Thursday, 28 January 2016

Mindful Eating for Health and Wellbeing

Mindful eating for busy families.    

Mindfulness is the current buzzword that is the supposed answer to everything but what does it mean?
My definition includes thoughtful eating that bears in mind all the things we want our food to nourish. This includes nourishing our bodies, giving and experiencing pleasure, being sociable and even calming our souls.

It includes the blessings of gratitude in being so fortunate to have such abundance.

Above all else it is paying attention to the experience of eating. Tasting, chewing and swallowing food is an experience to be savoured.

We do this best by sitting down, choosing good food, switching off all distractions and ignoring everything that beeps, rings and disturbs our awareness.
Unfortunately we can’t switch off the children, so we need to teach them to pay attention too. Set time for regular meals, put everything you need on the table and sit down. Imaginary glue sticking you to the chair means you do not move from the table for anything short of medical emergencies!

For mums who eat left overs remember you have eaten your meal so step back from the leavings on others plates. They are not yours.

Before you eat check out how hungry you are, repeat this question before you reach for seconds.

Family meals where mother is up and down like a jack in the box or when meals are rushed increases your adrenal stress and leads to poor digestive function with too much stomach acid and speedy digestion with poor assimilation of nutrients (symptoms common with Irritable Bowel Syndrome).

Pay attention to the quality of the food, the welfare of animals you eat, the chemicals in the food chain and added chemicals in processed food and make the best choices you can within family budget constraints.

Include 7 fruit and vegetable portions per day on a regular basis and oily fish, a few nuts and seeds and avocado for Essential Fatty Acids (link to the leaflet on my website if you like)

The benefits of eating mindfully include more satisfaction, quality family time, better behaved children and a calmer household.

Herbs for calm and happy digestion include Chamomile, Fennel, marshmallow, Meadowsweet and Peppermint. These are in the Digestion Blend of Tea available online.
Open access , online series of talks including herbs for digestion and stress available via the website
Clinics in Dublin, Sligo and Galway.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Helpful Herbs for Hangovers and Over Indulgence at Christmas

Your health is precious leading up to Christmas. Over indulgance, extra activities, travel and cold weather gives your immune and digestive system extra work. Thankfully, there are herbal remedies can help you stay healthy and have fun this Christmas.

For the festive season, I recommend Bitters (a.ka hangover bitters) to help with sluggish digestion, low energy, and hangovers. It works well with Detox Tea.

To enjoy a good time without the after effects, take a dose before you go out, another when you come home and again in the morning. See for more information on Bitters and to be prepared.

Happy Chrismas to you all. Nollaig Shona Daoibh go leir.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Dr Clare's Top Antimicrobial Herbs

As discussed in my last blog, the worldwide crisis on the emergence of superbugs is unfolding. It appears that genius microbes are outwitting our ability to eradicate them with single constituent. In comparison herbs are multi-constituent and multi-action complex vegetation that have co-evolved with microbes over millions of years. The following herbs are my top antimicrobial herbs: 

Elderberry and Flowers 

Elderberry is nature’s very own anti-viral on our doorstep. The active ingredients include the flavonoids quercetin and the anthocyanins cyanidin-3-glucoside and cyanidin-3-sambubioside. Elderberry may increase immune system activity against influenza showing 93% more rapid recovery from influenza in general (1) and specifically types A and B (2).

It is more useful once an infection has taken hold, rather than for preventing infections when you are well. One suggestion of how elderberry works is that it may ‘blunt the spikes’ on the outside of viruses and stop them from entering the cells where they reproduce (3).  Elderberry also shows promise at inhibiting the H5N1 avian influenza virus (so-called ‘Bird Flu’) in preliminary laboratory experiments (4).
You will find elderflower in my immune support blend and it is one of the herbs I use in my children's soothing Tea

Your common Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) showed antimicrobial activity in different extract amounts against four common bacterial strains and two types of fungal infestion with Candida albicans. This study provides useful information on the use of Thyme as a natural and economical antimicrobial in food preservation and as a medicine  (5). Of course this is why you stuff your meat with thyme, because it stops your meat from spoiling. Imagine food poisoning before en suite toilets.
Because it also acts as an antispasmodic[6] Thyme is particularly useful for chest and sinus infections, make `thyme tea and drink a cup every 2-3 hours from the onset of a chest infection.
This is why you will find Thyme in my Chest and Sinus Blend

Sage (Salvia officinalis) 

Sage is used in the same way as Thyme to stop the spoilage of foods. `it has a sticky feel to the leaves which gives a hint to the presence of sticky resins. These stick to the lining of mucous membranes making them particularly helpful for infections of the mouth, throat and tonsils. Gargle sage teas for tonsillitis and use as a mouthwash for infected gums.

For tonsilitis a small clinical research study supports traditional scientific knowledge by demonstrating that the application of a combination spray product containing common sage and echinacea every 2 hours up to 10 times daily for up to 5 consecutive days improves symptoms as effectively as a chlorhexidine-lidocaine spray in patients with sore throat due to acute pharyngitis or tonsillitis (7). 
Sage is one of the main herbs that I use in my throat spray.

For Coldsores, caused by the virus Herpae Simplex research shows that in  combination with Turkish Rhubarb it has been found to be as effective as the pharma alternative acyclovir (Zovirax) (8).

Oregon Grape (Berberis aquifolium)

Oregon grape contains a substance known as berberine, which can stop bacteria from sticking to the walls of the intestine and urinary tract. It is a common garden shrub in Irish gardens. When used as a tea, it is a wonderful way to wash away urinary tract infections. It can be used in dried capsules or liquid tincture to treat digestive tract conditions like infectious diarrhea. 

Coptis Chinensis. 
This Chinese herb deserves a mention as I use it in preference to Golden Seal (Hydrastis canadensis). Unlike Goldenseal it is not being overharvested from the wild. It is another Berberine containing herb with anti-bacterial effects (9,10,11).It is also anti-inflammatory and pain relieving so it is truly multifunctional.

[1]Fan-kun Kong (2009) Pilot Clinical Study on a Proprietary Elderberry Extract: Efficacy in Addressing Influenza Symptoms, J Pharmacol Pharmacokin 5: 32‐43

 [2]Zakay-Rones et al. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections’. J Int Med Res. 2004 Mar-Apr;32(2):132-40

[3] Mumcuoglu. 1995. Sambucus nigra (L), Black Elderberry Extract: A breakthrough in the treatment of influenza. RSS Publishing.
20Mumcuoglu.  In vitro Laboratory Tests show Sambucol neutralizes Common and Avian Flu Virus H5N1’. Research undertaken by Retroscreen Virology Ltd in association with the University of London Jan 2006 (unpublished)
[4] Serkedjieva, J., Manolova, N., Zgórniak-Nowosielska, Phytotherapy Research. Antiviral activity of the infusion (SHS-174) from flowers of Sambucus nigra L., aerial parts of Hypericum perforatum L., and roots of Saponaria officinalis L. against influenza and herpes simplex viruses.
Volume 4, Issue 3, pages 97–100, June 1990 
 [5] Dababneh BF. Antimicrobial activity and genetic diversity of Thymus species on pathogenic microorganisms. Journal of Food, Agriculture & Environment Vol.5 (3&4) : 158-162. 2007 
 [6]Van Den Broucke, C. O. and Lemli, J. B. 1983. Spasmolytic activity of
the flavonoids from Thymus vulgaris. Pharmaceutisch Weekblad
Science 5:9-14 
 [7] Schapowal A, Berger D, Klein P, et al. Echinacea/sage or chlorhexidine/lidocaine for treating acute sore throats: a randomized double-blind trial. Eur.J Med Res 9-1-2009;14:406-12. 
 [8] Saller R
1, Büechi SMeyrat RSchmidhauser C. Combined herbal preparation for topical treatment of Herpes labialis.Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd. 2001 Dec;8(6):373-82. 
 [9] Dan Yana, b, Cheng Jina, Xiao-He Xiaoa, Antimicrobial properties of berberines alkaloids in Coptis chinensis Franch by microcalorimetry. Journal of Biochemical and Biophysical Methods
Volume 70, Issue 6, 24 April 2008, Pages 845–849 
 [10] Wei-Jun Kong, Yan-Ling Zhao, Xiao-He Xiao. .Spectrum–effect relationships between ultra performance liquid chromatography fingerprints and anti-bacterial activities of Rhizoma coptidis. Analytica Chimica Acta
Volume 634, Issue 2, 23 February 2009, Pages 279–285 
 [11] Dan Yan, XiaoHe Xiao, Cheng Jin, XiaoPing Dong Microcalorimetric investigation of the effect of berberine alkaloids from Coptis chinensis Franch on Staphylococcus aureus growthScience in China Series B: Chemistry
July 2008, Volume 51, Issue 7, pp 640-645

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Herbal antibiotics, antifungals and antivirals are anti-infection superheroes

How does one herb save millions of lives?

The worldwide crisis on the emergence of superbugs is unfolding. It appears that genius microbes are outwitting our ability to eradicate them with single constituent single action super-chemicals made in factories. Maybe the drugs are too simple and the bugs not all that clever. In comparison herbs are multi-constituent and multi-action complex vegetation that have co-evolved with microbes over millions of years.

Complex herbs match the less than genius bugs.

Many common ailments such as sinus problems, sore throats, simple urinary tract infections and superficial wounds do not need drugs in most cases. Many times, these can be effectively treated with the right lifestyle changes and herbal medicines. More complex disease may need professional treatment form a well qualified herbalist. This is not a modest claim, the time for underestimating and playing a modest hand for herbs is over. Witness the role of the plant Artemisia annua for malaria which I have been using in my clinic for almost 20 years. The current Nobel Prize Winner Dr Tu Youyou has rediscovered the role of this plant in the teeth of a worldwide malaria crisis due to super-drug resistance.

The 2015 Nobel Prize winner TuYouyou rediscovered the use of Artemisia in the treatment malaria, According to the Nobel committee, her work saves more than 100,000 lives in Africa alone every year. The World Health Organization says modern malaria treatments — which include some form of an artemisinin have saved more than 3 million lives since 2000.

Figure 4: Youyou Tu searched ancient literature on herbal medicine in her quest to develop novel malaria therapies. The plant Artemisia annua turned out to be an interesting candidate, and Tu developed a purification procedure, which rendered the active agent, Artemisinin, a drug that is remarkably effective against Malaria.

Youyou Tu was born in 1930 in China and is a Chinese citizen. She graduated from the Pharmacy Department at Beijing Medical University in 1955. From 1965-1978 she was Assistant Professor at the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine, from 1979-1984 Associate Professor and from 1985 Professor at the same Institute. From 2000, Tu has been Chief Professor at the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

In my next blog I will talk about my top Antimicrobial herbs. 

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Preventing Spina Bifida by supplementing with Folic Acid.

Can I remind women to take care of themselves and their families with a reminder regarding preventing Spina Bifida. We had a major public health campaign a few years ago but recent study shows that a reminder might be helpful. Mention it to friends, daughters, daughters-in-law and nieces where appropriate.

Eating steamed greens is good for all ages so
Steam those Greens.

Three out of four women in Dublin do not have enough folic acid to prevent Spina Bifida in their babies according to a recent University College Dublin Study at the Coombe Maternity Hospital.

Eighty families each year in Ireland cope with the distress of dealing with this condition affecting one of their own. Spina Bifida affects the spinal cord and can cause paralysis.

Ireland has a particularly high incidence of Spina Bifida. Many cases can be prevented by supplementing with Folic Acid for at least 3 months before you try to conceive and while you are trying to get pregnant. Continue the supplement throughout the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

‘Fol’ in folic acid is the Latin for ‘leaf’ and this vitamin is high in green leaves. Folic acid (known as folate in its natural form) is one of the B-group vitamins.

There is more folic acid remaining in steamed leaves rather than boiled leaves.

It can be hard to get all the folic acid consistently in your diet so it is recommended to take 400 micrograms per day continuously if you are not using relatively foolproof contraception.
A lack of folic acid could lead to anaemia.

What does Folic Acid do?

         It works together with vitamin B12 to form healthy red blood cells
         It helps to reduce the risk of central nervous system defects, such as spina bifida, in unborn babies

Herb sources of Folic Acid.

Nettle leaf is loaded with folic acid and calcium, lots of minerals, and tons of vitamins, including E. It strengthens hair, blood vessels, and the kidney/adrenal complex. It is considered as safe as kale.

Food sources of Folic acid
Folate is found in small amounts in many foods including:
         brussels sprouts
         fortified breakfast cereals.

Folic acid cannot be stored in the body, so you need it in your diet every day.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Cold and Flu Prevention Tips

See below some practical tips for avoiding colds and flu’s over the winter season:

1. Wash your hands

This is probably the most useful tip. Viruses are spread by direct contact. They can live for hours on surfaces like door handles, telephones and keyboards so wash your hands often.

2. Drink plenty of fluids

Drink fluids like water, herbal teas and freshly made juices. Avoid becoming dehydrated – a typical healthy adult needs around 1.5 litres of water each day.

3. Sleep well

Achieving restful sleep each night (8 hours) helps the body repair itself and build the immune system. Cut down on caffeine, especially in the afternoon.Certain foods are very good to help you sleep. Have a look at the education section of our website to see which ones are best.

4. Keep your diet healthy

Try to get on average 7 portions of fruit and vegetables. It is easier if you make sure to include two fruits or vegetables in each meal. Use wholegrain foods instead of white processed foods. Include plenty of prebiotic food such as bananas, onions, garlic, asparagus and cabbage which nourish beneficial bacteria in the gut.

5. Control stress
It is well known that stress can weaken your immune system and may make you more likely to catch a cold than your calmer counterparts. I have a lovely relax blend if you suffer with anxiety and have problems sleeping. For further information have a look at my website

6. Avoid too much alcohol

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol is bad for immune cells which means that you will more susceptible to colds and viruses

7. Get plenty fresh air

Try to get out for a walk every day in between those winter showers!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Herbs to help fight those winter bugs

The cold weather puts extra stress on our immune system. In conjunction with with plenty of sleep, vitamin D, exercise and a healthy diet, there are herbs that can help keep fight those bugs. I have formulated an immune tonic based on the herbs below.


AstrgalusAstragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for thousands of years. Astragaus is called an adaptogen, meaning it helps protect the body against various stresses, including physical, mental, or emotional stress. The dried root is used medicinally.

Astragulus is used for common cold, upper respiratory infections, allergic rhinitis and to strenghten and regulate the immune system. It is also used as for fybromyalgia, as an antibacterial and antiviral tonic. People with autoimmune disease should speak with their doctor or herbalist first before taking Astagalus because it may stimulate the immune system.


Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera, fam. Solanaceae) is commonly known as “Indian Winter cherry” or “Indian Ginseng”. It is one of the most important herb of Ayurveda (the traditional system of medicine in India) used for millennia as a Rasayana for its wide ranging health benefits. The root and the berry are used medicinally.
Ashwagandha is traditionally used for arthritis, anxiety, insomnia, tuberculosis and chronic liver disease. It is also an adaptogen. It is used for immunomodulatory effects, improving cognitive function, decreasing imflammation and fibromyalgia. It also appears to reduce stress-induced increased of plasma corticosterone.


Traditionally used by Native Americans for hundreds of years, Echinacea (Echinacea Echinacea angustifolia; Echinacea pallida; Echinacea purpurea) is probably the most widely known herb. #It is a beautiful genus of herbaceous flowering plants in the daisy family, Asteraceae and is also known as the American coneflower.

Orally, echinacea is used for treating and preventing the common cold and other upper respiratory infections and is also used orally as an immunostimulant  . Echinacea is used orally for nasal cattarh, allergic rhinitis, gum disease and tonsillitis. Other uses include chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), rheumatism, migraines, dyspepsia, pain, dizziness, rattlesnake bites and swine flu. 


Elderflower (Sambucus nigra)  has been used in traditional medicine all over the world for it's antispeptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Both the flowers and berries in the Elder plant can be used when properly prepared, but all leaves, sticks and roots should be avoided.

Orally, elderflower is used for sinusitis, cold, influenza (flu), swine flu, bronchitis, and diabetes. It is also used as a laxative for constipation, as a diuretic, to promote sweating, and to stop bleeding. It is rich in antioxidants. Because of it's great taste, elderflower is often used as in a cordial.It is generally very well tolerated and a  very gentle herb suitable for all ages.

Wild Oats

Oats (Avena sativa) are primarily used for acute or chronic anxiety, excitation and stress. People with nervous exhaustion, depressive states and insomnia benefit from this herb.

Although there is unlikely to be any problem with Wild Oat infusion or tincture for celiac patients I don’t prescribe it because patients feel anxious about it in the remedy. This is traditionally used as a very nourishing herb for stamina in the nervous system. Particularly good for exhaustion from chronic stress especially with a poor sleeping pattern. It is suitable for all ages.

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)is a perennial herbaceous plant in the mint family and is considered to be a calming herb. It is native to North Africa, the Mediterranean region, south- central Europe and Central Asia. The leaves are used to make medicine and have a mild lemon aroma.

 Orally, lemon balm is used for anxiety, insomnia, dyssomnia, restlessness, dyspepsia, bloating, flatulence, colic, and for attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Lemon balm is also used for Graves' disease (overactive thyroid), painful periods, cramps and headache. It is also used orally for Alzheimer's disease, melancholia, nervous palpitations, vomiting, and high blood pressure. Topically, lemon balm is used for cold sores (herpes labialis).


Thyme (Thymus vulgaris; Thymus zygis) is also a member of the mint family. It is an evergreen herb. It is best cultivated in hot, sunny country with well drained soil. The flowers, leaves and oil are used as medicine
Orally, thyme is used for bronchitis, whooping cough, sore throat. Thyme contains the essential oils and several other constituents It also contains flavonoids, polyphenolic acids and other constituents.
Thymol, the primary constituent of thyme is rapidly absorbed in the upper gastrointestinal tract. Preliminary research suggests that thyme has antimicrobial activity and modest antibacterial effects.It also seems to have antiviral activity.

Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)  has antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, laxative, and soothing properties. The applicable part of licorice is the root. It has a lovely sweet taste. 
Licorice is used for stomach and duodenal ulcers, sore throat, bronchitis, gastritis, indigestion, colic, adrenal glands insufficiency of the adrenal cortex and cough. 

The effect of liquorice on the Adrenal Glands is beneficial for most patients, however a small group of patients are sensitive to the effects on blood pressure. Under normal circumstances this would not be significant for short term low dose use. It can be monitored by taking blood pressure and many chemists have a blood pressure machine patients can check during treatment if you do not have resources to check the blood pressure.


Ginger (Zingiber officinale) has a long history of use for helping
with digestive issues such as loss of appetite, nausea and motion sickness.It's room or underground stem (rhizome) can be consumed, fresh, powdered as a spice or juice. Ginger belongs to the same family as cardamom and tumeric. 
Ginger is also used for upper respiratory tract infections, coughs, bronchitis, for the promotion of sweating, as a circulatory stimulant and for treating stomach-ache, diarrhea and nausea for any reason. It can also be used for reducing pain.

Although herbs are generally very safe, if you are on medication or have an underlying medical condition please check with your doctor or herbalist prior to taking any herbs. 
For further details on any of the herbs above, take a look at my materia medica

Disclaimer: Please note this information is based on the traditions of empirical science. These traditions account for observation over generations and centuries. They have not been traditionally used with pharmaceutical medicines and you are advised to seek professional advice from a well qualified medical herbalist if you take pharmacy medication.