Tag Archives: Karen Vaughan

DIY Elderberry Syrup for Winter Health

Black elderberries (Sambucus nigra) are high in  Vitamins A and C. folate, iron and flavonoids, notably anthocyanins which are found in red and purple berries.  Their antioxidant capacity  is double that of blueberries and significantly higher than in blackberries, goji berries or cranberries.

Ripe elderberries (Sambucus) in Rochester, Min...
Ripe elderberries (Sambucus) in Rochester, Minnesota (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They have a proven track record of strengthening the immune system and getting rid of colds and the flu.  Sambucol is a favored brand, but runs $16 for a 120 ml bottle.  You can make your own black elderberry syrup from raw or dried elderberries.

Dried elderberries can be obtained online from reliable vendors like Starwest Botanicals, Mountain Rose Herbs or the Frontier Natural Foods Coop.  Black elderberry grows over a broad range in North America and other temperate regions of the world.  If you harvest your own, avoid the shrubby dwarf elder (Sambucus ebulus) which can be toxic.  Berries start green, turning red, then black when ripe.  Don’t eat the berries raw.   Always avoid unripe berries,  as well as the leaves, seeds, and bark, which contain a chemical related to cyanide, which is poisonous. The flower is medicinal and 1/4 cup could be added to the syrup recipe below.

Black elderberries can be taken preventatively as well as when sick. You take about half the medicinal dose to prevent illness.  Elderberry may help treat cold and flu symptoms by reducing congestion and possibly helping you to “sweat it out.  One study suggested that using a standardized and proprietary elderberry extract, Sambucol, could shorten the duration of flu by about 3 days. Another study on sinusitus showed that a proprietary elderberry  extract increased the ability of antibiotics when used for sinusitus.  Black elderberry has been tested as effective against swine flue (H1N1) in vitro but human studies have not yet been done.

Making your own elderberry extract is easy and less expensive.  I like to use either a local honey or one with a high phenol content like manuka or eucalyptus honey. Since heating, which strengthens the flavonoids can reduce the Vitamin C content, you may add a powder of a full spectrum Vitamin C, or dried amla or acerola.

What You Need:
  • 3/4 cup dried black elderberries
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh or 1 Tablespoon dried ginger root
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • ½ freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup raw local, eucalyptus or manuka honey
  • optional: 2 Tablespoons Vitamin C, amla or acerola cherry powder
  • mason jar or bottle
  • coffee grinder, spice grinder or mortar and pestle
  • coarse strainer or jelly strainer
  1. Grind the cinnamon, cloves and peppercorns in a coffee or spice grinder
  2. Put all the ingredients except the honey in a medium saucepan with about 4 cups of water
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low and let simmer for about 45 minutes. After 45 minutes it should have reduced to about half.  This makes the flavonoids more bioavailable
  4. Remove from heat, and gently mash the black elderberries
  5. Cook for another 5 minutes
  6. Strain through a coarse strainer
  7. Let the mixture cool
  8. Once it is fully cool, add the honey and stir well
  9. If you like, add 2 tablespoons of Vitamin C, amla or acerola cherry powder
  10. Pour into a jar or bottle

Keep your freshly made elderberry syrup in the refrigerator and take as needed. You can take a preventative dose of 1-2 tablespoons daily.  When sick, you will probably want to use one dose of 2-3 tablespoons every 2-3 hours for adults and 1-2 tablespoons for children .

There are no known side effects to black elder but theoretical concerns exist for people taking diuretics, insulin, theophylline, autoimmune drugs or laxatives.  It has not been studied for use in pregnancy.



Kong F. Pilot clinical study on a proprietary elderberry extract: efficacy in addressing influenza symptoms. Online Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacokinetics. 2009;5:32-43.

Mikulic-Petkovsek M, Slatnar A, Stampar F, Veberic R. HPLC-MSn identification and quantification of flavanol glycosides in 28 wild and cultivated berry species. Food Chem. 2012;135(4):2138-46.

+Roschek B, Fink RC, McMichael MD, et al. Elderberry flavonoids bind to and prevent H1N1 infection in vitro. Phytochemistry. 2009;70:1255-61.

Roxas M, Jurenka J. Colds and influenza: a review of diagnosis and conventional, botanical, and nutritional considerations. Altern Med Rev. 2007 Mar;12(1):25-48.

Ulbricht C, Basch E, Cheung L, et al. An evidence-based systematic review of elderberry and elderflower(Sambucus nigra) by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration. J Diet Suppl. 2014;11(1):80-120

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What is a “bitter herb”?

Dandelion leaf, by Greg Hume
Dandelion leaf, by Greg Hume
As an herbalist for whom tastes of herbs -sweet, sour, salty, spicy (pungent), astringent and bland- imply specific medicinal actions. Bitterness is something that is often confusing because there is a genetic component to the ability to taste – according to 21 and Me I belong to a snip where 80% cannot genetically taste bitterness. (I am in the 20% that can.) The most often confused tastes are sour or pungent. I cannot attribute a pungent herb like horseradish or a sour taste like lemon as “bitter”.  Bitter covers tastes like black coffee, radicchio, karela (bitter melon), dandelion greens, black walnut hulls, gentian, angelica or artichoke leaves. There is often a slightly sweet aftertaste to bitterness.


Dictionary.com defines bitter (adjective) as:

1.  having a harsh, disagreeably acrid taste, like that of aspirin, quinine, wormwood, or aloes.gentiana_macrophylla_fetissowii

2. producing one of the four basic taste sensations; not sour, sweet, or salt.

3. hard to bear; grievous; distressful: a bitter sorrow.
4. causing pain; piercing; stinging: a bitter chill.
5. characterized by intense antagonism or hostility:  bitter hatred.
6. hard to admit or accept:  a bitter lesson.
7. resentful or cynical: bitter words.
In herbal medicine the largest category of herbs tends to be bitters, which are  anti-infective, anti-inflammatory, digestive causing bile to flow and often antiparasite.  Herbalist David Winston categorizes bitter herbs as cooling bitters, warming bitters and antiparasite aromatic bitters which are intensely bitter.
In Chinese medicine bitter herbs according to Subhuti Dharmananda, in his article Taste and Action of Chinese Herbs -Traditional and Modern Viewpoints

There are two basic qualities associated with bitter taste:

  1. According to the five element systematic correspondence, the bitter taste is associated with the heart system.  The alkaloids and glycosides commonly found in bitter plants help explain this relationship, as the Chinese heart system corresponds mainly to the nervous system and circulatory system of Western medicine, the two systems most strongly impacted by these types of active constituents.
  2. According to the taste/action dogma, bitter herbs have a cleansing action (removing heat and toxin).  The cleansing action of bitters mainly refers to their antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects, which are found with alkaloids, glycosides, and flavonoids.  The bitter herbs also dry dampness, and this refers mainly to reduction of mucous membrane secretions; we can recognize today that increased mucus secretion is usually secondary to inflammation and infection.

Meals should start or finish with something bitter, be it a salad with bitter greens or an aperitif or digestif drink or an espresso after eating. Fernet Branca and Angostura Bitters are two commercial bitters, but I love Urban Moonshine’s Maple Bitters which come in a handy purse spray. Or you can take a slice of lime in water and bite down on the skin. This will stimulate your bile and stomach acid production. (So-called “acid reflux” in people over 30 is usually a problem of stomach acid being too low to stimulate the closure of the esophageal sphincter.) When the bitter taste stimulates peristalsis it helps relieve constipation and even depression. It helps create the optimum conditions for the gut bacteria as well.

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Reishi, an adaptogen to support the Heart

ganoderma_lucidum BPotD

Reishi is the Japanese name for Ganoderma lucidum, a mushroom known as Ling zhi in Chinese medicine. Similar species are found from the Amazon rain forest to the Arctic and have similar tonic uses. The mushroom is known to be powerful and features in myths about raising warriors from the dead. While it lacks that specific property, the mushroom is used for everything from increasing blood quality to treating cancer. Mycelial extracts done well on wooded substrates have similar to superior healing characteristics to those of the whole mushroom according to mycologist Paul Stamets. Nonetheless the mushroom itself excites users, with its antler or mushroom forms and red shiny surface.

The ganodermas (black G. lucidum, red G. lucidum, G. oregonense, G. tsuga, G. adspersum and G. applanatum) are tonic, immune strengthening, protect against cancer, have anti-tumor properties, calm the spirit, protect and clear heat from the central nervous system, open the heart, lower serum cholesterol and are good for adrenal fatigue and for depression and anxiety. They enter all five zang organs. They have anti-allergic effects, inhibiting histamine production and stabilizing immunoglobulin levels. They lower blood pressure, are antioxidant, antiviral and antibacterial. Combining with astragalus, atractylodes and Ren shen increase phagocytosis, promote immune globulin formation, promote lymphocyte transformation, and induce the generation of interferon. Chinese mountain climbers use Ling zhi to alleviate altitude sickness by oxygenating the blood.Hokkaido_Reishi's_Deer_Horn_Shape_Reishi

I learned from a Thai doctor with a cancer practice, Santi Rosswong, to make a water decoction of Ganoderma lucidum (Ling zhi) with 10% cordyceps [Dong chong xia cao] for stamina. But since the polysaccharides in ganoderma are quite long, it has been shown to be more effective if the decoction is taken with not less than 500 mg of vitamin C, and 5 mg of folic acid each time. (The vitamin C is based upon Japanese research by Morishige and the folic acid is based upon Santi’s clinical experience.) Take several tablespoons (or more) every three hours. The most important dose is just before retiring, which should be larger. Take the folic acid and vitamin C with each dose.

There are two types of tinctures. One uses a concentrated decoction and adds alcohol to stabilize it. When I make it, I learned from Chris Hobbs to shoot for 25% alcohol to protect the polysaccharides, to ensure that I got between 22% and 28%, the lower number for spoilage and the upper number being a maximum for the polysaccharide protection. This appears to be the best formulation for immune system effects. The other way is to use a high alcohol formation to get the triperetenes, but I understand that this destroys the polysaccharides and differs significantly from the constituents extracted in traditional uses or from powdered extracts. It may have stronger CNS effects however. I know several herbalists who make a high alcohol tincture and add it to the subsequently decocted marc to get the best of both (and they understand that the high alcohol just makes the polysaccharides clump together on the side of the tincturing vessel but does not destroy them). There is not a consensus.

Ling zhi has various steroidal compounds, long chain polysaccharides, bitter triperetenes such as ganodermic acid and some volatile oils. Unlike Echinacea which activates macrophages, ganoderma is not believed to stimulate the immune system directly. It is probably an immune regulator rather than an immune stimulant. Ling zhi mushrooms get to the bone marrow and induce the marrow to put on more nucleated marrow cell mass, according to Jia. The marrow then increases B-cell production, which in turn increases antibodies. The DNA and RNA made in the bone marrow increases production of lymphocytes. This very deep immune nourishing means that it may be appropriate for AIDS patients although the patient should not suffer from undue dampness. For cancer therapy, combined with other fu zheng herbs, Ling zhi can be quite useful, even for patients undergoing chemo and radiation. Hobbs recommends low dose decocted ganoderma with cinnamon bark and orange peel as a tonic drink (for those not suffering from undue dampness) and I find that preparation, with roasted dandelion or chicory, combines well with coffee, helping neutralize coffee’s negative effects.

(Karen S Vaughan, adapted from Chinese Herbal Academy post 8-26-2000)

Reishi on log
Reishi on log

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Six Month Update on the Stem Cells

Diseases and conditions where stem cell treatm...
Diseases and conditions where stem cell treatment is promising or emerging. Bone marrow transplantation is, as of 2009, the only established use of stem cells.                                                 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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!

Confidence Fitness Vibration Platform. http://amzn.to/1Ge8Ifw
Confidence Fitness Vibration Platform. At http://amzn.to/1Ge8Ifw

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.

Handhold- less dual motor vibration plate (what do you do with the remote while shaking?
Handhold- less dual motor vibration plate (what do you do with the remote while shaking?)
  1. 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


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How to tincture medicinal mushroooms

Lingzhi or Reishi
Ganoderma, also known as Lingzhi or Reishi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Medicinal mushrooms are in great demand because of their adaptogenic effects and their actions against cancer. They improve the immune system, balance the hormones of the HPA axis, are anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, tonify the heart, protect the liver and soothe the nerves.

Taking them in an effective way is not so easy.  Eating  medicinal mushrooms like shitake or maitake doesn’t release the medicinal value (except perhaps the Vitamin D.)

If you want to take them as a tea (decoction) you need to simmer them for at least an hour to separate the medicine from the chitin. (Yes mushrooms have chitin, like sea shells.) This is the traditional way used in Chinese medicine.  Chris Hobbs suggests keeping a pot warm on the back burner at all times, periodically adding water, astragalus, cinnamon and orange peel so you only need to make it every few weeks. Cooking herbs daily can be a bit much and decoctions only last a few days in the refrigerator but it works and I have used this kind of decoction to make ganoderma coffee.

Tinctures  or liquid extracts are portable, let you taste them which makes them more effective than capsules, but are not simple to make.  You can’t just soak the  mushrooms, either fresh or dried in alcohol. The chitin still locks up the medicine.  The most important fractions of the medicine are polysaccharides like beta􀀁-Glucens or Mannogalactoglucan which don’t survive even medium levels of alcohol.

Polysaccharides clump together when exposed to alcohol and become inert. Below 30% the alcohol is not strong enough to percipitate out the polysaccharides.  The triterpenes like Ganoderic Acid in reishi are also medicinally important and require a high alcohol percentage to be extracted. So to get the most medicine, you need to follow a two step process and combine them with 25-20% alcohol to make a liquid extract.

For 250 grams, slightly over 1/2 pound of mushrooms you will want to make 1 1/4 liters of liquid extract.  It will be 30% grain alcohol or 375 ml and  875 ml of decoction.

The first stage is to decoct the the given weight of dried mushrooms in Cordyceps militaris shotswater. You need to simmer below a boil for at least an hour after they rehydrate, longer is better. The bigger the mushroom chunks the longer- Chinese herbal pharmacies sell reishi in thin slices which I usually spin in the Vitamix., but before I had access to those I would chunk as small as possible then run in the Vitamix mid cooking when the mushroom was a little softer. Chaga can be obtained through Mainley Chaga in a coffee grind (but for the medicine decoct it- don’t just run through your coffee maker!)  If you wildcraft, slice thinly before the mushroom dries and dry it gill side up in the sun for maximum Vitamin D.

Start with your ground dry mushrooms. Cover with water and let it absorb.  Add more water so the mushroom chunks can freely swim.  Cover and simmer for an hour or overnight.  Strain and squeeze out, measure the decoction in a Pyrex container to see if you have enough, 875 ml in this example, and cook down the decoction to the quantity you need or top up with water. Freeze until the tincture is ready. (Squeeze it out really well.)

Take the strained out marc (which has had most polysaccharides removed) and add Everclear/ grain alcohol to get the triterpenes. For 250 gr mushrooms use 275 mililiters of Everclear. (Because the mushroom pieces will have absorbed water, you need less alcohol than if you were to tincture in alcohol directly and lose the absorbed alcohol.) Store in a dark place for 1-3 months, shaking perodically and strain out really well, squeezing the spongy marc.  Mix the finished tincture with the defrosted decoction very slowly, stirring well to get a 30% alcohol level.

(Some just stabilize the decoction with plain 95% grain alcohol but it won’t be as strong. You can also use two batches of mushrooms, one for alcohol and one for decoction in water. You need 7 parts decoction to 3 parts Everclear tincture. It will cost more and you will need more Everclear but it is convenient.)

Ganoderma 3 You can also find Chinese dried granules to rehydrate with warm water, but it won’t have the triterpenes.  These can be combined with other Chinese herbs in a formula, although I find granule formulas somewhat less effective than raw herb formulas.  (They are convenient however.) And Mushroom Harvest makes a well-done steamed granule that you can put into smoothies.  If you purchase tinctures call the company that makes them and find out how they make the tincture- there is a lot of inert or very weak medicinal mushroom tincture out there.  You can do better by following these instructions.

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More adventures in Hyperbaricland

Hyperbaric New FocusAs I wrote previously hyperbaric oxygen helps the stem cells proliferate after insertion and it looks like the mechanism is an increase in Nitric oxide.  Dr. Marshall Ravden, the stem cell implant surgeon gave me a prescription for 40 sessions of hyperbaric oxygen, necessarily taken over a narrow period of time to consolidate the stem cell benefits.  They suggested renting or purchasing a unit, but I could just see telling Larry that our apartment dining room was to be taken over by a 7’x4′ diameter inflated hyperbaric chamber and that the cat would need to be relegated to the bedroom! Not gonna happen.

The good 100% oxygen chambers almost all seemed to be in hospitals where they only took insurance (at $2000 a pop!) but I found one in Queens and another,  New Focus Hyperbaric in Great Neck where a GroupOn special was going on.  The chamber, shown above, was clear, had a television to distract me, was not quite as large as I had hoped but had a full-time compassionate attendant so I wouldn’t be deserted as happened in the Manhattan soft chamber.  Sessions last about 2 hours.

Now I occasionally suffer from claustrophobia in airplanes, but it is easily remedied by sitting in an aisle seat so I can walk around and I use Stand-Up MRI if I need radiology, so it rarely happens to bother me.  I used to scuba dive so I knew what pressure felt like and how to clear my ears.  So I got my required chest X-ray and was cleared by the resident neurologist.  But the second trip in threw me into a tizzy:  the bottom of my foot itched, it was in hard spasm and annoyingly Bobby Jindall was being endlessly interviewed on CNN.  I had the attendant talk me down a few times then came out to relax before going in again.  I went in for another try but didn’t spend much time at full pressure.  The next day I had a panic attack on the subway which I have been riding without incident for 35 years so cancelled my session.  I felt claustrophobic lying in bed surrounded by my comforter or when listening to dissonant New Music on NPR- the claustrophobia was leaking into my life.  (At least it gives me more insight into what patients are going through!)   I asked for suggestions on Facebook and my wonderful friends gave suggestions in troves.

The suggestions ran the gamut from sedatives to acupuncture treatments, homeopathics to cell-level visualizations, prayers to reiki, breathing patterns to a reminder that this was a First World Problem I was lucky to have .  A few people suggested that I was repressing something -honestly I think it is just that I fill up a chamber more than a smaller person and can move around less.  Three people jumped in instantly with the words from Frank Herbert’s Litany of Fear, when I requested it.  I  did EFT tapping and bled my UB luo point, inserted needles at LI2 and H5, did breathing exercises gave myself a shot of a skullcap formula and liberally breathed in essential oil of lavender.  I also requested a prescription for a sedative and asked for puppies and kittens instead of the news on TV.  Animal Planet was unaccountably playing the World’s Filthiest Jobs that day which included scraping hides at a tannery, so that didn’t work.  This time I spent a half hour at full pressure plus 15 minutes of pressurization.  The attendant decided to lower the wedge and ditch the knee pillow so I would have more room next time. And he cleared me to bring in a sippy cup which I filled with coconut water and a vanilla bean found to decrease claustrophobia in a German study,

And the sedatives, with more space, made the difference.  I still reminded myself that it was a First World Problem and tried chants, prayers and breathing patterns.  I whistled songs.  I sipped.  And I relaxed. I might not be a pill person but I need the oxygen more than I need to be an herbal purist. It has worked twice.



And if you would be so kind as to help fund my Parkinson’s stem cell transplant and hyperbaric treatments: http://www.gofundme.com/eg4ymk

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How Long Does it Take After a Stem Cell Implant to See Results?

Diseases and conditions where stem cell treatm...
Diseases and conditions where stem cell treatment is promising or emerging. (See Wikipedia:Stem cell#Treatments). Bone marrow transplantation is, as of 2009, the only established use of stem cells. Model: Mikael Häggström. To discuss image, please see Template talk:Häggström diagrams (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How long does it take before I will see the results of the stem cells? The short answer is that it varies considerably, as stem cell proliferation and concentration increases.

One woman in my group was so pleased with the turnaround in her  30 year MS that she came back for more, In her first treatment she had absolutely no improvement for 6 months, when all of a sudden she could raise her leg two feet instead of two inches. She subsequently went from not being able to turn over in bed to being able to drive herself to the gym and work out and she has retained her improvements for several years. But she went through the treatment with another woman with longstanding MS whose improvements mostly happened the first month.

So far my improvements are subtle. My foot spasms which have interfered with exercise are significantly reduced, I am told that I look livelier. My win rate at Solitaire (hand and mind) is up 5 points. And my blood sugar is somewhat reduced.  After three months I will have my blood retested and after 6, my vision evaluated. My stamina is notably improved:

(The first day of hyperbaric treatment in Great Neck I was let out of the bus at the bottom of a steep hill with no center in sight. I phoned and they told me to walk up the hill and turn left. That left me in the LIJ hospital parking lot where I questioned a guard only to find that that I had climbed the wrong hill and needed to walk back down again and climb an even steeper hill. It would be fair to say I couldn’t have done that before.)

You can’t smoke anything:  a single cigarette or joint during the initial month can knock out the new proliferating cells.  And you can’t drink at all for 9 months.  They told us of a COPD client who went on a $15,000 bender,wiping out all of his progress.  We are to eat a whole food diet high in flavanoids.  I have added huperizia and vinoceptine supplements to oxygenate my brain and wear my SomaPulse electromagnetic frequency pulse generator which was designed to proliferate stem cells.

I am still fundraising. I have 40 sessions of hyperbaric oxygen at $200-$250 a pop and they need to be done together, which cuts into my income, I have a Groupon for the first 5, but after that I don’t have the money. This is necessary to cause the stem cells to proliferate.

I am including a link to a tremendous story on stem cells helping a stroke victim, former Redwings hockey player Gordie Howe. This is from a different company, Stemedica Cell Technologies of San Diego, and they injected the cells directly into the spinal fluid which had to take place in Mexico. He got up and walked at once. http://blogs.windsorstar.com/…/howe-makes-phenomenal-recove… Let’s hope this technique gets approved here!

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Watermelon and Papaya for Parkinson’s

Incidentally I have found two new foods that diminish Parkinson’s tremors: watermelon and papaya. I learned about them from a Parkinson’s blogger who calls herself Aunt Bean (after the fava and mucuna beans she grows for PD.) Apparently the late pope used fermented papaya and Aunt Bean has a recipe here. I started out fermenting them. Watermelon was easy: I scooped the pulp into a blender, liquified it and added water kefir grains. It soon turned into a bubbling sour drink. The papaya was harder: I mashed the pulp and fermented it but needed to dry it on fruit leather trays which I don’t have for my dehydrator.

California Papaya grown in Indonesia, cut into...
California Papaya grown in Indonesia, cut into half (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But I also read comments that the unfermented food worked and I noticed that raw watermelon and papaya seemed to reduce tremors. Fermentation does reduce sugar and add probiotics but it doesn’t keep very long. So my dehydrator is going, full of papaya slices  (the watermelon is done.)

Now I had no idea why watermelon and papaya work, and they are hardly a cure. But it was tasty and easy to incorporate into a daily diet. I still take the fava beans (note that dopamine medication could interact) but I don’t take them every day any more.

So I went on a search.  In Chinese Medicine watermelon is considered a cold medicinal herb, used to drain heat out of the body through the urine and to replenish fluids. Xi gua (watermelon) is known to clear heat, replenishes fluids, regulate urination and expel jaundice- it is used in hepatitis treatment. While the materia medica says that it goes to the Heart, Bladder and Stomach but not the liver, the attributes or meridians named after organs are not identical with those attributed to organs by Western medicine   The jaundice and hepatitis indications made me think of the liver and I guessed that glutathione production might be affected. And in fact while I still needed to check scholarly sources, Dr. Oz cites watermelon as a rich source of glutathione. And although short-lived and poorly absorbed from pills, glutathione does reduce tremors.

Watermelon provides 28 milligrams of glutathione per 100 gram portion. A perusal of PubMed shows that watermelon extract can mitigate oxidative damage from X-rays or genotoxicity and neurological balance. To use or make glutathione we need water which is in abundance in watermelon. If we are dehydrated we may not make as much glutathione as we could.

Now papaya fruit is not in the Chinese Materia Medica, but I checked PubMed using “Papaya and Glutathione” as search terms.  And, Bingo!  “A glutathione S-transferase inducer from papaya: rapid screening, identification and structure-activity relationship of isothiocyanates.”  Papaya induces glutathione.

Seedless watermelon Purchased Feb. 2005 in Atl...
Seedless watermelon Purchased Feb. 2005 in Atlanta, GA, USA The tag had the following information: mini me (TM) AYACO FARMS PERSONAL SEEDLESS WATERMELON #3421 PRODUCT OF NICARAGUA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Glutathione, a compound containing three amino acids, glutamate, cysteine and glycine, is the body’s master antioxidant and when its production is damaged a variety of things can go wrong including tremors. IV glutathione is given in a push to stop symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease but the IVs are recommended 3-7 times a week, not covered by insurance.  The landmark glutathione Parkinson’s study, Reduced intravenous glutathione in the treatment of early Parkinson’s disease., was done by the Department of Neurology, University of Sassari, Italy in 1996. In this study all patients improved significantly after glutathione therapy with a 42% decline in disability.  Neurologist Dr. Daniel Perlmutter has been giving it to PD patients since 1998. 

Now I would not be so reductionist as to say that it is only glutathione that makes watermelon or papaya work.  Watermelon hydrates which provides the a matrix for the hydronium ions that carry qi through fluids,  It is high in flavanoids Vitamin A, Vitamin C, B vitamins, and potassium, not to mention cirtulline and lycopene, One slice of watermelon (485 g) contains 152 calories, 3 g protein, 34.6 g carbohydrates, 2.4 g fiber, 560 mg potassium, 176 mg vitamin A (RE), 47 mg vitamin C, 8..5 mg choline, 0.1 mg riboflavin, and 0.96 mg niacin.

Papaya contains enzymes that induce glutathione S-transferase. Papaya latex contains at least four cysteine endopeptidases and other constituents including hydrolase inhibitors and lipase.  It has rather high levels of potassium and significant levels of calcium and magnesium. Vitamin C, Vitamin A. A small fruit (157  g) contains 67 calories, 0g protein, 17 g carbohydrates, 2.7 g fiber, 286 mg potassium, 1531 IU vitamin A (RE), 86.5 mg vitamin C, 15 mg folate and 0.5 mg niacin. Since the enzymatic effect is important one should avoid irradiated papayas to get the best effect.

There is evidence that a yeast fermented preparation of papaya is more effective than fresh or dried papaya.  It reduces oxidative stress and has been found to protect the brain from oxidative damage in hypertensive rats.  Pope John Paul ll was prescribed an experimental treatment made from a fermented papaya to ease symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, I suspect that the fermentation makes a difference compared to dried or raw papaya.

So incorporating watermelon and fermented papaya is an easy way to reduce symptoms. Other fruits that also have glutathione and are rich in antioxidants are berries, oranges, pomegranate, apricots, prunes,  avocado, grapefruit, strawberries, peaches, cinnamon, asparagus,  legumes, nuts, spinach and bell peppers. Or eat cysteine-rich food including dairy products such as cheese,yogurt and chicken breast since cysteine is used in glutathione synthesis. Add a couple of  Brazil Nuts for selenium (or tuna, beef, walnuts, eggs, cottage cheese, or turkey) and we are set!


See Also:

Experimental Treatment for Parkinson’s

Nutrition for Parkinson’s Disease- Part 1


Eating Watermelon for Parkinson’s Symptoms

Papaya and watermelon
Papaya and watermelon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



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Is Gluten Sensitivity Real?

English: Wheat (Triticum aestivum) near Auvers...
I get tired of seeing poor research cited as “disproving” non celiac gluten sensitivity. Wheat (Triticum aestivum) near Auvers-sur-Oise, France, June 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Letters to a NY Times article on Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity seem to regularly cite a study by Gibson et. all which is somewhat misleadingly entitled “No Effects of Gluten in Patients With Self-Reported Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity After Dietary Reduction of Fermentable, Poorly Absorbed, Short-Chain Carbohydrates.” The study was widely reported to have “disproved” gluten sensitivity, especially since the authors had previously written an article suggesting that non-celiac gluten sensitivity might be real. This small study does not disprove gluten sensitivity at all, but rather expands the things one might be sensitive to.


Gluten sensitivity can either be an early stage of celiac (the diagnostic test requires a significant amount of gut damage) or an entity of its own.  In addition there can be sensitivity to other lectins in grains,  wheat allergies, mechanical difficulty digesting wheat and sensitivity to fermentable, poorly absorbed short-chain carbohydrates (FODMAPs).


Many people report sensitivity to American but not European gluten-containing products, citing suspected reasons like pesticides, GMOs (escaped, not permitted), milling and short fermentation procedures and reaction to the high protein hard spring and winter wheat that makes up 70-80% of the American wheat market.


Gluten is a bit like glue in its ability to cause inflammatory actions in the human gut.  Inflammation of the intestines can cause injury to the probiotic lining of the gut wall, the wall itself and finally cause gaps in the intestinal tight junctions which cause “leaky gut.”  Gluten and other lectins in wheat are difficult to digest, possibly for all people, but a strong immune system generally initiates recovery.  However the gliadin in wheat activates zonulin signalling which modulates the permeability of tight junctions between cells of the wall of the digestive tract.  This allows larger molecules to leak into the blood stream where they elicit a cascade of antibodies and either a low immune system or repeated inflammation makes this a chronic condition.


English: Diagram to show the different stages ...
English: Diagram to show the different stages of Coeliac Disease. Drawn in adobe photoshop 7.0.1 for use in the Coeliac Disease article. Drawn by me, User:WikipedianProlific for exclusive use on Wikipedia. Please do not add this diagram to another wiki without seeking my prior consent. This image is for use in the English Wikipedia. WikipedianProlific (Talk) 14:52, 12 September 2006 (UTC) Deutsch: Diagram zur Veranschaulichung der verschieden Stadien (Marsh-Kriterien) einer Zöliakie. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The symptoms of gluten sensitivity as well as sensitivity to other lectins or certain FODMAPs can be frustratingly vague.  Because this is a systemic reaction not all symptoms are found in the gut and may not be noticeable there at all.  Besides gas, bloating , reflux and diarrhea, one might have migraines, mind fog, depression, aches and pains, autoimmune diseases and a vast array of other conditions. Since diagnostic food sensitivity testing has up to a 30% inaccuracy rate, elimination and possible rechallenge are the gold standard in identifying sensitivity. The glue-like nature of wheat and similar grains means that an elimination diet may require 1 1/2 to 2 months before the symptoms go away.


Cross-reactions may occur in the sensitive where similarly shaped molecules fit into gluten receptors on antibodies.  The most important ones are dairy products including whey.  You may see extensive lists based on the Cyrex Labs Array 4 which is commonly used to test further reactions to foods by the gluten sensitive but the test was not designed to test for cross-reactivity and includes a broad array of foods that do not cross-react.  A well-documented discussion of this by Christina Graves is found here.


Back to the Gibson Study.  37 people, self-described as “gluten sensitive” without celiac disease were put on a low FODMAP diet then transferred to a variety of diets (high-gluten, low-gluten and  low whey, low whey, or “control” high  whey  diets) for 1 week, followed by a washout period of at least 2 weeks. They assessed blood and fecal markers of intestinal inflammation/injury and immune activation, and fatigue. Twenty-two participants then crossed over to groups given gluten, whey, or control (no additional protein) diets for 3 days.


In all participants, gastrointestinal symptoms consistently and significantly improved during reduced FODMAP intake, but significantly worsened to a similar degree when their diets included gluten or whey protein. Gluten-specific effects were observed in only 8% of participants. There were no diet-specific changes in any biomarker. During the 3-day rechallenge, participants’ symptoms increased by similar levels among groups. Gluten-specific gastrointestinal effects were not reproduced. An order effect was observed.


The study could not rule out non celiac gluten sensitivity. Do you see the problems?


  1. Gluten cross reacts with whey so there was no real control
  2. People may be sensitive to many things, not just one
  3. Rechallenge took place in 2 weeks when it might take 2 months to clear out
  4. Elimination rather than “reduced gluten” is necessary to stop the inflammatory cascade
  5. All patients were worse with gluten or whey
  6. The notion of a “gluten specific effect” is undefined since effects are systemic but the study looked primarily at GI symptoms, fatigue and blood markers for celiac disease
  7. They tested IGA, IGG, and IGE but not IGM- not a complete measure of sensitivity (and there may be IGs we have not yet defined.) These tests are not highly accurate
  8. Absence of evidence is not itself evidence of absence.  The conclusions were overstated
  9. The study involved only 37 subjects and only 22 finished
  10. Patients were self diagnosed and could have included people with carbohydrate intolerance, sensitivity to other lectins, FODMAP sensitivity, candida, or mechanical digestive problems, This is a real problem in a small study for a condition that affects millions
  11. There are other things than gluten in glutinous grains and if elimination works it doesn’t matter from the patient’s point of view why




What the study did show was that there are other things than gluten that could cause reactivity and elimination of other dietary constituents may help


So why is there more gluten sensitivity today? Food allergies have increased about 50% in children since 1997.


  1. Significant changes in the gut microbiome
  2. Increases in early formula feeding which can sensitize babies
  3. High gluten and dairy in breastfeeding moms’ diets
  4. Breeds of wheat which differ from historical breeds and have more gluten
  5. Milling changes which break down the bran and germ into smaller particles capable of entering the bloodstream
  6. With the new milling changes in the 1870s flour was rarely freshly ground
  7. We eat more processed food with injurious additives, including gluten
  8. We have an overall higher toxin load which stresses the immune system and raises the inflammatory load




Note that grains are the biggest source of FODMAPs in most people’s diets, and maybe secondarily dairy and beans.  Stanford University’s list of low FODMAP foods are found here.  Note that they suggest the quantity of FODMAPs is critical- unlike gluten sensitivity where any amount causes inflammatory cascades, so that except for diagnostic purposes this is not a list of foods to totally exclude.  A GAPS diet will also exclude sensitizing foods.








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Nutrition for Parkinson’s Disease- Part 1

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.

Mucuna in flower, source of L.Dopa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nutrition for Parkinson’s Disease Part 1:  Continue reading Nutrition for Parkinson’s Disease- Part 1

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Foods and Herbs to Prepare for a Fast

Photo care of http://homeandgardenchat.com/

Yom Kippur is coming and people will be fasting.  I was asked to put together some information on what will allow people to have a good fast that will allow them to focus on the meaning of the holiday without keeling over from blood sugar fluctuations.  Here are a few tips to keep the fast from debilitating you and to keep hunger pains from being a major distraction.  (You will still know you are fasting.):

  • In the weeks preceding Yom Kippur consider shrinking your stomach by reducing portion size.  You can get used to less food intake which will lessen the shock.
  • From the first of Elul, reduce carbohydrates like bread and sugar.  This allows your body to get used to not depending on regular sugar rushes. (Starches become sugar within minutes.)
  • Keep those honey cakes and sugary treats for a sweet new year to the first part of the 10 days before Yom Kippur and only take a little starch the day before. You don’t want to have huge fluctuations in blood sugar.
  • The day before eat proteins and fats that will not cause your blood sugar to rise and crash. You can prepare with either a meat or dairy meal. Eggs, beans, fish, cheese, chicken, quality meat if you can get it, nuts, butter, and avocado will help maintain your blood sugar.   Continue reading Foods and Herbs to Prepare for a Fast
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If you are into herbs, health and diet, why are you fat?

Me in Guatemala doing acupuncture outreach, not waiting around for life.

I  was recently asked, under the anonymity of a Google comment, how I can be into herbs and health when I am clearly fat,  I’m sure the question has been let unasked a lot more than it was voiced.  And my first instinct was to get all defensive:  the great American herbalist Michael Moore was fat.  The great Annishinabe medicine woman and ethnobotanist Keewaydinoquay  Peschel was fat.  What does fat on your body have to do with what you know, anyway?

The short answer is that once you are fat, unless you are slightly fat or you had a short term weight gain, it is incredibly difficult to reverse. You can lose weight, but it doesn’t last. You can do quite a bit to stay healthy via your diet and lifestyle, but you may end up healthy and fat.

I’ve been fat since age 5, with a short break during my late teens and 20s when I felt like and metabolically was an underweight fat person. Maybe it was my grandmother’s Native genes clashing with a 1960s Standard American Diet- I took after her rather than my parents.  Maybe it was a reaction  (mine? my  parents?) from nearly dying as an infant from weight loss due to digestive problems, although I didn’t notice them pushing food.  Perhaps I caught one of those obesity-promoting adenoviruses. Maybe it was all those fattening antibiotics I had for ear infections before anyone considered that dairy might be the culprit.  Perhaps my body had to sequester exposures to pesticides painted on the walls at the cabin.  Maybe I overate when they pulled me out of my sweet smelling acacia tree to send me to a dismal school and my happiness quotient fell.  In any event I was on Metrecal, the Slimfast of the day, by the first grade, embarrassed as we discussed our breakfasts in health class.  Junior high was torture, where I was relegated to the few chubette clothes available, until I discovered Guatemalan skirts and peasant blouses. I focused on learning instead of socializing.

I had by this time become quite expert on calories, carbohydrates and food exchanges, not to mention setpoints and portion sizes.  My doctors had suggested everything from locking cupboards, to liquid meals to diet pills that left me wired, but I believed there might be better ways.  I was under orders to lose weight by any means possible. I biked, swam in the summer, lived on a hill so steep the school bus couldn’t drive up so I walked it instead, went hiking in the woods behind our home, and had daily physical education classes taught by self-hating drill sergeants,  I wasn’t exactly a couch potato although I preferred reading, acting in school plays and establishing an underground school newspaper to afterschool sports.

I finally lost weight when I left home, had a new start, and went on a zero carb diet (in Italy, yet.)  I kept most of it off when I got home because I lived a mile’s walk from campus and took five 1-2 hour dance classes a week, blessedly subsidized by parents and low tuition.  And as a young single who chose a bike rather than a car, I swam daily and went scubadiving on weekends, so it only slowly crept back.  But the job ended, I moved to New York where work hours were long, picked up an inactive husband who preferred restaurants to Appalachian trail hikes and saw my weight skyrocket with the hormonal changes of pregnancy.  Periods of stress drove my cortisol through the roof.  By the time my children were born I was over a threshold where I could lose weight without getting sick or exercise without injury.  Not that I didn’t try:  Weight Watchers, Optifast, vegan diet, vegetarian diet, Atkins diet, metabolic bump diets, macrobiotic diet, fermented foods, paleo diet, Paul Bergner’s insulin resistance class, hypnosis, therapists, personal trainers, one- hour exercise sessions that didn’t work, two- hour exercise sessions that burned fat but left me too exhausted to work.  There was a lot of good stuff in many of those plans. I lost some weight. And I gained everything back.English: Typical Atkins diet meal

Was I perfect?  Of course not. As a teen I had justified saving calories from eggs  for ice cream (after all, a calorie is a calorie isn’t it?) I have caught myself eating emotionally, but it was aberrant enough to stand out and my thin friends do the same on occasion.  Portion size may be an issue, but the fat cells themselves call out constantly to eat more, something not true of thinner people. Occasionally I go on tiramisu jaunts.  I go between wondering if I am gluten-sensitive or just carb-sensitive and go in and out of drinking milk.

The International Journal of Obesity says that of people who lose 75 or more pounds, 95-98% gain back every pound within 3 years, 2/3  of them within the first year.  Even Oprah who can afford cooks, a personal trainer and all the backup possible gains it back. People who keep weight off are a statistical aberration, unless the gain was transient. Younger men who haven’t been obese long and are willing to, say, become exercise instructors or indulge in full time physical labor stand the best chance of  joining that elusive 2-5%. as do people who spend the rest of their lives monitoring every mouthful and every bit of exercise.  The National Weight Control Registry tracks strategies and data on those who lose at least 33kg and keep it off or 5 years. Even they say that only 20% of dieters are successful at a 10% weight loss for over one year.   You have to make your life about keeping weight off and maybe change your work to something physical all day.

Three adult Hymenolepis nana tapeworms. Each t...
Three adult Hymenolepis nana tapeworms. (length: 15 to 40 mm) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I haven’t tried everything.   Tapeworms, for instance  seemed to work for Maria Callas, but I’m squeamish and like my B vitamins.  Nor have I tried surgery, although I did check it out.  The painful death of my pharmacist after gastric bypass surgery destroyed any question I might have had about a procedure that creeps me out on the face of it.  (What colonizes that empty length of intestine cut off by the surgery?)  Two of my obese patients had the surgery and are still fat- and one lost her spleen during the operation.  And while a lap band seems less intrusive, I watched one patient struggle for a year with infected ports. For a cool $25,000 plus extra surgery for the sagging skin you get an 80% complication rate and 5 years of becoming thinner before you gain it back.  Even if you get thin, you are metabolically fat compared to an always thin person, with every deflated cell urging you to eat at any moment.  And the yo yo is harder on your heart and toxin release harder on your brain than just staying fat.  Thanks, I’ll work on health at any size.

The truth is, despite Joy Nash’s wonderful YouTube  Fat Rants, fat is a matter of shame in our society.  We don’t criticize the selfish or the vain nearly as much as the fat.  Obesity is treated as a character flaw instead of  just extra avoirdupois.  It is extra flesh not failure incarnate. Heck we have a worldwide epidemic of obese 6 month olds who probably eat and move much like infants always have, so it makes no sense to blame.  And we need to get real about it.

Diagram of a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass.
Diagram of a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. (Wikipedia)

I have no question that if I had bypass surgery and lost weight that people would congratulate me on becoming healthier and it might well help me get a teaching job or keep patients.  It would not be true. My digestion would be permanently ruined, I’d weaken the muscle in my heart along with all the other muscles (non ketogenic weight loss lowers your muscle mass and the heart is mostly muscle) and I would have scars through my meridians.  To be fair my feet and knees would feel better and I might have more energy during the low weight  phase, but the assumption of health would be falsely generalized.  It is possible that I would live up to 3 years longer, although those figures were not derived by comparing fat and formerly fat people and they certainly didn’t sort out the physically fit fat people for comparison.  We aren’t talking decades of life.  Besides the most recent word is that thin people with big bellies die sooner than the obese.

What I can do, even if the fat is intractable, is something about is my health and fitness.  A low carbohydrate diet including good fats, green vegetables, seaweeds, low glycemic flavonoid-rich fruits and clean protein will keep my blood sugar down and normalize my cholesterol and triglycerides.  Exercise will keep my circulation and lung function intact.  Weight training will build muscle mass.  Yoga, qigong, MELT or Pilates will stretch my muscles and strengthen my core.  Regular acupuncture, massage or craniosacral balancing will keep me centered and enough sleep will allow restoration.

Most important I love the work I do and would rather be fat than work at a different, more physical job or spend an additional hour at the gym when I could be spending time figuring out how to affect patients with difficult problems that don’t lead to easy resolution.  While my preference for treating zebras, as difficult cases are called, may not make me thin or rich, at least I learn things that help others.

So what have I learned about weight loss?

  • Statistics on health and Body Mass lump couch potatoes together with the fit fat people.  You don’t want to be a couch potato.  If you work out regularly and eat well, your main problems will be structural.
  • Overweight people react differently to dieting strategies than do obese people.  Formerly fat people are metabolically quite different than always thin people of the same weight.  Don’t assume that everyone can do the same thing to either lose weight or stay thin.
  • Most fat people do best on low carbohydrate diets, without appreciable grains.  Even if you might have done well with grains pre-obesity, your metabolism is probably damaged by long term weight gain. Go Paleo, for good.
  • If you want to lose weight, you need to restrict food even on a low carb diet.  You may be too satisfied to overeat, but many fat people have lost touch with their body’s signals.
  • Ketosis (not the dangerous ketoacidosis) metabolically causes you to lose fat rather than muscle, provided that you don’t overeat. There are entire civilizations in ketosis (traditional Inuit, Bantu, hunter-gathers) who are not in active weight loss. Nonetheless I know of no better start for fat burning.
  • To start a ketogenic diet, mineralize yourself with magnesium, potassium, iodine, trace minerals, sea vegetables and kale.  Otherwise the first two weeks while you are transitioning from glucose-burning to ketone (fat) burning will be hell.  Which is probably why Atkins allowed free consumption of fats during that induction period.
  • For a long term diet, a food plan that hovers between ketosis and low carb just above ketosis is probably the best.  Green vegetables and clean fish or pasture-raised meat, eggs from outdoor chickens and small amounts of berries, yellow fruits and vegetables or pickled root vegetables should be the basis of your diet.
  • This actually can be done with a vegetarian diet but will be a lot more interesting with animal protein.  The infamous low glycemic vegetarian diet that beat the ADA diet for diabetes was basically vegetarian Atkins.
  • Weight gain after periods of intense stress may be more benign than other self-medication (although others may not act as if it is.)  The weight won’t necessarily go away when the stress does or just because you take up yoga, even Birkram.
  • There is a threshold beyond which losing weight is close to impossible without extraordinary changes, so don’t get there. Overweight is better than obese.
  • The kind of extraordinary changes that allow weight loss include moving away from family and friends who may reinforce inactivity or stress, changing to a very physical profession, radically increasing exercise and changing the kind of food you need and a spiritual renewal that doesn’t involve lots of sitting  or reading. Move to a 5th floor walk-up or work a  half hours walk from home to build in exercise.  You also need to make peace with monitoring everything you eat, monitoring exercise and monitoring weight.
  • Some people become fat in reaction to sexual abuse, negative feedback from family members, dissatisfaction with a lack of purpose, or to hide sources of shame.  Others pick up a sense of shame after they become fat.  Continued emotional eating may or may not play a part in this reaction.  Getting rid of the shame is essential to your well-being, whether or not it converts to being thin.
  • If you suddenly gain weight, loose it as soon as possible so that your setpoint weight doesn’t increase.
  • When you take medications like steroids, antidepressants, antipsychotics, long term antibiotics or insulin you will probably gain weight, often substantial amounts. Statins can cause diabetes, but are pushed on people with insulin resistance.  It may be worthwhile, but consider the effect in evaluating your course of treatment and also whether protective lifestyle changes are realistic.
  • Most benefits of weight loss happen in the first 10%.
  • After 10% weight loss, your setpoint tries like crazy to make you regain the lost weight.
  • While some people can, I have never lost weight from exercise alone but I also don’t lose significantly without exercise, including interval aerobics, weight training and stretching. Don’t skip the stretching, because heavy weight predisposes you to injury if your muscles are in the wrong place.

  • If you lose weight, you will free toxins locked up in your fat which may be redistributed in your organs.  Take detoxifying herbs like dandelion, chickweed, Oregon grape, triphala or coptis and seaweeds to tie them up.  Getting sick will derail your exercise program.
  • Extra weight is especially hard on your feet, hips and knees.  A heel spur or knee problems will also derail exercise.  Get good shoes, watch Katy Bowman’s biodynamic body DVDs, stand on little balls to massage the small areas of your feet, vary your exercise and be proactive about foot, leg and hip care.
  • Modify exercises to function like they should, not to look like what thin people do.  Maybe that means your toe touch only goes to your thighs.  Maybe your push-up is against a wall, not the floor.  And you need a total substitute for the plough asana if your bust or belly won’t let you breathe.
  • Minerals are essential, especially magnesium which is no longer in soils in appreciable quantity, iodine, potassium, chromium and trace vegetables.  Seaweeds are the main food source of minerals.  Additionally octacosanol will bring down triglycerides.
  • If your endocrine system is unbalanced, try adaptogen herbs like rhodiola, ashwaganda, ginseng and eleuthero.
  • Weight loss herbs basically fall into a few categories:  detoxification, bulk laxatives, liver support, starch blockers, fat blockers and thermogenic herbs. Studies are minimal and are often done on small groups of slightly overweight people.
  • Thermogenic (heating) herbs like cayenne are fine if you run cold.  Otherwise go to cooler circulatory herbs like turmeric, frankincense, myrrh or chuanxiong.  A bit of pepper, long pepper (pipalli) or prickly ash will help the herbs to penetrate and won’t be too hot in small doses.
  • Starch blockers, from phaseolus beans usually give you gas while you don’t assimilate the starch.  Just stay away from starch.
  • Liver herbs like dandelion leaf, green coffee extract, Oregon grape, berberis and milk thistle will help you convert fat and get rid of toxins that were locked up in your fat. Also see detoxification herbs.
  • Fat blockers  are basically liver herbs that cause you to dump.  The pharmaceutical version Olestra (orlistat) can cause explosive diarrhea and deplete you of fat-soluble vitamins and EFAs, but does cause your body to dump toxins.  A less intensive intervention using 7 fat free Pringles a day got rid of both persistent organic pollutants like chlorohexabenzene and fat in some studies.  Pringles of any sort are not food, but personal experience using fake fats to get rid of artificial toxins were not notably successful.
  • The only laxatives I would suggest are triphala, a nourishing and detoxifying group of fruits, and if you are constipated, psyllium, flax or cannabis seeds (sterilized and legal in Chinese medicine stores.)   If it is really bad one dose of senna, cascara sagrada, aloes, or da huang (rhubarb), but only for the first bowel movement.  Eat seaweeds and okra.  Take probiotics or probiotic foods. Drink lots of water.
  • Did I say drink lots of water?  And yes, some of that can be coffee or teas.  Best to avoid diet drinks, even the fairly benign stevia-sweetened ones.  Or save them for special occasions.  Taste can trigger your insulin secretion.
  • Go for periods of time without appreciable carbs, like between dinner and lunch with salmon salad or a veggie frittata for breakfast. When your blood insulin goes up you can’t burn fat or make muscle.
  • Don’t graze.  See above for why.
  • Eat before exercise, which brings your insulin curve back down.  If you eat or swill a sports drink afterwards, you defeat the metabolic effect of exercise.   (Marathoners or Iron Men are an exception and aren’t losing weight, but if you have read this far it probably doesn’t apply to you!)
  • Exercise after eating, even a short spin around the block.
  • Take pride in what you do well, how you affect the world and in who you are.  There will always be people willing to see you as a size rather than a person.  Don’t fall for their shortsightedness.

See also:

Our Symbionts, Ourselves

Chemicals and Obesity: What if if isn’t all your fault?

Why A Parasite Cleanse Can Make You Worse

Probiotics and Probiotic Foods







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Make your own authentic chai tea

Chai tea ingredients

I had a homemade chai this week that blew me away.  No cinnamon, no cloves, no allspice, although it could be modified if you prefer.  And this was made without foamy milk:

Grate a 1″ x 2″ piece of ginger into a stainless steel pot with 3 cups of water.  Simmer for 20 minutes, covered.

At the 10 minute mark add 8 crushed cardamon pods and 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper.

When finished add 2 tsp. of black tea leaves and steep 5 minutes.  Strain and serve.  Makes about 2 cups.

Traditionally evaporated milk and Demerara (brown cane) sugar to taste are added.  The evaporated milk adds a unique richness, but I generally use milk from a grass-fed cows (and have never seen this in evaporated form,) but you could use an organic half and half.

The recipe as it is warms the spleen, enhances digestion, quickens the blood and awakens the senses.  It hydrates with about a loss of 5% from the caffeine.  If you want to eliminate the sugar, either leave it out, use stevia to taste or add 2 Tbsp licorice chips or one crushed lo han guo fruit with the ginger.

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Vinegar, Muscle Cramps, Blood Sugar and Acids

Vinegar is commonly infused with spices or her...
Image via Wikipedia

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

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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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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 Does Research Say About the Health of Eating Meat?

Meat and Vegetables

We are badly in need of a study that compares good vegetarian to good meat-containing diets using quality foods, with high vegetable content and good quality fats in both diets. Too often vegetarians are compared to a standard American population, health-conscious vegans are compared to non-health conscious omnivores and studies on omnivores with low meat diets are extrapolated to suggest that a diet with no animal food altogether may be superior. The study should isolate the effects of gluten from other starchy foods and meats from fish. Continue reading What Does Research Say About the Health of Eating Meat?

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Kids with High Body Mass Index Not Necessarily Fat

A recent large study of children with high body mass indexes (BMI) found that many children of normal body mass had high fat percentages while 25% of children with high BMI were not obese by fat percentage criteria.

BMI (weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared) does not distinguish between the weight of muscle, fat or bone and has a statistical artifact that tends to classify tall children as overweight. Continue reading Kids with High Body Mass Index Not Necessarily Fat

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Cordyceps for stamina, against cancer

Cordyceps ophioglossoides

Cordyceps sinensis has been part of my anti-cancer formulas for many years, since Thai doctor Santi Rosswong suggested that I add it to my reishi formulas for stamina.  It appears from recent research that the herb stops cell proliferation as well.

Cordyceps is a strange herb, a fungus that colonizes then kills an insect, as shown in a BBC  video (with one of the other 680 described cordyceps species found on 6 continents.)  When the Cordyceps sinensis fungus attacks a Continue reading Cordyceps for stamina, against cancer

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Communication In A Persistent Vegetative State?

A recent New York Times article found that by using functional MRIs on long term persistent vegetative state patients, a few could hear and process information.  The idea sounds exciting, helping differentiate those who had residual brain function from the majority that did not.  But a few caveats are in order: Continue reading Communication In A Persistent Vegetative State?

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