breathe easy homemade clove and mint chest rub

This clove and mint based chest rub is good for winter related breathing issues, including nasal congestion, sinus issues, coughs, colds, flu.

Mint yields menthol which is analgesic, cooling and counterirritant as well as vasodilation- so opening up that respiratory system and allowing better blood flow to surface area of chest too 9lessing tightness or soreness). The aroma and phytochemical actions of the clove also boost the ‘breathe easier’ sensation of this treatment.

½ cup (approx. 110 fl oz) of sunflower oil
25g unadulterated bees’ wax
1 cup of peppermint foliage (or other culinary mint)
1 teaspoon of ground cloves or 20 drops of clove essential oil
Water to boil

Method: bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Add sunflower oil and cloves to a mason jar, lid and sit it into the saucepan of hot water. Wash and kitchen-towel dry the mint leaves then tear or roughly chop to release their active principles as you add them to the warm oil. Lid. Bring saucepan to a boil again – to heat the oil and help extract the phytochemicals, let simmer for twenty minutes. Allow to rest off heat for a further twenty. Strain the herb parts away then bring the oil filled jar to the boil again and chip, shave or grate the bees’ wax into the infused oil and stir until it dissolves fully and ameliorates. Finally decant mixed liquid into your storage container and allow to cool and solidify before lidding and storing for use.

This rub is intended for a massage application to the chest and back. It is suitable for inhalation and vaporising or steam bath inhalation – it is not for consumption. Keeps for a year.

find more remedies in my natural cures book – Now in paperback at all good bookstores and online retailers.

Discount deal here –

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turn a new leaf this autumn and get more mindful

Looking this time of the year at the autumn leaves slowly change colour and fall, always reminds me that change is natural and letting go is normal. I see the lessons of cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness within the natural rhythms of the garden and I harvest a bit of solace and mental wellness from that. The garden is full of mindful prompts and life lessons – I cherish it all the more for that.

People who practice mindfulness say it helps them relax and destress but that it also improves mental clarity and concentration; gifts awareness, comprehension and understanding, self-compassion and insight; affords them emotional flexibility, self-control, empathy to others, acceptance of life’s events and vicissitudes as well as an increase in resilience and tolerance. They also say that it helps diminish procrastination, rumination and negative though patterns, self-doubt, worry, anxiety, depression and other life stagnating preoccupations.

It almost sounds too good to be true – a magic bullet. Certainly mindfulness anecdotally and through these honed traits seems to engender a greater capacity to not just cope but deal with adverse events in life and opens oneself to experience a more satisfied life. But what does the scientific evidence say.

Evidence based benefits of mindfulness.

Stress reduction
Mental clarity and concentration
Increases productively
Emotional flexibility
Self awareness
Empathy and tolerance
Lessens general anxiety and anxiety disorders
Lessens negative thoughts and rumination.
Combats depression, substance abuse and eating disorders
Lessens obsessive-compulsive disorder
Benefits couples’ conflicts and interpersonal relationships

Apart from the knock on benefits of stress relieve to physical health, mindfulness is also associated with better sleep and increased vitality, it has therapeutic benefits to boost immune system, lower blood pressure, treat heart disease, reduce chronic pain and alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties.

There are also some interesting studies on the impact of mindfulness practices on creativity, happiness, wellness perception, physical endurance and motivation etc.

Discover more

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Time to plant a breath of fresh air

Autumn is a brilliant time to plant trees, there is enough warmth and soil moisture to get them established before winter. But more than improving the aesthetic of the garden or local waste ground/school frontage/park/community space, they improve our wellbeing.

We know that trees absorb carbon dioxide and provide oxygen, that trees are the lungs of the world. So planting a tree is good for your local air quality but trees can also help our lungs to better cope with air pollution – Not just absorbing Co2 but by absorbing emissions from car fumes and local industries. Trees also capture dust and particulates from the atmosphere – preventing them entering our lungs.

A research paper published in Environmental pollution back in 2014 found that a 10-by-10 kilometre space with 25 percent tree cover in London had the capacity to remove more than 90 tons of particulate matter annually. The impact of which to local inhabitants was considered to be the avoidance of two deaths and at least two less hospital admissions per annum.

Streets line with tress are 50-60% lower in particular matter than those without. So while any tree in your front garden will soak up the pollution on your road. My favourite is our native silver birch (Betula pendula), it’s a shallow rooter so wont expose the drains in a few years’ time, it is airy so it won’t shade out your home or garden and it can be purchased in exquisite multi-stemmed varieties that can be top pruned to maintain a great shape.

Best of all birch foliage is covered in ridges and upon closer inspection tiny hairs too – all of which efficiently trap the maximum of pollution particles. Rainfall disperses any pollutants not absorbed to the ground where it is washed into the soil and tackled by the roots, leaving the leaves cleaned and reset to trap the next batch.

It is interesting to remember that Birch trees symbolise rebirth and rejuvenation and that In Irish folklore birch is considered protective against evil spirits and the evil eye – who knew just how protective?

To discover more about the healing of nature and the nature of healing, join me at the Vitality – 8th & 9th September 2018, RDS Dublin. Opening Hours: 10:00 – 17:00. To book a ticket or see more of what is on offer visit

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heat stress lip care

Long hot summers effect our lips in many ways: the heat dehydrates the lip surface, we may be prone to lick them more often which is not helpful and actually causes chapping, lips are devoid of the skin hormone melanin – the body’s natural defence to sun and UV damage and so prone to UV damage and sunburn easy and then if we are in the middle of a heat stress such as the current heat wave then be it dehydration or heat exhaustion, our immune system can be compromised and underlying issues such as cold cores can arise.

So the 3 big complications of this weather are inflamed lips , chapped lips and cold sores

1. Inflamed lips aka Cheilitis – lips can easily inflame via through allergy, medication or injury – including over licking, sunburn or severe dehydration. The inflammation of lips can develop into sever chapping, crusting and even bleeding sores if not treated appropriately. the answer is a lip balm

Boost a beeswax lip balm with some Lip friendly essential oils such as Lavender, German chamomile, tea tree, lemon, lemon thyme, sandalwood, peppermint, rose and rose geranium. simply warm up to soft add a few drops and allow to reset.

2. chapped lips – chapped is the next stage, when the swell stretches the lip and damages the surface skin layer resulting in tears or chafing. Resist repeatedly licking your lips – saliva just evaporates off quickly, and can leave your lips even drier than before -instead apply a balm and drink plenty of fluids to keep self and mouth and all skin hydrated – Avoid citrus juice and fruits –as they aggravate chapped lips….

Many commercial balms and lipstick contain alcohol and/or petroleum products which can aggravate the condition of chapped lips rather than remedy it – Try the hydrating and skin replenishing sap of Aloe Vera or make a pulp of cucumber or avocado flesh for the same effects.

Severe or persistent chapped lips can be a case of Perlèche aka Lip sucker syndrome – A form of exfoliative cheilitis (crusting and ulceration) directly related to the habitual sucking, chewing, picking and licking of lip – sometimes considered as a nervous tic or symptom of stress yet is common amongst teenage girls and young women. Passion flower tea is as effective as a more natural benzodiazepine antianxiety medications – but without the side effects.

honey lip scrub – A smear of Honey is great as apart from its moisturizing properties it functions as an antiseptic. A mix of both oil and honey with a little added sugar grains can exfoliate the dry skin and soothe the exposed new forming skin.

3. Cold sore. A cold sore is a viral infection manifesting as a small blister or cluster of blisters occurring on the lips and nearby skin. It is caused by – herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). Tingling, itching or burning sensations generally herald the blistering to come. As a virus it is highly contagious and as a virus it has its own lifecycle.

Some people get a cold sore once and it never returns but with most, once contracted the virus remains with you for many years if not lifelong. Thankfully it is predominantly dormant with possibly one or two flare ups each year but it is also easily triggered into activity by sunburn or other damage to lip surface and also by stress or fatigue. So looking after yourself is the best way to keep it repressed.

Outbreaks generally clear up without any intervention or treatment within 7-10 days, there are plenty of OTC lip balms and topical creams to suppress the viral activity and soothe the soreness and there are lots of home cures too to make it more manageable.

Topical tincture or tisane of lavender, chamomile, selfheal, St John’s wort or hyssop are antiviral. Internal tinctures of thyme, echinacea or astragalus are immune boosting and antiviral. A tea of Liquorice root contains glycyrrhizic acid that can inhibit and fight viral spread. A dusting of cinnamon is a great antiseptic and dries up ruptured blisters and bleeds.

One of the best things you can do is to avoid acidic or salty foods as they not only sting but can suppress your immune system just as it attempts to fight the virus flare up. The mistake is to lessen eating and drinking for fear of bursting a blister or cracking a scab but do drink plenty of fluids to keep the lip hydrated and functioning normally in unaffected areas

Four essences medicated lip balm
The veg butter and oil are moisturizing and absorbing of the essential oils and their antiviral and healing principles while the thickening agent – bees wax – is naturally antimicrobial and wound healing.
1 tablespoon shea butter or cocoa butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon grated beeswax
2 shakes each of the essential oil of lavender, German chamomile, tea tree and thyme
Method: In a bain-marie (or jam jar resting in hot water), melt the shea butter/cocoa butter and beeswax into the olive oil, once melted remove from heat stir with a chop stick or swirl around, add essential oil at last minute, decant to a suitable container – small glass jar or tin – cover to retain volatile oils and allow to cool and set naturally. Store in a cool place and use as often as you need to soothe and treat.

Cold sore blitz paste
All ingredients are antiviral, anti-inflammatory and pain relieving.
Method: Simply blitz together 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, 1 tablespoon of lavender foliage, 1 tablespoon of chopped chamomile tops (flowers or foliage) and 1 teaspoon of honey. Use a dab treatment throughout the day, each day until virus subsides. Stores in fridge for 1 week.

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Summer protection and treatments for Neck and Décolletage

Other than the face, wrinkles are most prominent on the neck area due to the thinness of skin and paucity of underling fatty tissue, similarly the thinner skin of the décolletage can crinkle (crepe) with age and UV damage. Décolletage here refers to the front neckline to the cleavage/chest – in other instances it can include any area exposed by the open neckline of a garment.

Both places can be prone to sunburn and other consequences of exposure to the elements. Neck and décolletage can be treated the same. A strong spf is key during the day and night-time regime of cleansing and moisturizing will maintain healthy and more toned skin

Garden spa – as a night mask treat why not pick some parsley and plaster it on – the skin replenishing Vitamin C in parsley is four times higher than that of oranges, make a compress of will also leech into the skin magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, iodine and trace copper. The chlorophyll is also beneficial to cellular repair.

Borage and evening primrose flower make excellent petal moisturizers and their seed oil is great to rejuvenate skin. Elderflower has that capacity to fade age spots soothe sunburn but also decrease the appearance of wrinkles it makes a great ingredient for any ‘neck and dec’ treatment.

Lady’s mantle helps prevent skin from sagging. Both purple and yellow loosestrife make really good skin treatments. Once the seeds are removed, Hawthorn berries are edible and with their pectin content cook up nicely with other jam fruit and preserves – hawthorn phytochemicals and its pectin support the production and function of collagen.

Kitchen spa – An apple a day – free radicals prematurely age our skin but Vitamin C in citrus fruits can mop up those free radicals. Apples can also prevents dry, flaky skin via their juicy hydration, healthy pectin and Vitamin A but their calcium content also helps skin regenerate.

Eat more but also pulp up a fruit mask for all of those benefits in an external application. Green and white tea inhibits collagenase and elastase from destroying collagen and elastin. Grape, fig and passion fruit make great body blends and 20min masks for neck and dec.

Helpful Home Treatments

White tea and parsley décolletage gel- Make a ½ cup white tea with boiling water and 1 tsp of veg gelatine, then blitz it with ½ cup parsley decant to storage contain and once set apply to creppy areas

Peppermint and sage toner – peppermint which is an astringent in its own right can be soaked or blended with witch hazel to tighten skin; the addition of sage cleanses and tightens pores

Pectin neck and décolletage mask – the pith in the rind of a lemon is packed with skin tightening pectin and the Polysaccharides in apple can slow changes to the skin structure associated with UV damage and aging. Peel, core, dice and cook an apple with ½ lemon chopped in 1 cup of boiling water. Blitz all together and cool enough to apply to skin. The lemon juice in the mix is also beneficial in supplying extra vitamin C.

Milk and two sugars lotion – Cows and goats milk are packed with cytokines (listed on expensive creams as peptides) lift dead skin cells and repair tissue damage underneath while also stimulating the production of collagen and other connective tissues – basically restructuring the skin to a healthier younger looking form. Simply whip up one cup of milk in a blender with 5tablespoons of sunflower oil 2 table spoons of almond flour, I tablespoon of honey and I tablespoon of glycerine. Stores in fridge for one week. Use as a cleanser or add more almond flour for a mask consistency.

for similar check out: The Holistic Gardener: Beauty Treatments from the Garden. Fiann Ó Nualláin. ISBN: 9781781173510. €12.99

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Anti-spirochete herbs to treat Lyme disease

Modern science is still at the very early stages of understanding Lyme disease but medicinal botany and herbalism has been here before – Borrelia the bacteria at the centre of Lyme is a spirochete just like syphilis and leptospirosis – two diseases successfully and contemporarily treated with herbs that attack or affect the spirochete directly rather than just carpet bomb the whole system with antibiotics.

I am not saying discount antibiotics altogether and I acknowledge that if antibiotics are deployed in time – close to bite/infection or for sufficient duration (several weeks) then it will save a lifetime of multiple symptoms and medical frustration and when it comes to chronic Lyme, that has been misdiagnosed as Fibro or M.E or other, then once given correct diagnosis and follow up with antibiotic treatments – the antibiotic regime is still the most effective cure in the stats of those recovered.

What I am saying is that there is a whole other arsenal too that should be deployed to destroy the Borrelia before it takes hold or to diminish it when it flares up from a latency. And those big guns are the anti-spirochetal herbs. Before we get into them or them into us, here’s how it works.

A spirochete is a corkscrew-shaped bacterium that can and does bores into vessel walls and even into tissues and cartilage – so bunkering itself out of reach of most antibiotics. Unlike other bloodstream trapped bacteria, spirochetes can screw their way through the blood vessels and escape the blood stream beyond the natural immune system and the prescribed antibiotics.

This is why that other famous spirochete –syphilis – was so difficult to eradicate for so long. It was bunkered beyond the reach of medicine. Currently syphilis and leptospirosis are treated very effectively in China with anti-spirochete herbs and many of those herbs have moved into Lyme treatment protocols.

Part of what these anti-spirochete herbs do is to unscrew the bacteria back out of cells and tissue and into the blood stream to be met by your own immune system and any combination of antibacterial herbs and antibiotics deemed effective.

Notable anti spirochetes include Green chiretta aka Andrographis (Andrographis paniculata), Chai Hu (Bupleurum spp), Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) – all utilized to warm the cells and muscles thus encouraging the bacteria out into the bloodstream but also to exert analgesic and anti-inflammatory action for chronic Lyme arthritis-like pains.

In medicinal botany evaluations of TCM, the ‘spirochete killers’ include Allicin – the active antibiotic agent of raw garlic; Coptin and berberine, two active antibiotic and neuroprortective agents of Chinese goldthread (Coptis chinensis) and Houttuynin an active antibacterial from the chameleon plant (Houttuynia cordata)

One of the most potent choices you can make is sarsaparilla (Smilax glabrae) a killer of spirochetes and a natural anti-inflammatory but perhaps even more importantly it is and endotoxin binder. So as all the other herbs kill and disrupt the Borrelia bacteria as it breaks down and reacts to its agitation it releases harmful substances into the body tissues and blood stream potentially triggering toxic overload and prompting bad reaction – if we can clump and mop up then we lessen the damage and clear the toxins quicker.

Sarsaparilla would be beneficial too to Herxheimer reactions – those adverse reactions to conventional antibiotic treatments for spirochetal infection that result in fever, chills, headache, myalgia, tachycardia, hyperventilation, etc.

Liver detox herbs would we useful and lymph prompting herbs too – to fully cleanse the system. It is currently thought that ‘Lyme arthritis’ may be more a result of the dead bacteria than living damage – so catching, killing and detoxing early should be on the radar.

It is never a good idea to self-medicate with only half the picture so do visit a qualified herbalist and find a regime that compliments your constitution and doesn’t clash with current medications.

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Sugar alternatives – How sweet it is or isn’t.

We know sugar is bad… but what are the replacement options. Some seem to be worse than sugar and with others the jury is still out or the trials not yet complete. As it stands we have two options; ‘artificial sweeteners’ or ‘natural sweeteners’. So what’s the difference in health terms.

Artificial sweeteners: in some quarters they are a health revolution and in others considered to be excitotoxins and disruptive to the nervous and endocrine systems. Personally I am not a fan. More research needs to be carried out on dosage, duration of use etc. The two most utilized are aspartame and saccharin.

Aspartame is much lauded as having zero calories to its sweet taste( some brands up to 200 times that of sucrose/sugar) but the compound breaks down in the human system into Phenylalanine which inhibits the activity of a gut enzyme called alkaline phosphatase (IAP) which is known to slow the progression of metabolic syndrome, obesity and diabetes.

Saccharin aka Sodium saccharin (benzoic sulfimide) is a manufactured sweetener, approximately 300–400 times as sweet as sucrose/sugar (some brands up to 700 times). It can however have a bitter or metallic aftertaste. It will raise glucose levels but not as strikingly as sugar. It belongs to a class of compounds known as sulfonamides, which can cause allergic reactions in some.

‘Natural’ sweeteners: there are increasing numbers of natural choices on health store and supermarket shelves. Here are some of the more popular ones.

Agave syrup (extracted from Agave tequilana) is sweeter than honey and table sugar but with a low glycemic index and oft promoted as a healthy alternative for diabetics. It is predominantly made up of fructans and fructose rather than glucose and so absorbs more steadily and slowly into the bloodstream. Caveat – fructose is calorie high and while theoretically less damaging than table sugar it is no ‘health compound’ and can contribute to raised triglycerides and fat accumulation. The syrup however does contain quantities of Iron, Magnesium, Calcium and Potassium

Erythritol is a derivative of a plant based sugar alcohol (occurring naturally in some fruit and fermented foods) that is processed into a low-calorie sweetener. It is roughly 60 – 80% as sweet as sucrose (table sugar) but it does not spike blood glucose or insulin levels and has no impact upon cholesterol or triglycerides either. Over use can cause some digestive upset.

Honey is so sweet because it consists almost completely of pure glucose and levulose (a fructose) and it will spike blood glucose and insulin – this is often overlooked as it has so many other health benefits; mainly due to its mineral-rich and organic acid profile that supports liver function and intestinal health. Darker-coloured honey is higher in mineral and acid content.

Maple syrup (extract of the sap of Acer saccharum) is sweet by virtue of being approximately 2/3rds sucrose and with that all the links to obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It is seen as a healthier option in that as a replacement option, gram for gram, it technically cuts sugar consumption by 1/3 and also because it is slower to trigger a spike. Maple Syrup is a good source of Manganese and Zinc and can potential yield around 20-30 different antioxidants, the darker ones more so.

Stevia (an extract from the leaves of Stevia rebaudiana) comprised of two particularly sweet compounds – Stevioside and Rebaudioside A – each being around 100 times sweeter than sugar, gram for gram. It has zero calories and a zero rating on the Glycemic load index. It has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and to reduce oxidized LDL cholesterol. Before its use as a sweetener, the herb had a medicinal value in reducing arterial plaque buildup.

Xylitol is a plant based sugar alcohol. Traditionally found in birch trees but also in other sources that contain the plant fiber xylan. Its sweetness is on a par to sugar but with 2/3rds of the caloric value. Xylitol does not spike blood sugar or insulin levels some scientific studies have shown that it can improve bone density and so lower the risk of osteoporosis and it is fast becoming a replacement in dental care products as supports remineralization of teeth.

Yacon syrup – New ‘healthy syrups’ come on the market all the time but Yacon Syrup looks promising as a natural sweetener; beyond its potential to regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels, it is quite high in fructooligosaccharides –a set of soluble fibers which feed and nurture bifidobacteria and lactobacilli (the good bacteria) in the intestines. It can however exert laxative properties in doses above sweetening a tea.

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