Welcome

taggy watering

A warm welcome to thewildpharma blog, little sister to our main website at www.thewildpharma.co.uk

This blog was created to share personal stories and experiences of healing with herbs and natural remedies. There is so much information out there on the internet concerning herbs and which ones to choose for which ailment but very few are based on practical experience. Often this information is re-copied from site to site and sometimes comes with either foolish optimism or fearmongering scepticism.

This blog has one simple aim ….. to share stories both good and bad (we learn so much from both!) of experiences with herbs and how they interact with the body, in illness and in health, based on my personal experiences as a herbalist and natural remedy enthusiast.

Who am I? I have been a professional practicing herbalist since 1998 and in training for many years before that. I have two teenage boys (as of Feb 2013) that have been on the receiving end of many herbal and natural treatments, as have most of my family and friends. Even so, I do not consider myself an expert (there is just so much more to learn) but I have great trust in the plants and natural wisdom around me.

We hope you enjoy reading the stories and look forward to hearing yours…..

With love

Deanna (deanna@thewildpharma.co.uk)

Spring Tonic ‘Wild Salad Mix’ – My Biome Box

Spring Tonic ‘Wild Salad Mix’ – My Biome Box

The idea of a Spring cleanse using plants is ancient. The Winter diet of our ancestors in this part of the world would have been heavily reliant on meat and preserved foods whilst the rich variety of Spring and Summer foods lay slumbering underground. With a Winter diet consisting mostly of starchy carbohydrates, fats and salt, newly emerging lush Spring greens were eagerly consumed to help get the whole body cleansed, energised and nutritionally fortified.

Even though our modern life allows us to eat green leaves and fruits that would not normally be available in Winter, the body can still benefit greatly from a cleansing boost from our wild green friends in Springtime. The Winter months naturally encourage us to seek out carbohydrate and fat rich foods which can lead to sluggish fluid circulation and weight gain – the lack of sunlight and colder weather also contribute to a more sluggish state both physically and emotionally.

Traditional Spring foods and teas consist mainly of plants that cleanse and move the lymphatic fluids, improve blood circulation, cleanse the liver and provide a huge boost of Vitamin A and other antioxidants including other phytochemicals benefical to life. Spring is a time of raw, fresh, chlorophyll rich teas, juices and salads. Plant chlorophyll is akin to our blood with similar composition so consuming fresh green leaves is almost like having a transfusion of vibrant and nutrient dense plant blood.

The woodland and hedgerow superstars of the Spring cleanse/tonic are numerous. Fresh Nettle tops, Cleavers and Dandelion leaves are a classic Spring cleanse and are often consumed as a daily tea. I have been seeking out and tasting as many plants as I can in an attempt to produce a wild mixed salald that tastes as delicious as it looks ( I believe the visual and emotional impact of a meal is just as important as the nutritional content)and will provide a tonic boost to the whole body. The plants I chose are all readily available at this time of year in the UK.

The list of possible ingredients is pretty large but I have narrowed it down to those that are abundant in my own garden, I am also mindful that these plants are food for many different creatures which don’t have supermarkets to go to!

This Wild Salad Mix (exclusively made for MyBiomeBox.co.uk) is formulated to be an addition to your usual gentler tasting salad leaves (Cos, Romaine, Butterhead etc) and would be even more delicious when mixed in with fresh tomatoes, cucumber and all your usual salad ingredients. This is the approximate contents of the bag…..

The main salad leaves

4 Ground Elder leaves (Aegopodium podagraria) – the stems are the most nutritious part, very high in antioxidants, used as medicine against gout, rheumatism etc.

6-8 Baby wild garlic leaves (Allium ursinum) – very similar nutritionally and medicinally to normal garlic, rich in sulphur, vitamins and minerals, lowers blood pressure, antibiotic and anti-viral.

3 Three cornered leek flowering stems (Allium triquetrum) – very similar to the above being a member of the same family, also rich in fatty acids.

2-4 Dandelion leaves (Taraxacum officinale) – rich in Vitamin A, C, E, K, flavanoids and other antioxidants, very high in potassium which is why they are used medicinally as a diuretic against water retention and high blood pressure.

With smaller additions

4-6 Wood sorrel leaves (Oxalis acetosella) – very high in Beta-caratene and antioxidants.

3 Ladys Smock flowering tips (Cardamine pratensis) – rich in Vitamin C with a peppery cress like taste.

1 Hairy Bittercress flowering tips (Cardamine hirsuta) – rich in Vitamin C with a pungent spicy mustard like flavour.

1 Red Dead Nettle flowering tips (Lamium pupureum) – flowering tops contain a novel form of carbohydrate and are used medicinally to stop bleeding, also contains immune modulating compounds and is anti-inflammatory.

4-6 Violet flowers (Viola sp.) – lymphatic stimulant, anti-cancer and loaded with anti-oxidants.

4-6 Primrose flowers (Primula vularis) – mildly calming and pain relieving in medicinal doses.

If you are new to eating wild plants you may want to add just a small amount of the wild salad mix to your usual salad leaves. The strong and/or unusual tastes can take a little while for your pallette (and digestive system) to get used to, so adding in small amounts here and there will give you a gentle introduction.

Wash all ingredients well before using, roughly chop the leaves and pull off individual florets from flower stalks if you want to evenly disperse the flavours throughout the dish. All parts of the plants included in the MyBiomeBox Wild Salad Mix are edible but you may wish to exclude some of the stalks or occasional seed pod. I suggest having a tiny nibble of each part of each plant before use to get familiar with each individual taste. You can add more or less sour lemon taste (wood sorrel leaf), peppery taste (ladys smock, hairy bittercress), onion/garlic flavour (wild garlic, 3 cornered leek), bitter (dandelion leaf) to suit your pallette.

I reckon that this amount of plant material will make between 2 and 4 portions to add in to a larger salad serving 2 people.

The Wild Spring Salad Bag

We really are spoilt for choice at this time of year and I urge you to get out and get tasting, immerse yourselves in the vibrant energy of Spring and offer heartfelt grattitude to the bounty of the season.

Sloe Down To Notice The Blackthorn

Sloe Down To Notice The Blackthorn

The very beautiful 5 petaled Blackthorn blossom…..

The hedgerows are glowing right now with the enchanting white blossoms of Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa).

The dense little flower clusters are generously arranged all over the bare branches and stems and shine out form the hedges, a beacon announcing that the darkness of Winter is over and the fresh new growth of Spring is underway.

In magical folklore, Blackthorn is associated with the dark aspect of the triple Goddess, the Crone, the dark of the moon. With her tangled branches and fierce thorns, its easy to see why she is connected with difficult phases of life, struggle, strife, clouded judgement. Yet she acts as guardian of the threshold between Winter and Spring, between life and death – new life born from the death of the old life, new insights and lessons learned from the pain of suffering. Read more about her ancient magical associations here.

As well as being a treasure trove of food for foraging insects and animals, she also has some goodies to offer us humans too, apart from being a sight for sore eyes! The flowers have a mild *almond like taste (see caution below), are rich in polyphenols and other therapeutic substances and in small quantities are edible and medicinal. They can be made into a tea to help gently move the bowels, improve the appetite and benefit the stomach, soothe inflammation and irritations in the mouth, gums and throat when used as a gargle, act as a diuretic, help with eruptive skin conditions and a few can be added to Spring Tonic herb teas for ‘blood cleansing’ as the old herbals call it. For this, use 1 teaspoon of fresh blossoms per cup and take 1 cup daily for 3-4 days.

The flowers have a long tradition as a remedy against some cancers even.

They can be candied and used as cake decorations or made into a wild and delicious almond flavoured syrup, for gorgeous recipes, look here and here.

But of course, most will value this plant for the darkly beautiful berries that come in October, the vital ingredient in Sloe Gin. So even if you have no need or use for the flowers, it is well worth remembering where the Blackthorn trees are, especially when they are stand alone trees, these will be heavy with fruit bearing branches in October.

turn into these dark juicy Sloe fruit

*Caution is needed when using the flowers or leaves due to their amygdalin content, a chemical that ends up as cyanide in our bodies. Don’t be too alarmed by this however as so many of our edible fruits do too, mostly in the flowers and stones (Cherry, Peach, Apples, Apricot, Plum etc). In small doses it actually improves respiration, in larger doses it does the opposite.

Here is a link detailing why and how to make a magical flower essence from blackthorn flowers

        

A New Foraging Adventure : MyBiomeBox

A New Foraging Adventure : MyBiomeBox

The Wild Pharma is delighted to be invited to forage and grow for My Biome Box, a brand new venture providing boxed deliveries of wild foraged, old style heritage plants, unusual mushrooms, sprouts, wild edible flowers and micro-herbs.

The principle philosophy behind the box is to enhance the variety of foods in our diet and encourage a healthier microbiome whilst growing in a way that enhances our natural environment and ecosystems.

All the plants are grown and harvested with love, respect and sustainability as the fundamental guiding principle and are chosen specifically to provide a wide array of micronutrients that are often missing in our modern, mass produced diet.

Here is my very first foraged bundle which included Wild Garlic leaves, Three Cornered Leeks and Ground Elder leaves, a wild ‘Woodland Soup’ bundle full of the energy and vibrancy of the Spring woodland!

Woodlnd soup bundles
Wild Garlic leaves
Three Cornered Leek whole plant
Ground Elder leaves

Head over to the mybiomebox.co.uk website for a delicous recipe for Woodland Soup.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Dreams with Herb Pillows – Help For Nightmares

Sweet Dreams with Herb Pillows – Help For Nightmares

Dreaming is one of my favourite things in life and I consider myself blessed to have a rich and varied dreamscape. I have learnt valuable lessons in dreams that my conscious mind may never have entertained and I truly treasure the wisdom they have offered me. From a very young age, I have considered my dreams to be a kind of secret personal guide who knew my intimate thoughts and feelings perhaps even better than I did myself.

As Carl Jung put it *Dreams are impartial, spontaneous products of the unconscious psyche, outside the control of the will. They are pure nature; they show us the unvarnished, natural truth, and are therefore fitted, as nothing else is, to give us back an attitude that accords with our basic human nature when our consciousness has strayed too far from its foundations and run into an impasse.”

‘The Nightmare’ Henry Fuseli

So what about nightmares ?                              

Dreams can be strange and incoherent at times but some are down right disturbing, leaving you deeply troubled and exhausted upon waking. ‘The Nightmare’ haunted me for years as a kid, even more so when my sister reported crushing weight on her chest on waking up from a very frightening dream. Nevertheless I still value my dreams – all of them, the horrific and the inspirational but sometimes recurring nightmares can take their toll on daily life.

Whilst bad dreams also serve an important purpose, a chance to reflect on the shadow aspects of our personalities, they can be very stressful. Tossing and turning and gnashing your teeth all night robs you of your nighttime regeneration and peace and can mean you start the day tired and emotionally wired. When this happens regularly or night after night, there are quite a few steps you can take to try and sweeten those dreams.

Sleep hygiene

Whilst snuggling down into crisp clean sheets is a blissful feeling, ‘sleep hygiene’ as its known, is about creating an environment and state of mind more conducive to a restful nights sleep.

 

Herbal helpers

Chamomile flowers, Sage, Rose, Bay and Aniseed

Fortunately there are plenty of plants that can help to steer our dreams in a calmer direction. You can start with a strong tea (2 heaped teaspoons of flowers) each evening of Chamomile or make a tincture mix of Passionflower, Motherwort, Valerian root etc, the classic relaxing sleepy herbs. These will help to reduce tension in the body and mind and encourage a more peaceful energy throughout. Next we can add in an all night helper in the form of a herbal dream pillow. A dream pillow is basically a bundle of fabric filled with herbs that is then placed somewhere near your head when sleeping. The aromatic oils are released during the night and help to ward off nightmares in favour of sweeter, more manageable dreams.

My favourite herbs for easing nightmares so far are Sage, Chamomile, Bay leaves, Lavender flowers, Rose petals, Rosemary, Lemon balm, Cardamon pods, Aniseed and Thyme. The making is very simple. Decide which dried herbs you would like to use then find some fabric to securely wrap them in. I use a dense cotton so that the herb dust doesn’t shed too much in the bed. You could use an old sock, a t-shirt or make your own bag. I generally use one or two tablespoons of each herb then add to the homemade bag before sewing or tying the bag shut. Place the dream pillow somewhere around the top of the bed, just to the side of your main pillow or perhaps just under your main pillow, anywhere that you can smell the herbs is fine. Hopefully, theses herbs will help you drift into a deep, restful sleep and allow calmer less threatening dreams into your energy field. Replace the pillow with new dried herbs when you feel the aroma is fading or if your nightmares begin to ramp up in intensity again. You could achieve the same effects by using the essential oils of the herbs listed above in an oil burner in the bedroom overnight. Just be careful with candle safety etc.

A Herbal Dream Pillow with Tablespoon for Scale

 

These really do work by the way. My sons girlfriend is living with us during lock-down and has been having very intense nightmares for the last few weeks, almost entirely down to stress over work. I made the above dream pillow for her a few nights ago and her dreams became less nightmarish the first night she slept with it. Four nights on with the herb pillow and today she can’t remember much dream activity at all last night – which is a victory in her case! The herbs are still strongly aromatic and obviously working well.

Finally, no article on dreaming herbs would be complete without mentioning Mugwort. Mugwort (Artemesia vulgaris) is almost always mentioned in any article concerning herbs and dreams. It is a herb that will help with dream recall and many use it to become lucid dreamers. Lucid dreaming is where we learn to have greater levels of control over what happens in our dreams which can be very helpful for transforming nightmares, even helping in everyday life. Just be mindful that Mugwort can cause us to dream more (or perhaps remember them better) and some people do report very vivid and intense dreams (sometimes nightmarish) whilst using it. Use up to half a teaspoon of the tincture in water before bed or add some dried leaves to your dream pillow herbal mix. Use occasionally as internal medicine or in your pillow, Mugwort can be a potent neuro-toxin in large or regular doses.

A really interesting podcast and written transcript of a woman who overcame her assault related nightmares using herbs and other natural techniques can be found here.    

 

Making St Johns Wort Flower Oil (With Help From a Gnome)

Making St Johns Wort Flower Oil (With Help From a Gnome)

Its so easy to make this very useful healing oil, all you need is a patch of St Johns Wort (Hypericum perforatum) to harvest the flowers from, a nice light vegetable oil, a lidded jar, some sunshine and a little time.

St Johns Wort flowers with bee

St Johns wort is flowering now here in East Sussex and should be easy to spot in the hedgerows or long grass, look out for the star like yellow flowers in clusters at the top of the plant, growing up to around 2 feet tall. An easy way to positively identify the plant is to hold a leaf up to the sun – if you see tiny holes in the leaves then you have St Johns wort, the name ‘perforatum’ refers to these tiny perforations.

Pick the flowers on a dry day when they are fully opened and in perfect condition, before they start to shrivel or go brown. Make sure you only take a few flowers from each plant so that plenty of flowers remain – these will go on to produce seeds and allow the plant to proliferate next year, hopefully the patch will spread year after year and provide even more flowers to harvest.

Put as many flowers as you can in the jar and pour on enough oil ( I used sunflower oil ) to cover the flowers. Make sure the flowers are good and dry as any moisture on them can make the oil go rancid very quickly. Shake the jar a bit to get rid of any air bubbles, then secure the lid and put aside in a sunny place ( inside on a windowsill or outside ) to infuse for at least a couple of weeks, preferably a month. I have been adding fresh flowers to mine every couple of days, as and when more flowers open and are available, topping up with more oil if needed.

The finished oil will be a gorgeous sunset red colour and at this point, strain out the flowers and any other bits of debris and store in a lidded jar or bottle in a cool, dark place for future use.

         

This healing oil is like liquid sunshine and is especially good when applied to the skin for easing muscle pains, sprains, knocks, bumps and inflammation, nerve pain from shingles, stabbing or shooting pains, painful and/or arthritic joints, to speed up healing of broken bones, burns, sunburn, cuts, wounds, abrasions, insect bites and skin conditions like psoriasis. It is also a reliable anti-viral, anti-fungal and antibiotic. A few drops in the ear will also quickly relieve earache. * External use only. not to be taken orally.

  

It makes a great base for an ointment or add other herbs or essential oils to it for even more healing properties. All in all a very useful ally to have in the herbal cupboard, I make a small batch every year and it has become a welcome seasonal friend. I am expecting this years batch to be especially powerful as I have a friendly Gnome watching over it !

The parasitic tooth fairy of the woods – Lathraea clandestina

The parasitic tooth fairy of the woods – Lathraea clandestina

Purple toothwort (Lathraea clandestina) is a beautiful, unusual and quite rare plant that hides in shady damp places among the roots of trees (hazels, alders, willows, poplars etc) and has just begun to flower now, at least in East Sussex. It was introduced into the UK in the late 1880’s from mainland Europe but has escaped into the wider environment where it is now quite at home.

The exposed roots really do resemble molar teeth which is how it supposedly gained its common name. The flowers have no above ground stem instead emerging directly from the soil and once they have fulfilled their purpose, they dive back underground until the following Spring so you need to be quick if you want to get acquainted with them. Having no leaves at all, the plant contains no chlorophyll so can’t photosynthesize but instead is entirely parasitic, depending on the roots of its host tree to provide it with both nutrients and water.

Purple toothwort ( Lathraea clandestina)

The nectar has a very particular chemical make-up, rich in sugars, strongly alkaline (pH 11.5!) and contains ammonia. It is believed that the nectar has chemically evolved to specifically attract bumblebees – its pollinators – whilst deterring unwelcome pests such as ants and birds which can’t pollinate but would otherwise take a free meal. I haven’t tried it (yet!) but the flowers are said to produce a burning sensation on the tongue.

After an extensive search through my books and the internet, I cannot find any solid medicinal or edible references (other than the odd rumour of being used somehow against toothache) except for use as a homeopathic remedy which suggests its use in those who could be described as “weakling, soft, friendly, communicative. Needs help from others, cannot be independent because he is too weak. Feels dirty. Too tired to wash his dirt off. Uses his friendliness to get friends and help, to be able to ask for help”.

However, a quick search of its chemical constituents leads to information on some interesting components that it shares with other plants that certainly do have medicinal applications. One substance, aucubin, is present in many plants besides Purple toothwort including Plantain leaf, Devils claw, Cleavers, Mullein and Agnus castus . Aucubin has “antioxidant, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, anti-fibrotic, anti-cancer, hepatoprotective, neuroprotective and osteoprotective properties”. Two other components, acteoside and isoacteoside have also been identified – both of which are thought to be responsible for antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory actions in other medicinal plants.

Flowers emerging from teeth like structures

Perhaps one day its full range of medicinal possibilities will be identified. Whatever its physical properties may or may not be, it certainly lifts my spirits whenever I see it. A strange, slightly sinister and mysterious presence in the woods, especially when I come across a blanket of deep purple flowers nestled around the tree roots. To me it is a reminder that even in the darker, colder, wetter months, nature is getting on with her business providing food for early bumblebees and bringing much needed mystery, beauty and drama to the woods.

Sage (Salvia officinalis)- salvation from the herb garden

Sage (Salvia officinalis)- salvation from the herb garden

Sage leaves (Salvia officinalis)

Sage is very aptly named. Both its Latin name (Salvia – to heal, to save) and common name (Sage – wisdom) allude to our ancestors deep appreciation and knowledge of the healing qualities of this plant. Once prized as an excellent tonic to sharpen the memory, enhance mental faculties and soothe the nerves, one quote from medieval times asks “Why should a man die whilst sage grows in his garden?”.  An old English equivalent states ‘He that would live for aye, must eat Sage in May.’

Many will know sage as a stuffing or seasoning for fatty meats or ‘rich’ foods but few will know why – it is the perfect choice given how it enhances all digestive processes but particularly the efficient metabolism of fats. Yet sage has a long history of medicinal use including fevers and infections, drying up milk supply ready for weaning, reducing hot flushes and sweating, promoting proper blood circulation and wound healing.

Its interesting how many powerful healing plants fall out of favour as medicines but still cling on as culinary herbs. With such a wide spectrum of health applications its time to promote sage from the herb rack in to the medicine cabinet.

Further information on the many medicinal uses of sage, how to prepare it and correct dosage can be found on our main website here.

The ‘Fountain of Youth’ Hormone and How to Make Sure You Have Plenty.

The ‘Fountain of Youth’ Hormone and How to Make Sure You Have Plenty.

Hands up who knew that we have a hormone nicknamed by some the ‘fountain of youth’ inside our bodies, that under certain conditions, is released freely into the blood. No, me neither until very recently.

This hormone called osteocalcin is critically involved in maintaining bone density and strength but has also shown to be crucial for keeping our muscles strong and fit, increasing exercise capacity, keeping the brain alert and cognitive functions high, helping to regulate blood sugar, fat and general metabolism. It is an important hormone in the prevention and treatment of diabetes, is intricately involved in our response to stresses, helps to regulate male fertility and reproductive health and is important in slowing down the age related decline of both our physical and mental capacity.

Osteocalcin, as the ‘osteo’ part of its name suggests, is produced by osteoblasts, a type of cell present in the bones. Maintaining strong healthy bones is a dynamic interplay mainly between 2 types of bone cells – osteoblasts (bone builders) which lay down new bone material and osteoclasts, which break down older bone material to make way for the new.

 

Osteocalcin production rises significantly in response to stress.

In humans (and all mammals) the stress response or ‘fight or flight’ as it is known causes adrenaline to be released from the adrenal glands. This produces physiological effects in the body that include a raised heart rate, increased breathing rate, increased blood flow to muscles and a rapid release of glucose to be used as fuel. It is now known that this adrenaline release is not possible without the presence of the hormone osteocalcin. Almost immediately after we perceive a threat or stressful situation, the brain instructs the bones to flood the bloodstream with osteocalcin which then initiates adrenaline release. Researchers have demonstrated that if a person or mammal with no adrenal glands (and therefore no adrenaline) is exposed to stressor danger, a measurable stress response form the body still occurs. However, if a person or mammal has no skeleton, no bones, (don’t ask!) the standard stress response (increased heart rate etc) is absent. If osteocalcin is then injected into the boneless creature, this will induce a marked stress response. Conversely, when mice where genetically modified to produce no osteocalcin, they had no physiological response to stress at all.

So how is osteocalcin the ‘fountain of youth’ hormone?

The bones of our skeleton are not just useful as a means of escaping danger, the osteocalcin released from them has an effect on the brain, the pancreas, metabolism (how the body uses its fuel), muscles, the kidneys, male fertility and more.

Osteocalcin is also released when we exercise where it mobilises fat stores, raises blood sugar and enhances its uptake into muscle cells and helps the muscle fibers metabolise both glucose and fatty acids more effectively. Its presence means we can exercise more efficiently for longer meaning our bones have a direct impact on muscle performance, both strength and endurance. However, osteocalcin production and resting blood levels begin to decline with age, around the age of 30 in women and around 50 in men. Interestingly, researchers found that when older mice were given osteocalcin their exercise performance matched that of much younger mice.

Exercise endurance and muscle strength are not the only benefits of oseteocalcin. It also has a positive effect on the brain and cognitive abilities such as learning, memory, anxiety, depression and prenatal brain development. Experiments determined that it crosses the blood-brain barrier and has receptors throughout the brain where its influences promote the formation of new nerve cells, increases the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and catecholamine (important factors in overall mood and mental health) and enhance memory and learning. Mice that were engineered to produce no osteocalcin showed signs of anxiety, depression and had less memory and learning skills than normal mice.

Studies carried out on women in their 70’s determined that those with higher osteocalcin levels had better memories, learning abilities and ability to execute their learning than those with much lower levels. Experimental treatment with osteocalcin on those with low levels of the hormone found their overall above abilities increase.

The impact of osteocalcin on the developing baby is crucially important. Undernourished mothers with poor bone health and therefore lower levels of the hormone produce children that are more likely to develop metabolic diseases, psychiatric disorders and cognitive impairment.

Osteocalcin is directly involved in strengthening bones and preventing fractures (unless the impact on the bone is too great). Studies suggest it may be vital in preventing and treating osteoporosis.

It also increases testosterone production in men and leads to better sperm health, increasing fertility and general drive. It is known that the growth and integrity of the bones in both young male and females is influenced by steroidal sex hormones but it appears that reproductive health and fertility is also influenced by the bones.

It lowers the risk of diabetes by regulating and controlling blood sugar levels, increasing insulin production and improving pancreatic function. It can also help prevent obesity by increasing energy expenditure.

Green leaves are a rich source of osteocalcin

How to ensure a good supply of osteocalcin

The hormone, once released from the bones, has a relatively short life cycle of between 20 minutes to an hour. We know that bone density generally declines with age, along with memory, new learning capacity, muscle strength and endurance. Research suggests that osteocalcin levels fall too. Here are some things that we can do to help maintain and/or increase levels.

Eat an apple every day. Asian studies have found that a substance in apple peel increases both bone formation and osteocalcin levels.

Eat vitamin K rich foods. Osteocalcin needs vitamin K to be fully functioning in all its roles so eat plenty of leafy greens such as kale, sprouting broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, pickled cucumbers and sauerkraut, asparagus, kiwi fruit, okra, green beans and dark green lettuce, in fact any leafy green like watercress, spinach and culinary herbs like parsley and coriander.

Cold pressed olive oil and olives have been shown to directly increase osteocalcin levels, especially when coupled with a Mediterranean style diet rich in wholefoods like fruit, vegetables and nuts.

Go for a brisk 20 minute walk each day. Consistent (daily) exercise increases osteocalcin levels.

The seeds of milk thistle and the horny goat weed plant have both demonstrated the ability to increase osteocalcin levels.

Vitamin D is also linked to activation and availability of osteocalcin so a 15 minute sunbathe (without sunscreen) daily if possible is a good natural source.

Other useful nutrients linked to higher osteocalcin levels include manganese, iron, omega 3 fatty acids and ellagic acid..

Think carefully about taking  biphosphates. Biphosphates are commonly prescribed for osteoporosis or low bone density. They reduce or inhibit the bone modeling process (absorbing old bone and making new) with the intention of reducing bone loss and fracture risk etc. However, by inhibiting the bone modeling process, osteocalcin production is reduced significantly.

Avoid steroid medications where possible, these reduce osteocalcin levels.

Limit where possible your exposure to xeno-oestrogens – these are oestrogens that come from the environment. Oestrogen is known to suppress osteocalcin.

Stop smoking as it lowers osteocalcin levels.

 

Sweet violet (Viola odorata) – a lowly plant with lofty curative powers

Sweet violet (Viola odorata) – a lowly plant with lofty curative powers

Sweet violet flowers and leaves have been in use as a medicine around the world for centuries and prized for their various therapeutic properties. They may be small but they are very impressive with their exquisite beauty, intoxicating fragrance and plethora of medicinal actions including mild sedative, moistening, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antioxidant, diuretic, anti-cancer, decongestant, antihypertensive, anti-lipemic (reducing blood lipids/fats), diaphoretic, pre-anesthetic, antipyretic, anti-fungal, mildly laxative as well as having positive effects on body-weight reduction.

It’s a great herb for children suffering from coughs, the onset of a cold, fevers, restlessness and temper tantrums and is also rich in nutrients like vitamins A and C. It is a gentle acting plant, no forceful drama yet powerful and thorough in its healing.

Violets in a shady hedgerow

 

This plant has inspired love poetry for centuries and now it seems medical science is also falling in love with sweet violet, evidenced here by the sheer volume of scientific studies it has spawned.

Find out exactly what sweet violet can achieve and how easy it is to use as a medicine at home here.

 

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it” (Mark Twain).

Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra/fulva) – first aid, band aid, all round good healing aid

Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra/fulva) – first aid, band aid, all round good healing aid

The inner bark (the layer beneath the rough outer bark) of this particular elm tree is one of the most soothing and healing herbal agents for any and every kind of mucosal or skin irritation I have ever encountered. It coats, soothes and heals membranes and has anti-inflammatory, immune stimulating and emollient or moisturising properties. The clinging  and coating mucilage protects damaged or irritated membranes and allows healing to take place uninterrupted thanks to its protective coating. It is rich in soluble fibre and has a decent nutritional content including vitamins C & E,  B vitamins, calcium, starches and sugars.

Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra/fulva) powder

Read more about this incredible remedy and its’ many medicinal applications here