HERBAL ALTERNATIVES TO ANTICHOLINERGIC DRUGS
You may have seen in the news recently that new research from the USA has linked commonly used medicines, including over the counter treatments for conditions such as depression, insomnia and hayfever, to dementia.
The findings, published in the Journal JAMA Internal medicine, showed that anticholinergic type drugs, which block a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, were linked to an increased dementia risk in people over 65 when used at higher doses and for prolonged periods. This new research comes after inital findings at the start of 2015 but this study is believed to be the first to look at the underlying biology by measuring brain metabolism and atrophy by using neuroimaging.
Experts agree that more research is needed in this area and stress that people should not panic or stop taking their medicines but I think it is also worth looking at gentler, more natural remedies as well. For centuries, herbal medicine has been helping to manage the conditions often treated by anticholinergic drugs and I’d like to take a look at some of these natural remedies and how they can be used for the following conditions:
Herbal remedies can sometimes reduce the allergic response and many people turn to a natural approach in managing their symptoms. Nettle and Chamomile act like natural anti-histamines and, used in combination with anti-catarrhal remedies such as Eyebright and Elderflower, can bring much relief to sufferers. We stock a large range of proprietary formulas and homeopathic remedies in our shop, D. Atkinson, Herbalist.
Chamomile tea, sipped throughout the day, soothes the irritated mucus membranes in the nasal passages and helps to cut down the body's allergic response, acting as a natural anti-histamine.
One of the most readily available remedies is a herbal tea blend called Summertime Tea. It contains Chamomile, Nettle and Plantain herb that can be taken by children as well as adults. In clinic I use stronger liquid (tincture) formulas, often using traditional herbs such as Nettle leaf, Elderflower, Eyebright and Golden Rod. Bathing sore and irritated eyes with cold Chamomile tea helps to calm them down, and a herbal sinus cream used regularly will help ease congested sinuses.
The real benefit of using Herbal Medicine is that there are few side effects. All too often with hayfever medication the patient finds themselves feeling drowsy and unable to drive or operate machinery. Natural remedies gently support the body’s own defence mechanism, and if you start them before the hayfever really gets a grip on the system, they can lead to a totally hayfever free summer.
Dietary changes may benefit, especially cutting down on mucus forming foods such as dairy products. Foods rich in Vitamin C and bioflavonoids can help to reduce sensitivity and recent attention has been focused towards the flavonoid Quercetin which can be taken as a supplement. Particularly beneficial foods include fresh berries such as cranberries, blackberries and raspberries, although most fruits are recommended as are leafy green vegetables and plenty of fresh seasonal salads for general wellbeing. Carrots, high in Beta Carotene, are ideal as this vitamin helps to protect the mucus membranes from pollution and toxins. Finally, some people find that reducing their intake of grains, which are after all grasses, can be helpful.
D. Atkinson Nettle Blend
Viridian Quercetin Capsules
A.Vogel Pollinosan Luffa Nasal Spray
A.Vogel Luffa Complex Drops
St Johns Wort, also known as Hypericum, is a licensed medicine in the UK and is used to treat mild to moderate depression as well as other low mood conditions such as Seasonal Affective Disorder. It contains the active ingredients hypericin and hyperforin, as well as other substances present in the plant. Hypericin is the ingredient used to treat depression, and hyperforin has antibiotic properties. I find in clinic that Hypericum is a highly effective herb and a good alternative to convential antidepressants in helping with low mood and depression. Please always talk to a herbalist before using St John’s Wort as there are contraindications.
I regularly recommend my clients to make sure they include oats in their diet. Oats were used, especially in Scotland, both as a food (porridge) and as a medicine. Oats act as a tropho-restorative (meaning to restore back to the original state) to the nervous system and are also included in Duncan Napiers original Nerve Debility Tonic which he created to combat the stresses and strains of modern living and of which he said “for those times when the whole world seems to be against you and all you want to do is sit down and cry”. This formula is as relevant today as it was in 1860.
Today we now know this as Skullcap, Oat and Passionflower Compound. Skullcap, Oat and Passionflower Compound contains over 20 different herbs, including Skullcap, Oats, Passionflower, Jamaican dogwood, Limeflowers and Valerian.
D. Atkinson Skullcap, Oat and Passionflower Compound
D. Atkinson St John’s Wort capsules
D. Atkinson Skullcap herbal compound (tea)
Viridian Rhodiola Complex capsules
Viridian L-Theanine and Lemon Balm capsules
Omega 3 supplement
I recommend taking a nightly dose of Passionflower and Chamomile capsules for five consecutive nights to try and re-establish your sleep pattern. Passionflower, or passiflora, has been used medicinally for centuries both as a tincture and as a herbal tea. Passionflower is considered to be mildly sedative, helping the body to relax. When people are stressed and tense, they often hold the tension in their shoulders, resulting in neck and shoulder pains, and here passionflower can really help out. I also recommend it to help manage restless leg syndrome.
In my practice I use it wherever there is stress and anxiety. Some problems such as menopause always have an element of stress involved, and menopause patients respond well to passionflower.
Passionflower and Chamomile herbs are available in easy to take capsules. We also use combinations of Valerian, Passionflower, Chamomile and Hops in liquid form to help with sleep.
I find chamomile also works effectively as a bedtime tea for sleep. A cup of chamomile tea will help promote relaxation and help with sleep that night.
I also recommend using a lavender pillow inside your pillowcase - the lovely, calming scent of lavender has a direct effect on your nervous system, aiding relaxation. You can also use Lavender essential oil in a warm bath or in massage oil.
Valerian is also well known for its sedative properties and its use can be traced back to Galen and Dioscorides in the 1st century AD. Popular during the middle ages, when it went by the name “all heal”, it would have been used as a mild sedative.
Many people find it is helpful to avoid too many stimulants such as tea, coffee and sugar as these can lead to irritability and insomnia. Try drinking herbal teas instead, there are many new brands and flavours on the market now. Pukka do an excellent Night Time tea and we have our own D. Atkinson Sleep Tea - a relaxing sedative combination of herbs which promotes restful sleep without drowsy after effects.
D. Atkinson Passionflower and Chamomile capsules
D. Atkinson Valerian and Chamomile Compound
Viridian Cherry Night capsules
D. Atkinson Lavender essential oil
D. Atkinson Sleep Tea