Herb Science

Alan Keeling
Written by Alan Keeling

I became interested in plants when I was about 12 years old. Clutching a handful of wild flower identification books, I would wander around the English countryside until I knew most of the British flora by sight. Later I began growing decorative plants from all over the world, completing my devotion to all things green.

Through 25 years of training in biochemistry and plant research, I thought I knew a good deal on the subject, but the study of herbs in health and medicine had never captured my interest… until 4 years ago.

I had been diagnosed with a serious health problem; an autoimmune condition known as Graves’ Disease, in which the thyroid gland produces excessive amounts of hormone (T3 and T4). The result is a wasting of the body, diarrhoea and a range of other symptoms which if left untreated can be fatal. I was prescribed carbimazole, which in itself can be highly toxic to the cells of bone marrow. The drug did work, and I was able to stop taking it for a while.

Two years later, the Graves’ was back and I was faced with a further choice of treatment to deal with the problem for good. The options were an operation to remove part of the thyroid gland or kill it with a high dose of radioactive iodine, which would keep me away from my job for several weeks.

I had started looking at herbs which might be able to help and I asked my doctor to give me two months to try them. The main herb was Bugleweed (Lycopus virginicus); I bought some Bugleweed dry herb and made two infusions a day along with two cups of lemon balm tea (Melissa officinalis). A blood test 4 weeks later showed my thyroid was absolutely back to normal.

The herb treatment had worked beyond my expectations, and more to the point, I was able to keep a functional thyroid. This, my first encounter with herbs, heralded a change of direction for me. Bugleweed had corrected my thyroid, but could the gland be kept in a balanced state over the long term?

I started reading and learning about ADAPTOGENIC herbs, which help keep all the body’s systems in balance. These herbs also help reduce stress and restore energy. The adaptogens are all well known in Eastern traditional medicine and I read that one in particular could help keep the thyroid in good condition (Ashwagandha; Withania somnifera). I have been taking this herb regularly and found it to be palatable and restorative.

I’ve received further training in medical herbalism and am now offering a service to those who could benefit from adaptogens and other herbs for a range of stress-related and chronic conditions. I can advise from my own experience as one who has significantly benefited from herbs over the last few years; I can visit you at home after an initial free phone consultation.