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Signs and Symptoms of Arsenic Poisoning

October 4, 2016

Tags: water, herbs, movement, food, order, abdominal discomfort, abdominal pain, aches and pains, acrocyanosis, acute respiratory failure, acute tubular necrosis, adult respiratory distress syndrome, agitation, Aldrich-Mees's lines, alopecia, altered mental status, anemia, anemia – aplastic, anhidrosis, anorexia, anxiety, aplastic anemia, arrhythmia, arsenic, ascites, ataxia, atherosclerotic disease, autonomic neuropathy, basal cell carcinoma, basophilic stippling, birth defects, blackfoot disease – black, mummified dry gangrene, bladder cancer, blood in urine, bone marrow suppression, Bowen disease, brittle nails, bronchitis, bronchospasms (inhaled arsenic), burning in mouth/esophagus/stomach/bowel, cancer – lung/liver/kidney/bladder/skin/colon/larynx/lymphoid system, capillary dilation with fluid leakage and third spacing, cardiac arrhythmias, cardiac arrest, cardiomyopathy, carotid atherosclerosis, cerebral infarction, cerebrovascular disease, chills, cholangitis, cholecystitis, chronic lower respiratory diseases, cilantro, cirrhosis, clear skin lesions suddenly from such as acne, CNS depression, colitis, colon cancer, coma, concentration – poor, confabulation, confusion, congestive heart failure, conjunctivitis, convulsions, coordination difficulties, corneal necrosis, corneal ulcerations, cough with/without expectoration, cramps, cramping muscles, cyanosis of the fingers, death, dehydration, delirium, depression, dermatitis, dermatitis - allergic-type, dermatitis – exfoliative, desquamation of skin, diabetes, diarrhea - often severe and/or bloody, disordered thinking, disorientation, disseminated intravascular coagulation, drinking water, drowsiness, dyspnea (when inhaled), dysphagia, eczema, edema – non-pitting of hand and feet, EKG changes: ST changes/QT prolonged/torsades de pointes/T wave inversion, encephalopathy – acute, enzyme inhibition, esophagitis, eyes blood-shot, eyes burning, facial edema, fatigue, fatty liver, fever – low grade, fibrillation – ventricular, fingernail pigmentation, fingernails with white marks, fluid loss, flushing, folate, folic acid deficiency, gallbladder inflammation, gangrene of limbs, garlic, garlic-smelling breath or body fluids, gastritis, gastro-intestinal bleeding, generalized muscle aches and body pains, gingivitis, global trade, goiter, Guillain-Barré syndrome – resembling, hair loss, hallucinations, headaches, hearing loss, heart disease, heavy metals, hematuria, hemoglobinuria, hemolysis, hepatomegaly, herpes, hormone imbalance, hyperesthesia, hyperpigmentation of nails and skin, hyperpyrexia, hyperkeratosis - thickening of the skin of the palms and soles, hypersalivation, hypertension, hypertension-related cardiovascular disease, hypopigmentation – “raindrop” areas of lost skin color, hypotension, hypovolemia, imbalance, immune functioning impaired, immune suppression, impaired healing, inhibition of sulfhydryl enzymes – garlicky odor to breath/stool, insomnia, irritability, ischemic heart disease, jaundice, karyorrhexis, keratosis, kidney cancer, kidney damage, kidney failure, Korsakoff’s psychosis, lack of appetite, Landry-Guillain-Barré syndrome – resembling, larynx cancer, laryngitis, leg cramps, lens opacity, lethargy, leukemia???, leukocyturia, leukonychia striata, leukopenia, lightheadedness, listlessness, liver cancer, liver - central necrosis, liver congestion, liver dysfunction and elevated liver enzymes, liver - fatty degeneration, low grade fever, lung cancer, lung - chronic restrictive/obstructive disease, lungs - inflammation of respiratory mucosa, lung irritation, lymphoma???, major depression – mimicking, malabsorption, malaise, medicinal herbs, Mees's lines, melanosis of the eyelids/areolae of nipples/neck, memory loss, memory – poor, mental retardation, mental status altered, metallic taste in mouth, methionine, microcirculation abnormalities, mitochondrial dysfunction, movement disturbances, muscle aches, muscle fasciculations, muscle tenderness, muscle twitching, muscle wasting, muscle weakness, muttering, myocardial depression, myocarditis, nasal mucosa irritation (when inhaled), nasal septum perforation, nausea, neuralgia, neuritis, night blindness, nightmares, numbness, oliguria, oral burns (acute, when taken by mouth), pancreatitis, paralysis, paranoia, paresthesia – symmetrical, stocking-glove, pedal edema, pericarditis, peripheral neuritis, peripheral neuropathy, peripheral vascular insufficiency, personality change, pigmentation changes – hypo and hyper, pins and needles in hands and feet, pneumonia, bronchial pneumonia, polyneuritis, portal fibrosis, proteinuria, psychosis, pulmonary edema, pulmonary insufficiency (emphysematous lesions), pulse – irregular, QT prolonged, quadriplegia, Raynaud’s syndrome, renal cortical necrosis, respiratory failure – acute, respiratory muscle insufficiency, respiratory tract infection, rhabdomyolysis, rhino-pharyngo-laryngitis, rice, rouleaux formation of red blood cells, salivation excessive, sauna, seizures, selenium, sensorimotor peripheral axonal neuropathy, sensory changes, shock, Signs and Symptoms of Arsenic Poisoning, singing, skin bronzed, skin cancer, skin lesions and rashes including vesiculation, skin pallor, sleep, sore throat, spasms, splenomegaly, squamous cell carcinoma, ST changes, stomach pain, stomatitis, stroke, stupor, suicidal ideation, swallowing difficulty, sweating, sweating – excessive, sweet metallic taste, tachycardia, tea, throat constriction, thirst, thrombocytopenia, tingling, torsades de pointes, tracheobronchitis, tremor, tubular necrosis – acute, T wave inversion, unsteady gait, uremia, vasodilation, vasospasm, vegetables, vertigo, visual hallucinations, vitamin A deficiency, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitiligo, vomiting, vomiting blood, weakness of distal muscles – hands and feet, weight loss, well, wobbliness, zinc

Most arsenic poisoning is chronic: Through global trade, we are ingesting more and more arsenic-contaminated products – mainly rice, tea, medicinal herbs. Acute arsenic poisoning usually is accidental or occupational (mainly workers in pest control, electronics manufacturing industry and pressure-treated carpentry). Few are homi- or suicidal. Earlier this year I have been diagnosed with arsenic-induced ataxia. Ataxia means imbalance, wobbliness.

For me, I am glad that I have “just” ataxia, and not more. The list below contains Latin as well a common names to make it easier to find things.

Here is the short of what I have been doing to reduce my arsenic levels:
1. Stop using tainted products; look for safer sources.
2. Sauna as often as possible to sweat out heavy metals. Sweating through exercise and summer heat also helps.
3. Eating fresh garlic and cilantro bind and expel heavy metals
4. Vitamin C, selenium, vitamin B12, zinc, folate and methionine add to the elimination of arsenic.
5. And, of course, all the other lifestyle goodies: A healthy diet heavy on vegetables. Movement. Enough sleep. Plenty of water (some areas of the US have arsenic-contaminated drinking water from wells – careful!).


Signs and Symptoms

The myriad manifestations of arsenic intoxication do a roller coaster through all medical specialties, it seems. Since there are so many overlapping features with many diseases, it will take an open mind and special alertness to make a diagnosis. Just to show the enormous scope of signs and symptoms, I have thrown together acute and chronic arsenic intoxication. The list is not thought for diagnosing yourself - consult your physician. Here is the list:

Abdominal discomfort
Abdominal pain
aches and pains
Acrocyanosis
Acute respiratory failure
Acute tubular necrosis
Adult respiratory distress syndrome
Agitation
Alopecia
Altered mental status
Anemia
Anemia, aplastic
Anhidrosis
Anorexia
Anxiety
Aplastic anemia
Arrhythmias
Ascites
Ataxia
Atherosclerotic disease
Autonomic neuropathy: unstable blood pressure, anhidrosis, sweating, flushing
Basal cell carcinomas
Basophilic stippling
Birth defects,
Blackfoot disease – black, mummified dry gangrene
Bladder cancer
Blood in the urine
Bone marrow suppression
Bowen disease
Brittle Nails
Bronchitis
Bronchospams (inhaled arsenic)
Burning in mouth/esophagus/stomach/bowel
Cancer – lung, liver, kidney, bladder, skin, colon, larynx, lymphoid system
Capillary dilation with fluid leakage and third spacing
Cardiac arrhythmias
Cardiac arrest
Cardiomyopathy
Carotid atherosclerosis
Cerebral infarction
Cerebrovascular diseases
Chills
Cholangitis
Cholecystitis
Chronic lower respiratory diseases
Cirrhosis
Clear skin lesions such as acne
CNS depression
Colitis
Colon cancer
Coma
Concentration - poor
Confabulation
Confusion
Congestive heart failure
Conjunctivitis
Convulsions
Coordination difficulties
Corneal necrosis
Corneal ulcerations
Cough with/without expectoration
Cramps, cramping muscles
Cyanosis of the fingers
Death
Dehydration
Delirium
Depression
Dermatitis
Dermatitis allergic-type
Dermatitis, exfoliative
Desquamation of skin
Diabetes
Diarrhea, often severe and/or bloody
Disordered thinking
Disorientation
Disseminated intravascular coagulation
Drowsiness
Dyspnea (when inhaled)
Dysphagia
Eczema
Edema – non-pitting of hand and feet
EKG changes: ST changes, QT prolonged, Torsades de pointes, T wave inversion
Encephalopathy, acute
Enzyme inhibition
Esophagitis
Eyes blood-shot
Eyes burning
Facial edema
Fatigue
Fatty liver
Fever - lowgrade
Fibrillation, ventricular
Fingernail pigmentation
Fingernails with white marks
Fluid loss
Flushing
Folic acid deficiency
Gallbladder inflammation
Gangrene of limbs
Garlic-smelling breath or body fluids
Gastritis
Gastro-intestinal bleeding
Generalized muscle aches and body pains
Gingivitis
Goiter
Guillain-Barre syndrome - resembling
Hair loss
Hallucinations
Headaches
Hearing loss
Heart disease
Hematuria
Hemoglobinuria
Hemolysis
Hepatomegaly
Herpes
Hormone imbalance
Hyperesthesia
Hyperpigmentation of the nails and skin
Hyperpyrexia
Hyperkeratosis thickening of the skin of the palms and soles
Hypersalivation
Hypertension
Hypertension-related cardiovascular disease
Hypopigmentation – “raindrop” areas of lost skin color
Hypotension
Hypovolemia
Immune functioning impaired
Immune suppression
Impaired healing
Inhibition of sulfhydryl enzymes – garlicky odor to breath/stool
Insomnia
Irritability
Ischemic heart disease
Jaundice
Karyorrhexis
Keratosis
Kidney cancer
Kidney damage
Kidney failure
Korsakoff’s psychosis
Lack of appetite
Landry-Guillain-Barré syndrome - resembling
Larynx cancer
Laryngitis
Leg cramps
Lens opacity
Lethargy
Leukemia???
Leukocyturia
Leukonychia striata
Leukopenia
Lightheadedness
Listlessness
Liver cancer
Liver: central necrosis
Liver congestion
Liver dysfunction and elevated liver enzymes
Liver: fatty degeneration
Low grade fever
Lung cancer
Lung: Chronic restrictive/obstructive diseases
Lungs: Inflammation of respiratory mucosa
Lung irritation
Lymphoma???
Major depression – mimicking
Malabsorption
Malaise
Mees's lines, or Aldrich-Mees's
Melanosis of the eyelids, areolae of nipples, and neck
Memory loss
Memory – poor
Mental retardation
Mental status altered
Metallic taste in mouth
Microcirculation abnormalities
Mitochondrial dysfunction
Movement disturbances
Muscle aches, spasms, weakness
Muscle fasciculations
Muscle tenderness
Muscle twitching
Muscle wasting
Muttering
Myocardial depression
Myocarditis
Nasal mucosa irritation (when inhaled)
Nasal septum perforation
Nausea
Neuralgia
Neuritis
Night blindness
Nightmares
Numbness
Oliguria
Oral burns (acute, when taken by mouth)
Pancreatitis
Paralysis
Paranoia
Paresthesia – symmetrical, stocking-glove
Pedal edema
Pericarditis
Peripheral neuritis
Peripheral neuropathy
Peripheral vascular insufficiency
Personality change
Pigmentation changes – hypo and hyper
Pins and needles in hands and feet
Pneumonia, bronchial
Polyneuritis
Portal fibrosis
Proteinuria
Psychosis
Pulmonary edema
Pulmonary insufficiency (emphysematous lesions)
Pulse – irregular
Quadriplegia
Raynaud’s Syndrome
Renal cortical necrosis
Respiratory failure, acute
Respiratory muscle insufficiency
Respiratory tract infection
Rhabdomyolysis
Rhino-pharyngo-laryngitis
Rouleaux formation of red blood cells
Salivation excessive
Seizures
Sensorimotor peripheral axonal neuropathy
Sensory changes
Shock
Singing
Skin bronzed
Skin cancer
Skin lesions and rashes, including vesiculation
Skin pallor
Sore throat
Splenomegaly
Squamous cell carcinoma
Stomach pain
Stomatitis
Stroke
Stupor
Suicidal
Swallowing difficulty
Sweating, excessive
Sweet metallic taste
Tachycardia
Throat constriction
Thirst
Thrombocytopenia
Tingling
Tracheobronchitis
Tremor
Tubular necrosis, acute
Unsteady gait
Uremia
Vasodilation
Vasospasm
Vertigo
Visual hallucinations
Vitamin A deficiency
Vitiligo
Vomiting
Vomiting blood
Weakness of distal muscles – hands and feet
Weight loss

When Things Are Falling Down

November 19, 2015

Tags: order, herbs, movement, water, abdomen, aging, amalaki, antibiotic, antibiotic resistance, anus, ayurvedic, bacteria, balance, bastard myrobalan, bathroom, bibhitaki, bladder infection, bladder wall, birthing, bloating, bowel movement, child birth, comfort, complications, constipation, corn silk, cramps, cranberry, curse, diarrhea, death, diabetes, discomfort, Emblica officinalis, essential oil, eye, fatigue, female affliction, fluids, gastro-intestinal tract, germ, haritaki, India, Indian gooseberry infection, intercourse, internal organs, invasive procedure, Kegel exercises, kidney infection, medical advance, mesh, microbiome, olive oil outcome, pelvic muscles, perineum, pessary, plumbing, preventing falls, private parts, probiotic, prolapse, prophylaxis, rosemary, sepsis, sexual muscles, standing on one leg, surgery, susceptibility to infections, Terminalia bellirica, Terminalia chebula, thyme, toilet, triphala, urinary tract infection - recurrent, usnea, UTI, uva ursi, vulva, water - running, sanitation, side-effects, vagina, vaginal probiotics, washing hands, weight gain, When Things Are Falling Down, wiping, World Toilet Day, worst case scenario, yellow myrobalan

Today is World Toilet Day, and most writers today will talk about the importance of hygiene – which is indeed more valuable than all the other medical advances combined, in my opinion. Every person in the world deserves running water and good plumbing, and so many don’t have it: 2.4 billion people worldwide lack access to decent sanitation!

But the things I am want to talk about are internal organs, and when they fall, or droop, physicians call it prolapse. It is, of course, a female affliction (curse?). Often it results from child births (and I wonder if modern medicine that wants to speed up the birthing process, has given us more prolapses – we never will be seeing a study about this, I fear). Prolapse can be uncomfortable when you walk, and even hurt outright. But the worst part is that they might cause recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs). There’s the connection to toilets, when you are running to the bathroom twenty times a day, and the whole middle of your being hurts like hell.

Recurrent UTIs are dangerous because a simple bladder infection can rise into the kidneys and eventually even leading to sepsis (an infection of the whole body), and at its worst, death. And death doesn’t seem to be the worst outcome: The many courses of antibiotics – often the doctor tells the patient that they have to be on antibiotics for the rest of their lives to prevent the worst case scenario – damage the precious bacteria in the intestines, and lead to all sorts of complications: weight gain, susceptibility to other infections, fatigue, bloating, cramps, constipation, diarrhea, and so on. The last few years has brought us so many studies about the microbiome (the beneficial bacteria in our bowels) that it is hard to exaggerate its importance to your health. And every course of antibiotics will damage that healthy balance in your belly. - Hear that I am not altogether against antibiotics; they have saved lives (mine, for instance). But they can have grave side-effects, notably now antibiotic resistance.

Conventional medicine recommends, besides Kegel exercises, surgery. Particularly, the insertion a special mesh down there to keep organs up, has not been very successful; women are suing the manufacturer in droves, and the mesh has been abandoned. But since every surgery carries a risk of infection and death with it – and repairing prolapse might make symptoms worse – surgery should be your last resort. You could also insert a pessary into your vagina to provide structural support. It works for some women.

Here are the natural alternatives to invasive procedures; combined – can make a huge difference in the discomfort or comfort you feel in your most private area:

1. Standing on one leg whenever you think of it – while brushing your teeth, waiting for the bus, chopping an onion. This will strengthen your pelvic (and sexual) muscles – and is not as boring as Kegel exercises. It is also good exercise for your legs and good for balance – very important to prevent falls when you get older.
2. Inserting vaginal probiotics every evening into your vagina.
3. Oral probiotics. They heal your bowels after a course of antibiotics, and have shown to decrease the number of recurrent urinary tract infections prophylactically.
4. Washing your hands after each bowel movement religiously and then pampering your private parts (wipe from the front to the back - vulva to perineum to anus; never the other direction!) with a mixture of olive oil and a few drops of an essential oil like rosemary or thyme; they are antibacterial. Make sure you always wash your hands and use essential oil before you, for instance, insert the nightly vaginal probiotic capsule. It is tiny, and no, it won’t interfere with intercourse.
5. Taking triphala, the ayurvedic herb, which will prevent constipation. Naturally, if your problem is diarrhea, don’t take triphala on top of it. Triphala is an ancient combination of three Indian herbs: Amalaki or Indian gooseberry (Emblica officinalis), Bibhitaki or bastard myrobalan (Terminalia bellirica), and Haritaki or yellow myrobalan (Terminalia chebula). Triphala is actually a balm for the gastro-intestinal tract, and is also good for your eyes. Besides it works against diabetes.
6. Take a zinc supplement to boost your immune system.
7. Prophylaxis with cranberry, uva ursi, usnea, corn silk, and so on, if needed every day. Especially after sex. Cranberry prevents bacteria to latch onto your bladder wall, so they are flushed out easier.

Women and their doctors often think that prolapse is an inevitable part of aging. It shouldn’t be! - Happy Toilet Day!

High Blood Pressure – Low Blood Pressure

September 14, 2015

Tags: order, water, movement, food, herbs, agricultural, artificial sweetener, attention, basil, beach, bladder, blood pressure, brain overstimulation, butter - cultured, cardamom, cat’s claw, celery seeds, chemical compound, cinnamon, circadian rhythm, coconut oil, cold shower, cold wash, cooking, darkness, dehydration, dizziness, drinking water, drug – anti-hypertensive, endocrine, energy - lack of, erectile dysfunction, farmer, fat, fighting, French lavender, garlic, grandmother, habit, hawthorn, heart attack, heartbreak, herbalist, high blood pressure, High Blood Pressure – Low Blood Pressure, hiking, hypertension, impotence, Internet, kidney, lifestyle, linden, low blood pressure, meat, medicine pearl, meditation, modern life, music, musical instrument, nettle - stinging, olive leaf, olive oil, organic, pebbles, processed food, quiet time, relationship, relaxation, salt, screen time, sleep, sleep before midnight, sleep deprivation, sleeping with open window, spice, starch, statistics, step counter, stress, stroke, sugar, telephone, TV, Twitter, urine color, vegetable, walking, walking barefoot, walking on uneven surfaces, weight - ideal, woodworking, yarrow

A new study to answer the question: Which is the optimal blood pressure goal? has been terminated prematurely because it became statistically overwhelmingly clear that lower blood pressure targets will save lives.

That is a great outcome of a study: The clear-cut benefit of lower blood pressure. Not that it is all news: In medical school I already learned this medicine pearl: People with low pressure live for a long time, but they will feel lousy often – from dizziness and lack of energy. People with high blood pressure feel on top of the world – until they drop dead of stroke or heart attack.

It is good to know that our recent blood pressure goals have been set too high. If you have high blood pressure, or borderline high blood pressure, get ready for your doctor to put you on medication, or increase your anti-hypertension pills.

But the question is: Why do I read one report after the other about this blood pressure study, and all the commentators remark on how important it is to increase medications – and not a single commentator mentions that there are ways to lower your blood pressure without pills - naturally?

There are! You don’t have to take pills for the rest of your life; they can have serious side effect – one of the least seems to be impotence (erectile dysfunction), which is obviously a minor problem for the prescribing physician, but may make your life thoroughly miserable.

Here, if you want to go the natural way:

• End your hot showers always with a short (20 to 30 seconds) cold shower. Don’t do it yet if your blood pressure is uncontrolled high. But if you are on a pill, reasonably controlled, to can make this a daily habit. If a cold shower feels too harsh, wash yourself down with a cold facecloth twice a day in front of the sink.
• Get yourself a cheap step counter and walk more. The step counter is not really necessary, but is a great motivator. Walk more stairs, too.
• Also, walk on uneven surfaces whenever you have an occasion. Walking the beach, hiking, and walking barefoot have all been shown to lower blood pressure. One study showed that walking barefoot on pebbles is especially effective. Why is that so? The more uneven the terrain is, the more muscles you use, and the greater is the relaxation effect.
• Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation leads to more stress, and stress increases blood pressure. Aim for being in bed around ten pm. Read for a few minutes, then sleep in darkness, with open window, whenever possible. Grandmother’s advice that sleep before midnight counts double sort of bears out in modern circadian rhythm studies.
• Meditate if your stress level is high. Or do woodworking, or play a musical instrument – any hobby that absorbs your attention wholly and makes you happy has a good de-stressing effect. Even just listening to soothing music lowers your blood pressure.
• Drink enough water. Salt does not seem the main culprit (but it does not hurt to ditch all processed foods – which are notoriously high in salt), but not drinking enough is. Aim for very light yellow urine. Dark urine shows that you are dehydrated (unless there is a kidney/bladder problem).
• Keep your relationships in order. I am all for a good fight if it is necessary. But an unhappy relationship will break your heart – with or without high blood pressure.
• Reduce screen time – TV, Twitter, telephone and Internet. All overexcite your brain. Be yourself – find quiet time often.
• Eat a diet high in vegetables and herbs. Plants contain thousands of chemical compound which all conspire to keep your blood pressure low. Eat meat but only organic (or from a farmer whose agricultural practices you trust). Have plenty of good fats like organic olive oil, coconut oil, cultured butter – fat is not the enemy.
• Slowly move toward your ideal weight by eating less sugars and starches. Avoid artificial sweeteners, too.
• And if you insist on a pill, let it be herbs (it may be advisable to work with a good herbalist – or a doctor who know herbs):

o Stinging nettle
o Linden
o Olive leaf
o Yarrow
o French Lavender
o Cinnamon
o Cat’s claw
o Hawthorn
o Celery seeds
o Garlic
o Cardamom
o Basil

And so many more! Some may go into your food as spices when you cook. Actually, cooking every evening from scratch might be the best course you could take: It will relax you after work and absorb your attention – and it will heal you body that gets high blood pressure from the pressures and habits of modern life. In 95 percent, hypertension is a lifestyle issue; only in five percent, a serious medical diagnosis (kidneys, endocrine) can be made.

If high blood pressure stems from wrong lifestyles, I suggest we replace it with better, healthier, more joyful lifestyles.

Maine Tea

September 5, 2015

Tags: herbs, order, chemicals – beneficial, biochemical pathway, cell, Chinese novel, chives, dandelion, evolution, German, goldenrod, green goodness of plants, herb walk, interconnectedness, kitchen garden, Labor Day, lady’s mantle, Maine, oregano, parsley, plantain, peppermint, pine needles, plants – poisonous, polyphenol, red clover, rosehip, sarsaparilla, scented fern, steeple flower, tea - field, forest and meadow, tea - garden, tea - wild, usnea, walking, woods, workshop

For too long I haven’t written here, being deeply immersed in my new Chinese novel (which will take some years to finish writing). But this Labor Day weekend we returned to Maine, and I want to share that today I made a wild tea:

• Goldenrod
• Steeple flower
• Usnea
• Dandelion
• Oregano
• Sarsaparilla
• Red clover
• Pine needles
• Scented fern
• Peppermint
• Rosehip
• Chives
• Lady’s mantle
• Parsley
• Plantain

I usually call it a garden tea, but today the ingredients are from whatever I found on our walk – more of a field, forest and meadow tea, as we call it in German. Some came from my neighbor’s kitchen garden (I have their permission), some from the Maine meadows and wild woods. Everything is rather dry this year, but things are growing – and if you ask me – want to be eaten and drunk.

I wonder how many different polyphenols and other beneficial chemicals I ingested with the large cup of tea I just imbibed. Hundreds – if not thousands. They all work their magic without that I have to know all the chemical names or biochemical pathways because the wisdom of my body cells will sort out what is useful, and what is not. Mind, I don’t include plants that are poisonous. Just plants that have accompanied us through millenniums of evolution, and therefore will help my body healing whatever bothers it. Long before it bothers me.

You can make your own wild tea. Don’t look for my plants – look for what is growing around you. Some plants you probably know already – like dandelion. Never use a single plant that you don’t know one hundred percent! Enroll in a workshop or herb walk and be guided by some wise person who knows the land. Don’t go through life without really knowing the world you are living in. You will grow in unexpected ways, and you will be healthier for it! Not only because we are primed to ingest the green goodness of plants, but also because you have to walk to get them. And because you will experience the interconnectedness of all and everything.

No More Diabetes

August 8, 2014

Tags: order, food, herbs, movement, advice, beans, blindness, blood sugar, blood vessel, conventional medicine, coronary artery disease, craving, Diabetes Cure, diabetes type 1, diabetes type 2, diabetes book – mine, diabetic end-organ damage, dialysis, diet, egg, erythrocyte, exercise, eye, fats - good, fish, garbanzos, genitals, grains, gluten, gut bacteria, heart, hemoglobin A1c, impotence, insulin, kidney failure, life isn’t fair!!, lifestyle, meat, natural medicine, No More Diabetes, motivation, normal lab value, November, obesity, over-eating, paperback, publisher, red blood cell, Rodale’s, sleep, stroke, sugar, taste, The Diabetes Cure, un-athletic, vegetable, weight loss, weight maintenance

My hemoglobin A1c went from 6.1 to 5.1, in about two years.

Hemoglobin A1c is the most reliable way of measuring your blood sugar: Every time you put a sugar molecule in your mouth (not to mention a few spoons full!), this makes a permanent change on the outer surface of your red blood cells. Permanent means, it won’t go away until the red blood cell – also called erythrocyte – has reached its lifespan, about three months, and will die. Those surface changes can be measured in the lab.

A “normal” A1c used to be anything below 6.0 – which put me, some years ago, into diabetic territory. Then doctors reconvened and decided on a new “normal”: Now diabetes is diagnosed only when your A1c reaches 6.4 – which does not really make 6.0 to 6.3 “healthy”. Studies show that many people who have been just freshly diagnosed with diabetes, have already obvious damage of end-organs: Eyes (blindness), kidneys (kidney failure leading to dialysis), heart (coronary artery disease), genitals (impotence), vessels (stroke), and so on.

Natural medicine physicians consider normal between 4.0 and 5.0 – which puts me very close now to the ideal range, and makes me happy. – Why did conventional medicine upped the levels of “normal” sugars? I can only guess that the obesity and diabetes epidemic needed some curbing – if not in reality, then at least on paper …

How did I achieve this better sugar reading? By following my own advice, which I published last year in my diabetes book. In November, the publisher Rodale’s plans on bringing out a paperback version.

How much weight did I lose? None. Although most people lose weight “involuntarily” with my recommendations, I didn’t, because I didn’t need, having maintained the same weight since age twelve. In that way, I belong to the 10 to 15 percent of people of normal weight who have type 2 diabetes anyway (life isn’t fair!!). Those 10 to 15 percent nearly all have a gluten problem and shouldn’t eat much grains at all. Some few have type 1 diabetes, which is not related that much to diet and lifestyle.

Since the book came out readers have written me that they lost 50 plus pounds on my regimen, and that they even could stop – under medical supervision – their insulin. The Diabetes Cure works.

What does my Diabetes Cure entail? Lots of vegetables and good fats, some healthy meats, fish, eggs. Beans and garbanzos, and as many herbs as I can get my hands on. Plenty of sleep and very moderate movement – I have been un-athletic all my life, and will not change much at this age.

How can I maintain my motivation? Number one: Healthy foods are really tasty, so I usually don’t feel deprived. But I also looked into the reasons why we over-eat – and guess what: I found fifty reasons (and discuss them in my book)! It helps to know how the wrong gut bacteria fool you into craving bad foods.

Just Thinking … About Cancer

July 10, 2014

Tags: order, food, herbs, movement, water, alcohol, awe, birthday party, boredom, cancer, cell, cold shower, cooking, commitment, death, decay, emotion – fake, energy, flower, friendship, function, gadget, genetic, genome, gossip, hands-on doing, heart, helping hand, hiking, hugging, indoors, joy of life, judgment, Just Thinking … About Cancer, kissing, laughter, love, moral, music, nakedness, Nature, office party, OMG!, open door, outdoors, pollution, religion, revenge, scientist, self-inflicted, sex, song, stargazing, stuff, survival, talking, tolerance, tribe, TV, vegetables, vitality

Just thinking … some half-baked thoughts.

Just thinking: What is cancer? Of course, cancer is genetic. But what are those cancer genes doing in our genome?? Scientists now seem to come to conclusion that cancer is less some terrible thing gone wrong deep down in our bodies, but more some last-ditch effort to let at least SOME cells survive. They happen to be cancer cells, and nobody likes them. But they are strong, surviving cells when the rest of the body decays. It’s not the best of all strategies because in the end, the body dies, but the cancer cells die with it. But that is what we need to concede: The cancer cells are stronger – in many cases. They are more primitive, and they have only one goal: to survive. The other cells in a body might be more likable – they laugh, they cook, they make music, they hug and kiss. We all like the other cells better. But, in the end, cancer cells so often win.

Just thinking: Why do we get cancer? The theory is that the cells are losing something – their vitality, their drive to survive, their energy, their joy of life. Causes? Too much bad food (think birthday parties at the office). Too much boredom. Too much drink. Too few herbs. Too little commitment. Too little movement. Too little friendship. Too little hands-on doing, too much talk and gossip. Too much TV. Too much fake emotions – OMG!. Too little heart. Too little outdoors, too much indoors. Too much pollution. Too few vegetables. Too few hikes into Nature. Too much stuff. Too much religion, too little awe. Too many functions, too few open doors. Too much judgment, too few helping hands. Too many “friends”, not enough tribe. Too few cold showers. Too many gadgets. Too few flowers. Too much morals, too little tolerance. Too much revenge. Too little stargazing. Too few songs. Too little nakedness. Too much sex – too little sex – who knows, but definitely not enough love.

Just thinking: What can we do so that cancer can’t grow? Of course, there always will be some terrible genes, and some terribly undeserved cancer. But scientists think that 50 to 70 percent of cancer are self-inflicted – at least. What we can do? It is not so much fighting cancer, it is more giving cancer no ground on which it can grow. The list is long what we can do – reverse all of the above. Personally I think eating a lot of freshly cooked vegetables every single day will go a long way. Because if you are eating vegetables, you automatically are not longer the person who brings sugary cupcakes to the office birthday party. And from there it all starts ...

Peasant Food

April 1, 2014

Tags: food, order, herbs, movement, agribusiness, antibiotics, athlete, baking, baseball, basketball, California, canning food, career, chef, cookbook, cooking from scratch, crabs, diet, different, dinner, drying food, Earth, easy farmer, field, filling, fish, five-star, football, fossil fuel, fresh, friend, garden, gourmet, grill, growth rates, hand-me-down, happy, harvest, healthy, healthy families, healthy nation, healthy people, home-cooking, joy of movement, livestock, local, make do, monster harvest, neighbor, New York, New York Times Magazine, open fire, Paleo Diet, peasant, Peasant Food, poultry, raw food, restaurant, roast, seasonal, school children, shipping, slow-cooking, soup, stew, stir-fry, South Beach Diet, squirrel, superfood, superstar, tasty, vegan, vegetarian, weight loss, wild food, Zone Diet, zucchini

For a talk in New York this week I have been thinking about giving the kind of nutrition I am favoring a name – preferably a catchy name. We all have heard of the Paleo Diet, the South Beach Diet, the Zone Diet, and so on. What would I call my brand of eating right?

For starters, I would not call it a diet. Because it is not something you eat for a month, shed fifty pounds, and then go back to your normal dismal ways.

It occurred to me that I have invented nothing new. In fact, farmers all over the world eat like it. So let’s call it Peasant Food. I could also call it Gardener’s Food, or Farmers’ Market Food – because they all are served fresh and whole. But Peasant food it shall be.

This weekend, the New York Times Magazine ran an article about a very young man (he is all of fifteen!) who aspires to become a famous gourmet chef. I commend the young man for applying himself, instead of dawdling his time away. But as a physician I know that healthy people, healthy families and a healthy nation depend on daily fresh dinners cooked at home – not five-star restaurant fare (as delicious as that might be).

The young man is groomed as a future superstar in the kitchen. Same as we groom young athletes for a big career in football, baseball, basketball – instead of teaching all our school children the joy of movement that could offer them a life of health and physical gratification.

But back to the Peasant Food! What do farmers all over the world have in common that should make them our models for healthy cooking and eating?

Peasant Food is
• Fresh: Farmers eat what they find in their gardens, their fields, and growing wild nearby. They cook from scratch every single day. They are not too busy to bring a fresh meal on the table every day, and share it with family and friends. In fact, these shared meals are the highlight of every day.
• Local: Farmers don’t ship in food from California, or even other continents. They don’t use up much fossil fuels for shipping food across the country. They eat what they find. That is why the people in Mew Mexico eat different from the New-Englanders, and the Italians eat different from the Russians.
• Seasonal: Farmers eat what is growing and ripening right now. Should there be a monster harvest of zucchini, they deal with it by creating a variety of zucchini dishes, canning or drying some zucchini, and distributing the rest to friends and neighbors.
• No “superfoods” – just foods that are grown nearby, and made into so many dishes. Farmers make do with whatever is at hand – they have no preconceived notions of what the “best” food is.
• Not only raw: Farmers can’t subsist on salads alone – it would not give them the strength and nutrients they need in the fields. They might bake a piece of meat in the oven slowly all day, they throw a stew together, or a stir-fry, they cook soups with everything in sight. They cook.
• Not vegan/vegetarian: For a rare feast, they might grill a rabbit or a lamb over open fire. They eat meat, poultry, fish, crabs – and in some regions they are glad if they can find a squirrel to skin and roast. But farmers would not feed their livestock antibiotics for better growth rates – if agro-business wouldn’t push them.
• Easy to cook: Farmers don’t have time to concoct gourmet meals, and read one cookbook after the other. They follow old recipes. Their fare has to be easy – sometimes using slow-cooking that does not need further attention once the pot is filled and on the fire.
• Filling: Farmers wouldn’t dream of leaving out fats for slimming down – they need the energy fats provides. But they get in good fats: olive oil, coconut oil, butterfat.
• Tasty: Like everybody else, farmers want to eat something that tickles their palates. Fresh vegetables and healthy meats automatically taste good. Fresh herbs spruce up the taste. And adds nutrients like polyphenols. .

This is what I will call what I have been cooking every evening for so many years, making my family healthy and happy: Peasant food.

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!

The Diabetes Book Is Finished …

May 7, 2013

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, balance, acne, advertisement, Alzheimer’s, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, apple, bacteria, beauty, book, calorie count, carrots, cauliflower, concentrated, cucumber, dementia, detail, devil, diabetes, digitalis, fatigue, Five Health Essentials, formula, foxglove, fungi, germs, great-grandmother, happiness, infection, insomnia, kale, label, manufactured, medicine - single-agent patented, natural, Nature, nutritional bar, organic, packaged, plant, smart, sugar cane, sugar - table sugar, superfoods, TV, virus

… and, of course, I already started to write a new one. About herbs and infections.

And this is what I am finding … again: So many herbs have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal action – it is mind-boggling. Nature wants us to be healthy – if we would just listen to her! When I wrote about diabetes, I found that we have not just a few diabetes-fighting “superfoods” – we have literally hundreds of them, or even more. Now I am finding a trove of herbs that want to help us win over germs (or live in happy co-existence with them). As usual, herbs alone don’t keep us healthy – herbs are only one of the Five Health Essentials: Water – movement – food – herbs - balance.

Again, it comes down to: What is natural, is healthy.

Interestingly, just because a manufacturer declares something “natural”, it doesn’t make it so. Point to proof: sugar. Yep, originally sugar derived from sugar cane. But after that cane has been mixed and cooked and clarified and decolorized and filtered and processed and concentrated and skimmed and refined, the end product table sugar does not deserve the epithet “natural” any more. Same as the single-agent patented medicine derived from a plant – think digitalis, manufactured from foxglove – doesn’t deserve it.

“Natural” on your nutritional bar doesn’t mean anything – it is not a protected word like “organic” is (and even for “organic” there are sinister endeavors at work to make it less so). Don’t fall for "natural". A cauliflower is natural, an apple is, and so are carrots and kale and cucumber … you know the list is nearly endless. But anything in a package, anything with a label, anything they advertise for on TV, anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce, anything with a calorie count on it, anything your great-grandmother didn’t eat is not natural, and not healthy.

Indeed, I could write so many books about how to live healthier (and if nobody hinders me, I just might) – how to be more energetic, smarter, happier, more beautiful, have purer skin, sleep better – and they would all come down to the five essentials: Water – movement – food – herbs - balance.

If you recognize these five essentials as formulaic, you are right –I want you to recognize the formula (and learn it by heart). We are from Nature, and need to live by Nature, as much as possible. Otherwise, we get sick. Needless to say, the devil hides in the details. My new diabetes book – out with Rodale’s probably in August - is chock-full with details, and so will be, I hope, the book I am writing now, on germs. That one will come out in due time – which I project about two years into the future. If we can project at all.

Today is National Celiac Disease Awareness Day!

September 13, 2012

Tags: food, order, Today is National Celiac Disease Awareness Day!, book, wheat, diabetes type II, diabetes type I, gluten intolerance, blindness, kidney failure, amputations, neurological damage, brittle diabetes, hospital, diabetes, end-organ failure, gym, garden, cello, a walking after dinner, exercises, writing a book, fresh food, fish, meat, dairy, sugar, sweetener, trans-fats, processed food, gluten, daily bread, evolution, genes, monotheism, hunter and gatherer, eating nibbling, Nature, holy, cattle, sheep, husbandry, religion, rules, timetables, schedules, Kellogg – Will Keith (1860-1951), breakfast, cornflakes, industrialization, prosperity, scarcity of food, adaptation, calories, burger, obesity, celiac disease, diarrhea, skin rash, bloating, neurologic, psychiatric, symptoms – gluten-related, gluten intolerance, under-diagnosed, lectins, Fertile Crescent, Mesopotamia, seeds, digestion, arthritis, depression, heart disease, cancer, celiac, wisdom of the body, toxicity of wheat, morphine-like substances, brain, longing, cocaine, heroin, agriculture, extinction, monotheism, guilt, over-hunting, ice-age, bison, elephant, deer, cow, gruel, ploughing, farming, corn, sugar, addiction, starvation, bread, pizza, cake, cookie, muffins, vegetables, addictive food, wheat kernel, harvest, milling, minerals, flour - white, diseases, vitamins, iron, flour - “fortified”, root vegetable, celiac, rye, barley, oats, dinkel, kamut, grains, hulls, waste, starch, bread - sprouted, gluten, sprouting, degenerative diseases, wheat, dairy, sugar, trans-fats, redemption, plant food, vegetables, herbs, fruit, beans, nuts, fish, rabbit

Not that I should luxuriate in writing blogs while I am finishing my diabetes book, but to call attention to the problems with wheat – on this occasion I just have to do it.

Since this is my big theme presently, let me roll up the whole gluten conundrum from the diabetic side: Ninety percent of people with diabetes type II are overweight; ten percent are not. Now – what gives the ten percent their diabetes?

Genes, of course. But genes account only for part of the puzzle. Most slim diabetics have either type I diabetes (which I will not discuss here), or they have gluten intolerance. Disclosure: I am one of those ten percent, and while I don’t yet have full-blown diabetes with all the dismal consequences down the road like blindness, kidney failure, amputations, neurological damage, my number always hover at the upper border of normal or the low border of diabetes. For somebody who has brittle diabetes and ends in the hospital frequently, this seems a good place to be, and sure it is. BUT: By the time people are diagnosed with diabetes, a good third already shows sign of end-organ failure. Which means: They really already have advanced disease. I don’t want to wait doing nothing and closing my eyes.

So, what do I do? I move, for starters. I don’t go to the gym, but I work in the garden, play my cello, go for a walk after dinner with my husband, and do tiny exercises every time I get up from my chair during my long writing sessions (aaah – writing a book about health is not such a healthy thing, after all).

And I eat healthily. Fresh vegetables, fresh herbs, some fish, much less meat (but meat I do eat – and recommend), no dairy, no sugar, no sweeteners either, no trans-fats, and basically, nothing processed.

But back to gluten. We pray for our daily bread – and are not aware how recent the “daily bread” was invented – not longer than five to ten thousand years. Which is nothing in terms of evolution and our genes. Actually, our “daily bread” is around not much longer than monotheism – the belief in a single, singular god. I find that interesting: When we were hunter and gatherers, eating and nibbling and plucking from Nature wherever we went, we had multiple gods – the ones that were hidden in the groves, in the deep lakes, in the skies – and everything was whispering to us: Holy, holy, holy.

Then agriculture was invented with cattle and sheep husbandry, and we learned to sow and to reap, and suddenly there was that one stern god over us, telling to adhere to his rules – one obviously needs rules and timetables and schedules and order to be a farmer.

Forward a few thousand years to Mr. Kellogg, who gave us our breakfast cornflakes, and modern scientists who gave as bigger kernels of wheat, and then all the abundance that came with industrialization and prosperity – and here comes the modern American wave of obesity and diabetes. Where for millions of years always was scarcity – and that is what our bodies were adapted to for millions of years – now we can get the whopping calories of a burger for one dollar. Without to move out into the woods and hunt and gather.

If gluten is at the root of those ten percent of slim diabetics – so what! you exclaim, because you are fighting the pounds for most of your life. Gluten makes a few of us very sick – with celiac disease. Gluten makes a lot of us fat, with sickness down the road from the excess pounds.

Celiacs have no immune tolerance for gluten; they might get diarrhea, skin rashes, bloating, and all kinds of weird symptoms – including neurologic and psychiatric. Half of the symptoms are not showing in the belly, which is one reason gluten intolerance is still one of the widely under-diagnosed disease – even that the last ten years has turned the tide a bit.

The funny thing is: Wheat does not want to be eaten. Like basically all nuts and seeds, the wheat grain contains a family of compounds called lectins that are there to protect the grain from being eaten. The wheat plant has no interest, so to speak, to be gobbled up and extinguished. On the other hand, from the wheat’s point of view, of course, it is extremely advantageous that farmers everywhere now growing this seed that originally had a very narrow distribution, namely the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia. Somehow we managed to spread it more or less worldwide – or did the plant entice us to do its business?

Not sure. But nuts and seeds contain lectins that hinder digestion and make people sick with arthritis, depression, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and so on – the celiac who runs to the bathroom ten times a day is only the tip of the iceberg. And it shows the wisdom of our bodies: To get rid as fast as possible of a toxic substance.

Wheat is addictive – it contains morphine-like substances that play with your brain and your longings just as cocaine and heroin do. I always picture how the first farmers, sitting placidly and satisfied in their hovels, invited the last hunters who came in from another fruitless hunt for something to eat (the rise of agriculture happened parallel to the extinction from overhunting the very large ice-age mammals – they had bison the size of elephants, and deer like cows at that time. The rise of monotheism happened at the same time … did we feel guilty for the overhunting??). The hunters got their bowl of gruels or their flat breads; it must have seemed heaven to them. As they never got enough of it, they came back for more and more, until they one day decided to plough a piece of land, and settle down as farmers themselves.

So, if you want to get healthy and/or slim, you first have to break the wheat (and corn! And sugar! But those are other topics …) addiction. You don’t die of starvation, if you leave out bread and pizza and cakes and cookies and muffins. You just get healthier. The food to eat: Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables. And some brown rice, as rice does not seem so addictive as wheat. It just doesn’t taste so yummy, yummy that you want more and more of it.

In all of this, I haven’t even talked about what they do nowadays once the too-big, overinflated-by-starch wheat kernel is harvested: They mill it and grind it and take the good stuff out, namely the coarse outer layers that contains vitamins and ls . The make white flour from naturally brown flour, and because it is known that white flour contains nothing healthy and leads to deficiency diseases down the road, the “fortify” the flour with vitamins and iron.

Believe me, nothing is as well “fortified” as the original grain. I mean the really “original” grain which we cannot retrieve anymore because the first grains were so puny – not much more then a few hard nibs in your mouth while you were searching for the really belly-filling rabbit or root. If you want to do wheat at all (and if you are a celiac, you can’t have it ever again! Also not rye and barley; perhaps not even oats), at least stick to dinkel and kamut, some of the older grains. Not as old to go back to the dawn of times, but going back a few thousand years, to the first cultured strains. They contain more hulls and “waste”, less gluten and starch. You also can try sprouted breads where most of the gluten has been used up in the process of sprouting.

Our modern degenerative diseases have to do with mostly four culprits: Wheat, dairy, sugar, trans-fats. Our redemption lies in the plant world: vegetables, herbs, fruit. A few beans, a few nuts. Some fish. And occasionally … a rabbit.

Against Dandruff, For Healthy Hair

August 10, 2012

Tags: order, food, water, herbs, Against Dandruff - For Healthy Hair, alcohol, beans, birch sap, brown rice, carrot, dairy, dandruff, essential oil, fish oil, garbanzo, Germany, hair, hair – healthy, hair oil, hair water, lamb, lentils, neem, nuts, olive oil, oregano, poultry, protein, rosemary, seafood, starch, sweets, sugar, tea tree oil, vegetable, zinc. United States, Seborin, Weleda

Because someone asked:

Against dandruff, I would use a birch sap "hair water" - a specific brand I get from Germany (and is very expensive here in the United States) is "Seborin". Another brand might be by Weleda. - This is used after washing your hair, and is left in to dry.

You could also make yourself a hair oil with olive oil and some essential oil, like rosemary, oregano, tea tree or neem. Rub it in before washing your hair. Leave it on over night, then wash it out.

Also, dandruff might have to do with what you eat: Avoid dairy, sweets, alcohol and white starches (which are nothing more than sugars in a long chain). And alcohols are a form of sugar, too.

Food for healthy hair: nuts, beans, lentils, garbanzo, carrot, vegetable, brown rice, good proteins from poultry, lamb, and seafood; fish oil, zinc.

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 …

Sebastian Kneipp’s Birthday

May 17, 2012

Tags: order, water, movement, food, herbs, Bavaria, birthday, cheer, flowers, fruit, friendship, green tea, Germany, Kneipp – Sebastian (1821 to 1897), My Water Cure, Sebastian Kneipp’s Birthday, writing

Sebastian Kneipp’s was born on May 17th 1821, in a tiny village in Bavaria/Germany. Why does it matter?

Her brought the world the Five Health Essentials: Water, movement, food, herbs, order. Not they didn’t exist before – but he opened, in his very gruff way, the world’s eyes to natural health, which is always there, up for the grabs.

For me Sebastian Kneipp has a special importance: When I opened his book “My Water Cure” in the original, many years ago and just out of curiosity, I suddenly burned bringing his insights to my patients here, to this country – and that is how Sebastian Kneipp made me write my first book. And, yes, you pronounce the “K” in his name. No, not “Ka-nipe”; it makes just one syllable with an audible “K”: “Knipe”.

Long after I had started writing about Sebastian Kneipp I realized that he shared his birthday with my father. Here’s to them!

I will celebrate Sebastian Kneipp’s birthday by riding my bike to a sick friend’s house, delivering some flowers, fruit and cheer. In this last sentence, I packed movement, food and order – already three of Kneipp’s principles. If I throw in a package of green tea to what I will bring my friend, that adds water and herbs.

All what we need: water, movement, food, herbs, order – to stay healthy.

The Five Health Essentials – Again

May 14, 2012

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, art, breathing, building block, boredom, cold shower, death, digestion, elements – exposure to, energy, freedom-loving country, hatred, life, mood, moving, muscle, music, natural order, nourishment, plants, protein, rejoice, relationships, relaxation, repair, rest, rest, repair and rejoice - order, sleep, sloth, The Five Health Essentials – Again, vegetal, waste, wellbeing

Water, movement, food, herbs and order are the five important areas you have to pay attention to if you want to be healthy.

Why does Natural Medicine promote exactly these five? It becomes clearer if we regroup them into a set of three:

1. Water and movement are needed to remind your body that it is still required to be alive. If you don’t move, and if you are not exposed to the elements (mostly cold), your body could as well not exist. A cold shower after a warm one reminds your body that it is still alive – that is why you come out of the cold shower brimming with energy, life and good mood. The same applies for movement. Life basically is movement – we diagnose death mostly by someone not moving, not breathing.
2. Food and herbs provide the building blocks so that this moving, breathing body is nourished and kept alive. What you eat is going into forming your body of tomorrow, it is essential to offer clean, fresh, mostly vegetal foods (plants) to your body – with enough proteins so that your body does not start to digest its own muscles.
3. Order – which always sounds strange in our freedom-loving country – is really about natural order: Rest, repair and rejoice are the three functions that go into the order category: Sleep, relaxation, relationships, art, music – whatever makes your life good adds to your wellbeing. In the long run, you can’t be well if you run your life against the natural grain with waste, hatred, boredom, sloth.

Desperate Skin – Psoriasis

May 2, 2012

Tags: order, movement, water, food, herbs, acute disease, alcohol – excessive, allergies, alternative vs. conventional medicine, appendix - perforating, arthritis, balm of Peru, bay leaf, benzoic acid, biking, biopsy - skin, bone - broken, bowl, brain, breath, cancer, cardiac death, cardiologist, cat, chronic disease, cinnamon, citrus peel, cloves, cold shower, cooking, cortisone cream, cosmetics, curry, dairy, dead-end job, dentist, depression, dermatitis, dermatologist, Desperate Skin – Psoriasis, detoxification, diabetes, diet - “scientific”, dog, eliminating organ, exercise, expertise, feces, food allergies, fragrance, fresh food, friend, green herb, gums, gut, heart attack, hypnosis, India, inflammation, internal organs, intestine, junk food, kidney, lifestyle choices, lung, movement, Natural Medicine, nourishing, nutrition, obesity, pill, patient vs. person, pet, preservative, psoriasis, pregnancy, profit, psychological explanation for disease, rash, relationship, residency, Schuppenflechte, scientist, shampoo, shelf life, skin disease, skin allergy testing, sleep - more, spices, stroke, sweat, talking, teeth, toxic matter, turmeric, urine, vanilla, vegetable, veterinarian

Twenty-five years ago, my husband suddenly broke out in a rash: His fingertips were raw and started bleeding whenever he touched something - like buttoning his shirt. When he went on a trip to India, he could not carry a suitcase, but traveled with a backpack. When he came back, the rash had intensified, and I worried about him becoming despondent.

He consulted a dermatologist who told him he had “dermatitis” and prescribed a cortisone cream. “Dermatitis” means “inflammation of the skin” – duh! He was told these skin rashes would come and go, there was no known cause; he just had to live with it.

It is hard to live with leaving a trace of blood on anything you touch! The cortisone helped some. But the rash always came back when he stopped the cream. In his desperation, he went to half a dozen different skin doctors. The pinnacle was when a well-meaning friend gave him, as a present - a visit to a hypnotist. We should have known hypnosis wouldn’t work in a hard-core scientist …

Our friends thought it all was psychological: We were pregnant at that time, with our son, and the easiest explanation was that becoming a father was stressing my husband out. We could not really see the stress, as we were giddy with joy and anticipation. But it was true that the rash had appeared during our pregnancy.

For three years we tried to figure out what was going on, talking about it at nearly every dinner. Then one day I noticed that new plaques had appeared on my husband’s elbows. It seemed clear now that he had psoriasis. – At the same time he thought he observed that the rash on his hands always got worse when he used shampoo.

I made him ask his dermatologist for a skin testing, to look for allergies, and a biopsy, to confirm the suspicion of psoriasis. The doctor said there was no reason to do either. But because I was a colleague, the tests were done.

The biopsy confirmed psoriasis. The skin testing showed a whole angry area of patches – all related to spices: vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf, curry, citrus peel and benzoic acid (a preservative). And balm of Peru – the fragrance that is in many cosmetics, including shampoos.

As a physician, I was all excited: Here was a case of psoriasis triggered by food allergies! Never in medical school had I heard of a connection between skin disease and nutrition! I talked with several dermatologists – none of them got excited. They flatly denied there could be a connection – even in the face of the biopsy and skin test results! Slowly it dawned on me that no dermatologist has any incentive to really cure his patients – as they then would be lost as patients.

We, however, implemented a new diet, leaving out the offending agents, and in no time my husband was healed. We even figured why the rash had first appeared during pregnancy: I was in the middle of residency when I got pregnant – which is usually not considered a good time for expanding your family. Because I was more tired, I cooked less and we went out eating more often. Just across the street was a tiny Indian restaurant; we became nearly daily guests there. And curry (probably the turmeric in curry, actually) was one of the problems.

In the long run, being forced to always cook from scratch I have helped the health of our family tremendously. Our son grew up knowing about the importance of fresh foods, and even turned out to be a dedicated cook!

Natural Medicine has long maintained that many diseases stem from the gut. We have basically four eliminating organs that might get rid of toxic matter: the kidneys (urine), the bowl (feces), the lungs (exhaled breath), the skin (sweat). Often the skin mirrors the health of the intestines: My husband’s body tried to get rid of the spices he was allergic too, and expelled them via the skin – which showed as a rash. Using cortisone cream only suppresses this natural way of detoxification, and pushes the problem underground – until even the internal organs are getting diseased. Never think that a skin disease is just a skin disease: The inflammation in your body might become visible in the skin, but the inflammation happens everywhere. A study showed that psoriasis sufferers have more strokes, heart attacks and cancers! It does not surprise me. But it might surprise the seven and a half million people who suffer from psoriasis in this country. For most of them it would already be curing if the eliminated all dairy products and excessive alcohol. And nobody tells them …

Of course, what is true for dermatologists is true for other specialties: Cardiac death is going down – not because of procedures cardiologists are doing but because people are paying more attention to what they eat, and they exercise more. – In obesity, the answer will not come from a little pill your doctor gives you, but from you moving around more and letting go of junk food. – Is your dentist interested in you having healthy teeth and gums – or is he interested in keeping you as a patient? – Veterinarians sell now “scientific” diet for your pets. But can that manufactured food compete with the food you cook yourself at home; I doubt it. Because that food is made for long shelf life and profits, not with the health of your cat or dog in view. – Your depression – does it warrant a pill and you being a patient instead of a vibrant, alive person? Would you do better talking with a friend about your problems, getting out of a sour relationship or dead-end job, nourishing your brain with fresh vegetables and getting up from your sofa and ride your bike?

In the last years, we have seen some physicians incorporating alternative methods into their mainstream medicine practice. Acute problems like a broken bone, an appendix threatening to perforate or a cancer definitely need a skilled conventional practitioner. Chronic problems, on the other hand, that have developed over years from had lifestyle choices – arthritis, diabetes, obesity rank high among them - do remarkably well with changes in lifestyle. No surprise there …

I am not saying that every problem goes away with better nutrition, exercise, cold showers, green herbs and more sleep. But you will be astonished how many problems will vanish into thin air. Give it a try! And don’t you worry that I am throwing out all conventional medicine! Today I am seeing my conventional dermatologist for a checkup. But I know what she can give me: expertise. Not my health. On my health, I have to work myself.

Spring Greens

March 30, 2012

Tags: order, herbs, food, bicycle, budding, chives, dandelion, delicatessen, excitement, flowers, garden, garden tea, garlic, life, liver health, skin health, smiling, spring fatigue, observing, olive oil, poisonous plants, salad, spring greens, Spring Greens, sprouting, stinging nettle, tea – herbal, vigor, winter blah, year - seasons, spring, sun, renewal, blooming, life, passion, winter - eternal

This is the time of the year to eat chives, dandelion leaves and flowers, and stinging nettle leaves from the garden. They replenish you with new vigor against the winter blah and spring fatigue. They flush your liver and bring a glow to your skin. And a smile to your face.

Stinging nettles, of course, should be stripped from the stalks (wear gloves!) and be cooked – a delicatessen with olive oil and fresh garlic! Chives you can munch right from the garden, and dandelions are good as salad, as cooked greens or as a tea. Have you ever made a glass teapot with the rich green of garden plants, sunny from the buttery-yellow flowers of dandelions? Yes, it’s time again for a garden tea! Anything that isn’t poisonous can go in.

All this is not new, of course. Just a reminder. But the essence of spring is exactly this yearly renewal! Nothing new under the sun, they say – but let’s not forget that this yearly renewal is the most wonderful thing that can happen: the blooming again of life, of passion, of being alive! Think it would NOT happen, and instead, we’d got eternal winter. That would be the end of life. So, go out every day now – perhaps on your bike, like I did today - and observe how little things sprout out of the soil or how buds burst open. Yes, it happens every year, nothing special about it – but boy-oh-boy – how it does get me excited!

Comfort, Closure, Redemption

March 27, 2012

Tags: order, water, food, herbs, airing the room, chamomile, closure, coconut oil, cook, comfort, Comfort - Closure - Redemption, contraindication, crying, death, declutter, dying alone, faith – articles of, finances, forgiving, fruit, herbal tea, history, hogging, holding hands, holy basil, home, hospice, hospital, listening, nosiness, past hurt, peppermint, photo, possessiveness, praying, reading aloud, redemption, relationship, resilience, singing, sitting still, skin, snooping, stinging nettle, stress, talking, touch, time constraints, washing feet, working out problems

Nobody should die alone. The most important part is that you are with the dying person – the dying person should not be left alone, if possible. Not always is it possible to accompany a loved one on the last way – both my parents died far away from me. My father suddenly, when I was eighteen and away in boarding school – his heart gave out. My mother in Germany, of lung cancer, when I went through the rigors of medical internship in Boston. I remember sitting at night at the bed of a dying patient, and thinking that I should be sitting with my mother.

Many people feel uncomfortable in the face of sickness and dying. Not everybody finds wonderful last words and gestures. Here is what you still can do – naturally – for a dying loved one.

First, however, what you should not do:

• Discuss the ways the person hurt you in the past: It is too late now. Try to grow up before the person dies – work out your own problems
• Go through their things and snoop around. Even if you were the lone heir: Wait until afterward
• Keep friends and relatives away from the dying person to hog her/him for yourself
• Don’t press your personal afterlife believing and articles of faith onto the dying person

What you can do – naturally:

• Sit still at the bedside
• Hold hands: Touch can still be taken in when all the other senses are long gone
• Give a cold sponge bath – lying unwashed in bed is a horrible burden for many sick people
• Sing. I sang for my first, beloved mother-in-law when she was already unconscious. I think she heard me
• Keep the room warm, aired and uncluttered – at home, in the hospital, at the hospice
• Bring pictures from the past that the person might still enjoy – but only a few selected ones – don’t lug into the sickroom whole photo albums
• Forgive if the person was not what you expected from her/him in the past. He/she had her own history – and you might not know all the essential parts – for instance, how this person was hurt when he/she was young
• Remember the past - as long as the person can still talk. This might be your last chance. But don’t push it – take the cue from the dying person, not from your own urgency
• Zip up a light, delicious meal – or just serve fruit. This is not the time to restrict a person to a diet – this is now pure enjoyment
• Read aloud – if he or she can hear it or not: Share what you like to share
• Tell the person what he/she means to you. Sum up your relationship with the dying person – but not financial problems and time constraints the dying puts on you. Your own stresses (and they might be great and overwhelming) you have to work up alone or with other people in your life. Your own life is on hold while this person moves toward death
• Wash the dying person’s feet. Then rub coconut oil into the skin
• Talk about positive things from the past
• Listen to whatever the dying person has to say – if you like it or not
• Pray if the person wants to pray. Shut up if the person does not want to pray
• Declutter the nightstand without getting nosy or possessive
• Brew an herbal tea: Chamomile, holy basil, peppermint, stinging nettle. – or whatever you have at hand Ask the doctor if there are contraindications
• Endure the impending loss – you can – and will - cry later But you will take satisfaction if you stayed strong when you were needed to be strong.

World Water Day 2012

March 22, 2012

Tags: water, herbs, allergies to herbs, arterial disease, bath, bath – commercial bath ingredients, bath - herbal, bath oil, bliss, blood flow, breathing, bruise, candle - unscented, chamomile, children and herbal baths – careful!, circulation - sluggish, coconut oil, cold – beginning, cold shower, Earth, dandelion flower, eucalyptus, fever-lowering bath for children, foam, healing waters, herbal bath, herbal bath, high blood pressure – uncontrolled, ginger - grated, hops, insect bite, incense, insomnia, jasmine, lake, lavender, linden flowers, lung, meadowsweet, mint, muscle ache, muscles – sore, music, Nature, nerves – tattered, ocean, orange blossoms, parsley, pleasure, relaxation, river, rosemary, rose petals, sage, salts - bath, skin rejuvenation, skin sore, sleeplessness, soap, soul, stimulation, stinging nettle, tepid bath, tonic, valerian root, winter blah, World Water Day 2012

Today is World Water Day. Celebrate it with

• a dunk in the ocean, a lake or a river if your are living in a warmer climate
• a cold shower (Don’t do it if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure – controlled on medication is fine – or if you have an arterial disease)
• a nice warm herbal bath, together with gentle music and a lit candle (unscented because scented candles and incense are harsh on the lungs). Warm baths relax and soothe. And any fragrant herb you have at hand will increase water’s action:

- Chamomile works against sore skin and insect bites
- Dandelion flowers: Gather as many as you can find and throw them directly into your tub – they will make you playful like a princess and renew your skin and will drive out the winter blah
- Eucalyptus opens your lungs and helps you breathe
- Ginger, grated, to enhance blood flow to all parts of your body
- Hops for easing you into the night
- Jasmine to make you smile and refresh your skin
- Lavender for calming your nerves and rejuvenating your skin
- Linden flowers relax and might help with a beginning cold
- Meadowsweet helps sore muscles and will bliss you out
- Mint stimulates and heals your skin
- Orange blossoms for beautiful skin and nourishing your soul
- Parsley heals bruises
- Rosemary for relaxation
- Rose petals to enliven your skin after a long day
- Sage against stiff, hurting muscles after a workout
- Stinging nettle to push sluggish circulation, and are a tonic for your skin and your whole being
- Valerian root for easing tattered nerves and prepare for a good night’s sleep

So many more herbs grow on our beautiful Earth! Use any combination of herbs you like: Dare to explore!

Never make the bathwater too hot! And always, always. always end your hot bath with a short cold shower or gush, starting with feet, hands, face, and then your whole body – to close your pores.

Before you dress or go to bed, slather your skin with coconut oil. There’s nothing better for your skin!

Cooler bathwater acts more like a stimulant – when you want to go out afterwards and shine in the world.

And a tepid bath can lower fevers – especially helpful in small children. But in small children, especially those under three years of age, I would not use herbs in the bathwater, just plain water. They can have violent reactions.

You have two ways to do an herbal bath: To throw a handful of herbs directly into the hot bath water. Or to brew a tea in a pot, and then add the steeped tea to the bathwater. This last method is less messy. There’s actually a third way: To buy an herbal bath tea bag – much bigger than those used for tea in a cup – and throw it into the bathwater; contain a medley of herbs, usually to lift your spirits and to soothe your skin.

As always: Don’t use any herb that you are allergic to. Allergies to herbs are rare, but they can happen.

Herbal bath can heal. But don’t forget the immense pleasure they bring into your life! And other than commercial baths (foam, lotions, soaps, salts, etc.), they are pure Nature, particularly if you pay attention from where you get them.

And after a renewing bath like this you will know again why we have to protect Earth’s healing waters. Think about ways how you can save water!

To Mammogram, Or Not To Mammogram

January 31, 2012

Tags: order, movement, food, herbs, water, animal flesh consumption, breast cancer, breast cancer - surgery, breast cancer treatment, cancer - aggressiveness, cancerous cell, cancer prevention, cardio-vascular health, cold shower, daylight, diet, dying of cancer, environmental pollution, exercise, family history of breast cancer, fluoroscopy, heart disease, immune system, lifestyle, lumpectomy, mammogram, mastectomy, medicine, prostate cancer, radiation, science, sitzbath - cold, sleep before midnight, smoothie - green, thyroid cancer, To Mammogram, Or Not To Mammogram, tuberculosis, vegan, vegetable, vegetarian, vitamin D, walking

About this subject I do write with trepidation – as the right answers are still not known – medicine and science have not advanced far enough to let us make rational decisions. In actuality, regarding mammograms, we are living in something like medieval times.

Do mammograms help prevent cancer? No, they don’t. They do find some cancers. But they also “find” an unacceptably high number of “cancers” that aren’t cancers - false positives. For which women then undergo unnecessary treatment.

Do mammograms prevent deaths from cancer? The answer is amazingly unclear: For the longest time – basically for the entire twentieth century - namely since the advent of radical mastectomy, breast cancer death numbers didn’t budge. In the last few years, we seem to make a little dent. But it is not clear to me if it comes from therapies, or from better lifestyles that women have adopted - similar to the improvement of cardio-vascular health that happened mostly in the kitchen and the gym, not in the doctor’s office.

For thirteen years now I have not done a mammogram. Not because I try to be reckless, but because I have my doubts. In a way, I am sticking my head in the sand (breast cancer runs in my family). On the other hand, I have a history of heavy radiation as a child, and mammogram certainly is adding to my risk to develop breast cancer. You could say that I made a decision rather to die of breast cancer than from breast cancer treatment. You don’t have to follow me here – or rather, I don’t want you to follow me here because I shudder of the responsibility I would take on if I talked you out of mammograms. In reality, I always encourage my patients to have their yearly mammograms – regardless of the personal doubts I am harboring.

Because of my childhood radiation history – I had bad tuberculosis as a child with tons of fluoroscopy - my decision not to add any more radiation (I also have myself padded down at airports rather than going through the screening machines) is not applicable to everyone. In addition, I had mammograms since age eighteen every year because of lumps (and twice had lumps removed that turned out to be benign. So, I had an unusual number of mammograms - enough for a lifetime, I think. My doctors, because of my history, are basically waiting for me to develop breast or thyroid cancer. But over the years I came to realize that the real causes for breast cancer - diet, exercise and environmental pollution, including radiation - are not addressed by physicians and authorities. But I want to encourage every woman to come to her own decision. Every case has different variables.

Lately I am also changing my thinking about cancer generally - not that one person has it, and the other person doesn't have it. Truth is, at a certain age, we probably are all always having cancerous cells in us, and keeping them at bay as best as we can we good lifestyle habits seems to be much more important. - I also have a body that would react badly to any kind of treatment - so I rather am putting my energy into a good lifestyle. And cancers in later years are often less aggressive than cancer in children and young adults.

And a last thought: Medicine is yet is unable to differ between "bad" cancer and "good" cancer - we don't know which one will explode and kill a patient. So we are working with big guns on all cancers. It seems to me that surviving cancer has more to do with which type your cancer is and how good your immune system works than with any treatment. This argument is also very applicable to prostate cancer in men.

If I would find a lump, I certainly would have it removed surgically. If I get "exploding" cancer, I hope I will die gracefully. Not knowing if I already have such a time bomb inside me, I make sure I walk every day during daylight to get my daily dose of vitamin D and exercise, I eat my veggies and drink my green smoothie, I keep my animal flesh consumption low (but I don’t advocate vegetarian or vegan lifestyles), I take a daily cold shower or cold sitzbath to strengthen my immune system, and I make sure I sleep long before midnight so that my body can catch bad cells and repair what is broken – before it explodes.

The rest is not in my hands.

Bone Health

January 26, 2012

Tags: order, food, movement, herbs, bone, Bone Health, calcium, celiac disease, cleaning out the garage, declutter, fruit, gastro-intestinal problems, gluten sensitivity, grains - whole, greens, light, legumes, minerals, nuts, osteoporosis, osteoporosis - unexplained, parathyroid gland, plants, PTH, repair of the body, skin, sleep before midnight, sun, TCM, thyroid health, Traditional Chinese Medicine, vegetables, vitamin D, walking, working in the garden

We have talked about bone health before. But is comes up all the time. Here my thoughts:

• Light: A daily walk, sun or clouds for making vitamin under the skin. How high is your vitamin D level (blood test)? Should be over 40.
• Greens and other vegetables build bones. All plant material gives calcium plus all the other minerals needed for bone health. Fruit, nuts, herbs, legumes and whole grains are good, too – in moderate amounts.
• Avoid dairy and too much meat because their acidity leaches calcium out of the bones.
• Daily movement is important. Walking is probably the best. But anything helps – like cleaning out the garage or the attic, working in the garden.
• Sufficient sleep before midnight. Repair time in the body, according to Chinese Medicine, is between 11 pm and 1 am. If you are not asleep, repair can’t take place.
• Is your thyroid working normally? Over-activity leads to bone loss.
• Similar with the parathyroid glands: Make sure your PTH is in range. Is relatively rare – but an often overlooked problem.
• Unrecognized gluten problems can lead to osteoporosis. It turns out that half of all celiac patients have NO gastro0intestinal symptoms. So, it can unrecognized forever. Unrecognized gluten sensitivity is the most common cause of unexplained osteoporosis. Unfortunately, the tests are not 100% reliable – but a test is a beginning.

龙年快乐Happy Dragon Year 2012!

January 23, 2012

Tags: order, food, movement, herbs, abundance, alternative medicine, anti-depressants, art, arthritis, bacon, body and soul, books, brain, brownies, California, car, career, children - playtime, Chinese, Chinese New Year, church group, coconut oil, colleague, community, computer, consumption, cookies, cravings, cream puff, dancing, dairy, depression, deviled eggs, diabetes, diabesity, diet, dragon year, Earth, eating alone, eating at a table, eggs, epigenetics, family, fat, fat phobia, feelings - hurt, fish oil, foie gras, fresh foods, food - subsidized, friends, game boy, garlic, genetics, grandchildren, grandmother, greens - cooked, happiness, health care costs, health care - evidence-based, health - real, heart disease, hen, house - heavily mortgaged, hugging, Hyman – Mark (1958 to), ice cream, icing, laughter, lifestyle, 龙年快乐, 龙年快乐Happy Dragon Year 2012!, looking good, lunch hour, meat, mother, music, national health care system, new year, obesity, olive oil, organic, outside playing, over-population, overweight, “Own Your Health”, pancake, parents, pepper and salt, potluck, problem – solution, public office, relationship, San Diego, science, Scripps Conference, Seneca (4 BC to 65 AD), Shaw - George Bernard (1856 to 1950), sleep, solution - problem, starches - white, stroke, sugar, supplements - natural, tax dollars, tears, tribe, TV, TV key, village, walking, water - clean, Weisman –Roanne (1952 to)

The Chinese New Year begins today – time for miscellaneous thoughts and new resolutions!

龙年快乐 read character by character, means “dragon year happy happy” – pronounced long nian kuai le. What I find fascinating is that both “happy” terms are spoken with a down tone. In my ear that double happy-happy sounds less than a Western easygoing, lucky-feeling happy but grimly determined: You better be happy – or else! I might be over-stating it, but to me the Chinese kuai! le! shows perfectly the difference in the Chinese approach to ours: We expect happiness, well, to “happen”, for instance in a relationship. The Chinese know it is hard work …

Just finished the Scripps Conference on Natural Supplements here in San Diego – taking advantage to me being right here in California (for only another week now!). Here are some thoughts I am carrying home from that wonderful conference:

• Listening to the results of modern science (the conference was for physicians and health practitioners and the talks were evidence-based – using modern science; no touchy-feely mumbo-jumbo). It seems, my thoughts on health have well held up during those many years I am thinking about what our bodies and souls need. The only point where I am more radical is in fat consumption: Most health practitioners are still fat-phobic. I am not talking bacon dripping fat, ice cream and cream puffs here – I am talking olive oil, coconut oil, fish oil, and never say no! if somebody puts foie gras on your plate – it doesn’t happen that often! - George Bernard Shaw (1856 to 1950) had this to say: “No diet will remove all the fat from your body because the brain is entirely fat. Without a brain, you might look good, but all you could do is run for public office“.

• Let’s correct that touchy-feely part: Turns out, we alternative practitioners know that body and soul belong together, and at the conference there was a healthy amount of hugging, laughter and tears going on. Because if one thing has become clear – through our old failings and brand-new science: One can’t go it alone. As a physician, I need like-minded colleagues; as a fat person, you need friends, family, community around you to make a dent in your weight – or whatever health problem you are tackling in the moment.

• Obesity is a good guess of mine because, firstly, now more than a quarter of Americans are grossly overweight – half are only overweight - and all conditions that physicians usually label as single diseases are coming together: heart disease, diabetes, depression, arthritis, obesity (Mark Hyman called it aptly “diabesity”), cancer – they are ALL ONE, namely a wrong lifestyle. Wrong food, heavily subsidized and advertised by your own government, with your own tax dollars. Time to take matters into your hands and “own your health”! “Own Your Health”, of course, is the title of Roanne Weisman’s book about alternative medicine. She wrote it after overcoming a stroke with the help of many different alternatives, after mainstream medicine had told her she would stay disabled and had to adjust to it. Boy, were they wrong!

• The old excuse that it is “all in the genes” cannot be used anymore. Yes, a lot of your weight might be determined by your genes – but only if you allow it to be so. The new science of epigenetics teaches us that genes can be switched on and be switched on – and guess, who does the switching? Your food does it, and you moving your butt around, that does it. Isn’t it marvelous?

• It takes a village to raise a child – you have heard it. It also takes a village, or a tribe, or your church group to change your health habits. Line up with a friend to start walking during lunch hour – five minutes in one direction, five minutes back. And be part of the solution, not the problem: Whenever you bring cookies or brownies or a potluck – don’t go to the old recipes! Explore new options without sugar, dairy, white starches. I always see that deviled eggs are the favorite of everybody – and they is nothing wrong with eggs, especially if the are organic, from free-walking hens. Bring cooked greens with olive oil and garlic, pepper and salt – they are delicious cold or hot! Educate your friends – don’t give in to their sugar-icing cravings! They will thank you.

• If we would not eat alone and always at a table (not in the car, not in front of TV, not in bed), we likely would be slimmer. In olden times, if you grabbed the biggest piece of meat, your mom would slap you and say: “Don’t be greedy!” If you asked for your fifth pancake, your grandma would say sharply: “Now is enough, dear!” And since nobody catered to their little hurt feelings, children found home less congenial than the outside and their friends. We always asked if we could go “outside” – whatever it was, it was not inside with the parents (your parents made you uncomfortable because they always wanted to prepared you for life), and it was not in front of TV, computer or game boy. When I was a child, our first TV came with a key – whatever happened to THAT technology?? - and we children could not even turn it on when the grown-ups were out working. Of course, we children soon figured out that the key was kept in the bar, behind the bottles. But it was a high-risk gamble – and TV was never half as exciting as our friends outside. We had one fat girl in class, in all of my thirteen years of school. And that poor girl, we all pitied her – but we wouldn’t play with her.

• “This body is not a home but an inn, and that only briefly.” Seneca (4 BC to 65 AD) said that. I think we have to start talking about what is needed: That people take their own health in their hands. Your doctors can only assist you – not do the work for you. So let’s start by calling fat “fat” – no more pussyfooting around it; physicians have long enough colluded with patients and avoided the “F” word: “I won’t call you fat, if you stay my patient”. The health care system is falling apart under the burden of health care costs brought about by overweight people (don’t forget – I still am for a national health care system!), the Earth is brought down under the burden of too many people who consume too much, and all our wealth so far has brought us very little real happiness it seems – if we judge by how many people are on anti-depressants.

• Bad news: Before you die of being overweight, the Earth might have died of pollution. Definitely, future generations – they are your kids, my kids, our kids and grandkids! – are in danger. Newborn babies have been found to have more than 200 industrial chemicals in their umbilical cord blood, right when they are born. The womb has not protected them. We are finding out the hard way that you can’t dump dirt there, and assume you are safe here. We all have only this one Earth – and do you want to be responsible for babies born with birth defects? Global warming is real – so is overpopulation and increasing environmental diseases.

• And what do they mean by “natural supplements”? I am glad to report that they do not mean artificially manufactured vitamins or new-fangled molecules, but they promote (mostly – no industry is perfect!) clean, whole, fresh herbs preserved in a bottle of tincture or capsule as well as possible. And if you are waiting for that miracle pill that might do the work for you – dream on! Real health is work. And didn’t you know it: Being sick sucks much worse.


Real health takes very little: A bit clean water, a few simple, fresh foods, a good night’s sleep – every night, a few herbs to treat little things early, abundance and walking and dancing and laughter with friends. Music, art, books. Ask more of this life just than a heavily mortgaged house, a car and a career!

A happy, hard-working New Year to you!

Those Delicious Yogurts

January 5, 2012

Tags: food, herbs, arthritis, baby, bacteria – starter for yogurt, bones - strong, bovine growth hormone, bowel bacteria, Bulgaria, calcium, calf, California, calories - counting, cancer cell, chicory root, coconut, cow, craving, crockpot, dairy, depression, diabetes, East Coast, fat, fillers, flavors, fruit, goat, Greece, growth hormone, growth spurt, heart disease, honey, inflammation, Israel, Jordan, labels – reading, infant, kid, lactobacilli, lactose, lamb, legumes, low fat, milk, milk protein, mineral, mother’s milk, milk sugar, nuts, organic, plant kingdom, probiotics, skim milk, sheep, sugar, Syria, tapioca, temperature, thermometer, Those Delicious Yogurts, Turkey, vegetable, yogurt

A whole fifteen minutes I must have stood in front of the yogurt section in the refrigerated part of the natural food store, reading labels and deciding what to buy. My natural inclination is the one with cream on top – they are so unspeakably yummy!

Which means that all the “skim milk” and “low fat” varieties are out for me. I also don’t like anything added – no fillers, no flavors, no fruit, not even simple honey. I want the real thing. Already, I have few items to look at.

What I found out from the labels:
• Greek yogurt does not come from Greece
• Bulgarian yogurt does not come from Bulgaria
• Middle-eastern yogurt does not come from Syria, Israel or Jordan
• Goat yogurt always seems to have tapioca in it
• Sheep yogurt has the highest fat contents (good for my brain that craves fat all the time!) – but I could not find one any without fruit or honey. I will look around for a plain one.

Of course, I’d always choose organic since I don’t want added bovine growth hormones in my yogurt – it’s bad enough that milk (cow, sheep, goat, mother’s – whatever) already comes with a wallop of natural growth hormones. Why? Because milk was invented to let tiny babies (calves, lamb, kids, human infants) grow very fast in the first few months of their lives. I don’t need to grow anymore – in neither direction – and I rather don’t have sleepy cancer cells in my body wake up and indulge in a growth spurt. This thought actually made the whole yogurt idea rather unappetizing. Especially, if one considers that they also provide tons of inflammatory milk proteins, which give us arthritis, depression, diabetes, heart disease, cravings, and so on.

You already know that I don’t buy into the myth that dairy gives us needed calcium. Those, and all the other minerals to build strong bones come from the plant kingdom: vegetables, legumes, herbs, nuts, fruit.

It doesn’t mean that I am not still dreaming of creamy yogurt. Not to mention that they contain probiotics – healthy bowel bacteria.

Finally, I came across coconut yogurt, which I had never seen before. Again, that one contained fruit and chicory root extract. But it gave me an idea: I can make my own!

Years ago, traveling in Turkey, a chef (God bless him!) showed me how to make yogurt: Bring a pot of milk to nearly a boil (to kill bacteria) – 90 C, or around 190 F – and keep it there for about twenty minutes, let it cool down so that you can touch it, add a spoonful of yogurt that provides starter bacteria, wrap the pot into a towel and cover it in your bed. Hours later, the pot of milk has turned into wonderful yogurt.

Starter bacteria can also be gotten from those probiotic capsules: I have some with those Bulgarian lactobacilli; they can be whipped into the milk.

Two secrets for making yogurt:
• Keep every item you use very clean (preferably by heat treatment in boiling water) to keep out “bad” bacteria
• The desirable temperature in your bed (or in a “cooler”, or in a rice cooker) is between 37 C (ca 100F) and 55 C (ca 135). Higher, and the “good” bacteria will die; lower, and they will not multiply.

Coconut milk contains no milk sugar – lactose. So, in the production one has to add a spoonful of table sugar for the processing, as the bacteria need food to thrive and divide. Make a small batch – full-fat yogurt contains a heap of calories (even that I never count calories!).

Unfortunately, I have to wait a month, until we will be back at the East Coast. There I have a crockpot, which I will try. And I will use the thermometer I bought here to measure the temperatures in my Californian pool … I will report!

Invasive Plants 5 - Crab Grass

November 1, 2011

Tags: herbs, food, Africa, America, Bermuda grass, bone health, bread, calcium, cataracts, colic, cow, crab grass, cultivation, deer, digestion, Digitaria, eye health, fall, feebleness, finger grass, folate, fonio, gardener, garden tea, germination, grass, grass - warm-weather, grazing, harvest, hay, horse, infusion, Invasive Plants 5 – Crab Grass, lawn, lime, magnesium, milling, nutritional value, perennial grass, phosphorus, poisonous, porridge, protein, retinol, ripening, season, settlers, starch, Sub-Saharan Africa, sugar, summer, tea – herbal, ungulate, vitamin A, weed, winter

Writing about the possible benefits of invasive plants, I had the fear that for most broad-leafed weeds it would be easy to find medicinal and other value, but that for grasses, I might have to pass. Interestingly, grasses have some good sides, too – even a such-maligned, horrible weed as crab grass.

Crab grass (also called “finger grass” because of its spiky inflorescences, or “fonio”, for African plants) are actually several Digitaria species – “Digitaria” again meaning “finger-like”.

Why is crab grass the proverbial weed? It turns out that “crabs” can’t take hold in a well-watered, well-fertilized lawn. But let that lawn be neglected, and develop some bald spots – that’s where the annual crab grass will move in, taking advantage.

A lawn usually consists of perennial grasses that stay green long into fall and often into winter. Crab grass would be fine to be intermingled, if it would not die by the end of summer and will leave a bald spot – especially if you pull it and do not immediately reseed with normal lawn seed. In that bald spot, its many, many seeds can take hold again. Crab grass’ trick is its long germination period: It might die early, but it can germinate basically all year, as long as there is no snow on the ground. Usually, a bald crab grass spot extends thus from season to season, always looking awful in the fall, showing your neighbors that you are a less-than-perfect gardener.

Remedy? Keep your grass healthy, well-fed, well-watered, well-limed, and reseed in fall and spring, so that crab grass seedlings have no chance.

So, what for is this invasive grass good? For cows and other ungulates like deer crab grass is as nutritious as any other grass; even more so, because of its high protein contents. Sub-Saharan Africa people eat the milled crab grass seeds in porridge and bread. The problem with crab grass is that it germinates and ripens its seed willfully throughout the year. Therefore it must be hand-harvested, defying large-scale cultivation. However, early settlers in America purposefully would till a spot in the spring so that crab grass could grow there, for the grazing of the animals later in the year.

Crab grass (like Bermuda grass) is a warm-weather grass. As such, it accumulates less sugar than a perennial grass - it does not intend to stay around for the winter, needing staying power through the winter. That makes crab grass better digestible especially to horses who might be quite sensitive to a high sugar and starch content – which bloats them, causing colic. So, as hay, crab grass is quite desirable.

Crab grass contains non-trivial amounts of magnesium, phosphorus and calcium – important for bone health, and some vitamin A, folate, and retinol; they might account for its use in eye health: Medicinally, crabgrass infusion is said to be helping against cataracts and feebleness. I probably won’t use it exactly for that purpose. But just knowing that crab grass is not poisonous will land it in my garden teas from now on.

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!

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.

The Roots Of Philosophy

September 9, 2011

Tags: order, Adorno – Theodor W. (1903-1969), air conditioner, animal, animal rights defender, Arizona, biography, botany, California, Chinese history, collapse, common good, Critical Theory, deep gaze, Earth, famine, genius, Germany, hatred, heat, herbs, history, Holocaust, humans, manager, medicine, music, Nature, Nevada, New Mexico, novels, non-fiction, official, orphans, philosophy, plants, pollution, power outage, power station, public - general, responsibility, San Diego, summer reading extravaganza, system, The Root Of Philosophy, war, warning sign, World Wars

After the summer reading extravaganza of novels, I am back at my usual non-fiction fare – medicine, Chinese history, general history, philosophy, herbs and botany, music – whatever catches my interest.

Last night, in a biography about the German philosopher Theodor Adorno I came across a sentence of his that took my breath away. Took my breath away because the “Critical Theory” is more known for its political stance than for soft-hearted fuzziness. Took my breath away also because it expressed a sentiment that I thought belonged more to my private musings than in a philosophy context.

“Philosophy actually exists in order to redeem what is to be found in the gaze of an animal.” (p. 255, Detlev Claussen, Theodor W. Adorno – One Last Genius).

The book is uneven: It suffers from the contradiction that Adorno (and Claussen) think that biography is impossible after two World Wars and the Holocaust – and then Claussen wrote a biography after all. Topped by calling it “One Last Genius.” Adorno must be a-squirming in his grave; he definitely did not believe in the concept of “genius.”

“Philosophy actually exists in order to redeem what is to be found in the gaze of an animal.”

This says we are not different, not apart from Nature – and that one day we will be asked what our responsibility was in the destruction of the Earth with all her plants, animals and humans. - Last night my nephew called from San Diego to tell about the huge power outage of southern California and parts of Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico. It had been sweltering hot there for days, and the “system” collapsed.

As a citizen, I ask myself if there were not warning signs and if this collapse could have been prevented by astute officials running the Californian power grid - and I would fire the higher ranks at the power stations. As a person I think that not everybody who had the air conditioner running on “high” really needed it for medical reasons. Neither the power station managers nor the general public had the common good in mind, it seems.

Animals have already what we have lost: The deep gaze on what is important, and what is not. I am not a died-in-the-wool animal rights defender because I still maintain that people are more important. But one can push that argument only so far before we land at the fact that we, too, are animals, and not so highly developed ones in many cases. We produce wars, famines, orphans, pollution, hatred – to name a few human accomplishments.

We need to be taught by philosophy what matters; animals know it. And in their eyes you can read it – if you want to see it.

Back To School

September 6, 2011

Tags: order, food, acoustic bass, addiction, adult education catalog, alcohol, archeology, art, Back To School, birds, blueberries, calendar year, cello, Chinese, cleaning out the attic, cooking from scratch, Daoism, drawing from the nude, flowers, French, German, glass blowing, Gone With The Wind, herbalist, herbs, history, homeless shelter, Kneipp - Sebastian (1821-1897), knitting, learning something new, Maine, math teacher, mushrooms, music, New Year, novel, physician, posture, quilting, reading, resolution, rock climbing, school year, September, square dance, stars, tai chi, tax law, Trager bodywork, translating, trees, voice lessons, volunteering, writer

Even after so many years, September is my favorite time of the year – going back to school, that is. The magic of sitting there with a sharpened pencil, eager to learn new stuff, has never abated. In my life, I have done this and that – from math teacher to physician to writer – and I have come to appreciate that my best feature is my joy in learning something new. My father planted it in his children. A physician, too, he knew all the trees and the flowers and the birds and the stars, he loved history and art and music and archeology, and above all reading.

Sadly, alcohol destroyed his brilliant brain. These days, I am mulling how much I myself am prone to addiction: We just came home from Maine, and I wanted to get my daily fix of blueberries – and my grocer has run out of blueberries. Run out of blueberries! I am appalled. And I am mulling if this is my form of addiction – blueberries?

Well, it could be worse. My resolution for this fall and winter – yes: resolution, because the New Year really begins with the new school year, not with the new calendar year, if you ask me – is learning more Chinese, more cello and more translating my Sebastian Kneipp novel into German. And to find a grocer who still carries some blueberries …

What's your September resolution? Cleaning out the attic? Taking lessons on acoustic bass? Doing a course in tax law? Learning to cook from scratch? Joining a quilting bee? Tackling drawing from the nude? Find an herbalist to introduce you to local herbs and mushrooms? Trying rock climbing? Investing in voice lessons? Brushing up on your French? Exploring daoism? Volunteer at a homeless shelter? Retraining your square dance steps? Rereading "Gone With The Wind"? Working on your posture with Trager bodywork and tai chi? Blowing glass? Knitting a sweater?

Tell us! Only you can know what you are dreaming of doing. Go for it! The adult education catalogs are out.

Walking Pneumonia

September 2, 2011

Tags: order, herbs, acne, Alzheimer's, antibiotics, blindness, blister, bronchitis, cancer, cold herbs, diagnosis, GAIA herbs, GSE - Grapefruit Seed Extract, head cold, inflammation, lung, oregano, pneumonia - walking, rheumatoid arthritis, rinsing nose with saltwater, Walking Pneumonia

You are familiar with the term of "walking pneumonia", I guess. "Walking pneumonia" is unknown to other medical cultures. I always stumble over the expression. After all these years in this country, it still has the capitalistic notion to it: "Sick - but not too sick to work."

A friend adamantly denies "walking pneumonia" has to do with mean bosses who force their employees to work, whatever deplorable state they might be in. She maintains the term has been around forever, and simply discerns between one who is sick and still can walk, and one who is sick and can't get out of bed.

I can follow my friend there. BUT: Any pneumonia has inflammation in the lung tissues, and warrants treatment with antibiotics. And: We don't do this with other diseases - combining a diagnosis like "pneumonia" with a description of the state of the patient like "walking".

We make no difference between "walking cancer" and "non-walking cancer", or "walking rheumatoid arthritis" or "non-walking rheumatoid arthritis".

For me, "walking pneumonia" sounds decidedly odd. Thinking about it - and playing with it as the doctor-writer I am - also decidedly funny. Begging your pardon for poking fun of serious conditions, but they popped up:

"Limping foot blisters"
"Still mumbling Alzheimer's"
"Groping legal blindness"
"Absolutely, totally mortified acne".

If you ask me, pneumonia is pneumonia. Walking or not.

Oh, and by the way: If you have a bad head cold or a bad bronchitis, make sure they don't develop into pneumonia. Rinsing your nose with saltwater, taking extra deep breaths, quitting smoking, taking GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract) 16 drops three times a day with lots of water, or Oregano capsules (GAIA has a reliable formula) or some herbs against colds might prevent ... pneumonia.

The Bounty Of Now

September 1, 2011

Tags: food, herbs, baking sheet, broccoli, coconut oil, cucumber, friendship, garlic, greens, harvest bounty, Italian herbs, olive oil, onion, poteato, soup, stew, sweet potato, The Bounty Of Now, vegetable, yam, zucchini

This is the time of harvest bounty: Vegetables are cheap in the produce aisle, and can happen any moment that your friends dump a load of zucchini on your door step or hand you a plastic bag filled with mixed greens and things they pulled out of their own soil.

Do you groan and say: "Oh, not again!" or are you gratefully receiving that bounty?

Here are three very easy veggie recipes:

1. Good for potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes zucchini, and so on: Wash the zucchini or potato, cut in slices, lay them on a baking sheet that has some olive oil, and drip more olive oil on the slices. Put the baking sheet in the oven and heat to 350 degree Fahrenheit. Check from time to time (takes twenty minutes, give or take) with a fork. Turn them when they start looking dry.

2. Good for leafy greens and broccoli: Wash shortly, cut off bad spots. Put in a lidded pot with little water, olive oil, pepper and salt, and plenty of garlic (dried or fresh). Bring to a boil, then turn low and let simmer until leaves look a bit wilted and broccoli still has its bright green color.

3. Good for mixed stuff: Brown one or two onions in coconut oil, add the washed and cubed vegetables plus pepper and salt, garlic and either a handful of fresh herbs or dried (Italian mixture taste good). Simmer with little or no water (cucumbers have enough water, they don't need added) until done.

Since the kind of vegetables will change, these three recipes will get you through the end of the summer and the fall - or, for that matter, through your life. Recipe Number Three with water makes a great soup, with less water and some meat a wonderful stew.

Never let the bounty of now go to waste - this is the best life offers you: garden-fresh vegetables and the generosity of your friends.

Your Doctor Knows

August 29, 2011

Tags: order, acupuncture, alternative medicine, cold water, conventional medicine, doctor, exercise, healthcare, herbs, meditation, movement, nurse, nutrition, physician, pills, relaxation techniques, sleep hygiene, yoga, Your Doctor Knows

An new study shows that physician and nurses (and other healthcare personal) use more alternative methods than the general population.

Uh? Seems your doctor knows more than she lets on to you.

Why are physicians not generally using more alternative methods for their patients if they have found out that they work for themselves and their families?

Time! It takes much more time to discuss better nutrition, movement, herbs, acupuncture, cold water, relaxation techniques, yoga, meditation, sleep hygiene and many more than just handing out a prescription.

You might improve your own healthcare if you initiate a talk with your doctor, asking for alternatives before taking a pill mindlessly (but mind that sometimes the pill might be the right answer for your problem - let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater; we needs both sides of medicine!).

Just ask a simple question like this: "What would you do, if it were you, Doc?"

The Wolf That Ravages - Lupus

July 31, 2011

Tags: order, food, water, herbs, movement, alfalfa sprouts, Antrodia camphorata, apple, Artemisia absinthium, Artemisia vulgaris, artificial molecules, Astragalus propinquus, Astragalus membranaceus, autoimmune disease, basil, beans, blood, blood thinner, brain, Brussels sprouts, Bupleurum chinense, butter, caloric restriction, celery, chamomile, cheese, cheese - “milk-free”, dairy cilantro, clover, cod liver, cold shower, cooking, Cordyceps sinensis, cream, creams, curcumin, curry, DHEA, dried milk ingredients, exercise, fish, fish oil, flaxseed, food allergy, food intolerance, French Maritime Pine bark extract, garbanzo, gene-manipulated seeds, Gentiana macrophylla, GMOs, green tea, heart, hepatitis B, herbalist, herbs - culinary, herbs – medicinal, honey bee secretion, immune system, inflammation - chronic, joints, junk food, kidney, kidney failure, Latin, legumes, lentils, lipstick, lotions, lotus flower, lungs, lupus, Matricaria chamomilla, milk, mineral oils, miso, mono-crops, mugwort, mushroom - medicinal, Nelumbo nucifera, nutritional bar, nuts, obsessive-compulsive disorder, olive oil, oregano, overweight, parsley, peas, pycnogenol, photosensitivity, plant food, Rheum emodi, royal jelly, sauna, seeds, skin, SLE, sleep, Sophora flavenscens, soy, soy - fermented, soy-sauce, spices, spinach, sugar, sunlight, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, tarragon, tempeh, The Wolf That Ravages Your Life – Lupus, Tripterygium wilfordii, turmeric, vaccination, vegetables, vitamin D, vitamin E, weight loss, wormwood, yogurt

Lupus is Latin for “wolf” - an apt name for a disease that may maul your skin and inner organs relentlessly. Lupus is a group of autoimmune diseases that can affect skin, joints, blood, brain lungs, heart, and in its most feared form the kidneys, leading to kidney failure. One interesting picture produced by SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus) of the brain can be an obsessive-compulsive-like disorder.

Autoimmune diseases – with all our scientific advances – are still not thoroughly understood. From experience and the literature I would consider the following steps if I were afflicted with lupus – which I am not.

1. Eliminate all dairy because casein seems to be hurting badly in lupus. Do not eat butter, cream, milk, yogurt, cheese, or any food with dried milk ingredients. For instance, “milk-free” cheese still usually contains casein. Since lupus is basically a disease of chronic inflammation in the body, it is wise to throw out all foods that contribute to inflammation – and dairy is the worse in that respect. Sugar and artificial molecules come in second. And food items you already know don’t agree with you (allergies and intolerances). Of all those, dairy has been consistently been linked with lupus and other autoimmune diseases.

2. Fish oil. Take good-quality fish oil capsules daily, about three times three. Make sure you don’t have a bleeding problem because fish oil slightly thins the blood. Also eat small ocean fish.

3. Flaxseed. If you don’t have a nut-and-seed problem, flaxseeds have a healing quality in lupus. Use olive oil for cooking.

4. Vitamin D or sunlight is beneficial in lupus, but photosensitivity (skin reactions to sun) is a prominent feature of lupus. What is a person to do? If you can’t tolerate light, take a vitamin D preparation or eat cod liver once a month.

5. Eliminate soy unless fermented. The reports about soy are not clear – sometimes soy hurts, sometimes it helps. This might have to do with two facts, namely that unfermented soy is not better than any other bean, and might even be worse as soy is one of the new mono-crops of gene-manipulated seeds. GMO are linked to lupus by some authors. On the other hand, fermented soy has done well in all studies. Miso, a good soy-sauce and tempeh are fermented soy products; tofu and the “nutritional” bars are not.

6. Caloric restriction has been shown to delay the onset of lupus. That does not mean you should starve yourself. But if you are overweight – even if ever so slightly – you should seriously focus on losing the extra pounds – which might actually happen all by itself if you eliminate dairy, sugar and other junk foods.

7. Herbs. There is a long list of herbs and plants helpful in lupus. I would not recommend any one over any others. And obviously, there might be other herbs and pants beneficial. For me it means that plant material – the way we should nourish ourselves naturally – is the way to go. So, eat a variety of vegetables. And from the list below chose food items, herbs and spices freely in your cooking. For medicinal herbs, chose one at a time and take it according to directions, until the bottle is empty, then choose another one:
Alfalfa sprouts
Antrodia camphorata (a medicinal mushroom)
Apples
Astragalus
Basil
Brussels sprouts
Bupleurum chinense (and other Buleurum species)
Celery
Chamomile (Chamomilla recutita)
Cilantro
Clover
Cordyceps sinensis (a medicinal mushroom)
Curcumin (in turmeric and curries)
Gentiana macrophylla
Green tea
Legumes (beans, peas, lentils, garbanzo)
Lotus flower (Nelumbo nucifera)
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
Oregano
Parsley
Pycnogenol (French Maritime Pine bark extract)
Rheum emodi
Royal jelly (a honey bee secretion)
Sophora flavenscens
Spinach
Tarragon
Tripterygium wilfordii
Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium, notoriously bad for the brain – absinth! So consult an herbalist for this)

8. Vitamin E and DHEA have been beneficial in lupus, but I would not take them without consulting a physician because both may have side-effects.

9. Avoid mineral oils (lipstick, lotions, creams, etc.) as mineral oils have been implicated in the development of lupus.
10. Certain vaccinations, especially hepatitis B, have been brought in connection with lupus. The jury is still out on that – but think twice before you get an unnecessary vaccination.

11. Exercise moderately.

12. Do sauna regularly for detoxification. Take a cold shower after a hot one to regulate your immune system.

13. Get enough sleep. Your body needs to repair during sleep.

Lupus might be what I like to call the canary diseases: Certain foods and lifestyles hurt all of us. But in some – the canaries – the damage shows earlier.

Why Haven’t You Heard Kangen Water Mentioned Here?

June 26, 2011

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, alkalinizing, customers – gullible, dream – pipe-dream, Earth, health device, health myth, improving your life, Kangen Water, magic machine, miracle pill, money - saving, multi-level marketing scheme, positive thinking, reader, reality, resources – Earth’s, scientific study, seller, vegetable, water purity, Why Haven’t You Heard Kangen Water Mentioned Here?, writing

Water is our Earth’s precious resource; I spend my time writing about the importance of keeping water pure and how to use it for health. But Kangen water?

From time to time I get sucked into a discussion on the Internet – so this time again; over Kangen water.

What I tell them is that not a single scientific study validates Kangen water, that it is nothing but a multi-level marketing scheme, and that if you want to alkalinize your body you better eat vegetables. But do I have an impact? No, because there are mostly two kinds of readers: People who sell this product and are vested in its success. And gullible customers.

And those poor gullible customers should save their money instead of running after the age-old dream that a simple device can make you healthy. Exactly to dispel that myth I am here. Because, in reality, it is a gradual process of improving your life in so many ways – water, movement, food, herbs, order might be a concept you are familiar with by now. No miracle pill. No magic machine. No positive thinking.

Just doing a little bit better every day.

Alternative Goes Mainstream - Or Does it?

June 11, 2011

Tags: order, movement, food, herbs, water, acupuncture, alternative-complementary medicine program, Alternative Goes Mainstream, Arzt für Naturheilkunde, Ayurvedic Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, BIDMC, biophysical medicine, board-certified, Boston, Cheng - Jill and Hung, Chinese food, chiropractic, conferences – medical, Continuing Education, diseases, Family Practice, Germany, healing foods, healing modalities, hydrotherapy, Internal Medicine, massage, medications, medicine – alternative, medicine – conventional, Natural Medicine, overweight, Primary Care, quackery, relaxation, research, subspecialty, subspecialty degree in Complementary Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine, under-exercised, yoga

Have you ever not told your doctor you are using an herb or a massage for your problems? Have you ever had a physician yelling at you because you dared mention such modalities at all? I am looking for gentle healing forms for twenty five years now – and I am astonished that I am still hearing about such fossil physicians and incidents.

This week I attended a gathering to celebrate a generous gift Jill and Hung Cheng have given to the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston toward an alternative-complementary medicine program.

We celebrated with speeches (of course!) and healthy Chinese fare, and had a ball, generally – celebrating that a farsighted couple tries to overcome the big divide between alternative and conventional medicine.

BUT: Why are we still talking about alternative?

There is nothing alternative in using healing foods and movement to help patients. Not astonishing, a new study showed that overweight, under-exercised physicians are utilizing less food and physical modalities to help their patients. Which means: Overweight, under-exercised physicians prescribe more medications. Scary?

In Germany, many modalities like herbal therapy, Natural Medicine, massage, acupuncture, yoga, relaxation, hydrotherapy, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine, chiropractic, biophysical medicine, and so on are mainstream. Which means that a physician can pass an examination in a subspecialty, in front of a board of peers to show his/her knowledge. I have done it (Arzt für Naturheilkunde).

Are there quacks in alternative medicine? Sure, there are. But so are in conventional medicine. Not talking to each other only perpetuates the shortcomings on both sides of the aisle.

This is what is needed:

• A subspecialty degree in Complementary Medicine that can be acquired by any physician who has passed the Internal Medicine, Family Practice or Primary Care Boards.
• Conferences and Continuing Education that automatically comprise ALL healing modalities that have been proven useful in certain diseases and conditions.
• More research in complementary modalities – of course!!

Herb Of The Year 2011: Horseradish

May 7, 2011

Tags: herbs, food, antibacterial, apples, Armoracia rusticana, asparagus - white, Belgian endive, boiled beef, bones - strong, breakfast, bronchitis, calcium, Chinese rice soup, chives, comfort, condiment, congee, dandelion, death, decoration, diarrhea, digestive, dinner, disorientation, enzyme, fever, frosts, garden, garden pest, gastro-intestinal irritation, Germany, ginger, grape leaves, green tea, harvest, healing purposes, Herb Day, herbal tea, Herb Of The Year 2011 - Horseradish, herbs - cleansing spring, hors d’oeuvres, horseradish, horseradish root, horseradish as poison, horseradish peroxidase, hot bath, International Herb Association, International Herb Day 2011, invigorating, Japanese tea - ground, lunch, macha, magnesium, mint, Natural Medicine, nausea, neighborhood, neurobiology, olives - chopped, olive paste, overdosing on fresh horseradish, phosphorus, potassium, potatoes - mashed, potluck party, pungent, resveratrol, rice crackers, rice vinegar, robustness, sauerkraut, sesame - black, sinusitis, spring, stinging nettle, sweating, taste, taste buds, toxic compounds, urinary tract infection, volatile oils, vomiting, weakness, weed, wild garlic

This should be the International Herb Day 2011 – but it seems several organizations compete with their dates.

So, I am making it my own Herb Day. I started the day with an herbal tea from stinging nettle, dandelions, ginger, chives, mints, and a dash of green ground Japanese tea called macha - to open my eyes.

My breakfast consisted of – you know my routine by now - congee (Chinese rice soup from brown rice) with sauerkraut and pickled grape leaves. They are my own harvest from last year, just cooked in rice vinegar and frozen, high in resveratrol, and a real pest in the garden! What is more delightful to find a way to turn an annoying weed into a delicious food!

For lunch I had olive paste on black sesame rice crackers.

For dinner I am invited to a neighborhood potluck party, and I will bring hors d’oeuvres: Olive paste (can be substituted with chopped olives, on Belgian endive and/or apples slices, topped with leftover pieces of white asparagus and chives from the garden.

The uses for herbs are unlimited: as condiment, as decoration, for healing purposes, for taste in food and comfort in a hot bath. This year, the International Herb Association made horseradish the herb of 2011 – don’t try it in your bath, though!

Horseradish root, grated has the familiar pungent taste which goes well with bland fish or bland meats – in Germany we use it with boiled beef, which is a boring a dish as one can imagine. With horseradish, it suddenly is exciting for the taste buds. Serve it fresh mashed potatoes, made from scratch.

What makes Armoracia rusticana, as it is known in Latin, so pungent are its volatile oils. They also give it its healing properties: antibacterial, digestive. It certainly gives your sinuses a good blow-out. It is also used in urinary tract infections and bronchitis, and promotes sweating in a fever, which can be beneficial. And in Natural Medicine we view it – together with stinging nettle, dandelion, chives, wild garlic, and others – as one of the essential cleansing spring herbs.

Horseradish also contains potassium, and an interesting enzyme – horseradish peroxidase, now used widely in neurobiology. Magnesium, calcium, phosphorus are building strong bones. That does not mean you should gorge on it – a little goes a long way; too much would be a poison. Overdosing on fresh horseradish (cooking destroys the toxic compounds) shows in gastro-intestinal irritation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, sweating, and disorientation, and possible death.

Before I knew that it would become famous this year, namely in the winter, I planted a horseradish root in a pot. For months, it did nothing, as eagerly as I observed the phallic thing for signs of life. Then, after I had put it outside when there were still frosts expected, I noticed it had developed side-shoots. And as soon as the rain stops today I will plant it in a bigger container. It would be unwise to plant it in the garden as it is a tough customer and prone to spreading robustly. – Perhaps that was one of the reasons our forefathers recognized it as one of those invigorating plants with which we might fight dwindling health.

Fast Will Not Last – A Step-By-Step Weight Loss Program

May 4, 2011

Tags: food, water, movement, herbs, order, allergies, anti-cancer, arthritis, asthma, bedtime, belly, beverage – diet, beverage soft, bisphenol A (BPA), BMI, breakfast, butter, cancer, carbon filter, celeriac, chard, cheese, chemicals in water, church, clean out the attic, cooked food, dairy, deli, diet beverage, depression, diabetes type II, dinner, dinosaur kale, environment, Fast Will Not Last – A Step-By-Step Weight Loss Program, fat - good, fish, fluoride, friend, gardening, garlic, grains, green leafy vegetable, gym, heart disease, herbal tea, inflammatory substance, kale, Kant - Immanuel (1724-1804, kohlrabi greens, legumes, light, lunch, lunch hour, margarine, meat, milk, obesity, olive oil, Own Your Health, play with the kids, political campaign, politics, protein, putter in the garden, reading project, red beet, reverse osmosis filter, ride a bicycle, root vegetable, rutabaga, sausages saving the world, shelter, sitting, sleep and weight loss, soft beverage, soup kitchen, spinach, spreads, starches, stevia, sugars, sweeteners, tap water, turnip, vegetable, vitamin A, volunteering, walk a dog, walk - daily, water - bottled, water – filtered, weight loss – fast, weight loss – realistic, Weight Loss Program - Step-By-Step, Weisman - Roanne, whole grains, winter, wrist bone, yoghurt, yo-yo dieting

Fast Will Not Last – A Ste

After politics, I better return to my own turf. My forte is one-to-one talking with on people, not saving the world.

Ali - on Roanne Weisman’s blog Own your Health - has asked me this question: How can I lose weight fast?

Truth is: Fast will not last.

Most common request seems to be: “Now it is May – can you help me lose fifty pounds till September, because I will marry in September.” My answer is always: “No!”

Weight loss should be really slow so that the body does not go into survival mode and defies weight loss. As disappointing as this may be, it is the only way to success. Yo-yo dieting has been shown to be especially detrimental to the heart, so don’t even start that process!

Here are my rules:

• Do not lose more than two pounds per month!
• Weigh yourself every morning.
• If you inadvertently lose more than two pounds per month, don’t gloat about, and don’t be disappointed if you regain some of that weight.
• Once you have lost those two pounds, put your focus on keeping off those two pounds. The real challenge is to not regain any pounds during the month.
• Weight loss does not happen by diet alone, and not by sweating hours in the gym. Weight loss comes from a healthy lifestyle.
• One of the most important parts of that healthy lifestyle is getting enough sleep. Sleep deprivation leads to high stress hormone levels in the body, which leads to cravings and overeating.
• The next day is won the evening before: Prepare breakfast and lunch, and plan dinner for the next day, then go to bed early. Don’t hang around in front of TV or computer beyond your “tired point” – because then you get a second wind and can’t fall asleep. Best bedtime is between 8.30 and 10.00 pm. If you think you can’t do that every night, give it a try one evening per week – and observe the difference in how you feel.
• Below is the step-by step program. Take a new step either every week or every month, or when you feel you need to do more for your health, or when the weight loss progress stalls.
• The most important question: Is your weight loss goal realistic? If you are of Dutch ancestry, you might never get to be a dainty as many Asians are (only a rule of thumb – there are small Dutch people, and large Asians!). For that look up your BMI - for instance here: http://www.aarp.org/health/fitness/info-05-2010/bmi_calculator.html?CMP=KNC-360I-GOOGLE-HEA-FIT&HBX_PK=bmi&utm_source=Google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=bmi&utm_campaign=G_Health&360cid=SI_148921798_7430108821_1.
• Your BMI will give you a weight range. If you are small-boned, you should be at the lower part of that range, if you are big-boned, at the higher end. How do you know about your bones? Compare your wrist bones with those of other people to get an idea where you stand.
• If you still have a protruding belly, you are not at your ideal weight.
• In every meal have some protein and some good fat. Legumes provide protein.
• Most important is your intake of vegetables, which should be mostly cooked, especially in the winter.
• Cut down on meat to once a week, and do not eat deli and sausages at all. Have some fish – preferably small fish.

And here are the weight loss steps:

Step # 1: Buy a green leafy vegetable (chard, spinach, kale, dinosaur kale, kohlrabi greens, etc), cook it with olive oil and garlic - and eat it.

Step #2: Leave out all soft beverages - including "diet" beverages.

Step #3: Drink herbal teas when you are thirsty. Or plain (or filtered) tap water. Don’t drink bottled water.

Step #4: Leave out all dairy (cheese, milk, yoghurt, etc). Milk is a highly inflammatory substance, totally alien for people beyond infancy, that leads to all kinds of diseases besides obesity: diabetes, arthritis, depression, cancer, allergies and asthma, heart disease, and so on.

Step #5: Buy a root vegetable (red beets, celeriac, turnip, etc), cook in salt water until just soft enough to pierce with a skewer. Serve with olive oil, pepper and salt as a warm salad. Rutabaga, because it is usually waxed, needs to be peeled before cooking. Cut in cubes, boil with a bit of water and pepper and salt.

Step #6: Go for a daily walk. Best is during lunch hour, for the anti-cancer effect of light. Ten minutes in the beginning is fine. Go with a friend – so that you may stay with this habit.

Step #7: Leave out all sugars. And don’t use any sweeteners. They fool the body into thinking you get sweets – and then your body wants more food. Besides, most sweeteners except stevia carry their own health concerns.

Step #8: Find a new vegetable every week in your supermarket – try out what you don’t know (most vegetables are delicious with garlic and olive oil). Some fat is required with all vegetables because otherwise you cannot absorb the vitamin A in them.

Step #9: Leave out all grains and starches until you have your ideal weight. Then you might re-introduce some whole grains – but only if you are not regaining.

Step #10: Observe how much you are actually sitting during the day. Sitting is detrimental to your health – and of course, we are a sitting culture. Think about ways to move more: Putter in the garden, clean out the attic, walk a dog, play with the kids, ride a bicycle. The German philosopher Immanuel Kant recognized this principle and kept his handkerchief at the other end of the room, so that he had to get up from his desk to blow his nose. Try to come up with your own – and better - movements!

Step #11: Stop all margarine, spreads and butter. If you still eat bread, dunk it in olive oil.

Step #12: Volunteer somewhere – in a shelter, a soup kitchen, a church, a political campaign, a gardening project, a reading help for youngsters –to get out of the house and do good!

P.S. This is a long entry. But it boilds down to two points:

1. Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables - eat more, and more varied!

2. Put more movement into your day - little movements here and there.


P.P.S. Recheck this blog - I might add new points as they come up!

Today is Beltane!

April 30, 2011

Tags: Water, food, herbs, movement, order, annihilation, annuals, bacterial life, Beltane, blooming, broomstick, celebration, chemicals, cherry blossoms, children’s children, chives, daffodil, desert, Earth, fall, Gaia, gardening, gardening methods - unorthodox, global warming, green, leaves, May Dance, May First, mutations, Nature, nature religion, neo-paganism, non-turning of the soil, nourishing, novel, nuclear devastation, ozone hole, paganism, perennials, political, radiation, renewal – yearly, rite, ritual, science, Sebastian Kneipp - Water Doctor, soil, spring, spring rites, stepping stones, summer, Today Is Beltane!, tulip, walking, water tables, Wiccan, witches

Beltane is the ancient rite of greeting and revering spring, celebrated on the night that leads into the First of May. I don’t believe in witches riding on broomsticks – or, to rephrase this, modern science interprets the broomstick a bit different. But in my novel “Sebastian Kneipp, Water Doctor” the broomstick and Beltane play a major role. For that reason alone, Beltane is special for me.

The most amazing features of Nature are that she brought us forth and nourishes us, and that she renews herself yearly.

This force of renewal is enormous – but it is not inexhaustible. We can come to a point of no return if we are not careful with old Gaia, and that point of no return could come in several scenarios, all not pretty: Nuclear devastation – and in the past we have come close to several political annihilation situations. Lowering the water tables so that wide parts of the Earth would turn into deserts until nothing green grows anymore. Biological mutations in our genome, started by chemicals we deem safe now but might find out too late they are not. Overheating of the Earth – global warming; there are still people who deny that this is happening, in the face of science. Overexposure to radiation by increasing the ozone hole (we are working mightily on that one).

In my garden I practice what I call non-turning of the soil – it’s a leisurely and useful form of gardening. I leave the leaves on the beds in the fall (the neighbors got used to my untidy garden and seem to have forgiven me because they Oh! And Ah! in spring, summer and fall at the blooming results of my unorthodox gardening methods. - If one doesn’t step on the soil, one doesn’t compact the soil, so one doesn’t have to turn the soil. Between perennials, annuals and bushes my garden the stepping stones. I never, ever step on the soil because I know it is teeming with beneficial bacterial life that will be trampled and choked if I do.

So, I don’t care if you celebrate Beltane with a Wiccan ritual (be aware that most of this nature religion is less ancient than we usually think – most comes from nineteenth and twentieth centuries’ revival of old paganism) or with a Dance into May or with a walk under cherries blossoms or along daffodils and tulips or with a salad sprinkled with the first chives from the garden. But l do care that we not trample and choke our good old Earth and preserve her for our children and children’s children.

The thought haunts me that one day nobody might be able ever to celebrate spring anymore – either because Spring has ceased to return, or nobody is left to celebrate …

Treat Simple Urinary Tract Infection Without Antibiotics!

April 20, 2011

Tags: herbs, order, food, water, movement, Agathosma betulina, allergies, Althea officinalis, antibiotics, antibiotic resistance, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, bacteria, Barosma betulina, berberine, bilberry, black currant, bladder mucosa, bladder wall, blood in urine, bowel bacteria, blueberries, buchu, burning, Coleus forskohlii, corn silk, cranberries, D-Mannose, drinking hot fluid, E. coli, emptying bladder, Equisetum arvense, ER, estrogen deficiency, fever, flank pain, foreskin, fruit, genital folds, goldenseal, grape seed, grape skin, herbal tea, herbs - women’s, horsetail, Hydrastis canadensis, Indian Coleus plant, infection, intra-vaginally, Kegel exercises, kidney pain, kidney stones, Lactobacillus crispatus, lubricant, Mannose, marshmallow root, menopause, pelvic muscle, penis, private parts, proanthocyanidins, probiotics, pus from penis, pus from vagina, red wine, sex, soap, South Africa, standing on one leg, sugar, tea (black and green), Treat Simple Urinary Tract Infection Without Antibiotics!, urethra, urinary infection, urination, urine - cloudy, usnea, UTI, UTI in children, UTI prevention, uva ursi, vagina, vaginal flora, vaginal mucosa, vegetables, voiding, white starches, Zea mays

Most UTIs can be dealt with simply, with herbs, probiotics, and so on. Antibiotics should be reserved for the really dangerous infections. Not only should we curb antibiotic use because of possible resistances; it also has been shown that bacteria bury into the bladder wall during a course with antibiotics – only to pop up again a bit later!

But for starters, this warning: IMMEDIATELY see your physician or the Emergency Room, if you have any of these signs/symptoms:

• Blood in the urine
• Pus from your vagina /penis
• Fever (ANY fever means that the infection has gone beyond the confines of the bladder)
• Flank/kidney pains: If you have pain that far away from your bladder, it means that the UTI ascended to your kidneys. Or that you have kidney stones.
• ALL UTIs in children should be seen by a doctor.
• If you never had a UTI before.

The usual cause of UTIs, especially in women, is sexual intercourse. Women have a very short urethra, so bacteria can walk up easily and invade the bladder. UTIs are most common in young women (frequent sex) and in women after menopause (lacking estrogen leads to shrinking tissues which means less protection against invading bacteria).

This is what you can do to prevent UTIs:

• Make sure that man and woman are clean at their private parts. Insist especially that your man washes behind his foreskin daily, and you yourself wash between the folds. Don’t use soap – daily water washings suffice!
• Use a lubricant to make sex smoother.
• Right after sex, the woman should get up and urinate to flush out potential bacteria.
• Avoid all sugars and white starches.
• If you tend to get UTIs often, take cranberry capsules for at least a day after sex. Cranberries prevent bacteria to lodge onto the bladder mucosa.
• Drink enough hot fluid.
• Take a daily probiotic – this helps get rid of bad bacteria in the bowel (which are most often the culprit in urinary infections).
• A new and promising treatment is another probiotic, Lactobacillus crispatus that normalizes the vagina flora (taken intra-vaginally), thus preventing “bad” bacteria to invade the bladder.
• Doing Kegel exercises or standing on one leg (see a former blog) to strengthen pelvic muscle. If your muscles down there are weak, you might not be able to empty your bladder fully each time – and that is a set-up for recurrent UTIs.
• Regularly take women’s herbs after menopause to strengthen vaginal mucosa.

Prevention of course is better than treatment. But when you get the familiar sensation of burning during voiding that heralds a UTTI, you should act IMMEDIATELY, because any infection is easier to treat, the earlier you catch it. Other symptoms of a UTI are: a cloudy urine, an offensive odor, discomfort in your bladder area and the urge to go frequently.

Apart from the measures above that you should continue, use these tried-and-true herbs in a tea, three times a day:

• Uva ursi (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
• Usnea spp. – a group of lichens growing on trees

Other herbs helpful in UTI:
• Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) – or any other source of berberine would do as goldenseal is an endangered species.
• Marshmallow root (Althea officinalis) – soothing, but not necessarily healing
• Buchu (Agathosma betulina – formerly Barosma betulina), a plant from South Africa.
• Corn silk (Zea mays) – and old stand-by
• Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) – should not be taken too long as it is harsh on the kidneys.
• Indian Coleus plant (Coleus forskohlii) reportedly has effectivity against UTIs too, but the data are still scant. This would be a plant to investigate if you have allergies to all the aforementioned herbs.
• Also worth trying is D-Mannose – not strictly an herb, but a sugar - which only works against E. coli that happens to be the most commonly found bacterium in UTIs.
• Similar proanthocyanidins that work in cranberries are also found in blueberries and strongly colored fruit and vegetables, tea (black and green), black currant, bilberry, grape seed, grape skin and red wine,

Congee and Beans

February 28, 2011

Tags: food, water, herbs, amino acids, Asia, bean salad, botulism, breakfast, butter beans, cabbage – sour, chelating, China, congee – recipe, cilantro, Congee and Beans, cravings, detoxification, dill, easy meal, economical meal, fermented foods, garbanzos, garlic, gluten-free, grape leaves, Greece, Herbes de Provence, herbs – dried, herbs – fresh, herbs – Italian beans, Hippocrates, Japan, Kellogg - John Harvey (1852-1943), Kellogg - Will Keith (1860-1951), legumes, lunch, maple syrup, marjoram, microwave, olive oil, parsley, pressure cooker, refrigeration, resveratrol, rice – brown, rice – short, rice cooker, Russia, tarragon, vegetables, pickles, salt and pepper, sauerkraut, savory, sweet tooth, umeboshi plum paste, Your food be your medicine

Surely, I've been stressing my mantra "Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables" on this blog; without vegetables, no health.

Think of congee and beens as "fast" vegetables. They don't substitute for greens and roots and cabbages. But congee for breakfast and beans for lunch keep me going all day until I arrive at my vegetable-laden dinner table. The amino acids in congee and beans complement each other to a full, nourishing set, and congee and beans have this in common: They are easy to make and very economical – I bet you can’t come up with a healthier meal that’s less expensive.

• Congee: This Asian dish is basically rice cooked with lots and lots of water into a very satisfying thick soup. If you think you know rice, and don’t like it, try congee. To me it always tastes like it was made in heaven by some motherly, nourishing angel. Here is how you make it yourself:

If you have a rice cooker with a congee setting (which I don’t), you have it easy. I use a pressure cooker. One cup of brown rice – preferably the short, sticky variety – to two cups of water. Cook for about ten minutes. After cooling, add three to four cups more water. Cook for another ten minutes or so (I know my recipes are awfully vague; that’s how I cook – you figure out your own way). The pressure cooker method works better if you do it in two steps rather than pouring in all the water in the beginning. If, on the other hand, you have only a simple, big pot, you let the rice simmer on very low heat for several hours. If needed, add more water.

One cup of dry rice, transformed into congee, fills about four big breakfast bowls. You serve it with any kind of fermented pickles – sauerkraut being very good and cheap. (Look up my old blog on fermented foods if you are not familiar with their health benefits). Chinese traditionally have some nice pickles – but it has to be the fermented kind, not the modern processed stuff, and the fermented pickles are not longer found easily. I have used sour cabbage from the Russian store, or Greek marinated grape leaves (high in resveratrol!). Japanese have great fermented things like umeboshi plum paste. You only need a little bit for a whole bowl. Whatever you like. But don’t do sweet stuff like maple syrup – the congee needs fermented foods. Anything sweet will only feed your sweet tooth. And it is not written in stone that a breakfast needs to be sweet – that is the Kellogg brothers' invention, I suspect.

I always add a liberal amount of olive oil because otherwise it won’t last me until lunch. By the way, you may add a pinch of salt to your bowl – but fermented foods usually provide all the saltiness you may want.

This breakfast has one great advantage: Filling without stuffing, it squashes all cravings – and makes you go until lunch without ever thinking of food.

• Beans: I apologize to the purists among you, but I use canned beans. Of course, one can also soak beans overnight and cook them – but I have more interesting things to do. When you buy canned beans, make sure they have no additives – they should be beans and water, nothing else.

You open a can of beans and heat the contents (including the fluid) in a small pot to a boil. Add olive oil (I can’t even think of life without olive oil!), and pinch of salt and pepper. Toss in a handful of fresh or a table spoon full of dried herbs: Dill and parsley turn a boring can of beans a festive and health meal. Tarragon goes beautifully with garbanzos (which, technically are no beans, but belong to the legume family), marjoram or savory are great with butter beans, Italian herbs or Herbes de Provence plus garlic make dark beans a spectacular meal. Cilantro goes with everything – again add some garlic, and you already have a detoxifying, chelating medicine – “Your food be your medicine” as Hippocrates already said. We can now buy so many different kinds of canned beans. Find out what you like – and then rotate, because it is not good to eat the same fare every day.

If you can’t warm up your beans at midday at work on a stove (don’t use a microwave!), you can also make a bean salad (same ingredients, just drain the fluid of, and perhaps cut a small onion into the mix). But keep your beans refrigerated at all times, as they are prone to botulism germs when left at room temperature longer than two hours. And, hopefully you know better than use a bulging can of beans – discard it!

And then, as they say: Enjoy!

P.S. Did you notice that congee and beans are perfectly gluten-free? No-sweat gluten-free!

Stress – Good and Bad

February 24, 2011

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, abdominal fat, adrenalin, affair, aging, alarm mode, allergy - food, animals - grain fed, balance, beans, biochemical processes – life-sustaining, blood pressure, cancer brush painting, cardamom, cat, cell - dried, cellular health, companionship, competition, cortisol, cross-stitching, dairy, depression, development - of children, diabetes type II, dog, ENM, European Natural Medicine, exercise, family, fats – fried, fats - hardened, food - fresh, free radicals, friends, fruit, ginger, grains - whole, growth hormones, happiness, heartbreak, heart disease, hobby, hug, joy, kiss, inflammation, inflammation response, interleukin-6, knitting, loneliness, longevity, music, nuts, overdrive, pet, puttering in the garden, relaxation, sexuality, sleep, slouching, spices, stress, Stress – Good and Bad, sugar, tea, tea - herbal, touch, vegetables - cooked or raw, walking - daily, white flour, white starches

A recent study shows that stress increases interleukin-6, a powerful agent of inflammation in the body. Interleukin-6 is, of course, not the only chemical in the body that is affected by stress: Stress creates free radicals that make you age faster. Stress puts the body in high alarm mode via adrenalin and cortisol. Stress decreases growth hormones and stunts the development of children. Stress increases abdominal fat, which leads to diabetes and other diseases.

Stress makes us sick; with this new study, we know a bit better how that happens: Years and years of inflammation in your body can lead to diabetes, heart disease, depression and cancer.

But did you know that there is bad stress and good stress? Bad stress is what life and other people do to you; good stress comes from setting yourself goals and working hard for it. Balance is the keyword here.

Balance fights stress, as European Natural Medicine knows:

• Movement: Moving around most of the day breaks down stress hormones in your muscles, and makes you feel relaxed. Again, too much exercise and competition can wreak havoc in your body. But daily walking is the minimum. Find a healthy balance between slouching and overdrive.

• Eating fresh food: Vegetables (cooked or raw), fruit, beans, nuts have powerful compounds that reduce inflammation in the body. Foods that increase inflammation are: sugar, white starches, dairy, grain fed animals, bad fats (especially fried and hardened). Grains (even whole grains) are sort of in the middle between good and bad: better than white flour, for some people they still trigger the body’s inflammation response. Observe yourself to find out where you stand. - Anything you are allergic to works in your body like a flame-thrower, increasing inflammation.

• Herbs and spices are packed with anti-oxidants, vitamins, and so on. They gobble up the free radicals and they add taste, zest and decreased inflammation to your life. Today I will just mention two: ginger and cardamom. Put some ginger and/or cardamom in your tea or herbal tea – they both are perfect winter spices.

• Touch: The more you touch and hug and kiss, the better you feel. I am not talking about sexuality though – even if the sex cravings of some people might be explained thus. I am talking about loving your family, your friends. Getting into complicated affairs might only increase your life stresses.

• Keep a pet: Companionship and again, touching, lowers blood pressure, and makes people happier and live longer. Loneliness kills by breaking your heart. A cat shows you the wisdom of taking it easy; a dog is always happy to see you.

• Music, painting, knitting, cross-stitching, puttering in the garden – whatever hobby makes you happy also makes you healthier.

• Water: A dried cell is a stressed cell. Make sure every cell of your body is watered well (but not water-logged) to decrease stress on the cellular level, so that the healthy biochemical reactions can take place and sustain your life.

• Sleep is the most important and most definitely underused stress reducer. If you stay up late for TV, a computer game or just plain old partying, you create the set-up for a stressful next day. Be in bed before ten at least once a week – just to be reminded how good it feels not to have to rush through sleep.

• Joy – put as much of this stress reliever into your life. One of the easiest – and most needed – ways to arrive at joy is working for the joy of other people.

The Means And The Goals

February 23, 2011

Tags: order, water, movement, food, herbs, beauty, care, create, diet, ENM - European Natural Medicine, European Natural Medicine (ENM), exercise, explore, fad diets, justice, happiness, laugh, learn, love, narcissistic bore, natural order, nurture, over-exercised zealots, push-ups, rest, share, sleep, superfoods, Swiss cheese, The Means And The Goals, tofu, vitamins, wake, water – bottled, weep, work, world – a better

For me, the Five Health Essentials have one advantage over all the fad diets and exercise programs: The fifth Health Essential.

Remember, in European Natural Medicine, there are five Health Essentials:

1. Water (note that I didn’t say: bottled)
2. Movement (note that I didn’t say: exercise)
3. Food (note that I didn’t say: superfoods)
4. Herbs (note that I didn’t say: vitamins)
5. Order.

Number five – order - is the one I want to talk about today. Number one to four are only the means; number five tells you that there are goals in life beyond living for the perfect diet or the perfectly sculpted body. We live to enjoy life to the fullest: to love, to learn, to share, to explore, to nurture, to care, to create.

Number five tells you that you are part of the natural order: You are born, and you will die. In between are your days and nights, which you can fill with garbage, or can fill with purpose and meaning.

Nothing in nature comes in round numbers (think 80-10-10! – one of the current fad diets) and nothing in nature comes in a square (think tofu!). Natural order makes you laugh and weep, sleep and wake, work and rest.

You know those over-exercised zealots – those narcissistic bores. Or those food faddists whose brains seem build from tofu with Swiss cheese holes. It is not about how you look or how many push-ups you can do (actually, being able to do one would be swell) – it is about leaving the world a better, happier, more just and more beautiful place for all its inhabitants.

Order – think what it could do for you.

Have You Coddled Your Hippocampus Lately?

February 2, 2011

Tags: movement, water, herbs, food, Alzheimer's, blood fats, bone loss, brain, brain function, cold – common, cold shower, cold stimulus, daylight, diabetes type II, flu, freezing temperatures, Have You Coddled Your Hippocampus Lately?, high blood pressure, hippocampus, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, ice, immune function inflexibility – mental, junk food, longevity, lunch hour, memory, menopause, metabolic syndrome, mood, mood booster, muscles, New England, obesity, osteoporosis, pebbles, plasticity – mental, Parkinson’s, PMS, snow, vitamin D, walking, weight

A recent study shows that brisk walks boost memory in older adults. And makes your hippocampus swell visibly on MRI. I bet this also applies to younger people.

The hippocampus is a worm-like structure deeply buried in your brain that is involved in memory formation. In Alzheimer, it is the part of your brain that will show the first signs of degeneration. A youthful hippocampus gives you mental plasticity, the opposite of which would be the obnoxious inflexibility that some older people show. About six to nine miles a week in this study was linked to better brain function. Walking even more did not seem to have more effect on the brain.

It comes down to walking ten minutes in one direction, turning around and walking back ten minutes, which can be done during lunch hour.

Another study showed that people who walk faster live longer. That bodes badly for me – I am a slow poke. But we can safely deduct that people who don’t walk will not make it long at all.

Walking also boost mood. If I would be a moody person (which I am not), I would do three things: go for a daily walk during daylight, end every hot shower with a cold one, and take herbal preparations – in women particularly, herbs against PMS or helping with post-menopause. Not to mention that I would turn to fresh, nourishing food and away from junk.

Walking per se is good for you. Two other studies have shown, that the effect is even better if you walk on uneven surface – like on pebbles, at a beach or in hilly terrain. Walking on pebbles decreases high blood pressure, and makes you less likely to get Parkinson’s. Using more muscles and consequently more brain can explain these results.

The most dramatic effect, I think, that daily walking can have – besides on memory, longevity, hypertension, Parkinson’s and mood – is that light boost vitamin D production under your skin – even if it is just the pale little area of your face reaping the rays. Vitamin D has become an important research focus as it wards off bone loss, cancer, multiple sclerosis and infections.

Walking will also lead to less weight and fight the dreaded metabolic syndrome (diabetes, high blood fats and hypertension) better sleep – all exercise does. And better sleep has been shown to increase overall performance, mood and resistance to infections.

In New England presently, walking the icy streets among huge snow banks is not that enticing. But I bet snow shoveling has all the above benefits, too – if you avoid hurting your back and don’t slip on the ice. At least I hope. Because I spend the morning digging out our walkway and garage driveway. At least this I know: The cold stimulus is a trigger for better immune function: Snow-shoveling in freezing temperatures improves my ability to better fend off flu and the common cold.

Winter Health – Thoughts From the Workshop

January 31, 2011

Tags: order, water, movement, food, herbs, Andrographis paniculata, anis, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant stimulus, appetite, arm shaping, arterial disease, artificial molecules, ashwaganda, aspirin, astragalus, back health, bacteria, balance, ball - small heavy, bayberry, bicycling, blueberry, boneset, botulism, breast-feeding, breathing difficulties, broth, butter – pros and cons, cabbages, calendula, Cetraria islandica, chamomile, chicken soup, children – herbs for, cloves, coconut oil, cod liver oil, cold applications, cold dunk for babies older than four months, cold shower, cold sitzbath, cold stimulus, cold wash, cold wraps, colorings, compounds in a plant, computer, cough, covering sneeze, cytokine storm, dairy, decongestants, drinking warm or hot fluids, echinacea, eleuthero - formerly named Siberian ginseng, elderberry, elderberry flower, enhancers, eucalyptus, Eupatorium perfoliatum, evolution, extracts – herbal, fats – vegetal, fennel, fever, fever over 104 F in children, fish, fish oil, flavorings, flu epidemic, flu outbreak, flu season, fresh food, food – cooked vs raw, fruit – fresh or as compotes, fungi, GAIA Quick Defense, games – outdoor, Gan Mao Dan, gargling, garlic, germs, getting to the ground once a day, ginger, Ginkgo biloba, goldenseal, Great Britain, GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract), hanging out, greens, headache - enormous, herbal tea, herbs, herbs - fresh or dried, hiking, high blood pressure, home cooking, honey, honeysuckle, Honeysuckle-Forsythia Detoxifier, horehound, horseradish, hot liquids, hot water, hypertension, Iceland moss, immune system, immune system – exuberant, juice, juniper berry, knee bends, lamb, legumes, lemonade, lemon balm, licorice, linden flower, lingering cold, Manuka honey, marshmallow root, mask over nose and mouth, meat, microbes, microwaving, mucosa, mullein, mushroom preparation, mustard, myrrh, neem, obesity, olive leaf, olive oil, omnivore, oregano extract, Oreganol (an oily extract of oregano), Oregon grape, organic, osha, patented medicine, pathogen, pau d’arco, Pelargonium sidoides, pelvic health, peppermint, phyto-caps, physiology – our ancient, pneumonia, point mutation, pregnancy, Prepare – Protect – Pull Through, preservatives, PrimalDefense, probiotic, qi, Raynaud’s, repair of damaged cells, repair time between 11 pm and 1 am, resistance, respiratory infection, resting, ribwort plantain, rinsing nose with saltwater, roots, rose hips, rotation of foods, rotation of herbs, sage, sauna, sinusitis, sleep, sleeping with windows open, slippery elm, snow shoveling, sore throat, spices, standing on one leg, starches - white, steam inhalation, stiff neck, stinging nettle, stomach flu, strength, stress - good and bad, stuffed nose, sugars, sun light, sweetener, Swine flu, synergy, tea - green or black, tea tree oil, teenager, tepid water, thyme, tincture, tonic herbs, TV, Tylenol, umckaloaba, urinary tract infection, UTI, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian, Vick’s, violets, virus, virus exposure, vitamin C, vitamin D, walking, warm rooms, wash hands often, weekend, winter, Winter Health – Thoughts From the Workshop, twisting movement, warm rooms, Yin Qiao Jie Du Pian, yoga, yoga ball, young adult, zinc lozenges, Zyflamend

Introduction:
[These are my notes – they are a refresher for the workshop attendants. But might also be useful to look something up when one needs it]

What happens through the winter: A depletion of reserves leads to increased susceptibility to infections. Decreased movement. Holiday foods – not healthy.

It takes two to get sick: A virus and a run-down immune system.

“Huge outbreak” of Swine flu in Great Britain: 24 deaths as of 1/29/11 – compared to the more than 35,000 deaths annually from “normal” flu in the US (which is nothing).

Cold and flu:
• Prepare: Get your immune system into perfect shape
• Protect: Shield yourself during an actual outbreak
People are less prone to respiratory infections if they have more contact with people, and hug more. Exception: Little kids – they schlep everything home. But in the long run, it might be beneficial. But in a flu outbreak: Stay away from people as much as you can. Wash hands often. Don’t be sneezed at. Avoid public transportation. Don’t hug and kiss. Avoid touching public doorknobs, telephones and similar surfaces with unprotected hands.

• Pull through: Survive even if you come down with it.

• Water
• Cold stimulus – compare to anti-oxidant stimulus – good stress and bad stress
• Warm rooms: More obesity, more colds
• Cold Shower/cold wash/cold dunk for babies older than four months
• Cold sitzbath
• Sauna
• Sleeping with windows open
• Drink enough warm or hot fluids – hot herbal teas are perfect. Juices are not.
• Don’t do cold applications with an acute cold/flu, uncontrolled hypertension, arterial disease (Raynaud’s)

• Movement
The only thing for increasing qi and against cold is movement. But excess is as detrimental as laziness.
• Yoga, of course
• Daily outside walk – importance to get sun light and vitamin D
• Hiking, bicycling, games on weekends
• Snow shoveling:
Break down the task
Take small loads
No abrupt movements
Cherish twisting movements – but they also can be the source of strained muscles.
• Yoga ball (back)
• Small heavy ball (arms)
• Getting to the ground once a day (strength)
• Knee bends (strength)
• Hanging out (back)
• Standing on one leg (pelvic health)

• Food
• Fresh foods – home cooking: Vegetables, legumes, small portions of fish and meat (lamb!), fresh (or dried) herbs. No microwaving.
• Vegetarian/vegan against omnivore
• No dairy, sugars, white starches, sweeteners, artificial molecules: colorings, flavorings, enhancers, preservatives, etc
• Predominantly cooked – more so in the winter
• Fats: More is better – but they have to be vegetal: Olive oil, coconut oil, ??butter
• Organic: Good but fresh is more important
• If you have a cold/flu: You should always force hot liquids on a sick person but never food: Respect if there is no appetite, and respect if there is. Just nothing sugary. Fruit – fresh or as compotes – is probably the best. Or hot elderberry/blueberry soup (also good for acute stomach flu and urinary tract infections). Blueberries are much cheaper.

• Herbs
Herbs have been with us throughout evolution. Their mechanism fit into our ancient physiology like a key into a lock. We always ate herbs from the wild, and now that we have for the most part stopped, a little bitter green, cabbages or strong root might just be what your body needs to find back to balance.

Bacteria and viruses do not easily develop resistance against herbs. That is because a single herb contains hundreds or more of compounds, and many of these compounds work on killing off the germs - not only one. Since point mutations in bacteria can only develop one by one, it is less likely that an herb becomes ineffective against a pathogen because there will be other compounds to destroy the microbes first.

Synergy is the reason why I recommend whole herbs (tinctures or so-called phyto-caps with extracts of the whole plant) instead of “taking the best” from several pants, and making a patented medicine. Patent medicines exist because natural plants can’t be patented, and so firms try to make money by taking single compounds from a plant, combining it with other single compound, thus producing a “new” medicine that allegedly is better. The truth is, mostly it is not better because you cannot improve on nature

• Prepare: During cold and flu season, take tonic herbs like stinging nettle, astragalus, ashwaganda, or eleuthero (formerly named Siberian ginseng) to strengthen your immune system. Rotate them every three weeks.
• Spice up your food with herbs and spices because they kill microbes (the plants developed the strong-tasting compounds to protect themselves against the invasion of bacteria, viruses and fungi). Pregnant and breast-feeding women as well as little children should go easy on herbs and spices.
• When you go out, use an Echinacea spray every hour or two to protect your throat, the entry port of viruses. Again, GAIA makes a good one
• Mushrooms boost your the immune system – eat them often, or take a mushroom preparation; Whole Body Defense by Gaia is one.

• Protect: (if you had exposure, or suspect you had): If there is a bad flu epidemic: Chew a raw garlic clove, several times a day
• Take a lick of unheated honey (Manuka is the best) every hour or so – kills germs (not for children under three years – danger of botulism!)
• Rinse your nose prophylacticly with saltwater to kill germs (carefully rinse mouth afterward with clear water if you have blood pressure issues)
• Prophylactic and curing: Hot elderberry tea, hot blueberry soup
• Importance to wash hands and cover sneezes and coughs, preferably with a sleeve cough – not your hands
• Take as supplements: A probiotic (I like PrimalDefense), fish oil and cod liver oil

• Pull through: In cold and flu: Immediately when you come down with the flu: REST!
• Fever over 104 F in children, and a cold lingering more than a week should be seen by a physician. Also if you have unusual symptoms like stiff neck, enormous headaches, breathing difficulties, and so on.
• Against cold: Easiest, most expensive: GAIA Quick Defense. It contains Anagraphis paniculata – best cold medication I know (hard to find as a single extract)
• Against cold and flu: Echinacea, olive leaf, osha, pau d’arco, licorice – all as extracts in a bottle. Mix together in hot water like a tea.
• Other herbs that have been found beneficial in colds and flu: bayberry, boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), calendula, goldenseal, Oregon grape, juniper berry (chew a dried berry every few hours, not more than five a day, and not for longer than a week), umckaloaba (Pelargonium sidoides)
• A ready-made anti-viral concoction is the Chinese Yin Qiao Jie Du Pian, also called Honeysuckle-Forsythia Detoxifier. It might be a good idea to have some of those pills at hand when you get sick (get them from a reputable source).
• Lingering (more than a week) colds and bacterial infections: GSE extract (but consult your physician to make sure it is not pneumonia)
• Sore throat: Swish a few drops of oregano extract (nips whatever is coming in the bud, if you take it early enough) in your mouth and swallow, or zinc lozenges (science is a bit wobbly on zinc)
• Sore throat: Gargle with saltwater or warm water with one drop of sage, myrrh, oreganol, neem or tea tree oil. Not for children under six.
• Stuffed nose/Sinusitis: Rinsing nose with saltwater – frequently, if necessary
• Stuffed nose/Sinusitis: Eat mustard, horseradish.
• Stuffed nose/Sinusitis: Steam inhalation helps with a running or stuffed nose. You can add chamomile, thyme, eucalyptus or a pea-sized piece of Vick’s. You can also use Vick’s on older children (check the label).
• Cough: Gan Mao Dan Chinese pills (20 per day in divided doses), or make a tea of peppermint, honeysuckle, ginger, cloves and/or horehound, slippery elm, violets, fennel, anis, marshmallow root (the real one!), Iceland moss (Cetraria islandica), ribwort plantain
• Fever is mostly good – it kills the germs. Therefore, no aspirin or Tylenol. In children, do cold wraps or dunk babies in tepid water
• If you get the flu, start Ginkgo biloba will start repair damaged cells
• Also: No decongestants as they tend to dry out mucosa and increase stuffiness in the long run
• Increase hot fluids: hot water, hot broth (chicken soup has been researched – and it really works!), hot herbal teas (linden flowers, elderberry flowers, honeysuckle, fennel or thyme, sage, green or black tea, thyme, ginger, rose hips, mullein, lemon balm, peppermint - in all combinations) are good – but so are many other. Hot lemonade is also beneficial if made with fresh lemons and preferably with unheated honey
• If you use vitamin C, use a low-dose kind – and only in the first few days of a cold
• Don’t use all the herbs at once – get familiar with a few, one after the other.
• There is no such thing as” That herb does not work in me!” There is only “That herb does not work against this or that germ”

• Order
• Cherish the season – don’t fight it
• Preventing: GET ENOUGH SLEEP! In a flu outbreak, be in bed by nine pm every night – no TV, no computer. The body repairs itself during about two hours the time around midnight — if you are asleep then, that is.
• During a bad flu season, consider wearing a mask over nose and mouth

The causes of death in influenza are of two different origins: Older people die of the virus and its consequences like pneumonia; their weakened immune system cannot fight the virus anymore. Young people succumb to an overreaction of their still exuberant immune system – they produce what we call a cytokine storm, and usually die within the first two days. Consequently, both groups should be treated differently. In young people (older teenagers and young adults) I therefore would add an herbal anti-inflammatory, namely Zyflamend as soon as the young person gets sick.

Singing the Praise of an Ugly Plant - Aloe Vera

January 20, 2011

Tags: herbs, water, Africa - Northern, aloe, Aloe vera, aloin, antiseptic, Arabic peninsula, band-aid, bedsore, burns, calligraphy, Chinese supermarket, comfrey, desert plant, diabetes type II, eczema, emolliant, film – healing, health food store, heartburn, houseplant, lubricant, redness (inflammation), Singing the Praise of an Ugly Plant - Aloe Vera, stomach pain, surgical cut, tea tree oil, ulcer, wound, wound - deep, wound healing, wound - superficial

If you have a black thumb and all plants wither if you just look at them, you still should have one houseplant, namely aloe. It does not ask for much: Put it on a windowsill and water it once in a while. The danger is more in over-watering, not in under-watering, as it is a desert plant. Its rosettes are boring, and the spiny edges of its leaves might be out to get you.

Aloe vera is a succulent (meaning: storing water) plant that comes from the arid regions of the Arabic peninsula and Northern Africa. It has been cultivated for thousands of years due to its medicinal properties, and one can’t find any natural stand anymore in the wild – all now existent plants seemed to have been planted purposefully – certainly this is a hint that aloe is a useful plant.

Aloe has long leathery leaves. The leaves can be spotted or not, the plant can be smaller or bigger – doesn’t matter. All the aloe one can buy has the medicinal properties.

Why do I want to sing the praise of Aloe vera here?

Last week, concentrating on my calligraphy, admiring the black lines of my brush on the paper, suddenly a beautiful red streak mixed itself in – a truly amazing color scheme: black, white and red. Only, the red was bleeding from one of my knuckles – and I didn’t even know how I had hurt myself. A flap of skin was barely hanging on. I applied a bit of tea tree oil and a band-aid, and continued my calligraphy.

It healed slowly - being on the knuckle where constant movement stretches the skin, didn’t help. Every time I thought I could take off the band-aid, the flap hung onto something, and the wound ripped open again, and bled. Taking onions out of their netting, stacking the stove, retrieving glasses from my pockets – everything conspired that the wound wouldn’t, couldn’t heal.

Then I thought of aloe. I have several plants in the house. I cut off one of the fleshy leaves at the base, and dripped some of its juice onto my knuckle, after I had reapplied tea tree oil. Aloe vera is said to have antiseptic activities too, but tea tree oil is always my choice to prevent infection of wounds. This time I skipped the band-aid. The juice dries to a film, and underneath healing takes place.

Within minutes of applying the aloe juice, the wound looked less angry. After two hours it had shrunk to about half its size. I could better see what was still viable tissue and what not – I cut of the dead protruding ends, and now I am not as likely to rip open the wound again.

Since yesterday, I have applied this mixture of tea tree oil and aloe juice several times. Today the wound is a quarter of what it had been, all redness is gone, and I assume by tomorrow all will be fine.

Because aloe heals wounds so quickly, it should never be applied to a deep wound - say, a bed sore or a surgical cut. Aloe would further superficial healing and wound closure so fast that the underlying wound could still be festering, and then break open again. Aloe is for superficial wounds only!

In the summer, comfrey does a similar spectacular job of healing a wound, but few people even know the plant with its soft felt-like large leaves and lovely purple drooping blossoms, and even less would know how to apply it to a wound (mash the leaves first – or chew them).

One also can buy huge aloe leaves in Chinese supermarkets and health food stores. Those I would first wash with a mild detergent before cutting – who knows how they have been treated before!

Interestingly, scientists are still debating if aloe furthers wound healing. They must have never watch the wound shrink within minutes after applying the plant juice to the wound. I suspect that studies were done with commercial aloe preparation – and those might not work the same way as fresh juice.

Each time I want to use the plant, I cut a thin slice of the leave, just to renew the cut surface, and immediately juice drips out.

Now that I have sacrificed a whole leaf, I will put the rest to good use: I brush my teeth with the inside gel because it heals gums. I also eat the gel when I have an upset stomach. Never eat the outside hard part of the leave as it contains aloin, a strong laxative that has been banned from over-the-counter- preparations because it is harsh on the intestines, and could even lead to the miscarriage of a baby. Whereas the inside gel is soothing and anti-inflammatory. So finishing up the leave, eating a few bites here and there, will do my whole body good. Aloe is also used as a food stuff, so there is no harm in eating it – on the contrary!

This is what the Aloe vera gel does:

• Wound healing, including burns
• Gum healing
• Stomach-soothing, especially good against heartburn and ulcers
• Anti-inflammatory
• Antiseptic
• Emolliant - softens and smoothes the skin, especially in eczema
• Lubricant
• Anti-diabetic (in preliminary studies)

It does a lot more. But just the wound healing should bring it into every household!

Boston Area Workshop – Yoga & European Natural Medicine

January 19, 2011

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, Boston Area Workshop – Yoga & European Natural Medicine, Carol Nelson, common sense, European Natural Medicine (ENM), health, immune function, Nelson – Carol, relaxation, winter, wisdom, workshop, yoga

Do you want a healthier, more meaningful life? Come, learn to put to work time-proven wisdom. What here I am only talking about, you will see in action, hands-on.

Carol Nelson and I will combine for an afternoon workshop at the end of the month in Cambridge/Massachusetts to bring some light into gloomy, cold January. Natural methods help you to bolster immune function for a healthier winter. Bring your health questions to this afternoon, and fulfill your yearning for a more real life.

Our session will be framed Carol Nelson’s introductory yoga session and a closing yoga relaxation.

In between I will talk about the Five Health Essentials: Water – Movement – Food – Herbs – Natural Order to give you natural methods to get through the winter healthily. Nothing complicated – just plain old common sense.

You will find times, address and fee on the event page. Pre-registration required.

Your Hair Stands on End – Time for an Oil Bath!

January 17, 2011

Tags: order, water, herbs, air – dry, Ayurvedic Medicine, bad hair day, bath oil, body folds, coconut oil, cold shower, ears, essential oil, hair day – bad, itch, mineral oil, nut oil, nose, oil, oil bath – warm, olive oil, oregano, rose, rosemary, sauna, scalp, sesame oil, shampoo, shower, thyme, winter, Your Hair Stand on End – Time For an Oil Bath!

Winter is the time of the year when the air is so dry that skin irritations blossom and – worse! – one seems to have a bad hair day every single day.

Get ready for a warm oil bath! Any vegetal oil will do: Olive is perfect, but I have used other oils too. The original idea comes from Ayurvedic Medicine; they use sesame oil. Coconut oil has the finest smell.

Don’t use commercial bath oil preparations as they contain preservatives, even luxury ones. Often they are mineral-oil based. You really need plant oils. Nut oils work well, unless you have allergies. If you like the smell, add a drop of essential oil to your warm oil, like rosemary, thyme, oregano, rose, etc.

It is easy to do, just a bit messy. I have done it in the sauna, on a big towel, or in the shower. In the shower, make sure to stand on a small towel because you will be slippery like a fish, and I don’t want you to fall.

Warm about half a cup of oil, either in a second pot with hot water, or on the radiator, or with a tea light. Don’t use the microwave! Stand by when you heat the oil! It easily can get too hot – make sure it is just nicely warm.

Take the pot with oil into the shower stall and rub it into every nook and cranny of your body: ears, nose, between the toes, into all body folds. Pour it over your scalp deliberately and hair and rub it in. Let it work for ten minutes or longer.

Wash your hair well, twice, with shampoo. Don’t forget the short cold shower at the end!

Your hair will fall smoothly again and your itchy skin calms down – until it is time for the next warm oil bath, in about two weeks.

Is It January – Or Is It Me?

January 15, 2011

Tags: movement, water, food, herbs, arterial disease, ball - heavy small, cayenne, Celsius, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, cold, cold shower, cold wash, coldness, cookies, coriander leaves, coriander seeds, curry, electric heating pad, exercise, Fahrenheit, February, feet – cold, Florida, ginger, glands, gluten-free, green tea - hot, hands – cold, herbal tea, high blood pressure - uncontrolled, holidays, hot water bottle, Is It January – Or Is It Me?, January, jumping rope, lungs, March, mood, paprika, pull-ups, qi – life force, sitzbath – cold, snowstorm, skin, soup - warm, spices – “hot” and “cold”, sugar – brown and white, tea, vanilla, virus, vitamin D, walking, warning signs, winter swimming, yoga ball

We had a whopper of a snowstorm, and since then we haven’t gotten out of the freezing numbers. Tonight they predict single-digit numbers (Fahrenheit, that is; to those who believe in Celsius, as I do, it is supposed more than ten degrees below zero).

Still, in the morning I am doing my cold sitzbath. Now the water is so cold that when I count to twenty-one for my leg moving to swish the water over my thighs, I feel pins and needles, and not much more. When I get out of the tub, my lower half feels like non-existent, it is so cold.

But within a minute of toweling off and walking on tiptoes, I get nice, tingling warmth’s flooding all over, my toes are all pink, and I am ready for the day.

Do I push the cold too much – to an extent that it becomes unhealthy?

I don’t think so. Around holiday time, I had a period where I felt cold all the time. Even if the heat was higher than normal, I felt that deep chill inside. Not sure if I was breeding a virus that never came out because I usually nip a stuffy nose and a bit of a sore throat in the bud with herbs. Or if it was the not-so-healthy food we all succumb to around the holidays – even me. My cookies are gluten-free – but they are still cookies, loaded with sugar and butter (I know because I baked them).

When I felt so cold for a few days, I decided it was not wise to continue my cold sitzbaths; I just wasn’t sure what I was hatching. Instead I did quick cold washs in the bathtub.

Why I tell the story? Because in Natural Medicine we believe that not every body is the same, not even every body is the same every day, and one should heed the body’s warning signs. Not getting warm anymore certainly is such a sign - and pushing through it would be foolish.

Some people can do cold exposure like sitzbath or cold shower only in the early afternoon – because that’s the body’s “hottest” time. The very elderly and the frail should not tough it out at all with cold showers. And never, ever try winter swimming! But everybody probably benefits from a very fast cold wash-down.

A few years ago, for my patients, I put together a pamphlet about how to get warm; constant cold hands and feet was a complaint I heard quite often. What do you do to get warmer?

Bundling up is the first that comes to mind – and important to get warm NOW. But in the long run, it is counterproductive: The warmer you dress, the more you heat your rooms, the less your body generates heat – it loses the ability.

A cold wash or even a very short cold shower (not more than a few seconds) will acclimatize the body to colder temperatures. In the long run, it will also reduce colds. Besides it is good against high blood pressure, and good for skin, lungs, glands and mood (don’t take a cold shower with uncontrolled high blood pressure though, or with Raynaud’s or other arterial diseases!). – But if you haven’t started your cold shower yet, it might be wiser to wait until the three coldest months (January, February, March) are over. Try cold washs until then: With a face cloth wash yourself down quickly with cold water (change face cloths daily!) – unless you live in Florida or so.

Other methods to get warm: A hot green tea or a hot herbal tea. Or try a warm soup.

Certain herbs produce heat in the body: Interestingly, the spices we often use in Christmas cookies produce warmth - like cinnamon, vanilla, ginger, coriander seeds, cloves – they warm up the cold season (as does brown sugar, by the way. Go light on the sweets because you’ll feel warmer, but also heavier). Spices we call “hot” like paprika, curry, cayenne, coriander leaves (also called cilantro) have a cooling effect – as does white sugar.

If you are cold, you can put a hot water bottle in your bed in the evening – we sleep with window open even at these temperatures – and our bedroom is an ice cellar at this time of the year. You can also use an electric pad – but never when you are in bed. Heat it up about half an hour before retiring. Some people like the warmth at their feet. I like it at the small of my back – because that’s where my center is – and the qi-producing adrenal glands.

Ah, here we are at the Chinese qi – and the bad news. Having cold hands and feet (or worse, a cold core like I had around the holidays) is a sign of too little life energy. The Chinese content that the foods we have can help a bit with qi. But what really generates qi is: movement.

When I was cold all the time, I realized that I had slacked off in my exercises – no wonder during holiday stress. I revamped. Since I am still no friend of a gym I do more of the little things I can do at home, between spurts of writing: Pulling myself up the bar (we have one installed in the doorway to the basement – mostly for the guys in the family), rolling around on my yoga ball, doing little exercises with a small, heavy ball, jumping rope, and making sure I will go for a walk at least once a day. Better twice: One for filling up my vitamin D needs during the day, and once in the dark after dinner with my husband, filling up my need for connection with my spouse.

Cold hands and feet all the time? I learned it the hard way: Only movement really helps. Without movement, we are creeping faster toward the final coldness.

The Teeth in Your Mouth

January 12, 2011

Tags: herbs, order, food, movement, water, allergies, aloe, amalgam, arthritis, bacteria, bone, brushing teeth, caries, chewing, chronic fatigue, debris, dental hook, dental treatment, dentistry – natural, diet - sugar-free, dyes in toothpaste, electric toothbrush, filling – dental, flossing, floss - tape, floss - thin, fluoride in water, fungi, gum disease, gum line, headaches, hygiene - dental, infections – recurrent, laser treatment in dentistry, migraines, molar, myrrh, dentistry - natural, neem, neem stick, neuralgias, oregano, parodontosis, people - “primitive”, periodontitis, plaque, plaque-fighting herbs, plaque removal, rheumatic pains - soft-tissue, sinusitis, soft tissue pains, susceptibility to infections, tea tree oil, teeth, The Teeth in Your Mouth, Tom’s of Maine, toothache, toothpaste - color-free, tooth health, vagina, virus, x-rays - dental

When I was sixteen, I got a toothache – one of the molars on the lower left hurt. The dentist was very nice and said he couldn’t see anything (that was before the time of dental x-rays) but would bore a hole to see how the tooth looked inside.

He couldn’t find anything bad on top. So he drilled another hole on one side, then on the other – all for the sake of exploration. “Sorry,” he said, “I can’t find anything “. He sent me home after filling the tooth with amalgam, on three sides.

Next day I had a whopping sinusitis, and it became clear that the aching tooth had been an early warning sign.

These many years later I still have that tooth, repaired on three sides – after no caries at all! I still have it because that encounter left me an avid tooth-brusher – and very skeptical of dental treatment.

Clearly I am not a dentist and not an expert in tooth health – but I must have been doing something right all these years because I still have all my teeth. Science also has established that good teeth signal good overall health.

Diseases of teeth are mainly two: caries (tooth decay) and parodontosis (gum disease). When gum disease gets worse, it loosens the teeth (then it is called periodontitis); one can lose a perfectly healthy tooth only because it lost its grip on the bone (or the other way round).

Here my dentistry ideas – and don’t forget I am a lay person in this field (and welcome the discussion with dentists!):

1. Brushing: Brushing your teeth after each meal or snack is important (and it might even cut down on your snacks!). An electric brush is the best. But even by hand can be effective if you do it right: Brush into the gum line – not just across it. Use a color-free toothpaste, like Tom’s of Maine (they don’t pay me to say this – but this is what I use) because allergies to dye can cause gum disease. Don’t use a too hard brush.

2. Flossing: The first time I ever heard of flossing was when I came to America. I thought Americans were crazy, and I hated the feeling of floss between my teeth. But after a bout with gum disease, I started flossing – and it made all the difference. Using tape instead of regular thin floss has made it bearable for me. Floss once a day – be always gentle on your gums.

3. Herbs: For a while I went to regular hygienic sessions. But the brutality with which they used sharp instruments to remove plaque appalled me; there is nothing natural about that process – “primitive” people have healthy teeth because of their sugar-free diet. I got myself a dental hook and did the work myself – gentler. Since then, I have started brushing my teeth with a drop (or a few, depending) of herbs – and all the plaque has melted away. No hooks and medieval treatment anymore!

• Tea tree oil: This is a great plaque-fighting herb. Use one drop, once a day, together with your regular toothpaste. When you feel your plaque is in control, use it less often – about once a week because one of the concerns with tea tree oil is that it is allergenic, to a degree.

• Oregano, myrrh, neem, aloe (the inside gel of the leaf only): These (and other) herbs one can use to brush teeth and gums. Use the one or other herb extract with each brushing of your teeth – rotate them so that the likelihood of developing an allergy is reduced. It will keep the dentist away. – One can also buy neem sticks for cleaning teeth – that is how it has been done in India for thousands of years.

The discussion about fluoride is not yet finished. I have read tons of scientific papers about it – and still cannot make up my mind. It is a toxic substance and I am against using it indiscriminately in drinking water. But I like it in toothpaste as many studies have shown that fluoride greatly reduces caries. When we use the herbs above against gum disease, we also are fighting bacteria with toxic compounds (namely herbs) – only we assume (and have studies to back it up) that herbs are gentler on our bodies than the mining by-product fluoride. Also, I know that herbs help against gum disease. But herbs are less established against caries.

Eating fresh food, chewing well, not snacking between meals, avoiding sugary beverages (including all juices!) will go a long way protecting your teeth. Still, you should see a dentist regularly to make sure that a little problem didn’t creep up. A small hole is easily mended – a big hole might mean the tooth has to come out.

Don’t whiten your teeth! The process of whitening damages the precious tooth enamel. Also, we are supposed to have off-white teeth (actually, rather yellowish-looking) – that color connotes health. Only people on TV strive to that whiteness which is unnatural and unnecessary – and damaging. (But then again, you know me – I am also against under-arm shaving…).

If you ask: I would never have a root canal. In Natural Medicine, we think of a root canal as breeding “focus” of bacteria, viruses, fungi and debris that can’t be good for your body in the long time. Sealing bacteria into a body cavity spells future disaster. Arthritis, soft-tissue rheumatic pains, neuralgias, chronic fatigue, headaches and migraines, susceptibility to infections and allergies are thought to be caused by such a “focus” in the body. Modern treatments with laser, etc. certainly give better outcomes. But dentists acknowledge that there is not such thing as a sterile root canal.

And don’t forget: Stand on one leg while brushing your teeth to exercise balance and pelvic musculature! What good are all the teeth in your mouth, if your vagina falls out?

The Soft Martial Art

January 11, 2011

Tags: order, movement, water, herbs, anti-aging, art, bamboo, brush painting, Chinese calligraphy, Chinese brush painting, Chinese orchid, chrysanthemum, concentration, Four Gentlemen, Four Treasures, ink stone, longevity, martial art – soft, multi-tasking, mum, muscle aches, networking - social, painting, plum blossom, social networking, The Soft Martial Art

Because of the Chinese novel I am writing, I am learning Chinese - for two years already. This winter I also enrolled in a class for Chinese brush painting.

Not so much for the painting - I have only a little talent there. But for learning more about the cultural background of calligraphy (writing of Chinese characters) and brush painting in general.

Already the first session made me happy because it fed me so many little tidbits: The whole calligraphy thing is not so much about putting scribbles on paper – no it is about breathing, sitting straight, holding the brush just right, and to concentrate. Calligraphy is also called the “soft martial art” – who would have known?? Chinese people think that calligraphy promotes longevity.

In brush painting, one needs the Four Treasures: brush, paper, ink stick and ink stone. The ink stick is ground on the ink stone with water to produce the ink. Nowadays, one can buy ready-made ink in a bottle, which I use in class. At home, I prefer grinding my ink stick all the while already thinking about what I want to paint. I like the transformation of water into a writing liquid – the archaic process that happens here and now.

Chinese art is very different from Western art. Whereas we emphasize individual freedom, Chinese brush painting teaches traditional forms. You learn the basics before you start experimenting. There is one kind of stroke for the bamboo leaf, one kind of stroke for the bamboo stem, one kind of stroke for the bamboo node. I will learn strokes for plums blossoms, orchid grass, chrysanthemum flowers, and later strokes for pines, rocks, clouds and water. And you use a different brush for each of these strokes.

Bamboo, plum blossom, Chinese orchid and chrysanthemum – they are also called The Four Gentlemen. Because those four plants stand for character traits the Chinese have held in high esteem since olden times: Bamboo leaves are green in the winter. Bamboo bends in the wind but barely breaks, and if it breaks, it sprouts new leaves from the breaking point. So, bamboo stands for adhering to principles; also for flexibility and resourcefulness. Plum blossoms flower in mid-winter – right around now they will start – and represent cheerful survival. Chinese orchids are much less showy than our usual flower shop specimen, they are prized for they modesty, for their working without anybody noticing – yet doing a marvelous job. Chrysanthemums (“mums”) bloom in the fall when not much else does, thus calling to mind a proud, tough gentleman. – A white chrysanthemum is also used as an herb in Chinese medicine.

Perhaps you scoff at the idea that brush painting is a martial art. But let me tell you that I had muscle aches in my right arm after my first two-and-a-half-hours session: You do use your muscles.

And in these times of social networking and multi-tasking, I cherish anything that brings back the rapidly dwindling art of concentration.

Can’t Cook?

January 5, 2011

Tags: food, herbs, breakfast, brown rice, Can’t Cook?, cheese, coconut oil, cooking, cooking course, dairy, dill, fats - hardened, fish, frying pan, garlic – dry and minced, garlic - fresh, grains, hake, High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), kale, lamb chop, legumes, lentils, lentils – French, lentils – red, meat, mini-cooking course, New Year resolution, olive oil, oregano, pepper, pork cutlet, rice – brown, salt, shelf-life, side dish, sirloin stripes, skillet, Standard American Diet (SAD), starch - white, sugars, vegetable dish

In a country where the kitchens all look like out of the movies, and people read cookbooks like mysteries, few actually cook a warm meal every day, and some have not even the most basic of cooking skills. If you can’t cook but have resolved for the New Year to eat healthier - here is your mini-cooking course, easy as 1-2-3:

1. Vegetable: Go to the supermarket and look which vegetable is affordable, looks very fresh, and is organic (in that order!): Buy it.

What you need also for a vegetable dish: a mid-sized skillet with lid, olive oil, pepper and salt, dry minced or fresh garlic (if you have never cooked, take dry garlic – it is no fuss at all). Don’t opt for garlic already minced/peeled in a jar – it spoils fast.

Say you bought kale. Cut in broad stripes, wash it fast, put in skillet. Add about a finger or two deep water, olive oil, pepper, salt, garlic. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low, until the kale starts looking like wilting – takes about 30 to 45 minutes.

Eat and enjoy! If you really can’t cook, making a beginning with a single vegetable dish and experiencing the different flavors, will get you hooked. Nearly all vegetables are good with garlic and olive oil. In the future, I will post some more very easy recipes.

After you have tried several different vegetables, you graduate to fish and/or meat.

2. Fish or meat: Buy a filet of fish (about half a pound per person) that looks fresh or a small piece of meat for pan-frying, for instance: a lamb chop, a thin pork cutlet, some sirloin stripes.

What you need for fish/meat: A small frying pan with lid, some fresh or dried herbs (like dill for fish, oregano for meat), coconut oil, pepper and salt.

Say you bought a piece of hake: Melt a teaspoon of coconut oil in the frying pan. Wash the fish, dry it with a paper towel, put it into the pan. Cover it with dill that you have finely chopped, or with dry dill (don’t be a miser!). Heat until you hear it sizzling, then turn to low heat, and let simmer for about ten to twenty minutes, depending on the size of the piece of fish. It should easily break apart when you probe with a fork.

In fish and meat, salt should always be added AFTER cooking. Pepper can go in whenever you want it.

Frying meat is a bit more tricky – do you like your meat more raw or more done? Usually, when blood seeps up to the surface, it is time to turn the meat and fry from the other side.

Don’t be afraid of frying! Coconut oil can stand heating better than olive oil. And what kills us in the Standard American Diet (SAD) is not this little bit of meat but sugars (especially High Fructose Corn Syrup ((HFCS)), white starches, dairy (especially cheese) and hardened fats (which are used in processed foods to increase shelf-life).

3. Ready for a side dish? They are easiest! Rice and lentil leftovers also make a wonderful breakfast the next day. For breakfast, warm the grains/legumes amd add some olive oil – that way you get hungrier later. A handful fresh (or dried) herbs makes it a rounded breakfast.

Grains/legumes: You need a small skillet with lid. You also need brown rice or dry lentils, and salt.

Say you bought small green lentils (also called French lentils, Champagne lentils). Take one cup of dry lentils and add two cups of water. Plus a pinch of salt. Here I publicly admit to that I never wash lentils and rice. It might be better – but then the ratio of water is not that simple 1 to 2. So I don’t wash - I seem to be less worried by germs and crud than other people; a certain amount might even strengthen our immune system. Bring to a boil, then put the lid on and simmer on low, until all water is gone. For French lentils it takes roughly 45 minutes.

Red lentils (same recipe, same grain/water ratio) cook must faster – they are done in about twenty minutes. I always add cumin to red lentils, for a great taste.

“Normal” lentils, the plain old variety, cook the same. Only they taste a bit boring. To vamp them up, add a small onion and/or a carrot, or both, finely chopped. The cooking time for normal lentils is somewhere between green and red lentils. You don’t have to worry about cooking times: Grains and legumes are always done when the water is gone.

Now you can make a whole meal! Everything else will be just variations on the themes.

P.S. If you live in the Boston area, and like to hear me speak, see the calendar on "events" for a January 30th event.

Vagina: Keep Her Young!

December 8, 2010

Tags: order, water, movement, herbs, food, black cohosh, brain, cabbage, Chinese balls, drooping of internal organs, GAIA, home cooking, joy, Kegel exercises, masturbation, menopause, moral values, odor - vaginal, phyto-estrogens, PMS, probiotics, red clover, responsibility, sexuality, sitzbath – cold, sexually transmitted diseases, sleep, smell - vaginal, soap, soy – GMO, soy – mono-crop, standing on one leg, trichomonas, vagina, vaginal prolapse, Vagina: Keep Her Young!, vitex, wild yam, yeast infection - vaginal

Warning: If this offends your sensibilities, don’t read it!

When you have reached a certain age, people often comment on your looks: “You look ab-so-lute-ly faaa-bulous!”

Yeah. But how do you feel? How does your vagina feel – the part of your body that’s invisible, most of the time?

I happen to think that your vagina comes right after your brain in ranking organs for importance. And I think there are ways to keep her happy – and keep you happy. Responsibly, of course – that goes without saying.

Sexuality, I think, has been given to us for a bit of joy in our earthly travels. As a physician, I have observed that different vaginas can exude different levels of exuberance. As a woman, I have decided that I want to keep my precious parts healthy and vigorous. It’s for you to decide if you want to have a sad, smelly pouch down there – or alive tissue that vibrates with vigor and health and lust.

These are a few ideas, starting with movement:

• Kegel exercises, of course, are designed to preb=vent/improve the drooping of internal organs called prolapse. Nobody does Kegel exercises however because they are so boring. But if we would do them, we would benefit: Our internal organs would sag less, and get more blood supply – always a good thing.
• Alternatively, Chinese women have two small balls that are inserted into the vagina. While you walk you try to not let them fall out. This exercises has the same effect as Kegel’s – only they are more fun. The balls usually are made from shiny metal, come always in a box of two, and one has a tiny chime inside. Sounds a bit un-puritanical, though.
• My own method: Standing on one leg while brushing my teeth. It strengthens the whole pelvic musculature – with no extra time and effort.
• Using it, of course. Use it, or lose her. If you don’t have a partner, be diligent yourself. Don’t attach moral values to a bodily function that makes you happy and relaxed and keeps you young.

Now comes water:
• Drink enough fresh water and herbal teas to keep a good turgor down there.
• Cold sitzbath: This is not for the faint-hearted, especially not during the frigid times of year. But the benefits are great. Fill the bathtub with about one to two inches of water (use the time when the water is running to wash your breasts with cold water until they tingle with cold and life). Sit down. Move your legs to let the water swash over your thighs. Count to twenty-one. Get out. Towel well. If your feet are cold afterward, walk on your toes, jump on the spot, go for a walk – do anything to get warm fast again. – A cold sitzbath should not be done if you have a cold, an acute urinary infection, fever. Your body needs to be warm before you start. And never let the cold water swap over your kidney (waist) area; the cold water would use up your chi, as the Chinese say, weakening your whole system. Kept down at your vagina and legs, the cold water invigorates tired old tissues – a rejuvenating treatment.
• Don't use soap down there. This is - right after your eyes, I'd say - the most delicate area of your body, and you wouldn't rub soap into your eyes. The daily cold sitzbath will clean you well enough - provided you wash yourself with a fresh cloth after each defecation - don't wipe forward; always backward! When you take a shower and use shampoo, get a bit of the shampoo on the outside area - not inside or between the folds.
• Don't douche yourself - I said: DON'T DOUCHE YOURSELF! There is a light animal smell down there (if everything is healthy) which is a sign of health - you don't want to smell there like lilies of the valley!!

Herbs:
• Because every woman’s body is different, it sometimes takes a few trials to find the right herbal formula. I am partial to GAIA herbs and use their formula (they don’t pay me to say this!). But others work well, too. I often recommend single extracts, and put them together like black cohosh, red clover, wild yam and ginkgo biloba. Some women blossom if you add vitex to the formula. Female PMS and menopausal herbs do not only keep you healthy down there, but influence your whole body. Especially, they address the mood swings and depression that often come with declining hormones. And since they are not hormones, phyto-estrogens don’t have the same bad side-effects as hormones – don’t let your doctor talk you out of them. All studies about cultures where the diet is high in natural phyto-estrogens have shown very low breast cancer risk.

Food:
• As always, fresh food feeds the inside of every little cell in your body. Don’t think there is a shortcut for good food or cooking at home. No “nutritional” bar or restaurant can match the simple goodness of a cabbage dish made at home (cabbages, remember, are full of cancer-fighting agents).
• Food also plays a role if you want to avoid the smelly part: Everything that gives you gastro-intestinal troubles gives you overgrowth with wrong bacteria and yeast - and they might wander into your vagina (and will, given any chance!). If you have a "smelly" problem, consult your physician because it could be a case of trichomonas or any other sexually transmitted disease. And if nothing else helps, try a better diet: Leave out gluten, dairy, sugars, sweeteners and white starches.
• And don’t fall for that soy scam: The only soy products that are good for you are fermented ones (miso, real soy sauce, tempeh). Stay away from the GMO-tempered soy mono-crop that is destroying the rain forests in South America and does nothing for your health – or for your vagina.
• Use a probiotic if you have an odor - that helps your gut health. And use plain cultured yogurt in your vagina twice a day until the problem is gone.

Sleep:
• Get enough sleep because nothing in your body works when you are tired – and you certainly can’t make a tired vagina wake up by sitting all night on her in front of the computer.

These Times Are Hard On Your Liver

November 30, 2010

Tags: order, food, movement, water, herbs, alcohol, apples, artichoke, artificial coloring, artificial flavors, beer, breathing, cabbages, cakes, carrots, celeriac, celery, cirrhosis, cookies, cucumber, dandelion, detoxification, elderberry, fatty liver, feast, fermented foods, festivities, food – rotten, food – spoiled, gentian root, gizzards, gut, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, herbal tea, holidays, kitchen herbs, liquor, liver, marjoram, massaging, meats, medications – over-the-counter, milk thistle, miso, oxygen, probiotic, radish, raisins, red beets, sage, sauerkraut, soy sauce, spices, stuffing - bread, stuffing - traditional, These Times Are Hard On Your Liver, walking, walnuts, wine

The liver is the heaviest organ in the body, and during the holidays, it is also the hardest working organ. Because the liver is your detoxification organ.

Too much heavy (sweet, fatty, alcoholic) foods hurt your liver – and too much even of good stuff can be hard on this most precious organ. But this is probably not the time to preach moderation. So what can you do to survive these taxing times? (I hope you hear the irony in my voice – when half of mankind is still starving).

Everything unhealthy has to be eliminated via the liver: spoiled and rotten food, modern preservatives, artificial colors and flavorings. If the liver is overloaded with rich foods and toxins, you end up with a fatty liver – a diseased liver that cannot fulfill its tasks properly. And if it gets really bad, you end up with cirrhosis, the shrinking of this valuable organ. Fatty liver is reversible with a better lifestyle; cirrhosis is not.

These are the essentials for a healthy liver:

• Drink enough water – not ice-cold. Herbal teas are helpful, especially in the winter season. Some of the herbs below come also as teas – make use of them. Enough fluid will flush out your liver.
• Elderberry juice helps regenerate the liver.
• Keep alcohol (wine, beer, liquor) at a minimum.
• After a big meal, go for a walk. A walk uses up some of the calories you have been ingesting, and it gives your whole digestive system a little boost – things in your stomach can settle, and the peristalsis gets a jumpstart. In Europe, Sundays and holidays will bring people out of their houses in droves – everybody goes for a walk after a feast.
• These herbs help to improve liver function: Most beneficial is milk thistle – you should have it at hand these days. Also helpful are bitter plants like dandelion, artichoke, sage, and gentian root. Most are available in capsules, often in combination.
• Kitchen herbs and spices also help digestion: For instance, the traditional stuffing for a goose is: grind the gizzards, add cut apples, raisins, walnuts and two hands full of fresh (or less of dried) marjoram. No bread!! Don’t know who invented the bread filling…
• A working gut relieves an overworking liver – and a probiotic helps with useful bacteria.
• Fermented foods like sauerkraut, soy sauce and miso help digestion. Traditional kitchens have very specific fermented foods – explore a Japanese or Korean store. Make sure you buy the real thing – not a modern product that still has the taste but no actual fermentation any more in the production process. Look up “fermented foods” in one of my earlier blogs.
• Make sure you eat not only meats and cakes and cookies – but also cabbages, red beets, celery and celeriac, carrots, cucumbers, radishes are famous for relieving a moaning liver.
• Take some very deep massaging breaths: Always start with exhaling. Deep breathing moves the abdominal organs, and oxygen is required in myriad detoxing chemistry processes of the liver. If you feel stuffed, do the deep breathing by lying on your back.
• Stop all unnecessary medications, especially over-the-counter drugs. They only burden your liver more.

And since we are discussing liver health: Hepatitis A can be acquired through food (especially uncooked oysters, and such), hepatitis B and C through sex, drugs and blood. There are vaccines available against A and B. Unfortunately not against C. It might be wise to get vaccinated. Talk to your doctor.

And enjoy the festivities!

Hildegard von Bingen

September 17, 2010

Tags: herbs, food, canonization, crystals, Gordon - Noah, green force of the flesh, Healers of the World, Hildegard of Bingen, Hildegard von Bingen, Iran, Kneipp - Sebastian, Li Shizhen, music, mystic, Noah Gordon, plant kingdom, Rhineland, Schubert – Franz, sanctification, Saint Hildegard, sexuality, stones, Tehran, The Physician

Still from Tehran. -

On this day in 1179, Hildegard of Bingen died. Her exact birthday is not known, but it was also in September - 1098.

This medieval nun lived in the Rhineland. She was given to a nunnery when she was only eight and, against all odds, succeeded in medicine, music and politics. By the time she passed, she had written many books, had composed music and was in contact with many important political and intellectual leaders – a woman on top of her times.

Hildegard usually is usually labeled as a mystic. But in my opinion, she is anything but. When you read her works, you get the impression of a sharp intellect and endless curiosity. Among other things, she described two hundred kinds of fish found in the Rhine. That’s not mystic, that’s scientific! And when she writes about sexuality, she is so matter-of-fact – you wonder where she learned all that.

She composed celestial music – mostly only for women’s voices – just out-of-the-world! If you ever have a chance, listen to her! In her music, she is mystic, if you wish – but so is Schubert…

For me she is important as a healer. She used and described herbs extensively. Her crystal healing is controversial but interesting – after all, we are from the Earth, like stones. She talks about the “green force of the flesh” – meaning: We will be much healthier when our food comes mostly from the plant kingdom. This insight has lost nothing of its actuality.

Very shortly after her death, the process for her canonization by the Catholic Church had been instituted. But in nearly a thousand years, her status stayed at “beatification.” Also, the Church made sure that women would not follow Hildegard’s uppity. The misogynistic delay of sanctification has not hindered the common people to call her “Saint Hildegard” ever since.

She definitely is interesting – and I hope to write about her in my series of “Healers of the World.” I began with Sebastian Kneipp (my Kneipp novel will come out shortly); now I am writing about Li Shizhen, the sixteenth century Chinese physician and herbalist. And, hopefully, Hildegard will be the third.

One healer I will not write about is Ibn Sina, or Avicenna, the great Persian physician and scientist, who lived a century before Hildegard. Not that he was not important – our travels here in Iran remind me again how much he was. But somebody has already written a wonderful novel about him: Noah Gordon, The Physician.

The Persian Bridge

September 15, 2010

Tags: order, water, food, herbs, abbaya, Afghanistan, Anglican Church, Arabia, Armenian, bread baking, Bridge - The Thirty Three Arches Bridge, burka, chador, dairy, doogh, Dubai, family, flowers, Hafez, head scarf, history, homogenization, Iran, Isfahan, Islam, Jews, moderation, Morocco, mosque, parenting, pasteurization, Persepolis, poetry, purity, Saudi Arabia, Shiite, Shiraz, Sunni, Tehran, terrorists, The Persian Bridge, Turkey, U.S.A, veil, yogurt

Greetings from Tehran! We have been traveling in this wonderful country, full of roses and laughter, and one of the cradles of civilization. Iran, as every country that I ever have visited, is teaching me something.

In the ancient city of Isfahan, we saw an old bridge, called The Thirty Three Arches Bridge. The city still sizzles with brutal heat in September, and people go to the bridge to sit in the shade and enjoy the cool breeze that is generated by a two-storied construction with narrow passages for the wind, and look over the water. It actually looks more a long building over the river than a bridge. We returned in the evening when the lights reflected on the dark waters, and people sat in groups, and walked and talked. A man sang a song about lovers. I could not imagine anything more beautiful or more peaceful.

The river is broad here in Isfahan; in this arid country with very little rain, the waters are melted snow of a nearby mountain range. A few hundred kilometers downriver though, the river vanishes from the surface of the Earth, petering out in the desert sand, and feeding underground aquifers (making oases possible in the desert). Imagine: A river that never reaches the ocean – the people always have thought of it as a gift from Heaven to this special place, and they are careful building irrigation systems and avoid wasting the life-giving liquid.

What took me by surprise: The Thirty Three Arches Bridge has no railings – the stone just ends, and there is the abyss! I kept a respectful distance. But what about those many families and children? Children who run around late in the night! I could barely look at the people that ambled too close to the edge for my taste, or at the little girl that sat a foot away from the void, enjoying a picnic with her family!

Our guide was astonished that I worried. “Oh, they learn!” he said. “Nobody ever falls down.”

Imagine the situation at home: Someone surely would dare leaning over too far – and than sue somebody for missing rails!

It seems that we teach our children that somebody is always caring for them (until it suddenly ends with college or some real-life experience); Iranians teach their children that they better watch out because life is dangerous.

Children and family are very important to Iranians. And so are flowers, poetry and history. They revere their poets like saints. We visited Hafez’ tomb in Shiraz, and our guide declaimed one of Hafez’ poems, in Farsi. Not so much for us, the tourists, but because he loved it with all his heart. At a dinner in a restaurant, the bandleader, in between music, recited a long poem.

The reason for our travel is that my scientist husband is invited for a scientific presentation, and I accompany him, privileged to see the beauty of this country. We walked the ancient ruins of Persepolis. On a frieze there one man holds the hand of another – together they faced the Great King to whom they had to bring their yearly taxes. I saw much caring for one another here: Two young men carrying a sick old man between them - perhaps their father; we would call an ambulance and have professionals do the work. Older children tend their younger siblings in a loving way. Men are holding hands as a sign of friendship. Only once did I hear yelling between two taxi drivers.

Scientists are an international community – and they respect the rules that constitute science: You can come up with any weird idea – but you have to deliver proof and reasonable argument, and submit it to the scrutiny of your peers. Wish that everything in the world would work like that!

Tehran is a city of between fifteen and twenty-five million: loud, polluted, with uncontrollable traffic. It is near impossible to cross a street – cars have priority. But at night, a thousand lights are spreading up the hills – where the air is better.

The pungency of herbs and spices hovers over the bazaars. Iranians use herbs in their yogurt drinks and in bread, and spices in their food. Their fragrant rice dishes with saffron or aromatic green herbs are famous. - At the restaurant, along the wall, there were niches decorated with life-sized clay figures performing old crafts: a miller, a toolmaker, a potter. The last niche was occupied by a merchant in herbal medicines.

Not that you think everything is perfect in Iran. They must have wife-beaters here, same as we have them at home. I suspect the one or other government agent is keeping an eye on us. Very occasionally we have seen hostile looks and heard remarks about the stupidity of infidels. But the vast majority of the people are very kind, and curious. Nobody flinches when we mention that we are from the U.S.A. One woman came up to me and asked: “Do you think we are terrorists?” She was anxious for the answer. Parents nudged their children to practice their English with us, and whole families wanted to be photographed with us (making the government agent seethe with anger).

Iran is a Shiite country and has a long history of – and that might surprise you as much as it surprised me – religious tolerance: Jews live untroubled in Isfahan for nine hundred years, and Armenians and other Christians have churches (among them an Anglican). We were proudly shown the Jewish quarters and the four-hundred-year-old Armenian Church – our guide explained its murals with the same zest and knowledge as the mosaics in the beautiful mosques.

In one of the mosques a man prayed, and our guide excitedly explained that he was a Sunni – he didn’t use the little clay disc Shiites put between them and their foreheads when they bend to the ground. And he held his arms crossed in front, instead of letting them hang by his side. The guide was proud that he spied the Sunni – but there was no hostility, he was allowed to pray in the Shiite mosque without problems. That in spite of difficulties between the two Islamic branches in other countries.

Every hotel room has a prayer rug and the little clay disc, and an arrow on the ceiling pointing to Mecca.

The food is fresh and good – and definitely for us guests – plentiful. But I did not see a single obese person. A bit of a potbelly, yes. But no gross obesity. They eat not much fast food – a boon they derive from being at odds politically with the Americans; everything is freshly cooked. What would happen if we were at total peace with each other, and MacDonald and Burger King would invade the country? (Though I saw Iranians drink Coca-Cola lustily – I could not know if it was the real thing or an Iranian fake – I can’t read their letters). But Iranians clearly have a philosophy of temperance: One eats and drinks in moderation (and no alcohol ever; at least none that I saw). The moderation philosophy - I couldn’t agree more with it.

In one restaurant they allowed me observe how they bake an ancient kind of flat bread in a brick oven on hot little pebbles – an art. - They have a yogurt drink – doogh – which is perfect in this heat. Their yogurt is delicious, and doesn’t give me the troubles it always does at home – an observation I already made in Saudi Arabia. I suspect it is the process of pasteurization and homogenization that renders our products inedible. Or they have very, very special cows …

By now, I have visited several Islamic countries: Turkey, Morocco, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Iran. They are all different. Women in Iran wear long-sleeved coats or kaftans that have to cover the behind and should not emphasize the waist, and trousers, often blue jeans. To hide the wrists seems important – the Iranians must know something about erotic wrists that eludes us. And they wear a head scarf. It loosely covers the hair – more a token than a real hiding. Some women wear a chador that covers all hair. Very few wear a veil – which had been the norm in Saudi-Arabia.

We never, ever saw a single beggar or a drunk on the streets. It seems to be the specialty of autocratic states that they can “clean up” because individual rights don’t count much. A teahouse also served opium; a mild kind, judging by the reaction of the customers.

From Saudi Arabia I still own an abbaya - a black cassock-like thing that reaches the floor (in Saudi-Arabia, the desert sand) and a head scarf. The women here appreciate my effort to abide by their laws, and I like the abbaya because: No thinking in the morning about what to wear. Of course, I don’t like the abbaya as a political statement. Alas, I am an un-political person. At least, I have not seen a single burka, the tent-like garment that is frequent in Saudi-Arabia, and the law in Afghanistan. - In one mosque, as I was about to wrap myself into an additional chador because our guide had recommended it, a woman took it out of my hand, pointing at my outfit. She felt I was already perfectly dressed. - My head scarf had always been sliding down. Now I fix it with two barrettes, with fake gaudy glitter – and so far nobody has berated me for it.

In some quarters of affluent Tehran women wear more make-up and Western-style clothing. They wear their scarves, but as a fashion statement, elegantly. Then again, Tehran is also the place where politics clash very hard, as I was told. Surprisingly, many Iranians voice their political views very openly to us, wanting to assure us that they have no Anti-American feelings.

In Iran, women are educated – before the religious revolution that got rid of the Shah, this was a very westernized country. Not to mention that Iran has a history of thousands of years of culture – we have little over four hundred. Universities don’t have the division between genders that Saudi-Arabia has: Men and women learn and work together (but in the airport, as a woman you go through a special security gate). - When I talk to women here, they have little envy for our freedom in the West; they worry that we loose our hearts, our middles.

Of course, many women here have no choices; I don’t want to belittle their struggle. Women always ask if I have children, and how many. They do look down on countries that produce too many children. Because they know the burden is on the women.

If history teaches us something, then it is this: That no one government ever lasts forever. I fear about how they will be able to solve this conflict – these wonderfully hospitable people. Iran is a country of beauty and incredible friendliness. People know what counts: family, poetry, flowers, history. And food.

Of course, I have no saying in the matter, but I wish religions would keep their beautiful thoughts to themselves instead of waging holy wars. Trying to keep “pure” and going to Heaven afterward are two unreachable goals, if you ask me. We should put the same effort and religious zeal into being friendly to our children, bringing fresh food on the table and making Earth a happy place to live for everyone.

When was the last time you read poetry aloud to someone you love?

Ugly Reflux

August 21, 2010

Tags: food, herbs, movement, order, water, acidity, alcohol, aloe vera, antibiotics, artichoke extract, Ayurvedic Medicine, Barrett's esophagus, betaine HCl, bone-enhancing drugs, cabbage juice, caffeine, calendula, chamomile, chewing, chocolate, citrus, coloring, corn syrup, dairy, DGL, digestion, eggplants, elm - slippery, enzymes - digestive, eating late, endoscopy, enzymes - digestive, esophageal cancer, flavorings, food allergies, food - cooked, food intolerance, food - processed, food - raw, foods - spicy, germs, gluten, grains - whole, gut, heartburn, HFCS, hiatal hernia, H. pylori, indigestion, infection, inflammation, junk food, licorice, marshmallow, mastic gum, meals - too big, neem, nightshades, nuts, over-eating, peppermint, peppers, plantain banana, potato, PPIs - proton pump inhibitors, preservatives, probiotics, reflux, SAD (Standard American Diet), stabilizers, starches - white, stomach, stomach acidity - high and low, stress, sugars, timing of food intake, tomato, trans-fats, Ugly Reflux, Zollinger-Ellison syndrome

Reflux is one of those ailments which keep people going to the doctor and take medication forever – and on the face of it, there’s no cure.

And, in the long run, it can be a dangerous disease. Longstanding erosion of the esophagus can lead to Barrett’s esophagus and even cancer.

Why are so many people with the diagnosis of reflux?

Reflux is, in most parts, another disease with owe to SAD – the Standard American Diet. People have intolerances to certain foods and allergies, and those keep the esophagus (and possibly the stomach and the whole gut) inflamed. Instead of eliminating the offending foods, the doctor prescribes Zantac or Tagamet or even one of the stronger proton inhibitors. And has gained a life-long patient.

In the long run, those stomach medications create new problems: Since they all reduce acidity, they also may hinder digestion, and further infections as the stomach acid is supposed to kill invading germs.

PPIs (proton pump inhibitors, drugs lik, Prilosec, Prevacid and Nexium), the strongest anti-heartburn medications can also be addictive, can trigger food allergies, and can weaken your bones.

Heartburn only comes in very rare cases from producing too much acidity for no good reason (that condition is called Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, and should be ruled out by your doctor if the burning goes on relentlessly, regardless what you do). Normally, your stomach reacts with acidity when you eat something wrong. Or if you just each too much, period. So, why fighting the acidity, if you can eliminate the underlying cause?

Sometimes physicians diagnose a “hiatal hernia” – a gap in the diaphragm that allows the stomach to come a bit into the chest area. No connection has been found between HH and reflux. It seems that many people have a hiatal hernia, for reasons unknown – or for carrying a paunch that pushes the organs up into the lung cavity; for instance, it is very well known, that heartburn is extremely common in highly pregnant women. Perhaps also lacking exercise makes the diaphragm go limp. Whatever it is, hiatal hernia does not cause reflux.

If you want to break that cycle – here is what you can do:

Find out what your body does not tolerate. It is not difficult. Write a food journal. The most common culprits are, in my experience,
• Gluten
• Dairy products
• Corn syrup (HFCS)
• Tomatoes (and the whole nightshade family actually – peppers, eggplants, potatoes, too).
• Chocolate could be the culprit.
• Or nuts.
• Harsh foods: alcohol, caffeine, citrus, and spicy foods.
• ANYTHING can lead to a reaction. And not only burning in your esophagus; bloating, cramps, diarrhea, constipation, joint pains, migraine headaches, and many more symptoms can stem from food intolerance.
• Certain medical drugs are the culprits – Fosomax, for instance, that is intended to make your bones stronger (I would not touch it because of its side-effects. Better food and more movement certainly gives you stronger bones without side-effects).
• Sometimes it is not the kind of food but how it is prepared: raw versus cooked. Usually, cooked is easier on the stomach.
• It might be the timing: Some people get away with a raw salad or an acidic fruit during the day, but not at night, as the last meal that lingers in their stomach.
• Or a whole food group: Many people do better without sugars and white starches and reduced whole grains.
• Basically, all junk foods and processed foods are under suspicion. They contain trans-fats and preservatives, coloring, stabilizers, flavorings that are alien to you body.
• Drink enough water - but not with meals or right afterward.

Of course, it is better, to not be indiscreet in the first place. But if you are looking for healing alternatives:
• Mastic gum is my favorite; it is an agent that covers the stomach and helps if you have been indiscreet, food-wise. Unfortunately, mastic is not cheap. An alternative, paid by insurance is Carafate, with a similar action.
• DGL licorice helps – it is a deglycyrrhized licorice that does not have the bumping effect on blood pressure. This comes also as a lozenge.
• Other herbs that soothe the stomach are chamomile tea, aloe vera juice (or eat directly from the plant – the jelly-like inside of the leaf; avoid the green outside leaf – it is a harsh laxative), slippery elm, plantain banana, calendula and marshmallow (the real herb – not the sweet candy!), cabbage juice, artichoke extract. But watch it: I, for instance, have a chamomile allergy; that would make the situation worse.
• It is always a good idea to start out with the Ayurvedic herb neem which kills all sorts of infections because, unbeknownst, germs can cause all the indigestion. Ask your doctor.
• In an acute attack, sleep with your upper body a bit elevated (turns the flux downward).
• Always chew your food well! Big chunks might lie in your stomach like stones.
• Help your whole digestive tract with probiotics.
• Eliminate stress – especially when you eat. Sit down for three meals a day – don’t gobble things down on the run!

This is what to avoid – besides hurting foods:

• Too big meals.
• Eating after dinner.
• Peppermint – as it has a relaxing effect on the sphincter that closes of the stomach.

A reminder: Before you embark on a natural healing course, it is a good idea to have endoscopy – because you don’t want to overlook anything serious. And make sure your doctor looked for an H. pylori infection. On the other hand, there is evidence, that a bit of H.pylori might be necessary for normal digestion – and triple antibiotic definitely could do some harm.

And then – just to confuse things: Elderly people often have too low stomach acidity, and if they are taking medications that lower it even more, one can imagine that this will lead to problems. There is a supplement for this condition: betaine HCl. And some patients with can be helped with digestive enzyme – a whole new topic.

The Five Health Essentials

August 18, 2010

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, alcohol, beer, biochemistry, circulation, clothing, coffee, cold shower, dehydration, drinking water, energy, ENM, European Natural Medicine (ENM), exercise, Five Health Essentials, fluids, Health Essentials - Five, herbal tea, ice cold, iquids, liquor - hard, milk, over-hydration, saltwater nose rinse, sauna, seven - a sacred number, seven cups of water, sitzbath, soup, stomach, swimming, temperature, The Five Health Essentials, urine, water - drinking, water - filtered, water intake, weight loss, wind conditions, wine

European Natural medicine works with the Five Health Essentials. Here they are:

• Water - our wellspring, inside and out
• Movement – shapes our bodies and our minds
• Food - the building blocks of our body
• Herbs - the essence of Nature
• Order for our lives – balance in the world.

Today let’s talk a bit about water in general; I will tackle the other four Essentials in the next few days.

We are mostly water, and therefore we need water. Drinking water (or herbal teas) helps nearly all biochemical functions; we die pretty fast without drink (usually within three days). Without food we can survive about 30 days. – These are rough numbers – and don’t try this at home.

Every body nowadays knows that we should take enough fluid in. But few people are aware that one can overdo drinking. I usually recommend seven cups of water - from a beautiful cup – not from plastic. And preferably filtered. Seven cups, of course, is an inane recommendation because your size, the temperature, exercise, your clothing, wind conditions, what you have been eating, and so on will influence how much you really have to drink. Seven is a sacred number and should just keep you mindful of your water intake. But it is not written in stone. Better observe your urine: If it is getting dark, you need more water. If it is water-clear, you had too much.

Soup and fruit contain fluids; coffee and alcoholic drinks like beer and wine count less because they dehydrate. But they don’t count for nothing. Hard liquor and milk don’t count at all (and should be avoided altogether).

Whatever you drink, it should never be ice cold! Iced liquids hamper digestion by clamping down on blood circulation in the stomach, and decrease energy in the body. However, it is not enough to lose weight!

Water from the outside is as important as water from the inside. This is the perfect time for starting cold showers because the cold water is much warmer than it will be in a few months (unless you live in the southern hemisphere). August is the time to go swimming – in a lake, in the ocean, or even just dunking in a rubber pool in the backyard. Beyond cold showers you have heard here already about cold sitzbaths, saltwater nose rinses, sauna – all of which are tricks to keep you healthy.

Dairy IV: The Best of the Bad

August 8, 2010

Tags: food, herbs, addiction, breast discomfort, butter, butter - European cultured, butter - purified, butterfat, calories, cancer, cheese, chocolate milk, cows - grass-fed, cream cheese, crème fraîche, custard, dairy, Dairy IV: The Best of the Bad, fat - saturated, ghee, grains - whole, growth hormomes, hormones, ice cream, infections - milk-borne, inflammatory, kefir, legumes, milk, milk - raw, milk - skim, milk solids, nuts, organic, sugar, sun exposure, vegetables, vitamin D, yogurt, yogurt ice cream

As often as I tell my patients that dairy is unhealthy, they have a hard time abstaining.

So, let’s discuss which form of dairy is the least detrimental.

• Make sure you buy only organic. Commercial milk has extra growth hormones – and dairy is a hormonal food to start with.
• Ice cream: Probably the most unhealthy form of dairy. Not least because it is laced with sugar. Even yogurt ice cream is discouraged, for that reason. Highly addictive. And not needed in your diet because it has no nutritional value. Get your calcium from vegetables and herbs, whole grains, legumes and nuts, and your vitamin D from moderate sun exposure.
• Same with chocolate milk or any sweetened dairy product, like custards, including all yogurts other than plain ones.
• Cream cheese is made by adding more milk solids to milk. So, it is enriched with milk proteins. A bad idea.
• Cheeses: Never eat anything that is not cultured cheese but “processed.” If it comes in a perfectly square form, don’t eat it. Because nothing in nature comes square. Cheese is best to avoid – it is responsible for much of our present obesity epidemic.
• Raw milk is less adulterated than commercial milk, but you run the risk of unpleasant infections. If you know the farm and the farmer, you might want to take the risk. Still, raw milk naturally contains hormones that might make invisible or already diagnosed cancers grow.
• Whole milk is better than skim milk because it is less processed. It also contains less protein (because, by definition, skim milk contains less fat; consequently it contains more protein). And I am not worried about the milk fat as much as about the milk proteins because they are allergenic and they are inflammatory.
• Which means that butter and heavy cream are better than whole milk because they contain even less protein. The best, obviously, is ghee – or purified butter, also called butterfat. There the proteins have been skimmed off. Ghee does the least damage as far as inflammation from dairy goes – but you still have to worry about calories. We are less concerned nowadays with saturated fats. In moderation, they seem to be good.
• The best butter would be European cultured butter. No extra growth hormones, preferably from grass-fed cows.
• Yogurt, kefir, crème fraîche are cultured foods with wholesome bacteria (provided no fruit, sweetener, etc. are added). Make no mistake – they are still dairy products with inflammatory capacities, and contain hormones that might trigger cancer. Even worse, they are delicious and highly addictive. Once in a while, celebrating something grand, I allow crème fraîche on the table…

If you consume dairy products, observe how you feel: Do you experience bloating, reflux, joint pains, headaches, breast discomfort, cravings? Or what else? Become aware what dairy does to your body – and try to avoid it.

Sweating It

July 31, 2010

Tags: water, order, movement, food, herbs, air conditioning, amphetamines, anti-epilectic drugs, Boston, bowel, cold exposure, colds, colon cleansing, copper, Deep South, dehydration, detoxification, drinks - warm or cold, elimination, fruit, high blood pressure, kidneys, lead, lungs, medication, mercury, metals - heavy, methadone, New Orleans, nickel, peppermint tea, relaxation, salads, salt, sauna, skin, sleep - improved, studies - medical, summer, sweating, Sweating It, toxins, winter, yoga, zinc

Awful, this summer heat, isn’t it? One sits, barely wants to move, and sweat runs out of every pore.

Actually, no! Sweating takes out toxins from our bodies; the skin is one of four elimination organs (the other three are kidneys, bowels, lungs). Sweating is beneficial. Enjoy your wet armpits – without them, you would age faster and might get cancer earlier. Sorry that I am so graphic. But the advantages of sweating are widely underrated.

People sit in air-conditioned houses, and at the same time they are shelling out big dollars for “colon cleansing.” Colon cleansing is a health scam. Eating better and drinking water or herbal teas will do the trick; colon cleansing will not make you purer - just poorer.

In the winter, a sauna does the trick. Not by accident was sauna in vented in Finland and Russia - cold, northern states that do not allow for sweat naturally. - Exercise can make you sweat. But don’t try too hard: Individual people start sweating at different points, and one should not exercise for the sake of sweating. Move for fun and purpose!

In the summer, let nature work for you: Sweat it out!

Heavy metals like nickel, copper, zinc, lead have been found in sweat in higher numbers than in the blood – but I wish, we had better studies available! For instance, I am only aware of a single study that saw mercury levels falling during a sauna protocol. Most medical studies are funded by pharmaceutical firms (and I don’t see any wrong in there, as long as they adhere to scientific ethics). But this situation leaves out studies on water, sauna, yoga, healthy food, to name a few – because not much money can be made of them. The only way to improve the situation is to demand such studies.

Medications may be released into the sweat, notably anti-epileptic drugs, amphetamines, methadone (but don’t get your hopes too high that sauna will get you through a drug test easily - it won’t!).

Sauna also prevents frequent colds and promotes better sleep. In Europe, people use saunas widely. Mostly, of course, for relaxation and fun.

Except for the very elderly and frail who are in danger of severe dehydration in the summer, an air conditioner is unnecessary. In our house, we have a built-in central air-conditioning system. We never – never! – use it (but we also live in Boston, not in the Deep South - perhaps I would feel different in New Orleans...). If it gets really sweltering at night, we run a simple fan in the bedroom. Summer is for sweating – and winter is for cold exposure; both have their health merits.

If you sweat, you lose salt and water. So drink enough! And put a pinch more salt than usually in your food to replenish – unless you tend to high blood pressure. - And before I forget it: Warm drinks are healthy; cold drinks - especially ice-cold - hurt you.

Instead of suffering through the summer months, take them as what they are: A free-for-all detox program – every year! Eat fruit and salads and enjoy the heat with a peppermint tea ... lukewarm. In the shade.

Beautiful Feet

July 28, 2010

Tags: order, herbs, athlete's foot, back pain, Beautiful Feet, essential oils, feet, gluten, gluten intolerance, headache, heels - cracked, high heels, hips, knees, myrrh, neck pain, olive oil, orthopedics, podiatry, rosemary, slumping, tea tree oil, thyme, toe nail fungus, walking

It is summer, and we are showing our feet. You rather want to hide yours? Here are two, no three beauty tips:

1. Walk on your feet. Feet are beautiful when they are functional. Feet that are not used become ugly.

As a child, I had the ugliest feet you can imagine. I only learned walking when I was three. Then I had to wear orthopedic boots until I was eight. Needless to say, I never enjoyed walking. – Fast forward: I found out my problem were not my feet but gluten intolerance. I started walking – really enjoying it – and my feet have become beautiful over time.

2. Don’t wear high heels – or wear them as little as possible. High heels twist your whole body out of shape, not only your feet.

Many years ago, in Germany, I consulted a physician for headaches. He looked at me, looked slowly down at my body, fixed his stare on my feet and said: “No wonder, with those flat feet!” – If you wear high heels, it affects your hips, your knees, and your entire spine (low back pain, slumping, neck pain!).

3. Against toe nail fungus, cracked heels, calluses (except for corns, they need special treatment - perhaps by a podiatrist): Apply tea tree oil to your feet; put extra attention on your toe nails. Then rub your feet with olive oil – same stuff you cook with. It is nice to add a drop of essential oil like rosemary, thyme, myrrh to a small bottle – gives an extra nice scent. In the beginning, treat your feet twice a day; later, when they look beautiful, do it once a day.

You’ll never want to hide your feet again!

Summer Fare

July 19, 2010

Tags: food, herbs, order, almonds, apple, asparagus, bread - multigrain, cabbage - red, cherries, chicken, corn on the cob, crab meat, dill, food - seasonal, freshness, fruit, lamb - braised, lentils, lobster, mandarins, mayonnaise, moderation, mushrooms, mussels, nuts, olive oil, onion, pear, pineapple, salt and pepper, shrimp salad, seasons, sesame seeds, strawberries, summer, Summer Fare, sunflower seeds, sweet potato, walnuts, watermelon

In the summer, we don’t like to eat heavy foods. We have a natural tendency, an innate knowledge, to eat lighter in hot weather. Braised lamb red, cabbage and sweet potatoes is a combination I would not serve now; in the fall, with temperatures down, it will be delicious.

Here is a recipe for a light shrimp salad, easy to make:

• About five to ten cooked shrimps per person. Remove tails and slice the shrimp lengthwise. (Instead of shrimp, cooked lobster, chicken, mussels, crab meat, mushrooms would work).
• Add an onion, finely chopped.
• A can of mandarins or pineapples, or fresh apple or pear (or whatever fruit, you fancy).
• Walnuts or almonds or whatever nuts.
• A bit salt and pepper.
• Fresh or dried dill (or any herb).
• And mayonnaise – as little as possible. I prefer a mayonnaise made with olive oil. You can stretch the mayonnaise with juice from the mandarin can, or with a few drops of olive oil; or both.
• Serve the shrimp salad with corn on the cob, broiled (with sunflower or sesame seeds and olive oil) asparagus, and lentils or a multi-grain bread.
• End the meal with fresh fruit – a watermelon or cherries or strawberries from the field.

This is a good example how I cook: I use what I have at hand and what is fresh and in season and therefore cheap. It never tastes the same twice. And never ever ask me: How much? I am a “feeling” cook, not a measuring one.

This is a Sunday dish. Eating mayonnaise every day is not such a good idea for the waist line – even if it is finger-licking good. By the way, if you have a mixer, you can make your own mayonnaise: Separate eggs into yolks and egg white (use the whites for making meringues later). Beat the yolks until they stiffen a bit. Drop by drop add olive oil – never stop beating, slowly first, then faster. The secret is in never to add too much oil at a time so that the mayonnaise does not curdle. Takes five minutes to make.

Summer fare is about freshness and moderation. Thinking about it: It's the same in the winter. Except that in the summer, the heat helps you with the moderation part - it curbs our appetites.

Freshness

July 16, 2010

Tags: food, herbs, basil, beet greens, bratwurst, cabbage - baby, carrots, cauliflower, chana dal, chives, cilantro, coconut oil, dill, dressing, fennel, fish, freezing, freshness, Freshness, garbanzo, garlic, grains, gravy - ready-made, green sauce, kitchen machine, legumes, microwave, mustard, olive oil, onions, parsley, rhubarb, rosemary, sage, salt and pepper, split peas, sugar, thyme, vegetables, zucchini

We cannot eat perfectly healthy every single time we sit down to dine. But we should at least have an idea what the ideal of a meal can be.

Surrounded by friends and family, and outdoors – if possible. Even the tiniest of balconies will do; or an open window. A tablecloth would look lovely; at least a few matching plate mats, and always my best china. For whom would I keep it? My children will inherit what is not broken.

Ah, what for food? The answer is easy: vegetables. Tonight, at my home, it will be fennel – probably sautéed with onions, garlic and olive oil. And a baby cabbage, which I will steam whole with caraway. We will finish a leftover from yesterday (beet greens, cauliflower, young zucchini and green garlic). So, technically, we will have three veggies on the table – and I haven’t even mentioned meat or fish (I might do bratwurst today, in coconut oil – we still have some frozen from our May garden party, and we had fish or vegetarian for several days in a row. Served with chana dal (an Indian small garbanzo; they look like split peas, only yellow. One takes a cup of chana dal to two cups of water, brings it to a fast boil with a pinch of salt, and then simmers with a lid until all water is gone. The problem with chana dal (as with split green peas and most grains) is that they need skimming off some froth early on so that they don’t boil over.

For desert I will quick-cook rhubarb with a bit of sugar. Rhubarb is one of the few things that absolutely can’t go without sugar.

If freshness is the standard, then this is what we eat tonight: The warmed-up vegetables came from a friend’s garden– they were tender and delicious. The fennel is organic, from the supermarket; so is the cabbage. The cabbage and the rhubarb are local, the fennel came from far away. The bratwurst is organic.

Yesterday, with the fish, we had some green sauce – from the freezer. I usually make a batch for guests, and freeze the rest. I never use a microwave (not even for thawing) or use ready-made gravy or dressings, but I am not above freezing leftovers. Here is the Green Sauce recipe (you need a strong kitchen machine – a blender will not do):

Chop five cloves of garlic, a small onion and a handful of baby carrots. Add all the herbs you can put your hands on, one by one, and chop. Basil is a staple – and so are parsley, dill and cilantro. A few snippets of sage, chives, rosemary and thyme give fragrance. Add olive oil, a dab of salt and pepper. If it tastes boring (sometimes it does…), add a few teaspoons of mustard. Chop until fairly smooth. Chill and serve to fish and/or vegetables. Freeze leftover in portions.

If you live in the countryside (or if you have friends who bring you their produce) count your blessings. Otherwise make do with what you find in your supermarket. Organic is desired – but better a conventional vegetable than no vegetable at all! Local is super – but can’t always be had. I never go to the store with a recipe to follow: Number one, I am bad in following rules; number two, I go for what is fresh and what is cheap. I throw together what I think will work (olive oil and garlic rescue many of my dishes).

Brown rice or legumes (beans, peas, lentils, garbanzos) are dry. But vegetables should not be old or store-bought frozen or canned. Go for fresh, and strew on a few fresh or dried herbs. Here I say “dried” because fresh herbs can be very expansive – better dried herbs than no herbs.

No complicated cooking – just fresh produce. Enjoy!

Tea Tree Oil

July 15, 2010

Tags: herbs, abrasion, absorption, acne, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anxiety, aromatherapy, athlete's foot, Australia, bacteria, blackheads, burns, Candida, chickenpox, cineol(e), cold sore, comedones, dandruff, deodorant, eczema, estrogenic effect, exhaustion, First Aid kit, fungi, gingivitis, hang nail, hearing loss, hemorrhoids - external, herpes, insect bite, insect repellent, itch, jock itch, lice, Malassezia furfur, Melaleuca alternifolia, mites, migraine, Mother Nature, mouthwash, mucosa, myrtle family, odor - feet, pimples, peridontitis, Pityrosporum ovale, ringworm, scabies, shingles, skin conditions, skin infection, sore throat, soul balm, staph, Staphylococcus aureus, sunburn, tea oil, tea tree oil, Tea Tree Oil, toe nail fungus, toothpaste, toxicity, trauma - psychological, vaginal candidiasis, virus, warts, whiteheads

Wouldn’t it be great if we had a drug that would work against bacteria, viruses, and fungi?

We have that drug – brought to us by Mother Nature: Tea tree oil.

The oil from the leaves of the small Australian tree Melaleuca alternifolia of the myrtle family provides us with an essential oil that works against all kinds of germs. Don’t confuse it with “tea oil” which comes in big bottles and is used for cooking purposes. Unfortunately, only on the outside. Taken internally, it is rather toxic and can be fatal.

But for all kinds of skin conditions, it is perfect. Nearly perfect – because, rarely, some people develop allergies and then should not use tea tree oil any longer. Usually tea tree oil does not irritate the skin. But if you experience increased redness after application, the possibility of an allergy needs to be considered; another possibility would be a worsening infection.

The offending ingredient that leads to allergies is cineol(e). A good (and rather expensive) tea tree oil contains five or less percent of cineol; cheaper varieties can have up to sixty percent. If a brand does not list the cineol content, it should not be trusted.

Tea tree oil belongs in every First Aid kit as an all-round antiseptic. Use it mostly as iodine was used in the past. It acts anti-inflammatory and healing on the skin. In minute doses, it is said to stimulate the immune system – but this is definitely not a substance I would ingest. Keep it away from children and pets!

Don’t use on the mucosa of your private parts or in your eyes! Tea tree oil has some estrogenic effects, so don’t use it on your breasts. In males, especially boys: Don’t overuse it – because of its estrogen effect! – In rare cases, it can aggravate eczema. There is one report of hearing loss after application of tea tree oil in the ear; don’t try this!

• Bacteria: Infected hang nails, pimples, abrasions, staphylococcus aureus (even against resistant staph). If the area is not too large. In large wounds there is the danger of absorption and internal toxicity. In most skin conditions, it is applied several times per day with a Q-tip.
• In acne it helps to add five drops onto a moist face cloth. Rub the skin gently. Don’t get it into your eyes (and eliminating all dairy products might even do more against acne than tea tree oil).
• Viruses: Cold sores, external herpes blisters, chickenpox, shingles.
• Fungi: Athlete’s foot (applied twice a day, it even kills toe nail fungus!), jock itch, ringworm.
• Lice: Rub scalp with tea tree oil.
• Mites (scabies): Apply to affected areas.
• Comedones (blackheads): Dab on black dot several times until it disappears. Works also on whiteheads.
• Dandruff (Pityrosporum ovale, Malassezia furfur): Add a few drops to your shampoo.
• Mild burns and sunburns: It relieves the pain.
• Sore throat: One drop tea tree oil to one glass of water. Gargle – but don’t swallow.
• Insect bites: a drop takes a way the itch and starts the healing process.
• Tea tree oil also repels insects. Unfortunately, it is rather expensive for that purpose.
• Itches: Try tea tree oil on minor itches. For severe and prolonged itches, you better see your physician.
• Sweaty, smelly feet: Apply a few drops of tea tree oil after washing with soap and rinsing. Again: A change in diet (no dairy, sugar, bad fats, less meats; more vegetables) might get to the root of the problem.
• Mouthwash: One drop per glass of water helps gingivitis and peridontitis.
• Toothpaste may contain tea tree oil because of its anti-bacterial effects. You can also put one drop of tea tree oil on your regular toothpaste and brush with this.
• Tea tree oil is also used in natural deodorants.
• Hemorrhoids (external only).
• Vaginal candidiasis: Because you don’t want it too strong at that area, only use commercially available vaginal suppositories.
• Warts: Since warts are caused by virus, one can try tea tree oil – but I have never used it for that purpose and have no experience with it.
• Aromatherapy: a tiny drop goes a very long way. Tea tree oil is thought to be “soul balm,” healing psychological traumas, and helps against anxieties, increases confidence and helps when one is exhausted and discouraged. Some migraine sufferers are helped by tea tree oil in the air.

Tea tree oil was “discovered” in Australia in the nineteen twenties – probably when aborigines used it and a white man saw it. With the arrival of antibiotics especially after World War II, it was somewhat forgotten. The new interest in natural agents since the seventies has revived the tea tree oil business – which is quite extensive nowadays.

Autoimmune Diseases

July 11, 2010

Tags: order, herbs, food, movement, alfalfa, allergies, aluminum, artemisia, arthritis, astragalus, autism, autoimmune disease, Autoimmune Diseases, barley, bowel problems, Brazil nut, bupleurum, calorie restriction, cannabis, cod liver, cordiceps, cortisone, curcumin, dairy, diabetes type I, diet, deli, fatigue, fat, fibromyalgia, fish, fish oil, gamgungtang, glucosamine, gluten, gluten intolerance, inflammation, kidneys, leaky gut, legumes, light, mercury, multiple sclerosis, muscles, mushrooms, neuropathy, nicotine, oats, olive leaf extract, padma28, parasites - intestinal, photo-sensitivity, pollutants, probiotic, psoriasis, resveratrol, rye, SAD (Standard American Diet), selenium, skin, squalene, statins, sugar, sunburn, sunshine, starches, sweeteners, tea - green, turmeric, thyroid, urticaria, vaccines, vegetables, vitamin D, walking, weight, wheat, Zyflamend

In autoimmune diseases the body’s immune system turns against cells of the own body, slowing destroying them, creating havoc like thyroid problems, allergies, arthritis and muscle weakness, skin afflictions, diabetes type I, neuropathy, autism (at least some forms), fibromyalgia, kidney failure, multiple sclerosis, urticaria, psoriasis, chronic fatigue, bowel troubles – and many more.

Autoimmune diseases are on the rise – more people are suffering from them. Doctors are baffled and, on the whole, helpless. Strong medications like cortisone with myriad side-effects are employed, without getting to the root cause of autoimmune diseases.

Some researchers suspect that our modern diet plays a big role; others blame pollutants in the environment or the fact that we have much less intestinal parasites (compared with cave men) which makes the idle immune system turning against the self. Modern medical drugs (to name just one example - statins - that can cause an autoimmune muscle disease) might contribute.

Of course, I don’t have all the answers either – but these are some ideas that helped patients:

• Make sure you don’t have a gluten intolerance. Test are notoriously unreliable; a better idea is to leave out all gluten (wheat, rye, barley, oats) and see if you improve. Many people feel so much better already after a week off gluten. Others need up to a year.
• Autoimmune diseases hurt the body at different organs. They all have in common an inflammatory effect. To do away with SAD (Standard American Diet) should therefore be the most important step: No sugar, no sweeteners, no white starches, no dairy (which might be the main culprit here!), no bad fats (nothing fried and processed). Instead: vegetables, vegetables, vegetables – and herbs, legumes, a bit meat and fish (but no deli). If you are not willing to cook for yourself and take yourself out of the mainstream food insanity, my hope for your recovery is slim.
• Moderate exercise: For a minimum, go for a walk everyday. Exercise produces anti-inflammatory molecules in your body.
• Bright light: Get some light outdoors. Not to the point of burning (autoimmune patients often have photo-sensitivity and are prone to easy sunburns). But light is important. If you have dark skin, you need more light. – Vitamin D might be what is protecting. I usually don’t give supplements; going outdoors daily and eating cod liver (delicious!) once a month should do the trick.
• Herbs (don’t take them all at once; try one after the other and give it time to work):

---Resveratrol; a strong anti-oxidant. Remember, there is far more resveratrol in the green vine leaves than in red wine – and nearly none in white wine and grape juice.

---Astragalus has shown some benefit. Just know that allergies are frequent in patients with autoimmune diseases. So, if you show signs of intolerance (upset stomach, aching joints, rash, etc.), stop the herb.

---Turmeric (its main ingredient curcumin) has anti-inflammatory properties is.

---Green tea.

---Korean Gamgungtang.

---Padma28, a Tibetan formula. There are some controversies about this. Talk this through with a knowledgeable physician.

---Zyflamend, a blend of several anti-inflammatory herbs. Make sure you don't have an allergy to any of its components.

---Artemisia (vulgaris and annua) both have shown some anti-inflammatory effects.

---Olive leaf extract.

---Cordiceps, a medicinal mushroom. – Eating mushrooms generally has a good effect on the immune system. Just never eat them raw (they could cause cancer): Always cook mushrooms!

---Alfalfa sprouts.

---Gluscosamine, while not an herb in the strict sense, has shown anti-inflammatory promise.

---Bupleurum, a Chinese medicinal plant.

• Be careful with vaccinations. A link between shots and autoimmune disease is suspected by some researchers. That does not mean you should avoid all vaccinations; just stick to the essential ones. Discuss this with your physician – who hopefully has an open ear for alternatives. The link between vaccines and autoimmune disease might come from the suppressing of the normal function of the body, namely fighting viruses off; or might be a function of certain additives in vaccines like mercury, aluminum and squalene.
• Selenium might be missing in your diet (Brazil nuts have the highest amount of selenium, but most nuts have some; seafoods are more moderate sources of selenium). As you might have noticed, I am no friend of supplements: minerals (and vitamins) from a bottle are not the same, and have even been proven to be harmful by recent studies. – With nuts always stay aware that you might develop an allergy at any time.
• Add some good anti-inflammatory fish oil capsules (you should not belch up a fishy taste!) daily.
• Help your intestines with probiotics. The bowels might be at the root of autoimmune diseases: A chronically inflamed bowel (“Leaky Gut Syndrome”) leads to inflammation in other parts of your body.
• One study showed that calorie restriction might decrease inflammation. I would not aim for weight loss per se; eating a fresh diet might lead to weight loss anyway. But a one-day vegetable broth fast per week (see an earlier blog entry here) might be a good idea. – Interestingly, one study showed that fasting during infectious fevers reduced the risk of developing consequent autoimmune disease.
• Don’t try this at home … but nicotine seems to protect from autoimmune disease. So does cannabis (which is still illegal!).

If you want to know which of all the above ideas are most important – probably these: NO DAIRY, NO GLUTEN!

If I Had an Incurable Disease...

June 28, 2010

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, arterial disease, autoimmune disease, cancer, carrots, cat food, chronic fatigue syndrome, cod liver oil, cold shower, dairy, declutter, diet, disease - incurable, Etruscan history, European Natural Medicine (ENM), exercise, eye infection, fibromyalgia, fish, fish oil, Five Health Essentials, foods - inflammatory, gardening, growth hormone, herpes, high blood pressure, hormones, If I Had an Incurable Disease..., immune disease, inflammatory foods, journaling, legumes, mandolin, meat, multiple sclerosis, mushrooms, oats, olive oil, phyto-nutrients, probiotics, quilting, repair, relationship - abusive, sarcoid, shower - cold, spirituality, vegetables, walk - daily, welding, whole grains, woodworking

At one point, my cat Kachi had a herpes eye infection that didn’t go away; whatever the vet tried – hundreds of dollars of medications (that was when I decided that I never again would put that much money into pet health care) - nothing helped.

When it threatened her good eye, I thought” What would I do in a patient who has an incurable disease?” Of course, the first thing that came to my mind was cleaning up my cat's diet.

Until then, she had been fed with dry food and cans – like so many pets. I stopped the dry food and cooked, pureed and froze her meals: meat, carrots, a handful of oats, fish.

Within a week, her eye started to heal. After three weeks she was fine. Interestingly, the condition returned, as soon as we returned to processed foods.

So this is what I would do if I had an incurable disease:

• Clean up my eating act. No dairy, as starters. Dairy provides double jeopardy in disease: It is highly inflammatory. Some poorly understood diseases – like sarcoid, autoimmune diseases, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and so on – will benefit from less inflammation. And dairy is a potent concoction of hormones that lets cells grow - which cancer patients should avoid it like the devil.

As always, don’t just avoid bad foods; cram your plate with good ones – and that means: vegetables, vegetables, vegetable. And herbs and fruit, of course. Plant material has all the phyto-nutrients that your body needs for repair. Plus, good oils like olive oil, fish, occasionally meat (but no deli and cured meats), whole grains, legumes.

But there is more:

• Moderate exercise. Don’t go crazy with mindless machines in a gym – just go for a daily walk, putter around in the garden, clean out attic and garage, and generally find things to do that involve movement.
• End every hot shower or bath with a short (seconds only) cold shower (unless you have uncontrolled high blood pressure or an arterial disease). A cold shower improved immune function, and if you have an ill-understood disease – like my cat’s herpes) – you want your immune system in best working order.
• Add medicinal mushrooms, probiotics, fish oil and cod liver oil to your regimen.
• Get a life: Don’t use sickness as an excuse not to pursue your dreams – go for them right now! Enroll in a course you always wanted to do: woodworking, Etruscan history, welding, playing the mandolin, quilting – whatever captures your fancy. Against physicians’ predictions, I have seen patients survive for many years on bad diseases. Because survival has much to do with the purpose in your life.
• Get a spiritual life: Write it down in your journal just like this: I believe in … And see what will come out. It might mot be religious - but it will be powerful because it stands for your deepest convictions. And then follow your path! Make connections with like-minded people. Needless to say: Let go of stifling, abusive, dead-end relationships (but don’t conclude too fast that it is all your spouse’s fault – it might well be yours; work on yourself first!).

Of course, here we have again the Five Health Essentials of European Natural Medicine: Water, movement, food, herbs, order. If I had an incurable disease, I would embrace these Health Essentials, and make the best of my life that it can be.

P.S. In the summer, I would make a daily garden tea.

Before You Die

June 19, 2010

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, Before You Die, biking, bungee jumping, cello, cleaning out the attic, cold shower, Dickens - Charles, fasting, forgiving, Great Wall, growing vegetables and herbs, Hugo - Victor, learning a new language, mountain climbing, musical instrument, painting, parachute jumping, Paris, pottery, publishing a book, reading, shower - cold, skydiving, soulmate, tai chi, Tolstoy - Leo, touch an iceberg, weaving, wood working, writing

If you find no new block entry here – does it mean your blogger is sitting idly around at the beach?

No. She is immersed in the novel she tries to finish before she dies. What is it you must finish before you die? Remember Miss Rumphius? Her grandfather had told her the three things one has to accomplish in life: To travel foreign lands; to live at the ocean (You might remember that “Miss Rumphius” is a Maine story); to leave the world a more beautiful place.

Husbands always feel one should clean out the attic before I die, or such – but we, who should do it, lack enthusiasm for the attic. Given one wouldn’t want to leave the mess to one’s children to sort out – but then again, who is going to die die THAT SOON??

There are tons of bucket lists on the Internet what to do before we die. Here is mine:

1. Finish your novel.

What are other people aspiring to do before they die? Skydiving, bungee jumping, parachute jumping. Too much jumping, it seems. Too short-lived and not along my alley. How about these:

2. Learn a musical instrument (or painting or wood working or weaving or pottery).
3. Grow your own vegetables and herbs. And perhaps blueberries.
4. Forgive that incredible jerk/bitch (we all have one in our lives).
5. Climb a mountain. Doesn’t need to be Mount Everest – but should be bigger than the Blue Mountains near Boston. Take part in a long bike ride. Or learn tai chi – anything that gets you moving out of your comfort zone.
6. Do a vegetable broth fast for a whole day. Once a week – until you have your ideal weight; then go to once a month.
7. Learn a new language.
8. Take a cold shower. Every day.
9. Read Les Misérables (or War and Peace, or Our Mutual Friend – or the other thousand-pages-plus tome you always wanted to read).
10. Sleep under the stars and watch a sunrise.

Others I liked: Walk the Great Wall of China, Visit Paris, Publish a book, Touch an Iceberg. Many of those traveling goals sound like fun – but they expand your carbon footprint enormously. Visiting Paris or leaning to play the cello? I have done both; nothing against Paris, but the instrument beats the town by miles.

Find Your Soul Mate would be a worthy goal, wouldn’t it be? But that is not in your hands. Strive for something attainable - you don’t want to build your life on Grace or Fate or Incredible Luck.

Dupuytren - The Telltale Sign

June 11, 2010

Tags: food, herbs, alcohol consumption, bloot fats, contracture, dairy, diabetes type II, Dupuytren, Dupuytren - The Telltale Sign, hyperlipidemia, finger, hand, metabolic disorder, palmar fascia, penis, Preyronie's disease, vegetables

Dupuytren is a hardening of the fascia of the palm that leads to a contracture of the fingers – most often the fourth. One can see and feel the hard string right under the skin. Often, the non-dominant hand is involved – but I have seen it in both hands, too.

The cause of Dupuytren is unknown but it clearly runs in families, and seems linked to diabetes, abnormal blood fats, and increased alcohol consumption. It is seen more often in people of Scandinavian descend, and is ten times more common in men than in women.

A similar affliction of the penis is called Peyronie’s disease. One side of the penis shaft gets hardened, which leads to a permanent bend in the organ.

Often a surgeon tries correction – not always successful. Several not-yet satisfying drugs and procedures have been developed.

For me, Dupuytren is one of those diseases which seem to affect only a small part of your body – that funny area there in your hand. In reality, it is a systemic disease, affecting many more organs. I view Dupuytren as a metabolic disorder. Getting lipids under control is of utmost importance. A diet high in vegetables and herbs, no fried or fatty foods, especially no dairy, less meat and no alcohol can soften the hardened fascia and reverse the process.

Driving An Old Car

June 6, 2010

Tags: order, herbs, food, cars, Driving An Old Car, Earth, recycling, repair, reuse

When I carried my son at the ripe age of forty-two, my obstetrician was livid. He thought it was irresponsible and dangerous. “You can drive a twenty-year old Cadillac from the East Coast to the West Coast,” he declared, “BUT you will get into trouble!”

The comparison of my still nicely functioning body with an old car was insulting – to say the least. But history proved me right, and we have a wonderful, healthy son.

That, however, is not what I want to talk about today.

I want to praise old cars (and other old things). As of this day, my car is about fourteen years old and still running fine. When that car was much younger (but already dented and unfashionable), one of my patients declared: “With a car like that, you can’t be a good doctor!” Meaning: a good doctor can afford a newer, better car.

But can she? Apart from that my car is not a measure of my value or of my medical skills - am I not more than just a doctor – but also a steward of our good old Earth, like we all are, or should be? The longer I drive my old car, the fewer resources have to be used up, the more is saved. That is true for many things. So many items we buy nowadays get obsolete fast – and we retained nothing of their value. When I was a student, I made one day a totally irresponsible purchase: I bought a used Yamaha piano. I signed a check for money I didn’t have and then scrambled to borrow from my friends. Somehow, I made it – the check didn’t bounce. And so many years later the piano is still wonderful – and more worth than ever. – When my son now buys electronics (a cell phone, a laptop, an iPod), he uses them for a few short years, and then their value plunges toward zero. So many things we replace because they are not the newest item anymore, but they still pretty good, in working order and all. My Yankee (of course, I am not a Yankee – but feel akin) nature wants to preserve, repair, recycle.

In case you think this has nothing to do with medicine: The herbs I cherish and the plants I eat can only grow if we preserve our old Earth.

I will buy a new car if this one stalls and there is a hybrid station wagon on the market.

Seasonal Indulgences

June 4, 2010

Tags: order, food, herbs, aphrodisiac, asparagus, calcium, chrono-biology, copper, detoxification, fiber, Galium odoratum, iron, magnesium, minerals, parsley, phosphorus, potassium, Seasonal Indulgences, seasons, strawberries, sweet woodruff, vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc

White asparagus, new potatoes, chopped parsley in melted butter and prosciutto - have you ever tasted the joy of this? I did last week - traveling in Europe. This is asparagus time, and it is eaten plentifully. Followed by strawberries.

In years gone, I have tried asparagus with sauce Béarnaise or sauce Hollandaise, with Wiener Schnitzel or salted herring. I had it as soup or stew. This year, I learned a new asparagus dish: Jam – made with sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum), an herb that should only be harvested in May, with a flavor that is indescribably delicious – pure May indeed.

But my point is not the asparagus or the sweet woodruff; the point is that Europeans eat in season. They fantasize all year about asparagus with “young” potatoes – and when the white spears finally shoot out of the soil, there eat them often. Until mid-June (the exact date varies from north to south), when traditionally the last white asparagus is cut to let the plant develop strength for next year. After mid-June … nothing for a whole year.

Medicinally, asparagus flushes the kidney and moves the bowel (fiber!), taking with it toxins that have accumulated over the long winter. Parsley gives vitamin C, depleted after the cold season. And young potatoes round out the composition that delights the taste buds. In medieval times it was thought to be an aphrodisiac – but anything that was growing freshly after the long winter and had a phallic form might have served for the purpose, I guess.

Asparagus contains vitamins A, C, B1, B2, and E and is thought to help regeneration of cells, especially of nerves, vessels, skin and hair. White asparagus is kept white by growing them in deep soil, and they always need peeling of the tough skin (which might be the reason that green asparagus is preferred here – less work). Asparagus is rich in calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium and copper – all minerals sorely needed for bone strength.

Of course, it is possible to get white asparagus year-round. But Europeans still stick to the ancient clock: Over there, they have a time for everything, and May/June is dedicated to asparagus and strawberries.

We here think nothing of eating the good stuff whenever we feel like it. We don’t think about that the good stuff is made expensive by world-wide travel, and leaves a huge carbon print. Not to mention of the health consequences. Eating the same thing over and over again makes one prone to food allergies, for instance. And the old wisdom of the body is that what is in season is right for the body when it is in season. Not by chance but because we developed over millions of years together with the plants.

Here a small sample of what should be eaten when – and it is not only ancient lore but modern chrono-biology confirms the value of eating in season:
• January: red Beat
• February: celery, celeriac
• March: spinach, stinging nettle
• April: radish, rhubarb
• May: lettuce
• June: cucumber
• July: carrots, black currants, gooseberries, raspberries
• August: tomato, first apples, blueberries, raspberries.
• September: broccoli, cauliflower
• October: leeks
• November: cabbage
• December: rapunzel
(I will add to these!)

We delight in Christmas, and sometimes go over the top with Christmas decorations and gifts and events. Perhaps, if one had something to look forward year-round, would Christmas take its place among many seasonal delights?

Synergy in Herbs

May 27, 2010

Tags: herbs, Aspirin, compounds - herbal, harvesting herbs, patenting drugs, patenting herbs, St. John's wort, synergy, Synergy in Herbs, toxicity

Synergy is the innate beauty in plant medicines: The whole works better than the individual parts would let one predict.

In real life, however, synergy is what drug makers are up against. One cannot patent a whole plant – because Nature made them for all of us, and not one single manufacturer is allowed to reap the profits. So, pharmaceutical firms try to take out either one constituent of a plant (the one they deem the “effective” part) or change one constituent chemically, so they can patent either as a new drug. That way, many good drugs have been developed – and still are.

On the other hand, we are losing something when we neglect the whole plant. Synergy is one of the main reasons why often herbs are so profoundly effective; the other is that plants are the keys into our ancient physiology – plants and people developed together. Plant molecules are not new, alien molecules our bodies can’t recognize; they are old molecules our bodies are familiar with – so that they can happily incorporate them into our old-fashioned metabolism.

If a plant is toxic to us, it is so because the plant developed for that purpose: to fend off predators, herbivores, that otherwise would munch on the plant. But whole plants are often less toxic than would be expected, because the plant provides counteracting “smoothing” ingredients that helps us assimilate the herb better.

If you harvest an herb, you get plants with different strengths – depending when and where the plant was grown and cut. That is an obstacle for modern medicine that needs things predictable and reproducible. For that purpose, herbs are sometimes “standardized”: Different strength extractions are combined with certain key compounds so that the result is uniform. For the longest time, St. John’s wort had been standardized to one of its “main” ingredients – until it became clear that it was not the “effective” one. It is hard to figure out a plant that might have three hundred to a thousand different compounds.

But, it is also hard to figure out single compounds. Research is still discovering new effects of Aspirin, on the market since 1899! If one single ubiquitous chemical is so hard to understand – just think how hard it will be to understand a single whole plant. Herbs are harder to use than cold water or fresh food; you might need an herbalist or a doctor trained in natural medicine to help.

That is what makes conventional medicine so nervous about herbs. For me, that makes them so remarkable and miraculous: They have worked for millenniums, they should work now, too – in our ancient bodies. People in all cultures have observed and described the effects since stone age times or longer: We can learn something from them. And then, we can do some modern research with them, to slowly expand our knowledge.

Probiotics To The Rescue!

May 20, 2010

Tags: order, herbs, antibiotics, bacterial infections, Bifidobacterium, chlorellla, cholesterol, Clostridium difficile, colitis, colon cancer, Helicobacter pyloris, high blood pressure, immune function, infections, inflammation, irritable bowel syndrome, Lactobacillus, mineral absorption, probiotic, Probiotics To The Rescue!, prostatitis, resistance - bacterial, rotavirus, secondary infections, traveler's diarrhea, urinary tract infection

Probiotics have been shown to help in:

• reducing general inflammation
• improving immune function to generally fight infections
• lowering blood pressure (that alone is such a surprising outcome: HOW do they do do it??)
• preventing harmful bacterial growth in stress situations
• lowering cholesterol
• mitigating irritable bowel syndrome and colitis
• improving mineral absorption
• the prevention of colon cancer
• to alleviate rotavirus infections in children
• healing travelers' diarrhea in adults
• preventing secondary infections in antibiotic therapy
• preventing Helicobacter pylori infection of the stomach
• preventing urinary tract infections and infectious prostatitis
• lowering the incidence of antibiotic-associated diarrhea due to Clostridium difficile


Translated, probiotic means “for life’ and is obviously the contrary expression to antibiotic, “against life.” Don’t get me wrong, antibiotics can save lives, but there is no doubt that physicians have over-prescribed them since they came on the market during World War II. Now we have to live with the consequences: Resistant bacteria.

Probiotics, on the other hand, are not likely to do any harm to your body. In fact, they are the most helpful supplement money can buy, in my opinion (the second is fish oil). Try different strains because the above effects have been shown not to be general to be related to individual bacterial strains.

Side effects may be cramping and occasional diarrhea. If one strain bothers you, try another brand. I personally like PrimalDefense which also contains chlorella - but as usual, I do not endorse a product, and want to hear from you which brand you prefer. Also, start with a low dose, and slowly go up, as your bowels get used to it.

The thinking is that helpful gut bacteria like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium will repopulate the intestines, but one study showed that the benefits even accrue with dead bacteria. However they work - they do work.

The Dreaded Cellulite

May 19, 2010

Tags: food, herbs, movement, water, arthritis, beans, brown rice, brushing - dry, cancer, cellulite, cold shower, cold water, dairy, dementia, depression, diabetes type II, fat, garbanzos, gynoid lipodystrophy, heart disease, legumes, jumping, lentils, lipodystrophy, metabolic health, milk, olive oil, overweight, shower - cold, sitzbath, starches, stroke, sugar, The Dreaded Cellulite, white starches

Cellulite – in medical terminology: gynoid lipodystrophy – is what many women dread: those dimpled masses of fat around the thighs.

One study showed that people who were severely overweight, improved their cellulite when they lost weight. But people who were less overweight, experienced worse cellulite after weight loss. What is a woman to do??

The Natural Medicine take on cellulite is that it is poorly exercised, inflamed fat, and here is what you can do:

• Eliminate all dairy and milk products (cheese, butter, yogurt, milk solids) from your diet. Dairy seems to be the one single aggravating factor in the diet. The Mediterranean diet (lots of vegetables, herbs and olive oil plus small amounts of meats) seems healing. Dairy is a highly inflammatory food; olive oil is anti-inflammatory.
• Also leave out white starches and sugars. Replace with brown rice and legumes (beans, lentils garbanzos).
• Start with a very moderate program to exercise (because big programs don't work; they overwhelm you). For instance, Jump up and down one minute – and find out how awfully long a minute is… If you have that minute in your daily routine every single day, go for two minutes. Next step: Go for a short walk at lunch hour. Take the steps.
• Brush your skin with a dry brush – always in the direction of your heart. It is not as effective as exercise, and very boring, but it mobilizes those sluggish fat cells – at least a little bit.
• Always end your hot shower/bath with a short cold one (unless you have uncontrolled high blood pressure and/or arterial disease).
• Cold sitzbaths are recommended if you also have varicose veins. Fill at least an inch or two of cold water in the tub. Sit with legs outstretched for one to two minutes.

Cellulite is not a beauty problem. It is a quick measure of your metabolic health. While a little bit of dimpling might just come with age, those factors that now annoy you with cellulite will, in the long run, present you with heart disease, diabetes, stroke, dementia, arthritis, depression, cancer, and so on.

No Time For Cooking?

May 18, 2010

Tags: food, herbs, basil, butter, carrots, cilantro, coconut oil - virgin, cheese, cumin, dill, fish, garlic, ghee, green sauce, herbed salt, honey, kale, meats, No Time For Cooking?, olive oil, onion, parsley, red kale, red lentils, rosemary, sage, salt and pepper, thyme, water cress

The argument most often used why people eat take-out food, TV dinners and in restaurants, is that they have no time to cook.

Once you understand that you cannot be healthy on ready-made foods, you will want to cook for yourself and your family. Contrary to popular belief, it does not take much time to cook.

As an example, let’s look at our dinner last night. This is what we had:

Fish filet with green sauce
Red kale in olive oil and garlic
Parisian carrots
Red lentils with cumin.

Sounds like an outlandish dish for you? For us, it is pretty much every-day fare. It did not take me more than half an hour to bring this fresh meal on the table.

Fish filet: We had cod, but any filet would do. – The green sauce is the tricky part; in this case it was a frozen leftover from when we last had guests. Melt some virgin coconut fat in a frying pan (no microwaving!), add frozen green sauce, wait until thawed before adding the fish. Fry on low until done (a few minutes). Instead of green sauce, I could have sprinkled the fish with dried dill, or fresh herbs from the garden.

Red kale: Cut in stripes, wash quickly in cold water. Add dried or fresh garlic (I used dried), olive oil, pepper and salt (I prefer an herbed salt). Sautee in little water until done (about twenty minutes). - Most vegetables taste delicious with just olive oil and garlic - try!

Red lentils: One cup of red lentils to two cups of water (this is the ratio for most grains and lentils). Add salt and ground cumin. Bring to a boil. Simmer until done (about twenty minutes).

Carrots: Wash carrots, cut in bite-sized pieces. Add parsley (dried or fresh; the original recipe asks for parsley; I had run out of it and used dried cilantro instead – you make do with what you have), white pepper, salt and a teaspoon full of honey. Butter or, better, ghee (clarified butter) is optional. Sautee in little water. Takes about twenty minutes.

Serve and, as they say, enjoy!

Green sauce recipe: You need a kitchen machine for this – a blender will not do: Chop a small onion, a few baby carrots and a few cloves of garlic in the machine. Add as many washed and coarsely cut herbs as you can put your hands on: Basil, parsley, cilantro, dill are my staples. Water cress, thyme, sage, rosemary and others are optional. Blend with olive oil, pepper and salt until smooth. Fill up with plenty of olive oil until frothy. Freeze leftovers in small tupperwares.

You might notice that I use a lot of healthy fats (coconut oil for frying, olive oil, ghee). They don’t make your cholesterol go up – cheese and meats will do that. My husband’s cholesterol hovers around 110 – enviably. Good fats lower inflammation in the body. AND you leave the table satisfied.

Happy birthday, Sebastian!

May 17, 2010

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, accidents, acute disease, cold water cure, chronic disease, consumption, Flexner report, Floyer - John, Happy birthday - Sebastian!, health, John Floyer, Kneipp - Sebastian, Sebastian Kneipp, spa, tuberculosis

Sebastian Kneipp (1821 to 1897)
Sebastian Kneipp (1821 to1897) celebrates his birthday today, May 17th.

He was born as a poor weaver’s son in Bavaria/Germany, destined to become a weaver, too. But he was a gifted child. Supported by the local teacher and his mother, he finally made it into priest seminary – only to get sick with consumption (tuberculosis). Given up by several physicians, he embarked on his own healing process, found a little booklet about the Cold Water Cure that had been inspired by the Staffordshire physician John Floyer. In case you think, Floyer was just another British quack: He introduced counting the pulse rate into medicine.

Sebastian Kneipp, without medical training, jumped into the gray Danube River in winter, three times a week, and cured himself. From there, he went on to develop his Five Pillars of Health (water, movement, food, herbs, order) and became world famous.

With World War I, World War I and the Holocaust everything German was despised here – and natural healing was replaced by scientific medicine, especially after the Flexner report denounced everything that did not come from modern medicine as “unscientific.” It took disgruntled patients (and the Internet) to return to the old truths.

My connection to Sebastian Kneipp? I grew up in Germany after World War II, and Kneipp’s principles were part of the landscape: We took cold showers, ate heartily and slept with windows open – but in medical school I found “scientific” medicine so much more enticing and scoffed at the old folk medicine that was way too much connected to the Nazis for my sensibilities.

Until I started practicing real medicine and realized that for chronic disease we physicians had not much to offer. The pills - because of side-effects - were often a worse cure than the disease. So, I read up on the old stuff, only half convinced, but always looking out for things to help my patients.

During a sabbatical year in my home country I did courses for a degree in Natural Medicine, and it was then that I spotted a reprint of Sebastian Kneipp’s most famous book (sold in the millions): My Water Cure. I took it in my hand, a bit curious how the old Kneipp would hold up to modern times – and I was immediately hooked. He understood the human body and the rest of the human predicament so well, I found, that on that spot I decided to write and bring his ideas again to the U.S. I say “back” because around the beginning of the twentieth century a “cold water craze” had already swept this country, with spas and doctors practicing natural medicine; they even had their own magazines and newspapers!

Of course, it is not an either-or – we need modern medicine and natural medicine, and both have to stand up to scientific scrutiny. But our bodies and souls are ancient, with ancient requirements. For acute diseases like infections, accidents, even some cancers, modern medicine has made great strife, and we are grateful for it. In chronic disease, modern medicine is still looking for that miracle pill – when only going to the roots and changing your lifestyle the old-fashioned way will get you to that glowing state of health that is your birthright.

Happy birthday, Sebastian!
You'll find an etching of Sebastian Kneipp on the "medical questions?" page.

Teenage Hell On Earth: Acne

May 16, 2010

Tags: food, water, herbs, movement, order, acne, antibiotics, bacteria, blackheads, bowels, breathing exercises, cold shower, cold wash, comedones, dairy, dandelion, eliminary organs, face cloth, fish oil, guts, hamamelis, Hildegard von Bingen, hormonal imbalance, hormones, horseradish, intestines, lungs, kidneys, milk, mud, nettle - stinging, pimples, probiotic, rubbing alcohol, salt water, sauna, shower - cold, skin, sleep, smoking, soap, steam bath, sun exposure, tea tree oil, teenage, Teenage Hell On Earth: Acne, vegetables, witch hazel

In Natural Medicine, the skin is one of the four elimination organs. The other three are the lungs, the kidney/bladder and the bowel. If one of these is diseased or overloaded with toxins, the excess has to be dealt with by the skin. And it often comes out as acne, especially in young people when hormones totter from childhood to adulthood. Imbalances in hormones during puberty might trigger acne but are usually not the whole problem. And acne is not solely a teenage problem.

In acne – as in many skin diseases – the gut is ailing. The main culprit in the SAD diet (Standard American Diet) is dairy – cheese, milk, and so on.

Besides giving your inflamed bowel a respite from inflammatory food, here is what else you can do against acne:

• Take a probiotic to re-establish gut flora. Add fish oil against inflammation.

• Do not touch face or other areas with your fingers because bacteria – fed by unhealthy fare – bring a pimple to bloom.

• Use a face cloth only once. Everyone should at least have two dozen face cloths. Buy them in bulk, cheap.

• Do not squeeze pimples as this can leave scars. You can squeeze blackheads (comedones) after a bath or shower when they are soft. Always disinfect with rubbing alcohol, hamamelis water (witch hazel) or tea tree oil.

• Take a cold shower always after a hot one or a bath.

• Wash your face frequently with cold water during the day.

• Do not use soap, detergents, make-up, creams in your face. Cold water is all it needs. With very oily skin, a once or twice per week facial scrub (ground almonds, apricot kernels, rolled oats – the simpler, the better) is recommended. Avoid soapy additions. Keep hair grease away from your face.

• Sauna supports the skin in its elimination functions.

• Daily short exposure to sun is essential for healing.

• Incorporate breathing exercises in your routine. For a starter take three deep breaths (always start with exhalation) every hour on the hour (or as often as you think about it; don’t hold your breath; let it flow).

• The salty water of the ocean has healing properties that can be used during vacation times. At home, salt baths (with or without herbal additions) or mud compresses can simulate the real thing.

• Get involved in sports. All movement will help to eliminate your bowels faster – and the bowel is at the root of most cases of acne.

• Drink plenty of water – at least seven cups per day, more with exercise, from a beautiful cup. No purpose, though, running around all day with a bottle of water in your hand. One does not dehydrate that fast!

• Facial steam baths with chamomile are soothing.

• A Hildegard of Bingen recipe: Store grated horseradish in apple vinegar; clean skin with the solution (I have not tried it yet - let me know if you have!).

• Herbs for internal cleansing: dandelion root and stinging nettle (as a mix or single ingredients), together or singly. As capsules or tea.

• Beyond dairy: Eat fruit and vegetables as much as possible. Rule out gluten intolerance). Reduce animal fats and meats. No dairy and milk chocolate. Avoid all sugars and white starches.

• Quit smoking.

• Get enough sleep.

• Move! Walk and do yoga. The more you move, the better your body gets rid of ugly toxins.

• Against scarring acne get the help of a dermatologist – but avoid long-term antibiotics for minor acne because they only will confound the underlying problems in your bowels.

Simple Health Is Attainable

May 10, 2010

Tags: order, water, movement, food, health, herbs, balance, diabetes type II, heart-lung transplant, repair, simple health, Simple Health Is Attainable, smoking

Do you have diabetes?

Yes? Do you really HAVE diabetes? Or is it just a label you are carrying?

Not to dispute the reality of the symptoms you feel or the havoc the diabetic condition can wreak in your body - but they are, after all, just names doctors made up. A diagnosis helps to find a pill against the diagnosis.

That has its good sides, and its bad. Especially with a diagnosis of diabetes: Do you really believe that a single little pill can reverse years of not exercising and eating the wrong foods? I don’t.

But I do believe in simple sheer good health. Instead of fear-mongering with labels, let's focus on what we can do to stay/become healthy. Your body actually wants to get healthy and has a vast ability to repair itself - if you just give it some room and help. If you eat your green veggies, move briskly through life (instead of lingering on the couch or a chair in front of TV and computer), if you drink fresh water, do not smoke, relate warmly to other people, get enough sleep - you might never have to see a doctor all your life.

Admittedly, bad things happen to good people, and environmental hazards are as yet under-reported and not well understood in their impact on our bodies. But aside from that (and genetics), you are responsible for a good portion of your health. Estimates are not scientific – but an educated guess is that you hold about seventy-five percent of your health outcome in your hands.

Our bodies are really old, old things – not meant for driving in a car, eating TV dinner and marshmallows, staring at a screen for most of the day, exist holed up in our individual cubicles (at home and at work), exposed to noise, electronics, polluted air and other ills of modern times.

We don’t want to move back into the cave; we like the amenities of modern life – for instance the ease of connecting with loved ones via telephone of computers. The more it behooves us to counteract the bad modern influences and have as many of the natural elements in our lives as our good old bodies need: Water, movement, fresh food, herbs, and balance.

Back to diabetes (or any other diagnosis): If modern lifestyle is at the root of diabetes (and it is!), then go to the roots, make some meaningful changes, and don’t expect betterment from a little pill, please - not like the patient whom I once counseled against smoking: “The heck, when I get lung problems, they’ll give me a nice, new heart-lung transplant.”

May Bowl

May 5, 2010

Tags: herbs, alcohol, coumadin, coumarin, Galium odoratum, Grass - Günter, Günter Grass, May bowl, moderation, sweet grass, sweet woodruff, tobacco

We have something great to celebrate in our family this week, and we will celebrate it with May bowl.

Recipe for May Bowle:

Crush a handful of sweet woodruff leaves (before flowering) into a pitcher. Pour a bottle of white wine over it - a glass pitcher will show off the beauty of this green-golden drink. Let sit it in the fridge for an hour or longer. – Enjoy!

Sweet woodruff (Galium odorata) is a woodland herb with a wonderful perfume to its leaves; the perfume stems from coumarin. Therefore people on coumadin should avoid it or drink it sparingly, coumadin being the man-made form of coumarin. By the way, sweet grass owns the same wonderful fragrance.

Sweet woodruff should only be harvested in May. It was one of the first things I planted in my garden – it likes dappled shade and a leafy soil.

In Europe, when I was little, they used sweet woodruff flavor in all kinds of candy; my favorite was fizzling soda powder (made famous in Günter Grass' novel The Tin Drum, where the protagonist Oskar Mathzerath sprinkles it onto the belly button of his love, adds some spit, and waits for the erotic results). Meanwhile, sweet woodruff is forbidden in Europe as a food additive because of suggestions it might cause cancer. Those results came from Petri dish studies, not from population studies.

Thus sweet woodruff illustrates human greed, again: Used once a year in a May bowl, it likely is harmless - more likely beneficial. Used as a flavoring everywhere all the time, it's bound to hurt. Remember, it took the White Man to turn the occasional peace calumet into a three-pack-per-day habit. As with tobacco, so with alcohol: Since my father was a drinker, I certainly don't want to entice you to imbibe May bowl more than on a rare occasion, in moderation!

Sweet woodruff also is an example how one scientific tidbit, taken out of context, is used to suppress herbal knowledge. Which is not to say I am against science - which I am not (being married to a scientist and trained in scientific medicine myself); just that scientific results should be taken with a grain of salt and some common sense.

So we will celebrate with May bowl – and might find a second occasion later this month. And then we have to wait for a full year before we can drink May bowl again.

A Tea From Your Garden

April 30, 2010

Tags: herbs, A Tea From Your Garden, basil, broccoli, burdock, chives, cilantro, dandelion, feverfew, garden, health, hemlock, lettuce, nettle - stinging, parsley, phyto-nutrients, pine needles, raspberry leaves, rose leaves, rosemary, sage, thyme, yew

Green is the color of life, and green herbs keep us healthy.

From April to November, I find things growing in my garden that go into my daily garden tea. Only one question asked of that green thing: Is it edible? If it is not, forget it! If you don’t know, don’t even touch it – what you don’t know can kill you when you put it into your tea!

Today, this is what I gathered: Dandelion leaves and flowers, stinging nettle leaves, feverfew leaves, young burdock shoots. Pine needles (make sure you can identify them because hemlock and yew would be deadly!), rose leaves, raspberry leaves. And from my herb garden: rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley, chives (including their fat purple buds), sage, cilantro. I also started a vegetable garden in big pots on the terrace and I snipped off a few leaves off lettuce and broccoli.

These green things contain small molecules - phyto-nutrients - which we are not getting easily from our modern food. But our ancient bodies need them to function.

Nature gives me these green gifts every morning, and I breathe in the beauty of my garden (which is, admittedly, an unkempt jungle – but never touched by pesticides, herbicides, and the like!). When I come into the kitchen I feel as if I have meditated (I have meditated!). I throw my big handful of greens into a cup, pour boiling water over it and start my day in beauty, contemplation – and health.

And it tastes good, too.

One-Day Fast

April 26, 2010

Tags: order, food, water, health, herbs, balance, broth, cabbages, cleansing, dandelion, detoxifying, eggplant, fasting, garden, garlic, grains, herbal tea, juice fasting, legumes, mushrooms, nettle - stinging, One-Day Fast, onions, peppers - bell and hot, phyto-nutrients, potato, sweet potato, tomato, vegetables, weight

No, it’s not what you think - one-day fast is not for losing weight. It is for cleansing and giving your gastro-intestinal tract a day of vacation. Spring cleaning for your body, so to speak. One day - and you will feel terrific about yourself as you feel the lightness in your body.

A one-day fast is best done on a weekend. You prepare for the fast on Friday evening, fast all Saturday, and slowly resume (healthier) eating on Sunday. Team up with a friend because if you share your experience, you are more likely to stick with it.

For Friday dinner, you keep it light: no meat or fish, nothing fried, no dairy. Prepare a big pot of vegetable broth: Anything vegetal can go into it, except for plants from the nightshade family (tomato, potato, eggplant, bell and hot peppers) or starchy ones (grains, legumes, sweet potato, etc.). Onions, garlic and cabbages are the back bone of this broth. I put in handfuls of herbs from my herb garden, and right now I definitely would splurge on stinging nettle and dandelions. Use rests of lettuce and whatever vegetables are wilting in your fridge. Mushrooms are perfect.

You boil the vegetables with plenty of water. No salt or pepper, though.

Next day, you are only allowed the broth (don’t actually eat the vegetables!) whenever you feel hungry. Vegetable-broth fasting is much better tolerated than fruit juice fasting because the broth is alkaline, not acidic – much gentler on your stomach and your whole system. For years I was the laughing stock of my family because I once had tried a juice fast – and lasted all of three hours before I caved in to my overwhelming hunger! This never happens on the vegetable broth fast.

If you want, you can drink water and/or herbal teas. Nothing else is allowed - not even chewing gum! - Whenever the fluid level in the pot gets low, just pour more water in. The strength of vegetables is good enough for several “steepings.”

Take your Saturday easy: Go twice a day for a walk, rest a lot. Experienced fasters can work during this kind of gentle fast. But for your first time, concentrate on how you feel. Write a diary, listen to music, meet friends.

On Sunday morning you restart eating with a light breakfast: Again no meats or fish - stay vegetarian all Sunday. On Monday you resume normal eating – hopefully a bit more mindful.

Besides restocking you with valuable phyto-nutrients, the main effect of the one-day fast is a thorough cleansing and detoxifying – without harsh herbs or laxatives. Once you feel the new lightness in your body, you might want to repeat the experience. A healthy person should do this probably once a month. A sick or overweight person once a week. No, you don’t lose weight from the fast – but you might lose weight from re-setting your hunger stat: After the fast, you get more appreciative of food, you chew longer, you eat slower and less, and you go for the healthier choice.

Who Loves It Dark, Warm, Moist and Sweet?

April 23, 2010

Tags: order, herbs, food, athlete's foot, balance, jock itch, microwave, nail fungus, olive oil, onychomycosis, rosemary, Standard American Diet (SAD), tea tree oil, thyme, Trichophyton rubrum, vegetables, Who Loves It Dark, Warm, Moist and Sweet?

Under-cover, in America’s shoes, nail fungus is attacking like body-snatchers. To call it “athlete’s foot” is giving nail fungus a too-nice name. Think about the germs invading a body after death; nail fungus is invading your body already before death!

Conventional wisdom has it that we get the fungus because we catch it from public spaces like pools and hotel rooms. Truth is, the offending fungus spores – most often those of Trichophyton rubrum - are everywhere and hard to avoid. Still, nail fungus was uncommon only a few generations earlier. We pick up the offenders because our body defenses are down. Down from a diet high in sugar. Note that the acronym for American Standard Diet is SAD!

Nail fungus likes it dark, warm, moist and sweet. Therefore, let’s spoil it for the invaders and make it bright, cool, dry and decidedly unsweet! Wear light, airy shoes. Go barefoot often. If you have to wear heavy boots or sneakers, use ample baby powder, and change shoes and socks often. You can microwave your shoes after wearing (one minute on high) – but only if there are no metal buckles on them. And you want to try out with less than a minute because some modern materials melt and blister. Alternatively, dust your shoes with foot powder right after slipping out of them. Walk barefoot at home or wear slip-resistant socks.

There are many natural methods to fight nail fungus, usually involving the one or other essential oil and/or garlic. This is what is highly effective (unless you have an allergy to any of the ingredients):

Rub feet and nails twice a day with tea tree oil. Since tea tree oil tends to dry out the skin, apply olive oil (perhaps with a drop of thyme or rosemary oil) afterward to keep the skin nice and smooth. Repeat religiously twice a day until all signs of fungus is gone; then continue once daily for prevention.

And the unsweet part? Whenever you eat something sugary, your nail fungus thrives. Don’t feed the invader! Build a shield around you – by a diet high in vegetables!

The above applies also to another fungal disease: Jock itch. It is only so much harder to air the area out...

Spring Fatigue - Undiagnosed

April 19, 2010

Tags: herbs, food, chives, dandelion, fatigue, fruit, greens, health, nettle - stinging, spring fatigue, Spring Fatigue - Undiagnosed, spring onions, tonic, Urtica dioica, vegetables

A disease exists in Europe that is never diagnosed here: Spring fatigue. Around February, March, April everybody complains about it - and suffers.

Spring fatigue happens when the body is depleted of essential nutrients at the end of the winter, after not enough fresh fruit and vegetables in the cold months.

Do American people not have it? I think they do have spring fatigue - they are just not told about it. Because there is no pill against it. And the rather like to think they have spring fever...

Yet the remedy is easy: Eat about as many fresh greens you can put your hands on: chives (around this time I put handfuls of chives on and in about everything), dandelions, spring onions, stinging nettles, kale, chard, spinach. Many might be weeds in your garden.

Stinging nettles? Yes! It is a weed, but I planted it in my garden on purpose (in a raised bed). Yesterday, I made my first nettle soup of the season. The recipe is easy: Boil one or two cut potatoes (including skin) with a little bit of water and salt. When half soft, add stinging nettle leaves (the stems are tough; you need gloves to handle nettle because they sting), olive oil and pepper. Boil until soft - only a few more minutes. You can puree it - I did. But one can also just eat it like a green vegetable. Never forget the olive oil - without fat, your body cannot assimilate vitamin A from the greens.

Europeans think the stinging nettle is the most valuable herb, period. They use it for a tonic, strengthening the body overall. It is also good against hay fever, but you better buy it as phyto-caps for that purpose. The nettle root is used against prostatitis.

Make sure you know your herbs and harvest your herbs from a clean place - not where dogs pee on them. Go for a local herb walk to learn about herbs.
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!