Garcinia cambogia Health Benefits: for weight loss?

Garcinia fruit is usually yellow or greenish and looks like a small pumpkin

Garcinia fruit is usually yellow or greenish and looks like a small pumpkin

Although still called Garcinia cambogia (or just Garcinia) in the popular press, this old botanical name has been revised to Garcinia gummi-gutta, though you might still find it labelled as Garcinia cambogia, Cambogia gummi-gutta or Mangostana cambogia. So far as common names go, it is also known as brindleberry, gambooge fruit and Malabar tamarind.


Garcinia is a tropical tree which reaches a height of 12m and is native to the Sri Lanka and the Western Ghats (West coast) of India. The fruit is yellow/green sometimes with a reddish tinge, about the size of an orange and pumpkin shaped.

Edible uses

In India and Southeast Asia, the rind and extracts of Garcinia are used in cooking, particularly in southern Thai kaeng som (fish curry). It is also used for curing fish in Sri Lanka and South India.

Medicinal uses

Garcinia rind was formerly used to treat gastric ulcers, diarrhea and dysentery. It was promoted by Dr Oz, a US celebrity doctor, as a weight loss supplement some years ago. It’s also used in Ayurveda as a digestive aid.

A compound found in the rind called hydroxycitric acid (HCA) is believed to boost fat burning during exercise and reduce appetite by raising serotonin levels and blocking ATP citrate lyase, an enzyme involved in the production of fat. It is also believed to increase endurance in female athletes, but with no similar effect on men. It’s also used to lower cholesterol, manage stress and level out mood swings.

Research has found that the type of HCA used affects the result. Calcium hydroxycitrate on its own is mainly ineffective, but a mixture of calcium and potassium or magnesium HCA works well. You should always check that the supplement you are using contains either potassium or magnesium, and preferably a low lactone content.

Take about 1.5g three times a day, 30-60 minutes before a meal. If taken with food, the HCA can bind to some of the components in the food and become inactive.

Contra-indications and warnings

At least one supplement containing Garcinia has been withdrawn because of reported side effects including hepatotoxicity and gastrointestinal problems.

High doses may lead to nausea, gastrointestinal discomfort, and headaches. Discontinue use if affected.

Consult your doctor before taking Garcinia if you are currently taking prescribed medication, particularly SSRIs, anti-depressants, dextromethorphan, pethidine, pentazocine or tramodol.

Do not use during pregnancy/breastfeeding, if you have existing liver or kidney damage, diabetes, dementia or are taking blood thinners such as warfarin.

Where to get it

I offer various Garcinia products in my online store.


Garcinia is not used in aromatherapy.

Final Notes

Unless you live in its native area or a similar climate, it’s unlikely you will want to grow Garcinia, but if you do decide to, remember that to ensure that any remedy to extract from it is safe, it is essential to follow organic growing techniques. To find out more about organic gardening visit the Gardenzone.

Dong Quai Health Benefits: tonic for women

Dong Quai has many names

Dong Quai, Angelica sinensis, is also known under many other names in its native areas, including can qui, dangdanggui, dang gui, dong quai, duong qui handanggui, hashyshat almalak, kara toki, langdu danggui, min-gui, tang-kuei, and tangkuei tân qui, and in the West as female ginseng or Chinese angelica. It is closely related to angelicaparsley, celery, carrots, and poison hemlock.


It is a fairly hardy perennial (tolerating minimum temperatures of -5º C) which is found at higher altitudes in China, Japan and Korea. It prefers moist soil and will not grow in full shade, but otherwise is not fussy about location. The part used medicinally is the root, so although it is self-fertile, as it is propagated from seed, it is necessary to grow more plants than you need in any season, so that you can keep it going while the smaller seedlings produce a good sized root, which takes 3 years.

Aesthetically speaking, it is a fragrant plant with smooth purplish stems reaching a height of around 1m (39″), a spread of 70cm (16″) and typical Umbellifer umbrels of 5-petalled flowers in early Fall, followed by winged fruits in late Summer. The roots are yellow brown and branched, about 15-25cm (6-10″) long when mature.

Cultivation and harvest

If you plan to grow your own dong quai for use on a regular basis, you need to sow enough for one year, then the same the following year and the year after that. In the third year, you can harvest the first sowing, replacing them with new seedlings, and so on. To be honest, you may prefer to buy ready prepared dong quai in the form of capsules or tincture. You can also buy dried roots in a Chinese grocers.

Sow seed as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame, making sure it has light for germination. Prick out into pots and grow on for the first Winter in the frame, then plant out in their permanent position in the Spring. You can also sow in its final position when the seed is ripe if you don’t have a cold frame.

Dig up whole 3-year-old plants in Fall and discard the tops. Clean and cut up the roots and dry in trays away from direct sunlight but with good air flow, checking and turning regularly until thoroughly dried, then transfer into an air tight container and label.

Edible uses

It is used as an ingredient in a tonic soup for women, and has also been used to flavour liqueurs and confectionery.

Medicinal uses

Dong quai roots contain many active constituents including terpenes, phenylpropanoids, benzenoids and coumarins. A major constituent is ligustilide, which can be up to 5% of the total.

Dong quai is one of the most popular herbs in the Chinese pharmacopoeia, and has been used for thousands of years to strengthen heart, liver, lung, spleen and kidney and as a tonic for the blood and circulation. It is known as the female ginseng and is used in a similar way and for similar purposes as ginseng in men. Regular ginseng is sometimes prescribed for women for various purposes, and similarly dong quai is sometimes prescribed for men.

In the West, dong quai is mainly used to balance hormone levels and is particularly helpful because it is antispasmodic so it reduces cramps. It’s also useful for PMS, menopause, reducing anxiety and mood swings. It can be used in both sexes to enhance fertility, as a blood tonic and to boost the immune system. Chinese women often use it as a daily tonic in the same way as ginseng is used by men.

Dosage recommendations vary, but tend to be in the range of 500-1500mg three times a day.

Contra-indications and warnings

Not suitable for children, or for use during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Women should also not use dong quai if they have breast cancer or any other oestrogen-dependent cancer, endometriosis or fibroids. Men shouldn’t use it if they have prostate cancer. Nobody should use it if they have an acute viral infection, chronic diarrhea, protein S deficiency, hemorrhagic disease, abdominal bloating, low blood pressure or if they are taking warfarin or other blood thinners including fish oils and other omega-3 supplements, Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis), feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), garlic (Allium sativum), ginger (Zingiber officinale), ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), ginseng (Panax ginseng), liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) and turmeric (Curcuma longa).

May increase skin sensitivity to sunlight and may cause dermatitis. Stop taking dong quai at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Where to get it

I offer dong quai root in my online shop.


Dong quai essential oil is used with an appropriate carrier oil for the same purposes outlined in this article. Do not swallow dong quai essential oil because it contains cancer-causing substances.

Final Notes

You may prefer to grow this, if at all, as a decorative plant rather than going to the trouble of processing your own dong quai. However, if you do decide to grow it for medicinal use, it’s important to ensure that you use organic methods to avoid noxious chemicals getting mixed up with your remedy. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.

Cascara health benefits: intestinal tonic and laxative

Fruit. Photo by Jesse Taylor

Fruit. Photo by Jesse Taylor

Bark. Photo by Jesse Taylor

Bark. Photo by Jesse Taylor

Cascara, Frangula purshiana syn. Rhamnus purshiana, is also known as bearberry, cascara buckthorn, cascara sagrada, chittem, chitticum and Western buckthorn. It is not related to Uva ursi (also called bearberry). It is closely related to other buckthorns, including common buckthorn.

The name cascara comes from cáscara sagrada, Spanish for sacred bark, a name coined in the 17th century. It has been used for centuries by native Americans, and was “discovered” by Dr JH Bundy in 1877, subsequently marketed internationally, which resulted in the plant becoming endangered. Even today, 20% of laxatives sold in the US contain cascara extract.

Cascara is an evergreen tree native to North America which reaches a height of 10m (30′) and a spread of 6m (20′). It is not fussy as to soil type or pH but prefers moist soil. Like all trees, it will not grow in full shade.

Cascara sagrada can be used as a garden shrub which is attractive to wildlife, particularly bees. It is useful for areas where the soil is a bit too wet for other plants.

A green dye can apparently be made from the bark, but I don’t have any information as to the mordant to be used. The wood is soft, but sometimes used to make small tool handles and similar things.

Cultivation from seed requires stratification for 1-2 months, then sowing in early Spring in a cold frame. Pot on and grow on in a greenhouse until the following Summer, when plants can be ptaced in their final position. Alternatively take semi-ripe cuttings in July or August, or layer existing plants in Spring.

Although some people eat the fruit, some say it is (mildly) toxic. An extract from the bark is sometimes used as a flavouring for soft drinks (soda), baked goods and ice cream.

Cascara is not suitable for use by children, pregnant or nursing women, patients with intestinal obstruction or injuries, or anyone suffering from Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, hemorrhoids, appendicitis, or kidney problems.

Do not use cascara for more than 10 days in a row.

The part used is the bark. This must be dried in the shade for at least 1 year and up to 3 years before use, or you can dry it out in a very cool oven for a few hours. Don’t use fresh bark, as it will cause diarrhea and vomiting. To make a decoction of bark: Put 30g dried aged bark in a small saucepan and add 2 cups of cold water. Bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer and continue cooking until the liquid is reduced by half. Strain off and discard the bark and take the liquid either as a single dose or split into three. Max. 1 cup a day.

The decoction is used as a gentle laxative especially suitable for elderly and delicate constitutions, also as an intestinal tonic. It is also sometimes painted on fingernails to discourage nail biting. It is approved for use in Germany for constipation.

As with all plants grown for medicinal use, it’s important to grow cascara organically. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.

Common buckthorn health benefits: for constipation

Fruit. Photo by Xemenendura

Fruit. Photo by Xemenendura

Common buckthorn, Rhamnus cathartica, is also known as purging buckthorn and European buckthorn, or just buckthorn. It is a shrub or small tree which reaches a height of up to 6-10m (18-30′) and a spread of 3m (9′). It is attractive to wildlife.

Buckthorn is a close relative of the shrub known as Cascara sagrada (Spanish for “sacred bark”), Rhamnus purshiana.

Buckthorn will grow in any soil, even very alkaline soil, and anywhere not in complete shade. It’s happy in dry or moist soil, so it is a good survivor in most conditions.

The part most often used in medicine is the fruit, although the bark can be used instead. As it’s dioecious, to obtain fruit you will need at least two plants, one male and one female.

The specific name cathartica and the name purging buckthorn refer to its use as a purgative (a strong laxative). This is virtually its only medicinal use, though it is also diuretic, but this probably goes unnoticed alongside the laxative effect.

Please note that buckthorn is not suitable for use by children, pregnant or nursing women, also people suffering from Crohn’s disease or obstructions of the bowel.

Do not take buckthorn for more than 7 days in a row.

Flowers. Photo by Radio Tonreg from Vienna, Austria

Flowers. Photo by Radio Tonreg from Vienna, Austria

Bark. Photo by TeunSpaans

Bark. Photo by TeunSpaans

Adults can eat 8-15 ripe fruits to benefit from the effects, but these can be quite violent. For a more manageable result, you can make a standard infusion using 15g (a half ounce) crushed semi-ripe fruits to 250ml (1 US cup) boiling water. Leave to infuse for 30-60 minutes, then drain off and discard the fruit before use. Up to 1 cup a day is the maximum dosage, which may be split into 3 individual doses.

You can also use the bark for the same purpose. This must be dried in the shade for at least 1 year and up to 3 years before use, or you can dry it out in a very cool oven for a few hours.  Don’t use fresh bark, as it will cause diarrhea and vomiting. To make a decoction of bark: Put 30g dried aged bark in a small saucepan and add 2 cups of cold water. Bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer and continue cooking until the liquid is reduced by half. Strain off and discard the bark and take the liquid either as a single dose or split into three. Max. 1 cup a day.

Buckthorn is native to the UK and across Europe, but it was taken to the USA by settlers, apparently for use in landscaping and has subsequently been so successful that it’s become an invasive weed, and therefore banned in some states and in Ontario, Canada.

Various dyes can be obtained from the bark, but I have no information on the mordants you need to use, though it would probably be interesting to experiment if you like natural dyes.

Remember that if you’re growing herbs for medicinal use, it’s important to use organic growing methods to ensure that you don’t accidentally include noxious chemicals in your remedies. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.

Natural remedies for anxiety/depression

Get on top of anxiety and depression in your life

Photo by Cat from Sevilla, Spain

There are many natural remedies for anxiety and depression. This post only covers readily available products which will help with both problems.

Anxiety and depression are closely related and often occur together. Anxiety is generally associated with stress or fear, whereas depression is often considered to be a result of suppressed anger. Both are linked to serotonin levels in the brain.

Anxiety, depression and deficiency

There are strong indications that both depression and anxiety are at least partly deficiency diseases.

Deficiencies in vitamin B, vitamin D, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and tryptophan (an amino acid which is involved in the production of serotonin) have been linked to symptoms of anxiety.

Depression has been linked to deficiencies in Omega-3 fatty acids, amino acids, vitamin B, vitamin D, folate, chromium, iron, magnesium, zinc, iodine or selenium.

Note: Gluten (found in wheat, rye, barley and some other closely-related grains as well as foods made from these, eg. pasta, bread and pastry) is also sometimes associated with depression. If you discover this link affects you, you should ask your doctor for a test for celiac disease.

An Epsom salt bath will give you a lift

Epsom salts (Magnesium sulphate) added to your bath are a simple and easy way to relieve emotional stress and depression. As a nice side effect, it will also help flush toxins, ease muscle pain and give your skin a new smooth softness.

Originally discovered as a component of healing springs in Epsom, Surrey, England, these salts have been used for centuries for their rejuvenating properties. Magnesium is involved in many of the body’s functions including energy production, the ability to utilise B vitamins and transmission of nervous impulses. It is readily absorbed using this method.

A balanced diet helps keep anxiety/depression at bay

The first step in fighting off the symptoms of anxiety and depression is to ensure that you are getting a really good balanced diet with all the relevant nutrients.

As a short term fix, a good one-a-day supplement such as Quest Super Once a Day and a high dose (1000mg or more) fish oil supplement will reinstate your nutrient levels quickly.

Foods which help keep your emotions on an even keel

Bee pollen is rich in nutrients are essential for a healthy brain and nervous system including vitamins B1, B2, B3 and C and the minerals iron and zinc. Adding bee pollen to your breakfast cereal or smoothie may help to reduce anxiety and stress.

Chia seeds contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and tryptophan.

Omega-3 is also found in oily fish such as mackerel and salmon. (Unfortunately, the omega-3 found in non-vegan sources is not bio-available.)

Tryptophan is found in dairy products, soy milk, meat, seafood, avocados, winter squash, nuts, and legumes (peas, beans and lentils).


Herbal infusions for anxiety and depression

Chamomile tea is well known to be calming and relaxing, but lemon balm, also called melissa, is helpful both for anxiety and also depression. Two other alternatives you might have in your kitchen cupboard are sage and turmeric. In each case, you can make tea using a teaspoon of the dried herb to a cup of boiling water. Brew for at least 5 minutes and strain before you drink it. You can add honey to sweeten if you like. Some of these herbs are also available in tea bags.

Turmeric is easier to drink as golden milk: stir into a cup of dairy or non-dairy milk in a small saucepan, bring to a simmer and serve. You can add ginger, honey or black pepper to this mixture. It’s very good for you, not just on the emotional front but also as an anti-inflammatory and to boost your immune system.

Essential oils for anxiety and depression

There’s a wide range of essential oils which can be used to fight off blues and angst. You can either add them to a massage blend, put a few drops in the bath or use them in an oil burner or electric diffuser.

There are professional blends such as De-Stress blend, or if you prefer to use single oils or make your own blend, you can choose from sweeter oils like bergamot, rose geranium, jasmine grandiflorum or officinale, lavender, neroli and ylang ylang or more “masculine” ones such as Virginian cedarwood, Roman chamomile, rosewood, sandalwood and turmeric.

Unfortunately, recent research has found that regular use of tea tree and lavender oils in boys before puberty can lead to gynecomastia (breast enlargement) and can interfere with their sexual development [source]. The same thing can occur in adult males, but with less serious effects, since their sexual characteristics are already established. It’s therefore advisable to restrict use of the oils and products (eg. shampoo) that contain either of these oils for boys except in occasional emergency situations.
As with all essential oils, none of the oils mentioned in this post should be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Exercise raises your spirits

I’ve left exercise till last for two reasons. The first one is, as anyone who has suffered from depression will tell you, getting the motivation together even just to crawl out of bed is a major undertaking when you are dealing with the ‘black dog’. The other is that some people are physically unable to exercise because of underlying health conditions that may themselves contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety.

However, if you are more at the anxiety end of this spectrum and are able, a bike ride, a run, a workout at your local gym, or whatever your preferred form of heartbeat raising activity will increase endorphins and your confidence, both of which will help to make you feel better.

Recent research also indicates that long walks where the mind is allowed to wander and take in the scenery are helpful for depression.


Natural Remedies for Hay Fever


Sore eyes are a classic symptom of hay fever

Hay fever (also called allergic rhinitis) is a real problem for many people, ruining their summers. When everybody else is making the most of the beautiful weather, hay fever sufferers tend to try and stay indoors, away from the dreaded pollen. It’s either that or put up with streaming eyes, blocked nose, sneezing and the rest.

While you can protect your eyes to a certain extent by wearing wraparound sunglasses, the other symptoms can make you feel like you have a heavy cold, not really conducive to fun in the sun, but there are many different remedies that have been used with some success over the centuries. Here is a rundown.

The “immunisation” approach to hay fever treatment

An old remedy which some people still swear by is to take a spoonful of local honey every day, both in the run up to hay fever season and right through to its conclusion. This is believed to work by “immunising” you against the pollen produced nearby. But the honey you buy in your local supermarket probably won’t do the job, unless you’re very lucky, and it’s hard to find local beekeepers with honey for sale.

Another idea on the same lines that is sometimes suggested is to take bee pollen. To my mind, this suffers from the same problem as honey – mostly bee pollen is imported from places where the local flora are completely different to the ones that are causing your symptoms. But it’s tasty and nutritious in its own right, so you might want to try it on the basis that “it can’t hurt”.

There are also homeopathic remedies such as Pollenna®, which are specifically created to fight hay fever symptoms. Like the honey, you start taking this a few weeks before the beginning of the season, and continue until the end. This is definitely worth a try, as people who use it often swear by it.

Food for hay fever sufferers

Three foods have a particularly good reputation for helping get hay fever symptoms under control:

Moringa is a very strong antihistamine. This is a superfood which contains all 9 essential amino acids, and is high in fibre and protein. It is often added to smoothies, dairy or non-dairy milk or fruit juice. It can also be used in other recipes. If you haven’t used it before start with half a teaspoon a day and increase gradually to a maximum of 4 teaspoons a day.

Hot peppers are a decongestant. The dried version may be labelled cayenne pepper or chilli powder, but be careful with “chilli powder” and check the ingredients. Some chilli powders contain other seasonings that won’t help and make working out how much to use difficult. Fresh chilli pepper is just as good, possibly even better, but the dried powder can be used by people who can’t tolerate the fresh product.

Garlic is antihistamine and decongestant. It’s important to use it freshly crushed unless you buy the frozen type which is ready to use. Garlic granules and similar dried seasonings are not medicinally active.

Other foods that have antihistamine properties that you might have in your fridge or kitchen cupboards include ginger, tarragon, thyme, turmeric, onions, watercress, apples, peaches and pomegranates as well as proper Chinese bean sprouts grown from mung beans.

Try and eat some of these every day. At the very least they’ll give you a wide range of nutrients that will help to improve your underlying health.

Herbal teas for hay fever

Several herbal teas have been recommended for hay fever, the most frequently suggested being German chamomile (Matricaria recutita). Others include elderflower, nettle, tulsi (holy basil), ginger and apple, green tea and green tea with ginger.

All these are natural antihistamines, so you can mix and match your afternoon herb tea and know you’re helping to relieve your symptoms.

Supplements for hay fever

Vitamin C, quercetin and garlic are all recommended for their antihistamine effects. You may also be able to find single herb remedies like German chamomile, turmeric, thyme, elderflower, nettle and tulsi.

Essential oils for hay fever relief

As with all essential oils, none of the oils mentioned in this post should be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

The following essential oils can be used in burners, added to the bath or used in steam inhalations to help with symptoms:
German (blue) chamomile – antihistamine
Eucalyptus blue gum
Hay fever blend

Other hay fever treatments

Leaving aside prescribed medication, there are two main alternative therapies that some people have found to be helpful. These are acupuncture and hypnotherapy. I have no experience with either of these, but they have some good reports.


Hay fever can be distressing, but there are many lines of attack you can take to gain control. You have nothing to lose but your sneeze!

Remedies mentioned in this post

I offer the following remedies in my online shop:

bee pollen
chamomile tea
Eucalyptus blue gum essential oil
garlic supplement
German (blue) chamomile essential oil
ground gingervarious ginger tea blends
tea products
mung beans
nettle tea, nettle juice
rose essential oil
dried thyme, thyme juice, thyme tea
tulsi tea
turmericturmeric capsules
vitamin C

Home Remedies for Heartburn (Acid Reflux)


Peppermint is very helpful for digestive disorders, including heartburn

Heartburn, also known as acid reflux, is a very common and often very unpleasant ailment which is triggered when the lower oesophageal sphincter above the stomach opens up and stomach acid backs up into the oesophagus. The sensation resulting from this can feel as though someone has lit a small bonfire in your chest, and it’s burning its way up to your neck.

Heartburn is a minor ailment, however unpleasant, but if it continues for a long period it can lead to conditions that are much more worrying, including Barrett’s oesophagus. Thankfully, there are several home remedies for heartburn that are instantly effective in getting relief from this nasty and uncomfortable ailment.

Baking Soda:

The element that is most effective in relieving heartburn is calcium, which is also the main ingredient in some of the over the counter heartburn meds. Instead of spending several pounds buying over the counter meds you can get the same relief from an item you can probably find in your kitchen, baking soda. Take ½ to 1 teaspoonful of baking soda and dissolve it in 250ml/8 fluid ounces of tepid water. Give the mixture a good stir and drink all of it down in one go. You can take this as frequently as needed but don’t exceed 3½ teaspoons in a 24 hour period.


Be it in the shape of a naturally flavoured peppermint gum or peppermint tea, peppermint has been shown to have a cooling effect on our upper gastric parts to relieve heartburn. Please do not use peppermint essential oil for your heartburn; it can actually worsen the symptoms. Chewing peppermint gum creates extra saliva that can dilute the acid in your oesophagus and wash it away; it also helps constrict the lower oesophageal sphincter to keep stomach acid from backing up into the oesophagus.

As with all essential oils, peppermint essential oil should never be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Chamomile or Fenugreek Tea:

Both chamomile tea and fenugreek are effective for soothing stomachs and getting rid of stomach aches and cramps as well as curing heartburn. Fenugreek in particular is very effective for various digestive ailments, anything from heartburn to other digestive issues such as loss of appetite, upset stomach, constipation, inflammation of the stomach (gastritis). Also, fenugreek seeds include a substance called mucilage, which soothes an inflamed gastrointestinal tract when it comes into contact with the stomach and intestinal lining.

Slippery Elm:

Like fenugreek, slippery elm also has mucilage, which turns into a thick gel when mixed with water and as a result helps thicken the layer of mucous lining your oesophagus and stomach forming a protective layer to create a strong barrier against acid, ulcers and oesophageal cancer. The way this works is that slippery elm stimulates the nerve endings throughout the gastrointestinal tract, and especially in the oesophagus, causing increased mucus secretion. The raised mucus production may protect the oesophageal surface from backed up stomach acid and symptomatic heartburn.

Fennel Seeds:

Fennel seeds are heavily used as an after meal remedy to ensure digestion and prevent acid reflux or heartburn from occurring. Fennel seeds contain a substance called anethole with a unique ability to suppress stomach spasms which are sometimes the cause of acid reflex. After a meal try chewing on toasted fennel seeds to ensure good digestion and to avoid heartburn.

If you suffer from acid reflux/heartburn for a long period, it’s important to consult your medical practitioner.

Home Remedies for Urinary Tract Infections and Cystitis

A Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) (usually called cystitis in the UK)  is a painful reminder that when nature’s system of excreting liquid from our body goes awry, it makes everyone very uncomfortable.

UTIs happen when pathogens (usually E.coli bacteria) get into the urethra (the tube along which urine passes out of the body from the bladder). There are various ways this infection can occur, but whatever the cause the result is the same – pain and misery.

The bacteria attach to the walls of the urethra and bladder. Left untreated the infection may travel farther up the urinary system all the way to the kidneys, so it is very important to treat UTIs promptly.

Cranberry Juice:

BNA-5144For decades it has been well known that drinking cranberry juice is a surefire way to relieve UTI symptoms because sufferers have noticed that it works far better and more quickly than anything prescribed by conventional doctors.

Unsurprisingly, Big Pharma has fought back to protect their interests, publishing studies in the Journal of American Family Physicians in 2013 explaining that the connection between cranberry juice and relief from UTI is “tenuous at best”.

My advice is to try it for yourself. If you still need something else afterwards, here is another home remedy for UTI, though I’ve never tried it myself, as the cranberry works for me every time.

Quebra Pedra:

Quebra PedraThis is a remedy from the Amazon rainforest which has been used for generations to treat genito-urinary system disorders. It’s also helpful for stomach and kidney problems. Available in tea bags or capsules.

These Home Remedies for UTI, are for short term relief of the symptoms. If you get no relief in 48-72 hours, please consult your physician.

Natural Herbal Remedies for a Sore Throat


Check out these remedies for sore throat

The best sore throat remedy is speed.

I’m not talking about an illegal substance. What I mean is, as soon as you get the first little symptoms: that scratchy feeling in your throat, a slight soreness that’s barely noticeable, that is the best time to act.

Most sore throats (80%) are caused by a virus, and there isn’t much a doctor can do for you because antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections. Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them may give you diarrhea, and definitely screws up your “good” gut bacteria. This leaves you worse off than before you took the medication for no benefit.

Links for all the remedies mentioned are at the end of this post.

Act Fast

If you spring into action as soon as you realise you’re getting a sore throat, there’s a good chance you can knock it on the head before it really gets a hold. Home remedies for sore throat are definitely helpful, and if you act fast enough you may be able to avoid the pain altogether.

So, whether you’re taking early steps, or even if you have ignored or failed to notice your body warning you that the sore throat is on its way, the best treatment is probably a natural remedy.

Fastest acting: Garlic and honey

The fastest-acting natural remedy for a sore throat is garlic and honey. This may sound disgusting, but it works really fast. Crush a clove of garlic, chop it finely, then let it sit for 20 minutes, (the all-important allicin does not exist until two compounds held in separate cells of the garlic mix together and react), then mix it with an equal quantity of honey (Manuka honey if you’ve got it). Then eat the mixture. The honey takes away a lot of the bite of the garlic, but you can close your eyes if you want, or hold your nose! You can take this 3-4 times a day.

An alternative, if you can’t bear this idea (which after all, is probably no worse than a lot of proprietary medicines and much less likely to do you any harm), you can use my patent chicken soup recipe, which you will find here.

Soothing a sore throat that’s gone nasty

If your sore throat has reached its nasty stage, you may also want to try gargling with one of the following:

salt water (1 tsp salt dissolved in a cup of warm water),
apple cider vinegar and honey (1 tbsp of each stirred into a cup of hot water),
green tea (add honey if you like),
marsh mallow (Althaea officinalis) infusion.

You might also like to suck some Manuka honey lozenges, or drink some throat relief tea (a mixture of cinnamon and marsh mallow).

If you’ve got an oil burner or electric diffuser you can use it with an essential oil such as cajuput, clary sage, Eucalyptus citriodora or Eucalyptus radiata to provide a soothing and antiseptic atmosphere.

As with all essential oils, none of the oils mentioned in this post should be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Keep hydrated, sleep as much as you can and if your sore throat is still bad after 2-3 days, consult your medical practitioner. But in most cases, using a combination of two or three of these remedies will do the trick and save you the visit.


apple cider vinegar
green tea
throat relief tea
cajuput essential oil
clary sage essential oil
Eucalyptus citriodora essential oil
Eucalyptus radiata essential oil

Constipation Remedies for Quick Relief and Long Term Control


Beat constipation the natural way

Although constipation is something people don’t generally talk about, and may even be the subject of humour, it’s no joke. Mild constipation is easily dealt with, but severe blockage (or faecal impaction) can be dangerous and if you can’t sort it out, will require urgent medical attention.

Links to all the recommended remedies are at the end.

If you’re suffering from acute severe constipation, you don’t have time to add enough fibre to deal with it in the long term (that’s for later), and you absolutely have to get rid of the blockage right now, or as quickly as possible, you need the type of constipation remedy called a purgative. Otherwise one of the milder remedies for constipation will most likely meet your needs.

Quick Fix

A purgative is a very strong laxative, suitable only for occasional use when the situation is serious. It will completely empty your bowels, and there may well be cramping pains as the process takes place. Stay near a toilet once you’ve taken these until you’re sure the problem has been completely eliminated! I recommend LAXPure Rapid capsules, but if you prefer a single herb, you might choose Aloe vera or Cascara Sagrada.

Milder Solutions

If you just want a good general laxative, there are a number of these, including Cassilax®, Cleansing Herbs, Cleansing Herb tablets, Col-Flush Ultra Capsules, Col-Flush Vegecaps, Consti-Cleanse Extreme Powder, Oxy Kalm Cleanser Vegecaps and Oxy Powder Capsules. If you prefer single herbs choose from liquorice root and Manna Fig Syrup.

Please note that whether you’re using a mild laxative or a stronger purgative, treatment should never be continued for longer than 7 days, and if the problem isn’t solved by then, you need to visit your doctor right away.

Long Term Control

The best way to deal with constipation is by avoidance. A diet that includes plenty of fibre (what they used to call roughage) will keep your elimination system working right. Lots of fruit, vegetables and whole grains is the easiest way to achieve this; peas, beans, lentils and celery are particularly good sources of fibre.

If you don’t eat fruit and vegetables, you won’t just be missing out on the important fibre that keeps your digestive system in the best of health, but also essential nutrients that are difficult to get any other way.

Lack of fruit and veg is also linked to some types of cancer, so it’s best to make sure to eat plenty on a regular basis. Laxatives may relieve the situation in the short term, but, like any other medication resorted to for long periods, their effect will gradually reduce, leaving you back where you started, but without a solution. There are also other health implications resulting from overuse of laxatives.

Clay_SoilIf you’ve ever had to garden on clay, you’ll know how hard it gets. The solution is to add fibrous humous, which over time turns it into more usable soil. The same sort of thing happens in the gut when you eat more fibre, only thankfully the process is a lot quicker. An alternative for people who can’t eat fruit and vegetables is to add fibre in some other form. Traditionally this would probably have been wheat bran, but psyllium husks, chia seeds and baobab powder are more recent introductions.

For each 100g, wheat bran provides 15g fibre, chia seeds 34g, baobab powder 47g, and psyllium husks 67g soluble and 33g insoluble fibre! The fibre helps to absorb excess liquid and also bulks out the stool, making it softer and easier to eliminate.

It’s important to drink plenty of water along with any fibre supplement. For example, you might take 1-2 tsp psyllium husks stirred into a large glass of water once or twice a day (you can also mix it into a smoothie or other drink). If you have an ongoing problem with constipation, it’s a good idea to start off with about half the maximum dose, and reduce or increase it until you find the right level for you.

Keep your fibre levels high and you need never worry about constipation ever again.

Quick Fix

LAXPure Rapid Capsules
Aloe Vera Juice (Unflavoured)
Cascara Sagrada capsules

Milder Solutions

Cleansing Herbs, *Cleansing Herb tablets
Col-Flush VegecapsCol-Flush Ultra Capsules
Consti-Cleanse Extreme Powder
Oxy Kalm Cleanser Vegecaps
Oxy Powder Capsules
various Liquorice products
Manna Fig Syrup, Organic

*These products cannot be supplied to customers in the USA.

Long Term Control

Baobab powder
Chia seeds