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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.

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

July 28, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weeds - Green Is Life-Giving

July 12, 2011

Tags: food, water, amaranth, arthritis, arugula, balcony, beet greens, burdock, cabbage, cancer, chard, chickweed, chlorophyll, collard greens, coumadin, dandelion, diabetes type II, dinosaur kale, dog poop, Earth, edible weeds, endive, escarole, eye health, garden, garlic, green leafy things, harvest, heart health, immune system, lamb's quarters, kale, knowledge, kohlrabi greens, lettuce, local herb walk, mâche, mizuna, mustard greens, olive oil, pesticides, plantain, pots, purslane, radicchio, rapunzel, shepherd's purse, spinach, stinging nettle, sunlight, supermarket, water cress, weed, Weeds - Green Is Life-Giving, yarrow, harvesting from the wild

With the “invention” of chlorophyll, life on Earth began to explode. Chlorophyll makes it possible to harvest the sunlight and turn it into food for animals and humans.

All greens keep you healthy – in so many ways; They fight and prevent cancer, they help the heart, the eyes, the immune system, and work against diabetes type II and arthritis – to name a few. All taste delicious simmered in little water with olive oil and garlic (fresh or dried), pepper and salt. Here are green leafy things you might find in your supermarket:

• Chard
• Spinach
• Cabbage
• Mustard greens
• Dandelion
• Collard greens
• Kale
• Escarole
• Arugula
• Beet greens
• Bok choy
• Rapunzel (mâche)
• Dinosaur greens
• Endive
• Water cress
• Kohlrabi greens
• Lettuce
• Mizuna
• Amaranth
• Radicchio

If you have a garden, or some pots on the balcony, or a stretch of land where dogs don’t poop (hard to find!), you have access to many more greens than just in your supermarket aisle – and for free!!

• Stinging nettle
• Dandelion
• Purslane
• Chickweed
• Plantain
• Burdock
• Lamb's quarters
• Shepherd's purse
• Yarrow

For harvesting from the wild, follow a few rules: If you take from your neighbor’s garden, ask for permission. Not only is dog poop a problem but pesticides and generally dirty roads. Don’t over-harvest – you wants some plants to set seeds, so that you can forage next year again. If you are taking coumadin, be aware that all greens can counteract it – take roughly an equal amount every day.

There is nothing wrong with edible weeds – they are delicious – it just takes an adventurous spirit. And KNOWLEDGE of the plant! Take a local herb walk with a guide. Don’t harvest and eat if you are not 100% sure – 99% is not good enough.

Bitter Medicines

May 26, 2010

Tags: Herbs, food, angelica, angostura bark, artichoke, Bitter Medicines, bitters, cassia, cinchona bark, dandelion, digestive problems, gentian, goldenseal, indigestion, orange peel, quinine, roots, sugar, sweeteners, vegetables, yarrow

Life was never supposed to be sweet. We ate bitters all the time, from prehistoric times, plucking green leaves right and left as we roamed the savannah, until only a few generations ago when the home-made herbal bitter (an alcoholic extraction of bitter herbs) was always brought out after a big meal.

But in our modern times, we think we deserve better than bitter – we like sweet above all other tastes - and consequently, digestive problems are increasing.

Bitters stimulate the appetite (not that we really need it – I always wonder why a hundred years ago loss of appetite was a major problem, and nowadays my patients rarely ever complain about it). Bitters increase digestive juices, thus helping to digest heavy meals. By digesting faster, we feel earlier relief in our overstuffed stomachs (for the same reason - to get relief after a too-big feast - a family walk after the big Sunday midday meal is a beloved practice in Europe).

Bitters shorten bowel transit time, alleviating constipation.

What goes into bitters? The recipes are often family, factory or monastery secret, but there are some staples like artichoke, dandelion, yarrow, cinchona bark (quinine), ginger, orange peel, cassia, angostura bark, and lots of bitter roots like angelica, gentian, goldenseal. The recipes are legion, and every country has their specialties.

It helps to have Swedish Bitters (or any bitter) at hand when indigestion strikes (beware – they all contain around forty percent of alcohol – some even more). However, incorporating more dark greens and roots into you food is equally - or more - important. And so is eliminating the sweet taste from our foods so predominant now. Don’t use sugar, don’t even use sweeteners – come back to the healthy bitters! Let your taste buds rediscover the real world of tastes.

In the long run, your life will be sweeter with bitters: more health, more joy, more sweet life.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

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

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