Alternatively Speaking: Battling bruises

Alternative medicine enthusiast Natalie Marx answers your questions: How to stop conjunctivitus from itching?

Bruised eye 311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Bruised eye 311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Q. Natalie, Can you help? I bruise easily and I desperately want to lessen the appearance of my existing bruises. I have heard that arnica may help, but I’m not sure how to use it, and wondered if there is anything else you could recommend?
Bruises are caused by blood vessels breaking and blood leaking into the skin. Since you are prone to bruising — and, equally, healing slowly — you may be deficient in vitamin C and bioflavonoids. Bioflavonoids give many fruit and vegetables their colour and can strengthen capillaries therefore easing bruising. Make sure your diet is packed with healing fruit and vegetables such as red onions, bilberries, grapes, citrus fruit and carrots.
One of these options to decrease the time it takes to diminish bruising and swelling is the use of an herb called arnica. Arnica promotes the movement of white blood cells to the injured area and improves blood circulation. Along with removing and digesting damaged cells and congested blood, arnica is known to increase movement of fluid buildup and decreasing the degree of swelling in an affected area.
The most effective way to use arnica is to rub it directly on the site of bruising or swelling, allowing it to penetrate the skin and improve blood circulation. You can also dilute it into a bath and soak in it, or soak a compress in it to be applied to the injury.
For light bruising I suggest taking arnica topically, for more chronic cases you can try arnica in tablet form.
Q. I have contracted conjunctivitis and I am suffering with burning, itching and profuse watering in my left eye. Can you recommend anything I can to reduce the itching and speed up the recovery time?
A. Chamomile is used as a topical remedy in many conditions. For viral conjunctivitis, you can use chamomile teabags to reduce inflammation. Place the teabag in warm, not hot, water for two to three minutes. Squeeze the excess off and place the damp, wet teabag over the eye for two to three minutes. This treatment can also be used three to four times per day. You can also buy over-the-counter homeopathic drops geared towards treating conjunctivitis. Look for homeopathic eye dops that contain the following active ingredients meant to treat redness, burning sensations and grit (belladonna), watery discharge (euphrasia), and inflammation (hepar sulphurius).Vitamin C influences the growth of collagen, the "glue" holding the connective tissues protecting the eye in place. As little as 500 mg a day may be beneficial, and up to 2,000 mg a day is enough.
Zinc is an important cofactor for vitamin A. When there is a zinc deficiency, the immune system does not produce as many white blood cells to fight infection, and the "clean-up" of damaged tissues in the conjunctiva of the eye is slowed.
Q. Natalie, 3 years. ago I started developing cold fingers and within a year it affected my hands, feet, and now affect's my forearms. I have been told to wear gloves and stay covered up which I do even in summer. We are starting into winter and this is just miserable to live with. I have been told this is the worst case they have seen and there is no treatment for it. I have been told this is a nerve disorder. Do you have some advice on a treatment. 
A. In August 1985, "Thrombosis and Haemostasis" reported that taking evening primrose oil reduced the occurrence and severity of symptoms In Reynauds disease. the plant's seeds are high in the essential fatty acids linoleic acid and gamma-linoleic acid (GLA). Evening primrose oil can either be taken as a capsule or oil. You should not take evening primrose oil if you have a bleeding disorder or seizure disorder, are taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or if you are pregnant.
Perhaps the most promising herbal treatment for Raynaud's is Ginkgo biloba. A 2002 study found ginkgo extract twice as effective as placebo at reducing Raynaud's episodes. This study reflected the sentiments of a 1997 animal study which looked too at ginko extract. Today research suggests that ginkgo works mainly by directly inhibiting the blood vessel spasms thought to be directly responsible for the cold sensation that Raynaud's patients experience. In traditional Chinese medicine, Dong quai root, or Angelica sinensis is used to improve circulation. Dong quai is related to celery, and its roots are used for medicinal purposes. Lab results show it is effective in dilating blood vessels. Do not take dong quai if you have chronic diarrhea or gas. Side effects may include sensitivity to sunlight and skin rash. Consult your doctor before taking dong quai, especially if you are at risk for hormone-sensitive cancers, such as uterine, ovarian or breast cancer.
Dietary wise, make sure you consume plenty of oily fish, such as salmon and sardines for omega-3 fatty acids. Also make sure you eat plenty of citrus and other fresh fruits and vegetables for vitamin C. You can snack on seeds, nuts, and fortified cereals for vitamin E. It is important that you try to avoid meats and saturated fats. Smoking, excessive alcohol and stress can make Raynaud's phenomenon symptoms worse. Avoid abrupt changes in temperature.
It is important to remember that some herbs have at least some potential to interact with the prescription medications you may already be taking. Before you begin an herbal regimen for Raynaud's, talk to your primary health care provider. He or she will help you develop a treatment plan that's right for you.
This column is brought to you as general information only and unless stated otherwise is not medical advice nor is it based on medical experiments. This column is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. For more information about specific problems, please contact a doctor.
Ask Natalie: If you have a health query and would like an alternative answer then email Natalie with your question at [email protected]
Someone Once Said 'Leave your drugs in the chemist’ s pot if you can heal the patient with food.' Hippocrates