Natural Medicine

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Aromatherapy

If you have ever walked through a field of lavender or crushed a sprig of mint between your fingers you would immediately recognise the aromatic scent that these plants give off. But what is it that gives them their distinctive scent? What gives the rose its lovely perfume or the orange its tangy smell?

The answer is in the essential oils contained within them. Aromatherapy is the use of these essential oils to enhance health and promote well being. Each essential oil has its own characteristic aroma and its own distinct profile of medicinal properties. Some oils, like lavender, have a soothing and relaxing effect; others, like rosemary are more stimulating and invigorating.

They are very concentrated so it may take the petals of around 30 specially cultivated roses to make one drop of rose essential oil and many kilos of lavender to produce a small bottle of essential oil of lavender. This is true of most flower-based essential oils, whereas in a citrus fruit such as an orange, the oils are there are there in such profusion that they may actually spray into the atmosphere when peeled.

History

It was a Frenchman, Rene Gatefosse, who first coined the term “Aromatherapy”. He was a chemist who was working for his family owned perfumery business when he had a mishap and burned his hand, he immersed his hand in the nearest bowl of cold liquid, which happened to be essential oil of lavender. His wound healed with great speed and left almost no scarring.

He became fascinated by the healing properties of other oils and subsequently researched into their therapeutic effects. Although Gatefosse was first to came up with the term Aromatherapy, the first literary evidence of the use of essential oils as medicinal substances comes from Indian vedic literature over 4000 years ago. Mention is made of the therapeutic effects of many oils including Cinnamon, Ginger, Spikenard and Sandalwood. The ancient Egyptians left us records of their use of oils in the form of papyrus manuscripts, and also in the form of mummies on which traces of Cedar and Myrrh can still be detected today. These oils would have been used in the embalming process and also in the religious ceremonies surrounding rites of passage. Indeed many Egyptian tombs contained a variety of oils unguents and balsams stored in decorative jars.

Probably the best-documented use of essential oils comes from the bible where the gospels tell us that gifts of Frankincense and Myrrh, exotic oils from the east, were offered to Jesus at his birth. Essential oils have been used in almost every civilisation and culture down through the ages.

Today Aromatherapy is gaining popularity as a credible alternative therapy and is used by thousands of people from all walks of life to obtain relief for their suffering.

Essential oils are not often used neat on the skin, but are blended into a carrier oil. Extra virgin cold pressed oils should be used. These are oils obtained from the first pressing, later pressings rely on heat or solvents to extract the oil and so the quality is inferior.

The healing properties of these oils are usually increased when they are combined with each other in formulas specially selected to help with specific conditions. They act synergistically. Each blend being greater than the sum of its parts.

Barefoot Botanicals has from day one recognized the potent therapeutic properties of essential oils and they form a very important part of the formulas, as well as providing the inimitable aromas that delight our customers.

Bach Flower Remedies

Remedies from flowers are subtle elixirs that have the reputation of being able to balance the mental and emotional state as well as the physical. Some claim to ease feelings of Anxiety, Guilt or Anger, and they aim to help people feel calm in times of stress, and strong in the face of adversity, feeling or emotion.

History

Doctor Edward Bach created this system of healing in the 1930s. Like Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homoeopathy, Bach was a medical doctor, a specialist in bacteriology, who had become disillusioned with what medical science had to offer. He became increasingly interested in the homoeopathic principle of like curing like, and especially in the idea of treating people holistically. Bach felt that disease had its origins in our emotional or mental state, and that only the end results showed in our physical. Bodies. He said that it was “our fears or cares, our anxieties and such like that opens the path to the invasion of illness”. He experimented with the extracts of flowers. His instincts led him to observe that the healing qualities of flowers were exhibited in their colours, shapes, textures and growth patterns. For example the Oak often used as a symbol of strength and constancy. This tree suggested to Bach a strong reliable type who could be dependable and uncomplaining. His instincts became so refined that he could place a flower in his hand or on his tongue and experience its healing effects on both the mind and the body. He found that many people fell into distinctive personality types and that a flower essence could be found to match particular traits of character. He devised a system of seven major emotional groups under which people could be classified: Fearful, Uncertain, Indifferent, Lonely, Easily influenced, Despairing, and Over Concerned for the Welfare of Others, and he characterised thirty eight negative states of mind within these groups. Bach used his knowledge of homoeopathic medicine to formulate a plant or flower extract to use in treating these emotional states.

Preparation

The way in which the flower essences are prepared does have some similarities to the preparation of Homoeopathy remedies in that they are considered to be acting on a dynamic or energetic plane, but they are not wholly similar in that they are not succussed (a process used in homeopathy that shakes the remedy to further enhance its dynamic properties). Dr Bach discovered that the early morning dew on the plants, which had been exposed to sunlight, had absorbed the essence of that flower far better than one that was growing in the shade. Therefore one method of making a flower remedy is to float the flower heads on clear spring water into which their medicinal properties are transferred during exposure to sunlight. The potentised water is then fixed in mixed proportions with brandy, which acts as a preservative, and decanted into glass bottles.

The flower concentrates will keep for an indefinite period of time, they can be taken by anybody of any age, and there are no contra-indications or side effects. The Bach remedies can be taken one at a time or can be given in a combination of up to five flower essence together. The best known combination of Bach flower essences is in the mixture known as rescue remedy. Dr Bach combined five of the flower remedies to formulate this preparation which is to be used in times of shock or distress. He is reputed to have saved a fisherman's life with it in 1930. Its purpose is to treat the post emotional effect that shock can have on the system. The Rescue remedy is comprised of Star of Bethlehem, Rock Rose, Impatiens, Cherry Plum and Clematis

The flower essences are usually taken by putting a few drops of the remedy or remedies of choice into a glass of mineral water and sipping it slowly throughout the day. This can be continued for a few days or even a few weeks until a positive change is experienced. Alternatively the drops of the chosen remedy can be dropped directly onto the tongue, and taken as often as needed. The remedy should be held in the mouth for a moment or so before swallowing to ensure that the full effect is gained.

Since the development of the Bach Flower Remedies, a good number of other pioneering souls have used the same concept to develop other flower essences, using flowers and plants from all over the world. These include the Australian Bush Flower Essences, Alaskan Essences, Findhorn Essences, Californian Flower Essences.

Cranio Sacral Therapy

Cranio Sacral Therapy is a non-manipulative, hands on therapy that works on the body's cranio sacral motion, a natural rhythmic movement which is found in every cell and is fundamental to life. At the core of the body the cerebrospinal fluid, which bathes and cushions the spinal cord and brain, expresses this as a tide like movement.

This motion is so subtle that it is barely detectable but the hands of a trained therapist readily perceives it. It was discovered by osteopath William Garner Sutherland who called this rhythmic movement “the breath of life” because it appeared to be influenced by the rate and depth of breathing. By gently manipulating the skull he found that he could alter the rhythm of this flow.

How does it work?

In response to physical knocks or emotional stress the body's tissues contract, and particularly if the shock is severe or emotional in nature, the tissues can remain contracted. Any traumas stored by the body in this manner will cause blockages in the body and restrict the Cranio-sacral movement, giving rise to physical or emotional problems. By using the hands to detect this restriction in movement, the Cranio sacral therapist will rebalance the Cranio sacral flow, thereby clearing the blockages and helping to return the patient to health.

Who can use it?

Cranio Sacral Therapy is extremely gentle and very safe. It can be used beneficially by people of all ages, and for a wide variety of problems. It can be useful during pregnancy, and it is particularly useful for babies. The birth process can be traumatic and can cause disturbance in the delicate bones in the baby's skull, leading to blockage in the cranio sacral motion. A therapist can rebalance this and can help to relieve problems like colic, feeding problems, insomnia, and 'crying baby' syndrome.

The treatment itself is so gentle that it can sometimes feel as if the therapist is just cradling your head- there are no alarming cracks or clicks. The therapist holds the skull using a variation of four different positions and exerts a very light pressure. A good testament to its relaxing quality is that many babies will fall asleep during treatment. Even hyperactive children will remain quiet, still and calm.

One of the great success stories of Cranio Sacral Therapy is the results that can be obtained with glue ear. Glue ear is a build up of a sticky fluid in the inner ear, an increasingly common problem and one that sometimes requires surgical intervention to drain it. A skilled practitioner can help to stop the build up of mucous and speed up the natural drainage of the ear via the eustation tube from the ear to the throat. Parents report improvements in their children's responsiveness in just a few treatments, although anywhere between six and twelve sessions may be needed to achieve a permanent improvement.

Case History

“Michael was our long awaited first baby. His birth was long and difficult and in the end he had to be pulled out with forceps which left terrible bruising on his head. That first night in hospital he screamed all night long and I felt useless as I could not seem to comfort him. In fact the more I cuddled or held him the worse he got. The nurses in the hospital were great and reassured me that things would settle when my milk came in but they didn't; things went from bad to worse. If Michael was not asleep he was screaming, and nothing would soothe him; it seemed to make him even angrier to be held and my husband and I were at our wits' end. We went through exhaustive medical tests, all of which came back negative. I felt increasingly isolated and depressed. A health visitor suggested that I try an alternative approach and told me about the good things that she had heard about Cranio Sacral Therapy and I decided to give it a try. When I saw the practitioner he took a detailed case and then laid Michael on a couch and held his head. Imagine my surprise when Michael fell asleep and stayed asleep for three hours. When he awoke he was much calmer than he had been before and the effect lasted for several days. I took Michael back for regular visits and I can truly say that we have never looked back! The therapist explained that the difficult birth and forceps delivery had put undue pressure on Michael's skull and had caused him extreme irritation. Once the treatment corrected his skull bones and eased the tension Michael became the happy, loving child he is today."

Herbal Medicine

The healing powers of herbs have been used in many different civilisations down through the ages. The Chinese have been using herbal medicine along side acupuncture for over 5000 years. Almost every major culture has at one time used herbs as its main or only source of medicine. The system of medicine currently in use, which we refer to as orthodox medicine, has its roots in herbal medicine. The main source of drugs in the highly technical and scientific approach of modern pharmacy is plant based. Steroid drugs may be synthesised from the wild African Yam (Dioscorea); Aspirin is derived from varieties of Meadow sweet (Spirea) or Willow.

Plants are treated as a source of specific bio-active chemicals that can be analysed, extracted and used to make drugs and pharmaceutical companies have encouraged the belief that their drugs, containing synthesised plant ingredients are somehow more effective than the plants as a whole; but in truth, by taking the active principle from the plant and leaving the rest, the balance of its healing virtues may be lost.

Herbalists therefore adhere to the governing principle of “Synergism” they believe that the strength of the sum of the parts is greater than the strength of the individual parts and so Herbalists prefer to use plants in their entirety in their medicines. As an example, a pharmaceutical drug derived from the extract of a plant, and used, say, as a diuretic, might work vigorously but could deplete the patient's reserves of potassium. This in turn might need to be administered in the form of another medicine. If an herbal medicine was given, possibly Taraxacum [Dandelion] the diuretic effect would be gentler, though none the less sure, and the plant itself being rich in potassium would ensure that the correct balance of the body was maintained.

Homeostasis The maintenance of balance within the body is of vital importance to our heath, our bodies are constantly adapting to external and internal influences. If our body becomes too hot we sweat so that heat can be lost from the surface of the body, thereby keeping the internal temperature at the optimum level. We maintain a steady state in our bodies of not only temperature but also blood sugar, fluid levels and the composition of the blood. Our bodies are continually regulating our internal functioning and maintaining equilibrium in the face of every sort of threat, whether it be from pollution, toxins, stress or bad diet. It does this through a process called Homeostasis. If the body did not maintain Homeostasis we would not survive for very long.

Herbalists believe that healing takes place almost as an extension of this homeostasis, so that as the body strives to maintain equilibrium, it also strives to maintain health and keep us free from disease. Herbalists, recognising this, use herbs to help the body's own momentum towards healing and work towards integrity of the system as a whole.

A herbal medicine chest for children There are very many different herbs (perhaps over 2000) for use in many different conditions so which are the most useful herbs to have at home, ready to administer to a sick child?

The wide array of Herbs available can be a daunting prospect to the beginner. Some Herbs may already be available to you from your kitchen cupboard, for instance, garlic, oregano, coriander seed, cloves and cinnamon. Other herbs, such as Nettles, Chickweed, Borage and Dandelion may have plagued your gardening efforts, but you will love them a little more when you learn of their therapeutic benefits. Others can be very easily grown in the garden or in pots so that you have a fresh supply to hand when needed including Sage, Rosemary, Peppermint and Thyme. Less common herbs can be bought from a reputable Herbal supplier.

Homeopathy

Homeopathy is a system of medicine, which uses natural substances in minute doses to enable the body to heal itself according to the principles of "like cures like." This principle is based on the observation that a substance, which can cause certain symptoms, can also be used to cure them. It is a belief central to Homeopathy that the human body can and does heal itself of most ailments.

When the immune system is strong and healthy a person who cuts himself will heal quickly and without infection, a broken bone once set will knit together and be strong again, a severe cold or flu will be overcome and the patient will be well once more.

If the immune system is weakened the body may no longer able to heal itself so effectively and some help may be needed to assist the body in its attempts to throw off disease. Homoeopathy remedies, when carefully selected can stimulate the healing response and return the patient gently and safely to full health.

The Homoeopathy Approach The homoeopathic approach is based on treating the person and not the disease. Consequently, two people with the same complaint may receive different homoeopathic remedies. For example two patients who both have Bronchitis can show very different symptoms. During a consultation we might discover that one patient is coughing more at night time, while the other is coughing much more during the day. We may also find that one is worse when in a warm stuffy room and that the other is worse when out in the cold fresh air. As a result the prescription may be as individual as the patient's symptoms. Patient A may be cured with Pulsatilla, a remedy made from the wind anemone and patient B may be cured with Hepar Sulph, a mineral remedy. The choice of homoeopathic remedy is always specifically adapted to the symptoms of the sick person.

How Does Homoeopathy Medicine Work? Homoeopathy medicine works by stimulating the Vital force, that is to say the energy that is responsible for maintaining, repairing and ensuring the healthy running of the body, and for co-ordinating the body's defences against disease. It does this according to the law of similar. The Law of Similars is based on the idea that like cures like. Unlike homoeopathic medicine, the ideas which govern, most of, what is known as “modern medicine” are based on the law of contraries. If you have an acid stomach you are prescribed an antacid, if you have an inflammation you will be prescribed an anti-inflammatory drug. Here and there, however, in today's medicine there are a few examples of the Law of Similars at work. A person suffering from an allergy may have small amounts of the allergen injected under their skin to desensitise them. Children suffering from hyperactivity are nowadays prescribed Ritalin; a stimulant derived from Cocaine. The most well known example is probably radiotherapy. Radioactive material is known to cause cancer, but in controlled doses can be used in its treatment.

The idea of like curing like, used in homoeopathic medicine, has its roots in Ancient Greece. Hippocrates first put forward the idea that what causes can also cure. Centuries later the famous Roman Physician Galen wrote of the merits of the law of similar. In the sixteenth century the Alchemist Paracelsus was a firm advocate of this philosophy. He believed that plants and minerals could be prescribed to match the specific symptoms of a disease. “You there bring together the same anatomy of the herbs and the same anatomy of the illness into one order, this simile gives you understanding of the way in which you shall heal”

Although these ideas have been around for thousands of years they did not gain popularity until Samuel Hahnemann revived and expanded on the principles some three hundred years later.

Homoeopathy works on those principles, by giving the Homoeopathy remedy which most closely matches the symptoms of the patient during their illness. It stimulates the vital force and thereby releases what Hippocrates called the “Vis Medicatrix Naturae”- the healing power of nature.

Tissue Salts

Almost 100 years after Samuel Hahnemann created a stir in the medical circles of his day by the introduction of his homoeopathic system of medicine based on the law of similar and minimum dosages, Doctor Wilhelm Heinrich Schuessler published his first pamphlet. It was called "An Abridged System of Homoeopathy Therapeutics", and in it he laid down the corner stone for his own system of healing. It caused a lot of dissent amongst his fellow homeopaths who argued that it was not homoeopathic.

Schuessler argued that since it was based on the law of minimums (the minimum dose being one of the tenets of Homoeopathy) it could therefore be regarded as an extension of homoeopathic theory.

There are certainly some similarities to Homoeopath, although Doctor Schuessler system is not based on the law of similar but uses exclusively the twelve tissue salts essential to organic life. He later began to call them biochemic tissue salts as he believed that they worked on both the chemistry and biology of the body at a nutritional level.

Almost 100 years after Samuel Hahnemann created a stir in the medical circles of his day by the introduction of his homoeopathic system of medicine based on the law of similar and minimum dosages, Doctor Wilhelm Heinrich Schuessler published his first pamphlet. It was called “ An Abridged System of Homoeopathy Therapeutics”, and in it he laid down the corner stone for his own system of healing. It caused a lot of dissent amongst his fellow homeopaths who argued that it was not homoeopathic. Schuessler argued that since it was based on the law of minimums (the minimum dose being one of the tenets of Homeopathy) it could therefore be regarded as an extension of homoeopathic theory. There are certainly some similarities to Homeopath, although Doctor Schuessler system is not based on the law of similar but uses exclusively the twelve tissue salts essential to organic life. He later began to call them biochemic tissue salts as he believed that they worked on both the chemistry and biology of the body at a nutritional level.

The structure and vitality of the organs are dependent upon certain quantities and adequate distribution of certain organic constituents. For instance the blood is made up of water, sugar, fat, albumin, chloride of sodium, chloride of potash, fluoride of lime, magnesium salts and potash, the latter also being combined with phosphoric, carbonic and sulphuric acids. These salts are found everywhere in the body but with relatively larger amounts found in certain areas.

Doctor Schuessler believed that disease was caused by the lack of one or more of these inorganic substances or minerals. He discovered that by observing the subjective and objective symptoms of his patients he could identify the imbalance of these salts in their systems. His theory was that his Tissue salts influenced the way that these minerals were distributed and utilised by the body, and so could correct both deficiencies and excesses in his patients. He saw that they had a balancing effect on the body's systems rather than a more direct action on their deficiencies; that they regulated rather than replaced. He believed that they influenced the distribution of ions (electrically charged atoms) throughout the system

They are prepared in a similar way to homoeopathic remedies. The salt is mixed with nine parts of lactose (milk sugar) and ground in a mortar and pestle, one part of this mixture is mixed with nine further parts of lactose and the process is repeated six times, until the required dilution of 6x is reached. Through this process of grinding (trituration) and dilution the salt becomes potentised or energised into an active substance. The powder is then made into small tablets, which dissolve very easily under the tongue

The tissue salts can be useful in both acute (short-lived) complaints such as influenza and chronic (prolonged) diseases such as arthritis, and not only are they very effective; they are also extremely safe. Because of the dilutions involved they are completely non-toxic and safe for use in any situation from pregnancy to the complaints of newborn babies.

Naturopathy

Modern medicine persists in the belief that ill health is due to external entities. A few hundred years ago these external entities were thought to be demons, now they have been identified as microbes. The belief in demons or microbes have one thing in common, and that is the idea that the body is made ill through external forces beyond its control.

Yet bacteria, viruses and germs of an astonishing variety are around us all the time and clearly not everyone is susceptible to their influence. Naturopaths believe that this is because these microbes will only gain purchase in someone's body when they are already ill. That disease arises from an internal imbalance which weakens the body's defence system.

As with most other forms of alternative medicine, a belief in the natural ability of the body to heal itself is fundamental to the practice of Naturopathy. The desired goal of the naturopathic approach to ill health is to use the least invasive intervention that will have the desired therapeutic response. Disease is looked at as an effect and the cause is looked for in the lifestyle of the patient

History

The earliest mechanisms of healing associated with naturopathy involved a combination of diet, hygiene and hydrotherapy. The term Naturopathy was first coined in 1885 by Dr John Scheel of New York to describe his methods of healing. It gained favour, and thanks to the pioneering work of Benedict Lust, who brought the teachings of his German predecessors to America, naturopathic medicine grew and flourished in both the United States and Europe in the early part of the nineteenth century. Modern day Naturopaths may use different combinations of alternative medicines in their practice, but nutritional therapy, diet, exercise and hydrotherapy are still the forms of treatment most commonly included under the banner of naturopathy.

Diet Hippocrates said, “food should be our medicine and our medicine food”. The principle is to eat well, i.e. a healthy diet, or not at all (a short fast can encourage the release of healing hormones).

A Healthy diet, naturopathically speaking, could be said to be low in animal proteins and high in fresh fruits, salad, vegetables, nuts and grains, from an organic source whenever possible. It is also advised that tea, coffee and alcohol should be avoided along with foods which are very high in fats or salt. A short fast is often encouraged when a person is suffering from a cold or flu. Naturopaths believe that far from weakening the body, a short fast will actually speed up the healing process. A fast does not mean becoming thirsty; liquids must always be taken regularly during any fast. Naturopaths recommend fasting for one or two days every month on a regular basis; this is thought to cleanse the system of accumulated toxins, give the digestive system a much needed rest as well as encouraging healing.

Hydrotherapy. Naturopaths have always praised the healing power of water. Water cures originated in the form of spas, many European spas were established during the time of the Roman occupation and some are still in use today. Other forms of water cure include baths, douches and compresses. The water used may be hot or cold. Hot water is at first stimulating then relaxing; cold water has an invigorating effect. Alternating applications of hot and cold water helps to stimulate the circulation of the blood and the lymphatic fluid and relieve congestion. A commonly used technique is a “sitz” bath; two small baths or bowls, one filled with hot water the other filled with cold water. The patient sits in the bowl of cold water and bathes their feet in the hot water and vice versa. The purpose of this is to relieve congestion in the abdomen and improve the circulation. This technique could be used to treat a variety of complaints, including cystitis, constipation or piles. Compresses are usually large pieces of absorbent cotton soaked in either hot or cold water and applied to painful or inflamed areas of the body. The treatment of an arthritic joint for example could entail covering the joint with a cold compress, then covering the compress with a heavier drier cloth and leave overnight. This helps to draw out heat from the joint and relieve inflammation.

Naturopaths also tend to borrow from other natural healing techniques like homoeopathy, herbs and osteopathy as many of these are based on a similar philosophy which respects the body's own healing ability.

Reflexology

Reflexology is a specialised form of foot massage. It is thought to have its origins in the East and is also considered to be a branch of acupuncture. There are depictions of Reflexology being practised in ancient Egypt, which were found in the tomb of the Egyptian physician Ankmahor, dating from around 2500 BC. Sometimes reflexology is known as Reflex Zone therapy, or just Zone Therapy. irty seconds, diagnostic aid. The Vacuflex method is accompanied by treatment of the acupuncture meridians, which are stimulated by silicon pads that stay in place due to gentle suction. acupuncture meridians, which are stimulated by silicon pads that stay in place due to gentle suction.

Children can be treated by either method of treatment and can respond very quickly. It is also possible to learn the rudiments of Reflexology to enable you to treat your children for a variety of acute ailments at home. Massage and stroke the child's feet looking for tender areas then pay those areas particular attention, massaging them for a few moments before moving on to the next area. Children will enjoy the extra attention you are giving them, they will also be relaxed by the massage, while the gentle pressure on the tender areas may help to relieve congestion and speed their return to full health.