Good Mental Health for Men
A guest blog by medical herbalist, Joseph Nolan
Men’s emotional lives have loomed large in the clinic recently, with anger, fear, anxiety, sadness, stress, pain and a damnable itch all putting in an appearance. One herb I have found to deal with all these things is that most quintessential of Scottish foodstuffs, the humble oat. Tasty and filling, full of complex carbohydrates and healthy fibres, hydrating and mineral rich (especially iron and zinc), the oat is a wonderfully sustaining and restorative food. As a a supportive adrenal tonic during and following periods of prolonged stress, it is second to none. The nervous system, worn out through stress, work, study, or disease is rejuvenated by a diet that is oat heavy. And for a reproductive and sexual system that is weak or struggling - through age, trauma, infection, systemic disease, stress, or during puberty - once again, the oat cannot be bested.
Ways to get your oats include oat cakes, in smoothies, in granola and other breakfast cereals, as part of a bread mix; whole groats baked into bread, added to thick soups and stews, or used in risotto-like grain dishes. For that itch, or rough, dry, irritated skin in general, oat baths are wonderfully soothing. And of course, oats are at their best in good old porridge - so much the better with some local honey, a few raspberries and a splash of whisky.
Oats also play a starring role in Duncan Napier’s Nerve Debility Tonic which, besides oats, includes sixteen other medicinal herbs, and was developed to deal with despondency, insomnia, lassitude, poor appetite, worry, anxiety, lack of energy, and even neuralgia and nerve pains. The name has since been updated to SkullCap Oat & Passionflower Compound, and nowadays we use it for anxiety, nervousness, difficulty sleeping, and low mood. Over 150 years later, it still works a treat.
Another handy little remedy I have found useful for patients is Bach Flower Rescue Remedy in pastilles. Rescue Remedies, used for acute attacks of nerves, stage fright, anxiety, shocks from bad news, stressful situations, and the like, is blend of flower remedies also available in liquid, cream and spray. The pastilles can be kept in a shirt or jacket pocket and discretely popped into the mouth just before - or during - stressful meetings, presentations, and while standing on the in-laws’ front step. We have a dedicated Bach Flower Remedy practitioner here at Napiers Clinic who will work to find just the right combination of flower remedies for you.
Mineral deficiency is increasingly being shown to have very broad and deleterious effects on mood, sleep, and sense of wellbeing. Deficiency and low mineral levels are compounded by processed low-nutrient food consumption and intensive farming, which is leaving soil depleted and the resultant fruit and veg lacking in the minerals we need. As a result, supplementation is becoming more and more common to improve and maintain health. Magnesium is one of the nutrients used most in nerve transmission and quickly exhausted with stress. Floradix makes good quality food-based liquid supplements (flavoured with fruit extracts, and so rather tastyl!) and Viridian has a wide range of plant-derived ethical supplements using superfood powders as bulking agents rather than the cheap cellulose derivatives in most other brands. Other good sources of minerals include kelp and seaweeds, spirulina and chlorella algae, and nettles.
Let's make Men's Health Week last all year long!