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Michaels Blog

Michaels Blog

Herbal, health and inspired life ramblings

 

What's that sound? Why won't it go away? Tinnitus, commonly known as "ringing in the ears" and the perception of sound where no external source of sound is present, is a surprisingly common affliction. You may not know that complementary medicine offers treatment options for this condition, including herbs. Furthermore, Traditional Chinese Medicine recognizes four different types of tinnitus with four different herbal formulas matched to each specific type. This month, I am pleased to feature a blog post by East West grad and teacher Holly Hutton, who outlines several herbal treatment options for tinnitus, along with diet and lifestyle suggestions. Go to Holly's post, "Tinnitus-Ringing in the Ear, Treatment Options From Many Traditions" for a clear elucidation of the complementary approach to this common condition.
Each spring, the honeysuckle flowers gather at the end of their stems to trumpet their sweet, gentle scent of purification and renewal. When I lead an herb walk in my backyard, I always pause with my students in homage at the woodbine (honeysuckle vine). After a discussion of the powerful antibiotic, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and not least, anticancer properties of this gentle herb, I facetiously tell my students to pick a dry weight pound of honeysuckle blossoms as part of their initiation into the world of herbs. The painstaking task I suggest to my students is something I've never personally undertaken. Generally, I don't pick honeysuckle flowers myself, with the excuse that it's too much work. Probably it is for this same reason that despite the herb's fantastic properties of purification and detoxification, it is seldom used by Western herbalists. (This moment does not pass with a feeling of silent gratitude…
A wise sage once told me "where there is great light, there is great darkness." For many, this is especially true during the festive holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year"s. This is a time when expectations run high -- expectations of ourselves and of those we love. Old family hurts and rivalries often come to the surface. Along with an awareness of all the good in our lives, we find ourselves dwelling on what we lack. Indeed the holidays can be a bitter time for some among us leading to what is commonly called the "holiday blues," a strange, depressive melancholy. Amidst the glitter, colorful lights and giddy feasts, we may not realize that the holidays are also the time when there is a significant increase in domestic violence, murders, suicides, and according to one study, a notable rise by one third of heart attacks. In short, the holiday…
“Northwest Passage” The amazing music of composer, Alex Shapiro Featuring the world premiere of ARCANA: SUITE FOR PIANO commissioned by and dedicated to and performed by Michael Tierra, pianist. Peace United Church, Santa Cruz, California March 20, 7PM I am diverging this month from the usual blog on herbs and healing to write about a very special piece of music celebrating herbs and healing. This month I will be performing the premiere of Arcana, a 20-minute long suite of short piano pieces which I commissioned highly celebrated contemporary composer, Alex Shapiro, to write for me nearly two years ago. (Buy tickets for the March 20 show in Santa Cruz here.) Michael Tierra the musician My Life as a Pianist - Herbalist – Healer I began my life as a musician. I was a pianist, sometime composer, conductor, and an early avant garde music exponent. At one point in the late…
Arthritis, joint and back pain is so prevalent throughout the world that there really is no point to describe how many sufferers there are. It is safe to say that if you are around the age of 55 or older you probably have some form of arthritis somewhere in your body. From a Western medical perspective there are two broad forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is joint pain primarily caused by a gradual loss of protective cartilage. This can be caused by physical injury, mechanical stress or metabolic abnormality that can gradually break down the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones from rubbing against each other. This is the most common type of arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most severe type of inflammatory joint disease. It is an auto-immune condition where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues, which in turn damages the joints…
With the holidays and the season for gift-giving upon us, I thought I'd put together an Oprah-style list of "My Favorite (Herbal) Things" for all you generous hearts out there. Here goes: ESSENTIALS FOR YOUR HERBAL BOOKSHELF All of Michael Moore's classic Trinity Herb Books: Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West - 2nd edition (2003), $24.95 from Museum of New Mexico Press Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West (1989), $11.53 from Amazon Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West (1993), $22.50 from Museum of New Mexico Press These are arguably the greatest herb books written in the 20th century. In his inimitable witty style, Moore wrote these from first-hand experience seeking out, gathering, making preparations and administering herbs from throughout the North American Continent. Michael Moore (not the filmmaker -- but they do resemble each other somewhat) is one of America's greatest living herbalists. Even if you are not…
In the springtime, when birds do sing, tree pollen flings, eyes itch, noses clog, throats do hack '" hey ding a ding, a ding: Sweet lovers love the spring. --- Paraphrase of Shakespeare's Lover and His Lass Are you mistaking that Spring cold for an allergy? Often, the reason Spring and Summer colds are so difficult to overcome is because they are not colds at all, but allergies. At this time of year, the distinction between a cold and an allergy (and to a lesser extent, the flu) is not so clear-cut. How do you know if you have a cold, flu or allergy? Common upper respiratory symptoms such as sneezing, nasal congestion with mild, clear discharge and mild to moderate cold sensitivity are common to both colds and allergies. However, allergies are accompanied by tingling or itchy sensations in the throat and eyes with absolutely no fever. Are you…
Gluten or dairy intolerant? You may not need to give up wheat and dairy, says Dr. John Douillard, DC, in his book Eat Wheat (Morgan James Publishing, 2017). Backed by years of clinical experience helping people who previously were unable to digest wheat and dairy, Dr. Douillard employs traditional thousands-of-years-old Ayurvedic principles backed by more than 600 scientific studies to develop the methods described in his book for gut health. His conclusion? Most who claim to experience varied and myriad symptoms of discomfort as a result of eating dairy, wheat and other glutinous grains is the result of a toxic condition that has weakened their digestion. Based on my own clinical experience, I agree that, with the exception of the less than 0.5 to 1% who actually have lactose intolerance and celiac disease (the latter being a serious conditions that can be medically diagnosed through simple clinical tests) should absolutely…
In my previous blog on treating H. pylori-induced stomach inflammation with herbs, I touch briefly on a fundamental difference between conventional and complementary medicine: namely, that conventional medicine prefers to identify an isolated pathogen or discrete named diagnosis which it aims to treat singularly; whereas complementary or traditional medicine relies on signs and symptoms, within the unique individual and their personal conformation, and how these elements fit into a time-tested model of healing. Being an herbalist means learning to think like a herbalist, which apart from a special knowledge of the therapeutic properties of plants also means to not overly focus on the symptoms of a disease but also the particular unique physiological ‘terrain’ from which the disease and its symptoms arise. With Chinese medicine, this means treating ‘root (cause) and branch (symptom) based on principles of yin and yang. In Ayurveda, it means differentiating the individual’s underlying prakriti (doshic…
Recently, a colleague sent me the following question: A friend in Canada tested positive for H. pylori bacteria. Of course, the Western doctor he goes to wanted to start heavy antibiotic treatment. Plus, he said he would need to be on some 'pill' for the rest of his life! He is refusing until he can seek out alternative answers to this. He is 70 yrs. old, does not have a hiatal hernia, just a bit of indigestion at times. What is Helicobacter pylori? Helicobacter pylori is a common bacterium that many have with or without any noticeable symptoms. Recently a study found that Otzi, the 5,300-year-old ice-mummy, was also infected with H. pylori. Today it is estimated that it is present in about half the population. H. pylori is known to produce an enzyme, urease, that allows the bacteria to live in harsh acidic environments such as the stomach. Urease…
How beautiful in autumn shadows, the blood red berries of hawthorn are! Drooping in small clusters along thorny branches they transform the final seasonal rays of the sun into a unique abundance of flavonoids and oligomeric anthocyanidins responsible, among other things, for their red color. Western Use of Hawthorn It is the unique formation of these biochemical constituents that partially provide a scientific rationale for the beneficial effects hawthorn is known to have especially on the cardiovascular system. Their calming, circulation-enhancing, digestive and diuretic properties ease the fluidic burden of the heart, relieve peripheral arterial tension and allow for a freer flow of blood and lymph. The leaves, berries and flowers of hawthorn are used in medicine. We see how they benefit the cardiovascular system making it useful for congestive heart failure (CHF), angina (chest pain), irregular heartbeat. They treat both low and high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries…
Autumn Parched over Sun's heated passion Causing plants to ripenSquirrels to scamper and work, And many colored leaves to fall. What was once innocence, joy and abundanceDescends like PersephoneTo wintry dreams of a distant spring to comeAnd so our world enters its recession From unlimited excess and abundance Inevitably partaking of the infinite Cycles of revolution and change Here in my small town nestled in the sequoia-groved mountains above Santa Cruz in northern California, it's officially Autumn. We just had our first significant rainfall, which left me with a soggy garden. Stepping out onto the patio the morning after the rains, I basked in the sunlight and deeply inhaled the air filled with life-affirming negative ions. From here I surveyed the beginning of the end of my garden's colorful jumble of herbs, vegetables and flowers. I saw dahlias of all shapes, sizes and stages of life. I saw the inimitable…
Acupressure applied to Gall Bladder 20. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) there are 361 charted acupuncture points on the body. Acupuncturists generally recognize any active point on the body that is particularly sensitive as an acupuncture point, so understood in this way, the number of actual points are limitless. Within the medical tradition of Indian Ayurvedic medicine, there is a comparable number of points on the body that can be treated called marmas. Like Chinese acupuncture the science of marmani developed in India about 5,000 years ago in Vedic times. Ayurvedic texts describe 117 major marma points. Located at anatomical sites where veins, arteries, tendons, bones or joints intersect, they are similar to the more numerous Chinese acupoints as today they are also stimulated by palpation for both diagnosis and healing. Interestingly, about 75 of the 117 principal marma points exactly correspond to principle acupoints used in Chinese…
Thus far in this series we have described two other powerful herbs for coronary heart disease: hawthorn from the Western herbal tradition, and dan shen (Salvia miltiorrhiza) from the Chinese herbal tradition. Rounding out the trio with arjuna, a botanical from the Ayurvedic herbal tradition, we see that while all three have similar properties and effects, each has their own distinct virtues that work very nicely to complement each other in an herbal formula. All three promote blood circulation, probably by making the blood less viscous or 'sticky.' Because of this shared blood thinning property, the same precaution holds for all three, which is that one should not take them with blood-thinning drugs and should consult with a qualified medical practitioner before using these herbs. Hawthorn is particularly rich in flavonoids, which accounts for its well-known benefits for the heart. Dan shen contains tanshinone, which is a diterpenoid napthoquinone responsible…
Michael Tierra with a view of the Huangshan mountain range. The East West Herb Course and TCMZone organized a special training for our advanced and graduate East West Course students to receive advanced clinical training at Shanghai University of Traditional Medicine (SHUTCM). Based on the enthusiastic and grateful responses to all of us during and after the trip, everyone felt that this experience provided a quantum leap in their education and understanding of herbal healing especially from the TCM perspective, which is a core part of the curriculum of our course. With a relationship dating back to 2008, herbal medicine supplier and continuing education provider TCMZone, LLC, has been collaborating with Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine to create a specialized clinical training. Along with Lesley and myself, TCMZone collaborated with Longhua hospital and Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine to design the ideal advanced training program for our advanced…
The three fruits of Triphala. My clinical experience using the Ayurvedic formula Triphala is extensive, based on literally thousands of cases over the course or 25 years. It is only within the last three years that I can proclaim it to be as near a specific for IBS, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease as one can find. I discovered this use for it quite by accident working with a patient with the worst case of ulcerative colitis I have ever encountered. Because this was a condition of extreme diarrhea, I initially never thought to prescribe Triphala because of its known laxative properties; Triphala is also a specific treatment for laxative-dependent constipation, so it seems counterintuitive to employ it in the treatment of ulcerative colitis, which is basically an intractable type of diarrhea. Even though I had read that Triphala was good for both constipation and diarrhea, I didn’t want to…
Despite the overwhelming evidence of the added health benefits of fiber, vitamins and minerals of whole grains, most traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic doctors recommend eating white rather than whole brown rice. It's generally understood that despite the superior nutrition of brown rice, white rice is the easiest to digest. Nineteenth-century industrialism in the West brought significant advances in milling rice and flour, but even centuries before that, people had the ability to make white flour and partially polished rice. In fact, in medieval Europe white flour was preferred over brown, if for no other reason than the fact that a dishonest miller could more easily adulterate brown flour with sawdust. Personally, I have always favored whole grains over refined. Undoubtedly this was based on the years of my being a proponent of the macrobiotic diet, featuring the 10-day brown rice diet that was advocated as a virtual panacea for all…
The entire class of tonics in Chinese medicine is defined as herbs that "make things normal." They are regarded as food grade, meaning they can be taken regularly as part of a super food diet, with or without food, and are remarkably low in adverse side effects. There is no question that the king of all tonic herbs is Panax ginseng. Its American counterpart, Panax quinquefolia, is milder, more bitter than acrid, and is regarded as more of a Yin and Blood tonic. It is potent, but in terms of energy you can really feel, there is nothing like Chinese Panax ginseng. The most potent specimen, wild Chinese ginseng, is only available at the cost of thousands of dollars for a single root. The next best option is wild, 10-to-18-year-old, woods-grown ginseng. Most of the commercial supply of ginseng in the world is grown in South Korea where the soil…
by Beverly Jennings, RH (AHG), MT, East West School of Planetary Herbology Graduate East West students were fortunate to have the opportunity to spend an entire day with renowned herbalist Ron Teeguarden (pictured above) and his son Lucky at East West’s yearly seminar at the Quaker Center in Ben Lomond, CA. Ron Teeguarden, who is widely recognized as the father of tonic herbalism, is author of the classic, Chinese Tonic Herbs, a book that introduced the art of tonic herbalism to the American public. His second book, Wisdom of the Chinese Tonic Herbs, is recognized as a major work on the subject of Chinese tonic herbs and the Asian arts of longevity and radiant health. Ron thoroughly believes in the power of tonic herbalism for radiant health and longevity, and spent the day sharing this precious art with a mesmerized audience of herbalists, acupuncturists, teachers and students alike. Expressing much…
Christopher Hobbs Christopher Hobbs needs no introduction to the herb world. If you have even the faintest spark of interest in herbs, you should know of him. I can’t even begin to count his many achievements, the number of books he’s written on herbal healing, yet he remains one of the humblest, most likable people I know and I’m proud to say, one of my closest and dearest friends. It seems like we have shadowed, competed, shared and walked this wondrous way of herbs with each other for decades. He is one of only a few colleagues I turn to when I have a question about a plant, founding the American Herbalists Guild, sharing our love of Mahler, art music, jazz, or life. I count the two or three years that I spent working with him side by side in my clinic, on patients together, as one of the happiest…
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