Megan Shep­pard

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Health -

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Are there any nat­u­ral al­ter­na­tives to pseu­doephedrine med­i­ca­tion? I al­ways tend to get si­nus prob­lems at this time of year and I would rather take some­thing nat­u­ral for it.

>> The herb known as Ephe­dra (also called Brigham tea and Mor­mon tea in the US) has been used for cen­turies as a nat­u­ral rem­edy to treat res­pi­ra­tory and si­nus con­di­tions, along with help­ing to treat arthri­tis. Pseu­doephedrine and ephedrine are them­selves de­rived from this sin­gle herb.

Ephe­dra is also well known for keep­ing the mind sharp and alert due to the phar­ma­co­log­i­cal ac­tion of cer­tain con­stituents in this herb, be­hav­ing in a sim­i­lar fash­ion to adren­a­line in the brain and ner­vous sys­tem.

Med­i­cal con­cerns have arisen around the safety of pseu­doephedrine and ephedrine for peo­ple with weaker hearts and ner­vous sys­tems. How­ever, the herb, utilised in its whole form, rarely has side ef­fects. The stim­u­lat­ing prop­er­ties of these de­riv­a­tive and syn­the­sised medicines have led to restric­tions of the orig­i­nal herbal rem­edy in many coun­tries.

For­tu­nately, there are many ef­fec­tive and widely avail­able herbal al­ter­na­tives that can help in the man­age­ment of si­nus and res­pi­ra­tory is­sues. Gold­enseal is won­der­ful for mu­cous mem­brane is­sues in the eyes, ear, nose, and throat, and it is of­ten pre­scribed to help tone the mu­cous mem­branes of the up­per res­pi­ra­tory tract. It is par­tic­u­larly use­ful in treat­ing and pre­vent­ing in­fec­tion.

Elder­ber­ries and el­der­flower are both im­por­tant herbal reme­dies for treat­ing cold and ‘flu, specif­i­cally for catarrh, al­ler­gies, coughs, colds, ear in­fec­tions, and hayfever. Hys­sop is an­other fan­tas­tic cold and ’flu herb, par­tic­u­larly where chronic si­nus is­sues are con­cerned.Thyme, pic­tured be­low, is per­fect for asth­mat­ics, and those who are plagued by si­nusi­tis. Horse­rad­ish is an­other plant which has an affin­ity for si­nus con­di­tions but is also won­der­ful for ad­dress­ing di­ges­tive and res­pi­ra­tory prob­lems.

This is al­ways a busy time of year, so it is im­por­tant to set aside some time each day to rest and re­lax — even 15 min­utes will help. This down­time is es­sen­tial for bal­anc­ing out stress, and will typ­i­cally pave the way for a good night’s sleep.

I have al­ways liked to crack my knuck­les as it feels as if it pro­vides some sort of ten­sion re­lief. I’m told that this habit will lead to arthri­tis. Is this true, or sim­ply an old wives’ tale?

>> The click­ing sound that oc­curs when you crack your knuck­les is usu­ally a re­sult of soft tis­sue pass­ing over bone or the pop of gas bub­bles es­cap­ing the joints rather than the ac­tual knuck­les crack­ing. You are on the right track with your de­scrip­tion, as this noise is more likely to oc­cur when there is some ten­sion in the tis­sues.

Ob­vi­ously, if this habit is caus­ing pain, then it makes sense to stop do­ing it. In­stead, you could carry about a stress ball or some­thing sim­i­lar to re­lieve the ten­sion in your hands.

It is a good idea to take the time now to en­sure you are in­clud­ing nu­tri­ents in your diet to help main­tain healthy joints and tis­sues. Es­sen­tial fatty acids (also known as the omega fatty acids) are the first place to start, and are found in nuts, seeds, fatty fruits such as av­o­cado and oily fish (sar­dines, salmon, her­ring, mack­erel).

Vi­ta­min D is so im­por­tant for the health of bones, car­ti­lage, ten­dons, lig­a­ments, and soft tis­sue. Clin­i­cal de­fi­ciency in this nu­tri­ent is in­di­cated by a soft­en­ing of bones, tooth de­cay, frac­tures that won’t heal prop­erly, mus­cu­lar weak­ness, rick­ets, lack of en­ergy, re­tain­ing phos­pho­rus in the kid­neys. Low vi­ta­min D lev­els have also been as­so­ci­ated with a num­ber of au­toim­mune dis­eases, such as rheuma­toid arthri­tis, mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis, and Crohn’s dis­ease.

Vi­ta­min D plays an im­por­tant role in the ab­sorp­tion and util­i­sa­tion of cal­cium and phos­pho­rus. It is cru­cial for the func­tion­ing of your ner­vous sys­tem and helps with heart health. Foods rich in vi­ta­min D in­clude but­ter, raw milk, sweet pota­toes, oily fish, oats, cold-pressed veg­etable oils, eggs, and, of course, sun­light ex­po­sure.

NOTE: The in­for­ma­tion con­tained in this col­umn is not a sub­si­tute for med­i­cal ad­vice. Al­ways consult a doc­tor.

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