Tag: vitamins

Herbal Power Juices – Your Food is your Medicine.

Spring juicing in Redhall Walled Gardens, Colinton Dell

Our bodies digest raw, enzyme active juice far more quickly and efficiently than solid food. Juices are nutrient-dense and supercharge the body in the same way that herbal tinctures work. Phytonutrients are crucial to keeping our bodies healthy and free of cancer, digestive problems, degenerative and aging illnesses. Juicing is popular across a wide range of nutrition therapies including weight loss, detoxing, liver cleansing and Gerson Therapy. Along with the increased interest in nutrition and juicing has come a multitude of electric juicers, blenders and other appliances out on the market. For my workshops I use a very simple manual wheatgrass juicer because:

  1. It is easy to assemble, easy to wash, easy to transport
  2. It does not require electricity so it can be used anywhere
  3. It is perfect for high fibre ‘weeds’ that will tangle blender blades and burn out motors
  4. Everyone including the kids love turning the handle!!
  5. It costs under £30 (as of writing this)

So here is where you get The Lexen Healthy Juicer.  If you want to skip straight to the Herbal Juice Recipies then click here.

Around 2500 years ago, Hippocrates 460-357 BC, thought of as the father of modern medicine, wrote this famous quote: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. The actual ancient Greek (Lakonic) text more explicitly translates as: “Your nutrition is your medicine” or, your food is your cure! In the Hippocratic Oath taken by doctors when they qualify, one of the things they promise to do is “I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure”. It is therefore so surprising that in the sophisticated 21st century “many doctors’ knowledge of nutrition is rudimentary. Most feel much more comfortable with drugs than foods, and the “food as medicine” philosophy of Hippocrates has been largely neglected”. British Medical Journal 2004. Ignorance of nutrition is a huge failing in keeping the Hippocaratic Oath as good nutrition is the key to a healthy life, free of disease. When illness does develop, a focus on diet will nearly always reveal a lack or imbalance in the diet that is negatively affecting a persons’ health.

Go back further than Hippocrates to the dawn of mankind. Homo sapiens evolved as a distinct species from other hominids around 200 thousand years ago during the Middle Paleolithic (Middle Stone Age) period between 300,000 to 50,000 years ago.  During this time, around 80,000 years ago we know that man was using herbs as healing medicines from archaeological evidence in the Shanidar Caves in Iraq. We know our bodies have not evolved much since so what were we designed to eat?

We can find this out from archaeological evidence and also from the few non-Westernised native peoples who follow still their original diets today. From 1989, scientist Staffan Lindeberg M.D., led scientific surveys of the diet and health native people of Kitava Island off Papua New Guinea. The Kitava Study, found that these people do not suffer from strokes, heart disease, diabetes, obesity or hypertension.

Farming did not develop until around 10,000 years ago, so our ancestors were mainly nomadic as they follow the foods that were in season. An ancestral diet would have mainly consisted mainly of available leafy wild plants (herbs, weeds and vegetables), berries (fruit), seeds and nuts (when in season) and roots. Eggs and small birds were easily taken from birds nests. A walk along the seashore would have provided easily foraged shellfish, some fish speared in the shallows, crabs and turtle eggs. As light weapons were developed some lean wild meat was added – rabbit, squirrel, small deer. Hunting larger animals involved a lot of effort, coordination and risk and would only have happened occasionally.

What we were not eating was high gluten farmed grains (wheat, bread, pasta), dairy products (milk, butter, cheese), salt, refined sugar (sugar, fizzy drinks, sweets, cakes), foods with long harvests or cooking times and processed oils (no chips and crisps for them!). The early ancestors of plants like wheat, were grains like spelt which has a far lower, and more soluble gluten content than its modern relative.

We also had a lot of exercise as we moved around looking for food. Once berries were picked from a berry patch, we moved on to find more food in another place. As the seasons changed we would make the journey to where we remembered that nuts grew, or where the first shoots of Spring appeared in a warm hollow. We weren’t sitting for hours at desks, in cars, or in front of televisions, computers and Playstations.


The plants we ate were quite different to those we eat now as tender broccoli, plump carrots, watery tomatoes and vacuous lettuce were not around then. Here in Britain we would have been eating plants similar to:

Spring: The tops and shoots of clivers (goosegrass, sticky willie), nettle, chickweed, dandelion leaves, lambs’ lettuce, wild rocket, hogweed, sweet cicely, fiddlehead ferns, young clover, wild garlic (ransoms, bears’ garlic) and plants like celery-flavoured ground elder Aegopodium podagraria (introduced to Britain by the Romans) and three-cornered leek Allium triquetum (first cultivated by 1759).

Nowadays many people are suspicious of eating this wild, cornucopia of free, health foods. They do not trust food that doesn’t come pre-washed in plastic bags with Best Before dates. They spray and kill all the ‘weeds’ in their lawns and gardens without realising that many are delicious, and many have enormous health benefits. And for many used to a soft food diet, the higher fibre, slightly bitter, tougher, hairier mouth-feel is a strange experience.

Juicing is one way to obtain the benefits of plants in a delicious way more compatible with our modern diets. I think of herbal juices as Power Shots. They are fresh, living, strong tasting, potent green juices that are full of the life and energy of the plant with all its nutrients antioxidants, enzymes, vitamins, minerals and other benefits intact. If you are juicing on site then nothing in lost during the long journey to the supermarket. Also juices are quickly absorbed by the body.

As wild juices are so strong I recommend that they are used as shots in combination with more popular fruit and vegetable juices. A “herb shot” is 20 ml in a 200ml glass of juice. Or around 30 ml in a 300 ml glass. All approximate as Paleolithic people did not carry a measuring jug around with them!

Try my Herbal Juice Recipies and to keep your supply up out of season try these simple pasteurising instructions.

A Jar of Beetroot – Beta vulgaris

Home Hydroponics or The Will to Survive!

Beetroots contain potent antioxidants and nutrients, including Vitamin A, Thiamine (Vit. B1), Riboflavin (Vit. B2), Niacin (Vit. B3), Pantothenic acid (B5), Vitamin B6, Folate (Vit. B9), Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron. Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium, Zinc, Boron and Betaine (which may protect against liver disease).

Research has shown that drinking 500 ml of beetroot juice can lower blood pressure within an hour (which helps to prevent heart and circulation problems). The effects are even more noticeable after three or four hours, and can still be measured up to 24 hours later. At Exeter University, scientists have found that drinking 500 ml beetroot juice several hours before exercise, increases staying power for 20 per cent longer than drinking the same amount of blackcurrant juice.

So unless you really don’t like harmless red coloured urine, drink lots of beetroot juice – it’s good for you! Try mixing it with pear or apple and wild juices!

Also thickly sow beetroot seed in a flat bed and, when it sprouts, cut it as a delicious  “cut and come again” addition to salads. Power sprouts!

Swine Flu, Herbal Remedies & Elderberry Extract

I find it amazing that with all the worry about swine flu at the moment, and the amount of press coverage given to it, that so little mention has been made of herbal remedies. Herbal remedies can help to:

  • boost the immune system and lower the chances of catching flu
  • decrease the severity of symptoms
  • lessen the length of time that symptoms are experienced

I know much of the silence at the moment is political. Many Medical Herbalists are currently feeling overwhelmed by the dawning impact of the new legislative changes and also by vociferous attacks against herbal medicine by some journalists and contributors. Few Medical Herbalists have the time to take on the job of defending themselves in the national press, after all most of them are running busy clinics, seeing patients and running businesses in challenging economic times. And few have the connections in the media, nor the training in debate and public relations, to defend the profession well.

The abilities of Medical Herbalists lie in the professional service that they offer to patients who seek alternative ways of managing their health. In particular, those with chronic health conditions where a string of 6 minute appointments with an NHS GP, and a long wait for a consultant appointment, have still not yielded an alternative to the prospect of years of management with prescription drugs. This is not an attack on GPs or the NHS by any means, but many health conditions now require long term management (for example; asthma, eczema, hormonal imbalances, irritable bowel, high blood pressure, arthritis, digestive problems and stress related conditions). Understandably, many people prefer to seek out a gentler system that a drug-dependent one.

However, despite the silence in the national press it is important to know that there are options. So back to swine flu! Firstly, the common sense:

  • Avoid contact with people who obviously have symptoms – coughs, colds, sniffles.
  • Wash your hands frequently and use paper tissues.
  • Maintain a healthy, balanced diet with your ‘Five a Day’ intake of fruits and vegetables. If your body is not properly nourished it will be less able to fight an infection. If you are not properly nourished you may also be low on vitamins (particularly if you smoke – which kills Vitamin C, drink a lot of alcohol, or are stressed).
  • Get sufficient sleep and exercise, keeping the body in optimum condition.

To support your immune system to lessen the chances of catching an infection, consider the following:

  • Vitamin and mineral supplements. Look for combinations with minerals that help you to absorb the vitamins. High doses of Vitamin C do work. At the onset of a cold, 1000 mg daily doses will help. Your body needs zinc to absorb it though.
  • Modify your diet to a medicinal diet. Add plenty of garlic, sage and lemon for example, herbs that are either antiviral or naturally full of Vitamin C.
  • Elderberry extract

Elderberry Extract


Elderberries picked in October

At the first sign of infection use elderberry extract. Elderberry has been tested in clinical trials and has been proven in these trials to reduce the severity of symptoms and to shorten the time affected by the flu, on average by around a third. Elderberry is a native British hedgerow plant that has antiviral properties.

At Napiers we use combinations: Echinacea and Elderflower Compound and we also produce an Organic Echinacea and Elderberry Throat Spray. These are both now prescription only since the advent of the THMPD regulations. The latter is particularly handy for first line defence as the bottle is easy to carry around in handbags, rucksacks or briefcases to be sprayed into the mouth as soon as people around you start coughing and spluttering.

We also use Elderflowers in an old Rickard Lane’s licence originally called Peppermint and Elderflowers with Composition Essence. It’s license indication is as a traditional herbal remedy for the relief of the symptoms of colds, chills and influenza. Elderberry extract is also made by other companies such as Sambucol.

Each year I make as much elderberry extract as I can from the berries I can get my hands on. This autumn I have also been making combination batches of elderberries and rosehips to maximise the Vitamin C and the antiviral properties. In the office several of us have been hit by swine flu – we haven’t been tested so assume it was that, and if not it was another very nasty flu virus. Those of us who got it and immediately started high doses of elderberry did indeed get over it much quicker and with less painful symptoms than those who didn’t. Echinacea is the classic herbal immune system booster but with influenza, elderberry really is my ‘drug of choice’. If you can’t make your own, use a combination remedy from Napiers or use Sambucol or another elderberry extract.

For those of you interested in the clinical evidence, here goes:

Link to the US National Library of Medicine

Link to Herbal Science Group

Monica Wilde
Research Herbalist
October 2009


  1. Barak V, Birkenfeld S, Halperin T, et al. The effect of herbal remedies on the production of human inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines. Isr Med Assoc J 2002;4(11 Suppl):919-922.
  2. Bitsch I, Janssen M, Netzel M, et al. Bioavailability of anthocyanidin-3-glycosides following consumption of elderberry extract and blackcurrant juice. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther 2004;42(5):293-300.
  3. Ernst E, Marz RW, Sieder C. [Acute bronchitis: effectiveness of Sinupret. Comparative study with common expectorants in 3,187 patients]. Fortschr Med 4-20-1997;115(11):52-53.
  4. Forster-Waldl E, Marchetti M, Scholl I, et al. Type I allergy to elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is elicited by a 33.2 kDa allergen with significant homology to ribosomal inactivating proteins. Clin Exp Allergy 2003;33(12):1703-1710.
  5. Guo CT, Takahashi N, Yagi H, et al. The quail and chicken intestine have sialyl-galactose sugar chains responsible for the binding of influenza A viruses to human type receptors. Glycobiology 2007 Jul;17(7):713-24.
  6. Gray AM, Abdel-Wahab YH, Flatt PR. The traditional plant treatment, Sambucus nigra (elder), exhibits insulin-like and insulin-releasing actions in vitro. J Nutr 2000;130(1):15-20.
  7. Hassid S, Choufani G, Nagy N, et al. Quantitative glycohistochemical characterization of normal nasal mucosa, and of single as opposed to massive nasal polyps. Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol 1999;108(8):797-805.
  8. Jaber R. Respiratory and allergic diseases: from upper respiratory tract infections to asthma. Prim.Care 2002;29(2):231-261.
  9. Konlee M. A new triple combination therapy. Posit Health News 1998;(No 17):12-14.
  10. Milbury PE, Cao G, Prior RL, et al. Bioavailablility of elderberry anthocyanins. Mech Ageing Dev. 4-30-2002;123(8):997-1006.
  11. Neubauer N, März RW. Placebo-controlled, randomized double-blind clinical trial with Sinupret® sugar coated tablets on the basis of a therapy with antibiotics and decongestant nasal drops in acute sinusitis. Phytomedicine 1994;1:177-181.
  12. Richstein A, Mann W. [Treatment of chronic sinusitis with Sinupret]. Ther Ggw 1980;119(9):1055-1060.
  13. Roy S, Khanna S, Alessio HM, et al. Anti-angiogenic property of edible berries. Free Radic Res. 2002;36(9):1023-1031.
  14. Wu X, Cao G, Prior RL. Absorption and metabolism of anthocyanins in elderly women after consumption of elderberry or blueberry. J.Nutr 2002;132(7):1865-1871.
  15. Zakay-Rones Z, Thom E, Wollan T, et al. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. J Int Med Res 2004;32(2):132-140.

Rose hips: Winter ‘Vitamin C’ Syrup

Ripe Rosehips

Ripe Rosehips

Rose hips are extremely high in Vitamin C and also contain Vitamins A, D (made by sunshine and often missing in the winter months) and E, as well as antioxidants. The syrup makes a great winter medicine to help ward off coughs, colds and flu, especially for children as it is also pleasant tasting.

Rose hips are best picked after the first frost as this helps to break them down a bit. So late October/early November is the best time. They should be scarlet red and firm. Hips that are deep red and soft are overripe and have less Vitamin C. Orange hips are not quite ripe.

Traditionally, wild rose hips are use (Rosa canina) the dog rose or briar roses, but the hips from all species of  rose can be used. But do make sure you are not picking from buses that have been sprayed with chemicals.

Rosehip syrup is just another name for a thick extract a.k.a. cordial a.k.a. squash and can be taken neat off a teaspoon  like a medicine, or diluted with water as a drink. Adding fizzy water makes a great ‘children’s champagne’. It can also be used as a syrup on ice cream and puddings, or stirred into yoghurt or cream fraiche for a healthier alternative.

Keep some hips back to dry and use in herbal teas. They make a great flavouring for less palatable herbs adding a sweetness and pleasant flavour and aroma. To dry them for teas, halve them and scrape out the seeds adding those to your syrup mix. Next time you are cooking, once the oven is switched off lay the hips out on a baking tray and pop into the oven while it is cooling to dry them out. Keep them in a brown paper bag (labelled!) until you are ready to use them. Add a generous pinch to other herb teas.

Rosehip Syrup

Remove any leaves or sticks and top and tail the hips removing the calyx and stubby end. Roughly chop or mince them and put them into a large saucepan. Cover them with water and bring to the boil. Boil for 15 minutes then remove from the heat and leave for 15 minutes. Then strain the mixture through a jelly bag. Put the mush back in the pot, cover with water again and repeat the process. Do not be tempted to squeeze the jelly bag as this can make the syrup cloudy or bitty. Also the fine hairs inside the hips can be irritating. I let mine strain overnight or while I’m away at work to help my patience!

For every litre of juice you end up with now add 250g of sugar. I use preserving sugar which has larger crystals and is quicker to dissolve. Stir over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves then bring to a rapid boil and boil continuously for three minutes. Now pour into sterilised bottles. I use screw top wine bottles (baked in the oven to sterilise them). Using a funnel, fill the bottles right to the very top so there is no/little air then add the screw tops.

Once the syrup has cooled it shrinks making a vacuum that helps to preserve the syrup and gives a satisfying ‘pop’ when the bottle is opened. Once the syrup has cooled it is also thicker – so do not be tempted to boil away at the syrup until it reaches the right consistency in the pan. If you do that, once the syrup has cooled it will not come out of the bottle again! I keep unopened bottles in a dark cupboard and opened bottles in the fridge.

If you can, get a few brown glass medicine bottles with screw tops from your local pharmacy or herbalist to put some of your syrup in. When treating children it definitely helps to have the right ‘effects’! This is a great way of making sure your kids have enough natural Vitamin C without buying them supplements which sometimes contain artificial C, bulking additives and colourings.