Category Archives: Herbal alternatives

Natural deterrent to aphids

FeverfewBattling with aphids (greenfly) in the garden?  Commercially available insecticides often contain a chemical called pyrethrum which is derived from nature.  Rather than buying bottles of commercially prepared and potentially hazardous chemicals, you can harness the power of nature in deterring greenfly just by some clever planting. 

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is a pretty daisy-like plant that contains pyrethrins – very similar to the chemicals in commercial sprays.  Plant Feverfew amongst your flowers and it’s presence will deter the little insect marauders. DaisyGolden feverfew is a pretty plant in its own right – as the name suggests its foliage is a yellow/golden colour – and all plants will readily self-seed all over the garden if you allow them to.  (This plant is also used as a traditional herbal remedy for migraine).

BeeWhilst it is possible to make your own insecticidal spray or powder from these plants I wouldn’t advise it as it is toxic to bees. In its plant form it seems to work well enough for me and does no harm to bees.  Some sources claim that it will deter bees from the garden, although I have never found this to be the case and have often seen bees visiting the feverfew flowers.  

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Sleep, Rest and Recoup

tired

Tips for a restful night’s sleep

If you’re reading this, logic tells me that you are concerned about lack of sleep.  First of all, it’s important to say that  while 8 hours is the accepted norm for a good night’s sleep, you needn’t necessarily feel bad because you routinely sleep for less than this.  Some people actually only need 4 hours (Margaret Thatcher being a famous example), while others are out for the count for a full 12 (just about every teenager on the planet).  

However, sleep deprivation, when your body is telling you that you need more rest (!),  can be both debilitating and depressing and no one really wants to resort to potentially addictive chemicals to solve the problem. There are so many possible causes, cures and herbal remedies that I thought it might be helpful to put together a whole list of them.  I hope you’ll find something here to help. 

Herbal Help

Lavender has been known for centuries to induce relaxation and can be used in a number of ways: a couple of drops of essential oil sprinkled on the corner of your pillow will help, as will  lavender oil in a cold diffuser placed in the lavender-1bedroom.

A warm bath, at the optimum time of two hours before bed, helps to regulate body temperature to an ideal level and is particularly helpful when combined with lavender products like bubble bath and body lotion.

Herbal teas can also prove useful – chamomile and valerian (which is often combined with hops) are both well-known for aiding relaxation and sleep.  While both will help with insomnia, I’ve read recently that valerian, especially when combined with ‘chaste tree’ may help with sleep maintenance. 

Extra help and accepted wisdom

Even 20 minutes of gentle exercise during the day can help to stop stress hormones from interfering with sleep.

Try to avoid heavy meals just before bed – a minimum two hour gap between meal and bed is a good idea.

art-deco-girl-11Avoid caffeine drinks like regular tea, coffee and cola in the evening.

Is your actual bed ‘up to muster’?  The lifespan of a bed depends largely upon quality but as a rule of thumb, if your bed is ten to twelve years old you should probably replace it.  (Here’s a tip: If you suffer from backache, it may just be your bed)!

Equally, do you need new pillows?  There are a huge variety of pillows out there – foam, feather, down – and it may just be that a change of pillow would help you get a restful night’s sleep.

Try to avoid sheets with a high synthetic content.  Sheets with a high cotton content allow your skin to breathe, which in turn makes the bed feel more comfortable.  (I tend to buy sheets with a maximum cotton / minimum polyester content, simply because I’ve found some pure cotton sheets can be an absolute swine to launder).

Environment

Try to ensure that your bedroom is furnished fairly simply and is clutter free.  Psychologically, a clutter free bedroom makes for a calmer and more relaxing atmosphere.

Look at using colours for walls, carpets and soft furnishings that you personally find relaxing.  Traditionally shades of blue and green evoke feelings of calm and relaxation in many people but you may have something else in mind.  (For example, I always seem to opt for gentle creams). 

Try not to watch TV or work in bed.  Your bedroom should become associated in your mind with your own haven of peace and utter relaxation.

off-to-bed1The best temperature for a relaxed sleep is surprisingly cool, i.e. 68 degrees.  Fit individual thermostats to radiators if you can so that you can keep your bedroom at this temperature (and save money)!

It goes without saying that minimising noise and light will also help – it’s strange but true that even though you are asleep you will become aware of increasing light levels in a room where the curtains / blinds allow the morning light to percolate through.

If you live in a quiet area and it is safe to do so, leaving a ‘top light’ /small window slightly ajar to let in some fresh air is a good idea.  Good sleep doesn’t happen easily in a stuffy, ‘sealed’ room with stale air.

Less obvious but worth mentioning anyway:

Airing the room each day, allowing a fresh supply of oxygen to flow through your room will keep it smelling sweet and welcoming.

Toss back the covers each morning to allow cool air to permeate the bed covers.  Even half an hour of this while you shower will keep the bed smelling fresh (not to mention keeping any mites at bay)!

Make the bed each day – an un-made bed doesn’t exactly call you to its gentle embrace, now does it?

Change the bed sheets each week (hopefully you knew that one already)!

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I really, really hope something here will be of help.  Let me know how you get on and…

Remember if this is an on-going problem and you feel at all concerned you should still talk to your doctor.

sleep-soundly

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An apple a day…protects your hair

Think beautifulEating a healthy diet containing a good variety of fresh fruit and vegetables is not only good for our bodies internally, our better health will be reflected in our skin, teeth, nails and hair. 

We have all heard that phrase ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ but scientists now think that apples may be more beneficial to us than we at first realised.  Apples contain polyphenols, one of which has been found to be particularly good for our hair.  It is thought that it may even help to slow down hair loss in male pattern baldness.  

We all want luscious locks, male and female, so whether it’s the fruit or pure apple juice, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to regularly include apples in our diet.

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What your best friend won’t tell you

Ooh dear!You have bad breath.  What can you do about it?  I won’t go into the obvious warnings about how bad breath can be a sign of ill-health, poor dental hygiene etc. You know all that, don’t you?   I’m talking about bad breath because maybe you just ate the Mother of All Curries.  We all need a little help in this department sometimes. 

You may have already heard that parsley is a good ‘antidote’.  Yes it is, to a certain extent.  The chlorophyll, which makes parsley so wonderfully deep green in colour, certainly does help to mask bad odours and gives a wonderful fresh flavour to the mouth.  However, if you really want to knock the pong on it’s stinky head take a tip from Asian culture: chew a cardamom pod.  Chew cardamom in their husks and when they become soft, throw away the husk and swallow the seeds. 

You might also be interested to know that green cardamom is also used to treat infections in the teeth and gums and to prevent throat troubles in South Asia.

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Light hair rinse

Veronica LakeLight brown and blonde hair responds well to a rinse made from chamomile flowers, giving natural highlights and leaving the hair silky soft.

Chamomile tea is now readily available in grocery stores and a strong infusion made in a jug will work well. 

For purists, the old fashioned recipe for chamomile rinse is as follows:

Take 2 – 4 tablespoons of chamomile flowers and add to a pint of boiling water.  Allow to steep for 20 minutes to 3 hours.  When cool, strain and use as a final rinse on clean hair. 

In either case, if you can place a bowl under your hair to catch the excess you can rinse again and again, intensifying the results.

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Dark hair rinse

Lillie LangtryRosemary makes an excellent rinse solution for dark hair – reviving, adding lustre and helping to highlight natural tones.  It is also boosts circulation and as such helps to maintain a healthy head of hair.  

Add 2 tablespoons of rosemary leaves to a pint of boiling water. Steep for 20 minutes and then strain through muslin / cheesecloth into a glass container.  Use as a final rinse after shampooing.

As with all such rinses, if you arrange to have a bowl under your hair to catch the excess, you can rinse a few times in order to intensify the effect.

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Miss Bright Eyes

Actress Isobel Jay, 1906Our eyes are often the first area of the body to reflect poor health and tiredness.  While there is no substitute for good nutrition, there are a few herbal and alternative remedies which may give a boost to the system and help to maintain beautiful eyes.  Herbalist Jethro Kloss advised taking the juice of a lemon in hot water, one hour before breakfast each day to help cleanse the system. 

Cider vinegar which is rich in potassium (fundamentally involved in so many of the body’s processes), may also be helpful.  Take one tablespoon of the vinegar in a glass of water each morning,  with a tablespoon of honey to sweeten if you like.  It has a cleansing and energizing effect.

There are many, many topical quick fixes that you can try.  Here are just a few:

Cucumber is well known to tone up the eye membranes and cools and soothes tired eyes.  Simply use two slices as eye pads, lie down and relax for 15 minutes.

Witch Hazel on pads of cotton wool can be used as an alternative – better still if you keep the bottle in the fridge. 

Tea bags – allow the tea to brew for five minutes or so, remove the tea bags and allow to cool then use in place of eye-pads.

Finally, if you have access to the revered old herb of ‘eyebright’ (named to obviously reflect one of its many virtues!), make a strong infusion, decant into a bottle and keep in the refridgerator.  Again use the cool liquid on pads of cotton wool, lie down and relax for 15 minutes.

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