Alternatively Speaking: Herbs that help

Alternative medicine enthusiast Natalie Marx answers your questions: Any natural remedies for dandruff?

fenugreek  (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Q. Hi Natalie, I'm interested in learning about natural options for controlling blood sugars. There's a lot of info out there, and some of it is very speculative, but others have some hard science behind them. Can you recommend anything?
A. Each time we eat food, it's broken down into sugars that are then transported into cells by a hormone called insulin. While all food increases your blood sugar in the short term, some foods help the cells in your body respond to insulin better and so help to lower blood sugar levels in the long term. These foods are known as low glycemic index foods because they break down slowly. They do not cause a rapid increase in your blood glucose. Try to include in your diet foods rich in soluble fiber; whole wheat products, oat products, wheat bran, peas, lentils, nuts and vegetables. In addition to fiber, wheat germ and wheat bran also contain magnesium, chromium, omega 3 fatty acids and folate. Author of Therapeutic Herb Manual, herbal medicine expert Ed Smith, states that one of the most effective herbs in treating high blood glucose levels is jambul, a herb commonly used in India. Fenugreek is another one of the most powerful botanical remedies in controlling high blood glucose levels. Other helpful herbs in regulating blood sugar levels include beanpod tea, cedar berries, huckleberry, juniper berries and ginseng.
I highly recommend the herb bitter melon. It is one of the most helpful herbs in regulating your blood sugar levels. The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center states that bitter melon contains glycosides, alkaloids and other substances that may be useful in treating diabetes. Herbs alone may not be enough to keep your blood sugar levels within the normal, healthy range. Dietary changes, regular daily exercise and other treatment options suggested by your physician will also help manage your hyperglycemia.
Q. Natalie, can you help? I have a severe case of dandruff. I am embarrassed to go out and I do not wear dark shirts for fear that my dandruff is so noticeable. Are there any natural remedies you can recommend?
A. Dandruff appears to be caused by a yeast-like fungus called malassezia, also known as pityrosporum.
Tea tree oil (from the leaves of Melaleuca Alternifolia) is an essential oil which has been used for centuries as an antiseptic and anti-fungal agent. There are many tea tree oil shampoos available in health food stores and some drug stores.
Simply shampoo the oil into your hair daily until the scalp has returned to a healthy state. Users should discontinue use of the oil if they notice any allergic reactions such as a burning sensation.
One recipe using apple cider vinegar you can try at home. Mix a quarter of a cup of apple cider vinegar with a quarter of a cup of water.
Pour this mixture into a spray bottle and spritz it on to your hair and scalp, being careful to avoid the eye and ear area. Wrap your head in a towel. After 15 minutes to an hour, remove the towel and wash your hair. You can do this once to twice a week.
Foods that may help reduce dandruff include those that are higher in zinc, B-vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. Foods containing these nutrients include red meat, cheese, poultry, peas, beans, black-eyed peas, eggs, and leafy greens.
Refined sugar and yeast should be avoided if you are trying to control dandruff since they are fungus forming foods. These include breads, pastries, doughnuts, sugary cereals, snack foods and fizzy drinks. Foods that cause the sebaceous glands to be more active should be avoided; these are food which are high in saturated and trans fat.
Q. I have terrible varicose veins. Are there any alternative remedies that can help reduce them since they are rather unsightly! They are also starting to give me some leg pain.
A.  I recommend taking extract of grape seeds and pine bark. Both contain specific antioxidants that work to strengthen the connective tissue structure of blood vessels and reduce inflammation. Make sure not to confuse grape seed with grapefruit seed extract.
Butcher's broom is another of the top five remedies for varicose veins. It contains ruscogenins, constituents which strengthen collagen in blood vessel walls and improve circulation. This is thought to tighten weak, stretched vessels such as those associated with varicose veins.
The Women's Heart Foundation reports that gotu kola is also used to treat venous insufficiency, which is another term for the inability of the veins in the legs to get blood back to the heart, which can in turn lead to varicose veins. Gotu kola helps with varicose veins by maintaining healthy blood vessels and tissues. You can find gotu kola in most health food stores as a tea or liquid.
Horse chestnut is another herb that is known for its benefits to the circulatory system and varicose veins. It improves blood flow as well as the muscular tissue of the veins. Our veins need good muscle tone and elasticity in order to pump the blood back to the heart. The National Institutes of Health reports a study that suggests horse chestnut be used in combination with compression stockings to help with vein function. Do not use horse chestnut without first consulting your physician, especially if you are on any type of medication.
Finally, moderate exercise will increase your blood circulation, which can decrease the pain and appearance of your varicose veins. It can also slow or prevent the development of new varicose veins. Perform all exercises gently and stop immediately if there is any pain or discomfort. Make sure you elevate and rest the legs after performing exercises for varicose veins.
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
Someone Once Said "If only a small fraction of what is already known about the effects of sugar were to be revealed in relation to any other material used as a food additive, that material would promptly be banned." John Yudkin Prof of Nutrition at London University