Healing Herb Calendula

Healing Herb Calendula
One of my favourite medicinal herbs, this calendula flower was visited by a bee when I snapped it at the Lismore Community Garden.

Monday, August 10, 2015


This is a summary of information I use when supporting clinic clients with Type 2 Diabetes. Each person receives an individualised treatment program, depending on medical history, and specific requirements. 
This chart should be regarded as information only, not a prescription. Research shows there is a lot that can be done to support healthy outcomes for people suffering from Type 2 Diabetes. Natural medicines mentioned here are not intended to replace medical treatment. 
My clinic is in Lismore, Northern NSW. Appointments can be made by contacting me on 0452 219 502 or at trishclough@internode.net.au.                   

Stimulate pancreatic cells to produce more insulin.
Herbs: Gymnema, Ginkgo Biloba, Fenugreek, Curcumin from Turmeric, Berberine-containing herbs.
Nutrients: Vitamin D, Lipoic Acid.
Diet: Green tea prevents injury to insulin-producing cells.
Lower blood glucose levels by improving glucose utilisation/ metabolism.

Herbs: Gymnema, Fenugreek, Cinnamon, Goats Rue.
Nutrients: Vitamin C, Chromium, Selenium, Zinc.
Diet: Mushrooms (especially shitake), low animal fat diet, low GI diet.
Reduce cardio-vascular risk associated with diabetes.
Herbs: Fenugreek, Gymnema.
Nutrients: Purified Fish Oils, Vitamin B Complex.
Reduce micro-vascular (small blood vessel) damage associated with diabetes (kidneys, eyes, feet).
Herbs: Ginkgo Biloba, Fenugreek, Goats Rue, Bilberry.
Nutrients: Zinc, Selenium, B Complex Vitamins.
Diet: Anti-oxidant foods.
Keep blood glucose in healthy range to minimise risks.
Low carbohydrate high protein diet (low GI) plus herbs and supplements as indicated above.

Thursday, May 21, 2015


A herbal mix from the dispensary can help you.
‘I was contemplating writing an article on herbs to treat winter illnesses but I thought instead that it might be more helpful to give information about staying healthy during the winter and the change of season. As a practising herbalist, I believe prevention is better than cure (although my herbal dispensary offers wonderful treatments as well). 
I am impressed that many people have a great working knowledge of natural health and lifestyle. Echinacea, Vitamin C, a generous intake of fresh foods and regular exercise will help keep away the winter ailments. This basic approach will work effectively for many people.
However, despite the best attempts of healthy lifestyle, many people struggle to avoid getting very sick. This is because they have a weakened immune system and need an in-depth treatment. According to naturopathic philosophy the underlying cause needs to be treated. The Spring change of season is the traditional and ideal time to do an immune repair programme.
It surprises most people when I tell them that at least 70% of the function of the immune system happens via healthy ‘gut flora’, the naturally occurring bacteria residing in the intestines. The immune system is a complex system involving white blood cells, T-helper cells, and the immune response that occurs within the gut. The lymphatic system and the liver are part of the package of immune response, working in close affiliation with the gut. Use of antibiotics, steroid medications, unhealthy diet, chemical exposure and stress are common causes of weakness.
If someone suffers from frequent viral infections or allergy reactions (such as hayfever), his or her immune system is out of balance.  Natural therapists knows that a gut repair and liver detoxification programme is the best starting point in restoring immunity.
The first step is to start by treating the gut. Unfortunately many people do a liver detox without first restoring healthy gut function. This can have the opposite effect of overloading the bloodstream and the liver with toxins which are reabsorbed from the gut and recirculated instead of being eliminated.
The typical gut repair programme involves anti-microbial herbs to reduce pathogens (‘bad bugs’), natural remedies including glutamine, aloe vera and slippery elm bark to repair and restore the quality of the sensitive gut lining, and supplementing the healthy gut bacteria with a probiotic which includes acidophilus. Getting rid of bad bugs and introducing the good ones causes the gut-mediated immunity to do a better job. Restoring healthy gut lining prevents the re-absorption of harmful toxins or inadequately digested food fragments via the gut wall and into the circulation.
Once this repair treatment has been achieved, which can take from three to six weeks, it is then time to do a liver detox. Guidelines for a healthy diet are recommended throughout, but I do not advocate fasting. Modern science has shown that nutrients such as certain amino acids in protein foods are essential for the liver to do its work in eliminating toxins. Anti-oxidants in fresh fruits and vegetables are also essential to this process. If these nutrients are not included, as can happen during a fast, the liver is unable to break down and eliminate toxins.
 The liver detox is done with the help of natural formulas containing herbal remedies and specific nutrients to support the functions of the liver. This process can take one to two weeks. Some people experience minor discomforts during the detox, but in general if it is done properly there are very few if any side effects. 
There are many benefits from such an integrated gut and liver programme. Immune function will improve, but there can be enormous improvements also in energy and wellbeing, allergy symptoms and food intolerances.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Magnesium, the Body’s Powerhouse

The health benefits of magnesium make it one of the most important minerals in our diets. This vital mineral has many functions in the body. It is essential to the energy production in every cell in the body. Effective functioning of the muscles needs magnesium. It is the major regulator of the transport of electrolytes in and out of the body cells.
Research shows that between 48 to 59% of people don’t consume enough magnesium.  It is found in dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, bananas, soy beans, oats, lentils. Older people are more at risk of magnesium insufficiency. Magnesium can be lost from the body through some diuretic and antibiotic medications as well as some cancer medications. Poorly controlled blood sugar levels in diabetics will cause magnesium loss. Foods such as grains and silverbeet contain phytic and oxalic acids which bind with magnesium and excrete it from the body. Excessive consumption of alcohol depletes magnesium. Large losses occur in cooking, particularly in boiling of vegetables. It is better to lightly stir-fry or steam green vegetables to retain the magnesium content.
Symptoms associated with magnesium insufficiency include fatigue, muscle cramps ,muscle tension and  twitches, anxiety, insomnia, heart disease, neurological conditions, blood sugar regulation problems, and accelerated aging.

Because of the prevalence of deficiency symptoms and the difficulty of maintaining optimal dietary sources, many people can benefit from a magnesium supplement. It is particularly recommended for people experiencing any of the above symptoms. Magnesium comes in many forms, so it is important to understand which supplement is the most suitable. The best products are usually in a powder rather than tablet form. Ingredients such as magnesium amino acid chelate, diglycinate, and orotate are forms which I recommend. These types of magnesium are absorbed directly into the muscle cells where they are the most effective. They are supplied in a powder form because they are physically bulky, and therefore an effective dose in a tablet would be too large.
One of the most common forms of magnesium used in tablets is magnesium oxide. These supplements should be avoided. Magnesium oxide is not uptaken into the body cells. It has a tendency to loosen the bowels and goes to waste, literally. It is used in tablets because it is inexpensive, and because it is dense therefore a ‘therapeutic’ dose can fit in the size of a tablet.
Most good quality magnesium powders also contain some B vitamins and traces of other minerals which help with the uptake of the magnesium and enhance its action in cellular functioning.  The B complex vitamins create energy so are best taken in the morning. If magnesium is needed at night, for insomnia or cramps, there are quality supplements without the B vitamins and with sleep enhancing ingredients. For people with high blood pressure or heart problems, I recommend a magnesium powder containing taurine which helps reduce the body’s physiological reaction to stress.  It is advisable to discuss any health problems with a qualified natural health practitioner so the most suitable magnesium can be prescribed for your needs.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Spices as Medicine: Part 2: Saffron

Highly prized throughout history and used as a flavouring, perfume, medicine, colouring and in ceremonies, saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. This fact alone gives it an air of reverence and magic. The spice consists of the fine threadlike stigma of the Autumn Crocus (Crocus Sativus) flower. Each flower contains 3 or 4  threads, which to this day are harvested by hand, and it takes 150 flowers to produce just 1mg. of saffron. Because of its cost, it is frequently adulterated with cheaper substitutes, so one needs to be sure of its quality. This was such an issue that in the 15th century people convicted of adulterating saffron were burned or buried alive.

Next  to cardamom, saffron is my favourite spice to use in cooking. I love its pungent earthy flavour and remarkable colour, for example in saffron rice. It lends itself to sweet as well as savoury dishes. Although traditionally used as a medicine in the Middle East, it is more recently being incorporated into the modern herbal dispensary in the West.

Traditionally saffron was used medicinally for menstrual disorders, fever, coughs and colds, fertility problems, teething pain, depression and ‘general weakness’. In recent years, scientific studies have confirmed its effectiveness in many of these ailments.  Impressive results were found in research published in 2005 demonstrating improvements in patients with mild to moderate depression.  The effectiveness was similar to that found with prescription medications Prozac and Tofranil.

Another interesting study was done with people suffering mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. People treated with saffron extract showed a significant improvement in cognitive function. The saffron extract gave similar benefit to prescription medicine Aricept over a 22 week period. The saffron extract was tolerated better, with fewer side-effects than the prescription medicine.

Similarly, research studies have found benefit in PMS and macular degeneration. Saffron in medicinal amounts is usually well tolerated, although should be avoided in pregnancy.

Along with its use in depression, in clinical practice I have seen saffron used effectively for people experiencing grief.  A colleague of mine prescribes it along with a tincture of rose petals with excellent results. The combination tends to be very emotionally comforting.

Recently introduced in a liquid tincture form, saffron can be easily administered as a single herb, or as is my preference, combined with other herbs such as lemon balm, St. John’s wort, and bacopa to support the nervous system and cognitive functions.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Spices as Medicine: Part 1: Nigella (Black Cumin)

Variously known as nigella, black cumin and kalonji, these aromatic black seeds are used in curries and sprinkled on breads before baking.  They are also revered as a medicine in the Middle East. My friend Mohamed, an Egyptian perfume merchant, tells me there is an Arabic belief that ‘in the black seed is the medicine for every disease except death’. He tells me the traditional way of using the seeds as medicine is to take some in a teaspoon in honey every morning. I have tried this, and can report they have a bitter astringency that I find challenging.
Since nigella is recommended as a medicine for every disease, there are countless claims to its therapeutic use, including indigestion, fatigue, chest congestion, diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis and asthma.
As a practicing herbalist, I like to look at the scientific research to see whether it validates traditional uses of herbal medicines. A controlled study published in 2006 showed effectiveness in reducing symptoms of allergic rhinitis (hay fever). It showed similar benefit to a pharmaceutical anti-histamine. A further study showed significant improvement in immune function as measured in white cell activity.
Another study showed a 39% reduction in blood sugar levels in Type 2 Diabetics, with improvement in insulin levels. In addition, research showed a significantly decreased body weight and waist circumference in men with central obesity. Preliminary research also showed  improvement in cholesterol and triglycerides with a tiny dose of .7 g of powdered seed per day (less than ¼ teaspoon). Anti-tumour activity has been found in one of the constituents of the seeds, but further research is needed.
In the clinic I have found wonderful results with nigella in a herbal mix when treating chronic and acute sinus problems. I combine it with other herbs to obtain the best results. I also include it in weight loss mixtures.  Nigella has only recently been manufactured in a liquid tincture form. This is a non-traditional form of an ancient medicine.  Tinctures are extracted in alcohol and water to get the maximum active ingredients from the plant. Alcohol is not used in the Middle East, even in perfumes, because of cultural beliefs.  However I love the benefit of the liquid tincture in combining it with herbs of my choice to get the best therapeutic outcome. Having said that, nigella is a safe general tonic taken traditionally in a teaspoon of honey every day.