Nutrition and Herbs in the news


Get Juicy!

For one reason and another (Edinburgh Festival, meetings, work), I’ve not been having as much veg in my diet this week as I normally do and now I’m really starting to crave it!
Juicing for health

I’ve just got a notion to juice some of my amazing home-grown carrots (they are truly a sight and taste to behold), maybe with some apples and a bit of ginger to warm me up on this grey, Edinburgh late-August day.

I might even throw in some kale and swiss chard from the allotment which have been being sitting in the fridge for a few days for extra magnesium and folic acid.

If you don’t have a juicer, you can blend up vegetables and water them down to make more of a smoothie than a juice. Here’s a recipe for a Super Green Smoothie which makes a nutritious breakfast or in-between meal snack:

  • 1 Avocado
  • 1 cup of spinach (preferably organic)
  • Half a cucumber

Blend together and add water to make a drink. You could also add 1 tablespoon of flax or hemp oil, some tofu or ground up seeds to make it even more nutritious and tasty!


Medical Matters on Radio 4 – Nutrition, Immune system and Fatigue

I’ve been really enjoying listening to Medical Matters on Radio 4, they have some really interesting topics. Here are some I would recommend giving a listen (available as Podcasts):

  • The First 1000 Days: A Legacy for Life – A three part series exploring how nutrition and environment during the first 1000 days of life have long-lasting effects into adulthood and can even affect the health of future generations.
  • Am I Normal? (Tiredness) – Tiredness and fatigue are some of the most common symptoms causing people to visit their doctor, nutritionist or herbalist! This programme explores some of the causes of tiredness.
  • Am I Normal? (Immune System) – Find out about how the immune system works and often doesn’t work!


Report suggests Iodine deficiency common in the UK

A study into iodine levels throughout the UK has found that more than two-thirds of teenage girls tested are deficient in this important nutrient. The researchers say a large-scale investigation into the iodine status of the entire UK population is now needed to understand the full extent of the problem.
More on this story on the BBC Website, and you can read the WHO report on iodine deficiency in Europe.

This has lead to calls for iodine to be added to table salt in the UK or for increased intake in milk and other dairy products which contain iodine. Another really good source of iodine is seaweed – but how do I eat that you might say! Well, we can buy food grade seaweed from our own doorstep to take in capsules or in granules to add to food in the form of Seagreens Seaweed products. Based in Scotland, Seagreens harvest seaweed from the clean waters of the Outer Hebrides, and their product is becoming very popular as an ingredient in green food supplements, and also as a replacement for salt in processed foods, providing not only iodine but a wide range of other nutrients that are beneficial for health.


BBC Radio 4 Medical Matters Podcasts

I’ve been downloading and listening to some really interesting podcasts from the BBC Radio 4’s Medical Matters Series.

There’s a really interesting one on gut bacteria and their role in health and disease (from 8th March) and one investigating Pregnancy Nausea (29th Feb), with one researcher suggesting that it could be related to the immune system and the way it reacts to the foetus. Well worth a listen.


Cancer rise and sperm quality fall ‘due to chemicals’

Sperm quality significantly deteriorated and testicular cancers increased over recent years, a Finnish study says.

Read more on the BBC website


Herbal Medicine to be Regulated

The Department of Health has issued a statement that they will go ahead with the Statutory Regulation of Herbal Practitioners. The debate still rumbles on, with opponents loudly expressing their disapproval.

Statement by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.

Comments in the Telegraph and surprisingly positive from The Mail.


Antioxidants Boost Male Fertility

A review by researchers from the Cochrane Library has found that in couples with male factor infertility or unexplained infertility undergoing fertility treatment, men taking antioxidant supplements were over fourfold more likely than controls to get their partner pregnant and see a successful live birth.

The researchers noted that both sperm motility and concentration increased in those men taking antioxidant supplements. The use of antioxidants is based on the theory that free radicals can cause damage to the DNA in sperm, which is vital for creating an embryo and can result in lowered sperm count, motility or ability to fertilise the egg. Nutrients such as vitamin E and C are know to ‘mop up’ free radicals and therefore protect cells against damage.

I have worked with many men with fertility issues as part of The Natural Fertility Centre, addressing dietary and lifestyle factors that can affect male fertility. For advice on using antioxidants and improving sperm count, motility or quality, please book an appointment at one of my clinics.


New advice on vitamin D for pregnant women

The Scottish Government are to announce new guidelines on vitamin D supplementation for pregnant women or those trying to conceive. This further substantiates the latest research on low vitamin D levels in Scotland, and also on the effects of maternal nutrition on a child’s health, both before and after conception.
More on this on the BBC website:


Herbal Medicine Under Threat – You can help!

Dear Patients


In April this year a piece of European legislation called the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive will be implemented. This cannot be overturned. It will restrict the range of herbal medicine products that I can prescribe for you and this could mean that I will not be able to provide you with the herbs that you require.

If professional herbalists like myself become statutorily regulated by the Health Professions Council before April 2011 this will confer a legal status that preserves our right to prescribe a full range of herbal medicines. The last Government promised this almost 10 years ago but delayed on delivering it again and again. We understand that the present Government is shortly to make a decision on whether to grant such regulation or not.

Please write to the persons listed below along the following lines:

“I am a herbal medicine patient and rely on my herbal practitioner to support my health. I am horrified to hear that my herbalist may not be able to prescribe the herbs that I need when the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive is implemented this year. I understand that the only way to ensure that my herbalist can continue to prescribe the herbal medicines I need is for the herbal profession to be statutorily regulated by the Health Professions Council – I urge that you take this action NOW! I just want to keep being able to take my preferred form of medicine and I expect my Government to protect this right.”

Please adapt this basic message, using your own words as you wish and, if you can, add a personal comment stating why herbs are important for you.

Please write a letter to each of the people below.
It is ideal if your letter is handwritten as this attracts more attention (and it makes it harder for bureaucrats to ignore) – and sent by post not email.

Your Own MP
Find the name of your local MP here (use the Parliamentary not the constituency address)

Mark Prisk MP
Minister of State
Department of Business, Innovation & Skills
1 Victoria Street
London SW1H 0ET

Anne Milton MP
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Public Health)
Richmond House
79 Whitehall




Swine Flu – Nutrition for immune support and recovery

I’d almost forgotten about Swine Flu, having been away cycling through the French countryside for the last month (no swine to be seen, only lots of cows!), but on returning to the world of news, internet and work, it has become apparent that many people are feeling very concerned about the virus.

I’ve had a lot of enquiries about ways to boost immunity, prevent and treat the H1N1 virus infection using herbal medicine and nutritional supplements, and the supplement companies and herb suppliers have been sending me some really useful information and protocols.

Of course, the number one way to prevent infection is good hygiene. The virus is transmitted in droplets expelled from the nose or lungs by coughs and sneezes. These settle on surfaces which we come into contact with by touch. If we then eat, drink, rub an eye or pick our nose, the virus has a chance of invading the cells there, replicating and spreading to other cells, at which point the immune system starts to react and bingo! – symptoms appear and you have Swine Flu. So regular handwashing especially before eating or drinking, and washing hands after blowing your nose or coughing is the easiest and cheapest way to prevent getting or spreading infection.

The mucosal linings of the nose, mouth, eyes, digestive tract and lungs are our initial defence against viral attack – they form a physical barrier as well as hosting a large number of immune cells and producing chemicals to destroy viral invaders. If these membranes are robust, then most viruses will be unable to enter the cells and local immune cells will send them packing! However, if the mucous membranes defenses are compromised, for example by stress, smoking, medication, bacterial infection, inflammation, age or other lifestyle factors, viruses are able to enter and begin replication and infection.

Once infected, the virus causes the immune system to react by producing a range of chemicals and immune cells to try to overcome the virus and prevent it’s further replication.