Natural health: 'I have dandruff which is embarrassing'; 'I’m covered in painful mosquito bites'

I have dandruff which is embarrassing, especially as I need to wear dark suits to work. I’ve tried dandruff shampoos but the results are limited. What would you recommend?

Natural health: 'I have dandruff which is embarrassing';  'I’m covered in painful mosquito bites'

I have dandruff which is embarrassing, especially as I need to wear dark suits to work. I’ve tried dandruff shampoos but the results are limited. What would you recommend?

When shopping for shampoo, it’s best to avoid the following ingredients: parabens, sodium laureth and sodium lauryl sulphate, fragrances (also listed as parfum on some labels), propylene glycol, DEA (Diethanolamine), MEA (Monoethanolamine) and TEA (Triethanolamine), artificial colouring, phthalates, and triclosan.

Triclosan is often found in anti-dandruff preparations, as it is antimicrobial and can help where dandruff is a result of an overgrowth of bacteria or yeast on the scalp. Unfortunately, it can irritate the skin when used long term and can contribute to the problem of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection.

Many cases of dandruff, long term flaking scalp, and seborrheic dermatitis are a result of the overgrowth of the yeast Pityrosporum ovale.

This yeast is present on all healthy scalps, only becoming an issue when it multiplies out of control.

The other issue with an imbalance of the healthy scalp flora, is that it tends to trigger an overproduction of oil from the sebaceous glands. #

This typically leads to a cycle of daily hair washing, which exacerbates the flaking (and sometimes itching).

As with any yeast infection, it makes sense to boost your immune defences.

Start by taking 50mg of zinc each day, along with a standardised extract of the herb Eleutheroccus senticosus, available as the supplement Elagen (www.elagen.com), to reduce stress while strengthening your immunity.

Include plenty of fresh raw vegetables and sprouts in your diet as the live enzymes will enhance nutrient absorption. Using kelp granules instead of salt on your food will provide minerals and iodine for scalp health.

Finally, treat your system from the inside by replacing the beneficial gut bacteria with a probiotic. Seven Seas’ Advanced Formula Multibionta is ideal, as it has been freeze-dried so that it doesn’t need to be kept in the refrigerator, plus the tablets contain vitamins and minerals which will help address any underlying deficiencies.

I’m just back from a holiday in Spain and I’m covered in painful mosquito bites. Is there a natural lotion I could use to speed up the healing process?

My favourite remedy when it comes to treating bites and stings is plantain. Plantain is considered to be one of the most commonly found herbs world wide. If you are in a situation where you have nothing to hand, plantain can be chewed and used as a ‘spit poultice’ on a wound, rash, sting or burn.

Scientific studies have shown plantain to be a versatile medicinal plant. It has anti-inflammatory effects, helps to staunch bleeding, and contains allantoin, which promotes skin cell repair.

You can make your own balm by infusing the freshly gathered herb in oil (you can use either Plantago majoraor Plantago lanceolata), using this as a base for your preparation. Pick the plantain on a dry day, brush off any loose dirt or insects, chop it coarsely and fill a clean, dry glass jar with the chopped leaves.

Pour oil (olive is good) over the herb until the plantain is completely covered then screw the lid on. Infuse at room temperature for four to six weeks. Once the oil has been infused with the plantain, strain it thoroughly using a muslin cloth or clean tea towel.

Most balms call for a simple combination of beeswax and infused oil (around 80% oil to 20% wax), but some also contain nourishing butters such as cocoa or shea butter.

In addition, you can add pure essential oils for additional healing benefits — such as lavender, manuka, or tea tree — but this is not necessary, the balm will be very effective either way.

Gently stir any essential oils (around 20-40 drops per 50ml) into the melted balm base, then pour into a clean, sterile jar and seal tightly when cooled.

If you don’t have the time to make your own balm, fear not, you can usually find plantain balm or cream at your health store.

More in this section

Puzzles logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day.

Lifestyle
Newsletter

The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up