The following case stories are examples of the varied clinical situations in which herbal and naturopathic medicine may be beneficial and provide an example of the approach I follow and herbs that are sometimes used.
A 29-year old female came to see me with suspected low functioning thyroid due to a consistently low core temperature including energy slumps, poor concentration and excessive yawning. She also found it very hard to get up in the morning and had noticed that it had been easier to put on weight over the previous year although she was keeping it under control through exercise. She was waiting for test results to confirm thyroid function.
The patient also requested help with acne, particularly around the jaw line. She had taken medication to combat acne several times during her teens and early 20s and also took the oral contraceptive pill for a few years. When she came off the pill 3 years previously her skin flared up again and she was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) a few months later. The patient wanted to manage hormonal symptoms as she came off the pill. Recent tests had proven negative for PCOS.
In the follow up, the patient reported that she had cut out carbohydrates at lunch. Her energy levels and PMT symptoms were now much improved.
After looking at the alternative diagnoses of low thyroid function such as low blood sugar or low iron levels and whilst waiting for the test results, I decided to focus the aim of treatment on supporting liver detoxification and improving digestion so that any toxins or excess hormones would be eliminated effectively through the bowels.
Examples of some of the herbs used in the prescription are:
Siberian ginseng: improves energy, reduces stress.
Gotu Kola: provides a sense of calm, supports energy production, concentration and digestion.
Burdock root: cleanses blood, supports digestion and aids liver detoxification resulting in clearer skin.
Schisandra berry: calms nerves, improves memory and concentration, supports the liver.
Additional advice was provided to encourage healthy snacking – nuts, pumpkin seeds, hummus or vegetables and eating less refined carbohydrates at lunchtime and more lean protein. Supplements of Selenium, zinc, chromium, vitamins E and B6. I also suggested following a low GI diet and cinnamon herbal tea.
In the follow up, the patient reported that she had cut out carbohydrates at lunch. Her energy levels and PMT symptoms were now much improved. Test results indicated that thyroid and PCOS markers were both within a normal range. My assessment was to ensure blood sugar levels were balanced through diet and to support the liver and encourage hormone balance with herbs.
Below are some examples of herbs that were prescribed during the course of treatment (taking into account any conventional patient medication):
A Case of gout
A male patient, aged 60 came to clinic complaining of pain and swelling in his feet and knee joints. He had been suffering from this for 4 years with it progressively getting worse. The condition had drastically worsened 6 months earlier due to the stressful event. The flare-up lasted for a month and he was diagnosed with gout and given medication by his GP. Since the diagnosis the patient had suffered from an excessive thirst and constipation.
Energetically, his tongue showed signs of stagnation and iris analysis indicated a constitution prone to congestion and inflammation ensuring we focus on elimination in our treatment.
A treatment plan was created with the aim of helping the kidneys eliminate waste acids, cleanse the blood, support the liver, improve levels of inflammation and rheumatism as well as stress.
Examples of some of the herbs used in the prescription are below:
Dandelion leaf: a diuretic that improves elimination of uric acid.
Celery seed: a diuretic that dissolves and excretes uric acid, improves digestion, has an anti-inflammatory effect and is calming.
Yellow dock: helps with digestions, diuretic to aid elimination of toxins via kidneys.
Hawthorn: anti-inflammatory that relieves anxiety, stress and emotional heartache.
We also added Bach flower remedies: Impatiens (provides the qualities of patience and gentleness) and Oak (provides strength in times of struggle) to the tincture.
At the follow up appointment the patient’s symptoms had improved slightly and there had not been any further attacks.
Additional advice was provided to increase the amount of organic, green leafy vegetables, avoid fats, refined carbohydrates, excess protein and foods containing purines: offal, anchovies, legumes and oatmeal. Advice was given to cut down on alcohol in particular avoid beer and red wine and also to avoid caffeine. Supplementation with bromelain, quercetin, omega 3 fatty acids, a cherry extract and vitamins C and E was advised. A compress soaked in nettle tea was also provided as an option as was massaging of sore joints with essential oils of peppermint, rosemary or lavender. We advised him to consult his GP regarding the excessive thirst and black stools.
At the follow up appointment the patient’s symptoms had improved slightly and there had not been any further attacks. Serum uric acid levels had risen when tested so his GP had increased his medication dose, however the patient felt that he had greater joint movement especially in his knees. The excessive thirst had decreased slightly and the patient was sleeping for 4-5 hours solidly.
Below is an example of some of the herbs prescribed over the course of treatment:
Stress and acne
A female, aged 24 came to clinic complaining of mood swings, fatigue and a mental fogginess. She also wanted help with stress and hormone related acne that had been getting progressively worse and spreading to her shoulders since her teenage years.
The fatigue had started around 6 years ago due to family problems and frequent and prolonged bouts of upper respiratory tract infections followed. Around this time her mood swings started.
There was some difficulty getting to sleep and patient experienced wakefulness around 1-2 am that energetically indicates issues with liver detoxification.
The patient had a job with anti-social hours that made it difficult to eat a regular, healthy diet, but avoided dairy produce, sugar and alcohol and tried to eat plenty of vegetables but was eating takeaways regularly. She did not have time to exercise as work and studying took up all of her time.
There was a previous history of medication for acne that had caused problems with her digestion.
Her nails were red on the outside and white in the middle that in Ayurveda can indicate variable digestive capacity. The tongue showed scalloping at the edges indicating fatigue and anxiety.
Some examples of the prescribed herbs are:
Oat seed: a tonic for the nervous system to relieve anxiety and stress, regulate hormones and
Rhodiola: Improves memory, concentration and ability to deal with stress, elevates mood, is a sedative for insomnia and an energy tonic.
Korean Ginseng: Increases energy and resilience to stress, improves memory and stamina.
Skullcap: improves digestion, memory and concentration, calms nerves and circular thinking, lifts depression.
At the follow up appointment the patient said that she had felt much better with more energy and had less mood swings. Her skin had much improved but relapsed once the medicine
I also recommended that she practice breathing exercises every day as well as self-massage to help with stress. We discussed adding a couple of glasses of warm water immediately on waking and replacing takeout food with good quality protein and vegetables. We discussed the possibility of anaemia causing the fatigue and provided advice on food and supplements to help.
At the follow up appointment the patient said that she had felt much better with more energy and had less mood swings. Her skin had much improved but relapsed once the medicine ran out. The sleep mix she felt had helped her go to sleep and stay asleep and she had considerably reduced her daytime napping.
Disclaimer. The content on this website is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice. Always seek the advice of a qualified practitioner.
The patient was initially treated to improve stress and digestion with the following herbal tinctures: