Woodland Herbs
June 2013
In this issue

Welcome to your regular newsletter from Woodland Herbs. We hope you will find it interesting, entertaining and useful. If you do not wish to continue to receive this newsletter please use the link at the bottom of this email.

Cleanse & Revitalise

Finally it feels like winter has left! After a long, dark winter in which we’ve been eating heavier meals to keep warm, and generally doing less exercise than is perhaps good for us, it’s no surprise that we might be feeling a little run down. Now, as the days are longer and milder, and fresh fruit and veg is more available, is the time to think about preparing for a detox; not the depths of January when all we want to do is snuggle under a duvet.

Many writers believe that a yearly detox isn’t an optional extra only undertaken by health zealots, but should be done to some degree by everyone. They suggest that stress, modern living and convenience meals can lead to poor assimilation of food and the inefficient elimination of waste products and unwanted materials from the body. This accumulation of waste products (often termed "toxins") is then implicated in many conditions, from arthritis and allergies to diabetes and depression. If you have prolonged problems with cellulite, smelly feet, sour breath, frequent colds, urinary infections, catarrhal congestion, bloating or fatigue, it’s possible your system needs a flush out. By detoxing, the body will be more able to remove these toxins, and to keep itself in healthy balance again.

The aim of detox programmes or techniques is to expel toxins that may have built up in the main organs responsible for cleansing the body – the intestines, liver, kidneys and skin. In a sense, you can think of it like descaling the washing machine or the shower head – there comes a point when the cleaning equipment itself needs cleaned!

A programme intended to help cleanse organs typically involves some element of fasting, but fasting doesn’t necessarily mean going hungry for days. Fasting has a long historical tradition, with Lent and Ramadan two of the best known, and even now new fasting techniques such as the 5:2 diet are being investigated for their beneficial effects on the body. Fasting can mean eating small amounts of simple foods rather than not eating at all, allowing the body to concentrate on elimination rather than assimilation.

If undertaken sensibly, short-term fasting can effectively help the body concentrate on cleansing and detoxing. A popular way to fast is the fruit fast where one fruit is chosen, eg grapes, to replace meals. Instead of breakfast, lunch and dinner, a filling portion of the fruit is eaten, and water is drunk through the day. Any fasting days should only be undertaken when you have minimal demands on you and you have ample opportunity to rest, relax and do simple, gentle activities such as stretching and taking a bath. For best results, precede and follow your short fast with a one to two day cleansing diet where you cut out stimulants, starches, meats, alcohol, sugar, wheat and dairy and try to eat as much fresh, raw or lightly cooked vegetables, fruits, seeds and pulses as you can. During your detox, don’t be surprised to feel a bit worse before you feel better, due to the release of toxins. You can minimise this by starting your detox gently over a longer period and drinking plenty of water and cleansing herbal teas.

Easy detox: simple, drama-free techniques for a spring-fresh you

Although fasting can form part of a detox program you could just make some changes for a simple detox. How rigorously you detox is for you to decide, taking into account your state of physical and mental health, other demands on your time and energy, and what your diet and lifestyle is like at the moment. Broadly the more stressful your life, the more stimulants you use and the more processed food you eat, the slower and gentler your detox should be. Try incorporating a couple of the tips below into your life and take it from there.

- Drink 1 1/2 litres of water a day, but not with meals as it dilutes the digestive juices. Often hot water can satiate the urge for a coffee or traditional tea.

- Plan your meals so there are three times as much vegetables as protein or carbohydrates on your plate.

- If you do need to buy the odd ready meal, look for the ones with the most ‘real’ ingredients and the least amount of additives.Better still, make your own ready meals by batch cooking and freezing.

- Liven up your food with herbs and spices rather than lashings of salt and rich sauces.

- Don’t eat while you’re working, in a rush or are upset. Sit down at a table, switch off all devices and focus on eating. Chew your food well to stimulate saliva production and so help digestion. You’ll enjoy your food more, feel fuller and are less likely to experience bloating.

- The water and the fibre in the plant foods you’re eating should help your bowels move daily, encouraging the expulsion of waste instead of hanging around inside your guts. If this isn’t happening, try a gentle laxative or take a couple of teaspoons of Psyllium Husk in plenty of water before bed.

- Aid digestion further and help cleanse the liver and kidneys by beginning and ending the day with a drink of hot water and fresh lemon juice. Try adding grated fresh ginger, which is especially helpful if you’re suffering from a cold, flatulence, indigestion or nausea. Try eating more lemons and ginger in your food in general: both are helpful and considered "cleansing" foods.

- If possible, try to support local greengrocers rather than the supermarket giants. A shopkeeper worth her or his salt will know their suppliers and may have some influence in terms of the use of pesticides etc. If you can’t afford to buy organic, consider peeling/scrubbing and rinsing food to help reduce residue. A dedicated nail brush is ideal for this!.

- The majority of toxins are metabolised in the liver, one of the body’s most important organs. It functions rather like the sewage plant of our bodies, neutralising pollutants and waste products. Milk Thistle (Carduus mariannus) supports liver health by reducing the depletion of glutathione, an amino acid-like compound essential for the detoxification process. Milk Thistle has a powerful antioxidant effect and also promotes the regeneration of liver cells. Milk Thistle is available in capsule form from Solgar, in tincture form with Artichoke and Dandelion in Vogel’s Milk Thistle Complex and in the actual seeds of the plant. Rather than making a tea, the seeds are best ground up or chewed as some of the beneficial components aren't very water soluble.

Cautions and Contraindications: Fasting should only be undertaken under professional guidance if you are currently dealing with a lot of stress, are pregnant, breast-feeding, frail, unwell or under the age of 12. If you have any long term condition, check with your herbalist or GP first as they may advise that you need a specifically nourishing fast.

Supplement of the Month: Aloe Vera


Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis) has a history of use dating back a remarkable five thousand years. It was held in such esteem, particularly by the ancient Egyptians, that it was referred to as the ‘wand of heaven’ and has been used around the world for an array of conditions from battlefield emergencies to dicky tummies.

A drought-resistant evergreen originally from south and eastern Africa, Aloe Vera has the ability to seal itself if leaves get damaged, protecting the rest of the plant and retaining moisture. It contains nearly 100 named constituents, of which 75 are active healing compounds. Two parts of the plant are used medicinally. Bitter aloes, a strong purgative made from the sap and obtained from the thin layer of tissue directly beneath the outer skin. It is the inner pulp which provides the soothing juice and gel. The high water content of the gel means the many nutrients such as amino acids, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes are absorbed deep into the dermal layers, helping to soothe and heal skin damage from a number of causes including sunburn, eczema, acne, burns, rashes and even simple ageing – research from the cosmetic industry suggests that Aloe Vera can help increase collagen production.

Aloe Vera can be taken internally in the form of juice which is prepared from the plant gel. As a rich source of nutrients, it’s taken by many as a support to general health and wellbeing, and by others to help manage digestive conditions, allergies and painful joints. A popular detoxing juice to try is one part Aloe Vera juice to six parts fresh apple juice, with a generous squeeze of fresh lemon. During your detox try drinking one or two glasses a day.

Herb of the Month: Cleavers

Cleavers (Galium aparine) is familiar to most of us, though it’s often known by more evocative names such as Goosegrass, Stickywilly, Stickyjack and the delightful Robin-run-the-hedge. What schoolchild hasn’t yanked a hairy stem from a hedgerow and stuck it on a classmate’s jumper? Prolific in many areas of the world, including Europe, North America, Iran and Australia, Cleavers isn’t just the favoured plant of pranksters, it’s featured regularly in folk medicine throughout the centuries.

It’s a member of the Rubiaceae family, making it a relation of coffee and its roasted seeds are said to be a good coffee substitute. Another traditional use of Cleavers is topical application of its cooling fresh pulp on burns, inflammation and stings.

To the medical herbalist, Cleavers belongs to a class of herbs called "Alteratives", a term meaning to ‘restore to health’, and the plant is often used when lymph nodes are swollen, an indication that the body is fighting an infection or removing "toxins". It’s widely thought that Cleavers acts on the lymph system, helping the transportation of wastes into the blood before being processed for elimination via the liver and kidneys. As long ago as the first century AD, Roman scholar Pliny was suggesting the addition of Cleavers to food to help lose weight. Young shoots appearing around now can be used similarly to spinach and can very lightly sweated in a pan. Be sure to pick yours from a patch where there’s plenty left growing and of course wash the plant thoroughly.

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, are on any medication or have a medical condition, always consult a healthcare practitioner before taking any dietary supplement or herbal remedy.

Cautions and Contraindications: This newsletter does not substitute the advice of a healthcare professional. We recommend you consult your GP or Medical Herbalist before self-treating with herbs and/or supplements.