Curing Yourself with Herbs


Many old Irish herbs are being pulled out of obscurity and have been given the place in healthcare that they once enjoyed for centuries.

There is a growing interest in herbal medicine and natural “cures” in Ireland. Here Irish herbalist Ciara Murphy gives us some suggestions and advice for the health niggles of everyday life. Ciara Murphy trained for 4 years in herbal medicine in the Irish School of Herbal Medicine.

Here is her expert advice.

Colonic Irrigation

One of the first questions my clients ask me is “How on heavens earth did you end up doing colonics for a living?” I started off my professional career as a nurse. My first experience of bowel cleansing was at the tender of 17, when a staff nurse asked me to observe an enema being administered. There was an elderly lady who had severe abdominal pain secondary to constipation. The enema was given, and lucky me being the student, had the delightful task of disposing of the contents of the commode! I was so shocked to see the volume that had been released and how impacted she had been. Following the enema, the same little lady was all perked up and smiling in the bed, she was like a different person.

Throughout my nursing carer I witnessed many people with digestive disorders and others with health issues which I now know had arisen from an impure and congested colon. I gradually became more interested in natural healing. The more research I did, it became apparent that bowel cleanliness was fundamental to health and vitality. Colonic irrigation was the safest and most effective way to achieve a clean bowel. I subsequently trained in colon hydrotherapy and am a full-time therapist for 8 years now.

I am truly passionate about my job and its resultant affects. The more waste I see removed the happier I am! Often people release between 20-30 bowel movements in 1 session alone. They report marked improvements in energy and vitality, clearer skin, less bloating and gas, weight loss and improved immunity. I have seen chronic skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis and urticaria completely clear with bowel cleansing. Several ladies who were experiencing difficulty in conceiving soon became pregnant after colon hydrotherapy.

Dry Skin Brushing

The skin is one of the five main channels of elimination, throwing off about two pounds of toxic material each day in the form of perspiration. The skin has been called the third kidney because of its ability to rid the body of toxic waste material.

Skin brushing stimulates the circulation and lymphatic systems and has a powerful rejuvenating effect on the nervous system because of the hundreds of nerve endings in the skin. By vigorous skin brushing over the major lymph glands which are dumping stations for waste fluids, you can stimulate the expulsion of mucoid lymph. It also removes dead skin layers and impurities, thus keeping the pores open and unclogged and increasing the elimination capacity of the skin.


• You will need a natural bristle brush with a long handle on it, which may be purchased in most health food stores.

• Start on the soles of your feet.

• Brush upwards towards the heart and downwards from above the heart in one direction only.

• Work your way up your legs and thighs, paying particular attention to behind the knees and groin, as this is where major lymph glands are.

• Brush up over the buttocks and lower back.

• Use a circular clockwise movement over the abdomen, following the line of the colon (do this about 10 times).

• Brush the palms and back of hands, up the arms to the shoulders.

• Use downward movements on the neck, throat and chest (females should go gently on the chest area).

• Use the handle of the brush to brush across the top of the shoulders and upper back.

• Avoid the face, genital area and nipples.

• Start gently and build up the intensity and pressure of your strokes. Each stroke should be long and firm.

• Skin brushing should take 5 minutes first thing in the morning before you shower. Never brush over skin that is irritated, damaged, sunburnt, infected or over varicose veins. Wash your brush out once a week with warm soapy water, rinse well and dry it thoroughly in the airing cupboard. Remember, 5 minutes of dry skin brushing is equivalent to 30 minutes jogging as far as physical tone is concerned.

Hot and Cold Showers

Water can be used to stimulate circulation and to boost your skin’s eliminative function, as well as that of deeper organs of the body. Hot and cold showers should be used on a daily basis for best results. If you have sluggish kidneys or a congested liver, pay more attention to these areas. The contrast in temperatures will effectively mobilize your body’s healing energy and decongest and reduce inflammation. Start with moderate temperatures, you will find that you can quickly progress to greater extremes of hot and cold.


• After you have performed dry skin brushing, get into the shower or bath.

• Shower as normal.

• Then direct the water, as hot as you can tolerate for between 30 seconds and 1 minute, all over your body, paying attention to any areas that may need extra attention.

• Then, with the water as cold as you can take for between 30 seconds to 1 minute, direct it all over the body.

• Perform this alternating process 7 times.

• In the morning finish with cold to stimulate and wake you up. In the evening, end with hot to sedate and relax you.

• This procedure will take approximately 10 to 15 minutes, but you will feel like a new person when it’s over.

Saunas, steam baths and accompanying cold plunges have the same therapeutic effect.

Contraindications: Hypermobile joints should not be overheated and rheumatic joints should not be overchilled.

Castor Oil Fomentation

A castor oil fomentation is an excellent adjunct to alleviating any pain or inflammation anywhere in the body. It dissolves and cleanses the body of hardened mucus which may manifest as cysts, fibroids, tumours, adhesions, polyps etc. Castor oil fomentations relieve the symptoms of menstrual symptoms and ease the pain of colitis and diverticulitis. They are particularly helpful in decongesting the liver and relieving lymphatic swellings in the groin, neck and arm areas by breaking up congestion, drawing out toxins and soothing the area treated. Castor oil fomentations are also indicated where constipation is a problem.

Materials required

1.  Good quality castor oil, organic if possible. It may be obtained from your Herbalist or Chemist.

2. 100% white unbleached cotton flannel x 2 or muslin

3. Cling film

4. Hot water bottle

5. Gloves

6. An old towel

7. A bowl

8. A plastic sheet

9. Blanket


1. Place one cloth in a bowl and add castor oil.

2. Using gloves soak it well in the oil and squeeze out any excess oil, but do not wring dry.

3. Prepare the area where you will be lying and place a large plastic sheet and old towel over it. Please note that castor oil stains.

4. Boil the kettle and fill the hot water bottle.

5. Position the cloth over the area you are going to be treating and place the second flannel over it.

6. Secure with cling film and place the hot water bottle over it and a blanket.

7. Rest for at least one hour with the pack in place or you may leave it on overnight.

8.  Do this for three consecutive days adding more oil each day. Then massage the same area with olive oil for 3 days, then rest for one.

It is necessary to repeat this for several months or until the condition has resolved. The oil and cloth can be re-used 3 times, then discard and use new oil and flannels. Do not under estimate the healing power of this naturopathic treatment and make a strong effort to overcome any resistance to doing the castor oil pack.

The Appendix

It still amazes me that the medical profession continue to disregard the appendix as having a function in the body. Since when were we born with unnecessary organs? The appendix is part of the large intestine and is made up of lymphatic tissue. Its primary function is in enhancing immunity and keeping the colon and caecum as clean as possible. A person gets appendicitis from toxicity due to stagnant waste not being eliminated efficiently. People who have had their appendix removed should always pay particular attention to bowel hygiene and prevent constipation at all costs. Parents should ensure their children are having good bowel movements every day, as the highest incidence of appendicitis occurs in 10-19 year olds.

Kidney Health

Spring is the best time of the year to cleanse the body. The following advice will help your kidneys to work more effectively and to cleanse the urinary system and strengthen weak kidneys.

• Drink plenty of warm water and herbal teas. First thing in the morning have a large glass of warm water with the juice of half a lemon and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Aim to drink 2-3 litres of water and herbal teas daily.

• 1 – 2 teaspoons of Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar in warm water is an excellent diuretic and helps alkalize the body.

• Too little salt can be as harmful to the kidneys as too much. The following are variety of good salts – rock salts, Celtic salts, Himalayan and sea salt.

• Soups, juices and salads are nourishing to the kidneys.

• Include parsley, dandelion leaves, seaweeds, celery, watermelon, cranberries, raspberries, carrots, lettuce, cabbage and watercress to your diet. These foods are specifically beneficial to the kidneys and bladder.

• Include whole barley, garlic, thyme and ginger to soups and casseroles to stimulate and cleanse the urinary tract.

• Carrot juice ounce for ounce has more calcium than cow’s milk.

• Foods rich in silicon help maintain a stone-free urinary system. Silicon is found in the skins of all organically grown grains, fruits and vegetables, particularly oats, radishes, garlic and seaweeds. Foods rich in vitamin A will also help; melon, pumpkin, yams and carrots.

• Females should use a foot stool when voiding urine. This encourages the bladder to completely empty, thus preventing stagnation and the likely change of the growth of unhealthy bacteria. After elimination, the area should be cleaned from front to back only.

• Keep the kidneys warm and cleanse a couple of times during the year using herbal medicines, especially around spring and summer.

• We should urinate 4-6 times daily.

• Avoid beverages that can often be harmful and irritate the delicate structure of the urinary tract:  tea, coffee, carbonated drinks and alcohol dehydrate the body. For every cup of tea or coffee you drink you need to replace it with 3 glasses of water, that’s how dehydrating it is.

• Avoid table salts and processed foods which have a large amount of salt added to them. Refined, fried foods and sugars irritate the kidneys.

• Peanuts, rhubarb, tomatoes, chocolate, Swiss chard, strawberries and spinach contain oxalic acid which put a strain on the kidney and can lead to the formation of kidney stones in people who are predisposed to them.

• High protein foods from animal sources such as dairy, eggs and meat, leech calcium from the body and are very harsh to the kidneys. Animal proteins are very high in calcium, but also very high in protein. When you consume it, as part of any high-protein food, you often end up urinating out more calcium as your body attempts to utilize all this protein. All this calcium pouring out of your blood and flooding through your kidneys actually overload your kidneys with calcium. Remember 70% of kidney stones are calcium rocks!

• Cold, damp, too little or too much water, wintery weather and fear can negate the effectiveness and balance of the kidneys.

The Natural Cleansing Cycle

Our skin has a daily cleansing cycle that helps to purify toxins and protect our bodies. This cycle begins from 10pmto 2am. If you are sleeping during this time, your skin and body can effectively cleanse leftover toxins and wastes accumulated in the cells during the day. However, if you are up after 10pm your energy is being used for other activity, thus your body’s cleansing cycle is weakened. Lying in bed after 6am tends to make your body sluggish and fluidy. The result is a puffy face and bags under the eyes. This situation is compounded if you ate a heavy or rich meal late in the evening.

Healthy Hydration

Start drinking more warm water and herbal teas. An excellent way to start the day is to drink a large glass of warm water with the juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon. This is a kidney cleanse and removes excess mucous from the body.

Nettle, cleavers and dandelion leaves are traditional Irish spring cleansing herbs that are normally taken in the form of infusions (teas). They are excellent blood cleansers and well regarded for their diuretic action (increasing urinary output).

To make a herbal infusion:

• Place 2 heaped teaspoons of dried herbal tea in a medium sized saucepan

• Pour on freshly boiled water

• Allow to brew for 10 minutes

• Pour through a strainer and drink while still warm

• Do this 3 times daily before food

• Aim to use a total of 6 teaspoons daily


Bowel Health

What is a Normal Bowel Movement?

-A bowel movement should occur after every meal that is consumed.

-Typically there should be 2-3 bowel movements daily.

-The stool should be soft and unformed, not hard or watery, and it should break up when the toilet is flushed.

-The stool should float.

-Bowel movements should happen effortlessly, and without straining, and should take only a minute or so to pass.

-Marks on the toilet bowl indicate constipation and excess mucus in the system.

-Transit time is the length of time it takes for ingested food to leave the body.

-Normally, four-fifths of food ingested should be eliminated over an eleven to nineteen hour period of time.

-Every eight hours there is a peristaltic urge triggered by the gallbladder.

-If a bowel movement is passed on waking at 7:00 a.m., then the next one should be passed at approximately 3:00 p.m.

Tips for a Healthy Colon

Eliminate When Needed

Don’t resist the call of nature. Try to establish a routine bowel movement first thing in the morning. The bowels need to evacuate in the morning because bacteria has been active and the metabolism has been inactive all night long. Aim for another 1 – 2 bowel movements throughout the day.

Squat when you Eliminate

Place a footstool, box, two telephone books, or a step under both feet when seated on the toilet. By raising both feet off the ground, a squatting position that is more natural and encourages easy elimination is reached. This is also of benefit to women when voiding urine in order to fully empty the bladder. The design of the modern toilet actually contributes to constipation.

Get Regular Exercise

Exercise helps to keep abdominal muscles strong and firm. It also encourages peristalsis, which is the involuntary contraction of the colon wall. Exercise immediately after eating should be avoided because the digestive process needs a lot of energy.

-Drink plenty of warm water.

-Chew food well and do not drink at meal times.

-Eat small amounts and eat often.

-Consume plenty of fruit and vegetables, sprouted grains, nuts and seeds.

-Maintain an ideal balance of 80% alkaline and 20% acid foods.

-Eat a tablespoon or more of soaked linseed, sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds daily.

-Include plenty of green juices in the diet as they provide maximum nutrition with minimum digestive effort.


Listen to the body for rest cycles. It is natural to rest for 30 minutes after each meal. For optimal cellular cleansing and rebuilding, do not eat or drink anything for 3 hours before going to sleep at night. Fast on juices one day per week. Drink only freshly squeezed juices, pure water and herbal teas.

If the average person has only three bowel movements a week and is supposed to have three a day, then by the end of the week they are eighteen bowel movements short. By the end of the month they are seventy-two bowel movements behind. Then by the end of the year they have an eight hundred and sixty-four bowel movement deficit. This build-up of waste matter in the body can lead to many health problems, which may often seem unrelated to bowel toxicity e.g. skin breakouts, lethargy, compromised immunity etc.


Iridology is a safe, non-invasive assessment tool that is unique to Master Medical Herbalists. It is the science and practice of analysing the iris, the most complex external tissue structure of the human anatomy. Iridology allows the individual to become aware of his/her unique physical, emotional and spiritual make up.


During the iridology consultation, photographs of the iris are taken and projected onto a computer screen to be carefully examined by the iridologist. Iridology is a positive and empowering experience in itself. Knowing one’s constitution can assist in guarding against threats to health in the future, and help to understand the unique qualities and needs of one’s physical and psychological make-up.

Iridology reveals the following:


This is the individual’s genetic inheritance and its formative influences. It will determine the unique response of the individual’s system to the conditions of life, and describe the limits of tolerance which may give way, under stress and toxic encumbrance, to patterns of ill health and disease. These, as may readily be seen, are quite often familial.


Apart from variations in colour, the iridologist also examines the texture and structure of the iris, and works to determine which organs and systems may be out of balance by observing markings in reference to an iris reflex chart. This will reveal the levels of acquired toxicity in the body, the organs affected and the levels of degeneration.

Emotional and Spiritual

Again through colours and markings in the eyes and the location of colour markings, iridology can reveal the unique personality, tapped or untapped talents and gifts, unresolved relationships and the emotional reasons why particular foods are eaten which can often lead to ill health.


Iridology’s greatest strength lies in its value as a preventative tool. By identifying the underlying imbalances in the body, the iris will alert the practitioner to the early signs of approaching disease. Appropriate preventative treatment can then be taken to prevent subsequent illnesses that might otherwise follow.


The Blue Eye

Lymphatic Iris:

The blue-eyed person evolved in a cool climate where creating and conserving heat was a main concern. The main health challenges of the blue eyed person is elimination, detoxification and immunity. Many blue-eyed people suffer from excess mucus, frequent colds, tonsillitis, sore throats, hay fever, eczema, cystitis, irritable bowel syndrome, fevers, rheumatism and arthritis. Blue eyed people are prone to over-reactivity and inflammation. The many symptoms that blue-eyed people experience is the bodies attempt to rid itself of toxic accumulations.

The Brown Eye

Hematogenic Iris:

Pure brown eyes are predominant among African, Asian and Oriental people. They evolved in a hotter climate and the pigment is a form of protection. Many Irish people think they have brown eyes, however, under close examination their eyes are often green with many pigments. The main health challenges for the brown-eyed person involve blood dynamics, blood pressure and circulation. Statistically, people with brown irises have an above-average tendency towards diabetes, high blood fats and the formation of lumps, cysts, and tumours. Their blood tends to be thicker and they may suffer from poor peripheral perfusion resulting in cold hands and feet.

The Green Eye

Mixed Biliary Iris:

Green eyes, which include green or hazel eyes are actually not green. The basic colour of the eye is blue or grey and over this appears a thin layer of yellow or light brown pigment. The eye of the observer puts these together and sees green. The name mixed biliary is a reference to the liver and gallbladder – the biliary system. The pancreas is also involved.

Green eyed people tend to suffer from sluggish digestion which results in a reduced supply of digestive enzymes from the liver, gallbladder and pancreas. The result of this is manifested in symptoms such as bloating, indigestion, belching, flatulence, dysbiosis and constipation. Compromised digestion may not always exhibit direct symptoms. The inability to break down foods and assimilate them can often lead to metabolic deficiencies of the endocrine system – the thyroid, pituitary, pancreas, testes, ovaries and adrenal glands.


*Ciara Murphy is a full time practitioner and succesfully treats many people in her clinic and in the community. Ciara is commited to reviving the long tradition of herbal medicine in Ireland which dates back to the eight century, and hopes that there will be a Master Herbalist in every town and a family Herbalist in every home.

Master Herbalism grew out of the physiomedical tradition which thrived in Europe and America in the mid-Nineteenth century. This form of Herbalism was a return to the practice of mind/body medicine as taught by Hippocrates among others. Master Herbalists believe that what we eat and how close the food is to its original organic state has a huge impact on our physical and emotional health. As a natural healer, Ciara aims to empower and re-educate people using nature in all forms, with foods and herbal medicines as allies, in order to cleanse and nourish the body and rebalance the system. Herbs work on many levels including the emotional and spiritual to rebalance and heal. In Ireland we have a long tradition of Herbal Medicine practice. This tradition dates back to the 8th century and includes a large body of texts written in Irish.

Herbalists successfully treat a wide variety of people with illnesses and diseases that can be treated with modern medicine, ranging from minor ailments to serious health challenges. People who consult herbalists often want a natural and effective approach to their health without side-effects. Skin conditions, sub-fertility and pre-conceptional care, menstrual and menopausal complaints, digestive disorders, insomnia, men’s health and stress/exhaustion are some of the problem addressed.

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