Having tried the usual over-the-counter medicines, Gill South heads to the herbalist to see if he can rustle up natural tonics to successfully ease her winter ailments.

I've had my fair share of paracetamol and ibuprofen this winter to keep a nasty sore throat at bay but it just keeps on coming back. I've also had the usual chills and aches from time to time and my energy levels haven't been great.

I have been introduced to a very amiable, knowledgeable herbalist based in Waipu, Malcolm Harker, who has 30 years' experience and patients all over the world. I've given him a shortlist of my winter woes - and am hoping he can come up with some good tonics and lotions to sort me out. I love the sound of his Sniffle Juice, which is good for lung decongestion and blood iron. It has blackberry, peppermint and licorice, yum.

I've given him some idea of my diet and Malcolm makes some comments. He is strongly anti-gluten for me, and generally, I think. Gluten he says, is like wallpaper glue - it adheres to the walls of the stomach and intestines, causing various disorders of the immune system, including tiredness, irregularity, aches and headaches. Low energy levels are typical symptoms of nutrient starvation, he says.

The herbalist says the symptoms I've given him indicate low thyroid gland activity. This would explain my intolerance of heat and cold, I guess. Malcolm recommends I find a doctor who will give me a prescription for natural desiccated thyroid extract. At the same time he says to take his Formula 782 Thyronurse syrup which is rich in organic iodine for the thyroid gland.


I think Malcolm is overestimating my gardening powers when he asks do I have a walnut tree or know where there is one. But if I do come across one, I'm to take a handful of leaves home and dry them for a week or so in a warm place until the stems are snap dry. Then I should crush them into granules and make a hot tea with one teaspoon of the crushed herb to three quarters of a cup of boiled water. Allow to cool and stir in a little honey to sweeten. This tea taken twice a day, morning and evening, will soon regulate the thyroid and I should start feeling warmer in the extremities.

Alternatively Malcolm suggests a a wee pinch of cayenne added to hot water to warm me up and some ginger as well is another great warmer, made in the same way - either with fresh grated ginger or the powder. The cayenne ginger tea will begin the process of warming the body by encouraging better circulation. Cayenne is a specific heart tonic. It it also helps alleviate aches and pains that wander, he says quaintly.

Finally, to soothe and moisten the sore, dry throat, Malcolm suggests I try a glycerine and pineapple juice drink. Around 5 or 10 ml (1 or 2 teaspoons) of glycerine and the same amount of pure pineapple juice will give my throat soothing relief. Yum.

Malcolm also suggests I try a soothing and relaxing evening drink of port. Sipping a 30ml wineglassful will relax my tense throat muscles, he says. I had friends at Otago who did this in their university days - though perhaps slightly more than 30 ml.

The best Malcolm Harker herbal tonic for me, meanwhile, is formula 2000 "Linctus Expectus" which is a throat relaxant and natural antiseptic for the respiratory system, with a pleasant spearmint taste. Sounds like something from out of Asterix, but I'll give it a whirl.

Next week:

I am curious about the mercury in my blood. After having some amalgam fillings removed maybe it's not there any more. I'm going to the Centre for Advanced Medicine to find out.