Michaels Blog

Michaels Blog

Herbal, health and inspired life ramblings

 

If you suffer from hypertension, several avenues of treatment are available to you. How do you choose what is best for your unique condition? In this blog, I'll explore the approaches to hypertension offered by Western conventional medicine, Western herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and East Indian Ayurvedic medicine. Each of these has a well-respected track record backed up by practice and research. Western conventional medical approach to hypertension Western medicine considers hypertension (HTN, or high blood pressure,) as a cardiac condition where the arterial blood pressure, the blood pumped from the heart through the arterial conduits of the body, is abnormally elevated. A measurement is taken using a blood pressure cuff to determine systolic blood pressure (BP) and diastolic blood pressure. Systolic pressure measures the resistance of the artery when the blood is pumped from the heart while the diastolic measures what resistance remains on the artery between…
Nancy Angelini, the author of the article, "What Exactly Are Ferment Metabolites?" which I'm featuring in this blog post, is the head East Coast educator for Planetary Herbals and Source Naturals supplements, the company who manufactures and distributes by herbal products. One afternoon she was visiting the West Coast. She, I and the other primary educator for Planetary Herbals, Tom Dadant, happened upon a discussion of the origin of many of the vitamins and supplements that we buy and simply take for granted. As it turns out many of these, such as the B vitamin group, many enzymes, Co Q10, and others, as well as some used in pharmaceutical drugs, are byproducts of fermentation otherwise known as ferment metabolites. Read all about them in Nancy's informative article now housed in our Research section. 
Book Review: Ayurveda in Nepal, Volume One: Ayurvedic Principles, Diagnosis and Treatment by Vaidya Mana Bajra Bajracharya Edited by Vaidya Madhu Bajra Bajracharya, Alan Tillotson and Todd Caldecott Directly based on clinical manuals of a great Nepalese Ayurvedic practitioner, Dr. Mana Bajra Bajracharya, Ayurveda in Nepal goes far beyond the usual instructive or encyclopedic books that are currently available in English. Alan Tillotson, one of the book's editors, first met Dr. Mana when he contracted an illness while touring the region. Alan was so impressed with Dr. Mana that he returned several times to personally study with him in what was apparently the busiest Ayurvedic clinic in the region. According to Alan, 'This book is how Dr. Mana thinks.' Remaining true to the spirit and exact translation of Dr Mana's words, Alan stated that 'I could not change it in any way.' This in itself offers a rare insight into…
An article published in the UK Independent on Dec. 30, 2010, reports: 'From 1 May 2011, traditional herbal medicinal products must be licensed or prescribed by a registered herbal practitioner to comply with an EU directive passed in 2004.' The reason given for the directive is a purportedly 'rising concern over adverse effects caused by herbal medicines.' The fact that this reason is given for the regulations reflects not only issues with herb safety but also the herbal community's inability to unilaterally effectively address these concerns. Bickering factions among individual herbalists and herbal organizations have crippled their ability to self-regulate, resulting in regulations imposed by governmental agencies. While the new law requires registration and licensing of individual herbal products and does not directly regulate the practice of herbal medicine, it will certainly affect herbalists in the EU. In most European countries, herbs are dispensed by medical doctors or individuals licensed…
My friend Don Monkerud recently sent me his periodic political critique which included the following: 'Corporate controlled politicians claim America has 'the greatest healthcare system in the world,' only to reveal their ignorance. The World Health Organization ranked the U.S. 37th among nations in healthcare performance in 2000, although we pay more for less service. Numerous studies reveal that the U.S. is mediocre in treating illness. For example, compared to the G8, the U.S. has the highest infant mortality, the most mothers who die during childbirth, the most lives lost that could have been saved, and the worst in treatment of cancer. The U.N. rates the U.S. even worse: 74th in healthcare performance. And in 2009, the C.I.A. ranked the U.S. 49th in life expectancy in the world.' Each day we read about phenomenal medical breakthrough research. Doesn't it ever occur to the large numbers who voted the present Conservative…
Sage Advice For the treatment of Coronary Heart Disease It's not too often that a representative of a pharmaceutical company will call an herbalist asking what herb might be worth researching for a particular condition. Several years ago I had one such call and the representative was inquiring about herbs specific for cardiovascular disease and the relief of angina pectoris (periodic chest pains caused by cardiovascular malfunction). This condition is often a precursor to the number one disease in the Western world: coronary heart disease (CHD). I thought that perhaps this was to be 'my day in the sun' with an opportunity to bring one of my favorite herbs to a much wider public. I considered mentioning hawthorn, but I knew of an herb that was even more effective for angina than hawthorn. In fact it's one that I've found to be practically 100% clinically effective for angina! (Of course,…
It's no secret that cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the #1 killer in the United States. Estimates are that 81,100,000 people in the United States have one or more forms of CVD (approximately one out of every 3 deaths in the US). Apart from this, over 10 million Americans suffer chest pain or discomfort (angina pectoris) from reduced blood supply to the heart. Before discussing one of the most powerful herbs for the treatment and prevention of this problem, I would like to recommend one herb that should be in everyone's first aid medicine chest: cayenne pepper (Capsicum frutescens). It is a first line defensive herb for most acute conditions ranging from the common cold and flu to low energy. For the cardiovascular system, it acts as a powerful stimulant, an herbal version of nitroglycerine for the heart. Don't be afraid to take it at the first sign of a heart…
For years I have known and used DMSO for the topical relief of inflammation and pain. It's unfortunate that even after learning of the wonderful healing powers of a particular herb or substance such as DMSO, for some reason in the pursuit of new or different treatments sometimes we allow those that we once knew to be effective get lost in the fog of the past. I recently had a problem with my left foot that affected my ability to walk. The verdict by a podiatrist was that it was an inflammation caused by wearing shoes that did not give my feet proper support. I discarded my old shoes which were evidently the culprit and purchased new ones fitted with properly supportive insoles to relieve the pressure on my foot. This gave immediate relief, but any time I failed to wear shoes with the insoles or even walk barefoot, the…
I've lived through 40 years of fad diets ranging from Adele Davis, living foods, Paul Bragg, juice diets, macrobiotic, low fat, low carbohydrate, Mediterranean, high protein, to the currently fashionable Paleolithic diet. We may be coming around full circle with the recent findings that a high-fat breakfast consisting of foods rich in saturated fats such as bacon is actually good for you. Such are the findings of researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham led by senior study author, Martin E. Young, published in the March 30, 2010 issue of the International Journal of Obesity. The study found that a high-fat (that's fat, not protein!), low-carb breakfast jump starts your metabolism so that you have more energy throughout the day and you will process food more efficiently and lose belly fat, insulin resistance, lower blood lipids and prevent coronary heart disease, as well as prevent and reverse type 2…
Above: Richo Cech in Zanzibar Just as a horse whisperer understands the particular needs and psychology of horses, a plant whisperer is one who can receive the subtle communications from plants revealing their special needs for successful cultivation. In both instances, only someone with a unique aptitude who is willing to invest years of patient observation and trial and error may attain such a gift. I would certainly designate Richo Cech, herbalist, horticulturist, world traveler, archaeologist, linguist, author, founder and owner of Horizon Herbs, as just such a 'plant whisperer.' He has patiently mastered the secrets of cultivating wild medicinal herbs, some of which have never been successfully cultivated before, such as Osha (Ligusticum porteri) and Mandrake (Mandragora species) to name only two. Simply put, Richo is an herbalist who knows plants from the ground up '" and that is very rare. Richo recently spoke at our annual East West…
Almost exactly one year ago today, I published a blog post, 'Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Flu,' about the corporate-made H1N1 fraud. Now, according to Digital Online, the German news source Der Spiegel published an exhaustive article describing how 30 representatives of Big Pharma met with WHO Director-General Chan and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon at WHO headquarters for the sole purpose of discussing how to move the H1N1 threat to a phase 6 or pandemic level. Once upon a time, the term 'pandemic' represented a critical worldwide health threat; somehow it was downgraded to simply mean a world disease. Hopefully this will awaken more people to the threat of the takeover of the world's economies by multi-national corporations generally, and by Big Pharma in particular. Few of us can fathom the threat posed by these companies. Having no allegiance to any country and so glutted with…
My first Chinese herb teacher Foon Lee Wong once cryptically remarked: "It's not good to be too healthy." Since then I've often thought of native peoples throughout the world described by early explorers as remarkable specimens of health. These natives ate the purest foods, drank the purest water, breathed the freshest air, and naturally enjoyed plenty of sunlight and exercise. However, they easily fell prey to newly introduced pathogens that decimated their numbers within two or three generations. Ironically, it was the less healthy, vitamin-deficient, scurvy-ridden European conquerors and colonists who visited such devastation upon the otherwise healthy native people. Considering the quality of the food, air, water and environment sustaining most humans today, I don't think most of us will ever be at risk for being "too healthy." On the other hand, is there a danger of being too insulated from the positive and negative influences of the society…
The pomegranate (Punica granitum), highly touted these days as an antioxidant-rich superfruit, has an ancient metaphysical and culinary history. In fact, the image of the celebrated pomegranate was carved on the pillars of King Solomon's temple and was referenced several times in the Bible's Song of Songs of Solomon, as in the following verse: Your cheek is like a half-pomegranateBehind your veil.(Song of Songs, 6:8) The pomegranate has forever been likened to the shape of a woman's breast. An age-old herbal principle called the Doctrine of Signatures suggests that if an herb resembles a part of the body, it is likely a medicine for that part of the body. Perhaps this recent report published in the January 2010 issue of the American Association for Cancer Research journal Cancer Prevention Research lends some credence to this bit of herbal folklore. Researchers at City of Hope Hospital in Duarte, Calif., discovered a…
In the marketplace, it is often more difficult to sell the general public on an herbal formula as opposed to a single herb. This is understandable, because people are usually driven to single herbs when they hear of some sensational effect associated with it. For example, Ligusticum porteri (now available as a Planetary Herbals extract), commonly known as "osha," has been found to lower viral count in chronic hepatitis C patients. Traditionally, the herb is considered "big medicine" by southwestern natives who widely utilize this herb in ceremonies and as treatment for a wide variety of conditions including sore throat, and all viral diseases including the flu. In the marketplace, a typical consumer presented with the choice of capsules of pure lomatium versus capsules of lomatium blended with other herbs would most likely choose the former. Are formulations better than singles? Assuming that it is well crafted by an experienced…
The Naming of Names: The Search for Order in the World of Plants by Anna Pavord (New York, NY: Bloomsbury, 2005) is hardly a new book, but it's new to me and worth mention. This book reads like an exciting true life adventure -- a Raiders of the Lost Ark-type romp through 2,000 years of plant taxonomy (an enthusiastic description which, I confess, oversimplifies the subject matter somewhat). I found this book to be a gem in its description of the history of how people came to tell one plant from another. Humans have needed to positively identify plants because of plants' usefulness as food, fuel, shelter, clothing, and last but not least, medicine. As an herbalist, this last part is of particular interest to me. Consider how the discovery of North and South America and all the Pacific islands was the result of a search for herbs (i.e., a…
It's no secret that acid reflux is a widespread condition. Just think of all the antacid, Nexium or Prilosec advertisements you've seen lately. Some people eat Tums, an alkalinizing form of calcium, like candy. But you don't have to resort to taking expensive prescription drugs or chewing bushels of antacids. If any condition is made to be treated by herbal therapy, it is acid reflux (or GERD, or heartburn). What causes acid reflux? Among common causes are the following: an imbalanced diet, too high in irritating, hot, spicy and acidic foods (not including vinegar or lemons, however) stress and worry eating too fast not chewing well enough (chewing allows your saliva to predigest the food before it even reaches your stomach) erratic eating habits not enough water (especially after a meal) insufficient stomach acid The most prevalent reason by far is insufficient stomach acid. When we don't have enough digestive…
For a good 'romp in the hay' this Valentine's Day, be sure the hay is oat straw! Wild oat straw and its seeds foster the right balance of relaxation and enhanced libido for both men and women. Sowing your Wild Oats For their aphrodisiac effect, it's the milky sap of the green unripe grain (shown at right) that gives the most 'bang for the buck,' so to speak. Wild oats have been known to act as a noticeable sexual stimulant for horses and other animals, which seems to suggest that they have the same effect on humans of both sexes. Avena sativa extract contains an amorphous alkaloid which acts as a stimulant to the nervous ganglia producing an increase of 'ready to go' excitability of the muscles in horses and humans. Testosterone means increased sex drive One of the main effects of testosterone is increased libido. While often associated with…
After the period of feasting from Thanksgiving through Christmas, the New Year leads many of us to think about getting back in shape and losing some of those holiday pounds. There's a wide variety of dieting approaches, ranging from raw food, juice, vegetarian, high carbohydrate, low carbohydrate, low fat, and paleolithic diets, to name only a few. Naturally, the contradictions between these different diets leads to a great deal of confusion. What may work fantastically for one person may spell failure for another. After exploring all of these, it's my opinion that there is no single diet that is right for everyone. Rather than adhere to a rigid program, I think it's better to adopt the following principles that can guide us according to our individual needs and circumstances. Ten Principles for Healthy Eating 1: Choose foods that you know are nutritionally dense. In that way, you will be more…
I'm rounding out this trio of blogs on diet and weight management with the following 20 tips. Under each tip is a link to a supporting article or study. 1. If it's on your plate, you will eat it. Develop the habit of taking small portions. This is a variation on the notion that our 'eyes are bigger than our stomach' or rather, 'our eyes are bigger than we want our stomach to become'. Bottomless Bowls: Why Visual Cues of Portion Size May Influence Intake: This study showed that we are poor judges of satiety and often rely on visual cues to signal when our hunger has been fulfilled rather than relying on what our stomachs actually tell us. 2: Don't eat mindlessly. Be attentive to the amount as well as the flavor of your food. At the Movies: How External Cues and Perceived Taste Impact Consumption Volume: This study…
This Dec. 1, 2009, article at the BBC website entitled "Prince Charles: 'Herbal medicine must be regulated'" points to a potential crisis for the practice of herbal medicine in the UK. Under threat of new European Union (EU) laws scheduled to take effect in April 2011 that would restrict the prescription of manufactured herbal medicines to "statutorily regulated professionals like doctors," the Prince of Wales is urging his government to regulate herbalists, lest they be banned from practice entirely when the new laws take effect. The new laws also stipulate that the only herbal medicines that will be sold over the counter will be ones used to treat 'mild and self-limiting' conditions - basically meaning nothing worse than a cold. Apart from the fact that this would undoubtedly cause a large legally disenfranchised body of people to seek natural remedies through illegal venues, it also would overturn a 500 year-old…
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