Health Notes

The Clever Medicinal Plants That Go Where They’re Needed

Close up angle shot of a sunflower head

There’s a family of medicinal herbs called adaptogens, a name that gives you a clue to what they do. Extracts from these plants support your body’s resilience and ability to adapt to physical and mental stress. They act on multiple parts of the body at the same time, raising what is low – eg energy – and lowering what’s high – eg stress.

For millennia, adaptogens have been part of the natural pharmacopeia in traditional medical systems such as Ayurveda – where they are still much used in the present day. Apparently, these herbal pharmaceuticals were first studied in the West during World War II when scientists were looking for a superhero supplement to help pilots fly better, faster, longer. The term ‘adaptogen’ was first used in scientific literature in 1957 by Russian toxicologist Nikolay Lazarev.

According to Master Herbsmith Sebastian Pole of Pukka Herbs, adaptogens are more than ever relevant to help us cope with the pressures bearing down on us at the moment. He explains that ‘adaptogenic herbs are said to have a normalising effect on the body and mind, reducing the negative changes that can happen in your body in response to stress.’ Read More…

Hayfever Alert

Close up angle shot of a sunflower head

Pollen is flying around right now and many of us are suffering symptoms of hayfever, an allergic reaction to pollen. But with Covid-19 on everyone’s minds, there can be confusion in distinguishing the underlying cause of respiratory symptoms.

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Is It Worth Giving Up Gluten?


Almost any conventional nutritional guidelines will lay down the law that whole grains should be a staple of a healthy diet. But for a significant number of people, grains are a problem. The villain is a family of proteins called gluten, found in wheat (the most commonly consumed), spelt, rye and barley. Oats may affect some people.

The two main proteins in gluten are glutenin and gliadin, which is responsible for most of the negative health effects in wheat. Interesting side note here: the name glu-ten comes from the fact that when flour is mixed with water, those proteins form a sticky network with a glue-like consistency, which makes the dough elastic so it rises. The word glu-ten is derived from this glue-like property.

Lets be clear, most people are fine eating gluten but in a significant minority, gluten can cause ill health. There are three main conditions linked to it: coeliac disease, wheat allergy and non-coeliac gluten sensitivity.

The most severe reaction to gluten is coeliac disease, an autoimmune disorder affecting about 1% of people where the body perceives gluten as an invader and attacks it, as well as the gut lining. This damages the gut wall and can cause serious digestive disorders as well as a host of other debilitating problems. There is a test for coeliac disease but many people don’t consult their doctors so miss out on testing, which can lead to potentially life threatening concerns. For more information, visit, the website of the independent charity Coeliac UK. Read More…

What To Do About Dental Problems

Vector drawing of teeth and brushing with pink toothbrush

If you have toothache, seeing your dentist face to face is impossible now, due to the risk of transmission of corona virus. However, you may be able to consult a dentist online as practises are urged by NHS England to ‘establish (independently or by collaboration with others) a remote, urgent care service, providing telephone triage for their patients with urgent needs during usual working hours, and whenever possible treating with advice, analgesia and antimicrobial means, where appropriate’.

In these circumstances, ‘it’s vital to understand the nature of urgent and non-urgent needs’, says Dr Richard Marques, a leading London dentist ( Here’s his summary:

‘Issues such as a lost filling, dull toothache, mild sensitivity or a small chip in a tooth can all be treated at a later date. Examples of more serious issues that would constitute an emergency include:

  • Gums that will not stop bleeding
  • Extreme tooth sensitivity or toothache causing constant pain
  • A tooth that has been knocked out/is jagged
  • Swollen cheeks/gums and general extreme pain from swelling or possible infection.

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Keeping Calm In The Storm

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For the vast majority of us, the corona virus pandemic is our first experience of being on what’s now referred to as ‘a war footing’. And rather like bombs dropping in the Blitz, we don’t know where, when and who the virus will hit next. So it makes sense that we’re anxious.

Like a ripple of stress, a bit of anxiety can be helpful in getting us to take sensible precautions. But this war zone is catapulting some of us into a degree of totally understandable anxiety that’s not helpful in getting through daily life – particularly because anxiety can suppress our immune system, which is our very best defence weapon in one-on-one combat against the virus.

This is not to minimise the potential effects of the pandemic but hopefully to give our minds some degree of calm so we can face the issues and manage them in the best way we’re able.

If you are used to working in an office environment, working from home can present its own challenges so there are tips on this too. Read More…

The Happiness Prescription

a few white tablets with happiness written on it on a dull grey foreground and a dull pink background.

GPs are recognising that at least half their patients need far more than a pill for every ill. For one woman, singing in a choir proved life-changing. Sarah Stacey reports.

Listening to the lightness and warmth in her voice, it’s hard to believe Arabella Tresilian, 44, has experienced such serious mental health problems that she once feared she was not well enough to look after her two young children. Treatment with medication and talking therapies was at best a BandAid. What finally transformed Arabella’s life was singing in a choir, a panacea enabled by the social prescribing initiative at her GP practice in Bath. GP Dr Michael Dixon describes social prescribing as ‘a radical rethink of medicine, planting health and healing in the heart of the community’..

Social prescribing aims to improve patients’ health holistically by referrals to link workers who spend time with them exploring different non-medical interventions, often provided by voluntary or charity organisations based in the local community. Activities might include music, art, sports, dancing, knitting, walking, group learning, yoga, fishing and cookery among many others. Link workers may also help patients address housing, legal and financial problems.

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