In an ever-changing, technology-driven world, there’s a very real interest in going back to nature and using age-old cures for health problems and general wellbeing.
We were lucky enough to have a chat with Susan Curtis, Head of Medicine at Neal’s Yard Remedies, who gives us the low-down on medicinal plants and flowers…
Susan has been with Neal’s Yard since the company began in the early 1980s and has seen it grow from one shop to an international business with 35 stores, treatment rooms and a training school. What, I wonder, is it that makes medicinal plants and flowers so popular today?
“Flowers and plants have been used as food and medicine for many thousands of years. Essentially, we’ve evolved alongside them.
“During the 1950s there was a real excitement about wonder drugs that would offer a cure for everything. However as we moved into the 1960s and 1970s, people began to worry about side-effects and there were horrifying cases, such as that of Thalidomide. During that period people became more interested in an organic and more natural lifestyle.
“Now, though, we want things to be backed up by science and as more and more research shows the benefits of natural healthcare and remedies it’s an area that continues to grow in popularity.”
So does Susan have a favourite plant or flower to use medicinally?
“Lemon balm,” she replies emphatically. “It smells lovely, has a lovely flavour and is brilliant for stress and upset tummies. It’s also very gentle, so is good for children. If you grow your own you can make a tea with the fresh leaves; if not you can buy dried lemon balm and make an infusion.”
January is traditionally the month when we think about de-toxing and taking better care of ourselves and plants and flowers can really help here.
“Dandelion and red clover are great for de-toxing,” says Susan. “Dandelion is particularly good for the liver and red clover is a great lymphatic cleanser. You can make an infusion out of either and take it three times a day for three weeks.
“If you’ve overindulged over Christmas, then milkthistle is a good remedy. A lot of research has been done into its regenerating effects on the liver. You take the seeds, but as they’re quite hard it’s easier to take it in capsule form, although you can make a tincture.”
It is, of course, the season of colds, flu and nasty bugs, but the plant world can help here too.
“Echinacea is an obvious choice for colds and flu and gives good results. Rose hip, too, is good as it’s high in vitamin C. You can make rose hip tea or be very old-fashioned and make your own rose hip syrup.
“If you have an upset tummy, then chamomile is a classic remedy. You only have to remember Peter Rabbit being fed chamomile tea when he wasn’t feeling very well.
Ginger tea is very good if you’re feeling sick. It’s very supportive and warming. In Chinese medicine it’s seen as very strengthening.”
Bach Flower Remedies also feature in the Neal’s Yard range and Susan is a huge fan.
“They’re fantastic,” she says. “Originally the range consisted of 38 separate remedies, all from the British Isles. It was designed to be a complete core range.
“Now there are many different ranges that have been added, including one from Australia. My favourite of the Bach remedies is walnut, as it’s good for times of change and transition.”
So, whether you’re feeling under the weather, are suffering from a winter cold or just feel a bit run down, the world of natural remedies has an awful lot to offer. There’s lots of interesting information on herbal and flower remedies, natural beauty and organic products on the Neal’s Yard website – www.nealsyardremedies.com
The scope of natural health is huge, with remedies for many conditions. Always make sure you use a reputable supplier and don’t use any remedy without checking with your doctor first if you have a medical condition, are pregnant or are taking any medication.
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