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Ask a Herbalist - March 2023

Updated: May 29, 2023

We are so excited to share with you our second installment in our “Ask an Herbalist” blog series. It has been great to hear from everyone and to have a chance to share our passion for herbs with you. We created this blog series to hopefully answer the questions we’re asked on a daily basis in a place where it can educated a wider audience of people.

Participation is easy – you simply email or private message us through our Facebook or Instagram pages and on the last Monday of each month we will answer your questions. We ask you to keep your questions fairly general so they will be of interest to most readers and we also ask you to only ask one question per email. To protect your privacy we will not be indicating who asked a question. In each blog we will be answering 2 to 3 questions on a range of topics but don’t worry we will definitely answer everyone’s questions as the weeks go along. We promise not to forget you.

Thanks everybody for sending your questions in, keep them coming!

I have a question about hair growth....have heard about rosemary essential oils for helping hair growth, but does it really work or are there other methods to improve hair growth?

Hair growth problems are a much more prevalent issue than many people might think and one we are frequently asked about in the apothecary. There can be many underlying reasons for hair growth issues including how we style our hair (tightly tied back can break hair off at the roots); what hair care products we use; genetics; our stress or hormone levels; and our overall nutritional health status. If you are experiencing hair growth problems then these issues should be checked to make sure they aren’t a factor.

Don’t worry though because while you are checking out the underlying cause, rosemary can most certainly help you to have strong healthy hair. Rosemary has been used for centuries as a scalp wash to enhance the strength, fullness and overall health of hair. In the past it was made into a tea and massaged into the scalp and combed through the hair, leaving it soft and wonderfully fresh smelling. You can do this yourself by put a tablespoon dried (or 2 tablespoons fresh) rosemary into a cup of boiling water, cover it and let it sit until cool then strain it and use it as a leave in rinse after washing your hair.

In recent times the use of essential oil of rosemary for scalp problems has become a more popular method for using this herb for hair care and a fair amount of research now supports its positive results. Studies have shown that it improves circulation and increases blood flow to the scalp and this provides a host of benefits to the both the hair and the scalp itself. By increasing blood flow to hair follicles, it increases the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the scalp and can speed up the process of cell turnover which promotes hair growth. It can address dandruff-related problems and is an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent. This may also improve hair growth if a fungal or bacterial issue is causing loss or damage. Rosemary oil can protect hair from damage and breakage, and with usage over time, hair may become stronger and appear thicker, denser, and brighter or have more shine or elasticity and therefore less breakage.

To use essential oil of rosemary on your hair you MUST dilute it first otherwise it will damage you skin and could permanently impair hair growth. Choose a carrier oil that is light feeling and easy to apply. When we developed Tilia’s Hair & Scalp oil we chose Jojoba and Hemp oils as our carrier oils because both are high in fatty acids and have a history of supporting scalp health. When diluting rosemary essential oil the rule of thumb is 10 drops per 15ml/tablespoon of carrier oil. You will only need to use a small amount of the blended oil at a time – just enough to lightly massage into your scalp and down through your hair. Don’t overdo it or you’ll be left with greasy feeling hair. You can even add the essential oil to you shampoo. Just a few drops added to a small amount of shampoo can be helpful to hair.

I know that allergy season is just around the corner and I am dreading it. Is there anything I could start now to help reduce the symptoms before they start?

We can totally empathize with your situation; most of us at Tilia share the same dread of the “sneezing season”. It is wise to try to get ahead of them if you can as doing so can significantly decrease or even eliminate your symptoms during the height of pollen season.

The first thing to do is to make sure that your immune system is already strong before going into allergy season. We’re often run down after a long winter in which our immune system has had to work extra hard to fight off all the germs and viruses around. Herbs such as echinacea and/or elderberry are good choices for this. We recommend that you pulse these - which means take them for 6 days, stop for one day and repeat this for a month. This allows the body to balance its own immune response better.

The next herb that is a must for allergy season is Nettles. It is the premier allergy herb and we sell thousands of these capsules per year (by the end of allergy season our staff have nightmares about making more capsules!).

Nettles contain phytochemicals which have a natural anti-histamine action and they are very high in immune supporting vitamins and minerals. For seasonal allergies we recommend you start taking them in the late winter and continued throughout the spring. They can be taken as a tea, tincture or in capsule form.

In addition to these herbs we recommend that you consider taking Vitamin C with the flavonoids quercetin and rutin. The flavonoids work with Vitamin C to enhance their overall effectiveness and they are particularly useful in relieving hay fever symptoms. Quercetin, has an inhibiting action on lipoxygenase, an enzyme that contributes to problems with allergies.

You can take quercetin on its own as a supplement (400 mg three times per day) or you can get Vitamin C and the flavonoids from rosehips which are a great source for these. We also suggest upping you essential fatty acids such as evening primrose and flax oils as these reduce inflammatory processes in the body and decrease histamine response. We recommend 500 - 1000 mg per day for best results. Hope this helps to give you a sniffle free Spring!

Our next Ask a Herbalist Blog is Monday April 24, 2023, so start emailing or sending via social media your questions, we're excited to share what herbal information we can with you!

All material contained herein is provided for general information purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or consultation. Contact a reputable healthcare practitioner if you are in need of medical care.

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