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Endometriosis and Chinese Medicine

Endometriosis of Abdominal Wall

Endometriosis is a painful condition where the tissue normally inside of the womb, the endometrium, is found in other parts of the body. The endometrial cells build up blood for pregnancy, which is shed during menstruation. However if this tissue is found outside of the womb, it can cause bleeding in areas where blood is not supposed to be shed and it can cause major pain and inflammation. Typically Continue reading Endometriosis and Chinese Medicine

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Don’t Use Echinacea for This Season’s Flu

echinaceaIt looks like last year’s rather mild flu may turn more virulent this season.  It already is killing large numbers of people in unusual ways, especially those of Asian or Native American descent.  The most vulnerable seem to be not the aged or the young, but healthy young adults.  And it has killed people during the summer, a time when influenza deaths are all but unheard of. The 1918 flu pandemic which killed millions worldwide started out mild too.

If the flu acts like the 1918 pandemic, it will cause a cytokine storm, where your immune system can overreact, rapidly killing you.  In cases like this you do not want to use immune system stimulants like echinacea.  You are better off with Vitamin D and immune modulators which will not hype up your system if you don’t need it. Continue reading Don’t Use Echinacea for This Season’s Flu

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Biofilms and Disease: Why should I care?

Slime biofilm
The application of biofilm science to the study and control of chronic bacterial infections
William Costerton, Richard Veeh, Mark Shirtliff, Mark Pasmore, Christopher Post, Garth Ehrlich
Published in Volume 112, Issue 10
J Clin Invest. 2003; 112(10):1466–1477 doi:10.1172/JCI20365

Anyone who has felt plaque on their teeth, seen films at the edge of a pond, found  thick slimy glop when cleaning out a sink or fountain or suffered a respiratory infection has come into contact with biofilms.  When certain bacteria are in wet environments, they attach and send out signals to attract other bacteria called  “quorum sensing” molecules.  When the other bacteria start congregating, they start differentiating into bacteria that attach, that transport nutrients, that digest, that form protective films or crusts, adjust resistance and become far more formidable than any bacterium alone.  The biofilms are made of the bacteria, the water and the proteins, sugars and DNA that the bacteria exude.

efflux pumps
Source: The Antibiotic Paradox (Stuart B. Levy, M.D.)

For instance, when you get a respiratory virus, your bronchi are moist sites for bacterial complications.  When a bacteria lands, it calls others and makes a biofilm that blocks oxygen intake, causing you to cough. The biofilm protects the most interior bacteria. When you take antibiotics, the surface bacteria adapt by taking in samples of the antibiotics, “tasting” them with tiny efflux pumps and figuring out how to adapt.  They communicate this information to other bacteria in the biofilm.  This is how bacteria get resistant to the antibiotics.  They are even able to recombine with dead bacteria from other diseases to learn chemically how to protect themselves.  This is why our antibiotics have become less effective and why we have resistant “superbacteria”.

Bacteria take on different functions.

There are herbs that being weaker than antibiotics, sneak in under the radar of the bacteria and disable their efflux pumps, which is why you ought to take those herbs together with antibiotics.  This is a direct attack on bacterial resistance.  But new biosignal technology based on plant compounds called furanones disrupts the biofilm in different ways.

Biosignal technology prevents or disrupts resistant biofilms without killing bacteria.  Instead it blocks the quorum sensing molecules that allow the bacteria to congregate and other signaling molecules that affect virulence and resistance.  This approach to bacterial control is aimed at delivering treatment while sidestepping  bacterial resistance.

There is a red seaweed, Delisea pulchra, that is not colonized by bacterial films, unlike most.  This is used by the Australian firm Biosignals which has synthesized the chemicals and uses them for medical equipment and contact lenses.  The scientists found that the seaweed was rarely covered in bacterial biofilm colonies. They established that the seaweed uses natural chemicals, furanones, to keep it free of biofilms. The furanones jam cell-to-cell signaling systems that are pivotal to the ability of bacteria to form and maintain biofilms.

Delisea japonica may contain biofilm-inhibiting substances.

Preventing bacterial communication suggests that furanones may be effective against a wide range of bacteria.   In vitro studies have found that many furanones are useful against cholera, penumonia, cystic fibrosis-related infections, food poisoning,  golden staph infections and tuberculosis. Some of these bacteria have become resistant to current antibiotics.  Now, in vitro studies bathe the bacteria in a solution with the furanones, which is not the way your body works, so there isn’t direct oral administration evidence yet.  More research needs to be done.

Furanones are found in a variety of herbs.  Andrographis, for instance, and members of the parsley family.  There may be other seaweeds that have not been identified.  A colleague who is studying biofilms suggested putting vanillin into my fountain to stop the biofilm formation and it has probably slowed it down (as well as making the waiting room smell like vanilla.)

The class of furanones is large enough however that we should first look at the traditional uses of the plants, rather than looking first for constituents in the plants.  The traditional use has thousands of years of trial and error, while new drugs are unproven in the long term.

Not all biofilms are bad.  The probiotic bacteria that forms a living wallpaper along your gut, protecting you from disease, heavy metals and allergens, is one you want.  The appendix stores a biofilm of  probiotic bacteria in its cul de sac, to protect the body from potential pathogens in the GI tract that might wipe them out.  It allows us to be re-colonized by our symbionts.  We have good bacteria, most likely in thin films all over out bodies.

The appendix is a reservoir of microbiota. Source: NY Times Illustration by Bryan Christie Design

We evolved as clusters of bacteria, which differentiated into a superstructure housing lots of partially incorporated microorganisms like mitochondria and independent microorganisms like the lactobacilli in our gut.   We do need to be sure that strategies we use in preventing disease will not disrupt our own biological processes.

Lynn Margulis’ book,  Symbiotic Planet

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Vitamin D, Statins and Red Yeast Rice

red-yeast-rice-300x238As those of you who read my blog are aware, I am not a big fan of statins.  The first reason is that cholesterol is not really the problem. The second is that statins depress the body’s own anti-inflammatory compound CoQ10.  But recent research shows that, against our logical assumptions, Vitamin D levels may rise when statins are taken. Continue reading Vitamin D, Statins and Red Yeast Rice

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Hypertension “Epidemic” caused by Wrong Blood Pressure Cuff Size?

As a heavy person, I often find that places which measure blood pressure do not use the proper cuff size.  Using nurse taking blood pressuretoo small a cuff will show hypertension, where none exists.  Given the obesity epidemic, this can be a serious problem.  Many overweight people have hypotension, which may interfere with their exercise, it is important that they be measured carefully, especially when medication is involved.  And this is also very important during pregnancy when fluids can cause swelling but do not always raise blood pressure or cause pre-eclampsia.

Here is a piece written by a colleague who shall remain anonymous:

I can tell you that a frightening number of practitioners do not use protocol as stated.   It Continue reading Hypertension “Epidemic” caused by Wrong Blood Pressure Cuff Size?

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Vitamin D Regulates the Immune System

I am an herbalist, and that is where I turn first, in most cases.  But Vitamin D is an exception.  It is a hormone used by most of our cells in over 2000 functions,.  As humans ranged north of the African savannah where we evolved and started wearing more clothing, we started lowering our D levels.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D

Vitamin D has the ability to kill off bacteria and that property has been so important that we have retained that property as primates for over 60 million years

Vitamin D  also prevents the over stimulation of our immune system which could cause it to attack ourselves.  This is important for the Swine Flu which can be dangerous if there is an excessive inflammatory response, called a cytokine storm.

Most deaths in the 1918 flu pandemic and more recently from SARS, happened when young healthy people who had a strong immune response provoked a cytokine storm which allowed an excessive response that quickly killed them off.  We speculate that with higher levels of Vitamin D, the regulatory function that caused the excessive inflammation might not have occurred.

This article tells how the process works, but the takeaway is to keep your Vitamin D levels high (blood level around 60) which may require 10,000 iu or more daily and if you get the flu increase it.  Continue reading Vitamin D Regulates the Immune System

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Primates Prefer Cooked Meat and What It Means to Us

Richard Wrangham a professor of biological anthropology at Harvard and the author of  “Catching

Richard Wrangham
Richard Wrangham

Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human” was interviewed on NPR.   He worked with Jane Goodall, and is director of the Kibale Chimpanzee Project  in Uganda.   According to Wrangham, great apes prefer cooked food to raw food or they have no preference.  They prefer cooked meat to the raw meat that they occasionally form hunting parties to obtain,  but are hampered by not controlling fire.   Great apes, when given a choice, never prefer raw food to cooked food.  Chimps will go into areas of wildfires and eat foods that they would never eat raw.  Meat (at least wild meat)  is tough when raw, but is much more easily assimilated when cooked.

Cooked food increases the proportion of nutrients that you actually digest. This was not widely appreciated for many years because scientists sampled the food going into the mouth then compared it to fecal output.  But fecal digestibility does not really look at assimilation.  We can only assimilate proteins in the small intestine, not the large intestine.

Continue reading Primates Prefer Cooked Meat and What It Means to Us

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How to Make A Plantain Spit Poultice

I got a phone call this morning from a woman who had been bitten by an insect and was swelling up.  Fortunately I had a picture of broad leaf plantain on my website so was able to tell her how to make a spit poultice to draw it out.

Broadleaf plantain
Broadleaf plantain -Plantago major

I first learned about plantain poultices when Wisconsin ethnobotanist and Anishinaabeg medicine woman Keewaydinoquay Peschel during her last trip to the east coast. She had used plantain to draw out all kinds of things from insect bites to glass during her years as tribal medicine woman.  One year she was lecturing to her class on plantain while a student’s visiting mother sat in on the class.  Three years later a package arrived for her from Florida, a thank-you gift from the student’s mother.  It seems that the woman and two friends were gardening in Florida and had been bitten by a spider.  They didn’t think too much of it, insect bites being fairly common, but on her way home she saw some plantain growing, remembered the lecture and made a spit poultice to draw out the venom.   The next morning her friends were dead and she was well. Continue reading How to Make A Plantain Spit Poultice

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Time Article Misses the Point of Exercise in Weight Loss

An article by John Cloud, Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin on misses the point of why exercise is important.  Time Exercise IssueIt is true that exercise only burns an infinitesimal number of calories.  If you are into the calories in, calories out frame of mind, you will need to exercise for 10 hours to cover a Big Mac.  20 minutes of jogging barely covers a small chocolate chip cookie.  It isn’t even a matter of converting fat to muscle:  if you converted 10 pounds of fat to muscle, you would be able to burn an extra 40 calories a day, which isn’t that much.  No, the reason to exercise is metabolic, and you need to match that with metabolic eating.

Say you eat an apple which is all sucrose and some fiber.  Half of sucrose is glucose and 76% of that burns off at the first pass while 24 % of it goes into the liver where most of it is stored as glycogen and the rest powers mitochondria for energy.   Maybe a half a calorie goes through the TCA cycle which will turn into VLDL cholesterol, used to store fat.  The other half is fructose of which 72% goes into the liver.  The breakdown products of this fructose in the liver is far more pernicious, including uric acid which causes gout and hypertension, but more importantly Continue reading Time Article Misses the Point of Exercise in Weight Loss

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Fructose, Sugar, Poison and Obesity

The video by Robert Lustig of UCSF is extremely interesting, but wonky. If you work in health care or are dealing with blood sugar issues, I highly recommend listening.   I do anyway.  But here are the highlights for the rest of you:

  • We have a worldwide epidemic of obese six month olds.  Yes, 6 months.  So it isn’t all about more food in and less exercise out.Baby with juice
  • Americans now eat 141 pounds of sugar per year, 63 pounds of which is high fructose corn syrup and over half of which is fructose in all forms.
  • A calorie is not a calorie.  Some calories are nutritious, some are merely empty, some are poisonous.
  • If we are consuming 275 extra calories a day compared to 20 years  ago, it is because our regulatory hormones like leptin are not stopping us.  We had as much food available 50 years ago, but less obesity.  Something in us changed.
  • And it isn’t our fat consumption, which has dropped.  Fat dropped significantly after 1992 when the food pyramid was established, suggesting we increase our carbohydrate consumption.
  • Continue reading Fructose, Sugar, Poison and Obesity

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Ten Things About Being Fat

Joy Nash
Joy Nash of Fat Rant

As someone who has dealt with obesity since kindergarten, when they pulled me indoors from climbing trees all day, I have dealt with fat, diets and fat fallout all of my life.  I was on Metrecal shakes in the third grade, and at 16 my Italian doctor was shocked at the diet pills my US MD had prescribed since age 14.  Every kind of diet- low fat, low carb, low calorie, Weight Watchers, fad diets, macrobiotics, non diets,- lots of exercise, hypnosis, EFT, and positive imagery was tried.  I know all the supplements, the portion sizes, the caloric values, the allergens and the energetics of foods.  And like most fat people I have had the will power to lose weight many times over.  Continue reading Ten Things About Being Fat

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Our Symbionts, Ourselves

Only 10% of the cells in our bodies are human.  Ponder that.  We BodyPolitic_HPhave easily a hundred trillion bacterial cells, not just in our gut but all over our body.  They make us work:  breaking down food into something we can assimilate, fighting infection, signaling our cellular processes, converting sunlight to Vitamin D, forming biofilms to protect us.   We have fungi that break down wastes, yeasts that ferment and transform extra sugars, worms that can prevent autoimmune disease.  Some of our bacteria themselves have viruses.  We are walking colonies of organisms in a human superstructure. Continue reading Our Symbionts, Ourselves

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Erectile Dysfunction and Chinese Herbal Medicine

Erectile dysfunction can be discouraging for men at any stage of life.  Side effects  like Viagra headaches, interactions between ED drugs and statins or anti-arthritic drugs, and the potential blindness for those who suffer from macular degeneration or diabetes may mean that alternative strategies should be considered.

An article in the Shandong Journal of Chinese Medicine,  titled, “A Clinical Audit of 58 Patients with Erectile Dysfunction Treated with the Methods of Fortifying the Spleen & Supplementing the Kidneys,” showed that Chinese herbal medicine can be quite effective at improving erectile dysfunction from a variety of causes.worried_man28

Fifty-eight men from their 20s to 70s with ED lasting from 1 to over 5 years were given herbal formulas made of codonopsis, astragalus, dioscorea,  rhemannia, attractylodes, poria, eucommia, morinda, epimedium, goji fruit, praying mantis egg cases, scolopenda, actinolitum, cyperus tuber and cistanches.  Dianthus, patrinus and another dioscorea were added for those who also had prostatitis, for a 20 day course of treatment.  When evaluated, 46 out of 58 patients were judged cured, 10 improved, and two got no effect, for a total effectiveness rate of 96.5%.

According to Dr. Wang, ED is primarily due to weakness in the functions of the Kidney and Spleen meridians, which are not identical to the functions of the organs in western medicine.  Kidney meridian function is a major player in sexual activity, and can be inherently weak or exhausted by excessive use.  Stress can cause Spleen qi deficiency.  Further Spleen qi depends upon the warming of Kidney yang, and if the Kidney function is weak, it will fail to nourish the penis with qi and blood.  So the herbs were chosen to reinforce those functions of Chinese medicine, with the result that  most men responded favorably.

Issue #7, 2004 of the Shandong Journal of Chinese Medicine pp 415-416, Wang Wei-ping, “A Clinical Audit of 58 Patients with Erectile Dysfunction Treated with the Methods of Fortifying the Spleen & Supplementing the Kidneys.” Translated by Bob Flaws.

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Acupuncture Helps Digestive Problems in Pregnancy

Today I ran into a former patient who had suffered hyperemesis, vomiting during her entire pregnancy.  She lives far away but came in because she was desperate for relief.  She thanked me and introduced her new son.  It was a reminder of how much help acupuncture can be during pregnancy.

by Lief Parsons
by Lief Parsons

Acupuncture is safe during pregnancy providing that certain traditional points are avoided (unless there is a very good reason like stopping a miscarriage.)  Since Chinese medicine was so well documented over the years, it was possible to categorize points that would help or hurt a pregnancy and these points are well known by licensed acupuncturists.

Here is a good article from CBS news:

Acupuncture helps pregnancy symptom

Updated on 09 June 2009

Source PA News

Acupuncture can help relieve the symptoms of indigestion in pregnancy, new research suggests. Continue reading Acupuncture Helps Digestive Problems in Pregnancy

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Numen, an Extraordinary Film About The Plants

Numen is a film that previewed at the International Herbal Symposium this June. It features prominent herbalists, botanists and ethnobotanists like Rosemary Gladstar, Tierona LowDog, the late Bill Mitchell, Stephen Buhner, Phyllis Light, Ken Ausubel, James Duke and Rocio Alarcon, among others. Numen, defined as the animating force in nature, brings together innovative thinkers to discuss how our disconnection from nature affects human and environmental health and the healing made possible by embracing our place in the wider web of life.

You can view a 15 minute preview here:

Rosemary Gladstar

The 80 minute film features wonderful time lapse photography and will be an extraordinary DVD to show and replay. The DVD will include tutorials on growing and harvesting medicinal herbs, preparing kitchen medicine, and on the growing field of ecological medicine and should be available later this month from the site above.

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Vitamin D, Health and the Flu

Clients are often surprised at the high levels of Vitamin D3 that  I recommend: new research has shown that the 400 iu available in most vitamins is far too low and children today, indoors or covered with sunscreen, are getting rickets. If you were uncovered at noon in the equatorial regions where we evolved, you would get 25,000 iu of Vitamin D in a couple of hours. So unless you work out of doors in the South, don’t wear sunscreen and only wash with water (soap within 48 hours interferes with the body’s manufacture of Vitamin D), you aren’t getting enough from the sun.  (See my last post where people living in Hawaii exposed to the sun were not getting enough.)

And if you go to the Vitamin D Council website, you will see ample discussion of the new recommendations.  I personally take 10,000 iu daily, which is the minimum to raise your blood levels and a level that is reasonable to avoid toxicity Continue reading Vitamin D, Health and the Flu

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Sleep and Health

Summer brings more light and usually increased levels of activity.  You can indulge in more work or play.  But don’t let that extra daylight rob you of sleep.


Example of dark circles
Example of dark circles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Sleep is essential for your well being.  One study published in the journal Science found that the quality of our sleep has a greater influence on our ability to enjoy our day than our income or our marital status. Yet, we remain a sleep-deprived culture.


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Which Came First, the Egg or Omega 3 Egg?

Many people think that eggs should not be eaten, based on the erroneous assumption that they might cause cholesterol.  Your body makes its cholesterol- even vegans get high cholesterol- and reducing carbohydrates that stimulate insulin will actually lower cholesterol better than not eating eggs.  This is why I suggest wild salmon and omega 3 eggs.  Read what Susan Allport has to say about the difference in nutrition between eggs from chickens who range freely and conventional eggs:

Of Chickens, Eggs, and Omega-3s

Eggs were once a much more healthful food. And they can be again.
by Susan Allport originally published Monday, December 17, 2007

Which came first: the egg or the omega-3 enriched egg?Chicken and egg

The omega-3 enriched egg, of course, since all eggs used to be full of omega-3s when the chickens that laid them foraged for a living, scratching and pecking in backyards and farms.

Continue reading Which Came First, the Egg or Omega 3 Egg?

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