Herbal Health Information on Stress

I could write a book on this and I expect if you suffer from stress you would say so could you.

Anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks, palpitations, tiredness, irritability, lack of confidence, feeling inadequate and I am going to stop there.

The obvious answer is change of lifestyle to remove the source of the stress, but, hey, that is in an ideal world.

The less obvious answer is to look at what you CAN change in your lifestyle even it is something small such as join a Yoga class, take time out for yourself, walk away from a stressful situation and calm down before going back to face it, can you hand a job over to anyone else to do, get a cleaner for the housework, take a holiday. ANYTHING!

Stress is not a problem to the body, providing the body has the ability to cope with it which to be fair, we are set up to do via our Adrenal glands. I am sure you have heard of the ‘fight or flight’ response which either helps you to deal with a stressful situation or get the hell out of there. When the stress is overwhelming the adrenals get exhausted and the body fails to deal with stress well.

First thing to do is look at your diet. A body cannot keep going under any circumstances if it is poorly fed.

Eat three good meals a day:-

Consisting of nutritious foods such as fruit, veg, meat, fish, and a sensible intake of carbohydrates.

NOT CHOCOLATE which gives you a short term sugar boost and contains a feel good factor but does not last and may send you in to an emotional low when the blood sugar levels drop.

Drink WATER. Caffeine in tea and coffee is the very worst thing for stress as it increases heart rate and may cause palpitations and anxiety and will definitely prevent you sleeping well.

However, Caffeine is addictive so if you need to come off it, do it slowly, otherwise you will get headaches and feel pretty rough for a couple of weeks. I recommend reducing one cup a day in three day steps, remembering to substitute with water or non caffeine hot drinks such as Rooibos and Chamomile tea.

Exercise is a wonderful stress buster, so go to the gym or preferably do something in the fresh air.

Herbs will vary on whether it is anxiety or depression or insomnia or tiredness.

The main area which needs supporting is the nervous system.

St. John’s wort, which we saw on the shingle beach video, is a wonderful nervous system supporting and repairing herb as well as having anti depressant properties. Don’t take it if you are on any orthodox medicines.

Valerian is  great for calming both the body and mind and I usually mix that with Skullcap which is excellent at calming the brain down so that it does not go in to those mad thought loops at night when you are trying to get off to sleep.

Don’t forget the humble Chamomile which is very gently calming and helps you get a good night’s sleep and the lime flowers we saw growing in Pevensey church yard in the Pevensey walk video.

The adrenal glands can be supported with Ginseng, but there are lots of cautions with Ginseng

Not with tea or coffee

Not if you have high blood pressure

Never for more than three weeks at a time.

Growing in your garden you may have:-

Borage which also supports and restores the adrenals.

Lavender which is great in an herb pillow to help with insomnia and the oil is wonderfully soothing in a bath.

Lemon balm which makes a very nice anti stress tea.

There are many ways of helping combat stress with herbs so do come and see me in my clinic if you would like help.

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist

Herbal Health Information

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Yellow Dock (Rumex Crispus)

The root of this is used which contains glycosides, tannins, oxalates and minerals.

A really greedy, voracious weed and one you would shift heaven and earth to remove from your garden, but wow, what fantastic properties it has!

Yellow Dock

For a start, as it is a mineral rich plant, it is nutritious, containing iron and sulphur.

It is a bitter plant which stimulates digestive function, improves bile secretion, and is an alterative, encouraging the normal functioning of the body and a good lymphatic cleanser.

So I use it as a tincture in many mixes especially as a tonic herb and to improve a poor digestion.

It comes in the “never be without it” category on my shelves but needs to be used with respect, otherwise it may cause diarrhoea. In fact if I am putting yellow dock in a patient’s mixture for the first time, I do warn them, they may be sat on the toilet a bit more for the first couple of weeks.

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist/Herbal Health Information

Yarrow/Milfoil (Achillea Millefoil)

The flowers and leaves are used which contain, flavonoids, volatile oils, lactones and alkaloids

This is the original wonder medicine. As I said in the video it does just about everything and at college, if we could not think of an answer to a question we would write “YARROW” it was bound to be right!


It grows so profusely on all kinds of soils and waste land that if we were ever in a situation where orthodox medicines were not available our first plant hunt would be for Yarrow.

It can stem the flow of blood from a wound, it is a diuretic and urinary antiseptic, has anti-inflammatory and anti rheumatic properties is anti viral, anti bacterial, a vasodilator(relaxes capillaries)  , digestive stimulant and protector, improves both gall bladder and liver function and is a gentle relaxant like chamomile.

I’m sure you get the picture!

Because of all these actions it is frequently used in many different mixes for digestive problems, lowering blood pressure, coughs, colds, arthritis, regulating  hormones, cystitis, stress and toning varicose veins. I’ve probably left out a few actions but I think that is enough for one plant to boast about!!!!!!

I would never be without it on my shelves.

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist/herbal Health Information

Marshmallow (Althea Officianalis)

Both the roots and the Ariel parts of this plant are used which contain high amounts of mucilage, flavonoids and tannins

Marshmallow in the Cuckmere Valley

The marshmallow has a history of over 2,000 years of use in European Herbal Medicine. It is known as a demulcent, meaning it soothes and protects mucous membranes. It is also antitussive (cough), is an alterative (restoring normal organ function) and diuretic.
It is used for all inflammation of the digestive system, lungs, kidneys and bladder. I forgot to mention the kidneys and bladder on the walk but marshmallow is my herb of choice to protect and soothe the bladder if a patient comes to me suffering from Cystitis.
In clinic I use it in mixes for irritating tickly coughs, irritable bowel, ulcers, and colitis, in all cases to protect and soothe the mucous membranes lining these two organs.
I have to say I was astounded at the rate it had spread along the river bank and pleased too, to know it isn’t likely to disappear from the Cuckmere. Plants are so vulnerable, a small change in conditions and they might not be growing where I last saw them and yet it seems they are also opportunists and if the conditions are good they will spread like mad. Thank goodness.

Linda Bostock
Medical Herbalist/Herbal Health Information

Marshmallow Herb Walk Along The Cuckmere River

We often walk along the Cuckmere River, in East Sussex as it is one of the areas we can take Henry, our Red Setter, without cattle being around, although there are sometimes cows in the fields and we may have to do a bit of a detour, as cows seem to chase Henry and scare us. This is a video we made of that walk and of the rare Marshmallow plants that we found growing there. I hope you find it interesting.


Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist

Beachy Head Herb Walk July 2011

Herbal health information re. Beachy Head herb walk.

What a glorious day it was when we went on this walk. Apart from unseasonal hot weather in April this year, we have had very few sunshiny days but I actually took my cardigan off for some of this walk!!

We started at the end/start of the South Downs way (depending on which way you are walking) straight up the hill which leads to Beachy Head.

The Downs are now managed using grazing cattle to crop the pasture, which are moved around, leaving behind a nice load of manure, resulting in spectacular displays of wild flowers, visited by many species of butterflies and birds.

I could not stop and show you all the plants on this walk as it would have taken a good few days and I think my poor little computer would have a nervous break down with all the footage.

So I am literally going to give you a list of all the plants we saw some of which I talk about on the video

Dyer’s Weld

Lots of Hawthorn, Elder and sessile oak. trees


Red clover

Ladies’ bedstraw



Many different varieties of Vetch (pea family)

Rosebay willow herb















And I am sure I have missed quite a lot.

Red clover, Burdock, Agrimony, Eyebright and Thyme will be in the Herbs and Health section and some already have their own little write up in there.

There were strangely few birds around on that day but there are usually skylarks singing and we have occasionally seen a Peregrine falcon.

There were lots of butterflies which I think were small blues and the meadow brown, but I am not a butterfly expert so I could have just made those names up!

I walk up the downs at least once a week with Henry the dog and every time do a little skip for joy at the fresh air, the scenery and the wildlife.

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist

Tormentil (Potentilla Tormentilla)

Tormentil forms a carpet wherever it is growing and has yellow flowers that look a bit like a buttercup but smaller. Its main active ingredient is tannin which has astringent properties.

Astringent herbs tone up any mucous membrane lining such as the gut and the respiratory system. They can therefore help heal damaged linings and stop bleeding.


That has given you a pretty good clue as to how I use it.

It is invaluable, in small amounts, as a tincture in mixes for irritable bowel conditions.

We can never use any herbs containing tannins in large amounts as all medicinal treatments are a juggling act between achieving optimum healing without affecting any other normal body functions. In this case, if tannins were consumed in large amounts then they would bind with the protein available in food ingested and make it unavailable for absorption in to the body. This is also true for people who drink a large amount of ordinary tea and coffee both of which are high in tannins.

We also saw Tormentil on the Pevensey castle walk.

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist/Herbal Health Information

Thyme (Thymus Vulgaris)

The whole herb is used which is humming with volatile oil, giving it its gorgeous smell. It also contains tannins

Thyme is strongly antiseptic and antibacterial; it soothes coughs and helps the lungs to cough up mucous.

Not surprising then that it is used for coughs, colds, sore throats and as a mouthwash for gum infections.


An excellent property of volatile oils is that once they hit the warmth of the stomach they start to, in effect, evaporate and fill up all the spaces in the respiratory system, disinfecting them on the way through.

The reason we add it to foods is because apart from tasting nice, it has good digestive aid actions.

Wild thyme growing on the downs is very small but you know when you are walking on it due to the heavenly smell.

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist/Herbal Health Information

Red Clover (Trifolium Pratense)

The flower heads are used which contain, isoflavones, flavonoids, resins, coumarins, minerals and vitamins

Red Clover

Do you remember walking through the fields as a child surrounded by red clover? I do, but it is fairly rare to see extensive patches of red clover in fields now, due to intensive farming methods and weed killers. So I am always pleased to see it growing in large amounts anywhere.

As a result of the fairly recent approach to managing public land, such as the Downs, by rotating cattle on them to crop the pasture and let plants seed naturally, there is a lot of it growing on the South Downs.

Red clover is another herb which has alterative properties, meaning it helps the organs and systems in the body to balance themselves and function properly. It has anti inflammatory actions and is a wonderful Lymphatic system cleanser. It is also said to have anti neoplastic properties (anti cancer).

I used to go through buckets loads of red clover tincture when we lived in Slough in Berkshire, as the incidence of childhood Eczema in Slough is very high and along with Heartsease it is always an essential ingredient in  any mixture I make up to help clear Eczema.

Eastbourne, where we currently live, has an older population and I have not treated as much Eczema. I still use the tincture in all mixtures for conditions requiring any lymphatic cleansing or skin cleansing action.

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist/Herbal Health Information

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum Perforatum)

It is the leaves and flowers of St. John’s wort that are used.

The active ingredients are hypericin, flavonoids and essential oils.

St John's Wort

St. John’s wort has a pretty small yellow flower and if you pick the leaf and hold it up to the light you will be able to see tiny perforations in the leaf, hence its Latin name perforatum.

It has anti viral properties and is an “alterative” which means it has the ability to restore to normal, the way an organ or system in the body works.

It also has a long tradition of being used as a nervous system supporting and repairing herb and has liver tonic properties.

At college we were told and all the literature says that St. John’s wort must not be used where the patient is showing symptoms of clinical depression.

In Germany it has long been used as an antidepressant and a liver cleansing herb.

When we were doing the shingle beach walk, my husband, (and cameraman) Mike said to me jokingly, “is there anything to treat shingles?” well Ha Ha yes there is, one of the things I do with the plant is pick the flowers and put them in a jar with oil (any oil will do) for about six weeks in full sun light.  This will produce the beautiful Hypericum oil which is about the only thing I know to relieve the pain of shingles when rubbed on externally to them, at the same time as working against the herpes zoster virus which causes shingles.

I use the tincture in my clinic to put in to mixes to support the nervous system and the immune system. If I think there is a need for a direct anti viral in a mixture, then St. John’s wort and elderflower tinctures are top of my list.

Word of warning…….St John’s wort has a photosensitising action both if used externally and internally so if you are taking it, cover up in bright sunlight.

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist/herbal health information