DEFENDING HERBALISM, OR NOT
At one point in my herbalist journey I refused to read or listen to anything which criticized my path. Those jerks! What is their problem? Herbs are great! Haven’t they read my blog?!?!?! And then I sought these people out, just to get mysef.
My love of herbal medicines was fragile, like a precious bit of fine China, something I needed to protect and guard. And I felt like I needed to defend my right to use herbs and to make my own health choices, and I was interested in being right.
I would pick out the one point that they got wrong, while ignoring the parts which may have taught me something. Why can’t everyone see my way?!?! How can they possibly not GET this!?!?
But now, I don’t give a rat’s ass.
I have moved through the idea that other people need to believe what I believe. (Mostly.) I actively seek out people who don’t use herbs, and I am interested in why some people dislike them, make other choices or can’t access them.
I have tried things. like actually tried, not just read about them in a book or a magazine.
I have seen examples where herbs and other “alternative” healthcare have not worked, are not the best choice, or are promoted in actively manipulative, confusing or even potentially harmful ways.
And ultimately, I feel less threatened by others who want to prove me wrong. Go ahead. In fact, it would be helpful. I will read your critiques now, and sometimes they are right, sometimes wrong, sometimes both. I feel more confident in my use of plant medicines and my connection with plants, as well as my movement and nutrition choices, but I am always willing to learn more, to dig deeper, to ask questions, even of myself.
And I can see the humor in our humanity, the way we divide ourselves, the way we all form our groups and our paradigms and our dogmas and stick onto them like medicinal leeches. I am this and you are that. It is freeing to unstick myself from the sweaty leg of any one side, any one path.
And as I get older I have more of a grasp of what it means for a person and an idea to mature. I do love the new, fresh, youthful rage-against-the-system energy that innovates and wears hot pink and turns it up and boinks everything that moves, and must yell THIS WORKS in all caps on every herbal forum. Juicy, but fragile. Now I am falling in love with this more mature phase that brushes off others’ hyperbole and panic, lets my actions speak for themselves and commits to just keep walking, outlasting the haters. Well, tries to.
I still want to debate people who disagree with me, respectfully, and I still want to share my love and joy around plant medicines. And, OK, I occasionally still craft long silly arguments in my head. But I am not afraid of the other opinions and approaches anymore. And there are many sides, not just 2, not just for vs against, not just pro vs anti, not just woo vs science, not just tin foil hats vs Big Pharma conspiracies. Maybe, sometimes, they have a point. Or maybe they are reactionary douchebags. Maybe they are just lonely or disconnected, and maybe we can be friends.
As many of you know I had a stem cell implant in January at StemGenex in La Jolla California. I had been somewhat discouraged by the effect on my Parkinson’s disease but two different people in the past week have spontaneously remarked that my tremors have reduced. The tremors have spread to the other side, but are less intense. So it may well be that I am not the best judge- I only pay attention when the tremors are active.
I want to say right off that even if I’d had no effects whatsoever from the stem cell implant that valuable information would be derived from the study. We need to learn who responds and who does not. There are considerations of the effects on insulin resistance and gut bacteria, as well as vagus nerve stimulation that affect the success of stem cell implants. We need more experimentation on how and where to administer the cells and what activities will impact their proliferation. (Too bad for nonresponding participants who pay out of pocket but good for science.)
It is true that I haven’t had the dramatic changes that I expected. And I might have done better with stem cells taken from the cord blood of a newborn rather than my own adipose (fat) cells. When you are fat, the fat cells can be hypoxic and less vital. One doctor I spoke with in Mexico said he prefers cord blood because the stem cells are more active, even if there are considerably fewer of them. If you are heavy and are considering stem cell implants you might consider using cord blood. Cord blood is not available in the US, but there are reputable firms outside of the country.
Do I think losing weight prior to a stem cell implant might have helped? Only with a few years lead time and lots of detoxification. The problem is that fat stores toxins to protect the body from the harm they can cause. I have tested high for lead, strontium, DDE and other endocrine-disrupting compounds. Weight loss can dump toxins into the blood stream and tissues as fat cells are broken down or deflated, which is why I have gotten sick every single time I lost weight, even slowly. I did a course of herbal detox and DMPS, EDTA, and Olestra (1) chelation prior to the stem cell implant to reduce toxins but stopped a month before the implant to let my body normalize. Chelation cannot be done after the implant until the cells have finished multiplying.
A friend tells me that our neighbor is still experiencing improvements 2 years after his stem cell implant – and it took a while to build up. He saw the greatest improvement after he started getting deep massage and using a vibration platform late in the first year. So there is still hope. It has been only 6 months. One woman with MS who was going through the implant with me for the third time said that the first time there was no change until 6 months and suddenly she was able to raise her legs two feet instead of two inches. Pazienza, Karen!
I was advised by a colleague with Parkinson’s to get a vibration platform to increase the stem cell activation and to reduce Parkinson’s symptoms. I used one last week while visiting my parents and it definitely activates qi and blood, affecting not only circulation but eliciting a strong stretch-reflex contraction in muscle fibers. It is a very efficient anaerobic form of resistance training and they claim that 10 minutes of platform exercise is like 60 minutes of regular exercise. Vibration platforms for the home run between $200- $6000. While the pure platforms without handholds look like they give a stronger vibration and certainly fit better in a NYC apartment, the design looks risky for someone with Parkinson’s. The $250 Confidence Fitness machine has over 700 five star reviews on Amazon. I am saving up for it now.
Ronald J. Jandacek, James E. Heubi, Donna D. Buckley, Jane C. Khoury, Wayman E. Turner, Andreas Sjödin, James R. Olson, Christie Shelton, Kim Helms, Tina D. Bailey, Shirley Carter, Patrick Tso, Marian Pavuk.Reduction of the body burden of PCBs and DDE by dietary intervention in a randomized trial. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 2014; 25 (4): 483 DOI: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2014.01.002
‘In Chinese medicine there are hundreds of traditional formulas that belong to the commons. If you buy Liu wei di huang wan (Rhemannia 6) or Bu zhong yi qi tang (Tonify the Middle and Augment the Qi Decoction) you will find essentially the same formula made by a wide variety of manufacturers under the same name. They may have minor variations but are essentially the same in function and content.Many of the recipes and their names derive from famous doctors like Zhang Zhongjing who wrote the Shan Han Lun or Sun Si Miao. The names of the formulas neither are nor can be trademarked by a single company. The Bensky formulas book contains over 500 traditional formulas. Continue reading Herbal Formulas in Common Use→
Constipation refers to bowel movements that either occur less often than expected or with a stool that is hard, dry and difficult to pass. (Types 1-3 on the Bristol Stool Chart, below.) A healthy adult should pass one to two stools a day, although some otherwise healthy adults pass a stool every other day. There are a number of reasons one might not pass feces, including diet, fluid intake, medications, stress, anal pain from hemorrhoids or fissures, lack of probiotic gut bacteria, laxative abuse, specific diseases, such as stroke, diabetes, thyroid disease and Parkinson’s, change in circardian rhythm (due to irregular sleeping while traveling) and a poor posture while eliminating Continue reading Dealing with Constipation→
Anyone who consults with me knows that I always suggest taking herbs in a way that allows you to taste them. That means that I usually use teas, tinctures, syrups, herbal jams like chayawanprash or turmeric honey, pickled herbs, overnight infusions, herbal decoctions or powdered herbal extracts that are added to water. The only time I really approve of using capsules is when giving the severely bitter anti-parasite herbs (usually a long term proposition and the bitterness is for the parasite) or when a person is so debilitated that they will miss dosages unless they have pills to tide them over until they can brew up their herbs. In that case Continue reading Why you should taste your herbs→
Nutrition for Parkinson’s Disease has four components: What to Eat, What Not to Eat, Useful supplements and How to Eat, given symptoms of the disease. This will be a four piece series. Some of it is basic: the foods and superfoods that enrich the diet. Some is specific to the typical complaints from either the disease, the medications and the often restrictive lifestyles that PD patients often adopt. And the how-to acknowledges that the disease creates some physical problems that adaptive devices might help.
Dr. Stephanie Senef, a MIT research scientist recently spoke out against Vitamin D supplementation at a Weston A Price Wise Traditions conference, saying that supplements are “a waste of money.” I believe she is wrong about supplementation although correct about the sun being a superior source for those lucky enough to live in the right conditions.
Senef believes that the beneficial products of sun exposure occur before you manufacture Vitamin D. When you expose your skin to sunshine, your skin synthesizes vitamin D3 sulfate. This form of vitamin D is water soluble, unlike oral oil-form vitamin D3 supplements, which are unsulfated. The water soluble pre-vitamin can travel freely in your blood stream, whereas the unsulfated supplement needs LDL ( so-called “bad” cholesterol) as a vehicle of transport. Dr. Seneff says:
“The sulfated form of vitamin D does not work for calcium transport, which I find very intriguing. And in fact, I think it’s the sulfated form for vitamin D that offers the protection from cancer. It strengthens your immune system. It protects you from cardiovascular disease. It’s good for your brain. It helps depression. I think all of those effects of vitamin D are effects of vitamin D sulfate.”
There are several problems with this. First, the research on Vitamin D status and cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression and other diseases was not performed only on people with sun-induced Vitamin D levels and it is likely that the relatively high levels of 25(OH)D in their blood would not come from sun alone unless they lived in climates south of the US (and most were done here.) For instance, in a recent study that I will describe below (video reference at end), pregnant women living in Charleston, SC where the sun shines strongly 325 days a year and the latitude favors the rays of sun that make Vitamin D, were overwhelmingly deficient or insufficient in their Vitamin D levels before supplementation. Another study on lifeguards in Hawaii found that many had suboptimal blood levels. Between sunscreen or blocking mineral particles in most skin products and cultural practices of showering frequently, we tend not to manufacture much Vitamin D. So to get relatively high levels shown in the chart below and at this link, It is likely that subjects used supplementation although only the resultant blood levels of 25(OH)D were canvassed.
Note that only rickets is prevented with low blood levels of Vitamin D
In a recent study at the University of South Carolina medical school, expectant mothers, especially African American mothers, tested as insufficient to deficient in Vitamin D. At the start of the study, deficient or insufficient levels of vitamin D were seen in 94% of the African-American women, 66% of Hispanic women, and 50% of white women who participated.. A select group was prescribed 4000 iu daily of Vitamin D3 in their second and third trimester and that group had 50% fewer adverse events such as to develop gestational diabetes, pregnancy-related high blood pressure, or preeclampsia than those taking 400 iu. They also had fewer preterm births. It benefited both the mother and baby and researcher Dr. Carol Wagner felt that in the future higher amounts would test as even better, seeing no problem with 10,000 iu. In a Norwegian study published in Epidemiology, pregnant women who took vitamin D supplements of 600-800 iu had 27 % lower rates of potentially fatal per-eclampsia. Doesn’t sound like a waste of money to me!
Reinhold Veith studied research on Vitamin D from the sun and supplementation. He found that supplementation in adults below 10,000 iu daily had a pretty flat effect on 25HydroxyD (blood Vitamin D) levels but that higher levels brought D up to levels found by ultraviolet light from the sun or fixtures. He did find that Vitamin D2 supplementation was less effective at raising blood levels of 25OHD than Vitamin D3, although some researchers dispute this.
I will be the first to say that supplementation alone is not the best way to get Vitamin D. According to researcher Michael Holick, this is difficult: to get it from the sun during late fall to early Spring, you must live south of Atlanta, go out without sunscreen between 11am and 1 pm and not wash it off for 3 days since bacteria on the surface of the skin synthesize it and can be washed off, even with plain water. If your skin is dark, you may need 6 times as much sunlight. How many people can do this? Sunshine produces more than Vitamin D and Holick believes it is likely that breakdown products from UV and excess Vitamin D that are missing from supplements are useful to the body. But that is a far cry from calling supplementation useless or a scam.
There are two forms of supplementation: oil and dry based Vitamin D3. I prescribe dry Vitamin D to clients without gallbladders and the concentrated Biotech dry form to people who need to build up stores rapidly. Neither form is sulfated, although we do not have evidence that they cannot become sulfated in the human body or in our flora. Perhaps Dr. Senef’s theory indicates that dry Vitamin D supplements would be better than oil based forms. However I see clinical results from oil based forms as well. Cod Liver Oil, proposed by the Weston A. Price Foundation is an oil-based form of Vitamin D.
There is no good evidence that all of our vitamin D should come from Cod Liver oil, although I personally believe some of it should. To get 10,000 iu via cod liver oil would incur toxic levels of Vitamin A. Some Vitamin A is probably needed although there is conflicting research on it- given that research is unclear, I stand behind traditional practices. Carlson’s cod liver oil is closest to the traditional A:D ratio in a commercial oil. Fermented cod liver oil is possibly superior, but there is no real research and I was unable to get data from the manufacturer Blue Ice, even on the relative levels of Vitamins A and D. I would have no hesitation to use it for my Omega 3 supplement, adding Vitamin D3 at levels of 10,000 iu, depending upon blood test results.
We have moved far from our equatorial origins and dress ourselves in clothing that usually covers all but 5% of our bodies. Most of us work indoors and are not suntanning at noon, and we shower frequently, washing away the skin bacteria that make the sulfated Vitamin D. Most facial make-up and skin lotions provide a level of sun blockage even if direct sunscreens are not added. While doctors used to think that such exposure was sufficient, that was based upon prevention of rickets, which as the chart show requires ridiculously little Vitamin D, and not the other conditions like cancer or heart disease that require higher blood levels. We know that Vitamin D is a natural hormone necessary for a broad variety of biological activities. While getting what sun we can is important, we should not let the optimal be the enemy of the good.
As a little girl I loved it when my parents would rub Vick’s Vapor Rub into my chest. Eventhough my father claimed it was just a placebo, I still insisted he rub it over my congested chest. I knew it worked, long before the advent of nicotine patches which blasted away the idea that topical medications were ineffective.
Later I graduated to Tiger Balm, especially the red version, redolent of cinnamon and resinous infused oils. This worked not only on my chest, but also soothed sore muscles. I also played with the oil versions of Tiger Balm and Po Sum On oil. And while I prefer the absorption of oils for most muscle pain, there is much to be said for a salve that continuously leaks essential oils through the skin. The salve is also less likely to spill and easier to travel with.
The commercial Tiger Balm is made with petroleum jelly and paraffin wax to which essential oils are added. Different formulations of Tiger Balm have the following essential oils:
Red – Extra Strength
White – Regular Strength
18 gram glass jar
18 gram glass jar
28 mL glass bottle
Clove Bud Oil
I have formulated a salve that lacks the petroleum jelly of commercial salves and can be customized with essential oils for a variety of uses. I use coconut oil as a base for its many healing effects and pleasant odor, hardened with beeswax.
To make your salve you will need a stainless steel pan, a wooden spoon, and some containers. I like to use 2 oz or 4 oz tins or old body butter containers. Determine how many ounces your containers can take, and adjust the weight of the coconut oil and beeswax accordingly, preserving the proportions. For instance for three 2 oz containers (6 ounces) you will use 4 ounces of coconut oil and 2 ounces of beeswax.
I use a good virgin coconut oil from the health food store and organic beeswax. While the beeswax may come in bars, it is easier to melt a shaved or pelleted version.
2 parts coconut oil
1 part beeswax
Essential oil of white camphor: 5 drops/ounce
Essential oil of peppermint: 5 drops/ounce
Essential oil of eucalyptus or lemon eucalyptus: 8 drops/ounce
Essential oil of cinnamon: 3 drops/ounce
Melt the beeswax and coconut oil over low heat in a stainless steel pan. Do not burn the oil. When melted, remove from heat, cool a bit and mix in the essential oils. The essential oils are volatile and you don’t want to lose them. Put the container in the refrigerator and it should harden in 15 minutes. If too soft, remelt and add a little more beeswax. If too hard (and keep in mind that coconut oil will liquify at 76 degrees) add a little more coconut oil. If you remelt you may lose some of the punch of the essential oils, so you may need to add more.
Choose essential oils that are good for the condition you are treating. For instance, if you have a child with asthma, you may elect to use an anti-inflammatory oil like German chamomile along with eucalyptus, clove, mint and camphor. If you have arthritis that gets worse with cold, you may elect to warm it up with more cinnamon and frankincense. If you have dry skin with an angry hot rash, you may want to add peppermint, German chamomile and calendula. Other essential oils that can be useful include tea tree, myrrh, rosemary and thyme. You can also substitute infused oils like St. Johnswort, calendula, arnica or poplar bud for a third of the coconut oil. Don’t be afraid to play with it to suit your family’s needs!
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.
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.
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→