Back to School

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

As we enter the final week of August, the days are getting noticeably shorter and the evenings are getting cooler, as the children get ready to go back at school. For many children, especially those starting school for the first time, the changing weather, mixing with lots of other children, and the sheer stress of it all, adds up to all kinds of troublesome infections. But as the old saying goes, “prevention is better than cure”, and fortunately there are many ways to help increase the body’s resistance to infection.

Essential nutrients for a healthy immune system include selenium and zinc (both of which are found in Brazil nuts). Vitamin C is also important for resistance against infection and is found in combination with immune-boosting flavonoids in fruit and vegetables, particularly coloured foods such as blueberries, oranges and broccoli.

It is often difficult to maintain adequate doses of these nutrients from food alone. Children who buy their own lunches often make poor choices, preferring chips and sweets over healthy dinners; and those who bring packed lunches often return home having eaten very little. Therefore a good quality supplement may be an easier way to ensure a high enough level to benefit the immune system. Choose a supplement which includes a broad range of nutrients in an easily absorbable form, such as Sona Multiplus Junior, or Kangavites.

Probiotics, which are found in live yoghurt and good quality supplements (such as Udo’s Choice Children’s Blend Probiotic), also play an important role in immunity. They are particularly important for children who have taken antibiotics within the past two years

The most damaging factors for the immune system are poor diet, stress, and lack of sleep. Saturated fats, sugar, chemical food additives and caffeine all stress the immune system. These are present in many foods marketed for children, such as processed savoury food, crisps, chocolates, sweets, fizzy drinks and cordials.

It is important for children to stay active and avoid long periods of watching TV or playing computer games, but it is also important that they get enough rest and sleep. Lots of homework coupled with too many after school clubs can leave children exhausted. However, children are often unable to recognise the need to rest and can run on adrenalin which exhausts them further.

One of the most well-known herbs for enhancing immune function and preventing infection is Echinacea, which is available over the counter from pharmacies and health food stores. However, another remedy which is becoming increasingly recognized for its antiviral and immune-stimulating properties, is the common elderberry, which begins to ripen in the hedgerows at this time of year.

Elderberries, which are rich in vitamins A and C and bioflavonoids, are a wonderful tonic for the immune system and they have a specific antiviral action which helps to prevent colds, flu and other viral illnesses. They are very safe and well tolerated, and are ideal for both adults and children.

A number of scientific studies have shown that elderberries stimulate the immune system and are active against a number of different strains of the flu virus. In controlled clinical trials which compared elderberry extract with placebo in the treatment of influenza, patients taking the elderberry extract had significant improvements in their symptoms within two-three days. On average, the flu symptoms lasted about half as long in those taking elderberry extract compared with those taking the placebo

Elderberry extracts are widely available from pharmacies and health food stores. However, home-made elderberry syrup is an excellent alternative, which is very cost effective and easy to make. Simply cover 500g fresh elderberries with water and boil with a stick of cinnamon for about 5 minutes. Squash the berries to extract the juice, and strain to remove the skins. Add 500g honey or brown sugar to the strained juice and heat until it thickens. Bottle in clean, sterilized containers, and take one or two dessertspoonfuls of the syrup in a cup of hot water three times a day during the winter months as a tonic to help prevent viral infections.

AnneMarie Reilly is a qualified medical herbalist practising in Lismore. To make an appointment for a private consultation telephone 058 53200 or 087 934 5910.

By AnneMarie Reilly
BSc(hons), MNIMH, MIIMH, DipCoun

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Medical Herbalists express concern over IMB recommendations on Echinacea.

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

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The recent recommendation by the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) that products containing Echinacea should not be given to children under 12, has caused a great deal of distess to parents who have effectively used it in the past for preventing infections in their children.

The IMB’s recommendation has unfortunately lead to sensationalist reporting in the media, that “children under 12 can experience serious side effects”. However, the decision is actually based on an extremely small risk of allergic reaction in people who are also prone to conditions such as asthma, hayfever or other allergies. This risk is much smaller than the risk of severe allergy to other substances regularly given to children, such as peanut-containing products. There is also a significant risk of severe allergic reactions to many other medicines used in children, such as antibiotics and infant nurofen, the use of which will almost certainly increase as a result of this decision.

The main research paper on which this decision appears to have been based was published in 2002[1]. It detailed only five adverse reactions in adults, and it was not a controlled study.  Furthermore, there have been no reports of severe allergic reactions in the intervening years. The Irish Institute of Medical Herbalists, which is the leading professional body for Medical Herbalists in Ireland, considers the IMB’s decision to be an over-reaction to a small risk, especially when the IMB itself has indicated that ‘this is not a serious safety issue’ and that ‘parents should have no concerns if they have given Echinacea to children under 12 in the past’.

Medical herbalists have extensive clinical experience using this herb, and consider it to be very effective for preventing infections in both adults and children. Contrary to some reports in the media, there is also scientific evidence to support the efficacy of Echinacea in the treatment of respiratory tract infections[2], and for the prevention of these infections in children[3].

Although products containing Echinacea for children under 12 are currently not available over the counter, it is hoped that this decision will be reversed, and that more appropriate measures to address the small risk of allergic reaction will be considered. For example, Echinacea-containing products could carry a warning on the label that they may cause severe allergic reaction in people who are prone to allergies and who have never taken Echinacea in the past. In the meantime, Medical Herbalists will continue to prescribe Echinacea in the appropriate circumstances, since all patients are routinely screened for conditions such as asthma, hayfever and other allergic tendencies.



[1] Mullins, R.J. & Heddle, R. (2002). Adverse reactions associated with echinacea: the Australian experience. Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology 88(1):42-51.

[2] Hudson, J.B., (2012). Applications of the Phytomedicine Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) in Infectious Diseases. Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology. [online] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3205674/?toolDpubmed.

[3] Weber, W., Taylor, J.A., Stoep, A.V., Weiss, N.S., Standish, L.J. & Calabrese, C. (2005). Echinacea purpurea for prevention of upper respiratory tract infections in children.The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 11(6): p.1021-1026.

 

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The Lismore Clinic Celebrates its Fifth Anniversary!

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

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The Lismore Clinic, which is now one of the best-known and most well established alternative healthcare clinics in the South East, has just celebrated its fifth anniversary. The Lismore Clinic was established in 2006 by AnneMarie Reilly, the first fully qualified Medical Herbalist in the South East. The clinic was opened in order to bring together the best local healthcare practitioners and to provide an opportunity for patients to address health issues in a supportive, professional and holistic environment.

Over the past five years, the clinic has become an increasingly popular choice for people looking for a safer and more natural, yet effective approach to health care. People have travelled from far and wide to the clinic in Lismore, due to the excellent reputation of the clinic and its team of practitioners. Clinic director and Medical Herbalist, AnneMarie Reilly says, “Working at the Lismore Clinic is really the most rewarding thing I have ever done. We have an outstanding team of skilled and experienced practitioners who work very well together. To see mothers who haven’t slept for weeks leave with contented little babies after a craniosacral treatment, to see elderly people with arthritis experience relief from chronic pain with herbal medicine and chiropractic, to help infertile women to conceive… it really is a wonderful experience.”

As more and more people discover that modern medicine has its limitations, various forms of complementary and alternative therapy are springing up all over the place. This has had an extremely positive influence on the health and wellbeing of many individuals, but some people sadly fall victim to unscrupulous practitioners. As the law stands, any individual can practice any form of therapy they choose with very little or no training. Some of these therapies can be quite dangerous in the hands of an untrained individual, while others have no scientific evidence to prove that they have any effect at all.

The Lismore Clinic was established in order to provide only those forms of alternative healthcare that are thoroughly researched, effective, and well established. At the same time, all of the therapies are natural and safe forms of treatment, which encourage the healing processes within the body rather than simply treating the symptoms. The treatments all complement each other and can either be used alone, or in combination with other forms of treatment or with conventional medicine, for the benefit of an extremely wide variety of health problems.

All of the practitioners at the Lismore Clinic are fully trained and experienced in their particular form of treatment. Each practitioner is also registered with an appropriate professional body, which imposes strict codes of conduct. Patients who visit the Lismore Clinic can be assured they are in the hands of a trained professional who will act in a responsible manner at all times, including referring patients to a doctor or another therapist if this is required.

The range of therapies includes Herbal Medicine and Nutrition, McTimony Chiropractic, Chiropody & Podiatry, Acupuncture, Reflexology, Craniosacral therapy, Massage, Counselling & Psychotherapy, and Art Therapy. Advice is always available about which form of treatment or combination of treatments would be most suitable, and the team at the Lismore Clinic can also work together, to achieve the best results for their patients.

For example, an individual suffering from back or neck pain can avail of chiropractic to ensure the spine is correctly aligned, massage to help relax muscle tension, and herbal medicine to relieve pain and inflammation. A person suffering from emotional difficulties may combine herbal medicine with counselling or art therapy as an alternative to taking antidepressants. Babies with colic can be effectively treated using a combination of craniosacral therapy and herbal medicine to relieve symptoms.

AnneMarie Reilly concludes that “The Lismore Clinic has achieved a great deal in its first three years. Even in these difficult times, the clinic is still very busy because people are more concerned than ever about staying healthy. Individuals are worried about the impact on their jobs and businesses of taking a lot of time off work. I would like to thank all of those people who have supported the clinic during its first five years, especially the talented and dedicated team of practitioners who make the clinic the special place that it is; and of course to all the people who have visited the clinic to whom I wish continued good health.”

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Surviving the Festive Season

Monday, September 5th, 2011

With just over a week to go until Christmas, the excitement is mounting. However, for many people the Christmas season is a difficult and stressful time. Endless shopping in crowded stores, preparing for family coming to stay, all that cooking and tidying up with overexcited children under your feet. It’s enough to make anyone feel stressed and tired. This year, more people than ever are also experiencing extreme financial hardship, while still being faced with all the demands of the Christmas season. Fortunately there are lots of ways to make life a little bit easier this Christmas.

For those who seem to have too much to do and not enough time to do it, Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) helps to protect the body against the effects of stress, and boosts flagging energy levels. Unlike short-term stimulants such as coffee and sugar, Siberian ginseng actually nourishes the system in the long term, rather than depleting it. Siberian ginseng also helps to boost the immune system. The combination of stress and cold weather at Christmas time can leave you susceptible to various winter bugs and there is surely nothing worse than having to spend the whole of Christmas in bed with the flu!

If you do succumb to any winter bugs, Echinacea can help to reduce the severity and duration of the infection, while plenty of hot drinks with fresh lemon, honey and cinnamon will help to ease coughs, colds and stomach upsets. For more severe or persistent infections, visiting a medical herbalist is a safe and effective alternative to taking antibiotics, which are associated with numerous side effects, and which are completely ineffective against the viruses that are responsible for the majority of winter bugs.

While Christmas is a joyful time for many people, others may be feeling lonely or depressed. For anyone who has lost a family member, Christmas can be a particularly difficult time. St. Johns Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is a very safe and non-addictive anti-depressant, which is available on prescription from Medical Herbalists. Rose is also a very supportive remedy for anyone experiencing grief and loneliness. Dried rose petals can be added to herbal tea or rose essential oil can be used in the bath.

If you are losing your temper more easily than usual, passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) can help to calm you down. Rescue remedy is another useful standby for the Christmas season. You can take a few drops any time you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed. It also seems to have an instant calming effect on children who have experienced accidents and upsets.

A daily walk in the fresh air and sunlight (what little there is at this time of year) helps to reduce stress and to boost mood and energy levels. If Christmas time is a difficult or hectic time for you, a walk can be a time of quiet contemplation or escape from the chaos. Talking over your feelings with a trained counselor or psychotherapist can also help you to cope with any difficulties that may surface at this time of year.

For those who are responsible for doing all the shopping, wrapping, cooking, and generally keeping everyone else happy this Christmas, having a massage is a wonderful way to allow someone else to take care of you for a change. It reduces stress and muscle tension, and can help with all sorts of stress-related problems such as headaches, anxiety, and insomnia. If you know someone who is under pressure this Christmas, a voucher for a massage would certainly make an ideal Christmas gift!

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Well-Being Day

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

January is well known as being the most depressing month of the year. Post-Christmas credit-card bills, failed new year’s resolutions, cold dark days, and long nights are bad news for emotional our well-being.

In order to create a little light at the end of the tunnel, The Lismore Clinic will be holding its first annual “Well-Being Day” on Sunday 29th January from 2-5p.m. This open day is completely free of charge, which is good news in these difficult times.  The event will be of particular interest to anyone who would like to find out about natural ways to reduce stress and improve emotional well-being, but all are welcome.

There will a number of useful talks throughout the afternoon including ‘Nutrition and Herbs for Emotional Well-Being’ by Medical Herbalist, AnneMarie Reilly, ‘Coping with Stress’ by Psychotherapist, Marianne Gurnee, and ‘Emotional Well-Being for Children’ by Art Therapist, Lorraine Shanahan. Other qualified and experienced practitioners will also be available for a free, no obligation, informal chat, and light refreshments will be available.

According to AnneMarie Reilly, director of the Lismore Clinic: “This is a difficult and stressful time of year for many people. Those who speak to their GP about feeling low or stressed may be offered anti-depressant drugs, but many people would prefer to avoid these, or feel they are not really necessary. Fortunately there are plenty of simple and natural ways to reduce stress and increase emotional well-being using safe and natural alternatives, or by following some very simple advice”.

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Eczema

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

There are many different types of eczema, but atopic eczema is by far the most common. This form of eczema usually starts in childhood, most commonly in the first year, and around 10% of all children will develop eczema before the age of five. Fortunately, about two thirds of children with eczema grow out of it by the time they are seven, and three quarters do so by the time they are 16. However, eczema can persist into adulthood and even children who grow out of it can continue to have ‘sensitive’ skin as adults.

In babies, eczema can affect any part of the face or body, and often appears as oval-shaped patches of pink or red, dry, rough skin which are intensely itchy and may weep or bleed when scratched, often leading to frustration, sleep disturbance and infection of the skin. In older children, eczema most commonly affects the creases on the inside of the elbows and the backs of the knees. There may also be patches of eczema elsewhere on the body.

The tendency to develop eczema is genetic, and is linked to asthma and hayfever, but the disease itself is usually precipitated by environmental influences. The environment we live in and the stressors we are exposed to have changed a great deal in recent years, and this has caused more and more children to develop the condition.

Factors which can adversely affect the development of the immune system in early childhood, such as excessive use of antibacterial cleaning products, frequent courses of antibiotics, and vaccinations given when the child is unwell or under stress, may increase the risk of developing eczema. Other triggering factors include anxiety, infection, allergies, pollution, household chemicals, and poor diet.

Conventional treatment of eczema includes emollient creams to reduce skin dryness, topical steroids to reduce itching and inflammation, and antibiotics for infection. While steroid creams are often quite effective in the short term, they only suppress the symptoms and can lead to thinning of the skin when used long term. Frequent or inappropriate use of antibiotics damages the immune system and causes microbial imbalance, which can ultimately make matters worse. Fortunately there are some very effective, natural and safe ways to keep eczema under control.

It is advisable to avoid cow’s milk and other dairy products, which often exacerbate the condition, and use soya, rice or goat’s milk products instead. Minimise contact with pets and other animals, and ensure the home is kept as dust-free as possible. Change bedclothes regularly and wash at 60 degrees to kill dust mites and other harmful micro-organisms.

Avoid clothes made from wool and synthetic fibres, and choose cotton clothes and bed-linen instead. Avoid biological washing powders and use a chemical free washing powder such as Fairy Non-Bio or Ecover. Do not use any fabric softeners, which tend to leave chemical residues on clothes.

Keep the skin clean to help reduce the risk of infection, and use emollient creams regularly to keep the skin moist. Make sure bath water is not too hot and do not use any soap, bubble bath or shampoo. Instead, fill a muslin bag (or similar) with oatmeal and place under the hot tap while running the bath, and then add cold water until bath is the appropriate temperature. A dessertspoonful of baking soda added the bath helps to reduce itching.

Natural treatment of eczema is completely safe and generally very effective. Herbs such as chamomile and baical skullcap reduce allergic responses, and others such as liquorice reduce inflammation of the skin. Herbs such as burdock and cleavers are used to clear toxins from the body, while herbs such as heartsease and chickweed help to reduce itching.

Useful supplements include evening primrose oil, vitamin E and zinc, which are important for skin repair. If you or your child suffers from eczema, a qualified medical herbalist can provide an individually tailored herbal prescription together with natural creams and helpful advice about diet and nutritional supplements.

For more information about natural treatment for eczema or to make an appointment for a private consultation telephone 058 53200 or 087 934 5910.

By AnneMarie Reilly
BSc(hons), MIIMH, MNIMH, DipCoun.

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The Lismore Clinic

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

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The Lismore Clinic provides a range of safe, gentle and effective complementary and alternative therapies by professionally trained and fully qualified healthcare practitioners. The clinic provides the opportunity for individuals to address health problems in a supportive, professional and holistic environment.

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Herbal medicine

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

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Herbal medicine uses plants and plant extracts in the treatment and prevention of disease. It can be used to treat almost any condition, either alone or in conjunction with another form of treatment.

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More than just a Headache

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

By AnneMarie Reilly
BSc(hons), MIIMH, MNIMH, DipCoun.

A migraine is a severe, recurrent one-sided headache, which lasts from 3 hours to 3 days. However, the headache is just one symptom of a very debilitating condition, which affects up to 15% of Irish people. Next week is National Migraine Action Week, which is being promoted by the Migraine Association of Ireland.

The tendency to develop migraine is thought to be genetic, but there are usually specific triggering factors, which depend on the individual. One of the most common triggers is fluctuating hormone levels, and for this reason migraine affects three times more women than men. Other possible triggers include tiredness, stress, muscle tension, bright or flickering lights, exposure to cigarette smoke, dehydration, low blood sugar levels, and certain foods such as cheese, chocolate, citrus fruits, products containing gluten or MSG, alcohol (especially red wine), and caffeine.

Some people may be very sensitive to certain triggers, while others may only develop a migraine in response to a combination of triggers such as drinking red wine when stressed or during menstruation.

The first signs that a migraine sufferer is about to experience an attack may include excessive tiredness or yawning, food cravings and mood changes. This is known as the prodromal phase, and is thought to coincide with abnormal constriction of blood vessels in the brain.

About 20% of migraine sufferers also experience what is known as an “aura” for up to an hour before the onset of the headache. This consists of symptoms such as seeing flashing lights or zig-zag patterns, or experiencing blind spots in the visual field. Some people may also experience slurring of speech, confusion and muscular weakness or loss of co-ordination.

The headache itself is thought to coincide with a compensatory excess dilation of blood vessels in the brain. It is often worsened by movement, and may be accompanied by watery discharge from the nose or eyes, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, neck and shoulder pain or stiffness, weakness or paralysis of one side of the body, and sensitivity to light, noise or smells. Migraine sufferers are generally unable to carry out their normal activities and often have to lie down in a quiet, dark room.

The headache may last for just a few hours or for up to 3 days, and is usually followed by a period of fatigue and poor appetite. It may take several days to recover from a migraine attack.

In order to prevent migraine attacks it is important to identify and address the underlying causes and triggering factors. Keeping a diary of when migraines occur, together with details of food eaten, daily activities, and menstrual cycle, may help to identify triggering factors, some of which can be avoided.

McTimony Chiropractic, Craniosacral therapy, Massage and Acupuncture can all help to treat back and neck problems, which may trigger migraine attacks. Hormone imbalances can be treated using herbs such as wild yam, and blood vessel constriction can be prevented using antispasmodic herbs such as cramp bark. Anti-inflammatory herbs such as feverfew can also help to dramatically reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks.

For further information about any of the therapies mentioned in this article, or to make an appointment for a private consultation, telephone 058 53200 or 087 934 5910.

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