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How You Can Tell That Your Body Is Inflamed? The Fleckenstein Finger Diagnosis (FFD):

September 23, 2015

Tags: order, food, water, movement, aging, air, allergy, Alzheimer’s, American, antibiotic, anxiety, arthritis, asthma, autoimmune disease, bronchitis - chronic, cancer, chronic disease, chronic pain, COPD, dairy, dehydration, dementia, depression, diabetes, do-it-yourself, drug – medical, drug - recreational, earlobe diagnosis, eczema, environment, Europe, finger diagnosis, finger nail, fingertips, Fleckenstein Finger Diagnosis - FFD, gastritis, genetics, gluten, halo, hand, heartburn, heart disease, high blood pressure, How Can You Tell That Your Body Is Inflamed? The Fleckenstein Finger Diagnosis (FFD), hypertension, inflammation, job - unfulfilling, Kneipp – Sebastian (1821-1897), lifestyle, longevity, microbiome, model, nail bed, nuts, obesity, observation, osteoporosis, overweight, pantry, pathology, pollution, pre-diabetes, relationship, skin disease, soil, stress, stroke, sugar, swelling, tongue diagnosis, toxin, Traditional Chinese Medicine, un-health, vitamin D deficiency, walking

Inflammation lies at the bottom of chronic disease - diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, some forms of depression and anxiety, heart disease, stroke, COPD (chronic bronchitis), osteoporosis, certain cancers, chronic pain, autoimmune diseases, Alzheimer’s and other dementias, allergies, asthma, eczema and other skin diseases, heartburn, gastritis – and so many more. Yes, often you would not get these diseases if you didn’t have the right (or wrong) genes. But let’s face it: Most of us carry the genes for those diseases. All we need is a bad lifestyle to trigger chronic ailments. All of which make your life miserable.

Of course, the main reason for the development of chronic diseases is that we are reaching older age than we used to – we have more time to hatch illness. But it is not that old age automatically renders you invalid and decrepit. One can have a healthy old age! But it takes some luck, and some effort.

So what are the habits that trigger chronic inflammation and chronic diseases? The usual – and well-known - culprits: Inappropriate diet, too little movement (or too much!), environmental pollution of water, air and soil, psychological stress, unhappy relationships, unfulfilling jobs, drugs (medical and recreational), deficient water intake, unnecessary drugs, overweight and obesity, vitamin D deficiency, unnecessary antibiotics that kill the natural microbiome in our guts and on our skin. Another list that could go on and on.

How do you tell that inflammation is damaging your body? Well, if you already have a chronic disease - that is the proof of the pudding. But If you are at the stage before a doctor runs some tests and finally makes the diagnosis – if you are in the pre-stages of disease – you might inspect your fingers for the telltale signs of inflammation: a red halo around the root of the nail, at the area of the nail bed.

That halo can be thin and faint, and it can be thick and swollen. In some patients, the redness goes up half their digits, or higher. It is an early sign of inflammation, and one doctors usually don’t know about. In fact, I didn’t learn this in medical school – I observed it in my patients.

The beauty of it? If you clean up your act, the halos get smaller and paler – you see within a few days that you are on the way to improvement. Especially if you leave out some offending allergenic food – the most common guilty parties here are dairy, gluten, nuts, sugar.

Why is it that your fingertips can tell me the state of your health, the degree of inflammation? Traditional Chinese Medicine uses the tongue to tell about illness and well-being. My favorite European teacher Sebastian Kneipp used to base his diagnoses and prognoses on the shape and color of the earlobes; he must have come to it by simple observation, just as I did. The tongue, the earlobes, the fingertips – why those? Mainly because they are easily visible. For sure, if your body is riddled with inflammation, you will have signs of it in nearly all your inner organs. But the inner organs are hidden from direct inspection. For evaluating the tongue, I’d have to ask the patient to open her mouth. Earlobes and fingers are there for the looking. – Your fingers and nails can tell the doctor much more about your health (or un-health). But the FFD is easy for lay people.

Let me tell you right away that I don’t yet know if only food allergies can trigger the redness of the fingers, or if other toxins or pathology processes do it too. I would think so. But there has been no study yet, just quiet observation on my patients.

What I like about the Fleckenstein Finger Diagnosis (FFD): It is a do-it-yourself tool. You don’t need me to tell you something is wrong. You just need to look down on your fingertips. And if you see a reddish halo: Get up from your chair, and do something for your health: Go for a walk, and clean out your pantry!

What Have We Done?

July 21, 2014

Tags: order, movement, food, advertisement, beverage, breakfast cereal, death, diet, elderly, Europe, exercise, frustration, health information, hospital, hyperactivity, medication, nurse, nurses’ education, overweight, paper work, patients, prescription drug, retirement, snack, stress, surgery - minor, terrible two’s, toddler, TV, USA, What Have We Done? or phrases to categorize this post for the tags section

A relative went to minor surgery today; I accompanied him. Of retirement age, he is in pretty good health. He exercises regularly, and is not on any prescription drug – in now ay your typical elderly patient.

The nurses at the hospital are a different story. Nearly every one is overweight. And of all people in the country, nurses have about the best health information. Why then are they overweight? Stress and frustration, I’d guess.

In a new European Study, the level of nurses expertise and the number of patients they have to tend to, determine the outcome: More deaths occurred if nurses had more patients, less deaths with better education. None of which is a surprise.

Here, nurses are busy with tons of paper work. In nearly every room at the hospital a TV is blaring. Am I am the only one on whose nerves the TV is grating?? The frequent advertisements are showing snacks, breakfast cereals, snacks, diet beverages, snacks.

Which is the best snack? None – a person who eats good foods does not need snacks.

Where is the country going? People are eating wrong, and all they do is worry. We gives toddlers medications against hyperactivity when their terrible two’s are “unmanageable” (and never even think the food or the TV might be the culprit).

Nurses are overworked, doctors are overworked, parents are overworked. Who cares?

We have run the people and the country into the ground. And the doctors and the nurses. Who will be around to do the work, in the long run?

Can This Be Healed With Herbs Alone?

September 29, 2013

Tags: herbs, food, water, alcohol, allergy, aloe vera, Andrographis paniculata, ankle, antibacterial, antibiotic, antibiotic resistance, anti-germ, bacteria, bathing, berberine, black seed oil, brain, calf, cannabinoid receptors, Can This Be Healed With Herbs Alone, capsule, cheek, cinnamon, clay, cleanliness, coconut oil, cow, craziness, culture - bacterial, day care, diet, donkey, dosage, endangered species, Europe, experimenting, forehead, fragrance, frankincense, Germany, gold, goldenseal, goldenthread, head, healing agent, honey, honey-colored crust, impetigo, infection, Infectious Disease, injury, Iran, itch, lanolin, life-threatening, limb, Maine, Manuka honey, mosquito bite, mud, myrrh, nape, neck, neem, Nigella, ocean, olive leaf extract, Oman, oregano, primary care provider, proof of principle, propolis, rash - infectious, Russia, salt water, salve, Sankt Petersburg, scientist, sheep fat, shlep-sh***, skin infection, stable, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, tea tree oil, thigh, Three Magi, tincture, traveling, trunk, turmeric

Early July, in Sankt Petersburg/Russia, I was bitten by a mosquito. Not paying attention, I must have scratched the bite, and when I looked next – about a week later – my right ankle showed the telltale sign of a honey-colored crust: Impetigo!

Impetigo is an infectious rash, usually caused by Staphylococcus or Streptococcus bacteria. Since we were traveling, nobody did a culture, we never will know who the culprit is. For first aid, still in Russia, I dabbed tea tree oil on it – too late, as it turned out; I should have treated the mosquito bite thus!

At home, two weeks after the bite, for healing I added some herbs, taken by mouth: Olive leaf extract, oregano, Andrographis paniculata and neem. The rash got paler, but by then it had spread up my right calf, to both of my thighs, and to my forehead and right cheek. Tea tree oil immediately removed the itchy spots from my face, but the rest stalled – not getting better or worse. – It is interesting to note that impetigo usually spares the trunk; it prefers head and limbs. I conclude those bacteria don’t like it hot …

With all infections, it is a good idea to clean up one's diet - no sugars, dairy, and as few white starches as possible. Mine was already pretty good; not much I could do here.

We traveled to Maine. Bathing in the salt water every day was soothing, and accelerated the healing (careful if you try this at home: Some warmer oceans easily might carry offending bacteria!). But then it slowed down again. In my desperation, I applied mud from the edge of the ocean once a day – because in Europe muds and clays are thought of as healing agents. It sure didn’t look pretty – my legs were blackish, peeling and scattering dried mud wherever I walked and sat and lay – especially in my bed. But mud greatly helped: Every day the rash looked a bit paler, and felt less itchy.

In case you think I am a crazy doctor going off the cliff: All along I was in contact with my primary care provider, who happens to be specialized in Infectious Disease. Because I have many, many allergies to antibiotics, and because of the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, he thought it was worth to try alternatives. So, mud it was. I even took a jar full of mud home when we left Maine after the summer. But the jar soon was empty – and the rash blossomed again. I added propolis, black seed oil (Nigella) and to berberine (the yellow dye makes goldenseal and goldenthread antibacterial; but goldenseal is an endangered species, so I don’t use it) the mix of herbal capsules that I was taking by mouth; not all at once, but every three hours one of the herbs, while awake (dosage is found on the bottle).

An Iranian friend of mine wrote me that her grandmother would use a salve of turmeric and sheep fat (lanolin) on skin infections. So I made a salve with turmeric, adding cinnamon for fragrance, and Manuka honey for good measure (Manuka honey got excellent results in trials in killing bacteria). However, I used coconut oil instead of lanolin, because I had coconut oil in the house, it smells better than sheep fat, and it is known for having antibacterial properties itself.

Things healed nicely – until I noticed new lesions at the nape of my neck, where I must have scratched there – despite fussy cleanliness throughout. Presently, I am steeping myrrh in alcohol for a tincture; another friend recently had brought me myrrh and frankincense from Oman. Tonight, I will use this tincture for the first time. Mainly I am looking for replacing the turmeric with something less colorful – I am doubtful if I will ever be able to wash the yellow color out of my bed sheets … - And, yes, the Three Magi valued myrrh and frankincense as highly as gold! Why? Because of their anti-germ abilities, which was needed in ancient times when you lived with cow and donkey in a stable. Not to mention that frankincense binds to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain.

Against the intense itch, I am also using the jelly inside of a huge old aloe vera plant I grow on the windowsill. It soothes the itch, and seems to help to reduce the angry red.

Why going to this length (approaching three month) to treat an itchy – but luckily not painful – rash? Part is, of course, my many allergies. Another part is that the rash is not life-threatening – I have some room for experimenting. Also, I am not a kid in a day care situation who might spread the infection to other kids. And mainly I want to find out if curing this rash by herbs alone is even doable; finding proof of principle, as scientists say.

It’s not nice having an ugly rash. Adding ridicule to injury: In Germany, I was told, the slang word for this very unpleasant and persistent impetigo is “shlep-sh***!” - One could not have come up with a more suitable term!

Oh, and stay posted to find out if the herbs finally will work!

Bone Broth for Strengthening your Bones

September 9, 2013

Tags: food, water, antibiotics, bike accident, Bone Broth for Strengthening your Bones, bone soup, broth, bowel health, calories, carrot, celery, celeriac, cheap food, carrot, chicken soup, clavicle, collar bone, elbow, Europe, fat, fracture, frozen shoulder, garlic, Germany, hair, heal-all, husbandry, immune system, ligament, lovage, meat, mending bones, nails - fingernails, non-fattening, onion, organic, osteopenia, osteoporosis, oxtail, parsley, peppercorns, processed food, ribs, salt – herbal, scapula, shank, shoulder, shoulder blade, sick animal, simmering, skeletal appendages, snack, strengthening bones, tendon, vegan, vegetable, vegetarian, war, warming food, winter

Somebody in my family was in a bike accident and broke a shoulder – the collarbone as well as the shoulder blade. Ouch!

From my childhood in Germany, I remembered the heal-all properties of bone broth. Bone broth has all the ingredients a bone needs for knitting together again because bone broth is simmered for hours and hours – days, actually – until everything good in the bone now is swimming in the broth. Proof: If you try to eat the bones, they are soft and can be eaten like just another piece of meat. I find them just as tasty – but opinions differ here …

This is how you make a bone soup: Take beef bones like shank, oxtail and/or ribs. If you add chicken, it is better to have an old bird than a young one – the bones are stronger in an older bird.

Cover the bones with filtered cold water in a lidded pot, bring to a boil and then turn down the heat to simmering. For taste, I add herbal salt and black peppercorns in a tea ball. If you don’t like the taste of bone broth very much, add whole onions, garlic and carrots. Since the broth is reheated and simmered every day for a few hours until eaten up, it is not appetizing to have other vegetables in there – they would cook into a mush. But vegetables won’t hurt because all of them carry the minerals bones need to grow strong. – Before you serve the broth for the first time, cool it down and remove all visible fat from the top. Not that the fat is not healthy; most people just don’t like it swimming on their soup. – The meat can be eaten, or be discarded. All its goodness (or most of it) is now in the broth.

Make sure you buy organic meat and bones only. The detrimental effects of meat are not so much caused by meat – as vegans and vegetarians think. Unhealthy effects of meat seem to be related to the sick animals we eat. Sick animal come from bad husbandry. Bad husbandry requires medications like antibiotics to make the animals look healthy – but they aren’t. How can we expect health from a sick cow or a poorly chicken? Lead stores in bones - so make sure you get animals that were raised and fed in a natural way.

Bone broth is not a good source of all amino acids, but provides three essential amino acids, namely arginine, glycine and proline. Also it is rich in gelatin – once your broth cooled down, it separates in fat on top and the jelly below. Besides strengthening your bones – not only in a case of fracture, but against osteoporosis and osteopenia too – bone broth is said to be good for general bowel health and the immune system because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Not surprisingly, it is also good for skeletal appendages like tendons, ligaments, nails and hair, and it “greases” the joints. It calms the mind and promotes sleepiness. Unfortunately, none of these benefits have been proven by science because there are no studies published on this subject – at least not that I am aware of (and I looked!!). In past times, however, broth was always given to sickly people and patients recuperating from major illness. It fell out of fashion with easily available and processed foods – that doesn’t mean bone broth won’t work. But don’t assume that so-called chicken soup from the store would have the same benefits. It won’t.

Making a bone broth is no work at all – and once it is in the pot, you have a snack always available. A non-fattening quick, warming snack, that is, and highly satisfying. With few calories. And cheap – in Europe bone broth was always used widely during and after wars, when food was scarce. The simmering broth on our stove will likely be served much longer than the bones need to be mended; I can make a new batch every few days – no sweat! It is good, warming winter food, too.

P.S. 9/17/2013: We did some experimenting in the kitchen, and indeed one can add vegetables to the bone broth without getting it mushy. Indeed, the vegetables make it even more tasty. Celeriac root and celery greens can be cooked for days without getting mushy. Same with carrots. And some tough herbs like parsley and lovage. As the ingredients will not be eaten - only the broth - you don't have to cut anything.

The results are also superb: The healing goes well, and since the young man is moving his arm constantly with micro-movements (without the slightest weight bearing, of course - he does not even have a frozen shoulder or elbow.

Degrees of Freshness – Or what I learned from an Alpine Meadow

July 28, 2013

Tags: food, water, air, alpine, animals, aroma, Austria, basil, bell flower, biodiversity, bulbs, burdock, bush, buttercup, cilantro, coltsfoot, cranesbill, crocus, dandelion, diversity, Earth, Europe, eyebright, farm, fresh, heal-all, garden, Germany, Good King Henry, grazing, Great Britain, Grimming Mountain, growth, Hamburg, harvest, healing power, health, hedge, herbal, humans, kitchen, limestone, lovage, meadow, meadowsweet, mowing, nutrients, ocean, oregano, parsley, plant, plantain - broad-leafed, plantain - narrow-leafed, poisonous, pollution, polyphenol, primal, processed, red clover, rosemary, Russia, scilla, silverweed, skiing, soil, species, stinging nettle, storage, Styria, sub-alpine, sun, supermarket, sweet Annie, tea, thyme, travel, tree, underground, vital, yarrow, hiking, vacation

People vacation in Austria – skiing in the winter, hiking in the summer. I never considered summer vacations in a land-locked country like Austria, because, originally from Hamburg/Germany, I am a child of the ocean – of all the oceans. But I am just back from one of the high meadows in Styria, smack in the middle of Austria. And what I found: a primal meadow.

The alpine meadows high up there, facing the Grimming Mountain, have been mowed twice a year, for hundreds of years, probably thousands of years. The plant diversity is unimaginable. In an article I read some years ago that in Great Britain the age of a hedge can be estimated by how many different tree and bush species grow there; roughly one species is added per decade. I imagine it must be similar with these ancient meadows, mowed over year after year, different plants moving in all the time, enhancing biodiversity over time. The converse is also true: If we abandon regular mowing and/or grazing – as often now is the case on the steep and hard-to-reach meadows, and in light of shortage of labor when the young people move into the cities for a “better” life – we will lose this biodiversity. And might regret it too late.

Because I was exhausted from my Europe travels through Russia, Germany, Austria, I brewed myself an herbal tea from the plants of the meadow right after arrival. The underground is limestone that let so many plants thrive: yarrow, meadowsweet, narrow-leafed plantain, stinging nettle, heal-all, broad-leafed plantain, red clover, eyebright, silverweed, Good King Henry, dandelion, sweet Annie. To which I added herbs from the kitchen garden: parsley, cilantro, rosemary, lovage, basil, oregano, thyme. Of course, other plants grew there that where not useful for my tea as they are poisonous, like cranesbill, coltsfoot, bell flower, buttercup, and a variety of spring-flowering bulbs like crocus and scilla that were now out of bloom. The tea had a gorgeous aroma, and I felt better and stronger immediately. Wish I could take such a meadow home!

My garden at home, lovely as it is, does not come close. Its plant variety is not as great, the individual plants are not as sturdy, their green is not as deep, their aroma is not as overpowering. From this exceptional plant health we can assume that their polyphenol content is higher, and that their healing power is greater. Mostly, it is the strong sun out there that enables such a lush growth. But also the absence of pollution of air, soil and water so prevalent where we live. Earth just isn’t that primal anymore as it is high in the alpine and sub-alpine meadows. I am coming home with a new yearning, namely to preserve what we have, and perhaps even return our planet to more health. Because, the life of plants, and animals, and humans are closely interwoven here on Earth, none can survive alone.

In my books, and here on the blog, I am touting fresh foods over processed foods. Fresh does not only mean harvested recently and stored for not too long, but also containing a high amount of vital nutrients. Up there, in the mountain meadow, I learned that degrees of freshness exist: Fresh from the supermarket: good. Fresh from your garden or directly from the farm: better. Fresh from an alpine meadow: best.

Another Unproven Pearl: Fat - The Happiness Food

July 18, 2013

Tags: food, movement, Another Unproven Pearl- Fat - The Happiness Food, anti-depressant, brain, butter, butter fat, carbohydrates – simple, cholesterol, coconut oil, coffee, cream - whipped, depression, endomorphins, exercise, Europe, fat, fat-phobic, ghee, happiness, happiness molecules, ice cream, obesity, oil, olive oil, pudding, sugar, suicide, Vienna, weight, World War II

Studies have shown that higher fat deposits in the body are found in people who have major depression. But is eating fat the reason of depression? Or is it moving and exercising less? (We know that movement manufactures endomorphins – happiness molecules) Or is it that anti-depressants increase weight? (A well-known and lamentable fact).

Eating good fats – even in higher amounts – does not necessarily make you fat. Fat increases satiety, and fat seems to make people happier. At least, some people – and I am definitely among them. As a child, I would arm myself with a spoon and raid the pantry, eating butter as if it was a pudding or ice cream. As it was after World War II in Europe, and food was scarce, my family was not happy! Today, sitting in a Vienna park, I was drinking a coffee with whipped cream, I was happy. Of course, sitting in a park on a sunny day might be reason alone to feel good, but the non-sweetened whipped cream clearly added to my happiness.

Our brains are mostly fat. No wonder that my brain likes whipped cream. Unfortunately, I have not found any studies supporting my theory. Except that it is know that too low cholesterol might lead to depression and suicide. But in our fat-phobic society, many people deny themselves healthy fats: butter fat (ghee), olive oil, coconut oil - on the whole, we prefer the sugar high to the deep satisfaction of fat happiness. If you ask me, we should deny ourselves sugar and simple carbohydrates (meaning: ice cream!). But we should bathe our foods in oils and good fats, and should indulge occasionally in whipped cream. Fat doesn’t make fat. Sugar makes fat. Not moving makes fat.

Anybody who wants to study this??,

The Chinese Scroll

March 5, 2013

Tags: order, food, age, aging, antibiotic, antitoxin, baby, birth, Brussels, childbirth, Chinese, dinner, diphtheria, divorce, doctors, Europe, foolish & dangerous things, hitchhiking, love of life, luck measles, mother, nurse, Paris, parties, pediatric ward, perils, pneumonia, scroll, sick baby, The Chinese Scroll, tuberculosis, underage drinking, understanding, women, World War II, youth

At a fancy dinner, across the table, another guest talked about “women of a certain age.” I looked him straight into the eye and said: “I am not a woman of a certain age. I am 68.” There were a few gasps at the table.

Age seems to be a problem. But not if you have been a very sick baby that should not have survived 6 months when she came down with the double whammy of measles and diphtheria (they put her into a corner to die, and told the mother not to bother) – at the end of World War II in Europe when there were no antitoxins, no antibiotics, and no food. Or should have died of pneumonia every winter of her childhood. Or should have died of tuberculosis at age fifteen (or thereabouts). Or should have died in childbirth because the doctors deemed her too week to give birth of a baby of her own. Or should have died in her forties when the doctors thought she was too old for another baby. Not to mention two heartbreaking divorces, and all the foolish and dangerous things she went through in her youth: Hitchhiking alone from Brussels to Paris, drinking underage at parties – and more foolish & dangerous things I better don’t relate here.

Not sure what kept me alive during all those perils. Love of life, probably. And sheer luck.

But so it comes that I am not afraid of getting older – only curious, and proud.

I see my life as a Chinese scroll: Every day the scroll unrolls a bit more, and – surprise! surprise! – showing more and more of my improbable, disorderly, wonderful life: A gorgeous picture! Still a bit unfolding at the edges every single day. And how lucky I am to still be here, and see it unfolding, understanding more of myself, understanding better the forces that worked on me and nudged me and pushed me forward!

Oh, and that baby there, left to die in a corner of the pediatric ward? I imagine a kindhearted nurse who must have touched me and fed me and cuddled me secretly to keep me alive. And then, two weeks later, they called up my mother: Would she, please, finally pick up that healthy baby that was eating the food of all the other babies on the ward?

Time To Take Your Hat And Leave, Mister Fahrenheit!

August 19, 2012

Tags: order, water, allergy, Alone in Berlin, American, Andrographis paniculata, Bach - Johann Sebastian (1685 to 1750), basement flooding, bath, Belize, book, cabin, cat allergy, Celsius – Anders (1701 to 1744), children, clams, clay, cut, dairy, discussing, down-east, Earth, eating, echinacea, Europe, eye infection, Fahrenheit scale, Fahrenheit - Daniel Gabriel (1686 to 1736), Fallada - Hans (1893 to 1947), farming, forest, fungal infection, Gdansk, Germany, global warming, goldenseal, GSE (grapefruit seed extract), hordeolum, ice, inch, inflammation, kilogram, lobster, Maine, mathematics, math teacher, medical emergency, mercury intoxication, metric system, mucus production, mushroom poisoning, musings, mussels, mystery, Native American, naturalist, Nazi time, ocean, old growth, rain, rash, reading, redemption, rejuvenating, reverence, rock, saltwater, sauna, scallops, sheep farming, sleep, stimulating, sty, summering, summertime, Sweden, teabag, tea tree oil, temperature, thermometer, Time To Take Your Hat And Leave, Mister Fahrenheit!, trees, underarm rash, U.S.A., writing, wound

Last night in the sauna, our European friends asked again for an explanation of the Fahrenheit scale. It boggles their mind that we here in the United States still using the clumsy Fahrenheit thermometer readings, instead the easy Celsius version.

Celsius determined the freezing point of water as zero degree, and the boiling point of water as 100 degree. Fahrenheit, on the other hand, placed his zero point at the lowest temperature he personally ever measured (in an artificial cold mixture of ice and salts). He then determined the moment when ice forms on non-moving water as 32 degree. And a third fixed point was when he put the thermometer under his arm – which he called 96 degree. Things could not be more messy and arbitrary than that, methinks.

Not to take away from Mister Fahrenheit’s merits: He invented the thermometer. But his temperature scale outlived its usefulness. It is only used now in the U.S. and in Belize (does that tell us something about the political situation of Belize??). The Fahrenheit scale should go where also inches and feet and the American pound should go: On the garbage heap of history. It is time that we introduce the metric system. Mainly so that our children in school don’t spend an inordinate amount of time learning to work with one sixteenth of an inch, and something like that. To handle inches and feet make you fit for construction work, but not much more. The metric system is easier, makes more sense – and can take students to science and computer language and into the difficult future … if they didn’t have to learn inches and feet and Fahrenheit and miles and uneven pounds. As a former math teacher, mathematical prowess is important to me – and I don’t like at all that we are taking only place # 27 globally in math skills.

Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit (1686 to 1736) died already at age fifty. I wonder if he died of mercury intoxication, because he also invented the mercury thermometer. He actually started his career as a naturalist, after his parents died of a mushroom poisoning when he was in his teens. He was born in Gdansk, not far away from where I was born, and is a contemporary of Johann Sebastian Bach. – And, no, Anders Celsius from Sweden did not die of mercury intoxication; he died so young of tuberculosis.

Meanwhile, and interrupting my writing, I took a bath in the ocean. The water is rejuvenating, stimulating and cooling. In former years I had to leave after five minutes because I was cold to the bones. For the last few years, we leave because it gets boring. Anybody here still refuting global warming? Here, in down-east coastal Maine, we feel the consequences. Also by increased rains: We had water in the basement - the cement is broken, water comes in from all sides. Which had a good side-effect: We finally had to clean up the basement; it was overdue for about twenty years ...

Of course, it is still gorgeous summertime in Maine. We sleep and eat, we read and discuss, we do sauna (and a dip in the ocean afterward), and go for hikes. The other day, we had a lobster bake, directly at the ocean with churning white water, on wooden benches. Life could not be better. That is what the Natives must have thought hundred of years ago: This was their summering area, and their spirit of reverence for this place is still in the air. They would come from afar and meet here, to indulge in clams and mussels, lobsters and scallops. Then for two hundred years this paradisal spot of the Earth, was used cutting down the old growth, then farming it, which turned out not too successful – this is mostly barren clay and rocks around here. Afterwards, sheep farming, and then, nearly a century of neglect again so that trees could cover the land. Not like old growths 0 no, that we will never get back again. But still beautiful. Now, a few summer cabins are tucked into the woods, barely visible during day time because Maine has an ordnance in place that constructions need to be away 100 feet (30,48m) the upper shore line. But at night you see lights shimmer and sparkle through the forests – more than one would guess during the day.

I have read the German mystery, and found it satisfyingly light fare. Now I am reading Hans Fallada’s Alone in Berlin – and that is not light fare. But a marvelous book. That there was one German who could write about what happened to the population during Nazi time – I feel it is kind of a redemption.

My musings from Maine can’t end without describing a few of the tiny medical emergencies we had so far – and hopefully, we will not experience worse: Cat allergy: Andrographis paniculata; leave out all dairy to reduce inflammation and mucus production. A cut foot from a stone: Saltwater; tea tree oil. A sty (hordeolum): lukewarm teabag on eye; Echinacea, goldenseal and GSE (grapefruit seed extract) from the inside. An underarm rash (likely fungal): tea tree oil. – Everybody is doing remarkably fine.

News from My Summer Reading Pile

August 2, 2012

Tags: order, food, herbs, water, Alone in Berlin, Atkinson - Kate (born 1951), Aufklärung aus dem Geist der Experimentalphysik: Lichtenbergsche Konjunktive, Bayer – John (born 1947), Bode - Thilo (born 1947), books, Boston, Chinese, classics, cook book, cult book, democracy, Die Essensfälscher: Was uns die Lebensmittelkonzerne auf die Teller lügen, Die Nacht des Schierlings, Dutch, Einstein – Albert (1879-1955), Einstein: A Biography, enlightenment, Enzensberger - Hans Magnus (born 1929), Europe, Every Man Dies Alone, experimental physics, Fallada – Hans (1893 - 1947), Fatelessness, food forgers, food industry, Foraged Flavor: Finding Fabulous Ingredients in Your Backyard or Farmer's Market, French, garden bounty, German, Greene - Graham, Jin - Ha (born 1956), Hamburg/Germany, Heimat ist das, was gesprochen wird, hemlock, historical mystery, Hogg - James (1777 - 1835), Hungarian, I.M. Ischa Meyer In Margine In Memoriam, Japanese Invasion of China, Jen - Gish (born 1955), Je länger ein Blinder lebt - desto mehr sieht er, Yiddish Sayings, Lanzmann – Claude (born 1925), Leroux - Eddy, Lichtenberg - Georg Christoph (1742-1799), linguistics, Kertész – Imre (born 1929), Maine, Markson - David (1927 - 2010), medicine, memoirs, Mendelssohn - Moses (1729 - 1786), Müller – Herta (born 1953), murderer, Nanjing Requiem, Nazi Germany, Neffe - Jürgen (born 1956), Netherlands, New England history, News from My Summer Reading Pile, Nobel Prize, novel, Oelker - Petra (born 1847), Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman, Palmen - Connie (born 1955), philosophy, physicist, presents, reading pile, Relativity, Schöne - Albrecht (born 1925), shaman, Shields - Carol (1935 - 2003), Somé - Patrice Malidoma (born 1956), Started Early - Took My Dog, The Heart of the Matter, The Lazarus Project, The Patagonian Hare, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, The Silences of Hammerstein, The Stones Diaries, The Wordy Shipmates, United States, Vowell - Sarah (born 1969), Wallace - David Foster (1962 - 2008), Waste Books, Wittgenstein’s Mistress, Wong - Tama Matsuoka, World and Town

Four days of Maine made me a different person, even more alive than usual, quieter. Already I have finished two of the books on my reading pile – the Einstein I had already started in Boston.

1. Jürgen Neffe, Einstein: A Biography, 2009 (English) – a wonderful book – makes one think one really understand Relativity now …

2. Carol Shields, The Stones Diaries, 1995 (I know, I know – EVERYBODY has read it already! Somehow I was behind)

3. Claude Lanzmann, The Patagonian Hare: Memoirs (I am reading a German translation; if you can, read the French original, from 2009). A difficult book. An important book – how Man is murderer to Man.

4. Tama Matsuoka Wong, Eddy Leroux, Foraged Flavor: Finding Fabulous Ingredients in Your Backyard or Farmer's Market, 2012. I usually find cooking books boring. But this was given to me because it mirrors my philosophy: Thy garden bounty be your food and medicine!

5. Georg Christoph Lichtenberg’s Waste Books, 2000 (first printed in 18th century) (I read it in German). Lichtenberg is the perfect companion to my other philosopher friend, Moses Mendelssohn

6. Connie Palmen, I.M. Ischa Meyer In Margine In Memoriam, 2001 (German). Another present (originally Dutch). I am always eager to hear from new shores – and I know next to nothing about the Netherlands – the little stout democratic European country

7. Malidoma Somé, Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman, 1995. Another present – I was not aware how many books just trundle into my house because somebody thinks it is perfect for me. Of course, I devour everything about water. Don’t know about shamans, though. I like the herbal aspect. But am highly suspicious of the shaman side – that playing with power. As people do everywhere in politics and religion – only here more primitive, I fear.

8. Imre Kertész, Fatelessness, Novel, 2004. (From Hungarian). Kertész won a Nobel in 2002.

9. Hans Fallada, Alone in Berlin (also translated from German under the title: Every Man Dies Alone), Novel, 2010 (originally published in 1947). The reviews are raving about this old-new novel about the life of Everyman in Nazi Germany.

10. Herta Müller, Heimat ist das was gesprochen wird (translated by me: Home Is Where They Speak My Language, a very slim volume, but I am not sure this has been translated officially). Another Nobel recipient, in 2009.

11. James Hogg, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, 1824. Allegedly a wonderful classic – I have to find out for myself

12. John Bayer, The Lazarus Project, Novel, 1999. Not sure I can stomach the philosophy – but someone recommended it to me, and I will try

13. Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter, Novel, 1948. Gathering dust on my shelves for many years – now I want to tackle this classic, to find out for myself what made Greene so great

14. Jiddish Sayings (Je länger ein Blinder lebt, desto mehr sieht er – the longer a blind man lives, the more he sees), in German, 1965

15. Sarah Vowell, The Wordy Shipmates, 2008. New England history from a new perspective – funny and scathing, it seems

16. Kate Atkinson, Started Early, Took My Dog, 2010. This mystery caught my eye – it sounded like a good summer read.

17. David Markson, Wittgenstein’s Mistress, 1988. A weird novel, and something like a cult book – I wanted to read it when I heard that David Foster Wallace wrote the afterword

18. Gish Jen, World and Town, novel, 2010. Another present. People know that I am interested in everything Chinese – so, this book came leaping into my house

19. Albrecht Schöne, Aufklärung aus dem Geist der Experimentalphysik: Lichtenbergsche Konjunktive, 1982 (a book about the afore-mentioned Lichtenberg, who in real life was not a philosopher, but a physicist. Translated, this title would be something like: Enlightenment Grown Out Of Experimental Physics. It is very much a linguistic musing about how Lichtenberg used different forms of conjunctives in German to convey his sly critique of his time

20. Thilo Bode, Die Essensfälscher, Was uns die Lebensmittelkonzerne auf die Teller lügen, 2010. Translated, the title would be something like: The Food Forgers – How the Food Industry Heaps Our Plates With Lies. Of course, this is along the lines of what I am thinking and writing most of the time

21. Ha Jin, Nanjing Requiem, novel, 2011. A novel about the horrible Japanese invasion of China in 1937

22. Petra Oelker, Die Nacht des Schierlings, 2010. (The Hemlock Night) A historical mystery from my hometown Hamburg/Germany. This is a whole series, and my – still living in Hamburg - supplies me with them, knowing I will devour each new arrival. Don’t hold your breath for this ever being translated into English – there are not enough nostalgic ex-Hamburgers here in the States to make it worthwhile …

23. Hans Magnus Enzensberger, The Silences of Hammerstein, 2009. German history at its best, I have heard – people who lived through the Nazi times, and stayed decent


Compiling this list, I realize that I never can read all these books before we turn home to Boston! But it is a good feeling that I brought them all – I can find something for every mood, it seems.

However: Don’t send any more books! These will keep me busy until the winter holidays …

Ethical Dilemma

June 17, 2012

Tags: order, food, addiction, bread, cheese, community, cow - unhappy, dairy, deli, dilemma, disease, Ethical Dilemma, Europe, free, fridge, Germany, gluten intolerance, Greek, hay fever, health care, hidden cost, inflammatory, milk, milk product, neighbor, obesity, pain, processed food, unhappy, upbringing, vacation, wasting of food, World War II, yogurt

My neighbors left for Europe vacation. They brought me their fridge’s contents; Several cheeses, Greek yogurt, two kinds of deli, a bread, milk. Which is kind of them. But we don’t eat food like that.

What is a woman to do? Should I throw it out – as is my initial impulse? The daughter delivered the bag of food with words that encouraged me to depose of the things if I didn’t want it – somehow, they knew these are not items I usually put on the table … Or should I hand it to my cleaning ladies who certainly would be happy to get nice things for free?

Only that those things are not “nice”. - Dairy is inflammatory, makes one fat and sets a person up for hay fever, and so much more. The deli is from unhappy cows, and highly processed. The bread we can’t eat because of gluten intolerance.

They are not “free” either. Down the line, because of the addictive nature of milk products, they cause health care costs. Someone will have to pay: The eater with pain and disease; the community for doctor.

Knowing myself, I anticipate that I will give the food to my cleaning ladies – I grew up after World War II in Germany – and wasting food is against my upbringing.

What would you do?

A Last Look At The Body

June 7, 2012

Tags: order, autopsy, A Last Look At The Body, Allgemeines Krankenhaus der Stadt Wien, alma mater, Austria, body, Braunschweig, Brunswick, cadaver, case load, clinician, cost-effective, death, disease, Europe, Hamburg, hospital, imaging procedures, Kiel, mathematics, medical knowledge, medical mistake, medical skill, medicine, Morbidity/Mortality Conference, nineteenth century, Nuremberg, Nürnberg, pathologist, philosophy, physician, Rokitansky - Carl von (1804 to 1878), school, social sciences, teaching hospital, USA, Vienna

Vienna, in the nineteenth century: At his teaching hospital – the Allgemeines Krankenhaus der Stadt Wien – a pathologist named Karl von Rokitansky institutes an autopsy on every single patient who dies there. After the autopsy, clinicians and pathologists sit down together to compare notes: The Morbidity/Mortality Conference is born.

New diseases were found, old diseases became better known, medicine improved greatly, and Vienna became a magnet for physicians who wanted to learn there - it still is Europe's biggest hospital. My father spend some semesters studying medicine in Vienna. In Europe, one is not as wedded to one's alma mater as one is in the USA; in Europe, it behooves everybody to seek out good schools and good teachers to learn as much as possible. For instance, I studied in Nuremberg (Nürnberg), Brunswick (Braunschweig), Kiel and Hamburg, and finished degrees in mathematics, philosophy, social sciences and medicine. Here, if you change schools, you are frowned upon. – Both methods seem useful in their own way – I am not sure which one I prefer.

Back to pathologist Rokitansky. For about a century after he made them mandatory, autopsies were the norm, especially at teaching hospitals. Now they are the exception: Barely one in a hundred dead bodies get a second look, to find out what the cause of their demise was. Autopsies are not “cost-effective”, and different imaging procedures, done when the patient is still alive give the patient a better chance to stay alive.

But medical knowledge and skills are in decline – and patients complain. It seems as if physicians don’t want to be confronted anymore with their mistakes. Before, a physician learned from every case. Now the physician just tries to handle the case load.

This time it seems it is up the patient to demand an autopsy …

Sebastian Kneipp Wins – I Lose

November 28, 2011

Tags: water, adrenalin, adrenals, age, bathtub, brown fat, California, Celsius, cold exposure, cold water, consumption, Danube River, downer, endurance, energizer, energy jolt, Fahrenheit, fall, Europe, Frankfurt/Main, hormone, immune system, kidney, life force, neurotransmitter, pool, qi, Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897), Sebastian Kneipp Wins – I Lose, stimulation, swimming, temperature, thermometer, TCM, Traditional Chinese Medicine, traveling, tuberculosis, weight, Western Medicine, winter

Traveling earlier this month in Europe, I missed my daily swimming in the pool so much that I filled a bathtub in the hotel with water to the brim and got in. Now, it happened to be Frankfurt/Main in late fall, and the water was cold. How cold? I don’t travel with a thermometer but it was definitely colder than my Californian pool.

But I enjoyed it. I got in to my neck, and stayed for a while. As it turned out, I stayed too long. Although the rest of my body heated up soon after I had toweled myself off, an ice-cold area over my kidneys the size of a football stayed with me – literally for days.

Uh-oh! I had overdone it! And Sebastian Kneipp had told me so. He used to warn that one should not exaggerate cold exposure. And as difficult it is to give exact numbers for the time frame of “too much” – if one stays cold in the kidney area for days after, as it happened to me, one clearly has gone too far.

Originally, he had cured himself from consumption (tuberculosis) by jumping into the winter-cold Danube River several times a week. When he later tried his method on other people, he quickly realized that not every body was not made for such endurance test: The older people were, and the thinner, the less cold they could handle – and he adjusted his theories to this insight.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine “qi” is the life force, and is generated in the “kidneys”, which is actually what we call the adrenals. In Western Medicine it is known that that the adrenals produce a hormone/neurotransmitter called adrenalin, which is an energizer. If you stimulate the adrenals a bit, it will give you that desired energy jolt; if you over-stimulate the adrenals, you get a downer.

Now, after two weeks of down time, when I didn’t dare to face the cold again, I swam again in the pool today. The temperature was 15 degree Celsius (59 Fahrenheit). I only swam one lap – wasn’t brave enough for more.

One lap might be too short to induce brown fat in my body, but it was exhilarating, and when I got out, my kidneys felt fine! And I restarted in time to strengthen my immune system for the winter.

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?

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 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.

Masaru Emoto: Praying For Water

March 31, 2011

Tags: water, anger, Armageddon, atomic industry, attention, celebrities, Charlie Sheen, children’s children, consumption, disappointment, distraction, emotions - negative, Earth, earthquake, Emoto - Masaru, English, Europe, Fukushima Nuclear Plant, Gaia, happiness for all, high blood pressure, Japan, Japanese, justice, love, Masaru Emoto - Praying For Water, “Messages from Water”, nuclear forces, order, poet, poetry, power plants, prayer, radio, reactor accident, reactor - leaking, science, scientist, survival, tsunami, Universe, wanting ever more

Masaru Emoto has invited everybody to pray for the sickened water at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant in Japan, at noon today. Here are the words he suggests:

"The water of Fukushima Nuclear Plant, we are sorry to make you suffer. Please forgive us. We thank you, and we love you."

Even if you come too late today, it is never too late to send loving thoughts to suffering people and to the violated Earth. Prayer lowers blood pressure by making you one with everything around you. When we get upset or feel anger, disappointment, and so on, these negative emotions stand between us and the world. When we pray, we step back into the web of beings in this Universe.

Masaru Emoto has been, for many years, fighting to keep water and our mother planet healthy, and I admire him for this. As a fellow water fighter I do stretch out my hand to him.

However, I wish he wouldn’t call himself a scientist and what he does science. In reality, his beautiful photos in “Messages from Water” are poetry, and they would not lose anything of their power if he would call himself a poet. Water does not speak Japanese, nor English.

Water, however, and our whole ancient Gaia planet, needs all our attention and love so that we all and our children and our children’s children will survive. The Japanese reactor accident has made clear again that we humans cannot contain the nuclear forces we unleash with every newly built atomic power plant. The discussion in Europe about this is fierce – and surely comes down on the side of dismantling existing power plants and not to build new ones. While we here are still distracted by Charlie Sheen, and the like.

I am sick and tired of the old arguments of the atomic industry. One woman on the radio said that it was not the fault of the reactor – “the reactor was fine” – but it was the tsunami that did it in. Well, we humans don’t control earthquakes and tsunamis, and ANY leaking reactor forces Armageddon on the people in its vicinity, and perhaps on all of us.

We can use wind and sun, and we can live closer to the land and less over the top. We can make justice and happiness for all a priority, instead of consumption and celebrities and wanting ever more. For all that I am sending my prayers to Fukushima today.

First Impressions of America

November 12, 2010

Tags: water, America, Boston, Europe, First Impressions of America, Haight Ashbury, hot tub, nakedness, nudity, Romans, Rome, sauna, San Francisco, Saturday night, women’s spa

This old story – nearly thirty years old - story has two parts. This is Part One:

My first visit ever to America, was with a boyfriend, in the very early eighties. He took me to friends in the Haight Ashbury area of San Francisco. They were a nice couple, with two little girls.

While we were politely chatting in the living room, over a tea, they asked the usual questions of a newcomer: How was your trip? How do you like America? How do you like San Francisco?

Then the husband asked: Do you want to try a hot tub?

Now, I didn’t even know what a hot tub was. I looked to my friend. He nodded. Sure, I said.

That very moment, the three of them got up and started stripping – right there in the living room. If in Rome, do as the Romans! So I undressed, too. We went out on the porch where I got to see my first hot tub, and got to sit in one, continuing our polite coversation.

As a European, of course, I was no stranger to public nakedness. But in the living room of people I had just met half an hour ago??

Part Two: About two years later, I visited Boston for the first time, interviewing for a job. Tired after a stressful day of traversing the city and encountering hospitals and Chiefs of Medicine, I wanted to take a sauna in the evening. At that time, I was boarding with a friend, but she was away for the weekend. So I tried on my own to find a reviving sauna. First thing I learned that there were no public saunas in Boston. I was desperate – in Germany, it was so much of the culture to go once a week and relax in dry heat. Nada here.

I called around. On a Saturday evening nearly nobody answered. Somebody suggested going to a women’s spa. I found one that had a sauna, but I needed to be a member. After a lot of cajoling and explaining my visiting status, I finally succeeded in convincing them to let me use their sauna once, for a fee.

On that Saturday night, the women’s health club was deserted (I learned later that on Saturday nights EVERYBODY here has a date). I had the whirlpool all for myself. By now, I had experience with hot tubs, of course, and happily dunked there first. A lone woman came by, looked down at me and said: My, are you white!

Now I am a redhead with very white skin, that’s true – but to comment on that I don’t tan like other people? I said nothing, not sure I really had heard what I had heard.

I retired into the empty sauna, feeling right a home – in spite that American saunas are not as hot as ours. But at least I had arrived where I wanted to be this Saturday evening.

The door opened and a very bulky woman moved in. I wiggled to the side and made room for her. Her breathing made funny noises and she gave me some sideward glances. Then she spoke up: I am not offended by your sight.

Number one, I found it a strange English sentence. Number two: What was so remarkable about me that everybody had to comment on me? I said nothing – especially did I say nothing about what she looked like to me.

Again she said: I am not offended by your sight. This time I looked her full in the face, asking what she meant??

She must have gotten that I was utterly baffled, and that I had an accent. Delicately, she pointed out that, in America, you wear a bathing suit in the sauna.

Yes, the huge woman was wearing a tiny-teeny bikini. And here I was, embarrassed and white-skinned, sitting naked in a public sauna! The little guest towel I had brought from my friend’s house, did not even wrap around me.

And wait a second, I wanted to scream. If there’s no nudity allowed in America - what was that in San Francisco then??
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

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

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