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Phytotherapy is the treatment of disease by the use of plants and plant extract; herbalism.

The nervous system responds rapidly to variation in your external and internal environment. It works with the endocrine system and together they control major homeostatic functions (maintenance of a stable internal environment in the body). There are three basic functions of the nervous system:

  1. It receives stimuli from the external and internal environments.
  2. It will analyse and interpret information.
  3. It initiates an appropriate and co-ordinated response.

There are two principal parts

1. The central nervous system (CNS) is the brain and spinal cord. Incoming sensory information reaches the brain via spinal and cranial nerves. The brain then sorts it all out and stores memories and issues instructions. Thoughts and emotional responses originate in the CNS, but recent research suggests that hormonal responses are more significant in emotional development and experience. The CNS controls most muscle contraction and glandular secretions.

2. The peripheral nervous system (PNS) receives information from the periphery of the body, such as the skin, as well as deeper organs and tissues and the special senses such as sight and hearing. There are input and output routes. Parts of the nervous system are under voluntary control, but most nerve responses are involuntary.

Natural healing

A freely functioning body is one that is not congested, overheated or inoperative. Rest is vitally important for the nervous system and this comes best of all in the form of sleep. Going to bed early enough improves the quality of sleep; indeed sleep taken between the hours of 10pm and 2am actually doubles its value in terms of quality, relative to that taken after 2am.

It is easy for the nervous system to get out of balance, whether due to injury, inflammation, ongoing stress, oxidative damage, or imbalances in neurotransmitters. Any sort of imbalance or damage in the nervous system will result in it not functioning optimally. And when that happens, it impacts both our physical and mental states.

The excessive electrical charge can build up in the body during the course of each day if we live predominantly on concrete and are constantly exposed to synthetic materials such as nylon carpets, man-made shoes, and so on. The famous remedy of walking barefoot when feeling hyper-nervy, unable to sleep or “nerved-out” really does work and many a patient has found relief and benefits with a bare-footed night foray in the garden! If you have difficulty sleeping, try barefoot walking. 

Skin brushing will stimulate the nerve endings and is a great rejuvenator, especially for those who are low, depressed and sluggish.

7 Herbs for nervous system health

There are a large number of all-natural herbs that can be used to support nervous system health. Some are great for protecting your brain and nerves from damage, some help calm things down when you need it, and some keep your mental game sharp.

Valerian root:

This herb has been used since ancient Greek and Roman times for treating insomnia and calming people down. It is still commonly used today for conditions like sleep disorders and anxiety.

Valerian root helps calm the nervous system when it is overactive. It can do this by affecting levels of neurotransmitters involved in rest and sleep.

Lemon balm:

Lemon balm can modulate the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the body, such as GABA. It can positively impact factors related to mood and cognitive performance, helping conditions like anxiety. 

Ashwagandha:

Ashwagandha is a medicinal herb commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine. It is one of the most popular adaptogenic herbs (herbs that help the body respond to stress and help it maintain balance).

Rhodiola:

Rhodiola is a plant that is thought to be able to help people recover better from physical or mental strain and exhaustion.

Passionflower:

Passionflower is another great herb for the nervous system, because it has calming effects. It is traditionally used for things like sleep problems, anxiety, concentration issues, and even pain.

Ginkgo biloba:

Extracts from the ginkgo biloba tree have long been used for medicinal purposes. Ginkgo can be helpful in improving things like anxiety, memory, cognitive function, and more.

Chamomile:

Chamomile tea. It is a popular, soothing tea to sip on at bedtime. And for good reason. Chamomile tea actually impacts the nervous system in a way that helps support a healthy sleep cycle.

The Power of Herbal Medicine

Herbs are considered food for the body. Throughout history extracts from herb plants, roots, tree bark, leaves and flowers have proven effective in restoring and maintaining health. FOR EVERY DISEASE WE KNOW, GOD PROVIDES A HERB TO GROW!

Extracts are one of the simplest ways to enjoy the goodness of herbs.

What Are Herbal Tinctures?

Tinctures are concentrated herbal extracts that have alcohol as the solvent. An acetum is sometimes defined as “a vinegar tincture” in the tomes, but this is a pretty rare exception.

WHAT DEFINES A TINCTURE?

  • Tinctures are concentrated herbal extracts.
  • All tinctures are extracts, but not all extracts are tinctures! Alcohol must be the solvent used to extract the herbal properties. If you are using vinegar, glycerine, only water (water used to dilute alcohol is fine), or any menstruum (solvent) other than alcohol, your preparation is an extract, but it is not a tincture. Any spirit may be used, but many herbalists prefer something neutral like vodka so the taste of the herb comes through.
  • They can be made with fresh or dried flowers, leaves, roots, barks, or berries. Examples include: dried stevia leaf, vanilla beans, and dried mushrooms.

Herbalists spend from 30 months to three years studying the pharmacology, therapeutics and physio medicine of Western herbal medicine. Constituents found in plants include alkaloids, tannins, astringent properties, glycosides, anthraquinones, resin, volatile oil, mucilage, saponins, triterpenoids, berberine, asparigin, phytosterol and bitter principles just to name a few.

Herbs are metabolised easily by the body, especially the liver, unlike pharmaceutical drugs which interfere with digestion and liver function, creating toxicity and stress on many organs.

The entire physiology is affected by pharmaceutical drugs. Even one tiny drop can create a systemic reaction. I know this from personal experience!

 

Types of herbal medicine philosophies

  • Traditional Western herbal medicine (WHM)
  • Traditional Chinese herbal medicine (TCM)
  • Traditional Ayurvedic herbal medicine (AHM)

There are many other cultures which have their traditional ways of using herbs but these three philosophies are the best known in our society.

 

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Primary headaches are stand-alone illnesses caused directly by the overactivity of, or problems with, structures in the head that are pain-sensitive. This includes the blood vessels, muscles, and nerves of the head and neck. They may also result from changes in chemical activity in the brain.

 

What are the different types of headaches?

There are 150 different types of headaches. The most common ones are Tension-type headaches: They are the most common type of headache among adults and teens. They cause mild to moderate pain and to come and go over time and usually have no other symptoms.

Can you get a headache from stress?

No wonder you have a headacheHeadaches are more likely to occur when you’re stressedStress is the most common cause of tension-type headaches and can trigger other types of headaches or make them worse. But stress doesn’t have to go to your head.

 

Headaches can be annoying and debilitating. Make an effort to identify any behaviors that may trigger or contribute to your headache pattern.

  • Any pain medication taken on a long-term basis can cause a headache when suddenly stopped. This is called rebound or a withdrawal headache. If you take more medication to relieve the pain, the headache-rebound-headache cycle continues.
  • Caffeine withdrawal can cause a mild headache. Options are to avoid caffeine entirely or to continue moderate use to avoid withdrawal. If you choose to stop chronic caffeine use and get caffeine withdrawal headaches, they should last no more than a few days.
  • Alcohol use can cause a headache and dehydration especially after consumption of large quantities (binge drinking).
  • Nicotine in tobacco products has been shown to cause a headache. Avoiding these products may decrease the number of headaches as well as greatly improve overall health.

Headache Break

2 drops Himalayan Mint

3 drops Black Pepper

4 drops Ginger

3 drops Vetiver

 

EPHEDRA (Ma Huang): This is used widely by Chinese practitioners, often to treat asthma or induce sweating. But unlike the common pattern in the US, Chinese herbalists almost never use it as a single agent and certainly do not use it for weight loss. “Here, it is sold like ‘herbal caffeine.’ You can get it at truck stops and 7-11s. It is just like speed, and there are reports of adverse events when people have taken it for the ‘buzz,’ or for weight loss.”

Ephedra can induce hypertension, restlessness, tremors, tachycardia, palpitations, and insomnia. Though it is a stimulant, classical Chinese medicine does not recommend it to treat fatigue; if the fatigue is due to an energy deficiency of some sort, a stimulant like an ephedra will only exacerbate the depletion. In general, this herb is for short-term use only.

• ACONITE (Fu Zi): Also called Wu Tou, Chan Wu or Cao Wu, this is a very important “hot” herb, found in many classical Chinese formulas. It is beneficial whenever someone has symptoms reflecting severe “cold” according to Chinese diagnosis. This includes certain types of arthritic pain.

Unfortunately, this root is also one of the most common causes of toxicity associated with Chinese herbs in the West. Raw aconite is very cardiotoxic and must be boiled for at least one hour before it can be used. Some case reports of toxicity may be due to improper preparation. Aconite also has a very narrow therapeutic window; the toxic dose is just a bit higher than the therapeutic dose.

Aconite can induce cardiac arrhythmias, which are sometimes fatal, as well as lightheadedness, blurred vision, nausea, numbness, and in extreme cases, stupor, dyspnea, and incontinence. “This herb should be available by prescription of a qualified Chinese herbalist only.

• ASTRAGALUS (Huang Qi): Widely promoted as an immune system builder, this herb in Chinese medicine is used to raise “Qi” or life energy, and move it from deep levels in the body out to the surface. While it can enhance athletic performance and increase immunity in some patients, it should not be used simplistically to “prevent colds” or other common ailments.

Astragalus can induce hypertension, agitation and insomnia, headache, tinnitus, dizziness and palpitations. Since it tends to push energy upward and outward, it can exacerbate rather than attenuate various types of pain including headache. Dr. Arnold said that it can also make acne worse.

• LICORICE (Gan Cao): This is by far the most commonly used herb in Chinese medicine; owing to its sweetish nature, it is the proverbial “spoonful of sugar” to help other medicines go down. Licorice is used in small amounts in many classical formulas as a “harmonizer” to help other herbs work together and to attenuate potential adverse effects of some of the stronger herbs in a formula.

Chemically, licorice has a mineralocorticoid effect, not unlike aldosterone. It can reduce urine output, decrease sodium excretion and increase potassium excretion. Theoretically, it can cause hypertension and edema. In practice, this is very rare, because the amount of licorice in Chinese formulations is usually very small. Overall, this is a very safe herb.

 

• PANAX GINSENG (Ren Shen): Without doubt, one of the most widely used Chinese herbs in America, panax ginseng has a popular reputation as an energy booster, immune system enhancer, and a quick fix for fatigue. But without a careful Chinese diagnosis, use of a strong tonic like ginseng is a dice-roll: it will work for some people but an equal number will not benefit.

Some patients may even have adverse effects, including hypertension. Tonic herbs like ginseng can exacerbate headaches, insomnia, and rashes. They can also be relatively difficult to digest, resulting in constipation, loss of appetite, and other gastrointestinal discomforts.

Be aware that “Red Ginseng” is different from Panax ginseng. The latter is naturally whitish; “red” ginseng has been processed with aconite (see above) to intensify the warming nature of ginseng. The aconite confers the red color. A patient taking “red” ginseng will likely be getting a significant dose of aconite as well. This is probably not good for patients with cardiovascular problems.

• RHUBARB ROOT/RHIZOME (Da Huang): This is a common purgative in Chinese medicine, given for diagnoses related to “excess heat” and “blood stagnation,” which can manifest in some cases of constipation. While it is generally safe, it can cause abdominal pain, cramping, and diarrhea. Because it has a laxative effect, there is some potential for abuse in patients who have histories of laxative overuse. Rhubarb is another herb that must be boiled for at least one hour to reduce its potential toxicity.

Many of the minerals and animal products used in Chinese medicine are seldom seen outside Asian communities.

• CINNABAR (Zhu Sha): Cinnabar is commonly used in China as a sedative. But it contains mercuric sulfide, and easily releases elemental mercury if heated. Consequently, it can cause neurologic symptoms of mercury poisoning, and there are case reports in the literature of such occurrences. There is little rationale for use of cinnabar in the US; there are many good alternatives for sedation—herbal or otherwise. But it is important to be aware of it since it is a fairly common ingredient in patent medicines imported from China or other Asian countries.

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