As we all adapt to 'the new normal', herbalist Iulia Barta explores how herbal medicine can support every aspect of our health.
These are strange times, no doubt. It is normal to feel a wide range of feelings, from helplessness and boredom, to guilt and perhaps excitement. Excitement for a new world emerging, a new world with less pollution, stronger community spirit, more time to pursue gardening, to learn about herbs and become more self-sufficient.
At the moment, most people are experiencing higher levels of depression and anxiety. Parents are struggling more than ever, and those living by themselves can feel very isolated. You are not alone. Please connect with others and reach out for help. Also reach out to help others that might be feeling lonely too. A phone call or a friendly message can make someone's day.
Rest and good quality Sleep
Sleep is essential for a well-functioning immune system. Feeling restless and struggling to get some good quality sleep? You might want to reduce your caffeine consumption and limit it to the first part of the day. Caffeine can stay in the body for over 8 hours! Therefore, that 5pm cuppa of tea or coffee might be keeping you up at night. It is especially important to cut out caffeine if you are suffering with anxiety as it can make it worse. Other tips to improve your sleep: avoid Blue light emitted by devices in the evenings and keep lights dim generally, to enhance your production of melatonin, our sleep hormone. Instead, you might find it helpful to take an Epsom salt bath which would increase you magnesium levels and lead to a more restful sleep.
Herbs which can help reduce stress & anxiety and improve relaxation include:
- Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)
- Lime blossom (Tilia x europaea)
- Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
- Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)
- California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
- Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Herbal Medicine Support
Covid-19 is a new virus which is still being studied, however, many remedies have been traditionally used to support the immune system and cardiovascular function, to soothe coughs and fevers, as well as to prevent and treat chronic post-viral fatigue. Ashwagandha root (Withania somnifera) is a brilliant example of an immunomodulator herb that can support you through periods of illness, stress and fatigue. It is always best to have a one to one consultation with a medical herbalist in order to discuss your health and drug history and to receive the right herbal medicine for you. Some of the most frequently used Traditional Chinese medicine herbs used in SARS coronavirus treatments in the past included Astragalus (Huang Qi), Licorice root and Baikal or Chinese Skullcap root as well as Schisandra berries.
Traditional "physiological masks"
In addition to following social distancing and hygiene measures, you might also find it beneficial to gargle with salt water, herbal teas or diluted tinctures of ginger, licorice, coriander and cinnamon. Steam inhalations of essential oils (only a couple of drops are needed) have also been used traditionally against viral infections and to improve breathing. Essential oils such as cinnamon, eucalyptus and peppermint may be soothing.
These are herbs which have been used traditionally to manage fevers and improve sweating. Fever is our body's natural mechanism to kill viruses and bacteria and it should generally not be suppressed. Diaphoretic herbs include Mentha x piperita (peppermint), Achillea millefolium (yarrow), Sambucus nugra (elderflower), Matricaria recutita (chamomile), Tilia x europaea (lime flowers) and Asclepias tuberosa (pleurisy root). These herbs have been used widely by the Eclectic healers during the Spanish Flu pandemic.
Please always check with your local medical herbalist or another health practitioner such as your GP before self-prescribing herbs or supplements as these are not suitable for everyone. Do not stop taking your medication unless you have been advised by your doctor to do so.