Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Meadowsweet the mother herb of asprin but a much better nurse.

Meadowsweet flowers  (Filipendula ulmaria) are blooming nicely alongside a river near you, there are lots of things you can  do with them: make cordial, batter and deep-fry the flowers, add to jams, sauces, make hot or iced tea from the fresh or dried flowers or if you can't make up your mind what to do with it, let its sweet smell fill your house with summer.

Many of its therapeutic properties come from its high content of salicylic acid, a potent anti-inflammatory and the active ingredient of aspirin.  However while aspirin can wreck havoc on the stomach, kidneys and liver, meadow sweet is soothing and restorative to these organs and has traditionally been used to treat conditions such as heartburn, ulcers, upset stomach reflux and diarrhea.

This is a clear illustration of how with the best intention we often extract from a plant something that we understand to be helpful, and process it into something for we deem suitable for mass consumption without fully understanding the complexities of the healing the herb might give us.  Some of the simplest aspects of nature are still far more complex than our most accomplished scientists are yet able to explain.  So while I revere the researchers who are on the front edge of our understanding,  I'll be heading down to the river to pick some meadowsweet before the summer is over. 

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The simple cure for Insomnia

I see a lot of people in the massage clinic who have varying degrees of  trouble sleeping, it is a common problem that has a profound effect on a persons well-being and the bodies ability to heal itself.  For years I battled with insomnia gradually learning the best ways to make sleeping easier, now i can usually sleep through pretty much everything (including an earthquake once).   This blog is aimed at getting right past insomnia to being able to fall imediately into a deep natural sleep. 

The way to cure insomnia once and for all is...drum roll.... to relax into sleep.  Now before you give up on me entirely for stating the obvious let me ask you if you have ever said "I cant sleep"?  What I think it helps to understand is that that is not strictly true,  sleep is possible, the problem is that with insomnia we are in a state where we are too alert to sleep, indeed you may find if you do  begin to doze off, your mind jerks you back to full waking awareness, sometimes with an urgent thought, sometimes with a heartbeat.  You may feel you have tried everything and nothing works, but let me share with you my approach, which uses everything, effectively.

So the aim is to relax into sleep, but, its not happening, no matter how hard you try.  Many things have been suggested to you and you have tried them yet still you are blinking at the ceiling.  My approach is to use them all, as much as possible and then to try to stay awake.  Bare with me.

Ok before I go on heres a little check list of insomniacs aids to ensure you have a full tool kit:
  • Lavender oil -rub a few drops into souls of feet or drop on pillow to automatically lower blood pressure and help induce sleep state.
  • No Caffeine - caffeine is a stimulant, if you have trouble sleeping you need to eliminate stimulants from your life until your sleeping habits are effortless and well established and even then you may find caffine only messes with your new found sanity. Sources of caffeine and similar stimulants include: Coffee, energy drinks, black tea, green tea, yes green tea, guarana coffee, maté, chocolate. Good substitutes include red bush tea or rooibos, dandelion or chicory coffee, or decaf (although this is even more acidic than normal coffee) 
  •  Sleepy time teas- most herbal tea companies produce a sleep inducing tea, if it contains Valerian your onto a winner I'd say.
  • Darkness- if your curtains are feeble get an eye-mask.
  • Yoga- very beneficial to sleep my Mother taught me to do three slow cobras before going to bed and it was one of the first things that helped.
  • Exercise- it is important to get an enjoyable amount of exercise into each daybut other than yoga they sure all be finished a few hours before bed.
  • The same goes for food.
  • Be aware that alcohol plays havoc with your ability to sleep naturally and reach deep sleep states and withdrawal from alcohol causes excessive stimulation.
  • Massage- can be very helpful in helping your body remember how to relax. As the therapists works through the body you become aware of releasing tension from areas you had no idea were you were holding, some people drift in and out of consciousness as their nervous system is soothed.
  • guided meditations/hypnosis- there are countless numbers of these available on YouTube and the like, sift through till you've found one whose voice doesn't annoy you and listen to it every time you have trouble sleeping.  The more you listen to it the more it will work.
  • Eliminate as much stress from your life as possible- talk to a friend about the things on your mind then simplify your life as only you can.
  • Eliminate  stress cues from your bedroom- no work papers, bills, computers, TVs, switch off phones, make your bedroom a safe place to sleep.
  • Do things that soothe you before bed- a warm bath/shower, reading something that's not disturbing, having a cuddle etc with someone you love, giving yourself a foot massage.
So now you have given yourself the best chance to get off to that much needed sleep, you are tucked up in your comfy stay awake.  That's right now you are relaxed why would you want to waste all night sleeping when you could be meditating?  The health benefits of meditation are miriad, research at both Harvard and Emory has found that deep relaxation such as through meditation or self hypnosis can turn on or off genes in a way that has measurable health benefits. The Buddha recommended loving kindness meditations which have the added benefit of healing your feelings towards other people and yourself, and modern researchers often suggest body-scan type mindfulness meditations.  You could do this type of meditation all night and if you are perfectly relaxed you would greet the morning with peace and energy, however you may just find you are better at sleeping than meditating!  This is a cognitive reframing technique called paradoxical intention that helps by removing the anxiety to sleep, but whether it works or not it is win win as as I say it would be good to be able to meditate all night.
The more you use good sleep practices in combination with deep relaxation or meditation techniques the more you will learn how to trigger the chain reaction in your body that switches it back to the parasympathetic nervous system and lets you be at peace, able to sleep as required.   Work on becoming aware of little things you can do to help, like letting your eyeballs rest heavy at the back of your head or feeling the whole silhouette of your body pressing into the bed, or observing your breathing.  Each little thing that helps, contributes to your confidence in being able to sleep, and takes away from the stress of not feeling able to, and that is how you eventually end the battle, night by night.  Good night.

Gillian Mcilroy BSc Psych.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

5 natural ways to relieve hay fever.

If I feel the symptoms of hay fever- sore head, dryness in the throat, sneezing or streaming eyes and nose but do not want to subject myself to antihistamine drugs there are some effective things I use to feel better. Give them a try yourself and fall back in love with nature again.

1: Eat local honey
manuka may have powerful antiseptic properties, but there's no beating honey from the local bees to tell give your body a heads up about the pollen around you.

2: Drink herbal teas that reduce inflamation 
peppermint tea and chamomile tea are good examples of teas that work as antiinflammatorys in the body reducing the symptoms of allergy.

3: Go to the beach
there's no pollen in the sea so pay it a visit and let the sea breeze blow the pollen and your cares away.

4: Eucalyptus oil
Put a few drops in an oil burner or a nice bath, or come into dervish for a massage and ask for eucalyptus oil

5:  Alternate nostril breathing.
after clearing your airways with eucalyptus, practice this technique to get rid or headaches and heavy feelings around the sinuses and lift the mind.

Friday, 6 June 2014


Welcome to our new healthful well-being blog.

We will have a different therapist from our Co-operative posting each day of the week.  From health tips to healthy recipes, meditations and inspirations this blog will keep you shining between treatments!