Quick Links

Find Authors

Books

Non-fiction
Diabetes type 2? Weight problems? Find your answers!
Fiction
Nonfiction
Water is the stuff of life - warm inside, cold outside. Did you know?
Nonfiction
Best and cheapest little book about how to live a healthy and long life!

Blog: On Health. On Writing. On Life. On Everything.

Brown Fat And My Californian Pool

October 31, 2011

Tags: water, movement, addiction, arms, baby, back, belly fat, blanket, blood vessel, brown fat, Brown Fat And My Californian Pool, California, calories, chlorine, coconut oil, cold exposure, cold - minor, cold shower, energy factories, exercise, fat - brown, fat – yellow, hand, husband, hypothermia, itching, knee bend, medical curiosity, metabolism, mitochondria, muscles, newborn, obesity, oxygenation, pool, posture, rash, skin, stubbornness, swimming, tea - hot with fresh ginger, warmth, water book, weight loss, yellow fat, iron, Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897), Kaltwasserkur, Cold Water Cure, winter, Danube River, tuberculosis, frailty

The experiment is still on: How long into the winter will I succeed to keep up my daily twenty-one laps in the pool?

So far, so good. The water is much colder now, but the days have been sunny and friendly – the fog lifted while we were at the East Coast.

Truthfully, lately it has been harder to face the pool: I am still battling a minor cold, and every day I have to decide if it is prudent to swim with the cold, or if I should just snuggle up in a warm blanket. But the exhilarating feeling after my daily swim – I seem to be addicted to it. I look full of vigor. My posture definitely is straighter. I am building up muscles where I never had any – on my back and my arms. Plus, the tiny belly I had is getting smoother (not smaller).

On the negative side is my skin. No outright rash or itching yet, but I have the suspicion that my skin looks a bit older, notwithstanding the coconut oil I slab all over me after each bath.

For a few days, I had been getting extremely cold after each swim, and couldn’t get warm at all. If you ever read my water book, you know that staying cold after water exposure is not a good idea. But with my inborn stubbornness (which might just get worse with age …) and medical curiosity, I kept doing what I should not have done: go swimming. And got colder and colder. In spite of the knee bends, blankets and hot tea with fresh ginger. Two nights in a row, I didn’t get warm all night – certainly not a healthy state!

Until yesterday. Shortly after I went swimming, had taken my short cold shower to get rid of the chlorine, had done my exercise, had rolled up in my blanket and imbibed the tea, I got really warm. Even my hands felt tingling with warmth. This lasted all night, and is still going on. I suddenly had the feeling that, for the first time in my life, that I was getting on the warm side in life. Like, where my husband always is.

Looking around for an explanation, I stumbled onto brown fat. Brown fat gets activated by cold. Brown fat is supposed to be healthier than yellow fat that just stores superfluous calories. Babies have more brown fat because it protects them from hypothermia – a constant threat for newborns.

Brown fat is not so much fat but is related to muscles. Brown fat is brown from the mitochondria and their iron contents; mitochondria are tiny energy factories. Brown fat has also more blood vessels for better oxygenation and is metabolically more active than yellow fat – it actually burns calories instead just storing them.

So, by swimming in the cool pool, I must have tapped into my brown fat – I can’t come up with any other explanation. And did you know? Brown fat is implemented in weight loss. Yes! Brown fat can make you lose weight – IF you have enough brown fat.

Sebastian Kneipp, the father of the Kaltwasserkur (Cold Water Cure) is famous for jumping into the wintry Danube River to cure his tuberculosis. Later, he modified his approach because he observed that some weakened patients were not able to withstand the bitter cold he himself had applied to his body. One could say he watered down his original approach … I had always repeated what I had been taught: that too much cold might be hazardous to your health. Which still might be true for frail people.

But I might be onto something here … I will let you know how this will work out.

P.S. After today's laps, I have very warm hands.

My Hospital Manifesto

October 30, 2011

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, acupuncture, antibiotics, art, blood test, caring, chemicals, cleaning, cleanliness, complementary medicine, conventional medicine, dairy, dialogue, die with dignity, disease, DNR, doctors, Do Not Resuscitate orders, Europe, family, financial resources, foodstuff, friendliness, Germany, herbal medicine, Hippocrates, hospital, hospital cafeteria, hospital double doors, hospital infection, hospital organization, hospital routine, housekeeping, hydrotherapy, journaling, last days of life, massage, medical school, medicine, moneymaking, movement, music, My Hospital Manifesto, national health insurance, nerd, nuns, nurses, nursing - scientific, nutrition, out-sourcing, paperwork, patient advocate, patient recovery, patients, pediatric, primary care physician, quiet, rounds, saving of money, students - brilliant, sugars, trans-fats, TV, under-served populations, very old, very sick, washing

If I would decide how hospitals are governed (and I don’t), these would be important points for me:

1. Food: Thy food be thy medicine – and vice versa – Hippocrates said. What is served as “food” in hospitals these times, is mostly abysmal and just goes to show that conventional medicine is not interested in really finding out the root cause of disease. In many cases, it is nutrition, stupid!
2. Cafeteria: Same for the place where all the visitors come and eat. It could be an educational experience, instead just another gorging with inferior foodstuff, filled with chemicals, trans-fats, sugars and dairy.
3. Quiet: When I was a child in Germany, and my father was a doctor, he used to take me on his rounds. Hospitals then were very quiet places. The nurses (often nuns) would walk on their rubber soles like on cushions, and they spoke with low voices. The doors to patient rooms were double doors – the patient had privacy and quiet.
4. What hasn’t changed much: That the hospital routine is not geared toward patient recovery but to a ward schedule convenient for doctors and nurses: Then as now patients are pulled out of sleep to measure their temperature or draw blood tests at four am. I would like to see more concern for the patient’s wellbeing than for the organization’s.
5. No TV in patient rooms: My guess is that at least seventy percent of all illness is self-inflicted. It used to be that being in the hospital was a time for contemplation about what brought one there. Not any longer – as TV is squeaking and squealing day and night.
6. Conventional and complementary medicines are BOTH used. There should be no bias toward the one or the other – what has been proven to work should be applied: Hydrotherapy, movement therapy, food, herbal medicine and art, music, journaling, acupuncture, massage, and so on – they all should be used to make patients better. As they are in most European hospital. And paid for by national health insurance. And, no, they are NOT going to be broke …
7. More cleanliness in the facilities. More cleanliness of the patients. Used to be that hospital were spic-and-span places where you could eat from the floor; not any longer. Instead of on cleanliness we trust in antibiotics – to our detriment. Same with patients’ cleanliness: Used to be that nurses washed the patients daily; not any longer. Nurses have gone scientific (necessarily so – but who is now responsible for caring?); the paperwork has become overwhelming. Housekeeping has been out-sourced. And simple ideas like a washing and cleaning have become obsolete. But hospital infections are skyrocketing.
8. More friendliness and caring toward the patient. The patient has become a moneymaking device.
9. Less care and resources to be spent on very old, very sick people in their last days of life – more on pediatric and under-served populations. DNR (Do Not Resuscitate orders discussed with every patient and/or every family). It will lead to savings of money and will allow people to die with dignity.
10. In medical schools, only half of the students should be A+ nerds; the other half should be people who really want to become doctors and patient advocates from all walks of life. We need very brilliant students because they push medicine’s frontiers ahead. But we also need caring primary care physicians. And putting them together in medical school will hopefully lead to a dialogue between them.

As I am thinking more about this, I might come up with more ideas. What would you wish to implement in the hospitals of the future?

Listen To Your Body

October 29, 2011

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, acupuncturist, addiction, advertisement, alcoholic, all-you-can-eat, arthritis, aspartame, asthma, beans, body, brain, breakfast, Brussels sprouts, buffet, caffeine, cereal, chocolate, cleansing, coconut oil, cold shower, craving, deli, dairy, deficiency, diet, diet coke, dinner, doctor, drinking booze, East Coast, exercise - moderate, fast meal, fat, fate, friend, GAIA, gut feeling, gym, hankering, health hype, health news, herbalist, herbs - women's, herbs - fresh or dried, homeopathy, hunch, hunch skills, husband, information maze, joint ache, junk food, left-overs, Listen To Your Body, lobster, M&Ms, marshmallow, meal - freshly cooked, meat, medical wisdom, medicine - conventional, mood, müsli, museum, natural, newspaper, nutmeg, official line, olive oil, onions, osteoarthritis, Own Your Health, passion, patients, pepper, phytogen, placebo effect, pool, pregnant, raisins, salt, scale, scientific breakthrough, sixth sense, sleep, soul, super-food, supplement, sweets, triathlon, thyroid, thyroidectomy, turkey, unscientific, vegan, veteran - homeless, vitamins, weight, Western diet, Weisman - Roanne, wine

A stalk of Brussels sprouts survived in my fridge while we were traveling to the East Coast. Last night, I suddenly had the vision that I would like to eat those green little roses – and of all things with raisins!

No clue where it came from. The sixth sense? But I knew I had to get up a bit earlier this morning to actually cook this strange breakfast for myself. Since the nearly twenty years I don’t indulge anymore in the ubiquitous müsli or cereal breakfast, I usually eat dinner left-overs or open a can of beans, throw in a handful of fresh or dried herbs, pepper and salt, and some olive oil – it is a fast meal, but no junk food.

At this point in my life, I take my gut feelings seriously. So I browned two large onions in coconut oil before I added the Brussels sprouts rosettes and a cup full of raisins. I let it simmer with some pepper and salt, until the rosettes were soft and the raisins plump. It was delicious – why had I never thought of adding raisins to this dish? The taste mingled the sharp black pepper and the sweet raisins to a new experience. Usually I serve Brussels sprouts with a good sprinkling of nutmeg.

Why do I take my hunches seriously? Because I figure my body wants to tell me about a slight deficiency. Of course I don’t follow hunches for marshmallows and M&Ms, because they are not natural – although I might turn to dark chocolate if I had a craving for something sweet.

Nearly thirty years ago I followed a hunch to visit a certain museum – five hundred miles away. And through that museum, I met my future (and now) husband … but that is a different story!

Why do I bring up something as unscientific as hunches?

Because daily we are bombarded by health news and scientific breakthroughs and advertisements for new super-foods – it is hard to find our way through this maze of information. I early on decided that I need to see – and feel – the difference in my body, my mood, my soul before I believe any new health hype.

For instance, I always craved more fat in my diet than medical wisdom allowed me to eat. It always seemed that my brain did not function well without enough fat – and I am talking good fats here, mostly olive oil. At that time, I was still timid and told my patients to stick to the official line in conventional medicine, namely to cut out fat. But secretly, I bathed my vegetables in all the fat I desired.

And interestingly, it was me who kept her weight since age twelve, not the people who had been advised differently. I was the one who weighed herself every day on a scale – contrary to what medicine was teaching at that time.

So, now, when you take a new supplement: Do you take it because your doctor/your herbalist/your acupuncturist/your friend/your newspaper told you so? Or because you feel suddenly so much better than before?

Over the years I found out that rarely do I feel better with ANY supplements. Exception are the phytogens (female herbs) by GAIA which I gave been taking for many years now. But I do feel better when I take my daily cold shower (or my daily laps across the pool), when I eat less at dinner and nothing thereafter, when I do moderate exercise throughout the day but feel miserable in the gym. I feel good about myself when I drop a small coin into the hand of a homeless veteran, but feel shabby when I argue to myself that he probably is an alcoholic who deserves his fate (nobody deserves that fate!!).

Over the years I found out that vitamins and homeopathy don’t do anything for me, but freshly cooked meals do. That leaving out dairy cured my asthma, and improved my osteoarthritis vastly. That I need about double as much sleep as my husband, and that I definitely need my small thyroid pill after half of my thyroid was taken out years ago. Without that tiny pill I turn into a nagging bitch (as my husband found out!).

Mind you, I don’t give in to silly cravings like drinking a ton of booze. But the occasional glass of wine seems to be fine. And when I was pregnant, I took very seriously my sudden hankering after lobster, and made my husband drive to a seafood restaurant late at night!

When one turns vegan, most people feel wonderful, initially. Because it is a cleansing diet, after the overload on meats, delis and dairy products of the Western diet. But do you still feel wonderful after a few years on this diet? Or do you believe the vegan ideology more than what your body tells you? Do you feel great after an all-you-can-eat buffet, or do you feel like a stuffed turkey? Do you feel great after a diet coke, or do you have the lingering suspicion you might be addicted to the aspartame and caffeine? Do you feel good after a triathlon, or do all your joints scream?

The big problem of course is that our brain can make us believe what we want to believe, deceivingly. It takes years of practicing your hunch skills before you can trust those wild notions coming out of nowhere. After all, there is something like the placebo effect, which may make you feel good erroneously – at least for a time.

But nobody else can answer the question “How are you?” – except you. Because every body is different, and only you can feel how you are. As my friend Roanne Weisman puts it: Own Your Health!

And, hey, I feel perfect today after Brussels sprouts with raisins!

Dinners

October 23, 2011

Tags: food, Boston, coffins, dinner, San Diego, Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897), Washington, wisdom

Because presently we are traveling - San Diego - Washington - Boston, and my brain is scattered, I just give you some words of wisdom by Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897):

"Big dinners fill coffins."

Invasive Plants 4 – Bindweed

October 17, 2011

Tags: herbs, aloe, Angel’s trumpet, angiogenesis inhibitor, Aztecs, bindweed, blood vessel, bowel, Calistegia, cancer, cathartic - drastic, contact poison, cholagogue, comfrey, Convolvulus arvensis, Convolvulus scammonia, cramps, dahlias, daylilies, fevers, field bindweed, gallbladder, hallucinogenic, infection, Invasive Plants 4 – Bindweed, Ipomoea, invasive plants, laxative, medicinal plant, Mediterranean, Mexico, morning glory, nausea, New World, Old World, poisonous, roots, Round-up, scammony, side-effects, skin sore, subtropics, Syria, taxonomy, tea – herbal, toxicity, tropics, trumpet flower, tumor, vascularization, vegetable patch, vine, Virginia, weed, wound - festering, wound healing

We all love morning glories, those blue-purple trumpets that open in abundance in the morning, then fade during the day, only to display a new crop of blooms the next sunny morning. But we all hate field bindweed. Yet, the two are closely related.

The family relationships of morning glories and bindweeds are exceedingly complicated – kind of like trying to figure out how Uncle Ernest is related to Grandma’s sister. Bindweed is Convolvulus arvensis, and the most common garden morning glory is really an Ipomoea. Some bindweeds are in the Calistegia family, but there are even more genera involved in these twining, flowering trumpets.

Let’s say you and I know what a morning glory is: a dazzling, desirable plant in the garden. And its lowly cousin, the bindweed, is a curse.

It is not that bindweed is ugly: Their trumpets are usually a bit smaller and often just plain white. But some have a blushing rose painted in, and could well compete with the showier morning glories if they were not so – well, invasive.

The pop up everywhere and vine themselves around your dahlias and daylilies and whatnot, and smother them. Just when you have hacked the vegetable patch, only days later their peep up again, and show you that all your work was in vain.

It comes out of the ground so dainty and harmless – but don’t be fooled: Scattering their seeds is only the small part of it. Worse is that the teeniest bit of root left in the ground will sprout a whole new plant in no time. That feature makes them a weed – and a weed that in all likelihood won’t be eradicated for good from your garden (or mine).

If the taxonomy and names of morning glories and bindweeds are confusing, so are their origins. Roughly one can say the showy garden morning glories come from the New World, especially Mexico, and bindweeds are Old World inhabitants. Bindweed was introduced to Virginia in the 1700’s, and rapidly spread from there. There is a Mediterranean variety called scammony (Convolvulus scammonia), used as a medicinal plant in Syria.

Bindweed and is mildly poisonous; “mildly poisonous” means you likely will not die but will be sick as a dog and you wish you were dead. Nevertheless, the Aztecs used it as a hallucinogenic – I don’t recommend trying what the Aztecs tried though. Suffice to know that Angel’s trumpet is a relative, too – all morning glories should be handled with caution. Literally handled: Some species, particularly in the subtropics and tropics, are so poisonous that mere contact can make one sick. Livestock might be poisoned, especially by the white roots, if for instance swine dig for the roots.

With all its nauseating toxicity, bindweed has been used as a medicinal plant: A tea from the flowers is good against infections and fevers, and also works as a laxative. Perhaps, to discourage its use, I should call it properly a drastic cathartic, which what it is. It is a cholagogue, meaning it induces the gallbladder to push out bile into the bowels. Nausea and cramps surely are some of its side-effects.

The herb has been laid on festering wounds and promotes healing. But unless you are in bind – umh! – I would prefer comfrey and aloe to heal wounds because we don’t know well enough how much of the bindweed is taken up through a skin sore.

And lastly, bindweed is being investigated as a possible cancer drug. It seems to be an angiogenesis inhibitor, meaning it does not allow a growing tumor to vascularize itself (growing the necessary blood vessel to feed itself) – thus, the cancer is starved. But it sound more straightforward than it is – again, I wouldn’t try this at home.

Bindweed, invasive and frustrating. But it might have its redeeming sides. Nothing on which we should use Round-up (which we should use on NOTHING!!) – just investigate its usefulness.

Ibuprofen And Aplastic Anemia

October 16, 2011

Tags: order, food, herbs, movement, water, ache, alcohol, anecdotal evidence, aplastic anemia, aspirin, bleeding risk, blood cell, bone marrow, bone marrow transplant, brain, cramps, culture, death, double-blind, drug, exercise, Europe, fresh foods, fibroids - uterine, Germany, GYN, headache, husband, ibuprofen, Ibuprofen And Aplastic Anemia, internal bleeding, kidneys, liver, menstrual cramps, natural method, painkiller, period, pills, placebo-controlled, platelet count, randomized, pain - root cause, salt, scientific study, skullcap, sleep, soft beverages, stomach lining, stroke - hemorrhagic, sugar, sun, TV

This is the story of a friend’s friend – no statistics behind it, no big scientific study double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled - nothing but anecdotal evidence (and you won't see a study done on this soon!). But a poignant story anyway, and a reminder:

A woman in her forties was in quite good health, as it seemed, until one day, she got weak and ill, and was diagnosed with aplastic anemia.

Aplastic anemia is a very serious diagnosis. It means the bone marrow is not churning out the required number of blood cells necessary for survival, and her physicians recommend a bone marrow transplant to her.

One of the doctors told her that her platelet count was so low that she might start bleeding anytime (most worrisome is bleeding into the brain), and said that, as a minimum, she should stop all aspirin or ibuprofen (or any drug in that family of painkillers) as those might increase the bleeding risk.

Now this woman had taken high doses of ibuprofen on the advice of her GYN doctor for uterine fibroids and terrible cramps. She heeded the advice, stopped all pills, and slowly but surely, her blood cell count crept higher and higher, until it became clear that she did not need new bone marrow at all.

When I came to this country many years ago, I found that in a drugstore one could buy bottles of a thousand aspirin or ibuprofen pills. In Germany, one bought them in little tubes with ten or twenty each. That’s not only a difference in size: It is a difference in cultures: When you have a headache in Europe, you ask why you have the ache (nagging husband, too much sun, too much TV, too much booze, too little sleep, no exercise – the list is endless). You try to change the root cause of the pain. Here, you take a pill.

This woman had a good reason to take ibuprofen – her fibroid cramps – and took them under the supervision of a physician – and still, it nearly killed her. Ibuprofen can have bad effects on the kidneys, the liver, the stomach lining – and thousands people die each year of internal bleeding. Aplastic anemia is exceedingly rare. But this story illustrates that no drug is without side-effects and we need to have a healthy respect of any drug we put in our bodies.

Most painkillers are taken against headaches and menstrual cramps. Why not try natural methods first? More sleep, more movement, healthy fresh foods, water instead of soft beverages, less sugar and salt before periods, skullcap tincture against cramps – one has so many healthier options!

Invasive Plants 3: Bamboo

October 14, 2011

Tags: herbs, food, order, anti-oxidants, Asia, bamboo, bamboo - as medicine, bamboo - nutritional value, bamboo shoots, bamboo wood, Bambusa, beauty, bone growth, building material, calcium, carcinogenic, Chinese brush painting, Chinese culture, Chinese food, cholesterol, coconut milk, copper, Crouching Tiger - Hidden Dragon, crystal healing, culm, curry, cyanide, dance, Dendrocalamus, fat, flavonoids, fiber - dietary, Four Gentlemen, furniture, gem stone, grace, harmony, healing stones, Hong Kong, infection - bacterial, ink - black, immune system, Invasive Plants 3: Bamboo, iron, Japanese culture, kitchen utensils, lungs, Made in China, manganese, migraine, mineral, mushroom, mushroom - button, mushroom - raw, Nature, osteoporosis, Phyllostachys, Poacea, poisonous, potassium, power, protein quartz, sauce, scaffolding, silica, snow, socks - 100 percent bamboo, TCM, tools, toxin, Traditional Chinese Medicine, true grass family, variegated, vitamins B, vitamin C, winter, zinc

One time, traveling in Hong Kong, we saw a bamboo outside our hotel room window grow about a foot per day. Amazing. The record for bamboos seem to be somewhere at a yard per day – which makes them the fastest growing plants on record.

Those were tall bamboos. At home, we grow smaller varieties – and always in a huge tub lowered into the soil. These things throw out side-shoots or culms, as they are called botanically, so fast – they would run over the yard in a few seasons if not properly grown in a pot. One stand in front of the entrance and greets the visitors.

Easier, of course, would be to not grow bamboo. But that is impossible. Because, for me, bamboo stands for beauty. They don’t flower (or only about every one hundred years or so); they don’t lure you with colorful berries. But their pointed leaves have a charm that I wouldn’t want to miss it from my garden. If you watched the movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” you know what I mean – the scene in the tops of swaying bamboos is unforgettable! When I drew my first bamboo leaf with black ink, I was hooked forever on Chinese brush painting – and the living plant, which we all – from humble student to great master – try to capture, is so much more beautiful. It is as if grace and dance have been captured in a plant.

Bamboo is not one single species – there are many, from little to very tall, mostly green, sometimes variegated – but all in the Poacea family – also called the “true” grass family. Their long stems barely taper which makes them perfect for building materials. In China one can see huge skyscrapers being built or renovated, and the scaffolding is all bamboo – many, many stories high – quite an astounding sight for western eyes! The light but tough wood makes furniture, tools and kitchen utensils. And last time I bought a pair of socks, I found they were made of 100 percent bamboo, made in China.

In Asia, bamboo is used for food and medicine; you certainly have eaten crispy bamboo shoots in a Chinese dish. In Chinese Traditional Medicine, bamboo is used against bacterial infections, especially in the lungs. But be cautious: There are so many different “bamboos”, and some are poisonous. But the genera Bambusa, Dendrocalamus and Phyllostachys are generally edible – but check before you put them in your mouth: As with mushroom, 99 percent is not good enough; you have to be sure 100 percent!

It is better to stick to the ones you can buy in the supermarket: They are those fast-growing shoots I described initially. Make sure they are fresh and white once peeled, not already brownish. Even the edible bamboos contain toxins (cyanides) that have to be destroyed by cooking – never eat them raw (as you also know never to eat any mushroom raw – not even those innocuous-looking button mushrooms; they are carcinogenic).

The nutritional value of bamboo? They are high in protein and dietary fiber, and contain zinc, iron, potassium, copper, manganese, vitamin C and many B vitamins: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 - plus flavonoids – anti-oxidants. Because of their very low fat contents (and no cholesterol to speak of), they are delicious in coconut milk, as sauce or curry.

Those bamboo shoots have a high silica content; they make good food and allegedly are good for all connective tissue, including skin, hair and nails, and feathers – in case you grow them ...

Silica is one of the many minerals you need for strong bone growth – there’s a reason why those bamboo trunk grow into the sky so rapidly (and you know already that calcium alone doesn’t do a thing for your bone). Silica is the main mineral in quartz, which is also used as a healing crystal. I have not quite made up my mind about healing stones, but I like the beauty of gems, and a clear quartz supposedly is for harmony and power – it might be only in the eye of the beholder, but that counts heavily for healing. I look at them a treasures Nature gives to us.

In TCM, bamboo is thought to help the immune system. I have never used it myself or on patients though. Bamboo also seems to prevent migraines.

Japanese and Chinese culture revere bamboo. In Chinese painting, Bamboo is the first of the Four Gentlemen, and stands for an upright, hardy character – not difficult to see why, if you find the green leaves still on the stem in the middle of winter and snow.

Invasive? Yes! But useful and beautiful!

Be Prepared – Flu/Cold Season Is Upon Us

October 12, 2011

Tags: herbs, order, beach, Be Prepared – Flu/Cold Season Is Upon Us, breathing deep, cold, flu, GAIA, Grapefruit Seed Extract, GSE - Grapefruit Seed Extract, La Jolla, moon - full, ocean, Pacific Ocean, phyto-capsule, pneumonia, Quick Defense, sleep, walking, waves

Cold and flu season is upon us. Are you prepared?

For a minimum, have GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract) and GAIA Quick Defense capsules in your house, so if it hits you, you can start taking something fast (they don’t pay me – I say this from many years of experience!).

By the way, the main difference between a cold and the flu is that a cold is more slowly in the making, getting worse from day to day. The flu hits you like lightning: Fine in the morning, half dead in the afternoon.

Take GSE in much warm fluid - it's caustic! 16 drops - four times a day.

"Quick Defense" by GAIA (a phyto-capsule of an extract different herbs - just follow directions – usually nibs any cold in the bud.

And do deep breathing: Three deep breaths every hour on the hour - you don't want to end up with pneumonia! And get a lot of sleep! People who are run down, get sick.

And, something not on the point: Last night we walked the Pacific beach here in La Jolla. New with each new wave, the ocean never bores. It was full moon. We were playing escaping the waves - just like kids - and had fun for nearly two hours. Nobody else was there – what a waste of a wonderful full moon!

Hopefully, tomorrow more about invasive plants!

P.S. I just caught a lizard – or something like a lizard, with four legs and a long tail – in my bathroom and set him free. - Glad I found him before Otto did.

Invasive Plants 2: List

October 11, 2011

Tags: herbs, food, bamboo, bittersweet, Agropyron repens, Arctium lappa, Artemisia absynthium, barberry, Berberis thunbergii, Bermuda grass, bindweed, bittersweet, blackberries, Buddleja spp., burdock, butterfly bush, Calystegia, Canada thistle, Capriola dactylon, Celastrus orbiculatus, chickweed, Cirsium arvense, Convolvulus, couch grass, crab grass, Cynodon dactylon, dandelion, Digitaria, dispersion, Elymus repens, Elytrigia repens, euonymus, Europe, gardening, Glechoma hederacea, grass, ground ivy, invasive plants, Invasive Plants 2, Johnson grass, kudzu, Ligustrum vulgare, loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria, Massachusetts, miscanthus grass, Miscanthus sinensis, Morus alba, mulberry, Nepeta glechoma, Nepeta hederacea, nightshade - bittersweet, nightshade vine, Panicum dactylon, pachysandra, Pachysandra terminalis, pennisetum grass, Pennisetum spp., Phytolacca americana, Poaceae, pokeweed, Portulaca oleracea, privet, Pueraria lobata, purple loosestrife, purslane, quackgrass, raspberries, Rosa multiflora, rose, Rubus, Solanum dulcamara, Sorghum halepense, Stellaria, Taraxum officinale, Triticum repens, vine - wild, Vitis labrusca, wisteria, Wisteria floribunda, Wisteria sinensis, wormwood

My home state publishes a list on invasive species for Massachusetts, and also defines which criteria a plant has to meet to be labeled “invasive”:

1. It is not native to Massachusetts
2. Must have the “biologic potential for rapid and widespread dispersion and establishment”
3. Must have the “biologic potential for dispersing over spatial gaps away from the site of introduction”
4. Must have the “biologic potential for existing in high numbers” away from gardens
5. Must have been introduced to Massachusetts already

The real text is a bit more cumbersome and bureaucratic – but we get the idea. There are tons of species on the lists, but here are a few from the list I would add to my list (this is arbitrary and based on my very personal experiences as a gardener at a single spot in Massachusetts – you might have a different opinion; it is worthwhile finding the list of invasive plants for your state!):

1. Japanese barberry – it stayed a single beautiful bush in my garden. But of course I can’t know to which places birds dispersed its seeds
2. Bittersweet. There are two bittersweets, with orange berries. One Celastrus scandens, the "American bittersweet" is non-invasive. The Asian or Oriental bittersweet is Celastrus orbiculatus, highly invasive. And it is the plant I called euonymus which I was familiar with from Europe. It seems, celastrus and euonymus are related species, and it is really the Celastrus orbiculatus that is so overly invasive. This vine’s berries are spread by birds, and the plant can strangle even trees. One of the worst I know – I would not plant it, and I am hacking it down wherever I meet it.
3. Purple loosestrife: Years ago, I bought a “butterfly bush” by mail order. It turned out to be purple loosestrife. As much as I try to eradicate it, it comes always up somewhere.
4. Wild rose (Rosa multiflora) is pretty while in bloom. But it flowers only once, and after flowering I always cut it of so it doesn’t set seeds. The rootstock, however – I’ll never get it out of my garden again.
5. Privet (Ligustrum vulgare) – it was in my garden when I moved in. It also might be another species as they are notoriously hard to identify. As often as I cut it back, it always pops up again.
6. Pennisetum, a vertically striped grass. Beautiful white and green. It is not invasive according to the Massachusetts definition, but like wisteria, it wants to take over my garden. There is a horizontally striped grass (Miscanthus sinensis) that might also become invasive – luckily, I never planted it.
7. White mulberry (Morus alba). Twice I planted a mulberry tree in my garden – mail orders. Twice they were not what they were advertised at: black mulberries. I wanted one in my garden desperately so that for once we can harvest our cherries before the birds do. Twice I had to hack down the tree because it grew as fast as Jack’s beanstalk – and did not deliver.

Now, our alphabetical list looks like this:

1. Bamboo (more than 70 genera in the Poaceae family)
2. Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon, also: Panicum dactylon, Capriola dactylon)
3. Bindweed (many species from the Convolvulus or Calystegia families)
4. Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus)
5. Blackberries (Rubus spp.)
6. Burdock (Arctium lappa, and other species of Arctium)
7. Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense)
8. Chickweed (Stellaria spp.)
9. Crab grass (Digitaria spp. )
10. Dandelion (Taraxum officinale)
11. Ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea, also: Nepeta glechoma, Nepeta hederacea)
12. Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii)
13. Johnson grass (Sorghum halepense)
14. Kudzu (Pueraria lobata)
15. Miscanthus (Miscanthus sinensis)
16. Nightshade vine, bittersweet nightshade (Solanum dulcamara)
17. Pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis)
18. Pennisetum (Pennisetum spp.)
19. Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana)
20. Privet (Ligustrum vulgare).
21. Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
22. Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)
23. Quackgrass, also: couch grass (Elytrigia repens, also: Triticum repens, Agropyron repens, Elymus repens)
24. Raspberries (Rubus spp. – like the blackberries)
25. White mulberry (Morus alba)
26. Wild rose (Rosa multiflora)
27. Wild wine (Vitis labrusca)
28. Wisteria (Japanese: Wisteria floribunda; Chinese: Wisteria sinensis)
29. Wormwood (Artemisia absynthium)

Sorry, compiling all this, takes longer than thought. In the next installment, we will hopefully discover the medicinal value of some of these invasive plants – the idea being, if we harvest and eat them, they will be less invasive.

The 10 Worst Garden Weeds – Really?

October 10, 2011

Tags: herbs, food, bamboo, Bermuda grass, bindweed, blackberries, burdock, Canada thistle, chickweed, crab grass, dandelion, Earth, euonymus, gardening, ground ivy, invasive plants, Invasive Plants 1, Invasive Plants In Your Garden, Johnson grass, Kneipp - Sebastian, kudzu, Mother Earth News, nightshade - deadly, pachysandra, plant policing, pokeweed, purslane, quackgrass, raspberries, stewardship of the Earth, “The original guide to living wisely”, vegetable gardener, weeds, wild wine, wisteria, wormwood

According to a survey of the “Mother Earth News” (“The original guide to living wisely”) the following are the ten weeds that make life for the nation’s vegetable gardeners miserable:

1. Crab grass
2. Dandelion
3. Bermuda grass
4. Bindweed
5. Chickweed
6. Ground ivy
7. Canada thistle
8. Burdock
9. Quackgrass
10. Johnson grass

Add to these another ten plants that I wish I had never planted in my own Massachusetts garden – or that arrived on their own out of nowhere:

1. Wisteria
2. Wild wine
3. Raspberries
4. Blackberries
5. Wormwood
6. Pachysandra
7. Euonymus
8. Deadly nightshade
9. Purslane
10. Pokeweed

I wonder why kudzu isn’t mentioned – we hear that is stealthily covers all of the South, a mile a minute. Why is kudzu not mentioned?? And bamboo??

Let’s sort them alphabetically:

1. Bamboo
2. Bermuda grass
3. Bindweed
4. Blackberries
5. Burdock
6. Canada thistle
7. Chickweed
8. Crab grass
9. Dandelion
10. Deadly nightshade
11. Euonymus
12. Ground ivy
13. Johnson grass
14. Kudzu
15. Pachysandra
16. Pokeweed
17. Purslane
18. Quackgrass
19. Raspberries
20. Wild wine
21. Wisteria
22. Wormwood

But – stop right here! Putting up lists of invasive plants and policing them – that’s not good gardening and not good stewardship of the Earth. Let’s assume for a moment that these plants all serve a purpose – or as Sebastian Kneipp put it: “God lets an herb grow for every ailment we complain about.”

Tomorrow, I will go through the list and try to divine the purpose behind each plant.

Laying It On For The Hard Times To Come

October 7, 2011

Tags: food, order, anise star cookies, autumn, berries, bikini season, candy stick, cranberry sauce, December, dieting, fall, fruitcake, gefillte fish, gingerbread, glazed onions, ham, holidays, Laying It On For The Hard Times To Come, leaves turning, machine – the body is not a, marshmallow, meat – braised, natural rhythm, obesity, organic, plum pudding, pumpkin pie, raisins, red cabbage, rhythm - yearly, rugelach, seasons’ flow, starvation, stuffed goose, walking, weight gain, weight loss, winter, winter solstice

Studies show that people put on a few pounds more in the fall – and they lose some come bikini season.

You don’t want to increase your weight even more? Basically, that is a good concept. But laying on the pounds in the fall used to be a mechanism to help people cope with the starvation that inevitably came at the end of the winter.

Now, of course, starvation never comes (we hope!). What is a person to do?

Don’t fight it, is my advice. Count on that you will (and should) gain a few pounds now. Don’t start a diet right now. Eat the autumn goodies like braised meats (in moderation!), the pumpkin pies (better of course is the pumpkin without the pie!) and the berries now. After the holidays in December is the time to naturally slim down.

This is not a free pass to putting on pounds like a whale. My educated guess is that should be one, two, three pounds – never more than five!! But to fight the natural rhythm will only bring you defeat: We are hard-wired for weight gain during this season.

During the holidays, nibble a bit of everything: gingerbread men, plum pudding, stuffed goose, glazed onions, rugelach, gefillte fish, fruitcake, red cabbage with raisins, honey-soaked ham (organic!), cranberry sauce, anise star cookies. Let be all real, fresh foods – no candy sticks, no marshmallows – but don’t pig out on all these because with the winter solstice comes the turn in the year and the turn in your body: Then starvation – or dieting – should set in.

Your body is not a machine, and you shouldn’t will it to go against its yearly rhythm. You will only lose … but not pounds. Go with the seasons’ flow – to a degree. And go for a fall walk and watch the turned leaves.

Always Make Sure Your Tank Is Full, And Your Bladder Is Empty

October 5, 2011

Tags: Order, food, water, Always Make Sure Your Tank Is Full - And Your Bladder Is Empty, billboard, bladder, California, chlorine, congee, contamination, energy wasting, fire hazard, frozen food, gluten intolerance, joy of cooking, lentils, Massachusetts, microwaving, miles, mixed, natural health food store, Pasadena, plastic wrap, pool, pre-boiled, precooked, prepared, prepared dinner, rain, ready-to-eat-meal, red lentils, rice, rice - basmati, rice - brown, rice cooking, rice - forbidden, rice - jasmine, rice - long, rice - short, rice - wild, San Diego, skin, supermarkets, tank, water reservoir, work less

That was a billboard advice in Pasadena yesterday. Certainly excellent advice. But I doubt I would ever had found that kind of slogan on a billboard in Massachusetts. With endless, confusing highways – freeways they call them here – and huge distances one has to do with every mundane task, full tank/empty bladder are imperative.

California is different, I am finding out. It never rains in southern California – and I am finding that is not true, either.

For one thing: The supermarkets: At home, we have a huge natural health food store where I live. Here it’s the size of a railway station. One of the differences in the products is that frozen foods, ready-to-eat-meals and prepared dinners are much more common. Three aisles full of frozen foods alone!

I tried to find rice and lentils. As in rice. and. lentils. Not precooked. Not in a fabulous sauce or in an exotic recipe. Just red lentils and rice. At home, I can choose between about half a dozen kinds of rice: long, short, basmati, jasmine, brown, forbidden, wild (which is not really rice and should not be eaten by people with gluten problems) – you get the idea. Here they have a thousand pre-boiled, prepared, mixed varieties. And a single uncooked variety: long. Happens that I want short, for my congee in the morning.

To cook rice is one of the easiest tasks in the kitchen: You measure a cup of rice, add two cups of water and a pinch of salt, bring it to a boil, cover it with a lid, and let it simmer on low flame until all water has been used up. While the rice cooks, you prepare other dishes. I doubt it is much easier to scrape precooked rice from its plastic wrapping, put it into a bowl and microwave (yuck!!) it. Not to mention that your rice is made in a way you have no influence on: You don’t know the kind of water they use. They might have done the “cooking” via microwaving. And agents from the plastic wrap might have seeped and contaminated your rice. All that for a doubtful gain in “less work.” - Joy of cooking – where did it go?

The one thing I really enjoy so far: the pool. Today it’s cold for San Diego – in the low sixties – and it was drizzling a bit when I did my daily laps. Nobody else dared this kind of weather and took a swim with me. The chlorine smell is but light – I hope my skin will not scream after a while. Rain here is needed of course. It fills the reservoirs and reduces fire hazard.

Red lentils I haven’t found yet. Although I am sure I will find a store that carries red lentils. It’s only a question of more miles, more energy wasting on the freeways. And of course a question of an empty bladder.

We Fired Our Agent – And It Feels Wonderful

October 3, 2011

Tags: order, agent, author - powerless, book industry, books, bookstore, Boston, editing, literary agent, New York Times bestseller list, Olympic, publishing world, Salmon - Ben, self-publishing, skier, “Skiing and Natural Health”, We Fired Our Agent – And It Feels Wonderful

My last act before I left Boston was signing a letter that essential fired our literary agent. Few acts have felt so thoroughly good lately.

Truth be told, the agency had abandoned us before – they had not done anything for years to further us, and they vanished from the face of the Earth, meaning to say, their emails and websites are defunct.

We all hear constantly that the publishing world as we knew it is crumbling, and it certainly is. On the other hand, I have never seen as many wonderful books coming out as now – in the bookstore, I feel a child in the candy store (wish that saying would go: I feel like a child at a farmer’s apple stand …). It seems, if we put a computer into the hand of every person in the world, we will hear some amazing stories.

For a while now I have a book a bout “Skiing and Natural Health” in my drawer, and when I showed it to my agent I was told that it was soooo interesting – all we needed was a famous skier on board, so that the book would sell. That’s why the book still sits in my drawer. I wrote the book from my experiences as a not-so-stellar skier – which is more important and funnier as if a world-class Olympic had endorsed it. I think. The book industry thinks differently, obviously.

We had a wonderful first agent years ago, Ben Salmon - until he left for peddling kitchen ware because one can feed one’s family with selling pots, but not many agents can do this through their agenting thing. Editing is a hard, tedious job with long, long hours and not much reward.

What came after Ben, agent-wise, was disappointing. And now we are free again. I think that self-publishing for a moderate amount of money has changed the game. Now we can publish any book we deem worthy. And if we are not bothered by a big, inflated ego, it does not matter if the book shows up on the New York Times bestseller list. All that counts is that it is available for whoever wants to read it; I am a fan of the new technology. It turns us authors from a powerless entity at the receiving end to people who shape their own fates.

To The Other Coast

October 2, 2011

Tags: order, airport, barefoot, California, cat, cello, character, East Coast, food, obesity, ocean, Otto - the cat, sabbatical, San Diego, sun, tomcat - castrated, To The Other Coast, traveling, vet, West Coast, Black Beach

We relocated to the other coast, yesterday – for a few months. We will be in San Diego for a sabbatical. Swapping places makes it possible.

Otto, the cat, turned out the best travel cat ever. He also turned out to be too heavy (which the vet had just told me, while I had bristled – after all, Otto had been even fatter when I got him. Besides, what does a castrated tomcat have to live for but food??). I schlepped him through three airports.

My friends all envy me – going to California, into eternal sun, to the fun state. Me, on the other hand, I am not really a California girl – can’t take much sun, and what I like for fun – I will have to see ... This morning, I took a cold sitzbath – but the water was not really cold. One makes up for sitting longer – no fun, really.

But because it is Sunday and the real work will begin only tomorrow, we walked along Black Beach barefoot. Lots and lots of people. The wonderfully cold ocean made me at last arrive here with my heart, too.

Now I will pick up a cello that a friend of a friend will lend me for the time here. What is not to love in California?
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D. 2012, by Lolita Parker jr.

Tags - see also the non-captalized entries below!