aromatherapy, health, herbal medicine

The delight of organic lavender and rosehip oils for scar healing

lavender fieldJust before I went in for my hip arthroscopy, I received a gorgeous package of two new oils on the market. The couple who sent them, David & Melanie Dane, used to own Sunspirit Aromatherapy and have ventured back into the oils business as Free Spirit Group, scouring the world for producers of high therapeutic grade, organic products and have brought two new oils into Australia. And luckily for me both of these oils are regarded as excellent skin healers, perfect for scar repair from my keyhole surgery. I religiously used them on my little incisions from my surgery with good effect. Plus they were also delightful to use.

Modern aromatherapy was discovered in France when a chemist burnt his hand badly and dipped it into the first vat of liquid he found – lavender oil! He was very impressed with his fast healing.

Of course these oils have many other therapeutic uses, you can read about them via the links below. If you’re looking for good quality, certified organic oils that are ethically sourced and produced, read the fascinating stories about these products:

You can buy them online here. (BTW I don’t get kick backs for these – I just think these are excellent products from a company that is worth sharing.)

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

acupuncture, health, herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Oh no! The acupuncturist is sick! What does she do?

Ekka 2013
The Ekka may look harmless but beware of the lurgy!

It’s Ekka time. Everyone in Brisbane knows that when the Brisbane Exhibition is on that the flu goes around. Regardless of whether I go to the Ekka or not (and I did go this year – and I took hand sanitiser), I come down with the lurgy on exactly the same day of the year, the Monday before the Brisbane Exhibition Show Day. Yes, even I get sick sometimes! Picking up a respiratory infection 1-2 times per year is quite healthy and normal. In saying that, being sick is no fun and we like to prevent these things dragging on any longer than they have to.

So, as an acupuncturist, what do I do when I get sick?

Firstly, I should explain that in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we classify the common cold or flu generally into one of two types: hot or cold.

How do you know which one you have?

  • Hot signs and symptoms: fevers or feeling hot more predominant, excessive sweating, yellow & thick mucus, razor blade sore throat and a red face.
  • Cold signs: chills or feeling the cold more predominant, none/slight sweats, clear & runny mucus, sneezing and pale face.

Treatments for the two types have some similarities but also many differences. It’s important to nut out whether you have hot or cold symptoms, and exactly what those symptoms are, before proceeding to treatment. Your acupuncturist can help you to do this.

I was knocked down with the hot type – a hot-cold. This means that my treatment is based on clearing the heat as well as releasing the exterior (a TCM term which is badly translated as opening the pores to release the pathogen that has made you unwell). If you have the cold type, we can employ more warming methods and herbs in your treatment. Here’s a nice soup if you have a cold-cold.

So, what did I do:

  1. Acupuncture. Yes, that was my first stop. I had an acupuncture treatment to clear out my sinuses, dull my headache and release some heat that was contributing to that sore throat.
  2. Herbs. Being able to make up individualised herbal formulas means that I can match the herbs to the symptoms. I used herbs that ‘release the exterior’, dry up phlegm and cool the heat signs. The herbs usually taste quite awful however the upside to having a blocked nose is that it drastically reduces your sense of taste – awful tasting herbs go down easily. Win!
  3. Fluids. Keeping up your 2 litres of fluid per day is essential and if you are sweating well you’ll need even more. It’s okay to include some herbal tea into your total fluid intake. I combined some HealthWise Clinic Cold & Flu Tea in a pot with a squeeze of fresh lemon (picked from my parents’ lemon tree) and a spoon of honey mixed through it. The herbs were pungent and the lemon and honey were cooling and soothing for the sore throat.
  4. Inhalation. Clearing your head out when it’s blocked up with mucus is best done with a steam inhalation. Just like your grandmother recommended: tea towel over your head, breathing over a pot of gently steaming water. I usually would add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil or a blend of nose clearing oils to the water.
  5. Gargle. One of the simplest gargles that is also very effective is the salt water gargle. Mix a teaspoon of salt into a glass of water. Then gargle to your heart’s (or rather throat’s) content. Don’t swallow. Yuck. Salt is cooling for that hot, sore throat.
  6. Rest. Get as much sleep and rest as you can. Don’t go out if there is anyway to avoid it. No one wants your germs and rest will help you get better faster. I love this post on the importance of rest when you are ill – no one says it better than Kathleen, the naturopath! And here is how she manages a cold as a naturopath.
Cold & flu tea, with lemon and honey.
Cold & flu tea, with lemon and honey.

How do you prevent getting sick? Here’s a post I wrote a little while ago on getting your defenses (immune system) prepared for cold and flu season.

So if you aren’t sick, look after yourself. And if you are sick also look after yourself. Get better soon and seek help if the symptoms are severe or long-lasting.

And just in case you have an acupuncture appointment tomorrow, I’m pleased to report that I will be back on deck after a good rest.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

aromatherapy, Diet, herbal medicine, mental health, Traditional Chinese Medicine

5 natural medicine tips for surviving the exam period

Exam time is notorious for late nights of sugar and caffeine fueled binges.  Your stress levels soar and your sleep quantity plummets. This handy venn diagram explains the delicate balance between study, sleep and social life. I have compiled a list of natural medicine tips to help you cruise through the exam period light a Jedi!

  1. Feed your brain – Instead of reaching for that family size block of chocolate and the whole bag of M&Ms to get you through a night of study look instead to increasing your intake of nature’s brain foods. Traditional Chinese Medicine considers that optimal thinking and optimal digestion are related. Take yourself away from your books to eat and eat foods that you know make you feel well. Nuts (walnuts even look like a brain!), seeds and fish are good sources of omega 3 fatty acids which are essential to maintaining good nervous system function. Increasing your vegetable and wholegrain intake will keep your energy levels more stable than a sugar binge will, so that you’ll feel energised yet calm. For short burst energy snacks pick some snacks such as berries, sliced fruit or dried fruits. Keep up the water too – your brain needs to be adequately hydrated to perform at its best!
  2. Sleep on it – The time when you lose the most sleep is often when you need it most. If you can, make sure that you have covered (or at least skimmed) the content you need at least the day before your exam and then aim for 8 hours sleep that night. You will be calmer, have greater focus and clarity, and improved memory recall.
  3. Vaporise essential oils – There has been some fascinating research on the use of smells and memory recall via the limbic system. We’ve all experienced a time when a smell has invoked a memory from our past. Use this to your advantage as you study. Vaporise the essential oil of your choosing while you study a particular topic. When you enter the exam room put a drop of that same essential on a tissue and tuck it into your shirt. This may increase your memory recall from when you studied that content. The oils that are most often associated with concentration, focus and memory are lemon, peppermint, basil and rosemary.
  4. Rosemary for remembrance – This herb is known as the memory herb. It is associated in folklore with remembrance and is used on Remembrance Day for this reason. You can use it straight from your garden in cooking, baking or even as a herbal tea (it combines beautifully with lemon myrtle). A study was conducted examining the effects of rosemary on cognitive function. One group was given cold tomato juice to drink while the other had the same tomato juice with added rosemary. The rosemary group performed significantly better than the plain tomato juice group. And interestingly, the plain tomato juice seemed to have a negative impact on cognitive function – so keep clear of it during exams.
  5. Become a herb nerd – There are several herbs that have been researched extensively for concentration, focus and memory function. Two of the most popular ones are ginkgo biloba and bacopa. These herbs are available in tablet form or can be developed by an herbalist into an individualised herbal formula to suit your specific situation. The addition of ginseng is an excellent way to boost energy levels for late night study sessions without the use of strong coffee.

And if the above tips aren’t enough, make sure to check in with your health practitioner to assist your focus and recall. Acupuncture usually works a treat at times of high stress!

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

aromatherapy

Spritz yourself cool with essential oils

peppermint leavesIt’s a very hot day today in Brisbane.  Some parts of South East Queensland are expected to hit 41°C.  Scorching hot!

I’m sitting at my computer marking my Musculoskeletal Acupuncture students’ assignment papers and struggling to think, my brain has sizzled.  However, a few brain cells must still be functioning as they’ve reminded me about some aromatherapy spritzers I used to make in my late teens for staying cool on a hot day.

Make this spritzer up, spray on your face and body, then stand in front of the fan.  Refreshed! Repeat as often as necessary.

Remember to use 100% pure essential oils (they should be labelled this way with the botanical name of the plant) in your spritzer, as you don’t want to be inhaling any more artificial chemicals than you are already subjected to and the therapeutic effects will only come from pure plant oils, not cheap  and nasty chemical fragrances.  My preference is Sunspirit Oils.  I’ve toured their testing laboratory recently (and also worked for them many moons ago) and was very impressed with the attention to quality of their therapeutic essential oils.

So here are a few recipes for your spritzer bottles.

Add to a 50mL spritzer bottle:

  • 45mL purified water
  • 1 tsp (5mL) vodka (I know, a waste, but it will help to disperse the oils)
  • 15 drops of essential oils, which could include your choice of:
  1. 6 drops lemon, 5 drops lavender and 4 drops peppermint
  2. 6 drops lime, 5 drops spearmint and 4 drops geranium
  3. Ultra cooling blend: 5 drops peppermint, 5 drops spearmint and 5 drops eucalyptus

Shake the bottle (each time before use), spritz away and chill out. Keep your spritzer in the fridge for even more of a cooling effect.

Still feeling hot?  Here are some ways to eat yourself cool – seriously.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

aromatherapy, beauty, herbal medicine, nature, Uncategorized

Five natural beauty products I cannot live without

Patients often ask me for advice on natural cosmetics and skincare products.   The kind of products I choose personally must be naturally fragranced, free from as many artificial chemical nasties as is possible and actually work.  When you tick these boxes, these products are also an absolute delight to use and way  more luxurious than their big brand name, highly artificial cousins.  Cleopatra herself, may have been tempted by these natural and luxurious essentials.

So, here are my top five natural beauty products:

Jane Iredale Mineral Makeup

This is the most lovely makeup I have ever used.  In fact, I’m surprised how often people comment on my skin when I’m wearing it, the minerals give you a healthy glow.  And they won’t block your pores but they will give you sun protection.  The makeup is actually good for promoting healthy skin.   That’s a far cry from traditional foundations which contribute to blocked  pores and breakouts!  Some of their products contain essential oils and their lip and eye colours are very pretty too.  Jane Iredale is on the more expensive side but a little goes a long way and it is well worth the price.

Alchemy Shampoo and Conditioner

Alchemy is a great range off Australian made and owned hair care products.   They don’t use parabens or sulphate in their products.  What is great about their shampoo and conditioners is that they contain herbal extracts and essential oils so that not only does your hair smell amazing, but it will look and feel great too!

Uspa Skincare

This line of skincare is perhaps the best I have ever used.  Uspa products are made in Australia from organic plant-based ingredients where possible.  The difference between Uspa and other natural cosmetic brands is that Uspa is mainly used and sold by beauty therapists, not health food stores and pharmacies.  The level of quality and the results they deliver for your skin are beautifully noticeable.  I’m a devotee of their Awaken Foam Cleanser, Bamboo Polish and Moisture Control Lotion with Vitamin C.  Did I mention that these products also smell amazing?

MiEssence Aluminium-free Deodorant

Now, I’ve tried a lot of aluminium-free deodorants and I can say that many of them, with the best intentions and theory behind them, just don’t work.  But this one does!  It’s the only one that I have found that really does work.  It comes in fragrance-free, ancient spice (for the boys) and tahitian breeze (a delightful natural floral fragrance).  The company behind this product source organic ingredients and are another Australian natural cosmetics success story.  You can usually find this one at your local health food store.

Sunspirit Essential Oils

This range of 100% pure essential oils has long been my favourite and most trusted aromatherapy brand.  I love using these essential oils in salt scrubs, face masks, body oils, bath blends and in spritzers.  Sunspirit is another Australian brand who have been committed to sourcing and supplying high quality, therapeutic grade essential oils for over 35 years.  I was lucky enough to tour the laboratory facility that undertakes the testing of their essential oils last week.  The state of the art facility has a high commitment to quality control.  What that means is the herbs are tested for chemical markers to ensure they are the correct plant, that the quality of the herb is good enough to have a therapeutic effect (desired markers in the plant’s chemical profile are present and in the right amounts) and the essential oil will be stable and therapeutic for the whole of its life up to its expiry date.   Sunspirit essential oils are mid-priced which makes them exceptional value given their gold standard commitment to quality.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

aromatherapy, exercise, herbal medicine, martial arts, massage, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Bruise remedies for martial artists, athletes & the accident-prone

A very athletic (but non-ninja) friend called me on the weekend searching for a fast cure for bruising.  She had taken a bad tumble from her bicycle the week before she was to compete in a big triathlon.  She had bad bruising developing behind her knee that covered most of the back of her knee and part of her thigh.  With some wisdom from both the Chinese and western herbal medicine worlds, the bruising didn’t get anywhere near “as ugly as she had expected” and she’s been back on the bike painlessly getting her last training in before the big event this weekend.

My top 5 remedies for bruising that all martial artists (and anyone else) need to know:

  1. Ice.  But don’t overdo it.  Ice can be used in the first 24-48 hours of an injury occurring.  If the injury feels hot, looks red and is continuing to swell, you can apply ice.  Compression bandaging is useful at this time too.  There is no need for ice once these symptoms have stopped.
  2. Arnica. Arnica is known as ‘the herb for bruising’ in western herbal medicine.  I like the Sunspirit Arnica Ointment, which can be smeared over the injured body part (e.g. knee or ankle) and then wrapped with gladwrap and left over night. It contains a few other herbs to aid healing and give some pain relief.  Arnica can also do wonders for bruising when taken internally as a homeopathic remedy.  This gives you a way to tackle the bruising from the inside while you are busy addressing the local area of the trauma.
  3. Liniment.  Traditional Chinese Medicine offers us many liniments that lay claim to reducing bruising.  The most famous of these amongst martial artists is ‘Dit Da Jow’ or ‘Hit Medicine’. Some of my favourites that are more easily available are Zheng Gu Shui and Po Sum On.  Liniment needs to be applied to the local bruise area every few hours, throughout the days following the injury.  The herbs used in these liniments aim to promote blood circulation and thus disperse the blood that has stagnated.
  4. Rubbing.  Yes, we can rub the bruise out.  Sounds painful, and it can be, but it works a treat.  You need to take some of the liniment referred to above and moisten the bruised area.  Then place your thumb or fingers in the centre of the bruise, apply deep pressure and massage towards the outside of the bruise.  You can use a deep, flicking movement to do this.  We are aiming to move the stagnant blood away from the site of the trauma.  The bruise will change colour and intensity fairly quickly with this technique.  A note of caution.  Rubbing out a bruise may not be suitable on acute serious injuries.
  5. Heat.  So it’s ice that we use first of all, and then later we apply heat.  Ice is used to stop the swelling and bruise developing, and then we can go straight into applying a heat pack to reinvigorate blood circulation.  The idea is to slap on some liniment and apply your heat pack on top.  This will aid circulation to the area and the warmth will prepare the bruise nicely to be rubbed out.

A note for people who bruise easily.  If you are prone to bruising with light touch or without recollection of a trauma it may indicate that you have an underlying condition affecting your blood clotting or blood vessels.  Sometimes medications and even supplements (e.g. fish oil) or herbal medicines (e.g. ginkgo biloba) can contribute to thinning of the blood.  A tendency to easy bruising should be discussed with your acupuncturist, herbalist or general practitioner.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

aromatherapy, beauty, health

Lemon myrtle: the true Aussie Battler of the herbal medicine kingdom

If the definition of an Aussie Battler is someone who is considered working class, struggles against hardship and yet still earns some due respect, then the Australian herb, lemon myrtle (Backhousia citriodora), can rightly claim this title in the plant kingdom.

Lemon myrtle is an Australian native subtropical plant that is gradually gaining recognition for the great work it is capable of.  It has always played second fiddle to tea tree in the herbal medicine world and has struggled to take its rightful place in the medicine cabinet. In fact, how many of you have even heard of lemon myrtle?  As it’s fairly cheap to produce, it’s often anonymously used in cleaning and food production for its lemony characteristics (it’s even described as being more ‘lemony’ than lemon) but beyond this, it’s largely ignored.

I actually love this lemony herb with its beautiful leaves and uplifting aroma.  It makes wonderful herbal tea (just take a few leaves, crunch them in your hand, add hot water, cover and allow to steep), personal care products and the essential oil itself can be used in many ways.

Probably the area where it really shines, and this comes back to it being a hard worker, is as an antimicrobial agent.  Lemon myrtle has been shown to be superior to tea tree as an antiseptic.

This hard-working Aussie does have a downside though.  It can cause damage to the skin if used undiluted.  However, studies have shown that a 1% dilution can give you the antimicrobial results you desire without harming your skin.  To make this dilution, add 1 drop of 100% pure lemon myrtle oil to 5mL of your preferred carrier oil.

But, the upside far outweighs the downside.  Lemon myrtle has a delightful fragrance.  In my opinion, it is much more appealing than that of tea tree.  Lemony fresh, it clears the mind and uplifts the heart.  It is perfect for adding to the wash with your dirty clothes (think socks, sweaty exercise clothes, sheets and towels). It makes fabulous soaps (the crushed leaves can even be used to exfoliate the skin) and hand wash. I add the essential oil to steam inhalations when I have sinus congestion or clogged pores.  Why, it can even be added to my DIY Salt Scrub recipe.  I like to source my lemon myrtle essential oil from Refreshed Lemon Myrtle, a little company in Byron Bay committed to sustainable production of lemon myrtle products.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.