WHY I PREFER FRESH PLANT TINCTURES – FOUR REASONS by Christopher Hedley AHG

REASON – they work better.

Last year I was forcibly reminded of the benefits of making fresh plant preparations. I was treating a patient with acute bronchitis resistant to all my medicines. My bronchitis medicines are based on Coltsfoot syrup (Tussilago farfara) and I hadn’t picked any Coltsfoot for a couple of years. I bought good quality dried leaves and made the syrup, with no result. Non reminded me that we always used to use fresh leaves. So I went looking for the fresh plant. Coltsfoot likes heavy soil and is happy in London clay, where the top soil has been removed. I used to pick it along the Regent’s canal but the park authorities planted native vegetation over my favourite patch (some irony there!). I went for a long walk looking in likely places and found enough to make a couple of litres of syrup. The colour was better, the scent was stronger and the medicine worked!

Coltsfoot flowers turning to seed at Rutland in early March this year

Coltsfoot flowers turning to seed at Rutland in early March this year

I have always been drawn to fresh plant preparations. It seems to me the best way to capture the innate vitality of the herb – and vitalistic medicine is what I was taught to practice. Simple organoleptic testing (tasting, smelling, feeling) quickly and easily tells us that fresh plant extracts contain a wider range of constituents than do dried extracts and it has seemed to me, over years of such testing, that those constituents are presented in a more accessible form. I had no way of proving this, except by observation in practice, but now Paul Chenery has demonstrated that this is indeed the case and provided the beginnings of a biophysical basis for explaining vitality in herbal extracts – check out, ‘are fresh extracts really better?’, on the Rutland website and follow the link to Paul’s research paper.

REASON – they taste better

By far the best way to take herbs is to simply pop out into your garden and nibble them. They taste so much better than any preparation, just as home grown vegetables taste better. Freshness is the key. This method is not always practical and the nearest equivalent is a fresh plant extract made within minutes of picking. Bitter herbs such as Vervain (Verbena officinalis) are much more palatable either eaten fresh or made up into a fresh plant extract presumably because of the wider range of constituents extracted.
Delicate tasting herbs such as Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) taste better presumably because the method captures elusive constituents, such as the volatile oil.

REASON – respect for the earth

Herbs used in making fresh plant preparations must be grown by the medicine maker, or at least in a place close by. This means that they must care for the land. This is especially the case with biodynamic growers since care for the land is their key element.

I like to see where my herbs are grown, so I can see that care for myself. Respect for and care of the earth we live on, that the plants grow on and in, is crucial to making strong, vital medicines. Herbs and medicines made from them carry the feelings of the place they are grown in and of the people who pick and process them. Terry Pratchet puts it well, “she told the land how to be and the land told her who she was”.

REASON – they keep their edge

Dried plant tinctures will usually do the basic job of relieving symptoms BUT they miss that extra edge provided by fresh plant tinctures. People ask herbalists for help for many reasons but often they are trying to reach healing at a deeper level than can be reached by using the herbs in a symptomatic (or reductionist) way. People, of course, heal themselves but herbs can guide them. Fresh plant preparations carry the wisdom and knowledge of the whole plant and make for better guides, reaching places that surprises the herbalist and their patient.

It is my observation that fresh plant preparations keep their edge for longer. Greater Celandine (Chelidonium majus) doesn’t keep well as a dry plant tincture. Rudolph Weiss says that it looses its efficacy after 6 months. I am inclined to agree with him and prefer even fresh plant tinctures less than 6 months old. Fortunately Greater Celandine gives us two harvests a year and I take that as my clue, but I make a fresh plant glycerite every year which keeps very well, at least for topical use.

There is very little research on the keeping power of tinctures. One plant that has been researched is Skullcap (Scutellaria spp.) The flavonoids have been shown to be quite unstable in alcohol but I do get good results with fresh plant Skullcap tincture, especially in treating anxiety in psychotic people. Dried plant tinctures don’t even come close. Is this because the flavonoids are more stable in the fresh plant preparation? Perhaps Paul would like to do his next piece of research on this subject.

MORE ABOUT COLTSFOOT

Most years, but not for the last couple of years, I make a layered syrup of Coltsfoot flowers and sugar. This year I resolved not to miss the Coltsfoot flowers and went visiting all my likely patches but no flowers and not a sign of those beautiful new leaves covered with delicate webbing. A friend from west London had the same problem – with a large patch that had always been reliable. Did this happen to anyone else? I know that each year is different and, indeed, of late I find myself saying, ‘its a funny year this year’, every year and trying to explain what exactly is going on. Is this global warming or simply growing old?

I am not convinced about the toxicity of Coltsfoot but I keep up with the discussion and research. That is all a herbalist can do, collect all the evidence and weigh it up for themselves. The most useful article I have found so far is, Subhuti Dharmananda. “Safety issues affecting herbs: pyrrolizidine alkaloids”. Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon. www.itmonline.org/arts/pas.htm . There is also a nice discussion putting Comfrey toxicity into perspective by Dorena Rode of the University of California in, ‘Trends in Pharmacological Sciences 2002, 23:497-499’. In the end toxicity is a matter of dosage and the experience of herbalists should be part of the evidence used in discussions of dosage.

SEASONAL THOUGHTS

Well, it is a funny year this year! Spring was so early and many plants ran into each other, which always causes something of a panic. I don’t pick, or prepare, very much but I do like to pick and prepare some medicines of my own- in order to keep in touch with the seasons and with the plants.

The Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum spp.) in the garden is reaching its full glory. In a few weeks the rhizomes can be dug and divided, leaving some to make a batch of fresh plant tincture. This is invaluable for tendonitis, and I also add it to prescriptions for osteoporosis and broken bones – along with Comfrey leaf and Horsetail (Equisetum spp.). It has a great  reputation for facilitating healing in these circumstances. Growing next to the Solomon’s seal is its close relative Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis), which is rather taking over that part of the garden, after being more or less static for some years. I don’t usually make tincture of the leaves, since it is more accurate to make a dried plant tincture and my garden is so small that fresh plant tinctures are the best use of its limited resources (another reason for making fresh plant preparations). I do however make every year some Lily of the Valley fresh flower tincture. This contains very little of the cardiac-glycosides and, rather unfortunately, keeps little of their delicious perfume but it is a superb remedy for anxieties around heart problems. This idea came from Nicholas Culpeper who has Lily of the Valley as a remedy for disturbance of the vital spirit (confusion, poor memory and fear) and remarks that the flowers are especially comforting to the heart and vital spirit.

I will be talking more on Lily of the Valley and other heart remedies at the West of Scotland Herbal Group gathering in August; get in touch at westofscotlandherbalgroup@gmail.com .

RECIPES

Layered syrups can be made with any fairly damp herb, including most flowers and fruit. Diane who works in the Westminster dispensary makes a delicious Rose hip syrup this way. Simply chop the fresh herb roughly and layer in a glass jar with granulated sugar (brown, organic, fair traded of course). The layers should be about 2cm thick and start and end with sugar. Leave until most of the sugar has been dissolved, usually only a few days, strain off, bottle and label.

I have yet to try Gerard’s gout medicine, which he advises is made by filling a glass vessel with the flowers of Lily of the Valley, sealing it and putting it in an ant hill for a few weeks – always new and exciting things to try in herbal medicine!

PS re nibbling fresh herbs – try nibbling straight from the plant i.e. without using your hands. Hawthorn buds are a good place to start – you don’t have to bend down. Hold your hands behind your back and just nibble, enjoy the experience and the extra levels of taste.

PPS Did you catch the Royal Wedding and those trees! Trees in the Abbey, what a wonderful idea. This must be a good omen – young people honouring the plants in an ancient place of worship. The trees, by the way, were English Maple and Hornbeam.

© Christopher Hedley 2011

Bimosyn project progresses the development of environment-friendly and health-friendly pest control products

Rutland Biodynamics was chosen in 2008 to be one of six partners involved in a major EU study to reduce the use of pesticides in the environment. Research is showing that some herbal extracts are useful synergists that may help in the global preservation of wood.

The Spanish Institute, Tecnalia, through its Construction Unit, is participating in and coordinating a European FP7 research project for SMEs, called Bimosyn. The aim is to develop pest control products with lower concentrations of biocides and, thereby, be more environmentally friendly and less damaging for human health. The two year project is being carried out jointly by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and five SME companies: Berkem (France), Linotech (Sweden), Rutlandbio (the United Kingdom), Quadrifolio (Portugal) and Dts-Oabe (Spain).

The scientific development of the project involves research into the degree of synergy between bioactive antioxidant substances (natural phenolic compounds, such as anthocyanins) and conventional insecticides and fungicides. The aim is to use natural, vegetable-origin extracts with the potential for being employed as biocide adjuvants for the chemical sector. In this way, pest control products which will have the same efficacy as conventional ones can be obtained and, at the same time, will not be prejudicial for the environment or to human health. The new pesticides will act to combat plague of flies, cockroaches, termites and wood-rotting fungi.

The project involves the study of the synergy between bioactive antioxidant molecules and synthetic biocides within the new European Biocide Products Directive 98/8/CE (BPD). The idea of this is to develop new pesticide product formulations which can be clearly differentiated in the market with respect to conventional, more contaminant pesticides.

Future challenges

Notable amongst the tasks to be undertaken is that the researchers will gather all the basic antioxidant materials, extracts of medicinal plants and biocides necessary for drawing up the project, with the aim of studying the synergic effects amongst them. The next step is drawing up various formulae with antioxidant or medicinal plant extracts mixed with biocides selected in the previous stage.

Then the efficacy of the different formulae will be evaluated with trials based on a number of European and international norms in matters of pest control. Finally, data on cost analysis will be produced.

For more details, please click here

Cancer seminar, Edinburgh May 21-22, with Chanchal Cabrera and Fiona Shakeela Burns

A two day intensive course for practitioners looking at ways to design individualized, rational and effective holistic treatment plans. This is a unique opportunity to hear two speakers who have between them over 30 years of experience in working with cancer.

Click here for full details

NEW LAWS – what does it all mean for me?

Last updated on 10th July 2011

Rutland Biodynamics does not given legal advice and therefore what follows here is a personal opinion and only sets out to explain the company’s understanding at the time at which it was written. Law is made by Governments and by Courts, enforced by Governments but, finally only the Courts can give definite interpretations. That is not very practicable from the point of view of most people and so in the early days of the new EC legislation within the UK, manufacturers, practitioners and enforcers have to work together to try to interpret the regulation in the spirit in which it was made. Please consult a suitably qualified specialist for further advice.

There are also inter-continental aspects of medicines legislation which this piece will briefly mention and we will also try to disentangle where we stand in relation to other EC and non EC based practitioners where relevant, but most of this piece applies to UK law, where recent changes have occured.

Several different strands of UK and EC regulation have been woven together over recent months, and the only thing that seems clear at the moment, is that this has led to a great deal of confusion amongst practitioners, the health industry and the informed natural-products using general public. It’s hard for anyone to get a clear consensus of what pattern is yet emerging, what the true intentions behind all of it are and how it affects people at different levels of the chain. Finally, it is too early to know how the Courts would interpret any aspects of the regulation.

The prime pieces of legislation regarding the UK are

* The Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive 2004/24/EC, which came into force on 30 April 2004. (Click here for the Wikipedia link)

* The Medicines Act (UK 1968), as amended and specifically Section 12 (1) which exempts ‘herbal practitioners’ from the general provisions of the Act, but only under certain well defined circumstances.

The general provisions of the Medicines Act, brought in after the 1960s Thalidomide tragedy, were and are to enforce extremely rigorous international protocols of quality assurance on all aspects of the medicines industry. Unintentionally, herbalists were caught by this but, fortunately, they were eventually granted an exemption in 1973 (Section 12 [1]), without which they would be unable to practise. That exemption has not been very rigorously policed, mainly because there was ambiguity regarding who was or was not a ‘herbalist’ and so, in order to protect the herbalists’ profession, further changes are now underway within UK law.

The main intended change which has been occurring recently in the UK due to Directive 2004/24/EC is an extreme tightening of the loopholes used by traders in uncontrolled medicinally active plant materials. The Directive arose from the identification by the EC that European herbalists’ exemptions were being used as a cover under which to supply unsafe materials to unsuspecting members of the public. This even resulted in two deaths in Belgium (some years ago).  In order to frame the legislation to work in the UK situation, it subsequently became necessary for the UK authorities to define, at last, who is, and who is not, a ‘herbalist’. This was something that the 1973 exemption had omitted to do. The phrase that is being used to describe this process is ‘Statutory Regulation’ (SR). So although not part of the EC Directive,  SR has arisen in order to allow UK herbalists to practise following implementation of the Directive.

At Rutland, we see two main effects of this:

(i) Herbalists within the UK will continue to be able to buy our ingredients. Whenever in the future  the SR register is established (informed guesses are now not before 2013), this could mean that it may become necessary for us to be provided with some sort of proof that the practitioner is indeed registered to practise, and

(ii) At the end of April 2011, a considerable tightening of the application of the 1973 exemptions occurred. To get a clearer understanding of what this means, it is helpful to look at what the 1973 rule actually said. The UK government, in the form of the MHRA (Dept. of Health) has published the following guidance on their website.

This is only published as a “Guidance” but we believe that the government is taking the opportunity to affirm that the EC Directive clarifies the UK legislation requiring practitioners to personally make their products only from ingredients (para 21)  and clearly sets out the Agency’s opinion with respect to what are ingredients and what are not (paras 22 and 23). In para 23, the MHRA thus states the following:

What counts as an ingredient and what counts as a product?

Examples of what would be regarded as ingredients are:
• Unprocessed herbal ingredients
• Tinctures or extracts the herbal practitioner buys in bulk in order to blend to make products tailored to meet the needs of individual patients.

Examples of what would be regarded as products are:

• Tablets, capsules and other such pharmaceutical finished dosage forms bought in by the practitioner (whether or not the practitioner sources them in bulk)

• Any medicine the herbal practitioner sources in the form and packaging it is to be supplied to the patient.

MHRA cannot cover all possible circumstances in guidance, as the position will depend on the facts of each case. Bear in mind that some pharmaceutical forms, eg a tincture, could be either an ingredient or a product, depending on the facts of the case.

This has always been our understanding and is the reason why Rutland has always focused on the supply of tinctures to herbalists, as being the major form of ingredient that is legal for practitioners to source (as well as being the most efficient way of getting plant extracts into the body). We believe that creams and ointments are typical of what MHRA describes as being either an ingredient or a product, depending on the facts of the case. Our practitioner creams, supplied in large 450g pots are clearly described and labelled as ingredients. A practitioner may change these in any way upon prescribing to their patient on a one-to-one basis (by putting them in smaller jars, or mixing them with other ingredients) and then they are technically making the ingredient into a ‘product’, which they are allowed them to supply, legally, to the patient. Capsules and tablets are regarded as products in themselves and not ingredients and so supply of these from a manufacturer would now require a licence for the individual product. Lack of such licences will mean that, after April 2011, it is illegal for manufacturers to supply many of those pills and capsules that have until recently been used by practitioners. On making up the ‘product’ on a one-to-one basis, the practitioner can only provide it to that one patient. Technically, it would not be legal to make up a batch of cream and put them on a shelf for sale.

(iii) Rutland Biodynamics is also required as a condition of it’s cGMP certification to exercise due diligence in respect of supply of ingredients outside of the UK. This means that we require assurance from our overseas customers that they are buying our ingredients for purposes legitimate within the jurisdiction into which we supply. As we manufacture under cGMP, our products are legal for use as ingredients in any lawful process anywhere in the world that has a supply agreement with Europe.

Back to the UK situation, many herbalists have shops or stalls (either virtual or real) in which they sell products and, in order to help those who also rely on selling well-made and reliably sourced herbal medicines to the public with integrity, we are steadily building up a retail brand of Traditional Herbal Registrations (THRs) called : English Herbal Medicines (EHM). These are finished ‘products’ with General Sales List ‘actives’ (herbs) that can be legally sold from the shop shelf, market stall or supplied to patients unchanged, because they are licensed for retail sale – within the UK only at present. Unfortunately, because these are fully controlled under the Medicines Act, it is extremely hard and costly for us to develop and the process is tortuously slow. You can click here to be directed to the EHM website.

SUMMARY

In summary therefore, we do not see any change whatsoever regarding the supply to practitioners of bulk ingredients, such as tinctures or bulk creams. Furthermore, we do not see any change in the UK professional practitioner being able to mix or alter these in any way they see fit and to dispense them to their patients on a one-to-one basis.

It is plain that capsules and tablets, however, will have to be licensed from the end of April 2011 and we do see a change occurring in the definition of the UK practitioner by the end of April 2012, although the details of that are unclear so far. Because the dispensing of individual prescriptions by manufacturers is covered under the existing law of “Specials Licensing”, we also understand that, as manufacturers, it is illegal for us to dispense prescriptions on your behalf or to send medicines to your individual patients until (a) you are a registered healthcare practitioner (April2012) and (b) we are granted a “specials licence” . We are not aware of any changes regarding supply of ingredients outside UK, although we are vigilant to prevent our products being used other than as permitted in the jurisdiction into which they are supplied.

Finally, it has always been legal for herbalists to grow and make their own medicines for supply to their patients and this is not affected in any way at all. The sale of such medicines to anyone other than directly to their patients (by putting up for sale to members of the public, or to a shop or to other herbalists ) is, however, now controlled by the Medicines Act.

In order to assure the practitioner of a supply of herbal ingredients now and in the future, as the main grower of herbalists ingredients in the country, Rutland Biodynamics went through the extreme pain and expense of developing, achieving and maintaining over the past 6 years, it’s MHRA MIA licence (no. 28255). This is not only your assurance of a ‘legalised future’ but also your present assurance that every batch of all our products have been made under a battery of quality assurance protocols and have been put through a battery of quality control tests.


London Herb Walks Summer 2011

Few places are richer in botanical life than our oldest cities and possibly none more so than London, one of the oldest trading capitals in the world. Christopher Hedley and Non Shaw are conducting a series of herb walks in London throughout this summer.

Click here for full details, contact information and how to book:

Londonwalkslist2011

Mid-summer’s day and we’re in the pink

Pink as far as you can see on mid-summer’s day.

Half a million Damascene rose buds open in front of the more than two thousand organic Paeonia lactiflora, with a backdrop Rosa canina, cascading over hedges up to ten feet tall.

The aroma is indescribably heavenly – as only English grown roses are. The aroma is light tending almost to a light-headedness, without the heavy overtones produced by the extreme heat of the Mediterranean. Exciting new products coming from the damascena later this year, as well as organic paeonia root and a substantial crop of about twenty thousand organic Astragalus, all on it’s way. Watch this space!

Even the Achillea have gone pink this year!

(Click on any of the pictures to view enlargements.)

September 19th 2010 Rutland Biodynamics Open Day: ‘Working with Nature’ with Christopher Hedley

This year’s theme, which Christopher is leading, is how to improve the robustness of herbal medicine in this country, by reducing dependence on international trade and by working with Nature on our doorsteps.

The 19th September is a Sunday. Entry is by ticket only (£10 paid before 1st September, £20 after 1st September, £30 on the day), to cover costs of admin., seating, speakers etc. You can book online by clicking this link or at sales@rutlandbio.com or by telephone 01572 757440

Please note that we are NOT providing food, so please remember to bring your own food!       Various teas and coffee etc will be provided during the day.

If you would like to bring a tent, or camp in a cowshed, please let us know by email in advance. Only very basic washing and WC facilities are available!

We are also hoping to bring a leading member of the biodynamic farming community to talk to us about the growing biodynamic vision for our medicine and our world.

Directions to Rutland Biodynamics can be seen by clicking this link.

Links to local Bed and Breakfast accommodation:

http://www.bedandbreakfast-directory.co.uk/results.asp?county=Rutland

http://www.rutlandbedandbreakfast.co.uk/

http://www.bedandbreakfasts.co.uk/propertysearch.asp?browsecounty=Rutland.

http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=rutland+bed+and+breakfast&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=com.ubuntu:en-GB:unofficial&client=firefox-a

New streamlined sales office now open on the Rutland Farm

In September we were delighted to announce that our new sales office had finally opened on the farm. This is to allow us to re-focus on our core interests – professional service and quality.

You can now email Alan Johnston at sales@rutlandbio.com, fax 01572 770808 or telephone 01572 757440

Terrific discounts – plus free carriage for orders over £100 are currently being offered for all purchases paid with order. The Maximum discount available is for purchases by debit card or bank transfer  either through the online shop at: www.rutlandbio.com/eshop/ or by email, fax or telephone.

Ahead of the game, Rutland Biodynamics has extended it’s superb ‘ERP’ software, specially custom written for the business, over many years. This finally gives us really accurate stock information at a glance, allowing us to ensure that you have no unnecessary waits for stock to come through the system (although being natural products, most years, the occasional product is unavoidably out of stock but that is not the same as carelesly running out of labelled bottles). Running a small business that manufactures more than a thousand lines to international quality standards is quite complex and it has taken us almost 10 years to reach the stage where movement of all goods, from the moment herbs are harvested (or bottle tops are bought, or labels printed) through to the moment they leave our premises, are automatically tracked and stock volumes adjusted in real-time as they change. Now we have added to this, allocation of stock to customer orders on a real-time basis, so that the same goods can never be sold to two different customers – previously a cause of some confusion in our less sophisticated days! This is a one-off in the industry and is another demonstration of Rutland’s commitment to invest in customer service standards, even during these difficult days of recession.

Herbal Medicine for ‘flu (influenza). Swine Fever: prophylactic use of herbs for H1N1 (bird and pig ‘flu) pandemic control

ADEQUATE STOCKS OF ANTI-VIRAL (ANTI-INFLUENZA) HERBAL MEDICINE HELD  (Please add your comments below)

The World Health Organisation (Geneva, 29th May 09) has called for drug companies to make available increased stocks of anti-virals, at a cost that can be afforded by the world’s populations.

Although we are not one of those drug companies, Rutland Biodynamics has been receiving calls from concerned practitioners about the sustainability of the supplies of our fresh Echinacea purpurea tincture, fluid extracts and of other Echinacea species.

This is because Echinacea species has been widely held for many years to be the main anti-viral and anti-influenza herbal medicine available in Europe. In addition, Echinacea is believed to be an immuno-stimulant in humans and has well demonstrated anti-bacterial properties that are effective in the control of the symptoms of the common cold.

We are pleased to re-assure all parties that we are able to supply in the region of up to 2,000 litres of various Echinacea tincture and fluid extract forms immediately (enough for 400,000 single doses of 5ml) and that we have further (currently unestimated) stocks currently in the field, that are due to be harvested this year.

Following advice from Christopher Hedley (please see also Christopher’s  comments below), about the immense value of Eupatorium in America during the great ‘flu outbreak of a century ago,   we have increased our stocks of Eupatorium perfoliatum, with a 1:1 25% fresh tincture.

Please enquire for bulk prices.

References

BRITISH HERBAL MEDICINE ASSOCIATION, 1996, The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia 1996, Boscombe:BHMA.

BRITISH HERBAL MEDICINE ASSOCIATION, 2003, A Guide to Traditional Herbal Medicines, Boscombe:BHMA .

BUNDESANZEIGER, 1997, The Complete German Commission E Monographs, Berlin:Schilcher

EUROPEAN SCIENTIFIC COOPERATIVE ON PHYTOTHERAPY, 2003, ESCOP Monographs, The Scientific Foundation for Herbal Medicinal Products, Exeter UK: ESCOP

Spring 2009 – Special Offers

Spring Offer is now closed.

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