A libido as unwavering as the Himalayas? With the help of shilajit, perhaps!
Let's face it, when people think about Valentine's Day they think of sex. But rather than write about aphrodisiacs, I want to discuss a fabulous herb to nourish the kidneys, the root of sexual energy and power '“ shilajit (pronounced, she-la-jeet).
Shilajit isn't actually a single herb; it's actually a medicinal organic substance. Composed of humus and organic plant material, shilajit is an exudate that's pressed out of layers of rock in Nepal and other high mountains. Think of India as an island millions of years ago as it bumps into the Eurasian continent to form the Himalalyan mountains. As the land collides and the seabed pushes upward, it produces lush jungles that become trapped by layers of rock and soil. Gradually this transforms into humus, a dense, viscous and mineral-rich organic mass that becomes food for new plant life. This is shilajit.
Over time the shilajit is exposed to freezing winters, hot summers and erosion from monsoon rains. In summer the shilajit 'flows' out from between the cracks of layered rocks and the Nepali people repel down cliffs at 10-12,000 feet to collect it (in fact, it's getting harder to find so people have to climb higher and higher as supplies are being exhausted at normal locations). Supposedly, it was discovered by observing white monkeys migrate there to chew on it during the summer months.
If you're thinking of petroleum now, you are not far off. Michael and I both remember watching trucks tar the streets when we were young and we'd see kids follow them to pick up asphalt bits to chew. In fact, its English name is 'asphalt' and its odor and taste are strongly reminiscent of that and those days.
It's been said that 'There is no disease on earth which cannot be cured by shilajit.' In fact, the word "shilajit" means 'destroyer of weakness.' Certainly it is an adaptogen beneficial for memory and cognition, an immune support and anti-ulcer, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Its main indications are for the kidneys, genito-urinary tract and diabetes (it stabilizes blood sugar). As well, it potentiates the actions of other herbs with which it is taken.
And in fact, it has traditionally been taken with milk for libido and sexual power '“ voila! The Valentine's Day connection!
Recently, Michael found a pure brand of shilajit and all of us taking it noticed increased energy. One person's ear ringing disappeared, while another experienced improved kidney function. Try Tattva or Banyan Botanicals as sources for obtaining it.
In Traditional Chinese medical terms, shilajit, as a Kidney tonic and probably an Essence (Yin,Yang and Blood) tonic '“ supports Kidney functions such as improved short term memory, reduced tinnitus, increased sexual drive and endurance, strong bones and so on. And because strong Kidney energy supports good lung function, it's been reported to improve bronchial symptoms as well. It has a slightly warming energy, although it seems fine for use in those with yin deficiency and yin deficiency fire.
The key about shilajit is only using the highest quality. The processing of raw shilajit is very important; otherwise it contains free radicals and possible mycotoxins and fungal toxins. Further, it needs to be a standardized extract containing at least 50% fulvic acids (its primary active ingredient) and 1% Dibenzo-alpha-Pyrones. Where shilajit is obtained also indicates its potency as it reflects the plants of that area. Some include abundant white clover, which makes it beneficial for the skin.
Dosage is 300-500 mg per day, although some have reported taking 1,000 mg per day with excellent results. Since it stays in the blood for 12-14 hours, taking it twice a day is sufficient. If you experience detox reactions, usually loose stools or mild diarrhea, fatigue, headaches and skin rashes, then consume lots of water and decrease the dose until the symptoms disappear; after, gradually increase the dose again.
Supposedly, shilajit needs to be taken for two months before realizing full results (and Valentine's Day is only three weeks away), but those of us who recently tried it, experienced immediate improvement of symptoms along with increased energy. Imagine what will happen after two months! So get started on your shilajit today and have an even better Valentine's Day!
Tags >> Ayurveda
Jan 22, 2010
Nov 03, 2009
No one knows the true origin of Valentine's Day. Legend has it that St. Valentine was a third-century priest imprisoned by the Romans for secretly marrying young men who would otherwise have been prime candidates for military conscription under the reign of Emperor Claudius II. As for the Valentine's Day cards we exchange, another legend was that when St. Valentine was imprisoned he became enamored with his jailer's daughter and sent her love notes.
Alternatively, Valentine's Day could simply be the product of the church conveniently designating a holiday to coincide with a Roman fertility festival honoring Faunus, the Roman God of agriculture (February 15). Whatever the origin, by the Middle Ages, Valentine's Day was one of the most popular celebrations throughout Europe.
Let's Do It! (Or Maybe Not?): Sexual Taboos
Have you ever wondered why throughout civilization there have been so many sexual taboos? Could it be that the many creative expressions of humanity happen, more or less as a result of sexual repression?
If truth be known, most of us have had reason to lament the fact that just as we try to restrain, twist and contort our gustatory inclinations to deny ourselves the occasional banana split or chocolate sundae, we also try in vain to repress our eroticism. No wonder so many of us are depressed.
When grandmama whose age is eighty, in night clubs is getting matey with gigolos, anything goes!
Not so for the 70,000 residents living in some 40,000 homes who are spending their '˜golden years' at a retirement community called "The Villages" at Lady Lake, Fla. According to a recent article in Fox News, these folks are not wasting any more of their precious time in erotic self-denial. With a female to male ratio of 10 to one, it is a virtual widower's paradise where inhibitions are shed at the slightest inclination. It's not unusual to stumble upon a casual amorous encounter happening on a golf cart. Rumor has it that there is a very active black market in Viagra both for men and women at The Villages. Why not? With families raised, no need for contraception, and obligations and responsibilities to a significant other a thing of the past, I think these people are just making up for lost time.
Do we ever get too old to partake of the joy of sex? For most of us, the answer is NO. Armed with little more than some lubricant (or, in the case of folks at The Villages, an occasional half tab of black market Viagra), most of us remain good to go all the way to the end of our days. So long as we have an appetite for food, we should have an appetite for sex.
We're all alone, no chaperone
As a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, I've had various opportunities to consider the Chinese Taoist teaching that is the bane of women married to too-serious martial artists: that the male should never ejaculate for fear of losing some precious life essence. In my opinion, this is just another form of invasion of the bedroom by a restrictive society. We see evidence in some species that male energy spent as ejaculation is a prelude to death, but for humans, current scientific research shows that sex promotes health.
Let's face it: we only live once. As an herbalist, I suggest that the best aphrodisiac is when we reserve sex as the last frontier of our essential wildness. As long as it's between consenting adults, let's get the government, along with the clerics, hypocritical moralists, and ascetic martial artists out of our bedrooms - or wherever else you choose to "misbehave."
Causes for Low Libido
Just as decreased appetite is an indication of disease or impending illness, so also is a sagging libido. Nowadays, doctors not only don't inquire about a patient's appetite, but they wouldn't dare ask about one's libido. For most of us, a good appetite in all departments is a sign of wellbeing. So if that's you, perhaps you have something to rejoice about.
There are some physiological reasons for low libido. Certainly as we get on in years (despite what you might hear about some of the residents at The Villages), we can expect things to slow down as our hormones diminish. In Chinese medicine these hormones are all encompassed by the concept of Kidney Yang and Kidney Yin with herbs specifically indicated for each. Specifically, the Kidney Yang herbs support the production of all those hormones that increase our motivation in all ways, including sexual appetite. These include testosterone, estrogen, and the androgynous hormones that are necessary and present in varying degrees in both men and women.
One Kidney Yang herb used in Chinese medicine is Epimedium, aptly known as Horny Goatweed. Lesley describes this herb in her blog. I would only add that this is a common ornamental that can be purchased at most nurseries. One can periodically harvest the leaves; make tea or an alcoholic extract by macerating a good amount in a little vodka. This can then be taken in teaspoon doses once or twice a day.
The fact is, unless there are other physical disabilities such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease, there is no age limit for the world's number one pastime.
Side-effects of prescription drugs
Drugs are a major factor causing loss of libido. For example, the popular drug Proscar is commonly prescribed for Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) - swollen prostate in common parlance. BPH usually does not occur before the age of 40, but approximately 50% of men in their 60s and 90% of men in their 90s develop this condition. It is characterized by the frequent urge to urinate, which can result in arising several times throughout the night.
Proscar and related pharmaceuticals treat BPH by altering testosterone metabolism, which in turn shrinks the swollen prostate. The drug's effect on testosterone metabolism, however, can cause diminished libido and erectile dysfunction. You could try having a "drug holiday" on weekends - that is, taking a break from your BPH drug for a couple of days - but it isn't clear if this would restore a man's sex drive. An option would be to ask your doctor whether a lower dose might solve the libido problem and still manage the prostate swelling.
So it seems that if you're suffering from BPH, you have to choose between frequent urination with normal erectile function, or a normal-sized prostate with problems getting going in the sack. What kind of a choice is that? The good news is, there are some natural alternatives to prescription drugs for BPH:
Millions of people in North America are presently on statin drugs making it the number one cash cow for pharmaceutical companies, but few read the small print of adverse side effects, one of which can be loss of libido. This is because statins interfere with our body's ability to create cholesterol and can cause a decrease of sex hormones with a concomitant dampening of Eros.
There is considerable controversy regarding the relation of elevated cholesterol and cardiovascular disease (CVD) because there has been no study demonstrating that high cholesterol causes CVD. In fact, studies show that nearly as many people with so-called normal to low cholesterol die of CVD as those with high cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a hormone precursor that has a strong genetic factor; some people naturally make more or less cholesterol. It is also a substance that the body manufactures as a result of stress. Be that as it may, if one wants to lower cholesterol, instead of taking statin drugs, try red yeast rice which is a more natural alternative with similar chemistry and results. Better yet, it is a far cheaper alternative to statin drugs and will not affect libido. I would still recommend taking a dose of Co Q10 along with the red yeast rice since statins are known to diminish this vital heart nutrient.
Finally, it seems like a no-brainer, but I have to mention that lack of physical fitness is another big factor in sexual dysfunction. It's been found that men who exercise regularly (especially with some strength training) rarely have performance problems. That's because exercise generates natural hormones that keep you youthful and able to enjoy sexual health.
Viagra works by enhancing circulation to the penis enabling its erection, and may work in women similarly, by increasing blood flow to the clitoris. L-arginine is an amino acid which in itself is not a cure for impotence or sexual dysfunction, but is used by the body as a vaso-dilator, benefitting circulation and endothelial function. Endothelial cells line the inner surface of blood vessels. Erectile dysfunction and endothelial dysfunction both share the common problem of impaired circulation, for which L-arginine is effective. As such, it is a good supplement to add to an herbal program to enhance sex. The difference is that while Viagra increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, L-arginine decreases these risks and costs just pennies compared to the current market price of $15 a pill for Viagra.
Foods and herbs for enhanced sexual performance
A word about consumer expectations of herbs vs. drugs
Most of us are used to the promise of fast-acting drugs. While a drug like Viagra can produce a lasting erection within an hour or so, we have to be realistic when we consider our expectations of herbs and other natural supplements. Herbs bring harmony and health to the body over time. As a result, herbs' actions are accomplished more slowly but are generally longer lasting. Keep this in mind when treating any condition, but especially sexual dysfunction, with herbs.
In the heavens, stars are dancing and the mounting moon is new,
Sexual energy is a reflection of an overall state of health and well-being. A healthy sexual appetite is as natural as an appetite for food. Drugs often interfere with libido and whenever possible we are better off looking for nutritional and herbal substitutes for drugs, not only to treat sexual dysfunction, but also to treat the conditions that may cause loss of libido in the first place! With this approach, may you enjoy your lover in health and happiness not only on Valentine's Day but year-round.
Jan 17, 2009
In my last post on diet and weight loss, I discussed exercise and making reponsible food choices. In this post I'd like to address another option for detoxification, balancing and weight loss: Fasting.
All fasting is essentially a process that gives the body a rest and restores normal metabolic function. There are generally two types of fasts: a more extreme detoxifying juice-only fast, and a milder yet still balancing and detoxifying fast based on legumes and grains.
Four-Day Apple Juice Fast
If you have previously overindulged in rich foods, meat, fat, dairy and so forth, you may reap remarkable benefits from a mono-fruit juice fast. For starters, I recommend the four-day apple juice fast.
Purchase or be prepared to juice the equivalent of at least a half-gallon of organic apple juice per day for three days.
The drill is simple: to maintain blood sugar levels, have at least one 8-ounce glass of warm or room temperature apple juice every two hours or anytime you feel like eating.
To maintain healthy fats during this (or any) diet I also recommend a teaspoon of olive oil three times daily.
After three days of taking apple juice only, you 'break-fast' on the fourth day. This day is the day that can either make or break the gains achieved by the previous three days. On that day, one can have warm vegetable soup with added beans and brown rice, accompanied by a wilted salad garnished with olive oil and Bragg's amino acids (an alternative to soy tamari sauce).
The nutrients in greens are encased in a cellulose-like bond that is difficult for our digestive fluids to dissolve. Heat dissolves this bond just as it will quickly crinkle any piece of cellophane passed over an open flame. Many may ask, "Don't you lose some of the nutrients through this flash-heating method?" Yes, but the loss is very little compared to what you will now absorb. The experiential test for this is how comfortable and good your stomach feels when you have your salads prepared in this way as opposed to greens that are raw.
Certain herbs will greatly assist the detoxifying weight loss process you are trying to accomplish with this fast. For this, I recommend Planetary's Triphala Garcinia Program, two to three tablets taken with the apple juice three times daily. This formula combines the legendary balanced detoxification properties of the three Ayurvedic fruits of Triphala with the thyroid supporting effects of kelp and L-Tyrosine, which all purify the blood and lymph. Also included in the formula are burdock and cleavers, which increase the elimination of excess fluid; Chinese white atractylodes, astragalus and ginger to help raise metabolism; and dehydrated apple cider vinegar, which regulates acid-alkaline.
It is important to note that no herbal formula will directly result in weight loss. Stimulants are used medically and do suppress the appetite to some degree, but should not be exclusively relied upon in place of dietary and lifestyle solutions such as the ones I discuss on this and previous posts.
This being said, a formula such as Triphala Garcinia Program can be a powerful aid to all the elements necessary for balanced weight loss. It can be safely used in an ongoing manner to assist the body's normal digestive, assimilative and eliminative processes.
After an initial four-day fast like the one mentioned above is a good time to implement or renew your New Year's diet principles and resolutions.
For those whose diets are not so extreme in indulgences but still would like to detoxify and cleanse, a 10-day diet based on whole grains and beans with the judicious use of spices is recommended.
The most ideal fast that has been used for millennia is based on the Ayurvedic food called kichari or kichidi. This is one of the most satisfying and healing foods. It can be taken as a complete food for detoxification, purification, weight loss, weak digestion or recovery from illness. You may modify it as you wish, adding vegetables, using chicken stock, adding fish, and so on. However, it is pretty complete unto itself. Depending on the type of fast you would like to do, you may choose to have it once, twice or for all three meals of the day.
With the addition of some cooked vegetables, one can live on kicharee. Here is the recipe:
Kicharee (Indian Dahl and Rice)
You will need the following ingredients:
Spices are important to kicharee and have their own healing properties:
The final product will be very soupy and not like normal rice and beans. You can choose to make it thicker or thinner by using more or less water in the beginning.
In a saucepan, cook one part rice and mung beans (can be a quarter to a half cup of each) in 7 to 10 parts water until rice is tender.
In a separate large skillet, heat a level tablespoon of ghee. Add and sautee 1/4 teaspoon each of turmeric, ground coriander seed, ground cumin seed and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
This should only takes a few minutes to lightly brown so that the wonderful aroma of the spices begins to arise. Then mix in the precooked mung beans and rice.
During your fast, have a bowl as often as you like. The ancients said that if one eats only kicharee for 10 days, it can cure all diseases. True or not, it is certainly a wonderful foundation to healing. To enhance the detoxification process, take three triphala tablets twice a day with water before or after eating kicharee.
While it is best to make a fresh batch everyday during your fast, kicharee will keep refrigerated for three or four days. Don't forget that you can add vegetables or small amounts of organic meats to the above basic recipe to make it more like a stew.
Jan 13, 2009
Then please send or forward it to as many people as you know, asking them to do the same.
Or sign it online here and share the link!
To: President-Elect Barack H. Obama
Presidential Petition for Incorporation of Integrative CAM into U.S. Health Care Policy
Dear President-Elect Barack Obama,
I respectfully ask that you incorporate Integrative Medicine modalities into any new U.S. health care policy once you take office in January 2009.
The 1979 oft cited resolution by the World Health Organization[i] called on countries to promote the role of traditional practitioners in the health care systems of the world and also encouraged more financial support for the development of traditional systems.
It further recommended that the medical profession should not undervalue the role played by the traditional medical system in providing important health care in developing countries and even specifically advocated the use of medicinal plants and remedies used by traditional practitioners to effectively treat their patients.
With the popularity of these traditional healing systems, we are at the place in time where at least a third of the people of America have recognized the value of these traditional systems not only for developing countries but as being of great benefit for certain conditions in our own country.
Because they provide relatively safe and effective approaches for treating many conditions, evidence-based, complementary, alternative medicine (CAM) health care modalities should be integrated into the U.S. health care system.
There are many reasons why one would choose such alternative health care methods but one of the most obvious is described in published research revealing that over 150,000 Americans die annually from FDA-approved pharmaceuticals that have been prescribed and utilized according to their indications. Shockingly, these 'iatrogenic' (medically induced) deaths account for the fifth major cause of mortality in the U.S.
I am one of the millions of Americans who have found complementary, natural health methods to be an invaluable part of my health care requirements and needs. These systems, including acupuncture, herbal medicine, naturopathy, chiropractic, homeopathy and Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine offer aspects of health care that are not provided by conventional Western medicine.
A recent study based on 1162 patients found acupuncture to be more effective for treating lower back pain, from which 85% of all people will suffer at some point in their life, than conventional treatments.[ii] This is only one of many conditions that are better treated with traditional alternative medicine but the fact remains that these time honored methods represent relatively non-invasive treatments that continues to be the legacy of all traditional peoples throughout the world.
The reasons that these methods continue to be resorted to is because conventional Western medicine based on expensive technological procedures and synthetic drugs, for various reasons is not always the best approach for all conditions, in much the same ways that exclusive reliance on fossil fuels is unsatisfactory for all of our energy needs.
Happily, there are other approaches from which to choose and utilize. These are some of the reasons why Harvard studies conducted by David Eisenberg, M.D. et al.,[iii] in 1990 and again in 1997 revealed that a significantly large percentage of Americans are already using these integrate, alternative, complementary therapeutic approaches and that they are even willing to spend more out-of-pocket money for such care than for all allopathic primary care and hospital care combined.
As recent as December, 2008, a National Health Statistics Report, entitled Complementary and Alternative Health (CAM) Care Use Among Children and Adults: United States 2007 by Barnes' et al. revealed that 38% of adults and 12% of children used CAM therapies over the previous 12 months.[iv]
I stand ready to be of assistance to you and Secretary of Health, Tom Daschle in any way that I can. Thank you for your kind attention and I look forward to your expedient response.
[iii] Eisenberg DM, Davis RB, Ettner SL, Appel S, Wilkey S, Van Rompay M, Kessler RC. Trends in alternative medicine use in the United States, 1990-1997. JAMA: the Journal of the American Medical Association 1998;280:1569-1575.
Read the recent article in the Wall Street journal: "Alternative Medicine is Mainstream" by Deepak Chopra