On a recent Desert Island Discs, opera singer Joyce DiDonato chose lavender oil as her luxury, ‘because it is so relaxing’. But the effects of lavender oil can be more profound. More than 15 clinical trials have shown that a daily capsule of pharmaceutical-quality lavender oil, such as Kalms Lavender One-A-Day Capsules/£6.49 at boots.com), can relieve the symptoms of mild anxiety within one or two weeks, and the benefits match commonly used drugs. Psychiatry professor Siegfried Kasper of the Medical University of Vienna, Austria, who was involved in some of the clinical trials, says the Kalms capsules ‘not only reduce both physical and psychological symptoms of anxiety but also [do so] without problems such as sedation, addiction or interaction with other medications.’ When I met him recently, Professor Kasper was adamant that while it is vital to find strategies for managinganxiety long term, many people find that it’s easier if they first experience a reduction in their symptoms.
• For help and information about anxiety and other mental health problems, contact Mind (mind.org.uk, 03001 233393)
Q. I am 24, female and will be running the London Marathon in April next year. I have some good shoes, but my socks are not comfy and tend to chafe. Could you suggest any suitable ones for long distance running?
A. Regular marathon runners agree that specially designed socks make a difference. Kerry McCarthy, commissioning editor at Runner’s World (runnersworld.co.uk), says when choosing socks for long runs, look for:
● Cushioning in key zones, ie, heel and forefoot.
● Elasticated arch support.
● Seam-free construction across the toes to reduce chafing.
● Breathable and quick-drying fabric to help prevent blisters.
● Ergonomic construction, ie, shaped for the left and right foot individually.
● An anti-odour weave so that your other half (or mother) doesn’t throw your kit drawer out of the window.
Sore and bruised toenails are a common problem with long-distance runners, particularly if you are running downhill as this increases speed and vertical-impact force. (Even walking down mountains can damage toenails, as I found walking in the Pyrenees.) Appropriate socks may help, but the key is to wear shoes that fit well – it’s worth having them professionally fitted – and give enough room to keep pressure off your toes, even when your feet have swollen. Lace them so that they are snug, but not too tight and, importantly, keep toenails short and square.
Falke RU 4 Cushion Running Socks, from £15, falke.com.
Thorlo Experia Running Socks, from £10.99, fruugo.co.uk.
Gore Essential Thermo Socks, £14.99, goreapparel.co.uk.
My nephew Ross, a keen runner, likes Hilly TwinSkin Anklet anti-blister sports socks, £12, hillysocks.com.
HOW TO SETTLE A SORE STOMACH
When a friend had a bad bout of food poisoning with severe diarrhoea recently, I asked naturopath Ben Brown, technical director of Viridian Nutrition, for advice. He suggested she do the following:
• Take an oral rehydration solution (available from chemists nationwide).
• Avoid dairy food as transient lactose intolerance can develop and make diarrhoea worse.
• Introduce a daily zinc supplement, containing around 20mg of elemental zinc. Try Solgar Zinc Picolinate (£9.91, victoriahealth.com).
• Take 500mg of the probiotic Saccharomyces boulardii, which has strong antimicrobial and anti-diarrhoeal activity, twice daily. Viridian Nutrition Travel Biotic (£20, victoriahealth.com) contains S. boulardii in a ginger-root base.
• Sip strong black tea (the tannins help battle the infective bacteria and reduce inflammation), plus ginger tea if you feel nauseous. Eat grated or stewed apple with the peel on.
WEBSITE OF THE WEEK: thisisyourcookbook.com
Christmas is the perfect time to get children cooking – and this clever website offers a range of recipes that you can combine to make your own personalised cookbook. It’s not just for children – there are ideas for all ages (some great ones for students), with collections of recipes including healthy eating, superfoods, low carb and Christmas. You can also use your own recipes to create, for example, a family cookbook. A friend sent me a beautifully produced version with Sarah’s Cookbook on the front, which totally sold me on the idea. £15 for an eight-inch square hardback, with 36 recipes and photos.