About RTÉ Television
The Afternoon Show
The Afternoon ShowRTÉ One, Weekdays, 4.00pm

Herbal Healing for Circulatory Problems with Ciara O' Meara

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Our resident Medical Herbalist Ciara O'Meara will be showing us remedies for various circulatory problems such as varicose veins, chilblains, angina and atherosclerosis.
Ciara O'Meara - Medical Herbalist Profile:

I have a long standing interest in natural medicine. From a young age I found myself allergic to antibiotics, this prompted a proactive approach to preventative medicine, ensuring that through diet and exercise I was always doing my best to stay healthy. I completed an honours Science degree in University College Dublin in 1997 followed by an MSc in Medical Genetics at Aberdeen University. I then spent a number of years working in the field of academic research in areas such as The Human Genome Project at Oxford University, UK, and on Cancer research at Cancer Research UK. It was during this time that I took up a yoga practice and further cultivated an interest in holistic medicine.
First hand experience of successfully using herbal medicine  prompted me to pursue an interest in the subject. I soon realised that this interest was part of a much broader, richer and complex area of natural medicine which required dedicated study to appreciate both its subtleties and power. To deepen my knowledge on the subject and acquire the ability to confidently use it as a health professional I completed a four year degree at Westminster University in London.
This University is a long established centre for excellence in the training of medical herbalists. Its facilities encompass a central London clinic for herbal medicine where members of the public can avail of treatment. This is where I completed 500 hours of clinical training as part of my degree, treating members of the public from young to old with a range of illnesses. This was an integral part of the educational programme, in the interests of maintaining a high level of safe practice. This training included differential diagnosis of illness up to a high standard of training clinically on par with that of a GP.

General Herbal Remedies For Circulatory Problems:

Hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata)
It is both the berries and the leaves and flowers of this plant that are used as a heart tonic.

Its main uses are:
. Improvement in loss of cardiac function.
. Reduction in hypertension
. Improvement in the function of the cardiac tissue by dilating coronary arteries making it useful in mild angina.

It can be taken in a tea form as a general tonic to the heart or in tincture or capsule form.

Yarrow (Achillea millifolium)
Yarrow is useful in reducing hypertension as it dilates the blood vessels at the periphery of the body. This means that there is less resistance to the flow of blood and the heart does not have to pump as fast to maintain circulation.It makes a pleasant tasting tea which also has a stimulating effect on digestion.

If you have a pre-existing heart condition or are on medications go and see a professional medical herbalist before taking Hawthorn. See the Link :

Varicose Veins
This condition usually occurs in the legs and can be found in 10-20% of the population. The veins in the legs carry blood back toward the heart and have small valves which maintain the blood flow in this direction. If these veins become incompetent there is a small back flow of blood and the veins lose their tone and blood may stagnate which causes the pain aching and  fatigue in the legs.

Contributing Factors
Heredity - 40% of cases will have a family history
Obesity -  Fatty tissue does not provide good enough support for the veins
Aging -  Leads to a natural degeneration in the elasticity of tissues
Posture -  Long periods of standing or sitting

Herbal Help
Horsechestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)
The seed of this tree has a long usage in treating varicose veins. It increases the elasticity and tone of the veins while decreasing the permeability of the veins. It can be used both internally and externally for the treatment of varicose veins.

Horsechesnut can be used as a tea, as an external wash and a rub.

For Tea
. The fresh seed can be collected, dried and broken up.
. Add 1-2 teaspoons infused in boiling water and drank 2-3 times a day.

External Wash
. Mix 20mls of Horsechestnut tincture and 80mls of witch-hazel water.
. Apply to affected area twice daily
. Persist with this improvement may take 4-6 weeks!

Add 20ml of Horsechestnut tincture to 80grm of Aloe Vera gel and store in the fridge until required. This is useful if your condition is particularly hot or itchy.

Caution if you are massaging a varicose vein never massage from below the vein, always above

These are common in young adults and the elderly. They are caused by spasm of the small surface blood vessels in the extremities, usually the hands and feet.
It can be associated with a lack of Calcium in the body; this is thought to contribute to the spasm. Children especially will need a good supply.

If you are prone to chilblains, always wear extra socks and a pair of gloves in cold weather.

Herbal Help
Internally taken herbs focus on increasing the circulation to the periphery of the body.
Two excellent herbs for this are Ginger and Prickly ash bark.

Ginger is widely available in supermarkets now. I suggest buying the fresh root, either juice it or make a drink out of it.

To make a drink
. Chop up approx 7 inches of fresh ginger stem.
. Mix with 500ml of boiling water.
. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, add honey if giving to a child
. Strain and drink throughout the day.

Tips: If you are giving this to a child mix it with some water in a bottle for their daily drink at school, you could also mix it with some elderflower cordial to improve the taste! If it is being taken by an adult drinking it as a hot tea will further improve its effectiveness, if your feeling really brave add a pinch of cayenne pepper !

If you don't enjoy the taste of ginger you can always buy it in an encapsulated form from your local health food store.

External Cream
. Use a base cream of aqueous cream (purchase in your local chemist). Approx 60 grams.
. Add minimum of 5 drops of essential oil of lavender (reduce for very sensitive skin)
. Add approximately 5ml of freshly juiced ginger root.
. Mix well, apply liberally to hands and feet before going outdoors

Prickly Ash (Bark) Zanthoxylum americanum
The bark of this plant is used to increase overall circulation in the body. It may be more suited to chronic conditions where poor circulation is evident. It is not as strong in action as ginger. It is also useful in chronic problems like rheumatism where this is a predisposing factor to poor circulation.

Dosage in capsules 2-4 capsules per day. It can also be taken in tincture 2-4ml three times a day dependant on the concentration of the tincture. 

For more information please visit .

Locations of Ciara's clinics:
Midland Centre for Natural health
Mitchel Street, Nenagh
Co Tipperary
The Herbal Clinic
Suir View
Cathedral Street
Co .Tipperary

For More Information On Herbalists Visit the Irish institute of medical herbalists -