BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 13th Mar '14

AN HONEST APPROACH THAT USES THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS COULD BE THE ANSWER FOR OPTIMUM HEALTH

Dr Mariano Spiezia MD graduated in Medicine and Surgery from Naples University in 1981, and worked for several years as a conventional doctor in an emergency medical department to build up his professional experience. From the beginning, Dr Spiezia felt it was clear that mainstream medicine lacked a preventative and holistic approach to disease; it addressed the effects rather than the origins of health problems – and often too late.

Having spent most of his youth in contact with nature, including many years as a Boy Scout and Scout leader, he was always intrigued by plants, flowers and their synergy with mankind and health. At the end of his university studies, Dr Spiezia started exploring alternative ways to treat illnesses. He told PQ, ‘I found the first answers in homeopathy and herbalism, so I dived into this amazing world and trained in both, unveiling some fascinating answers.’

Roots of herbalism

Humans have used healing plants for thousands of years, going right back to the Paleolithic era. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), many countries still use herbalism as the most common means for primary care.

Most people don’t know that many pharmaceuticals, including aspirin, digitalis and opium, come from plants or some of their chemicals. Growing scientific evidence is proving the efficacy of the chemical compounds of herbs – and thousands of years of traditional use doesn’t exactly weaken the argument for their use.

Homeopathy is a more recent discovery (1796), made by the German Doctor S. Hahnemann, and is based on the fascinating principle that ‘like cures like’ when diluted and shaken. Conventional science often looks at alternative treatments with suspicion, forcing a way of action within the ‘Scientific Criteria’.

This approach has put many people off, and some have become disillusioned by modern medicines and their side effects. According to Dr Spiezia, ‘with an honest approach and an open mind, it is possible to contribute to human health by gleaning the best from both sides.’

Watch out!

Not all plants are beneficial and safe – in fact some can be dangerous without expert advice on how to take them. One example is the purple foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), which contains a very powerful and poisonous alkaloid (digitoxin). Even the common dandelion can have nasty side effects if taken the wrong way.

There are different ways to take herbal remedies: herbal teas and infusions are the easiest and most common, followed by the more concentrated herbal tinctures and herbal capsules. They are absorbed into the system to produce beneficial and therapeutic effects. Some plants and seeds can be applied to the skin as a poultice, and some medicinal herbs can be macerated in oil and combined with beeswax to produce healing ointments or high quality herbal skin care products. These can work wonders in keeping the skin healthy and young.

The power of ‘weeds’

Wild nettle

Nettle is a powerful mineralising plant rich in potassium, calcium, iron, vitamins (A, B2, C, K, folic acid), chlorophyll, flavonoids and beta-carotene. It’s an anti-inflammatory and an excellent cleanser and diuretic.
You can easily recognise its dark green colour and sting hairs. For an instant and effective detox, pick a bunch of fresh nettle leaves (don’t forget the gloves!) in an open, unpolluted field and make a fresh cup of refreshing tea.

Another common yet amazing medicinal plant you can see everywhere is marigold (Calendula officinalis). You will recognise marigold for the bright orange coloured petals. Dr Spiezia says ‘I love it. It reminds me of the Sun – to which, in fact, marigold is strongly linked (heliotropism)’.

Wild marigold

This humble orange flower is rich in carotenoids, xanthophylls, flavonoids, essential oil and polysaccharides. It’s great to drink as a tea to balance the menstrual cycle, and as a balm it is one of the greatest healing plants for all sorts of skin complaint.

The latest at the moment is horsetail (Equisetum arvense): again, an extraordinary plant rich in silicic acid and flavonoids, horsetail is one of the oldest plants which takes its name from the horse tail shape. For anemia, tiredness, lack of minerals and even when suffering from osteoporosis or arthritic discomfort, this plant is a panacea that is best taken in capsules.

If you only do three things

Opt for Spirulina maxima tablets, acidophilus capsules and Aloe vera juice.

Spirulina is an excellent blue/green algae, rich in amino acids, many vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, C, D, A, E), essential fatty acids (omega 3-6), beta-carotene, chlorophyll, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, copper, chromium and more. Great to regain energy and detox the blood and colon.

Acidophilus probiotics, or friendly bacteria, are living microbial organisms that are very important in maintaining good gut health, including its immune system. Antibiotics, toxins, junk food and lack of fibres alter the delicate action (intestinal dysbiosis), promoting the growth of potentially aggressive bacteria.

Aloe vera juice is a great friend for general health, helping to alkalise your body, cleanse your bowel, reduce inflammation (IBS) and nourish the system with minerals, vitamins and enzymes – besides protecting it from oxidative stress.