Two months ago I made a chai tea redolent with cloves, but without milk or sugar. I put it in my water bottle to drink during the day, but it was pushed behind other bottles and I forgot about it. Two weeks later there was not one spec of mold floating in the liquid and a quick smell and taste of a few drops revealed no souring. I was curious and put it back. Two months after making it shows no growth of organisms or off taste or odor. Which got me thinking about the Spice Route.
In the ancient time, refrigeration was unavailable, especially in cities where cellars and ice were generally unavailable. Spices were important not only for food preservation, but to fortify the digestion and to cure food poisoning. In Europe where there was little tradition of fermenting meat, spices or smoking (often with spices or aromatic wood) were the primary way of dealing with meat that might not be fresh. Cloves were one of the most important. Continue reading Cloves for Preservation and to Lift the Spirit→
Turmeric honey is one of my favorite ways to give turmeric. Turmeric is an adaptogen, a nontoxic herb that regulates the immune and endocrine systems. It also is antiseptic, is hepatoprotective, invigorates the blood, and helps prevent or treat infection. Regarded as a panacea in Ayurveda, turmeric is widely used in food, medicine and skin care. Indian curries, Persian dishes like masak lemak, Thai and Indonesian dishes like rendang use curry to color and impart flavor. In skin care, its golden color and medicinal properties enhance dark skin. (I have had people react in alarm when a turmeric foot soak turned my pale legs yellow!) It is used ceremonially throughout South Asia, including Bengali weddings where it adorns the married couple or Pujas where the powder is moistened and formed into an image of Ganesha. Rich in pigments it is used for dyes and to color food. It is one of my favorite herbs. Continue reading How to Make Turmeric Honey For Inflammation→
The traditional story is that during the Black Plague, a group of men were going into houses where people had died, stealing their goods. The authorities figured that they would soon be infected and die, so did not pursue them until it became clear that they were resistant to the disease. And then the motivation was to find what protected them. Finally the thieves were apprehended and one confessed that his mother, a midwife, had provided them with a protective vinegar that they drank and washed with after handling the cadavers. And in exchange for freedom, shared the recipe. Continue reading How to Make Thieve’s Vinegar To Protect from Respiratory Infections→
In an article on electronic fetal heart rate monitoring (EFM) Traditional Healers, External Fetal Monitoring, and the NICHD, Academic OB/GYN wrote:
Continuous fetal heart rate monitoring is at its core an almost laughable idea. We are checking a single vital sign and using that vital sign to extrapolate a host of ideas and meanings. OBs that have read strips for years can make some sense of them, but would we give so much meaning to any other single vital sign? Would we do it with an adult? Of course not, but there are people who do. In fact, there are entire countries where this is a major methodology for determining the etiology of illnesses.
But the people doing this are not physicians – they are the healers of various cultures. Throughout the world there are practitioners who claim to divinate illness through feeling a person’s pulse for several minutes. This is particularly prominent in Asia. They describe using the rate, strength, and character of the pulse to make all manner of determinations. This practice is fairly laughable to physicians, as it seems crazy to get so much meaning from feeling someone’s pulse.
But is this so much different than EFM? In fact its quite similar….
New York City doesn’t usually have tornadoes or hurricanes, although we are in the path of such storms. The city heat produces a high pressure bubble that usually pushes storms away. Well most of the time. A freak storm toppled 500 trees in Central Park last August and a tornado dipped into a coastal neighborhood in Brooklyn in April. Last Thursday we had two small tornadoes which cut through Brooklyn and Queens in a period of about 20 minutes, with winds up to 80 miles an hour and “microbursts” of 125 mph. One person was killed and a few others injured. When it finished 3000 dead street trees lay in its wake, with the branches of untold others ripped from their trunks.
New York City has, or had until Thursday, about 5 million trees including 650,000 street trees. When I came here as a teen, raised on West Coast horror stories of the city, I was stunned at how green New York City was, especially compared to San Francisco which was relatively bereft of trees at the time. There are oaks of various kinds, London plane trees, maples, beeches, mulberry trees, Callery pears, lindens, ginkgos, blight-resistant elms, birches, liquidambars, osage oranges, sycamores, horse chestnuts, sumacs, catalpas, alianthus trees, magnolias, weeping cherries, various pines and hundreds of other species. My neighborhood has trees that range from a seedlings to 150 years old with much older trees in Prospect Park’s secondary forest where at least 100 trees were killed. But the average life of a street tree is only seven years, making the grandfather trees true treasures. Continue reading Thoughts on the Loss of Trees→
Hal Herzog is fascinated with our moral relationships with animals, the contradictions we feel and the ethical problems when we avoid contradictions. A dog, he points out, is a member of the household in the United States, vermin in India, and food in Korea. We humans tend not to eat animals we either adore or despise. As Koreans and Chinese have started keeping pets, they have become more ambivalent about eating dog meat and relegate certain species to the dog trade. The Oglala Indians eat dogs and keep them as pets, but pets are chosen at birth and only pets are named. This is a tactic that many farming families use for animals that could be pets or food.
Herzog is an anthrozoologist who studies the interactions between humans and animals. He is also possessed with a quick eye for absurdity and a broad range of interests. In this book he has visited industrial farms and Appalachian cock fights, dogmeat markets, dolphin treatment centers, loggerhead turtle nest- protection runs,animal research laboratories, and rescue refuges for injured animals. Even his family pets come up Continue reading Book Review: Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat→
A two year, $4 million studyof 307 people, purporting to compare low carb to low fat diets has been completed, apparently showing similar weight loss after two years, but improved blood lipids for people who followed the low carbohydrate diet. They tell us study results show it doesn’t matter which way we diet. But the study has several problems:
The low carb diet went for 12 weeks, after which people were encouraged to add 5 grams of carbohydrates daily for a week, increasing carbohydrates until their weight stabilized.
One of the greatest contributors to human understanding of vitamin D, researcher Dr. Frank C. Garland, passed away on Tuesday, August 17 at UCSD Thornton Hospital after a nearly year-long illness. He was 60 years old. Science, and the rest of us, have lost a great researcher.
There are many ways herbs can help a couple deal with fertility. A simple red clover infusion can kick off a pregnancy for many women. Herbalists can make specific formulas for the five parts of the menstrual cycle identified by Chinese medicine or more simply incorporate menstrual charting with formulas, using herbs to tonify the yin or yang phases of the menstrual cycle as needed. One may even managed to open a blocked fallopian tube with a phlegm stasis formula. Or reduce insulin resistance in PCOS. Or improve sperm quality and motility in the male partner. Or use flower essences with a frightened first time mother. We can even use plants to deal with the residues of sexual abuse so that a prospective mother can embrace her fertility.
Many women respond to single herbs or single formulas in their quest to get pregnant. A strong overnight infusion of red clover, or red clover mixed with nettles and oatstraw has pushed many women over the brink from infertility to fertility. This seems to work best when a little extra nourishment is needed in an otherwise healthy woman. But hormones are complex, and the reasons why they may be out of balance are varied.
Vitamin D levels are very important to your personal health as well as that of your baby. I have previously written about how Vitamin D reduces pre-eclampsia, or toxemia of pregnancy. Vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy and infancy prevents childhood Type 1 diabetes. And low levels of Vitamin D during pregnancy and lactation have caused preclinical rickets which have caused African American women whose skin absorption is lower, to lose custody of children on charges of suspected child abuse.
A South Carolina study of pregnancy complications and Vitamin D found:
The 400 iu level of Vitamin D in a prenatal vitamin was inconsequential
4000 iu of Vitamin D reduced bad pregnancy outcomes by half compared to 400 iu.
4000 iu of Vitamin D is safe in pregnancy
Virtually all African American women in sunny SC had serious deficiencies of Vitamin D
30% of all pregnant women in the study were severely deficient
A recent study purports to show that acupuncture does not induce labor. What it actually showed was that mild stimulation of a specific set of points did not affect the onset of labor in 125 women who were characterized as “past due,” at 41 weeks. The points chosen were the same for all women, half of which got acupuncture with needles and the other half had stimulation of the same points with a blunt needle, described as “fake acupuncture.” There was little appreciable difference between the two groups, although the acupuncture group which was slightly older ended up with slightly earlier labor and slightly lower birthweights. The headlines proclaimed, “Study: Acupuncture Doesn’t Help Induce Labor.” Continue reading Is Acupuncture Useful for Labor Induction?→
Women who eat at least one portion of high-fat dairy food per day have more productive ovulation, by 27% than women who eat low-fat dairy. Women who eat 2 servings or more of low fat dairy have 85% more ovulation-related infertility. Is it the dairy, the fat, or a combination?
”The risk of anovulatory infertility was found to be 27 percent lower in women who ate at least one portion of high-fat dairy food per day compared with women who had one high-fat serving of dairy per week, or even less. Women who ate two or more portions of lowfat dairy foods a day increased their risk of ovulation related infertility by 85 percent.” Human Reproduction 2007;doi:10.1093/humrep/dem019.
We live in a world where low fat is treated as the holy grail of health, yet we forget that fats and fats alone contain certain essential nutrients, including those used to form hormones used in reproduction. The fat from pasture-raised cows contain has as much as five times the CLA (a fatty acid which is a potent anti-cancer agent, muscle builder, and immunity booster) as fat from grain-fed cows. The Omega 3 essential fatty acids are found in similar proportions to deep sea fish. Grass-fed milk contains rumenic acid (a CLA), DHA, vaccenic acid,branched chain fatty acids, butyric acid, lecithin, cysteine-rich wheyproteins, calcium, iodine and vitamin D all of which have value from reducing cancer to increasing fertility. Continue reading Full Fat Dairy Helps Ovulation in the Infertile→
It is well known that insulin resistance is the basis of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) which is a major cause of infertility, but insulin resistance affects other infertility conditions as well.
Many infertility doctors are aware of this. I had one, non PCOS, client whose fertility doctor prescribed Metformin, a diabetes drug that improves insulin sensitivity, but failed to suggest to her that she had blood sugar problems (at a stage in her life where she might be able to make changes to avoid diabetes.) Doctors routinely suggest weight loss for infertility which is also known to correct insulin resistance.
The symptoms of low vitamin D levels are subtle and difficult to distinguish, given that receptors are found in most organ systems in the body and affect genetic transcription in cells. For chronic pain the Mayo clinic suggests that Vitamin D deficiency is the first thing that should be considered. Vitamin D deficiency contributes to depression, osteoporosis, osteopenia, osteomalacia, rickets, periodontal disease, seasonal affective disorder, increased susceptibility to colds and flu, colon cancer, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, malignant melanoma, Continue reading What is the Right Vitamin D Level?→
Sun has been rehabilitated. It isn’t the great killer you thought it was. In fact, despite 40 years of contrary messages from the dermatological society, it helps protect you from cancer. And more important, sunlight is the main way we humans get Vitamin D, the lifesaving hormone that is used to prevent cancer, heart disease, MS, diabetes, fibromyalgia, osteomalacia and rickets.
When summer comes around I turn to the cooling bitter or astringent drinks, served slightly below room temperature or at most refrigerated. I don’t really like to use ice because it can ruin your digestion but cold feels awfully good. The bitter flavor is also cooling. Sour or astringent flavors help reduce water loss, so I like an infused vinegar in water at times as well as lemon or lime water.
And while warm beverages don’t often come to mind, hot tea is often consumed all day long in China or the Mideast. Think of it as homeopathy- like cures like. Or just as a way of reducing the difference between your body and the environment so adjustment isn’t such a shock.
One word about caffeinated beverages. You aren’t eating dry leaves or beans, you are drinking a water-based beverage flavored with the leaves or beans. The research shows you don’t lose more water than you take in, but you do lose it sooner, so tissues don’t hydrate as well. Rule of thumb: you lose 25% of the fluid value from coffee compared to water, and Continue reading Cooling Summer Herbal Beverages→
The New York Times just published an article indicating that pickle juice (made of salt, vinegar and spices) was helpful at relieving muscle cramps. In a very small trial, 10 men exercised until dehydrated then were electrically stimulated until they cramped, and were given either pickle juice or water. Pickle juice relieved cramps significantly compared to distilled water. The trainers thought that the pickle juice replaced fluids and electrolytes lost during exercise. The researchers thought it was the vinegar. And many of the readers commented that vinegar alone had relieved cramps for them. (One even thought the vinegar in mustard did the same.) Which got me musing about the value of vinegar, and even acids in general. Continue reading Vinegar, Muscle Cramps, Blood Sugar and Acids→