Relieving Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is a functional condition of the bowel. This means that the bowel does not function as it should but there is no physical damage to the bowel tissue. The muscles of the bowel go into spasm, which can cause pain with constipation or diarrhoea, which may alternate. Stress or certain foods or medications may trigger symptoms. Below are some remedies than can provide relief, alongside a careful diet. Sometimes a combination of treatments is necessary. Adequate water intake is important, as it is needed to form digestive juices and the protective mucus lining of the gut.


A good quality, high strength probiotic product can quickly and significantly reduce the symptoms of IBS and I have known customers who have had lasting relief within days. The best probiotics can be found in capsule or powder form rather than as a yogurt drink. A strength of 20 billion live microorganisms per capsule is ideal for quick results. The best quality probiotic brands, for example Solgar or Optibac, will say on the label that they survive the stomach acid.


Peppermint is antispasmodic, so it relieves the pain caused by muscle spasm in the gut and helps to release trapped wind, which also causes pain. It is available in various forms, including tea, oil, powder, tablets and capsules and of course as fresh leaf straight from the plant. The fresh leaf has a higher level of the beneficial volatile oils than in commercial teas, as the oils evaporate during drying. To minimise loss of oils use the fresh leaf straight after picking, store dried leaf or teabags in an airtight container and brew tea in a covered container to keep the oils from escaping with the steam. Unfortunately many “peppermint” cordials nowadays are made with artificial flavourings, rather than the natural peppermint needed to give the medicinal effect. When buying peppermint oil choose one that says it is intended for consumption rather than an essential oil for external use.  Oils for internal use can be used externally but not vice versa. Peppermint oil is very strong so literally only one or two drops is needed per cup of warm water.  Tablets and capsules come in various strengths. Some capsules are labelled “enteric coated”. This means they have a capsules shell that does not dissolve in the stomach but further down in the gut so that the oil is released where it is most needed.

Fennel seed

Fennel seed is antispasmodic and is well known for relieving trapped wind. It is related to dill which is traditionally used in gripe water for colic in babies. It can be be taken as a tea, and also used in cooking. The tea can be combined with peppermint or chamomile for improved effect.

Wild Yam (Dioscorea villosa) and Cramp Bark (Viburnum opulus)

Cramp bark may be difficult to obtain over the counter but it is worth hunting around for if other remedies have not brought relief. It is an excellent, fast acting remedy for muscle spasm in the smooth muscles of the gut. The womb is also made of smooth muscle, so it can be be used for period pain. It is relaxing as well as being antispasmodic, so is useful for IBS that is triggered by stress. Wild Yam is more commonly known as a hormonal remedy, but it is an excellent digestive remedy also. It is antispasmodic and relieves inflammation in the gut. This can also be used for period pain. Wild Yam and Cramp bark together make a good combination.


Hangover Remedies

Obviously the best cure for a hangover is not to drink too much in the first place! Putting that aside, here are some suggestions for prevention and relief:

Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is a popular remedy for hangovers and in liver detox programmes. It protects the liver from damage by toxins and improves liver function. Research has shown that it can aid in the regeneration of liver cells, which can be damaged by excess alcohol consumption. Milk Thistle works best if taken in a course rather than just one dose in the morning. Don’t be tempted to take more than the recommended dosage, this can be dangerous. If only using short term try taking a dose on the morning of going out, a dose when you get home and a dose the next morning.

Siberian Ginseng

Also known as Eleutherococcus, this herbal remedy is excellent for hangover prevention and recovery. It can be taken in the morning but for best effect it can also be taken before going out. As well as reducing the symptoms of a hangover it increases energy levels.

Coconut Water

Coconut water is the juice inside the coconut, and is found in greatest amounts in young green coconuts. It is popular in sport due to being isotonic, that is, it contains high levels of mineral salts that are lost in dehydration. In particular it is very high in potassium.

N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)

NAC is an amino acid which detoxifies the liver. It is used in cases of paracetamol poisoning, as well as a hangover treatment. To be most effective it should be taken on an empty stomach.

Mastitis and Breastfeeding Engorgement

Mastitis and engorgement are problems that can occur when breastfeeding. Mastitis is inflammation or infection of the breast, which can follow on from engorgement or a blocked milk duct. Symptoms include a painful breast, redness, a slight fever and feeling unwell and aching as if you have flu. Infection is often present. It is important to speak to a health professional to get a clear diagnosis, as other problems can have similar symptoms. Mastitis needs to be treated, to prevent or get rid of infection. There are herbal treatments you can use to help fight the infection and reduce the symptoms. If symptoms get worse very quickly it is especially important to seek professional advice.

Calendula compress

Calendula officinalis (common name Marigold) can be used to make a strong tea for a compress to relieve engorgement or mastitis. Calendula should not be confused with Tagetes species, also known as French, Mexican or African marigold, which is a different type of plant entirely.
To make the compress, put a handful of marigold petals into a teapot or pan with a lid and pour on about ¾ pint (750 ml) boiling water. Cover with a lid and leave to infuse for 10 to 20 minutes. Strain into a bowl. The tea should still be hot but not too hot to put your hand in. Soak a flannel or cloth in the bowl of tea, remove and squeeze out excess water, then place over your breast. Hold it in place for a few minutes, until it starts to cool, then dip the cloth again and repeat. Do this a few times and you should start to feel some relief. The whole procedure can be repeated several times a day, using freshly made tea and a clean cloth.
Calendula is antibacterial and also antifungal, so it can be used for mastitis and also for thrush. A Calendula compress can be used at the same time as internal treatments such as antibiotics or herbal medicine. Also the heat of the compress is beneficial in itself.
I used this compress when I was breastfeeding and starting to get mastitis and was able to nip it in the bud before it became full blown. If you suspect you may have mastitis this compress can be used straight away until you are able to get professional advice.

Hand and Foot Baths

Herbs such as chamomile, yarrow, eucalyptus or lavender can be used in hand or foot baths to help treat mastitis. They can be prepared as strong teas, in the same way as the Calendula compress above, and poured into a washing up bowl, adding cold water to make the temperature comfortable. Alternatively a couple of drops of essential oil can be added to warm water in the bowl. Essential oils are too strong for close contact with babies, so ensure you wash them off your hands afterwards.

Immune Support

Allicin max is a good quality garlic product that is effective in treating infection. You can also take Biostrath, which is a herbal tonic to support immunity and restore energy.