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News: March 2020

Cocoa could help improve blood flow

Close up of a muf of cocoa

If you suffer from peripheral arterial disease and find walking painful, a cup of hot cocoa three times a day could help to ease the pain suggests recent US research1. In the study, the group who drank a cocoa beverage three times a day for six months were able to walk more than 40 metres further than those who drank the same number of beverages but without the cocoa.

They also experienced improved blood flow to their calves and better muscle function. It’s thought that the improvements could be due to a compound called epicatechin found in cocoa and also dark chocolate.

New research shows time spent in nature improves mental and physical wellbeing

Friends hiking through the coutryside on a sunny day

People who get out into natural spaces once a week, and feel psychologically connected to them, report better physical and mental wellbeing, shows recent research carried out by the University of Plymouth2. What’s more they are also more likely to be more aware of environmental issues such as recycling and conservation.

“This research offers vital new insights of the need to not just increase contact with nature, but about the sorts of experience that really help people build an emotional connection, which is key to unlocking health benefits as well as inspiring people to taking action to help their environment,” commented Marian Spain, chief executive of Natural England.

Mind-body exercises found to help reduce back pain

A group of people practising Tai Chi

Lower back pain can be seriously debilitating, and doctors often offer non-pharmalogical treatments such as exercise in the first instance. And now US researchers have been looking at the benefits of three mind-body exercises – yoga, tai chi and qigong – on chronic back pain. Alongside psychological factors, coping strategies, and quality of life, sufferers have found that these exercises can help reduce pain in the lower back, as well as pain-related disability, depression and anxiety3.

It’s early days, and more research is needed but yoga, tai chi, and qi gong could be used in the future as effective treatment alternatives to pain medications, surgery, or injection-based treatments such as nerve blocks, which are associated with high incidence of adverse effects in treating lower back pain.

Herbal help for the side effects of giving up smoking

Close up of woman snapping a handful of cigarettes in half

March 11th is this year’s No Smoking Day so why not make this the time you stub out for good.  Nicotine is of course addictive, and you may start to experience withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, lack of concentration and difficulty getting or staying asleep. These effects will pass, but meanwhile there are some herbs that can help to make the going easier.

Rhodiola can help you to focus if you find it difficult to concentrate. Valerian may help you to sleep better as many quitters’ experience insomnia when they first give up. And St John’s wort can help lift the spirits as quitting can often trigger a bout of the blues.

For advice on how to quit visit the NHS website.





1 https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02876887

2 Leanne Martin, Mathew P. White, Anne Hunt, Miles Richardson, Sabine Pahl, Jim Burt. Nature contact, nature connectedness and associations with health, wellbeing and pro-environmental behaviours. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 2020; 68: 101389 DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2020.101389

3 Juyoung Park, Cheryl A. Krause-Parello, Chrisanne M. Barnes. A Narrative Review of Movement-Based Mind-Body Interventions. Holistic Nursing Practice, 2020; 34 (1): 3

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