The Herbal Treatment of Pain

Red Opium Poppy
Red Opium Poppy

Pain is a huge topic.  Pain can come from trauma, pressure on nerves, from the wear and tear of osteoarthritis, inflammation due to allergens or pollutants that can set off autoimmune reactions, low Vitamin D status, expanding cartilage under weak bones (osteomalacia), retained placentas, stress, anxiety, PTSD, even viral causes.  So the first order of business is to get diagnosed, not only by a western MD but by an herbalist or doctor of Auyrveda or Chinese medicine who knows how do pattern diagnosis.  Pain specialists, both eastern and western may be better able to work with chronic pain than general practitioners.     Continue reading The Herbal Treatment of Pain

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Musings on the Treatment of Allergies

Top Seven Allergens

by Karen Vaughan, L.Ac. RH (AHG)

Allergies, especially food allergies and sensitivities are not well understood in any form of medicine. Western medicine distinguishes between allergies and sensitivities, with imunoglobulin E (IgE) being the hallmark of allergy and IgG being the hallmark of sensitivity. There may be Igs that we have not yet discovered. Either or both can cause virtually any symptom ranging from itchy skin, rashes, and minor pains to complex problems such as obesity, schizophrenia, depression, ADD/ADHD, arthritis and autoimmune disease. In fact even the RAST test and IgG tests have huge error rates, approaching 30%, with both false positives and false negatives. The only reliable way of identifying food allergens is elimination for a number of weeks and rechallenge.

Food intolerances,  Continue reading Musings on the Treatment of Allergies

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May Blog Party: Herbs for Sexual Health and Vitality

Sean Donahue

Greenman Sean Donahue, of Green Man Ramblings is host to the May Herbal Blog Party on Herbs for Sexual Health and Vitality. A number of prominent herbalists have written articles on various facets of sexuality and herbs, from improving function to contraception.  Here is his reblogged post with the links to the articles:

Saturday, May 15, 2010

May Blog Party: Herbs For Sexual Health and Vitality

How do you promote healthy, vital, joyful sexuality?     Continue reading May Blog Party: Herbs for Sexual Health and Vitality

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Herbs for Sex and Sexual Response

Avena Sativa, milky oats for sex problems due to adrenal exhaustion. From Matt Lavin at

Sexual response is not just about sexuality, it is about overall health.  When you aren’t functioning sexually, it is a sign of overall ill health.   Sexual response is complex and sexual dysfunction refers to a wide variety of conditions.  Because of this you should not go willy nilly into popping herbs, or for that matter Viagra.    The herbal treatment of sexual dysfunction depends on a good differential diagnosis.  So here are some  basic questions.

1.  First,  do you trust your partner?  Should you be having sex with them?  Are you in love?  Are you angry?  Is your communication not good?  Maybe you don’t want to be available to just anyone or with someone who does not value you.  If your body is refusing to become aroused, maybe it is trying to tell you something about your partner or the state of your relationship.  Address that first. Continue reading Herbs for Sex and Sexual Response

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Escape Reading for People Who Love Herbal Medicine

Herbalism consumes me. My idea of a vacation is to go wildcrafting in the woods or to explore the spice markets of exotic locales. Escape reading for me is luscious accounts of life enhanced by flavors and spices, biographies of curanderos, accounts of life in the jungle, the natural history of food. It doesn’t need to be fiction, an unusual locale, or a different way of life, as long as the herbs are there.  If you share the passion, try these books:

1. The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Initiated in the ways of turmeric, cinnamon, fenugreek and cloves, the spice mistress Continue reading Escape Reading for People Who Love Herbal Medicine

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Sleep and Learning: More sleep means less study needed

Napping is not only restful but it helps them learn

When I lived in Italy, we went to school until 12:30 then returned home for 2 hours for lunch and a nap.  Afterward we went back to study until 6:00.  At the time I was astounded at how much more Italian high school students learned compared to American students.  New research shows that the napping might have something to do with it.

A University of California, Berkeley study took 39 healthy adults and studied their ability to learn and memorize with or without naps. The participants who napped between learning sessions (for 90 minutes) improved their own scores by 10 percent while their non-napping counterparts saw scores dropping by 10 percent.            Continue reading Sleep and Learning: More sleep means less study needed

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Lowering Inflammation Naturally

A picture of CRP from 1B09.

One of the most plausible reasons to give statins, despite significant side effects like severe muscle pain (rhabdomyolysis), impotence , cognitive impairment, neuropathies and 9% increases in type 2 diabetes, is to lower inflammation.  Cholesterol, which is higher when the body is inflamed, is the body’s bandage for irritated arteries, preventing us from bleeding out if those arterial walls give way.  While cholesterol is correlated with heart disease, inflammation is the real culprit. Continue reading Lowering Inflammation Naturally

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Breastfeeding Protects Mothers From Diabetes

Breastfeeding an infant
Image via Wikipedia

It is known that having children increases the chances of women developing Type 2 diabetes in later life.  New research shows that breastfeeding can reduce this risk to the same level as that of women who have never had children.

Australian researchers studying 53,700 women over 45  found that  diabetes rates were similar for women with children and those who had remained childless. But among women with children, each year of breastfeeding was associated with a 14 percent reduction in diabetes risk.

Compared to childless women,  women who’d had children and never breastfed were 50 percent more likely to have Type 2 diabetes. However if mothers had breastfed each child for at least 3 months, the risk was not elevated.

Researchers analyzed a number of other factors that could affect a woman’s likelihood of  developing diabetes — including age, weight, family history of diabetes, reported exercise habits and education and income levels. When those issues were factored out, breastfeeding remained linked to the odds of having diabetes.     Continue reading Breastfeeding Protects Mothers From Diabetes

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Grapefruit seeds for urinary tract infections and diabetes

Grapefruit seed found sprouted in the fruit, used with permission

I am not a fan of grapefruit seed extract, because  as a natural antibiotic it is a scam, a drug basically.  But grapefruit seeds themselves do have antimicrobial effects and apparently, like many herbs, can reverse antibiotic resistance.     Continue reading Grapefruit seeds for urinary tract infections and diabetes

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April Herbal Blog Party

Cory at  Aquarian Baths is hosting the Spring Herbs blog posts this month.  Here is her post:
Spring is such a wonderful time of year for the herbalist and gardener. I am pleased to present an amazing collection of Spring Herbs blog posts this month. Make yourself a cup of herbal tea and settle in a while to read what others are doing with herbs this time of year. What are you doing with herbs? We would love to know, so leave us some comments. For more information on ongoing blog parties visit the Herbwifery Forum. Continue reading April Herbal Blog Party
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Springtime in an Urban Garden

Springtime in an urban garden is different than in a suburban or rural garden. For one thing you may not own your land.  Your plants may be growing in raised beds, in pots or in circumstances that would not be considered optimal.  Your coop board or condo association may prevent compost bins.  Your wildcrafting may be in city parks where you need to avoid areas of pesticide use.

For many  years I struggled with feeling that I couldn’t be an authentic herbalist living in the city.  I thought “real herbalists” should be living off of the land Continue reading Springtime in an Urban Garden

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Self Care Products to Avoid While Pregnant

Photography by ElvisHuang

If you are pregnant, you are probably being careful about the foods you eat.  But how about your deodorant, shampoo, hair gel or face creme?  Your skin absorbs chemicals through your pores, and those which affect your hormones, and those of your baby, known as endocrine disruptors, can be potent at parts per billion or even parts per trillion. Your exposure is higher than that.

You should avoid a number of products or types of products.  First, look at anything with “fragrance” as an ingredient, or at anything that foams, or at anything that might extract the plastic from the bottles.  In 2002, three-quarters of the 72 products tested by the Environmental Working Group contained phthalates, plasticizing chemicals linked to birth defects, obesity, feminizing infant boys, liver and kidney damage,  infertility and premature breast development in both boys and girls.  These include both brand name cosmetics Continue reading Self Care Products to Avoid While Pregnant

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Spring Mugwort

Young Spring Mugwort. Picture by Nick Tacket.

When, many years ago, I was walking through Prospect Park with my then toddler Francis, tasting the sprouting plants, he pointed out a lace-leafed plant with a lovely aroma.  We tasted it and agreed that, in judicious quantities, it was delicious and used it in our wild salads and omelets  along with chickweed, oxalis and wild onion.  But once it got over five inches the bitter taste was overpowering. This was our introduction to mugwort.
Continue reading Spring Mugwort

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Herbs to Avoid for Passover

Traditional arrangement of symbolic foods on a...
Image via Wikipedia

Non Jewish readers may be unaware that Jews clean out fermented grains called chametz from their houses before Passover so that only unleavened bread remains (like matzoh used for the Seder.)  Leavened or potentially leavened grains are given to charity or bundled up and sold to a non- Jew, usually  for a token sum which is used to repurchase the food after the holiday (provided the purchaser is trustworthy – since the food is in fact transferred.)  The definitions of grain vary with different rabbinical authorities  and may even include beans and seeds.  As you can imagine this is also an issue to an herbalist who keeps an inventory of herbs!

As a public service to my Jewish readers who are freeing their houses of chametz.  This list is restrictive- even including herbs processed in barley wine where none remains- since I have a number of Hasidic clients.  Of course there may be others I have missed- if so, please comment so I can update my information.  Consult with your rabbi about medicinally necessary herbs on the list.

But you still get your horseradish!

A few additional points from Z’ev Rosenberg.  1) Sepharadic Jews have no restrictions on kitniot for Passover, such as rice and beans, so these are fine for them in herbal products 2) Since Chinese herb formulas are medicine, and according to rabbis ‘anything a dog won’t eat’ as per chametz mixtures are fine. If necessary for health, any herb formula can be used. The restriction by certain Hasidim are chumrots/stringencies that not all Jews follow.

Continue reading Herbs to Avoid for Passover

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Why A Parasite Cleanse Can Make You Worse

Black Walnut Hulls

Spring is the time when people often indulge in a seasonal fast.  And since Americans are prone to heroic fasting, many will decide that they should indulge in a parasite cleanse.  Black walnut hulls, wormwood and cloves are traditional, often with a cayenne/fiber supplement.  And the Hulda Clark devotees may use an electric “zapper” to kill parasites.  There are a number of Chinese medicine antiparasite remedies.   But if you have allergies, autoimmune disease or simply a weak immune system, a parasite cleanse can make you worse.
Continue reading Why A Parasite Cleanse Can Make You Worse

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Grow Your Own Drugs

photo by Meggar
Oregon Grape-  Image via Wikipedia

It is almost Spring, depending on where you are in the country.  Time to start the annuals and to awaken the garden.  Even if your garden is primarily ornamental, you can include medicinal herbs, many of which are lovely.  And don’t forget to eat the weeds, once you know what they are and what is safe!          Continue reading Grow Your Own Drugs

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What is More Dangerous, Herbs or CT Scans?


Do you think  politicians or even the FDA could answer this question, posed by my friend Alan Tillotson?

Fact A :  Herbs, vitamins and nutritional supplements caused zero deaths in 2008 [in most years actually]

Fact B:  CT scans cause 30,000 new cancers and 14,500 deaths each year, with children being most at risk

Which of these answers is the correct political action to take?

A. We should crack down on the supplement industry

B. We should crack down on the CT scan industry

Continue reading What is More Dangerous, Herbs or CT Scans?

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How to Make Burn Cream

Zi gen Lithospermum

Burn cream, known as purple cloud ointment or shiunko in Japanese medicine is traditionally used under direct moxa where small “rice grain” cones are adhered to the body with the purple cream.  But it is also used for burns, skin rashes, psoriasis and eczema.
The major herb used in the burn cream is lithospermum, also known as gromwell or puccoon, or in pinyin Chinese as  Zi cao gen (purple herb root). Lithospermum is in the category of herbs that cool fire toxins, Continue reading How to Make Burn Cream

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February/March Herbal Blog Party: Emerging From Winter With Herbs

Kitty in Spring Snow by Peter Pateau

The herbal blog party for this month deals with herbs that help us emerge from Winter, making the transition into Spring.  For me the promise awakens when the angle of bright sunlight changes to hit my back window, where buildings have blocked it all winter.  The raised beds in the back may soon lose their snow so that the Jerusalem artichokes, anise hyssop and calamus can poke through.  Meanwhile my sister in Seattle is surrounded by a riot of hyacinths and Rosie in Houston frets that she won’t have time to harvest the cleavers before the hot temperatures wipe them out. Continue reading February/March Herbal Blog Party: Emerging From Winter With Herbs

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Stinging Nettles: Urtica dioica

“If they would drink nettles in March
and eat mugwort in May
fewer young ladies
would go to the grave”
– in John Murrell, A Garden of Herbs, 1621

Nettles are the quintessential herb for getting over winter in my book.  They push their way up in early spring, despite a dusting of snow.  The small ones are bright and vital and don’t have quite the sting to them. But their roots mine the soil for minerals, often Continue reading Nettles!

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