Malvaceae family – the mallows :)

The mallow family may not have as many medicinal species as other plant families which I have discussed in my blog but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a relevant plant family.  The word ‘Mallow’ comes from the Greek ‘Malakos’ and means ‘soft or soothing’.  I am lucky enough to have common mallow appearing wild in my garden and I cultivate marshmallow.  The Malvaceae, or the mallows, are a family of flowering plants containing over 200 genera with close to 2,300 species, the largest concentration being found in South America.

Many of these species are found in rather dry habitats, often near the sea – I live close to the seaside and the common mallow which grows wild in my garden has taken up residence in between the paving slabs which make up the paths in my garden, as well as next to my alley way door and the wall in my front garden – all areas where the rain doesn’t get too as much!. The mallow family generally have a high mucilage content which may be a way in which they can conserve their fluids.

You may be thinking about marshmallows – which grow in marsh land.  That isn’t a dry habitat!! But when you think about it marshes tend to have high concentrations of salt which can have a dehydrating effect.

mallow family

  • Mallows usually have soft, velvety hairs covering stems and leaves.
  • They tend to be greyish, rather than bright green.
  • Leaves are petiolate, alternate, simple, and usually palmately veined.
  • The flowers are almost always bisexual and actinomorphic (radially symmetrical). In the UK species, there are 5 petals, usually in pink or purple (occasionally white). There are many stamens and at least 2 fused carpels.


Did you know that marshmallows were originally formulated as a form of medicine?  Mucilage is edible. It is used in medicine for its demulcent properties. Traditionally marshmallows were made from the extract of the mucilaginous root of the marshmallow plant (Althaea officinalis); due to the demulcent nature of the extract, it served as a cough suppressant.  Also did you know that the vegetable okra is part of this family?  If you are on facebook or go online you may have seen the numerous posts and articles about the health benefits of this green vegetable 🙂


Hibiscus is another member of this family and is another herb which I use medicinally – it makes a delicious tea which can support the reduction of high blood pressure.  Gossypium spp. also comes from this delightful plant family whose long silky hairs (characteristic of Malvaceae) are harvested commercially  to produce cotton.


The key medicinal theme of this plant family is their demulcent (internal) and vulnerary (external) effects on the body.  Demulcent herbs are rich in mucilage and can soothe and protect irritated or inflamed tissue within the body and vulnerary herbs are applied externally and support the body in the healing of wounds and cuts.  Mucilage can be used in gastrointestinal inflammatory processes; associated to topical irritation agents. The mechanism of action is that mucilages cover the mucous membranes and prevent irritation of the nerve endings.

The UK species are all demulcents, used for their soothing effects on the digestion, respiratory and urinary systems.  The family as a whole rarely contains toxic constituents. However cotton have been found to reduce male fertility. This is due to the presence of the sesquiterpene gossypol, which prevents spermatogenesis. However, this effect may be irreversible if high doses are taken over a long period of time.

real marshmallows

How to make Rose & Marshmallow Root Marshmallows

If you do not have rose hydrosol or rose water then you can substitute them for water (or experiment with different herbal teas such as chamomile, chamomile honey and vanilla or even cacao.


120 ml rose hydrosol/rose water
120 ml water
1 tablespoon marshmallow root powder
1-2 tablespoons of hibiscus flowers (these make the marshmallows pink!)
235 ml honey
1 packet of unflavored gelatin
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt


  1. Bring the water and rose hydrosol to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the marshmallow root and hibiscus flower and stir with a whisk. Simmer for five minutes and then place in the fridge until cool.
  2. Strain the marshmallow and hibiscus decoction through a fine mesh sieve. Add enough water to equal a full cup.
  3. Take half of the marshmallow mixture and place in a medium sized bowl and add gelatin to it. Set aside.
  4. Take the other half of the mixture in a small saucepan along with the honey, vanilla extract and the salt.
  5. Bring to a simmer. Place the candy thermometer in the mixture until it reaches 2400 (soft ball) then remove from heat.
  6. Using a hand mixer begin to mix the marshmallow and gelatin mixture on low. Slowly add the hot marshmallow and honey mixture while continuing to mix.
  7. Once the two mixtures have been combined continue to whip on high for another 5-10 minutes.
  8. Pour the mixture onto an 8×8 pan lined with natural parchment paper that has been oiled.
  9. Let these sit for a few hours until they are set up and firm.
  10. Slice with a knife. These were a little sticky.
  11. You could roll them in rose petal powder or powdered sugar if you wanted them less sticky.
  12. Enjoy these marshmallows any way you would enjoy the store-bought variety – they make a great treat for children, especially if they are prone to respiratory tract infections.

If you would like to purchase the marshmallow root and hibiscus please check out my website as I am planning to set up an online shop for dried herbs over the next few weeks:



Lamiaceae family – the mint family

I am continuing my series on the medicinal benefits of the different plant families.  This is something I explored whilst studying herbal medicine.  It helps to give you the general characteristics of the plant families.  Not everything will be applicable to each and every plant, but will relate in general to the medicinal species found in the group.

The mint family is a favourite of mine, my garden contains: peppermint, spearmint, applemint, pineapple sage, garden sage, purple sage red deadnettle, lavenders, rosemanry and lemon balm.  all of which belong to this delightful plant family.  The Lamiaceae is a family of flowering plants (mostly herbs and shrubs) that comprises over 240 genera and 6,500 species worldwide.

The original family name is Labiateae, so given because the flowers typically have petals fused into an upper lip and a lower lip. Although this is still considered an acceptable alternative name, most botanists now use the name “Lamiaceae” in referring to this family.

The plants are frequently aromatic in all parts and include many widely used culinary herbs, such as basil, savory, marjoram, oregano, hyssop and thyme. Many members of the family are widely cultivated, owing not only to their aromatic qualities but also their ease of cultivation: these plants are among the easiest plants to propagate by stem cuttings.  Why not have a go yourself – if you have friends, family or neighbours who have these herbs in their garden, why not ask if you could have a stem cutting?  You can place it in water to see if it roots, or use root hormone powder, or just place it in some mud/compost and leave it for several months to root itself.  Either way you could grow your own herbs for free due to kindness and sharing.

There are several plant characteristics which define the fact that a plant belongs to this family.  This is the botany of the plant families.

patterns in the mint family

The mint family have square stems, you will notice that the leaves are attached to flat edges not corners.  The leaves are often simple in shape (no lobes/edging etc), the leaves are also in opposite pairs at right angles to pairs above and below them on the plant stems.

leaf botany


There are no Stipules.

A close up of sage - Salvia officinalis

A close up of sage – Salvia officinalis

You will also notice (especially on closer inspection that the plants are hairy, this can include the leaves and other parts including flowers.  Can you see the hairs on the sage above?

Flowers from the lamiaceae family bloom in nodes with at least 4 different flowers; some form 2 dense opposite inflorescences like whorls; may form end spikes: sometimes with ‘a protective throat of hairs’  The petals of the flowers are irregular in shape generally with 5 united petals, two of which are usually lipped.  The petals can also be tubular.

On inspection of a member of the mint family in flower you will find 2 pairs of stamens at base of petals, 1 pair longer than the other.  Once the flower has been fertilized 4 distinct chambers develop containing four fruit/nutlets/seeds.  The style arises from the base of the ovary between the 4 chambers (the style is the male sex organ of the flower which is essential in reproductive pollination.

The constituents of the Lamiaceae Family

As with several of the herbs I grow in my garden, they are aromatic.  Hairy glandular trichomes produce and store essential oils also known as volatile oils.  These volatile oils are very light and therefore easy to evaporate, they can pass through the blood brain barrier and also through skin and are therefore used in the therapy aromatherapy. Essential oils probably work at least partially via stimulation of the sense of smell, and subsequent activation of the limbic system.

Volatile oils are made up of monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes and the phenylpropanoids.

Because of their small molecular size, many monoterpenes are volatile and are the principal components of volatile (essential) oils, occurring to varying degrees in practically all essential oils.  Whilst they do have significant therapeutic effects on a phytochemical level they are not classed as aromatic and rarely contribute much to the odours and tastes of the volatile oils.  Hydrocarbon monoterpenes tend to be weakly antiseptic, bactericidal, stimulating, expectorant and slightly analgesic. They are often mild skin irritants.  Some are antiviral and others break down gallstones.  Monoterpenes provide the ‘high notes’ that dominate citrus and needle oils, such as eucalyptus.

In general, sesquiterpenes in essential oils are slightly antiseptic, bactericidal, slightly hypotensive, cooling, anti-allergy, and anti-inflammatory; calming some are analgesic and/or spasmolytic.  Their properties are less influenced by functional groups than with monoterpenes.  Sesquiterpenes are more viscous than monoterpenes, less volatile, often yellow or brown.  The total essential oil content of plants is generally less than 1%.

Within the plant, essential oils are stored in special plant cells, e.g. glands, glandular hairs, oil ducts and resin ducts.  They may be found in any part of the plant, including flowers, fruits, leaves, roots, wood, bark and saps.  Most oils are a complex mixture of compounds, which vary according to the season, time of day, growing conditions and even genetic factors. Therefore, different examples of the same botanical species may produce widely differing oils. These different oils are known as chemotypes.  Aromatherapy distilled the volatile oils out of plants using several methods including enfleurage and steam.

General Medicinal Uses of Essential oils include:

Antiseptic – this can be a local effect on the skin or internally in the digestive system, or systemically by a reflex action benefiting organs such as the lungs.  Sage is an example of a local antiseptic herb, and thyme a systemic antiseptic.

Carminative – mint, rosemary and lemon balm all have calming effects both physically and emotionally.

Anti-catarrhal – mint and hyssop both support the reduction of catarrh within the body.

Common medicinal uses of the lamiaceae plant family:

•Anti-spasmodic – Release muscle tension
•Sedatives – Reduce irritability and excitement.
•Relaxants – Release tension in the muscles.
•Anti-catarrhal- Enable the body to get rid of mucus.
•Febrifuge – Brings down a fever.
•Stomachics – Improves stomach function and appetite.
•Expectorants – Promotes the removal of phlegm from the chest.
•Endocrine regulators – Helps to regulate the endocrine system.
•Anti-microbial – Inhibits the growth of micro organisms such as bacteria.
Recipes which utilise plants within the Lamiaceae family:
I have given a link here to an amazing blogger who creates and shares recipes:
Lavender Scones
(Makes about 12)
225g plain flour
15ml baking powder
50g butter
50g sugar
2 tsp fresh lavender flowers roughly chopped
150ml milk
  • Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 7.  Sift the flour and baking powder together.  Run the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Stir in the sugar and lavender, reserving a pinch to sprinkle on the top of the scones before baking them.
  • Add enough milk to make a soft, sticky dough.  Bind the dough together, then turn it out on to a lightly floured surface.
  • Shape the dough into a round, gently patting down the top to give 2.5cm depth.  using a floured cutter, stamp out 12 scones.
  • Place on a baking sheet.  Brush the tops with a little milk and sprinkle over the reserved lavender.  Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly.  Serve with warm jam and clotted cream.

Lemon Balm Syrup


200 grams sugar
237 ml water
24 grams lemon balm (loosely packed fresh, leaves)
Fresh lemon balm to garnish

  • Stir together first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and boil 1 minute or until sugar is dissolved.
  • Remove from heat, and let stand 30 minutes. Pour liquid through a wire-mesh strainer into a cruet or airtight container, discarding lemon balm leaves.
  • Cover and chill 4 hours. Garnish, if desired.
  • Syrup may be stored in refrigerator up to 1 month.

There are numerous recipes out there that incorporate the culinary herbs.  Peppermint is great for IBS and digestive issues.  Thyme is anti-viral and can help to shift a cold.  Sage can support and darken hair, improve memory and reduce infection.  I would love to know your favourite recipes using this plant family.

The amazing, under-appreciated organ….. The Liver

The liver is an amazing organ within the body.  It is something we abuse with excessive alcohol, medication drugs, those of you who are naughty and take illegal drugs, poor diets, too much caffeine and processed foods.


The liver is the largest organ in the body, second only in size to the skin, supplying the body with 25% of its total blood flow.  It is the heaviest gland of the body averaging out at about 14kg – this is roughly the weight of a staffordshire bull terrier or 7 1/2 2 litre bottles of pop.  It alters in its size and shape dependant on the amount of blood present.  Without a liver our life is reduced to about six hours and death results from multiple factors such as an accumulation of toxic metabolites in the blood stream, this is less time than if we didn’t have water or food!!  It converts glucose which is a sugar that we get from most carbohydrates in our diet into glucogen a process aided by insulin.  Today there is currently a diabetes epidemic which is due to people eating high carb high sugar foods and overloading the liver and the pancreas.  The liver can store around half the bodies sugar reserves and up to about 10% the weight of the liver, so when we need to access our energy the liver releases the glucogen to be used as fuel for the muscles.

liver anatomy

Anatomically it sits just below the diaphragm and is situated on the right hand side of the body.  The liver can be felt under the rib cage in slim people or when the liver has enlarged due to health issues such as fatty liver disease..  It is suspended in the cavity from the diaphragm by ligaments.  The liver tissue is made up of liver cells (hepatocytes), small canals (bile canaliculi) and blood capillaries (hepatic sinusoids).  Histologically, the liver can be described as having 2 vascular trees (portal and hepatic) within it, the branches close but not touching each other.


The Liver Cells (Hepatocytes):


These liver cells perform numerous metabolic, secretary and endocrine functions so they have an impact on how we burn our energy (therefore how easily/hard we gain/lose weight), they also deal with all of the hormones in our body as well as making hormones itself.  They are specialized cells with 5 to 12 sides and they make up 80% of the volume of the liver.  They contain more rough and smooth endoplasmic reticular, mitochondria and lysosomes are more abundant than most other cells within the body – this means that there are more power houses for producing energy within the liver than anywhere else.  Alcohol or drug abuse increases the number of enzymes within the hepatocytes this is know as induction and is a process to help keep up with the excessive amount of poison that people chuck into their bodies.

Hepatocytes are arranged into complex plates called hepatic laminae which are one cell thick and are highly branched.  Hepatocytes are lined by vascular spaces called hepatic sinusoids with grooves in their membrane for the canaliculi to secrete bile into.

When stressed, the cortex of the adrenal gland releases cortisone and hydrocortisone (the stress hormones) which stimulates gluconeogenisis by the liver, a sympathetic response, inducing the liver to breakdown glycogen (sugars) by hepatocytes and produces a surge of glucose into the blood which is ultimately the fight or flight response.

love your liver

Conjucation is the process where hepatocytes create compounds which can be excreted via the bilary system, so the liver also plays an important process when it comes to digesting food and accessing certain nutrients.  Unborn babies don’t have conjucating enzymes in their livers and so their unconjucated bilirubin diffuses through the placenta and is taken up by the mother for excretion.  Premature babies are frequently jaundiced (have yellow coloured skin) because the conjucating enzymes develop a few days prior the birth, late in the third trimester and therefore they do not have this ability.

Canals in the liver (Bile canaliculi):

bile caniculi

These are small canals in branched structures lining the grooves of the hepatocytes that assist digestion with the absorption of food and the excretory process.  The secretion of bile salts only occurs within the liver – these have a detergent action emulsifying fats so that we can access their nutrition.

Blood capillaries within the liver (Hepatic sinusoids):

hepatic sinusoids

These are highly permeable capillaries in branched structures between the hepatocytes.  They receive two blood supplies, via the hepatic artery they receive oxygenated blood (red blood) and via the hepatic portal vein they receive nutrient rich deoxygenated blood (blue blood) from the gastrointestinal organs and the spleen.

Kupffer cells are located within the hepatic sinusoids, they are part of the immune system and are fixed white blood cells which destroy old blood cells, bacteria and other particles in the venous blood draining from the gastrointestinal tract.  Old haemoglobin (red blood cells) are recycled by cells within the liver, the central iron particle is stored for reuse within the liver and the haem (the red transporter of the iron molecule) is converted into bilirubin – a large amount of bilirubin in the blood stream causes jaundice.

Functions of the Liver:

love your liver 1

The liver does so much for us and yet we do take it for granted.  Liver disease and abuse can cause life threatening problems which can greatly shorten our life expectancy.  Here is a list of what the liver does for us on a daily basis for our entire lives.

  • carbohydrate metabolism, the assimilation of sugars within the body – glucose levels
  • regeneration – creating new liver cells if we really abused our liver
  • lipid metabolism – the assimilation of fats within the body
  • protein metabolism – making, storing and breaking down proteins (meat, fish, eggs, pulses etc)
  • processing drugs and hormones – endocrine function either reacts with or destroys most hormones – detoxification
  • excretion of bilirubin
  • sodium metabolism – the assimilation of salt from our diet
  • in fetus’ and new born babies the liver produces red blood cells (erythropoiesis)
  • synthesis of bile salts
  • storage of: glycogen, Vitamins A, B12, D, E and K, iron, copper
  • kupffer cells kill/recycle aged cells and pathogens (any germs) this is known as phargocytosis
  • activation of Vitamin D
  • processing all of the blood within the body
  • regulation of blood clotting

As you can see the liver is essential to our health and wellbeing.  I sell herbal capsules on my website: where you can purchase Milk Thistle and give you liver some tender loving care.

milk thistle


Homer Andrews, W.H. (1979) Liver. Edward Arnold Publishers Limited

Kumar, P. Clark, M. (2009) Clinical Medicine 7th Edition. Elsevier Limited

Tortora, G. Dickenson, B. (2009) Principles of Anatomy and Physiology 12th Edition. John Wiley & Sons Ltd

Herbal First Aid Kit

I would like to share with you all my herbal first aid kit and the uses that the herbs and oils have for different ailments.  A herbal first aid kit is great to have on hand for your family, I like to take a smaller pack when I am outdoors exploring nature.  The smaller kit is also great for festivals and other adventures.

100% pure Lavender essential oil 10ml                    Clean dressings

Arnica cream (travel size)                                         Plasters

Nettle tincture 100ml                                                 Tuba-grip

Myrrh tincture 30ml                                                   Chamomile tea bags

Honey (travel size jar)                                               Rosemary tincture

Bicarbonate of soda (small pouch)                          Tweezers

Vinegar 10ml                                                            Safety pins

Comfrey cream (travel size)                                    Pain killers (your choice)

Allergies: nettle tincture

Nettles have an anti-histamine effect helping to reduce inflammation and allergies

Nettles have an anti-histamine effect helping to reduce inflammation and allergies

Bites: I also turn to plantain for any form of bites, this can be from gnats, fleas or other animals.  You can chew up a leaf (or mash it to extract the moisture) and then apply it to the bite to reduce swelling. Lavender essential oil can also be used. Add lavender essential oil to rosemary tincture to make an effective insect repellent and soother for insect bites.

Bleeding: To stop bleeding plantain leaves can be harvested from almost any green area of land.  I turn to plantain and yarrow when cut outdoors.  Once I cut myself to the bone with my pen knife repairing a friend’s electric fencing for her horses.  We were miles from any assistance, plantain leaves help to stop the bleeding and bind the flesh.  I was good to go in 5 minutes despite it being on a finger joint.

This is Plantago major, but P, lanceolata can also be used.  The key to identification is to look for leaf ribs which are parallel to each other

This is Plantago major, but P, lanceolata can also be used. The key to identification is to look for leaf ribs which are parallel to each other

Bruises: Arnica cream is great for supporting the resolution of bruising.  If you or your family have hurt themselves and you feel that it might bruise then you can apply arnica cream to the area.  You do not have to wait till a bruise has developed although in some instances the bruising process can be instantaneous.

Burns and scalds: Where possible place the burned skin under running water for ten minutes or plunge it into cold water (A chemical burn needs 20 minutes). I have burnt myself cooking and ironing many a time and I always turn to lavender essential oil, although it is an oil I find that it cools the burn and helps to reduce the pain.  If the burn is as large as or larger than the palm of the hands then please seek medical attention as soon as possible.  Do not put anything on a burn of this size as it may compromise the possibility of a skin graft.  Children and diabetics should always go to hospital.  Never prick a blister due to risk of secondary infection.  Other herbal treatments to help improve burns are aloe vera and a cold compress of chamomile tea.

Chamomile can be bought in tea bags from your local supermarket for ease of transportation and use

Chamomile can be bought in tea bags from your local supermarket for ease of transportation and use

Cuts: If you or a family member cuts themselves, where possible clean the wound, apply pressure and elevate the limb.  Lavender essential oil can be applied to a cut, it is antiseptic and can promote healing.  Comfrey cream can be used to heal the cut if it is shallow.  If it is deep the comfrey may close the wound to fast can cause an abscess. (See bleeding)

Indigestion: Chamomile tea can help to soothe heartburn and indigestion

Prickly heat: Nettle tincture taken internally will help to reduce the inflammation.  Prickly heat is down to clogged sweat glands which is an indicator of poor elimination within the body.  Increase your intake of water and reduce sugar and junk food intake.

Septic wounds: Apply tincture of myrrh neat to the wound using a clean dressing.  If you cannot get to a primary care provider it would be worth taking the myrrh tincture internally as well to support your body in reducing the risk of septicaemia

The myrrh tree growing wild - ensure that you purchase cultivated sources and not wild-crafted

The myrrh tree growing wild – ensure that you purchase cultivated sources and not wild-crafted

Shock: lavender essential oil apply to the collar of the person affected to allow the aromatic oils to calm them.

Sore throat: You can dilute the myrrh tincture with water and gargle with is like a mouth wash.

Splinters: apply honey to the area and cover with a plaster, the honey acts as a drawing agent to bring the splinter to the surface, it also provides an antibacterial and antifungal layer of protection to prevent infection.  If you are outdoors and there are pine trees in the area the resin from the tree has a similar drawing agent and is antiseptic.

Sprains/strains: Comfrey cream is excellent to support the healing and repair of sprains and strains.  It is best to rest and elevate them (where possible), apply cold compresses to bring down the swelling.  If you have to use the joint affected support it with a tuba-grip.

Stings: If you are stung by a bee you need to neutralise the acid – bicarbonate of soda is alkaline, create a paste with a little water and apply to the sting.  Wasps and jelly fish stings are alkaline and require vinegar to neutralise them.

I hope that you find this useful.  Please share with others who may also benefit.  Also I look forward to hearing you feedback and what other botanicals you use in situations such as the ones described above.


Cinnamon – an overview of its health benefits

orange and cinnamonCinnamon as an evergreen tree native in South China, the Himalayas, India and Sri Lanka dependant on which species.  It has been introduced to many other countries and it is cultivated for its bark which is used in economic, culinary and medicinal applications.  It is one of the oldest spices known and has been recorded by different countries dating back to 2700BC.  There are over 250 different species of Cinnamomum spp; scientific research has mainly employed Cinnamomum cassia and C. zeylanicum.

Botanical Family: Lauraceae (laurel family)

32 genera and 2000-2500 species


Genus species         Common Name
Cinnamomum verum


True   Cinnamon,

Ceylon Cinnamon,   Cinnamon





Chinese Cinnamon, Cassia Bark,


Cinnamon is cultivated in moist well drained soil, grows happily in partial shade.  The tree can be propagated by ripe seed or cuttings from first year growth.  Bark is harvested, peeled and dried into quills ready for consumption.  Young branches are smooth and brown in appearance.  Leaves grow in opposite formation new growth is red in colour developing to green when mature, are ovate with three prominent veins and are leathery in texture.  Fruit forms as a fleshy ovoid drupe containing one fertilised seed turning dark purple to black when it is ripe, similar in size to an olive.  Flowers are bisexual, small and pale yellow and grow in the axillary or terminal panicles.

Details   about the species ↓ Species of   Cinnamon →  

Cinnamomum Cassia


Cinnamomum verum

Height and   Span Height: 12-20 metres (40-70ft)

Span: 6-12 metres (20-40ft)

Height: 10-18 metres (30-60ft)

Span: 6-10 metres (20-30ft)

Significant   descriptive information Leaves: up to 20cm

Flowers: panicles

Berries: single seeded

Native: China

Leaves: up to 18cm

Flowers: clusters

Berries: purple, ovoid

Native: S India and Sri Lanka

Hardiness Minimum temperature:


Minimum temperature: 15°C
Parts used Inner bark, Leafy twigs, fruits and oil Inner bark, leaves and oil

Humans have used cinnamon for thousands of years; the spice played an important role global economics enabling colonial expansion during the 16th Century.  Holland cultivated this spice improving its economic position in world trade.  Cinnamon has been used as a spice flavouring food and in perfumery.  It has been cultivated and imported throughout the world for its economic, culinary and medicinal uses.  Due to extensive cultivation this spice is rarely harvested from the wild.

cinnamon8In Ayurvedic medicine cinnamon is used for hyperacidity, asthma, constipation-predominant IBS (stimulating digestive enzymes), dysentery-predominant IBS (to clear kapha and stimulate digestive enzymes), conjunctivitis, bronchitis, colds, congestion, water retention, hiccups, nausea, muscle tension and vomiting.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) cinnamon is used as a warming remedy indicated for ‘exterior cold’ or ‘wind-cold’.  It is contained in several TCM formulas including Ma Huang Tang – Ephedra Decoction and Gui Zhi Tang – Cinnamon Twig Decoction, both formulas are diaphoretic enabling interior cold to be released through sweating. It has been known to the Chinese since 2700BC and given to patients who are deficient in Heart Qi and Yang.

Western Herbal Medicine uses cinnamon as a warming remedy for patients with a common cold or influenza.  It supports patients with anorexia or who have suffered weight loss, stimulating appetite.  Its antispasmodic and carminative actions are employed for people who experience colic, diarrhoea and indigestion.  Cinnamon has also been used historically to ease toothache, arthritis and menstrual disorders and clear up urinary tract infections.

Cinnamon – Constituents

  • Volatile oils composed of aromatic benzene derivatives and terpenes including:
  • Cinnamaldehyde 60-75%
  • Phenols – Eugenol (In C. zeylanicum 4-10%)
  • Methyl eugenol
  • Eugenol acetate
  • Cinnamyl acetate
  • Cinnamyl alcohol
  • Salicylaldehyde
  • Methylsalicylaldehyde
  • Benzaldehyde
  • Benzyl benzoate
  • Linalool
  • Hydrocarbons: pinene, phyllandrene, caryophyllene, safrole, cymene and cineol
  • Ketones
  • Alcohols
  • Esters
  • Cuminaldehyde
  • Piperitone
  • Condensed Tannins (proanthocyanidins)
  • Catechins
  • Phlobatannins
  • Resins
  • Gum
  • Diterpenoids
  • Mucilage
  • Calcium oxalate
  • Coumarin (Higher in C. cassia)
  • Starch/Sugars
  • Phenylalanine
  • Insecticidal compounds: cinnezalin and cinnzelanol

Cinnamon contains up to 4% volatile oils.  Cinnamyl acetate is contained in high proportions and may be converted into aldehyde.  Phenylalanine is a precursor of cinnamic aldehyde and eugenol.  Cinnamon’s sweet taste is due to the cinnamaldehyde content.  An alcoholic solution yields a blue colour when mixed with ferric chloride.  C. cassia is more astringent than C. zeylanicum.

Medicinal Actions of Cinnamon

  • Carminative
  • Anti-infective (volatile oils)
  • Anti-spasmodic
  • Anti-emetic
  • Anti-diarrhoeal
  • Anti-microbial
  • Anti-fungal
  • Anti-mutagenic
  • Anti-viral
  • Stimulant
  • Astringent
  • Anthelmintic/Vermifuge (dispels parasites such as worms)
  • Antiseptic
  • Haemostatic
  • Anti-diabetic
  • Mild analgesic
  • Febrifuge

cinnamon2Research into cinnamons effects on sugar and fat metabolism has achieved significant results in animal studies.  Cinnamon’s FBG reducing potential can be understood through its polyphenol content which is antioxidant in effect.  Cinnamon is recognised as a functional food source of antioxidants which help to decrease oxidative stress by inhibiting the enzyme 5-lipooxygenase improving insulin sensitivity.

Antioxidant effects can be measured by oxidative stress markers enabling researchers to analyse the links between cinnamon and changes in glucose or lipid profiles.  Plants are known sources of antioxidants which neutralise free radicals, endogenous or from external sources.  Free radicals cause the body stress damaging cells and tissues within the body e.g. lipid peroxidation.  Cooking and digestion of cinnamon has minimal impact on the levels and action of antioxidants and polyphenols.

Cinnamon may affect glucose metabolism through its coumarin content.  Coumarins can cause photosensitive reactions which may produce allergic reactions; one patient taking cinnamon did develop a rash which resolved after discontinuing supplementation.  Coumarins are forms of flavonoids which occur as glycosides; they have a role in plant metabolism and immunology; medical actions include: hypotensive and oestrogenic effects.  Oestrogen has a physiological effect on metabolism and reduced blood pressure can improve risk factors of NIDDM.  Aqueous extracts of cinnamon have produced biologically active insulin like action through in vitro research.

Scientific Research on Cinnamon 

Research on cinnamon has focused on several of the actions and applications of the spice and its essential oils including its antimicrobial, antifungal, antioxidant and antibacterial effects.  Areas of research include cancer, diabetes, hypertension and digestion.  Nishida et al reported that cinnamon is effective in inducing apoptosis (cell death) to HL-60 cells which are involved in cancer (2003).  Cinnamon’s anti-tumour action was statistically significant in this in vitro primary research.  In TCM cinnamon is a component in a formula called Minjin Yoei To (NYT) which is prescribed to patients with lung cancer, evidence shows positive results in tumour marker levels and symptoms in patients with a lung carcinoma taking NYT for seven weeks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALipid and glucose metabolism, antioxidant, insulin sensitizing and insulin mimetic have been investigated in order to explore and discover the effects cinnamon has on diabetics.  The majority of research conducted regarding cinnamon and diabetes have concluded that cinnamon is beneficial its prevention and control although there are conflicting studies.  Analysis of cinnamon and lipid metabolism discovered that animal studies were more effective that human trials.

Disorders of lipid metabolism can lead to health conditions such as hyperlipidaemia, diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases which increase the risk of further health implications.  Cinnamon has been used traditionally for digestive conditions of the gastrointestinal tract-GIT which has a major role in lipid metabolism as it synthesises apolipoproteins required to transport lipids around the body and resynthesizes triglycerides.  When levels of cholesterol and triglycerides are high health risks ensue including atherosclerosis, heart disease, stroke and hypertension although lipids are necessary for health with roles in energy homeostasis, reproductive and organ physiology. The use of statins to manage and reduce high levels of cholesterol is current procedure in orthodox medical professions once lifestyle factors have been explored.  There is conflicting viewpoints on the use of statins in lowering lipid levels.  Several metabolic disorders occur due to insulin resistance and research into cinnamon discusses its potential insulin mimetic properties.  Research has looking into cinnamons effect on fat metabolism with mixed results.

It has been over four decades since the discovery of plasma lipoprotein transport systems in the body which have identified that fat production actually occurs in the liver and gastro-intestinal tract.  The link between high lipid levels and cardiovascular disease (CVD) – hypertension, atherosclerosis and hypercholesterolemia has been explored and researched and the results are used by modern medicine to predict, prevent and treat people with lipid disorders.  Further research is being done to determine how to lower lipid profiles and prevent cardiovascular diseases from occurring.

Cinnamon has the potential to activate lipid metabolism, further primary research should include human factors such as exercise levels, the state of a person’s endocrine and nervous system, diet and gender into account as current research has shown that these have an effect on fat metabolism.cinnamon

Future research has been highlighted in to cinnamon’s potential to protect nerve cells from damage highlighting possible preventative strategies in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.

Chemical Composition of Cinnamon

  • Moisture 9.9%
  • Protein 4.65%
  • Fat (ether extract) 2.2%
  • Fibre 20.3%
  • Carbohydrates 59.55%
  • Total ash 3.55%
  • Calcium 1.6%
  • Phosphorus 0.05%
  • Iron 0.004%
  • Sodium 0.01%
  • Potassium 0.4%
  • Vitamins (mg/100g) B1 0.14; B2 0.21; C 39.8; niacin 1.9; A 175 I.U.

Clinical Applications of Cinnamon

Cinnamon has an anti-microbial, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial action helping to combat infections such as the common cold and influenza.  It supports the body’s removal of toxins and act as a pain reliever.  Clinical applications include flatulent dyspepsia, colic, diarrhoea, common cold, dyspepsia, abdominal distension from flatulence and nausea.  The volatile oils in cinnamon have lipolytic properties supporting the body in the metabolism and digestion of fats suggesting a potential role in the treatment of diabetes.

Contra-indications, Adverse Effects and Drug Interactions

There is a potential for an allergic or irritant adverse reaction to cinnamon use due to the content of cinnamaldehyde in volatile oil.  The German E Commission has approved both C. cassia and C. zeylanicum as safe herbs with medicinal properties.  The bark is the approved part of cinnamon for use as a spice or for its medical properties and is generally regarded as safe even during pregnancy.  Cinnamomum cassia contains coumarins which can damage the liver in high quantities which are not present in negligible quantities in C. zeylanicum.  A study conducted for the Food Standards Agency assessed the dietary intake of cinnamon in multi-ethnic populations within the UK determined that there is no risk regarding coumarin levels when ingested as part of the diet.  In the Handbook of Herbs and Spices it states that ingestion may cause nausea, vomiting and possible kidney damage and recommends that it isn’t used in pregnancy.


Dried bark: 0.5-1g(x3) daily

Oil: 0.05-0.2ml(x3) daily

Powder: 0.5-1g(x3) daily

Fluid Extract: 0.5-1ml(x3) daily

The maximum dosage of coumarins to ensure safety is 1.0mg/kg for coumarin in foods and 2.0mg/kg for coumarin in spices, pregnant women are recommended not to exceed a daily intake of 0.7mg/kg.




The Impact that Nutrition can have in the Treatment of Candida Albicans.

albicans is a member of the yeast family, a variety of fungi and it occurs within our bodies.  It is present from the first few months in life and when the balance of our intestinal flora is healthy it remains without having any detrimental impact on our health and wellbeing.  Health problems occur when the opportunistic yeast populations become prolific.  This can occur when people take antibiotics – which is unfortunately too often than not!!  Antibiotics destroy/kill all bacteria, so the candida which has been happily residing in the gut suddenly finds all its neighbours dying it jumps at the chance to take up the available space.  C. albicans derives nutrients from our bodies via enzymes that it produces. Living naturally in the digestive system (lower intestines), vagina and also present on skin parasitically not symbiotically.

When the candida is in balance with our intestinal flora is acts like a yeast, but when it becomes a dominant habitant of the digestive system the invasive yeast branches out with hyphae (fungus like mycelium tract) and secretes a phospholipase disrupting cell membranes, causing inflammation leading to symptoms such as leaky gut syndrome, the candida now acting like a fungus can cross the walls of the intestines and affect other body systems and organs within the body.  C. albicans produces over 79 toxic substances which can result in hypersensitive reactions causing symptoms such as muscle and joint pains, irritability, psoriasis, depression, headaches, fatigue, sexual problems (including infertility), memory loss, digestive disorders, itching, and learning problems such as Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and autism.

Common symptoms experienced with C. albicans include cold extremities, frequent urination, depression, sleep disorders irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), recurrent childhood ear, nose and throat infections, constant gas or bloating, endometriosis, constipation, heartburn, recurrent sinusitis and recurrent bronchitis.  Allergic reactions to the yeast antigens can occur in chronic or recurring candida infections with inflammatory responses too!

Candida produces alcohol and acetaldehyde from its enzymic metabolism of sugar; acetaldehyde consumes B vitamins leading to depression, exhaustion and trembling.  Exposure to acetaldehyde can also interfere with essential fatty acid (EFA) metabolism, the formation of acetyl-CoA and the availability of vitamin B6.  Sugar is candida’s food source and in our diet there is above average sugar intake.

Nutrition has important implications on health, immunity and disease.  Toxins in the body excreted by C. albicans can contribute to a multitude of diseases and disorders symptoms of which have been mentioned above.  Without complete digestion of food and elimination of toxins, vitamins and minerals can become deficient even if they are consumed – therefore if you have digestive issues it would be beneficial to see a herbalist.  If you have digestive issues you will struggle to assimilate the nutrients which you are eating and also you will struggle to access any supplements which you may also be taking.

Lots of food is prepared and processed prior to being sold for consumption, care should be taken when shopping for food to be aware of where it is sourced from and what goes into it.  Medicines such as steroids and antibiotics, are given to animals reared for food and can be transferred to people when eaten.  Oestrogens are given to increase meat yield and may be a causative factor of yeast infection, regular intake of meat and dairy may result in the absorption of antibiotic and hormone residues.  Organic sources do reduce this risk but steroids and antibiotics used in animals and fruit production runs into water getting into tap water supplies.  Drugs are designed to stay biologically active and are excreted quickly from animals and humans, passing into water supplies, possibly leaching into soils and accumulating in concentration in areas.  Continuous exposure to pharmaceutical medication leads to resistant pathogens and possible allergic responses in people.  This may explain why sperm counts are down in humans and animals after decades of women taking the contraceptive pill and excreting the medication in a biologically active form into the water supply.  Our water is filtered but it doesn’t prevent pharmaceuticals from entering our drinking water, pharmaceutical medicines can also depress immunity.

The typical Western Diet isn’t nutritionally balanced either!!  Overall it is low in fibre, high in refined starches (which are converted to simple sugars), contains saturated, trans and hydrogenated fats but not enough micronutrients, has high levels of preservatives and additives too.  It contains a lot of fast processed foods and a multitude of foods that weren’t available prior to agriculture (Table is available at the bottom of this blog).  Cultures who conform to the western diet experience the same issues – people on the western diet are generally overweight but undernourished due to the empty nutrients in the processed foods which are eaten!!  The western diet results in health problems such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes.  Refined sugar influences states of micronutrient deficiency and lowered immunity but are added to a lot of foods to make them taste more appealing to us.

Genetically people with the blood group O are slightly more susceptible to yeast infections, although diet, nutrition and lifestyle also contributes to the aetiology of disease.  Foods which exacerbate candida include refined carbohydrates, carbohydrate rich foods and high levels of sugar.  This makes a lot of sense when you realise that all carbohydrates are digested, broken down into simple sugars – sugar is the building block for all carbohydrates.  Yeast based or fermented foods can aggravate symptoms in people hypersensitive to C. albicans such as vinegar, wine, beer, alcohol, yeast extracts and spreads, mushrooms and blue cheeses.

The immune system can control an overgrowth of candida with the body’s mucosa prevents overgrowth and controlling populations of yeast when healthy; a diet high in sugar combined with a weakened immunity increases susceptibility to infection.  Incomplete digestion, digestive enzyme deficiencies and diets high in refined food can contribute to destructive cycles in internal health. Ingestion of reactive foods reduces metabolism which increased intestinal permeability and reduces the intestinal capacity to digest nutrients; this leads to nutrient deficiencies which weakens the immune system and allows yeast to colonize areas.

C. albicans irritates the intestinal lining via enzyme release causing inflammation which further increases the body’s reactivity to certain foods.  Magnesium, EFA’s and Vitamin B6 deficiencies are common in yeast infections.  Magnesium deficiency leads to inflammation and ischemia in the intestines.  EFA deficiency reduces immunity and the ability of the body systems and increases inflammation. Vitamin B6 and zinc deficiencies can also compromise the immune system.

Increased sugar in the diet, imbalances in blood sugars and metabolism of starches, fats and proteins contribute to C. albicans overpopulation. Stress reduces immunity and mucus secretions and consumes essential micronutrients such as zinc and vitamin C increasing the negative immunosuppressant actions.  As complex beings every action and choice we make can have an impact on health.  Exacerbating factors include sugar-rich foods, hormone contraceptives, steroids and drugs which stimulate yeast production.  Antibiotics which destroy healthy flora, symbiotic bacteria e.g. Lactobacillus acidophilus allowing other nonbacterial pathogens to multiply in its place.  Antibiotics also damage intestinal mucosa: a physiological barrier to yeast infections and part of the innate immune system.  Steroids and the contraceptive pill suppress immunity adding to the problem.  Another contributing factor is amalgam fillings in teeth, due to mercury metal toxicity.

High protein and complex carbohydrates are more beneficial to patients than refined carbohydrates or sugars (although the only carbohydrates that I recommend are fruits and vegetables as they are packed with nutrients).  Proteins are built up of multiple peptide chains of amino acids accessed from the amino acid pool after digestion, complete hydrolysis of proteins take place in the intestines.  Amino acids are rapidly removed from the blood utilised by all cells in the body, especially the liver. Complex carbohydrates take slower to digest than refined products containing higher levels of dietary fibre and starch – but are still relatively new in the history of human diets as grains were only introduced 10,000 years ago – a blink of the eye in evolutionary terms!  Insulin is released in the body to regulate the body’s blood sugars once carbohydrates have been fully digested.  Complex carbohydrates ensure a slower release of sugars enabling blood glucose levels to remain balanced but due to they being relatively new to our diet can cause inflammation and symptoms of food intolerance which are similar to symptoms of candida – attempt an exclusion diet to see if your symptoms improve after reducing your carbohydrate content (remove bread, rice, pasta and pastries – you are allowed potatoes).

EFA’s such as linseed or evening primrose oil are recommended as they are high in omega 3 linolenic acid, a building block for anti-inflammatory prostaglandins and a bulking fibre.  EFA’s are long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega 3, also known as linolenic acid, works as a precursor of prostaglandins.  Omega 6 – linoleic acid is a precursor of most prostaglandins, leukotriene’s and arachidonic acid.  In plain English – Omega 3 is anti-inflammatory and Omega 6 can be pro-inflammatory.  The western diet is high in Omega 6 which is pro-inflammatory.  Physical characteristics of EFA deficiency include dry flaky skin, brittle nails and straw like hair – does this sound like you?  Vegetable oils have disturbingly high ratios of omega 6, swap them for fruit oils such as olive oil and coconut oil and swap your margarine for butter too!! Just remember the portion size for fat is the size of an average dice.

Garlic is beneficial for reducing yeast overgrowth, it modulates the cardiovascular system, boosts immunity, and is anti-fungal and anti-oxidant.  Anti-microbial effects of garlic against C. albicans can be attributed to its constituents – diallyl disulphide and allyl alcohol.  Vitamin C is also beneficial as it detoxifies the body and enhances immune function, 200mcg daily of chromium normalises blood sugars, ginger helps by stimulating the circulation and grapefruit seed extract helps to clear yeast and other pathogenic microflora without disrupting the beneficial flora in the intestines.  This is just the tip of the iceberg of beneficial foods and supplements to help with candida overgrowth.

Prevention and control of C. albicans is a slow process which can take months.  Patients need to be strict, ensuring that they have optimum nutrition, increasing the intake of whole foods and supporting the body in the removal of toxins.  The body’s natural defences and healing potential need improving and yeast activity needs reducing depriving it of sugars.  Excretory organs need supporting to detox the body of toxins and damaged tissues need to be repaired and supported.  Boiled water has a reduced surface tension and can carry toxins to be eliminated.  At first patients should eliminate sugar rich foods and refined carbohydrates for 4-10 days, keeping a diary to find out which foods aggravate them.

Patrick Holford recommends a simultaneous four point plan consisting of:

  1. Anti- fungal approach introducing products such as propolis a natural bee product which is effective on fungal infections of the skin and body and can be taken internally or grapefruit seed extract is a powerful antibiotic, antifungal and antiviral which doesn’t affect good bacteria and also garlic as mentioned above (it you are on pharmaceutical medication check with a herbalist or your doctor before introducing grapefruit into your diet).
  2. Probiotics help to rectify damage caused by recurrent antibiotic use by re-establishing healthy colonies of good bacteria in the intestines which increase acidity by producing lactic acid and acetic acid which inhibits pathogenic flora.  Hundreds of different species are found naturally in the intestines living off partially digested food, completing the digestion process, providing us with B vitamins, biotin, folic acid and vitamin K.  Probiotics naturally re-inhabit our digestive tract with healthy bacteria, it also helps to improve our moods and emotions!!
  3. Supplements can be taken to correct imbalances of glucose tolerance, hormones and histamine levels and detoxify body such as Vitamin C to rid the bowel of toxins – but are only effective if our digestion is working well.  If you experience bloating, wind, spots on the forehead, cramps, diarrhoea and/or constipation then your digestion isn’t up to speed and you may not be accessing/assimilating the supplements you are taking.
  4. Complying with an anti-candida diet – simple sugars such as lactose and fructose should be excluded, refined carbohydrates should be eliminated and wholegrain carbohydrates reduced.  Avoid yeast, fermented products, refined carbohydrates and stimulants.  It is stated that an anti-candida diet should be maintained for a year to consolidate newly corrected healthy gut flora.  Avoid all sources of sugar, including fruit for the first month and yeast containing foods such as alcohol and vinegar.  Avoid yeasted breads, pastries and pastas, processed and packaged including breakfast cereals, caffeine, condiments, mushrooms, malt products, dried and candied fruit, processed and smoked meats, luncheon meats, sugar and foods containing sugar.  Vegetables, grain, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds can be eaten in plenitude.

C. albicans is parasitic yeast which can overpopulate areas of the body causing health problems and inflammation.  It gains nutrition via enzymes, creating toxins which can add to symptoms.  Diet is essential in the treatment of yeast overgrowth.  Supporting homeostasis and redressing health imbalances a slow and painstaking process.  Ecosystems observed in nature are delicately balanced and the same applies to the hundreds of different microflora found in the gut.  Taking responsibility for certain actions and restraining from using several conventional medicines will help the situation, but immunosuppression of any kind, such as stress, can cause a relapse back to its original dysbiosis.  Adherence of several factors including supporting the immune system enabling repair, eating nutritionally balanced whole foods, using anti-fungal agents and repopulating the intestine with non-pathogenic microflora are stringently required.


Table of foods in the western diet which weren’t available to pre-agricultural society

“Food or food group Value

Dairy products % of energy
    Whole milk 1.6
    Low-fat     milk 2.1
    Cheese 3.2
    Butter 1.1
    Other 2.6
    Total 10.6
Cereal grains
    Whole grains 3.5
    Refined     grains 20.4
    Total 23.9
Refined sugars
    Sucrose 8.0
    High-fructose     corn syrup 7.8
    Glucose 2.6
    Syrups 0.1
    Other 0.1
    Total 18.6
Refined vegetable oils
    Salad,     cooking oils 8.8
    Shortening 6.6
    Margarine 2.2
    Total 17.6
Alcohol 1.4
Total energy 72.1
Added salt, as sodium chloride 9.6”

Copied from: Cordain, L. Eaton, S. Sebastian, A. Mann, N. Lindeberg, S. Watkins, B. O’Keefe, J. Brand-Miller, J (2005) ‘Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century.’ American Society for Clinical Nutrition. [Online] 81(2) 341-354 Available from: [Accessed 3rd January 2011]



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Heartburn and Indigestion

Do you experience heart burn or indigestion after eating? Or even acid reflux?

Phisology of Acid reflux

Physiology of Acid reflux

This can be due to the type of food that you are eating or because the sphincter that keeps the acid in your stomach isn’t working as efficiently as it should be and the stomach contents are entering the food pipe or oesophagus.

There are numerous herbal preparations which can prevent this from occurring and work on supporting the stomach, strengthening and toning the sphincter.

Are you eating healthily? Please be honest. If we do not give our body the nourishment it requires then it cannot heal and resolve issues such as this.

Contact me for a consultation where I can offer you a personalised prescription to support your health and wellbeing and aim to resolve health issues such as acid reflux, indigestion and heart burn.

People who have seen me have been happy with the results.