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The Green Man.....In The Field (Part 3)

Posted on 9 May, 2015 at 3:50 Comments comments (378)
In my earlier blog series Weeds of Wonder I wrote about the concept of plants growing  together, and in degrees of abundance, relative to our need. This repeated pattern of plant interrelationships suggests a divine intelligence that is whispering its wisdom to us through the natural world, if only we should stop to listen. In the earlier series I illustrated this idea using the  connection between Nettles and Clivers. These two plants are found growing together early in spring.  Their influence on the blood and lymphatic system work to remedy the toxic accumulations of winter.
     In some archaic belief systems, Nettles are believed to embody the masculine, while Clivers embody the feminine.  At a physical level this is reflected in the plant structures.  Nettles are physically coarser and stronger in their leaf and stem,while the Clivers are more delicate. Each plant has its own unique function, but they are most effective when they are applied together.
     In the picture above we see the common sight of Nettles and Clivers growing together at a location near  me.  However, we see a third plant that is also dominant at this site and growing among the other two.  If you look closely you will recognise it as Ground Elder (Aegopodium podagraria).  Ground Elder, like Nettles, is a remedy for removing acid from the body and is a specific, in folk medicine, for gout. 
     At a simpler biochemical level, it is not at all significant where each of these plants grow or with long as they contain the relevant combination of constituents.  Yet, these vital substances, if we can ignore for now other forces at work within our realm of existence, do not come into being of their own volition.  These biochemicals evolved in quality and quantity under the influence of the environment the plants thrived in. When these herbs choose to thrive on a specific site we must ask ourselves, what do they gain individually?  But when specific herbs regularly thrive together on a defined site we must also ask ourselves, what do they gain collectively....and logically, what do they offer collectively? If we develop this idea on, such considerations would support localised harvesting from specific sites, especially when matching our remedies to individual patient needs.  Such an approach is the strength of the truly holistic herbalist....creating hand-picked medicines, from specific, well known local micro environments, to heal our community. To truly understand the influences and workings of our medicines we need to get out into our local areas and map out the locations where the various herbs known to us survive, but better still....those special places where they thrive. We need to understand that natural environment and what it brings to the plants we use with respect to their constituents, their energetics, and the elements that govern all things. We need to understand these herbs, not just in isolation but within their collective community. This is not a new concept, but is well established in many native and ancient cultures. As an example, the whirling... swirlings...and the webs woven by ancient Celtic art is a testament to their understanding of the interconnected nature of both physical and spiritual existence. 
  The medicines we need to regain a healthy balance grow around us naturally in the gardens, fields, woods, seashores and wetlands where we live.  They have a story to tell that is still unfolding....

Health and Happiness
The Green Man

Herb Walk at Pitland Farm

Posted on 18 April, 2015 at 3:46 Comments comments (1328)
     On Sunday 12th of April a modest group braved the brisk winds to attend my herb walk at Pitland Farm, Clifton on Teme, Worcestershire.
     Although early in the year, there was an abundance of things to see and I was able to use new growth as well as dried old growth from last year to aid in identifying wild herbs as well as explain the Doctrine of Signatures
     We looked a the little tubers growing on the roots of Pilewort (yellow flowered herb seen below).  
     I explained my idea of "the wind shadow" to help understand the energetics and nature of Stinging Nettle.
     Last years growth along with freshly emerging leaves were used to identify and explain the medical application of Figwort.
     A number of the group braved the tasting of some of the wild herbs.  The bitter Burdock leaf was too much for most....although Richard was willing to give it a go.  Many more found the almost minty taste of the Ground Ivy (pictured near the bottom of  the page) much more palatable.
     An early walk like this supports the idea that interacting with wild herbs in your area is an all year round event.  It is important to get out and map the various herbal environments....and to walk them throughout the seasons to better fully understand their nature.
     Thank you to Maggie for taking pictures of me as I waffle.  Thank you to Wendy for making the tea...Thank you to Julia of Purethyme for getting things rolling and promoting the event...and Thank you to Diane and Ian at Pitlands Farm for offering me a  fine venue, for promoting the event and allowing us the use of your activity room.
     Thank you to those who attended....I enjoyed your company and hope that I have inspired you to get out in the woods and fields to unravel more of the mysteries of the world of The Green Man.

The Green Man.....In The Field. (Part 1)

Posted on 21 February, 2015 at 6:18 Comments comments (591)
     The last few days have been glorious sunshine.  Even today, although raining, felt warm and spring-like.  This is sometimes hard to comprehend when some of the forecast temperatures are still quite low.  It may sound strange, but I think this may have much to do with the growing light.  Certainly, the effect of the growing days has a significant influence on awakening the developing plants just like the increase in temperature. It is these influences that cause a stir in me to start looking about at what is coming up.....and inspires me to make my first, usually excessive, purchase at a garden centre.  It has also brought me to the idea that I would like to share these developments with you.
     The Green Man.....In The Field, is the beginning of a new series whereby, I hope to be able to get out and document for you, in picture and in word, some of the developments that are happening in the plant world....and to give some information about the plants presented.
     Although the title of the new series includes In The Field, I will start out In The Garden....because it contains the sheltered spaces that often see developments ahead of those in the surrounding countryside (although, the countryside too has its own sheltered places of trapped warmth).
     After the great loss of plants at my allotment to last winter's rains...I decided to keep many plants close to home in pots to weather the season.  This is not to say that some things were not planted to weather the extremes in the open...but I kept back representatives 2 by 2 in a Noah like fashion just in case not everyone made it.  Of course, the home bodies have their post-winter scraggle look (my word I think) but they are showing solid promise of growth at the base.  
     One of the first impressive herbs to visually impact the countryside is the primrose.  The paler yellow flower of this herb reflects the gentle intensity of the sun at this time of year, later to be replaced by the intense yellow of the dandelion.
     Primrose has many properties but, perhaps, its two best known functions are as a sedative and an expectorant.
     When the days start to get warmer few of us concern ourselves with colds.  However, spring is a time when the body will detox itself from the accumulations of winter.  This may present as a cold with much phlegm.  Cowslip can help to remove this from the respiratory system.  Furthermore, its sedative properties can induce sleep during the period of recovery.
     Last year, I noticed an increased presence in mullein.  The little chaps seemed to be popping up all over the place.  As I have said many times,  I believe things grow when and where they are needed...and in the quantity we need them in.  Paying heed to my own philosophy I cultivated many of them in pots and in my allotment.  Although they have not come out of their dormant phase yet, they will soon begin to put on leaf that I can harvest for cold conditions where there is phlegm involved.  
     The velvety leaves suggest a signature that would support the work of the cilia in the respiratory system.
     Later on in its second season, mullein will produce its lovely yellow flowers that are used in ear conditions.  In fact, these flowers remind you of the entrance to the outer ear.
     Many inflammatory conditions of the ear develop as a result of a build up catarrh in the ear.  When the body is toxic, especially after winter, it will use various vehicles to expel this waste or, where the condition is chronic, to store it.  Certain dietary excesses seem to correlate with a build up in the ear, dairy consumption being one of the most noticeable.
     Mullein thrive on sunny, well drained, locations which makes it sympathetic to dry inflammatory states.
Often we think of our interaction with plants as a summer event.  Yet, if we wish to weave herbs into the fabric of our life, we need to be outside, where we live, all year round.  This allows us to build up our knowledge of the local habitats and map where the various herbs are growing.  This helps us to cultivate a relationship with the place where we live, both on a practical and spiritual level.  It is my wish that this series will help to guide you in achieving that.

Health and Happiness.

The Green Man

Essentially Holistic

Posted on 3 February, 2015 at 15:55 Comments comments (536)
The vibrant powdered herbs, seen in the picture on the left, are being blended specifically for one patient.  No other patient is receiving the same formula.  Essentially, unlike conventional medicine, holistic medicines specifically fit the individual patient needs rather than the patient having to fit the patent formula of the medicine. This may explain one of the reasons why our patients are not haunted by a list of side-effects.
     another consideration is, I am using whole powdered herbs.  The use of the whole plant part ensures that all the plant constituents are present to play an active role  in the healing process, as nature conceived it.  This is in contrast to the pharmaceutical industry and some manufacturers of patent herbal products who are obsessed with the "active" ingredients (usually alkaloids) and "standardisation.
      Alkaloids, on their own. are like the element of fire unchecked.  Fire, when tempered, can be a creative and healing force.  But when fire is unleashed on its own it can leave a path of destruction.  In contrast, whole plant material is in harmony with our  natural pattern of absorption as well as our energetic resonance.
     The pursuit of standardisation within manufactured herbal products reflects an attitude,among certain circles within the medical world, that see the natural world as evolving out of a meaningless series of random events. By extracting alkaloids (and other deemed active substances) and standardising them, they are doing a "proper job" with the "primitive" material at hand.  However, the isolation and standardisation of individual constituents has been seen to create the same problem in herbal products, in terms of side-effects as those experienced in the manufacturing of conventional drugs when applying this philosophy.
     My experience is the constituent combinations found in the herbs are anything but random.  When we observe this more closely natural patterns become evident that suggest a hidden intelligence of intent.  Even seemingly worthless plant fiber has a role to play in slowing down absorption of other more aggressive substances, subsequently softening the nature of their effect. The short term gains of extracted alkaloids and standardised herbal products may initially seem impressive when employed symptomatically, but in the long term there is a price to pay.  Herbs work best when they are used holistically and when they are used whole.
     It is true that some plants are found to vary in the concentration of their contents from one site to another.  For this reason it is good  for the home gatherer to map his/her areas of harvesting for more consistent results.  Likewise, attention to concentrations in blending or a variable scale in dosage can compensate for any variations.
     The vibrant herbs above were formulated for one patient alone.  They were converted into the capsules seen.....and in keeping with the application of holistic philosophy the patient is responding well.
Health and Happiness
The Green Man

The Green Man's Home Herbal Tuition

Posted on 8 November, 2014 at 9:44 Comments comments (520)
The Green Man's Herbal Basket

Home Herbal Tuition 

Here is an example of the first month's send out for the quarterly home herbal course starting in December. Each month you will receive four sample remedies with your tuition, including instruction on how to make them as well as information about the plants involved and other interesting facts about herbalism. The tuition is designed to empower you with the knowledge to make your own herbal remedies. In time you will be able to build up your own home herbal remedy cabinet made from plants you have grown or foraged. The tuition is limited to 10 if you are interested please contact me. More information is available on The Green Man's Herbal Basket page of my website.

We Must Be Doing Something Good If They Have To Resort To This!

Posted on 2 October, 2014 at 16:13 Comments comments (152)
This information has come to me via my professional body. It seems, from what is here, that attempts where made to fabricate information with respect to the safety of herbal medicine. Information, which was later used as the basis for the EU legislating THMPD. Those responsible do not serve the public interest and would appear to have misused their position of authority and trust. If you cry wolf too often...soon no one will listen anymore.
I am not surprised by this at all. It seems information was fabricated to excuse our involvement in Iraq. When millions and billions of pounds in profit are involved what do you expect.....integrity?   The Green Man.

The latest news in on the SR front is that the Alliance for Natural Health, which previously 
hosted the EHTPA’s petition for SR, has now published a major report that completely 
undermines the EHTPA’s false argument.
The underlying theme of the article is in line with the challenge to the ANH that Sandy made 
earlier in the year, that forced them to back down over one and withdraw one of their 
postings on the subject.
Print outs of the text are available and I can e-mail out more copies if there are not enough to 
go round.
The ANH has the following article on its website about the Aristolochia case. This case still forms the main 
argument used by the pro-SR lobby to illustrate how dangerous herbs are, which is perhaps remarkable 
when one reads the article. Maybe the pro-SR people simply do not believe the ANH, are choosing not to 
believe them, or just haven't read the article. The article calls on everyone to spread this news far and wide, 
so why not do so?!
"Chris Dhaenens: the truth about Aristolochia Dr. Dhaenens lives in Belgium and is a specialist in 
toxicology and pharmacognosy of Chinese herbs.
Chris Dhaenens of the EBF then spoke on the technical aspects of the THMPD. He detailed for MEPs many 
of the ways in which the Directive is unsuitable for its purpose of regulating all forms of herbal medicine, 
regardless of tradition. With no products designed for use in Ayurveda or traditional Chinese medicine 
(TCM) yet registered under the scheme, something has clearly gone terribly wrong.
Chris Dhaenens presenting at the European Parliament
The key part of Mr Dhaenens’ presentation concerned the Chinese herb Aristolochia fangchi and the origins 
of the current regulatory problems. Many readers will be familiar with the story: back in 1990 in Brussels, 
Belgium, the very seat of the EU, 135 of around 15,000 people given a preparation containing Aristolochia 
as a slimming aid suffered irreversible kidney damage. The problems were attributed solely to Aristolochia, 
and a new condition was named in honour of the case, so-called “Chinese herb nephropathy” or CHN. We 
can see the direct results of the Belgian cases in the threat to herbal medicine posed by the THMPD, which 
was originally designed to ensure that similar cases did not occur again.
Mr Dhaenens and his colleagues have spent 20 years looking closely into the Aristolochia case. As trained 
TCM practitioners and scientists, they were shocked that Aristolochia was implicated for CHN, given that
they had prescribed it to thousands of patients in that time without a single episode of kidney failure. As it 
turns out, the ‘Aristolochia cases’ are nothing of the sort, and CHN has been entirely mischaracterised. As 
time has elapsed and more evidence has emerged over what went on in the clinic, it seems there may have 
been a cover-up and malicious intent to damage the reputation of herbal medicine and allow the doctors to 
walk away unscathed. The story looks more and more like the plot of the latest bestselling thriller!The dangers of orthodox medical arrogance – not of herbal medicine
Mr Dhaenens told the audience that all 135 cases came from a single clinic in Brussels over a period of 5
months. Closer inspection revealed that the cocktail in question was prescribed, not by herbal practitioners 
trained in TCM and use of the Chinese pharmacopoeia, but by orthodox medics entirely unskilled in the 
herbal tradition with which they were dabbling.
In Belgium and throughout the EU, “authorised health-care professionals” – usually doctors and pharmacists 
– can prescribe unlicensed medicines, including herbal medicines. This gives medical doctors the ability to 
prescribe any herbs they wish, despite often not knowing their radix from their stamen!
The doctors prescribed Aristolochia as a slimming aid, an indication not found in any Chinese 
pharmacopoeia. As Mr Dhaenens stated, “The Aristolochia case is the best example we can find that herbs 
should not be used out of their context.” Not only that, but the cocktail they prescribed contained several 
amphetamine-like substances – many of which have since been legally restricted for their danger to human 
health. Mr Dhaenens emphasised that Aristolochia can be toxic under normal circumstances, but that this 
toxicity is both acute and reversible and never leads to irreparable kidney damage. As an added bonus for 
their patients, the doctors gave them a big dose of intravenous serotonin. Given such a potent brew of 
circumstances – doctors prescribing outside their competence a mixture of substances that included 
amphetamine-like ingredients, many of which are now banned, along with serotonin – it is quite amazing 
that the investigators managed to blame the kidney failure entirely on Aristolochia fangchi.
Aristolochia not to blame
But the real bombshell was to follow. Three court cases have occurred since 1993, the findings of which 
have never been publicised. All three judgements in these cases were unequivocal in stating, in Mr 
Dhaenens’ words, “There is no connection between the pathology of the victims and the herb Aristolochia, 
and that other scenarios should be investigated. That’s what we did for 20 years, and now scientific research 
establishes that…probably ochratoxin is at the root of this problem.”
Regulation built on a fallacy
Think about that for a moment. The cases of irreversible kidney damage attributed to a single Chinese herb, 
Aristolochia, had nothing to do with Aristolochia. Yet these cases were used to justify the regulatory 
framework represented by the THMPD, a framework that has since been skewed in such a way that it now 
threatens entire herbal traditions with extinction in the EU as well as EU citizens’ freedom of choice and 
self-determination. The skewing is such that the Directive does not even provide a suitable regime for the 
very traditions it was supposed to regulate! The root of the Belgian ‘Aristolochia problem’, as it happens, 
had everything to do with orthodox medical doctors working outside their competence, prescribing herbs in 
a cavalier manner with no respect for the traditions from which they came.
This is probably the biggest untold story in herbal medicine – ever!

The Influence of The Elements in Disease

Posted on 24 September, 2014 at 8:16 Comments comments (267)
I have been out collecting the abundant supply of damsons. These are scheduled to sit in my freezer until I have sufficient time to begin the process of making wine from them.
On a medical note Mrs. Grieve, in her famous book A Modern Herbal, tells us that the bark is styptic and the fruit is used for its astringency in cases of diarrhoea. This reference made me start thinking about the diverse ways holistic practitioners understand and prescribe for a case being treated.
Very often a case presents itself with a very clear physiological profile. However, some cases, when analysed holistically, will be understood by the influence or imbalance of an element . A case presenting excess heat (this may result from emotional friction caused by anger or frustration, from toxic states, insufficient fluid intake etc...or a combination of these factors) is influenced by the fire element and will need cooling and moistening herbs (water element) to restore balance. If the source of the heat is emotional, then Bach remedies and other methods may be applied to resolve the cause of friction.
Physically, such cases of dryness and heat may present themselves as agitated behaviour, inflammation, dry skin, red rash with itching, painful joints (drying of fluids and acid deposits), constipation etc. Some of these cases will also benefit from alterative and hepatic action (the liver is potentially a source of both toxic and emotional heat). However, the complex functioning of herbs makes it possible to make choices that combine all these properties
For me, cases presenting with heat and dryness often require a combination of two types of herbs within the formula; those that are astringent and those that are moistening. This may sound like a contradiction. Astringent herbs are thought of as drying. This is so initially, but I understand their long term action to be moistening by their influence of closing the tissue and thus preserving fluid loss (as in their application in wounds, diarrhoea, or excessive sweating). These would also be indicated where there are relaxed tissue states. 
Moistening herbs are those that actually bring moisture to the system...or attract moisture to a specific site (depending in what format they are given). Usually these herbs contain high levels of mucilage. Such examples include Marshmallow, Couch Grass, Comfrey etc.
In the healing art it is important to recognise that the elements are the natural source of creation and we should not fear to turn to them in our understanding of how to restore balance and create health.

The Importance of Emotions in Chronic Disease

Posted on 29 August, 2014 at 4:06 Comments comments (157)
I was watching the interview of a university trained herbalist yesterday. As part of the presentation he was explaining his considerations when taking a patient history. It all sounded very familiar as he started listing the aspects that warrant investigation when considering a holistic treatment......Lifestyle.....Diet.......and then he stopped! The silence was deafening as I anticipated his utterance of the last of the holy triad of holistic healing. I have repeated these over and over again for so many years it has become like a religious mantra. When a reference to EMOTIONS was not seemed like the holistic order of things was tipped on its head.
Perhaps under the strain of the interview, and being filmed, he forgot to mention it.....Perhaps Emotions is still lying on the editing room floor...waiting to be discarded into a rubbish bin.
Over the years of practicing holistic herbal medicine, I have come to acknowledge that there is an emotional aspect in at least 90% of all the cases I treat. Sometimes it is a secondary factor, but in many cases it is the primary consideration in treatment.
We cannot separate our emotions from our physical existence. A simple example is to consider how we feel when we are in love...or scared. How does that make us feel physically? What parts of our body are affected? When a negative emotional state becomes unresolved its influence can manifest as chronic disease.
Our emotions tie into our nervous system...which in turn feeds every part of the body! If we are to give a truly holistic treatment how can we afford to ignore the important influence they have on health.
Although the nerves reach all parts of the body, the effects of unresolved emotional states seem to be most common in diseases of the circulation, digestion and skin.
I routinely employ a comprehensive treatment including Bach remedies ( Aspen is shown in the picture) and herbs. However, one of the most potent approaches to resolving emotional conditions is to allow the patient sufficient time to talk about what troubles them. By sharing these feelings it allows them to organize their thoughts and create more self-awareness and the potential to change perspective. Bach flower remedies can be skillfully utilized to help this process along.
Over the years I have employed these methods to facilitate the lasting resolution of a number of physical conditions of the systems mentioned.
I suppose it is possible to consider diet and lifestyle alone, but where the emotions have a primary influence in a condition I cannot imagine a lasting resolution to any chronic physical condition.

Menstrual problems...Is it natural to suffer?

Posted on 12 August, 2014 at 5:54 Comments comments (167)

While going through a patient's progress recently it reminded me of how many cases of menstrual complications I have come across over the years and how many have been resolved using a holistic approach.
The number of such cases is so wide spread in the west that it has become endemic to the point of being accepted as a normal part of life, and of being a woman. It is not! As a practitioner taking a history, I have come across scores of women who experience a very light, short and pain free period each month. These individuals stand as a testimony that menstrual difficulties are not related to being a woman, but to being a woman with a specific imbalance that is expressing itself through the monthly cycle.
There is no one answer to this condition as each individual will have come to that state through a varied combination of factors and developments along their life's unique journey. That is why a individual holistic treatment is best for long term results. 
The condition is often blamed on hormonal imbalances and to remedy this orthodox, and even some schools of herbal, medicine will take you down a path of hormone it pharmaceutical or phyto-hormones. For me, a healthy body produces and expels hormones in a balanced way, topping up the difference or blocking the excess is a short sighted approach that does not address the underlying problem.
In these cases, along with the menstrual problems there will be other indicators like skin problems and extreme fluctuations of mood. These can also resolve themselves when the underlying problem is considered and treated. I remember a case of a woman who was having difficult and irregular periods. Near the end of the treatment a condition of her skin that had existed since childhood cleared up. This indicates the interconnection of disease and how our health declines when we do not understand and address these conditions properly.
Toxicity is the most common underlying factor to consider when treating such cases. The cause of this toxicity can be long standing and often has expressed itself in more acute ways earlier in life (tonsillitis, colds, diarrhoea, rashes and other skin problems, etc.) It can have its roots in unresolved emotional conflicts, poor diet, poor lifestyle, or a combination of all of these. 
When the body turns to the menstruation to unload toxins it is already at an advanced state. Men only have four means of toxic expulsion (bowels, kidneys, skin, and lungs). These means are normally sufficient for both men and women to expel these unwanted substances from the body. When a woman's period becomes heavy, long and painful, it is an indication that those means are overloaded and/or not working up to par. This has to be gently addressed before more toxins are coxed into the system for expulsion.
It is frustrating sometimes as a practitioner to know how many people are suffering, who need not be suffering. Hormone treatments are like brushing filth under the carpet, if you keep doing it one day it will bring bigger problems. At some point you will have to deal with it. It is always better to do so while it is more easily resolved.

Blending For A Holistic Approach

Posted on 11 August, 2014 at 6:34 Comments comments (178)
The picture shows herbal powders I am blending into capsules for a patient presenting with, among other things, type 2 diabetes. One of the benefits of this blend, as part of a wider holistic treatment, has been a fairly consistent and healthy degree of weight loss over the last month. Obesity is an important consideration in the balancing of patients presenting conditions like type 2 diabetes, but in itself can be a symptom of other imbalances. An investigation into diet, lifestyle and emotional conflicts is important. It is my experience that an unresolved emotional conflict can often be the catalyst to a decline in many of these other areas that support good health.