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Knock, Knock! Is there Anyone at Home!! Coming Home to our Bodies

We all visit practitioners both conventional and complementary in the hope that they can diagnose and remove our symptoms . Unexplained aches and pains, migraines, maybe digestive problems or perhaps something more serious. In our western culture we tend to regard our physical bodies as unknown territories that, like machines, can run down or stop functioning and so periodically need tweaking from the doctor-mechanic to get back on the road again. Yet there is an enormous  difference between being symptom free and coming back into relationship with ourselves. By the latter I mean the sense that we are actually existing, actually present within our physical bodies and feeling joyous about that experience. Perhaps the best way of describing this sense of safety and deep seated happiness is the tangible sense of being at home, being embodied.

Most of us, through various life events (shocks both serious and minor from birth onwards) and habit, live somewhere outside ourselves. Energetically we are in our heads distracted about the past or what we must do in the future. Only last week I was driving on a road and suddenly thought – gosh! How on earth did I get here ?  I don’t remember passing through X village.

For those who have our heads in the clouds physical treatments are wonderful. Massage and aromatherapy allow us to reconnect with our bodies through the experience of touch and smell. Shiatsu, which takes place on the ground and with the client fully clothed and so feels safe to start with, is an energetically deeper treatment. To  continue with the mechanical analogy, a Shiatsu session reconnects the wires (the meridians) so that symptoms can be helped at the same time as the body energies reintegrate in harmony and the engine purrs! Every part is working together and clients frequently report that they literally do sense they are back in their bodies. It is a good feeling.

John Upledger, one of the pioneers of Craniosacral therapy as we know it today distinguishes between “curing” by the doctor and “healing” which is up to the individual. Craniosacral also works with this healing aspect which is more than just “getting better”. There is a sense of greater coherence as knots in the fascial system unravel and we re-member ourselves as unique conscious physical beings on the journey of a lifetime!

A quiet time in meditation can help maintain this sensation of presence to ourselves. But we must never forget our earthly housing, our body. The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh is adamant about maintaining the connection to our physical selves:

When you breath in, you bring your mind home to your body. A lot of time, your mind is not with your body. But when they are together, you are truly in the here and the now for your transformation and healing. It is wonderful be present and your breath becomes the object of your mind and you can become a free person.


December 5, 2015 at 3:56 pm Leave a comment

Stockings for the kids, stacking for you?

By nutritional therapist Sally Beare, dip BCNH, CNHC

If you are hoping to get through Christmas without having to move permanently into that outsize reindeer sweater your well-meaning relative is giving you, you might wish to consider doing The Stacking Plan. I guided two volunteers through my healthy eating plan last Christmas, and they both declared they felt a lot better by the time January came than they normally would. Not only that, but they both lost weight, yet enjoyed Christmas as much as ever.

It might seem crazy to embark on a healthy-eating plan at this time of year, but that’s the whole aim of The Stacking Plan – it’s not about giving things up, it’s about taking things on.

Each week, you add a good new habit to your existing regime, and you don’t have to think about taking things away. By the end, you have stacked on the ten good habits you need to be eating a basic optimum diet, without going hungry or feeling deprived.

And if one too many alcohol-fuelled parties or a mass invasion of mince pies happens during this time, it doesn’t matter. You will know how to get back on track and give your system a few of the things it does want to stop it from being all ‘bah humbug!’ when you are trying to enjoy yourself. Of course, if you don’t want to do the Plan now, you can always put the book on your Christmas list and start in January, to get 2016 off on the right foot.

Remember, not all festive fare needs to be bad for you anyway. The Health Hub is the perfect place to experience a bit of Yuletide stacking, since the café will be serving nutritious-yet-delicious food and drink over the coming weeks. A visit to the Hub is just the ticket for those who want to treat both their taste buds AND their digestive systems to a gift they’ll really appreciate. More than you ever did that reindeer sweater.

You can pick up a copy of The Stacking Plan at the Health Hub or order it here:

To find out about personal guidance through the Plan from Sally please email her on

Sally is also the author of The Live-Longer Diet (Piatkus, UK, 2003) and 50 Secrets of the World’s Longest-Living People (Marlowe, US, 2006). 50 Secrets has sold over 20,000 copies, been translated into many different languages worldwide, has 50 reviews on Amazon rating an average of 4.5 stars, and is one of Yoko Ono’s favourite health books.

December 5, 2015 at 3:52 pm Leave a comment

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

The Origins of Homeopathy

By James McVeigh, clinic assistant

The ideas of homeopathy were first put forward by Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician, in 1807. Originally he had made his living as a village doctor, before becoming disillusioned with the inadequacies of early 19th Century medicine which often worsened rather than healed conditions. More than a decade later, he learned how the bark of a Peruvian tree can help treat malaria. When he tried consuming this bark whilst healthy to test its effects, he developed symptoms similar to those of the early stages of the disease. From this, he became convinced that ‘like cures like’, a principle first put forward by the 16th Century chemist Paracelsus.


Upon further research he developed his newly christened science of ‘Homeopathy‘ with the ideas of potentization and succussion. Succession is a method of shaking involving elastic and is combined with dilutions of a substance that generates similar symptoms to the target disease. This method causes the substance to become ‘potentized’, retaining its therapeutic effects and losing the negative symptoms.

He also put forward the idea of ‘miasms’ which are deep-rooted causes of diseases that affect the vitality of the sufferer. The importance of miasms is that the treatment of just the symptoms is not guaranteed to be effective, as the underlying problem is not addressed.


Homeopathy declined in the late 19th to early 20th Century, but underwent a resurgence in the 1970s, largely due to the efforts of the greek Homeopath George Vithoulkas. He studied the practice in South Africa and India before returning to Greece and starting a school, centre, journal and society for Homeopathy. His work established Homeopathy as a credible medical treatment system in Greece, later expanding this to much of the West, including the UK.

Homeopathy is available in Bristol here at the Natural Health Clinic with the practitioner Lyn Clark. Additionally, a new service will soon be starting at the clinic; Homeopathy for All. This will be an effort to reduce the costs involved in seeking treatment to ensure everyone can benefit from the therapy.

July 23, 2012 at 12:16 pm Leave a comment

A Look at Some of the Benefits of Meditation Through the Lens of Science

By James McVeigh, clinic assistant


“Meditation brings wisdom; lack of meditation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward and what holds you back”


For Buddhists, meditation is a practice key to obtaining enlightenment and nirvana. However some of the wisdom that the Buddha refers to is in the form of qualities such as increased awareness, tranquility and concentration; qualities that appeal to a wide range of people, regardless of any belief in karma or rebirth. Given how these benefits seem separate from any religious side of the practice, it is perhaps interesting to consider what meditation might induce biologically. Have any of these mental changes been measured or objectively displayed through scientific analysis?

Unfortunately, understanding how meditation might affect the brain in terms of science is a considerable challenge. The brain and how it functions even on a fundamental basis remains mostly a mystery. Rather than trying to comprehend how and why the practice might change the brain for the better, observing its effects on structure and activity using scanners could offer clues. Even then, only recently have researchers looked at what meditations impact on the brain might actually be.


A 2004 study by researchers at the University of Wisconcin used brain imaging both during and after meditation and compared the results with a control group. They found that changes in mental state and ‘resting electroencephalogram patterns’ occur and persist beyond the time-period of active meditation. What this means is that long-term meditation practice causes a permanent change in the activity of the brain – perhaps this is the biological representation of mindfulness.

Another study published in 2006 by researchers from Harvard and Yale went further and examined the actual physical structure of the brain before, during and after meditation. They used the process of Magnetic resonance imaging which involves aligning ions throughout the brain with a magnetic field, followed by using a radio field to change the alignment to one which reflects the consistency of the material.


The researchers found that ‘Brain regions associated with attention, interoception and sensory processing were thicker in meditation participants than matched controls, including the prefrontal cortex and right anterior insula.’ In other words, the regions of the brain which would be involved in mindfulness are observed to increase in size. These parts of the brain are known to diminish with age, and the study also found that there was a larger size increase in older participants; showing that meditation can be an effective tool to regenerate lost brainpower.

Whilst the processes of the brain and how it might be affected by meditation remain clouded in mystery, these studies have shown that the practice has real and long-lasting biological effects on the mind, lending strong weight to claims of mindfulness and other mental state benefits. These studies are particularly important as they measure actual physical changes; laying the foundations of why and how the process works rather than merely stating that it does work by displaying a correlation.

May 28, 2012 at 12:13 pm Leave a comment

Five Ways To Protect Your Immune System

By Sarah Rudston, clinic assistant

It’s February, and temperatures have dropped across the country (you might even have seen some snow recently!). Colds, coughs, and other illnesses are unfortunately rife at this time of year, so we’re looking at some of the ways you can help protect your immune system and keep yourself healthy until warmer weather is upon us again.

Change Your Diet

Our immune systems function on our diet, and, if we don’t pay attention to what we eat, we could find ourselves in bad health in no time. A diet which is high in fat, sugars, caffeine and salt can damage your immune system’s ability to keep you healthy. By eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, you can bolster your defences and keep yourself feeling well.

Don’t Smoke!

We all know that cigarettes are bad for us, however smokers may not know what effect each puff is having on their immune systems. Tobacco smoke can cause you to be more prone to infections such as pneumonia and influenza. It can also cause you to have illnesses which are more severe, and it’ll take you longer to get over them. There’ll also be lower levels of protective antioxidants in your blood as a result of smoking, such as Vitamin C. If you’re sticking to your new year’s resolution to quit, congratulations! If you need a little extra help, check out our stop smoking detox programme.

Exercise Regularly

It’s been proven time and time again that exercise can have a hugely positive effect on your body, as well as its natural defences against disease. Regular exercise can improve cardiovascular health, reduce blood pressure and promote good circulation, all of which does wonders for your immune system. However, too much exercise can put strain on your body, and it’s important not to overdo it!

Get Adequate Sleep

In this day and age, it can be tempting to skip on sleep in order to check emails or pull all-nighters on an important piece of work. However, nothing is more important than your health, and if you’re getting insufficient sleep on a regular basis, you’ll be more likely to damage your health. Lack of sleep can compromise our body’s ability to fight off infections, so make sure you get your eight hours every night.

Take Time Out

Studies have shown that an increase in stress levels can go hand in hand with an increase of disease and infections. It’s no coincidence that we feel rundown when we’ve got a lot on our plates – feeling stressed out can lower the body’s defence to illness and make us less likely to fight off coughs and colds. It might not seem that easy to cut down on our workloads, however simple stress-relieving activities such as walking, swimming or meditating can really help. Have a look at our six-week meditation course and see how you can add a little extra relaxation to your life.

Take care of yourself and before you know it, we’ll have lighter evenings and warmer weather! All the best from us at The Natural Health Clinic, Bristol.

February 6, 2012 at 1:47 pm Leave a comment

The Five Most Popular New Year’s Resolutions (And How To Stick To Them!)

By Sarah Rudston, clinic assistant

It’s day three of 2012 and many of us will have made resolutions to change our lifestyles, habits and ourselves over the next twelve months. Here are the five most popular resolutions (and some easy ways to stick to them).

Lose weight

Every year, gyms and health clubs are inundated with new memberships as people try and stick to their resolution to lose weight. Sadly, most of these memberships go unused after only a few months. Save money and time by eating a balanced diet, walking or cycling, and drinking plenty of water. Simple!

Make time for a big project

If you’ve made it your mission to write that novel or start that business this year, take some time every day to think about your goal. Many of us feel that we don’t have enough time, but by setting aside just half an hour a day, you’ll be well on the way to achieving your dream. Daily meditation is another excellent way to get some much-needed ‘me’ time.

Give something back

Donating either your time or cash to a national or local charity is a great way to make a difference, feel good, and learn new skills. If you’re strapped for time and/or money, giving a few hours or pounds a month is still a great start.

Reduce your carbon footprint

Swap your daily car journey for a walk or a bike ride, cut down on how much energy you use in your home, and try and purchase locally produced items for a greener way to start the new year.

Look after yourself

Taking time out for yourself is the most important thing you can do to keep the rest of your life running smoothly. Relaxing, reflecting and recharging your batteries will mean that no matter what this year may bring, you’ll be ready for it. Come and visit us at The Natural Health Clinic, Bristol, for a range of revitalising treatments, including meditation, massage, acupuncture and much more.

Above all else, a very happy new year from all of us at the clinic!

January 3, 2012 at 11:34 am

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