before taking herbs to ensure that they do not contraindicate.

Milk Thistle: protects the liver from toxic chemicals and is often useful around Christmas when over-indulgence is the norm. It is sometimes used when people have liver disease but can’t be used as a cure-all for heavy drinkers! It was called Milk Thistle because it was taken by nursing mums to help encourage the flow of milk.

Sage: is particularly recognised as being helpful for hot flushes. You can gather some leaves from the garden, put them in a teapot and sip them if you are going through the menopause or purchase a tincture or tablets. It is also helpful as a gargle for sore throats.

Saw Palmetto: originating in North America saw palmetto has been used by native Americans for thousands of years to help ease chronic congestion. Recent research has shown it to be effective for prostate problems in men without the side-effects of prescription drugs.

Valerian-Hops: 19th century poets and other creative types were known to use Valerian. Combined with unpollenated hops which are renowned for their calming qualities it is a useful herb for helping you sleep or for generally calming down without making you feel dopey in the day.

Source: A. Vogel

Stay healthy and beautiful

It’s much easier to look lovely in your 20s when your skin is soft and smooth and you haven’t become weathered by time. So how can you maintain a shapely and toned body and good skin as you get older?

Live Long and Healthily

Living a long life may not always be a good thing – many people spend their final years in pain or virtually immobile.   Many people over 50 are on medication that they will take for the rest of their lives, which often leads to side-effects. Then the doctor may prescribe more medication to cope with side-effects, and so it goes on.

Instead of treating symptoms as they turn up a proactive approach to your health involves taking the right supplements, eating healthily and exercising to prevent major problems.

See Competitions where you can win: a Love Your Naked Summer Skin hampers from Viridian Nutrition containing: Organic Ultimate Beauty Topical Skin Repair Oil and SPF Skin Pro-Factors worth £30.80.

Eating and drinking healthily:

• Drinking eight glasses of spring or filtered water a day flushes out toxins and lubricates all the organs of the body.
• Try to have three regular meals a day with plenty of (organic) fruit and vegetables.
• Cut down on sugar, salt, and refined foods (such as white bread).
• Drink less tea and coffee and try herbal teas instead.
• Try to stick to government guidelines on drinking alcohol – for a woman this is 14 units (glasses of wine) a week.
• Take a good multivitamin/mineral that is appropriate to your age.
• Don’t smoke as it ages your voice, makes your skin go yellow and can kill you.


Exercise mind and body: 

Remaining active is one of the best indicators for a healthy old age – both mentally and physically.

• Just walking for 20 minutes a day five times a week helps to prevent heart disease, diabetes, cancer, depression and obesity.
• Keep mentally active by reading, doing crosswords, socialising, or taking up  a hobby.
• Take the herbal remedy Ginkgo regularly as it ensures a healthy blood flow to the brain.
• Pilates and yoga are great exercises for keeping the body toned and you can do them throughout life into old age.

Avoid toxic chemicals

• Many cosmetics and household cleansers contain harmful toxins – choose natural ingredients that help to keep you healthy.  You can find household cleaning products in the supermarket without phtalates which damage the environment and other harsh chemicals that aren’t good for your skin. Watch this space for more details on chemical-free cosmetics.

Having a positive approach to life and not storing up grievances helps people to be happier and healthier in old age.

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Boost your memory naturally

Ginkgo, courtesy of A. Vogel

It is a fact that our brains lose function as we get into middle age and some people claim it happens much earlier! Some old people can remember intricate details of their childhood as if it were yesterday, but completely forget who came to see them the day before.

Cognitive memory is the ability to learn and remember information, recall names and faces, remember where misplaced objects are, recite telephone numbers off by heart and maintain high levels of concentration.

It is this kind of memory which starts to let us down but there are many ways of boosting it through diet and other techniques.

Mnemonics for memory

Many efficient people work around their poor memories using lists and mnemonics – devices to help them remember. Typical mnemonics include remembering facts about people and connecting them to their names:

  • The colour of their hair.
  • What type of car they drive.
  • Whether or not you like them.
  • Using sequences or numbers to plant them in the brain.

Stilling the mind with meditation

It’s generally accepted that we use a fraction of our mental potential – say 5 to 10 per cent, so most of us have a vast untapped resource,’ claims Jonathan Hinde, National director of TM, The Maharishi Foundation.

‘Transcendental Meditation is a natural technique which allows the mind to settle down until you experience a state of complete inner silence. It’s a bit like taking a mental bath!’

It’s easy to do and just 20 minutes a day can improve clarity of mind, concentration and focus. ‘Regular practice of TM develops the ability to use these quieter, more intuitive and more comprehensive levels of awareness,’ says Jonathan.

People find that as a cumulative result of practising TM the mind is much clearer.’

Contact: Transcendental Meditation-National Communications Office (TM-NCO) 08705 143733,

London Meditation Centre,

Finding lost years

Few people seek counselling because of poor memory, but clearing out the cobwebs from the mind usually makes them less forgetful.

‘The only thing we ever claim to cure for counselling is confusion,’ according to Philip Hodson, counsellor and Head of Media Relations at the British Association of Counsellors (BAC).

‘Some people come to us saying that they can’t remember any of their childhood and in several sessions they rediscover lost tracts of memory. Removing an emotional block can help people to know better who they are, where they’ve come from, and what has happened in their lives.’

‘Memory like anything else is a matter of practice and habit. Karl Marx used to revise what he knew every year.’

According to Philip,

  • There’s no such thing as a brain – it’s a network of connections brought together when you use it, like electrical impulses firing and connecting a circuit;
  • From about the age of 10 and onwards the connections fade if they are not refreshed.

‘It is natural for memory problems to increase as life goes on. This is due to hormonal interference and the fact that the brain doesn’t record as well. People need to be a bit more yielding and not force it.

‘We all forget something and try to make ourselves remember it, but when we stop thinking about it, it comes back. The unconscious mind retrieves it when the panic of forgetting has gone.

‘Learning to live with your brain is important. For instance, having systems like lists, or a ‘mantra’ you keep repeating like I do when I play cricket to remember my trousers, gloves, bat and so on.’

The British Association of Counsellors, 0870 443 5252,

Clearing the clutter

Carole Gaskell of the Lifecoaching Company claims ‘The key thing is to eliminate the clutter from the mind. It is helpful to consistently spring clean your life, and see a counsellor if there are long-term issues you are holding on to.

She advises:

  • The brain operates more effectively if you have clear foundations – physically and mentally;
  • If you have a lot of emotional baggage – such as not forgiving people, or too much frustration and anger you haven’t found an outlet for it’s hard to have a good memory;‘
  • If you’re surrounded by physical clutter, such as a desk full of papers, it saps your energy and you can’t see the wood for the trees. If you’re not working from a clean slate you’re giving yourself a difficult time.

‘When you’re in a positive place with a lot of love around you it’s easier to function and have a good memory. If you’re operating from a low level of reserves it’s hard to remember things.

‘People who are pragmatic and know what’s important have an ability to stand away from their busy lives and see it from a higher perspective. When people recognise what works, they can start to do something about it.’

The Lifecoaching Company gives free half hour sessions to anyone who calls them on 01628 488990,

Reprogramming helps the memory

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) uses techniques to help people to reprogram their minds by getting in touch with their self-awareness or as NLP practitioner, Tina Boyden explains, ‘How we think and feel about things’.

‘If someone is thinking that they’d like to change the way they are, NLP helps them to develop in the way they want by using a range of techniques.’

Tina explains:

  • Often memory is about the values someone puts on remembering things;
  • Some people think it’s important to remember names and faces, while others don’t;
  • Much of what we do is influenced by our attitudes and beliefs and whether we consider it important.

‘When I wanted to improve my own memory I found people who had good memories and found out how they did it. If you find out what they do, their beliefs and values, you can try them out for yourself.’

Tina Boyden practises in North London, 07710 279526

The International Association of NLP Trainers, (INLPTA), 01329 285353,

The Association for Neuro-Linguistic Programming,

Nutritional aide memoires

Choline: Eggs, liver, fish, caviar, soya beans, peanuts, whole grains, nuts, lentils, wheat germ and brewer’s yeast; transforms into acetyl-choline a neurotransmitter that helps the transmission of nerve cells to and from the brain;

Vitamin B3: Mushrooms, tuna, chicken, pig’s liver, salmon, asparagus, cabbage, lamb, mackerel, turkey, tomatoes, courgettes, cauliflower, peanut butter and whole wheat; together with iron is involved in the formation of dopamine which lays down the maintenance of memory;

CO-Q10: Sardines, mackerel, pork, spinach, soya oil, peanuts, sesame seeds, walnuts; increases oxygen flow to the brain;

Alpha-lipoic acid: Red meat, broccoli, spinach, yeast, heart; is believed to improve memory;

Iron: Red meat, green leafy vegs, pulses, grains and dried fruits; with Vitamin B3 is involved in forming dopamine.

Ginkgo: The tincture or tablets from the leaves of the Ginkgo tree have been proven to improve brain function, and have been used in Traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Should not be taken with low-dose aspirin or anticoagulants such as warfarin.

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