Posts filed under ‘Herbal Medicine’

Bristol Herb Walks

 By Ruth Baker, Medical Herbalist BSc MNIMH


This blog post gives information about recent herb walks. I shall organize more walks in spring next year, and may conduct one more walk in the Autumn. Herb walks help people to recognize plants growing locally and to become more knowledgeable about natural plant remedies.

Herb walks

 I have conducted two herb walks this summer, one on the Downs and the other along the Frome valley. The walk on the Downs was well attended, and we found a wide variety of medicinal plants. Some areas are being left uncut, allowing more plants to grow and self-seed, and this is a very encouraging development. Unfortunately, it was pouring with rain when I conducted the second walk in late August, but it still went ahead – most herbalists are not deterred by rain!

Here are some of the plants we identified:

The Downs, June 2012



HawthornCrataegus monogyna. The hawthorn was in full flower during our June walk, and now the berries are ripening. It is mainly used in the treatment of cardiovascular conditions, including hypertension, arteriosclerosis (‘hardening’ of the arteries) and angina, and there is now a considerable body of research supporting its effectiveness. nb heart conditions should never be treated without professional advice.

Elder Sambucus nigra. Elder is known mainly for its use in making elderflower cordial. The flowers are used in the treatment of colds and flu, and together with yarrow and peppermint are drunk as an infusion to control fever. They are also used for nasal catarrh and sinusitis, hay fever and allergic rhinitis. The berries are a gentle laxative, and also made into a ‘rob’, or cordial for coughs. A recent research article found evidence that the berries have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties (Krawitz et al, 2011)

Herb RobertGeranium robertianum. The leaves and flowering tops of this plant can be used, and it flowers for several months. The colour of the leaves varies from green to red. It can help as an astringent, for example as a mouthwash, and also diarrhoea, as it contains tannins. It is also known as a haemostatic (controls bleeding), and can be used to help heal peptic ulcers.

Horse chestnutAesculus hippocastanum. It is mainly the fruit, or conker, that is used in medicine. However, care should be taken as it can be an irritant both internally and externally to broken skin. It is best known for its use in the treatment of varicose veins and venous insufficiency (‘sluggish’ veins), and also haemorrhoids (‘piles’). A colleague of mine finds that the leaves are equally effective externally, and uses them in the form of an infused oil made into a cream. Unfortunately, throughout Europe the hawthorn is being attacked by a bleeding canker disease, and you have probably noticed the sickly-looking leaves later in the year.

The Frome Valley, late August 2012

Meadowsweet – Filipendula ulmaria. If you rub the leaves of this plant, you will notice a characteristic smell, a bit like almond essence or wintergreen. Meadowsweet contains salicylates, and is the plant from which aspirin was first synthesized. It is used to treat stomach inflammations such as gastritis, and unlike aspirin, is not an irritant. It can also help in heartburn, and in rheumatic pain. The Council cut down a large clump of the plant just as it was about to flower, but it has grown back and is in flower as I write. I am hoping to persuade them to leave it alone next year!

Figwort – Scrophularia nodosa. Both the aerial parts – leaves and flowers – and the rhizomes of this plant are used internally and externally, mainly for chronic psoriasis and eczema. Herbalists will usually focus on internal treatment of skin conditions, in that they are frequently the result of the body’s inability to eliminate toxins. It is also used in the healing of ulcers and swellings, the word scrofula being an archaic term for swollen glands.

Comfrey – Symphytum officinale. One of the common names of this plant is knitbone, and it continues to be used to heal not only bone fractures, but also joint sprains and muscle strains. Both the leaf and root are used, though there is somewhat confusing advice regarding the use of comfrey root internally, as it may be toxic to the liver in large quantities. It is used in the treatment of ulcers internally, and also arthritis, and externally for wounds as well as the conditions mentioned above. This plant too was cut down by the Council, but as can be seen from the photo, taken in late August, is has grown back and is in full flower.


Both drop-in sessions and full consultations are offered – phone the receptionist on 0117 974 1199 for details, or send an email to


  • Barker, J. (2001). The medicinal flora of Britain and Northwestern Europe. West Wickham: Winter Press
  • Bone, K. (2003). A clinical guide to the blending of liquid herbs. St. Louis: Churchill Livingstone
  • Krawitz, C. et al ((2011). Inhibitory activity of a standardized elderberry liquid extract against clinically-relevant human respiratory bacterial pathogens and influenza A and B viruses. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2011, 11:16
  • Plants for a Future (2012). Scrophularia nodosa. Available online from:
  • Robbins, C. (1995). The household herbal. London: Transworld Publishers Ltd

September 9, 2012 at 1:34 pm Leave a comment

Herbal Medicine Introduction

Herbal Medicine

An introduction

 By Ruth Baker, BSc (Hons), MNIMH


Historical background

Plants have been used as medicine for thousands of years, and until recently were the only form of medicine available to the majority of people. In Europe, early texts illustrating the use of medicinal plants date back to ancient Greece, and by the 16th century lavish herbals were being printed for the wealthy, giving detailed descriptions of plants and their medicinal properties. Gerard’s Herbal, first published in 1597, is still available today. By contrast, Culpeper, writing in the 17th century, championed the ordinary people – his work is also still in print. Household herbals were compiled by the women of large houses, giving recipes for plants as food and medicine – the Wellcome Library in London has an invaluable and fascinating collection.

Plant medicine continued in popularity until the advent of pharmaceutical drugs. Plants could be collected in the wild and used fresh, or dried and made into teas. Wine was also used as a preservative. Country folk would go to the local herbalist, often a ‘wise woman’, for help with their ailments. Herbalists were popular in the developing industrial cities too – the urban poor could not afford to be ill. The most well-known pharmacy, Boots, had humble beginnings as an urban herbalist in Nottingham. Older people today may remember some of the medicine their mothers gave them – slippery elm for boils and abscesses, syrup of figs for constipation (not always popular!) and thyme and liquorice syrup for coughs. Plants formed the basis of nearly all the drugs prepared by pharmacists until well after the first world war.

Herbal medicine is becoming popular once again, though surprisingly few people seem to understand what it really is. This introduction is designed to give you a much better idea of how herbal medicine is used today. It focuses on European or ‘Western’ Herbal Medicine, a term sometimes applied when referring to practices which have evolved in Europe and North America.


May 11, 2012 at 9:21 am Leave a comment

Spring Clean Your Body The Fast Way and Feel Great for 2012!

 By Sally Beare, dip BCNH, CNHC

It’s that time of year, when we may have overindulged a little during the festive period, it’s cold and rainy so we’ve been stuck indoors, and many of us are feeling a little bit… lacklustre.

One quick and effective way of getting the shine back is to have a spring clean. I don’t mean the backs of the kitchen drawers and behind the sofa – I mean an internal spring clean. Our bodies, just like our houses, gather detritus which stops us from functioning at our best and can lead to illness.

Fasting is a natural process which animals undertake when they are sick. Children, too, will often avoid food when they are ill. Many of us adults are sick, in a low-level way, because we have had many years or decades in which to accumulate minor problems around the body, thanks to our less-than-perfect diets and lifestyles. Fasting and juice cleansing can be incredibly effective ways to enable the body to heal itself of illness and slow down the aging process.

When we eat food, it takes up a large proportion of our energy to digest it (notice how sleepy you feel after a huge meal). When we stop eating for a period, that energy is freed up and resources are diverted to healing areas of the body which need it. Old diseased cells are gobbled up by macrophages and fat cells are burned as fuel. Toxic matter is disposed of, and our cells, tissues and organs have new life breathed into them.

When juice cleansing, you will feel hungry for the first day or two, but after that your body adjusts to the new conditions and stops wanting food. You may find reading recipe books or cooking meals for the rest of the family particularly interesting, and you may fantasise about certain foods, but you should surprise yourself by not wanting to actually eat. It is only after you start eating solid food again that the desire to eat returns.

When doing a cleanse, you may feel tired and headachy for the first two days but after that you will start to feel better and better each day. By the end of the cleanse, you will be amazed by how much energy you have despite not eating.

During the next few months we will be running two types of cleanse at the clinic – a five-day colon cleanse and a three-day juice cleanse. Note that neither of these methods is strictly a fast, in which only water is drunk; a cleanse is a gentler method and, whilst you may wish to choose a quiet week in which to do your cleanse, you should also be able to continue with your normal daily routine. We are offering the following two types of cleanse at The Natural Health Clinic, Bristol, to choose from:

The Colon Cleanse

For this cleanse, you will drink a specialised formulation of apple pectin, psyllium husk and bentonite clay mixed with apple juice every four hours for five days. This gentle but strong formulation bulks out inside the colon and attaches to and removes old rubbery mucoid plaque and other old toxic detritus – you’ll be amazed by what comes out. A formulation of herbal digestive enzymes is also taken during this cleanse so as to make sure things ‘keep moving’.

During the cleanse, I will provide daily email and telephone support. There will also be a group meeting available during the cleanse for those who wish to share their experiences and egg each other on!

An optional lymphatic drainage massage to give your immune system a boost is also available at the end of this cleanse.

The Juice Cleanse (with massage)

The juice cleanse is a three-day cleanse during which you will drink fruit and vegetable juices and broths approximately every three hours during the day with a two-day lead-up to the cleanse in which you prepare the body with careful food choices. This cleanse should help your body start to shed toxins, give your digestive organs a well-earned rest, support your liver, and give your system a chance to rejuvenate.

During the cleanse, I will provide daily email and telephone support. We will also provide you with juice, smoothie and broth recipes to use at home and recommend particular juices from Blue Juice (situated beneath the clinic).

The package includes a lymphatic drainage massage at the end of the cleanse.

All packages include a Q and A session with me about which type of cleanse might be best suited to your needs, how to prepare for the cleanse, and what to expect. Please call the clinic on 0117 9741199 to book.

Please note: If you are suffering from a serious illness, always consult your GP before booking a juice cleanse.

January 9, 2012 at 1:47 pm Leave a comment

Looking at Skin Problems Differently

By Leanna Broom PhD. Consultant Medical Herbalist

There are numerous labels for skin problems. They manifest differently after all, but they all have these factors in common. They can be uncomfortable, unsightly and embarrassing. Many people say they feel self-conscious and unclean. If skin is aesthetically pleasing it also reflects the inner health of the body.

I always remind people that their skin was perfect once, so with a good diet eaten daily – ‘Food is our daily Medicine’ and some trouble-shooting with Herbal Remedies, the balance of skin can be regained.

Here are some of the skin conditions that can respond to Herbs:

■ Acne   ■ Acne (rosacea), ■ Boils   ■ Chloasma/Hyper-Pigmentation

■ Eczema/Dermatitis/Itchy Rashes ■ Herpes Cold Sores

■ Hives and Prickly Heat ■ Psoriasis■ Vitiligo ■ Warts

Contagious Skin Conditions such as Impetigo and Scabies and the many fungal conditions, common ones and ones that occur rarely are treatable.

Skin Problems Manifest from Within the Body

Conditions displaying over sensitivity such as allergies, rashes and contact dermatitis do not usually occur when the body is healthy on the inside. When Skin Problems occur it’s a symptom of the body attempting to excrete toxins and regulate itself. Skin is the biggest excretory organ of the body and attempting to push the problem back in the body will only be a temporary resolution. Its your bodies way of saying ‘Help’

Leanna uses a natural remedy topically to relieve the symptoms, whilst the Herbs heal from within. This may be a cream, ointment or gel. Oils may be used within the cream, neat or in a carrier oil, depending which ones are used. They may be essential oils with a nice smell or fixed oils for therapeutic properties, such as moisturising, nutritive and protective. Sometimes a poultice may be used.

August 3, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Herbal Help for Women’s Health Issues/ Infertility & The Menopause

By Leanna Broom PhD. Consultant Medical Herbalist
M.A.M.H., M.R.C.H.M., M.N.I.M.H.

When a girl starts having her periods it is viewed as a celebration of her becoming a woman. That is one end of the scale; the other end is the menopause, which is viewed as a potentially unpleasant experience. The time in between can be problematical; as each decade progresses, different problems may manifest. Herbs can be very helpful for the following:

• Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (P.M.S.) can be alleviated. Symptoms include: depression, irritability, mood swings, anxiety, nervous tension, fluid retention,
abdominal bloating, breast tenderness, temporary weight gain, sugar/chocolate craving, appetite increase, headaches, tiredness, tearfulness, confusion, forgetfulness and lack of concentration, insomnia.

• Absent periods (Amenorrhoea), irregular and painful periods (Dysmenorrhoea), heavy periods (Menorrhagia).

• Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Fibroids and Endometriosis.

• Infertility, due to hormone imbalance.

• To re-establish the balance of hormones after concluding the contraceptive pill.

• Improve milk flow in lactating mothers.

• Menopausal symptoms may be greatly relieved, such as menopausal depression, hot flushes, palpitations, and fluid retention.

• Teenage acne, related to hormone imbalance (male and female).

• Combines well and complements other treatments such as pre -IVF .

Herbs are very useful to alleviate the symptoms of women’s health issues by getting to the cause. Each remedy is bespoke for each woman to get to the heart of the matter. Western, Chinese & Ayurvedic herbs can be used in the same remedy.

Many women sooner or later can suffer from menopausal symptoms such as : –

• Hot flushes
• Palpitation
• Weight gain around the middle
• Hair loss/thinning and dry skin
• Heavy periods – flooding
• Insomnia
• lack of self-esteem
• Inability to make the simplest of decisions.
• Lack of focus
• Changes that can affect intimacy
• Vaginal dryness
• Lack of libido

This time in a woman’s life can feel like unchartered waters, and thus one can feel disempowered and fearful with no idea where to turn for help.

Leanna Broom has been practising for over twenty years and has much experience in helping women transcend this time of their life into a positive experience. She is a Consultant Medical Herbalist, using Western/Chinese/Western Herbs and Spagyrics. She also gives lifestyle advice to support the remedies.

Herbalists have long known that herbs are excellent for the menopause, because they help to re-align the body to this new phase of a woman’s life and help her feel comfortable with it. There is no need to suffer at this time; herbs are here to help. Externally glossy hair, radiant skin and strong nails can be achieved, while a regained waistline is also possible. A woman can be transformed into a beautiful and balanced being who is serene and consistently well balanced with a body easy to live in.

If you want to find out more have a look at my websites:

July 13, 2010 at 11:34 am

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