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GREEK MEDICINE AND CLIMATE CHANGE

by David Osborn, MH, L.Ac
Monday, November 17, 2014

On October 25th of this year, I saw, right here in Bucharest Romania, and extreme weather event that I never thought I would ever see.  For two days straight, we were snowed in by a huge blizzard.  My landlady here told me that she had been listening to the news, and that the blizzard came in on the tail of a really freakish hurricane-like superstorm that whipped the UK.  I stared out my window in disbelief as I saw the snow blanket the piazza, or open air market, below me.  Only a few days before, the weather had been mild and balmy, and here we were, seemingly in the middle of winter, just barely more than a month after the fall equinox.

In talking with my landlady about how climate change has affected the weather patterns in Romania, she told me that, 20 or 30 years ago, before climate change became the major problem that it is today, Romania had a temperate climate with four distinct seasons, each having an identity and character of its own.  Most specifically, she said that Romania no longer seems to have a real spring or a real fall; they have been reduced to nothing more than summer and winter battling back and forth as the weather swings back and forth between one extreme and the other.

Not long after that freakish snow storm, I had to take a bus trip to Athens, Greece to see about doing Greek Medicine workshops there.  Needless to say, the bus ride was quite interesting; Bulgaria, being mostly at higher elevations than Romania, was under a much heavier blanket of snow.  But, by the time we reached the Greek border, the snow was no longer there; my sister had looked online at the Greek weather report the day before, and told me that things were still balmy in Greece.  But on the day I arrived, I somehow brought the bad weather with me, and the cold weather and rains finally arrived in Greece, signaling the start of the cold season there.

Anyone who has lived as long as I have, who is in their fifties or sixties, and who is honest with themselves, must admit that climate change is happening, and that the weather and climate are way different than they were when they were young.  The basic science behind climate change is beyond a doubt, as the heat-trapping effects of carbon dioxide, the most prevalent greenhouse gas, have been demonstrated for over a hundred years.  The accelerated warming of the earth’s average atmospheric temperature started to become noticeable in the ’70s and ’80s, and now, extreme weather events that were once very rare have become commonplace.

But what does Greek Medicine and classical Greek science and natural philosophy have to say about climate change and the extreme weather events that we have been experiencing so frequently for the past ten or fifteen years?  As I see it, it all boils down to the Four Basic Qualities: Hot, Cold, Dry and Wet.  The first two qualities, Hot and Cold, are the active or primary qualities that drive the other two, Dry and Wet, with Heat leading to dryness through evaporation, and Cold causing wetness through condensation.

Global warming is due to an increase in the Hot quality, or an increase of thermal energy in the atmosphere.  This thermal energy does not always manifest as increased atmospheric temperature; it may also be converted into other, kinetic forms of energy.  In other words, with more thermal energy, and also more kinetic energy in the atmosphere, weather patterns and systems tend to get more energetic, volatile and extreme.  Storms get stronger, and even coalesce into superstorms.  When the clouds have dispersed and the Sun comes out, increased heat or warmness is felt, but when the Sun is obscured, and a storm or cold front moves in, with increased energy and force, things can easily swing to the other extreme, which is cold.

Increased heat in the atmosphere leads to more evaporation of moisture, and the atmosphere is able to absorb and hold more water.  This increased evaporation rate produces longer and stronger droughts and dry spells in parts of the world that have a predisposition towards them.  In parts of the world that are prone to strong seasonal rains, the increased amount of water and moisture that the warmer atmosphere is able to hold will suddenly come down in massive storms and floods.

The two active or primary qualities, Hot and Cold, also drive the Jet Stream, that river of constantly moving air in the upper atmosphere which separates warm weather systems coming up from the tropics from frigid weather systems coming down from the poles.  And since the poles have been warming faster than the rest of the earth, the Hot / Cold temperature differential that drives the motion of the jet stream is no longer so pronounced, leading to a slower, lazier, more meandering jet stream that is more prone to wild fluctuations and irregularities.  Having less speed and force, the jet stream is more easily deterred by geographical barriers that it used to flow straight over, such as the Rocky Mountains of the western United States.

And so, political and religious conservatives in the United States, who are basically in denial of Climate Change, and science along with it, were telling everyone last winter that the extreme coldness of that winter in the midwest, where they happened to live, was proof positive that global warming was a big hoax.  “How can there be global warming when my @$$ is so cold?”, they protested, mocking the scientific consensus.  But if those shortsighted politicians and preachers had just gone out to the West coast, anywhere from California on up to Anchorage, Alaska, and experienced the unseasonally balmy weather there for themselves, they would have seen the folly of their ways.  The last winter was very cold in the midwest because the jet stream dipped way down south in that part of the country, bringing the much colder arctic air down with it; out West, on the other side of the Rocky Mountains, the jet stream was way up north, in northern Alaska, resulting in a flood of warm, balmy tropical air even up to Anchorage, Alaska.  Although there can be local variations in the weather that are quite extreme, on the average, the planet is warming.

Greek Medicine, as well as traditional indigenous philosophies and worldviews the world over, maintain that the whole earth is actually one living organism, with all of its constituent parts, which are not only the planet but all life forms living upon it, being knit together into one interdependent whole.  Modern business and capitalism, on the other hand, tends to take the earth and its vital support systems, which include the weather and climate, for granted, or view them with callous indifference and neglect.  People tend to forget how much the vital agricultural systems that support human life and civilization on this planet are fine tuned within quite narrow tolerances of heat, cold, moisture and dryness, and how all the elements need to work together with a remarkable degree of harmony, balance and coordination for life and business to go on as usual.  Changing this vital mix, or eukrasia, by only a few degrees or percentage points here and there could send the whole delicately tuned system into disarray, with droughts, floods and famines disrupting the whole agricultural cycle.  And those concerns were foremost in my mind when I was watching, with considerable dismay, that freakish snow storm in late October; the agricultural harvest season was far from over – would this cause a major disruption in it, and ruin the fall crops?

HEALING WONDERS IN THE SHADOW OF THE ACROPOLIS!

by David Osborn, MH, L.Ac
Sunday, November 9, 2014

I just returned from a trip to Athens Greece, in which I ran across several interesting herbs, honeys and other healing wonders.  I hiked the Acropolis as soon as I came into town, and was amazed and enthralled at the old ruins, the Parthenon and the panoramic view of the whole city laid out before me.  I had come to Athens at the invitation of Matina Chronopoulou, a naturopathic doctor practicing in Athens, Greece, to check into the possibility of doing introductory workshops in Greek Medicine there.  And the very evening after I made my descent from the Acropolis, and for the next few days, I poked around in, and visited, several stores selling healing herbs, honeys and other natural products.

On my first evening in Athens, I combed the back alleys around Monastiraki Square and ran across a couple of shops specializing in natural products.  One such store showed me a bottle of Chestnut honey, which they said was good for the prostate.  Other stores were selling various traditional Greek medicinal herbs, most notably the ever popular Tsai Tou Vou Nou, or Mountain Tea, as well as others, like the fabled Dittany of Crete, which has recently, for reasons I am not quite sure of, become quite difficult to find in American herb stores.  The Greeks call this herb Diktamnos.  Other familiar herbal friends also caught my eye: Achillea, or Yarrow (Achillea milfolium), associated with the great warrior Achilles; Kentauris, or Centaury (Erythria centaurium), which is associated with Chiron, the noble Centaur who was one of the legendary founding fathers of medicine.  Meeting these familiar herbs in exotic Athens was like a trip down a kind of mythological memory lane.  In addition, other herbs, imported into Greece from far-flung locales, like Yohimbe from Africa as an aphrodisiac, and Echinacea from North America as an herbal antimicrobial and immune tonic, were also being sold at a brisk pace, reminding me that there has always been a lively trade and commerce in herbs, spices, and other medicinal substances – and in this way, times haven’t changed that much.

Perhaps the best neighborhood of Athens to go to to find the best herb stores is located on both sides of Athinas street, right around the central meat market.  This market is located about midway between Monastiraki square and Omonia square.  Perhaps the most interesting herb and spice stores were located on the downhill side of Athinas street, off towards the Indian and Chinese section of town that is commonly dubbed “Little Asia”.  I was hoping to even find some Chinese herb stores when I asked around in the various shops selling Chinese goods there, but alas there was nothing to be found in those stores, just cheap consumer goods from China.  On one of my outings poking around in Little Asia, I did manage to drop in on a large English speaking tour group that was being introduced to Tsai Tou Vou Nou, or Mountain Tea, which could be called the Greek national health tonic herb, by a local tour guide.  Not only is the tea made from this herb aromatic and delicious, but it is very good for colds and respiratory congestion and upper respiratory infections, as well as for muscular and rheumatic aches and pains, and for general health and immunity.  More can be read about it in my website.

Coming to Athens from Bucharest Romania, where I have been staying, I was surprised to find a store that also sold several Romanian herbs – and it even had a Romanian speaking sales lady!  I recognized Leustian, the dried leaves of a species of Lovage, related to Celery and smelling somewhat like Celery greens, except much more aromatic.  In Romania, when the weather gets colder, fresh Leustian or Lovage greens are put into hot soups and broths, where they are helpful in warding off colds and respiratory infections as the weather changes.  Needless to say, the spicy and aromatic Lovage greens are a gastronomic favorite of mine whenever I am in Romania.  Sea Buckthorn Berries, which I wrote about in my previous blog posting, were also in the herb, fruit and nut shops of downtown Athens; a Greek friend of mine told me that the berries had had their heyday of popularity a couple of years back, but were no longer that much the rage in Greece.

Right near the Central Market, right on the same block, I was referred to a store selling honeys with remarkable healing virtues, including a honey that was – believe it or not – not sweet, but bitter!  Needless to say, this was something I just had to check out for myself, and George, the sales person there, was only too happy to let me sample it.  And – lo and behold, believe it or not – it actually was quite bitter; George’s touting of it had not been an exaggeration in the slightest.  He told me it came from a plant called Koumaro, and he showed me a dried specimen of the Koumaro herb from which it came, which had fluff ball like fruit resembling those of the Sycamore tree, only dark brown.  When I went to research this herb on the internet, all I could find was a certain kind of shiny bright red berry from a species of Arbutus, but this was obviously not the same Koumaro.  What was even more amazing was that this Koumaro honey, as bitter as it was, and believe me, when I say something is bitter, it’s really bitter, was not pure as he sold it, but was actually mixed with a little honey from an herb whose Greek name was Reiki, to make it sweet enough to be palatable.  Imagine – a honey that was so bitter in its pure state that even seasoned herbalists who are used to bitter herbs would have trouble stomaching it!  George said that the Reiki herb and its honey was rich in iron, and was a great tonic for building bodily strength.  But of course, my internet researches on this herb were similarly doomed to failure; for obvious reasons, all I could come up with in my internet searches were references to a Japanese system of spiritual healing!  This honey store, with its incredibly bitter honey, that George told me was a tonic to lower blood sugar, was probably the most remarkable thing I found in my poking about in the herb markets.  The store’s name is Aralus, and it is located at nr. 17 Sophokleus street, telephone number (0030)210-321-6863.

Poking around on the back streets of the Plaka district of downtown Athens, not far from Monastiraki square, I managed to find a store that specialized in herbal essential oils that was also quite remarkable.  Not only did they have an incredible selection of natural herbal essential oils to choose from, from herbs that I had only read about, or species of herbs that I never knew even existed, but their essential oils were of exceptional purity and potency unlike anything I had ever seen before.  Those who know their essential oils will know what I am talking about – you don’t want to even put a drop of pure, undiluted Thyme or Oregano oil on your tongue, much less the essential oil of the spicy Ajwain seed, because you’ll surely regret it, and go running for the fire extinguisher!  I was hoping that I had saved the business card of this remarkable essential oil and aromatherapy store, but alas, I lost it.  Anyway, seek and ye shall find, especially if you search the back streets of the Plaka district around a small square lined with restaurants, which it occupies a corner of.

The food that is generally available to tourists in such tourist hot spots as Athens is not only quite pricey, but it can also be not that great for your health, abandoning the principles of healthy, nutritious, wholesome cuisine for heavy sauces and exotic taste sensations that wow the taste buds, but leave you with indigestion and heartburn.  Or, tourists visiting a city like Athens just grab a cheap, greasy Shawarma sandwich on the go, and then wonder why their stomach is tied in knots, and weighs them down like a ton of bricks!  After a few days at the mercy of such gastronomic pirates, I was crying out for culinary mercy, and in came my naturopath friend, Matina, to my rescue.  She took me to a charming little Taverna in the heart of the Psiri district, just a stone’s throw away from Monastiraki square, in the back streets below Athina street.  Its name is simply Taverna Tou Psiri, or the Tavern of Psiri.  Its telephone number is (0030)210-321-4923.  We chowed down on tasty and healthy treats like stewed Dandelion greens doused in extra virgin olive oil, a green salad fresh from the garden, and grilled sardines.  This was a great introduction to the real Greek cuisine for me, which, Matina explained, is not only tastily prepared with aromatic herbs and spices, but also healthy and fresh.  As a naturopathic doctor, Matina firmly believes, as did Hippocrates, in the healing power of diet, and makes it the cornerstone of her healing practice.  Just as the wrong kinds of food can make us sick, so can the right kinds of food make us well.  Once Matina had shown me the Taverna’s location, I returned to it frequently, because I could count on it for a tasty, healthy, nutritious meal that was also reasonably priced.

If, by any chance or cause, be it culinary or otherwise, you should fall ill or prey to health problems while visiting Athens, be sure to give Matina Chronopulou a call, and she’ll set you back on the path to health and well being, starting with eating right.  Her telephone number is (0030)210-640-0411.

THIS COLD SEASON, FIGHT BACK WITH BERRY POWER!

by David Osborn, MH, L.Ac
Friday, October 17, 2014
I still vividly remember what was the coldest night I ever spent in my life.  It was in a little country cabin in Romania, in a small town in the sub-Carpathian region, in the middle of January.  I was snowed in, and the temperatures got so cold that night that the gas lines froze, and the little gas stove, which had been my only source of heat, petered out and died on me.  I piled on as many quilts and comforters as I could over my heavy coat as I curled up in a tight fetal position against the deadly cold.  A steady stream of watery discharge was flowing from my nose, it was so cold.
But as cold as it was, and as cold as I was, I didn’t come down with a cold.  Why?  Because my personal daily health regimen at the time included two to three teaspoons of dried, powdered Sea Buckthorn berries (Hippophae rhamnoides).  Not only is this mighty superberry a treasure trove of vitamins and nutrients, it is also one of Nature’s secret weapons against colds and respiratory infections.
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What makes Sea Buckthorn berries such a potent weapon against colds, and such a powerful booster of immunity?  First of all, Sea Buckthorn berries are one of Nature’s richest sources of vitamin C, as well as bioflavonoids.  They are also rich in natural oils which are full of carotenoids, or pro-vitamin A for the health and immunity of your mucous membranes, which is one of your body’s first lines of defense against colds and flu.  They also contain phytosterols that boost the functioning of the adrenals and other endocrine glands, which support the immune response.  The flavonoids that these berries contain, as well as their assortment of virtually all the Omega fatty acids, make Sea Buckthorn berries a powerful regulator of the inflammatory response, to keep fevers and inflammation down and under control.
The Fabled, Exotic Sea Buckthorn Berry
Although the Sea Buckthorn berry is a relatively new arrival on the shelves of herb and health food stores in the West, its use in nutrition and natural healing is nothing new.  Its use is ancient, dating back to Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, as well as Dioscorides, the compiler of De Materia Medica, the Greco-Roman compendium of herbal medicine that was the world’s foremost authority on the subject for over a thousand years.  Trekkers and travelers to the exotic, mystical land of Ladakh know them as Leh Berries.  Sea Buckthorn berries also have an honored place in Tibetan medicine.  The Sea Buckthorn berry is botanically hale and hardy, thriving over a broad swath of the Eurasian land mass that stretches from Mongolia and Siberia in the East to the Balkans and Eastern Europe on the West.  Russian cosmonauts took the Sea Buckthorn berry with them on their space flights as a nutritional supplement, and to fortify their adrenal glands and immune systems against the tremendous stresses that space flight entails.
How to Take the Sea Buckthorn Berry
In the United States, the Sea Buckthorn berry first became available in bottled juice concentrates.  The great drawback of this form of preparation is that these juice concentrates have been “flash pasteurized” (actually, all pasteurization occurs in a flash), which protects against microbial contamination, but also kills all the natural enzymes in the juice.  In Romanian “Plafars” (Plant Pharmacies), Sea Buckthorn berry syrups are available, which have been sweetened with loads of sugar; the drawback of this form is that all that sugar really neutralizes a lot of the health and nutritional benefits, and makes these syrups not advisable to take for those with diabetes and high blood sugar.
The best ways to take and consume the Sea Buckthorn berry, in my opinion, are also the simplest and most natural.  First, you can make a tea of the Sea Buckthorn berry by simmering it for a few minutes in boiling water; some say that the boiling neutralizes the vitamin C, but this is a rather minor consideration.  My basic form for taking the Sea Buckthorn berry is to grind the dried berries to a powder in an electric coffee grinder.  From there, you can either put the powder in gelatin capsules and take them, or just take a spoonful of the powder on the tongue and wash it back with a gulp of water.  One of the most delicious ways in which to take Sea Buckthorn berries is to mix the powdered dried berries with honey to make an herbal paste, or electuary.  The taste of this herbal jam is so delicious that your children will be begging you to give them more of it, which is, of course, exactly what you want them to do!  I have even gotten much more elaborate than this, using the Sea Buckthorn berry powder as the base for a tonic herbal electuary, along with many other delicious herbs and spices, as well as powdered Bee Pollen and Ghee, or clarified butter, to make my own version of the famed Ayurvedic tonic electuary, Chyawan Prash.  The possibilities for using the Sea Buckthorn berry in tasty and efficacious herbal medicines are virtually endless!

FOOD VS. MEDICINE – AND SO MUCH MORE!

by David Osborn, MH, L.Ac
Monday, August 18, 2014
I recently received an email in my inbox from a follower and admirer of my blog posts.  She was from the website www.bestmasterofscienceinnursing.com, and was presenting me with a link to an educational infographic entitled, Food versus Medicine.  I present you with the link to it below:
I believe that I had received solicitations from this organization before to do blog posts on the educational infographics they forwarded to me, and this one was one of the best I have received yet.  It is important, and deserves to be read and pondered, because of its core message:  Most people in the modern world rely far too much on medicine, and not enough on making healthy and constructive changes in their diet and food intake.  And it makes me happy that conventional medicine is finally coming around to the “you are what you eat” line of thinking, and starting to realize the importance of food and a healthy diet in health maintenance and disease prevention.
Indeed, a healthy, balanced diet of pure, natural food should be the foundation or cornerstone of anyone’s health regimen.  But it shouldn’t stop there; this is only just a beginning.  It’s true that diet is the foundation and single most important building block towards better health, and its importance is vastly underestimated by the vast majority of Americans and others in the modern world.  A healthy diet would have gone a lot further in the days of our grandparents or great grandparents, when the natural environment was a lot more clean and pristine, but today we are faced with a vast, bewildering array of complex and difficult health challenges, some of which pertain to the health issues and conditions discussed in this infographic.  Not only are we faced with monumental environmental pollution just as a consequence of the toxic byproducts of our modern industrial civilization, but even beyond this, so much of the environmental damage and derangement that we are seeing is caused by man’s inhumanity / insanity towards man and Nature.
What about herbs?  This infographic, entitled, “Food versus Medicine” could be considered a bit misleading and incomplete in its presentation, as an “either / or” choice between one or the other.  More perceptive readers might be able to figure out that it is not exactly as black-and-white as it seems; it could also be read, “Food before Medicine”; in other words, before you resort to medicine to solve your health problems, why not do everything you can to solve them through food and diet?  But what I am getting at here, and what every holistic and natural healer knows, is that food versus medicine, which this infographic takes to be pharmaceutical drugs, are NOT the only two options we have before us; herbs are natural medicinal substances, mostly of botanical origin, which occupy a vast middle ground between food on the one hand and pharmaceutical drugs on the other.  And so, we go from an either / or choice to a continuum with food on one end, pharmaceutical drugs on the other, and a vast middle ground between the two, which is medicinal herbs. 
 
Medicinal herbs can be differentiated into two broad groups, according to their basic mechanisms of action.  First, there are herbs whose therapeutic benefits are mainly derived from the vital nutrients they contain, such as vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates and other phytonutrients; in today’s holistic health jargon, these herbs function mainly as superfoods.  Examples of such herbs and other natural medicinal substances are Nettle leaves, Spirulina, Parsley leaves, Sea Buckthorn berries and Bee Pollen.  The reason why they are so important today is that the foods that are available to us today are quite nutrient depleted, compared to those same foods back in our grandparents’ and great grandparents’ day.  To remedy these nutritional shortcomings, herbal superfoods are quickly becoming an additional essential food group.
In contrast to the nutritionally oriented superfood herbs, there are the medicinal herbs proper, or herbs whose main therapeutic actions are derived from the natural medicinal phytochemicals they contain, which adjust or manipulate key bodily organs and functions in various ways in order to bring the organism back to a state of balance and homeostasis.  By and large, these medicinal herbs work with virtually no negative side effects when used correctly due to two main reasons:  1) they work with Nature and not against it;  2) they are generally gentler and milder than pharmaceutical drugs in their mode of action.  Many of these medicinal herbs, especially the more tonic ones, areamphoteric in nature, in that they can balance or optimize key bodily functions, up-regulating them if they are too low, and down-regulating them if they are too high.  Examples are Garlic’s regulation of blood pressure, and Reishi’s effect on immune function.
It must also be remembered that these two basic modes of action – nutritional and medicinal – need not be exclusive to each other in the herbal kingdom; many herbs have properties and healing virtues of both, although one or the other is usually dominant.  You could actually see herbs as a whole continuum that lies in between food and medicine, or pharmaceutical drugs.  Towards the food end of the spectrum lie the nutritional superfood herbs, while towards the medicinal end of the spectrum lie the medicinal herbs.  Truly, herbs, both nutritional and therapeutic / medicinal, greatly expand the vast palette of therapeutic options that we have to choose from to improve and maintain our health.
I was considering naming this blog post “Food versus Medicine – But What About Herbs?” but chose the above title because of what I read that touched on other important health and environmental issues today, which I spoke of earlier as man’s inhumanity / insanity to man and Nature.  And by this, I am specifically referring to GMO foods and the health problems that are associated with them.  One of the dietary options mentioned in this infographic is following a gluten free diet for those with gluten intolerance and celiac disease, and – lo and behold – the rise of gluten intolerance and celiac disease quite closely parallels the introduction and rise of GMO foods in the marketplace.  These conditions, as well as many other food allergies and intolerances that are proliferating wildly today, stem from a condition that holistic health practitioners call leaky gut syndrome.  In other words, proteins from partially or incompletely digested foods from the GI tract are leaking into the bloodstream via lesions in the intestinal walls to derange our immune systems and provoke allergic responses.
One of the main GMO varieties of corn is genetically engineered with a gene from Bacillis thuringensis, a soil bacteria, which acts as an insecticide, causing the intestinal walls of insects to explode and dissolve, killing them.  Now, if this Bt toxin has the ability to kill insects like this, don’t you think that it might be able to poke a few holes in your gut and cause it to leak?  These health and environmental issues are detailed and explained more thoroughly in Jeffrey M. Smith’s excellent book, Seeds of Deception.  I highly recommend that you read it.  Holistic health practitioners who have been around for several decades will have to agree with me that, before GMO foods were introduced into the marketplace, gluten intolerance and leaky gut syndrome were quite rare; now it’s very commonplace.  Instead of seeing the whole gluten intolerance phenomenon as another great opportunity for a commercial bonanza by the health food industry, we must look more deeply into the root causes of such conditions; most corn consumed in the US today is genetically modified.  Although herbs are definitely able to help heal and regenerate the intestinal walls and counteract a lot of the damage of leaky gut syndrome and gluten intolerance, nothing beats getting rid of the cause.
Another nutritional issue that is brought up in this infographic is the connection between increased levels of Sodium intake and high blood pressure.  This is somewhat misleading – instead of branding Sodium, a naturally occurring and essential mineral, as the “bad guy”, why not be more open and direct, and say that the real bad guy is excess intake of table salt, or Sodium Chloride?  Not all Sodium is bad; for example, Celery is rich in natural Sodium salts that will not raise blood pressure; another example is Dandelion.  Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of the Sodium that most people in our modern world consume is in the form of table salt, or Sodium Chloride.  Instead of table salt, why not use Dulse flakes, a natural sea vegetable loaded with natural organic salts, and having a naturally salty flavor, to salt your food with?  Or use Sea Salt, which contains many other natural mineral salts besides Sodium Chloride.
Sea Salt is another excellent example of misleading labeling and miseducation of the public on health matters, which is often done with the collusion of the FDA and other government agencies.  I once saw a very misleading label on a carton of Sea Salt, which read, “This Sea Salt does not contain Iodide, an essential nutrient.”  I felt like scribbling below this label on the carton, to provide the missing half of the story:  “However, it is an excellent source of Iodine, which fulfills the exact same nutritional function.”  You see, the FDA, in putting that label on the carton of Sea Salt, was colluding with the iodized salt manufacturers to discourage consumers from buying this alternative form of salt, which is actually healthier than the iodized variety of common table salt, because it contains a broader, fuller spectrum of natural salts, not just Sodium Chloride, by getting them to think that, nonetheless, it was inferior to the iodized table salt.  It turns out that table salt is iodized with Potassium Iodide, which is carried on potato starch, to remedy for the salt’s lack of this essential mineral.  The salt iodizers colluded with the FDA to get them to change the laws and regulations to make us, the unwary consumer, feel that Sea Salt is nutritionally inferior when, actually, if the truth were told, it is not, and the reverse is the case – the inferior salt is actually the iodized table salt.  Some Sea Salts are now iodized these days in response to that erroneous and misleading label, but this is totally unnecessary, and actually nutritionally redundant.
The bottom line is that this is a complex modern world that we live in, and the health conscious consumer can’t always trust the governmental and health care authorities to look after their best interests.  You have to take it upon yourself to get educated and do your homework if you’re going to steer clear of the numerous nutritional and health scams that are out there, and get what is actually best for you.  And these deceptions and misleading statements can even come in the form of omissions or half truths – you have to research not only what they tell you, but also what they DON’T tell you!

THE MYSTERIOUS SPIKENARD OIL AND AROMATHERAPY IN HERBAL MEDICINE

by David Osborn, MH, L.Ac
Friday, May 2, 2014

All four of the Christian gospels tell the story of the anointing of Jesus’ feet with precious Spikenard Oil, or ointment.  Here is the version from the Gospel of John:

Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.  There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. 

Then took Mary a pound of Ointment of Spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment. 

Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, “Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?” This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.

Then said Jesus, “Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this.  For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.”

                                John 12: 1 – 8

From this passage, we know that the Spikenard oil or ointment was very costly, was very fragrant and aromatic, and that Jesus’ feet were anointed with it as a kind of ritual to prepare him for his burial, and the ordeal on the cross that he would shortly face.  The whole episode presages Jesus’ impending crucifixion, death and resurrection.

But what exactly is this mysterious Spikenard Oil?  And can it still be obtained today?

Nardostachys_grandifloraThe Spikenard that was the base for this fragrant or aromatic ointment is known to be Indian Spikenard, also called Indian Valerian, which goes by the name of Jatamansi in Indian Ayurvedic medicine.  The botanical name for this herb is Nardostachys jatamansi.  In Chinese herbal medicine, it goes by the name of Gan Song, which literally means, “Sweet Pine”.

However, this is not the only plant that goes by the common English name of Spikenard.  There is American Spikenard (Aralia racemosa), which is a close botanical relative of Ginseng.  Similarly, American Spikenard has adaptogenic and energy tonic properties like Ginseng, and helps the body’s immune system to throw off colds and respiratory infections as well, but its medicinal and therapeutic properties are far removed from those of Indian Spikenard.  American Spikenard is moderately aromatic, but not nearly to the same degree as Indian Spikenard.  This is just one example of how common English names for medicinal herbs can be misleading.

Indian Spikenard does indeed have a strong fragrance or aroma, and a musky odor quite similar to that of the more common Valerian root (Valeriana officinalis), but rather more pleasant, while still being earthy and woodsyIt also has similar sedating and relaxing qualities, but according to Indian Ayurvedic medicine, whereas Valerian is more Tamasic in nature, and dulling to the higher mental and spiritual faculties and perceptions, Jatamansi does not have these drawbacks.  Instead, it is a mood elevator and enhancer that calms anxiety and heals emotional and psychological trauma and pain.  Its calming, soothing and mood elevating qualities were used to help Jesus prepare himself spiritually for his upcoming ordeal on the cross, and his subsequent death and resurrection.

Source:  http://blog.younglivingcircle.com/2010/04/07/12-oils-of-the-bible-spikenard-part-12/
The Indian Spikenard or Jatamansi herb could have been the only one used to medicate and perfume the ointment or scented oil that anointed the feet of Jesus, or it could have been combined and enhanced with other sweet smelling fragrances, like those of Cinnamon and Cardamom.  You see, like Valerian root, Jatamansi or Indian Spikenard has a very heavy, musky odor that is, by itself, not that pleasant.  But when combined with other aromatic herbs and spices, its strong musky odor has the property of being a fixative, or an aromatic ingredient that strengthens the odor, strength and staying power of the other aromatic ingredients in the ointment.  In return, these other sweet smelling aromatic herbs and spices transform the strong odor of the Jatamansi or Indian Spikenard into something much more pleasant.

A common vernacular name for both kinds of Valerian, Indian and otherwise, is Musk Root – a name which is due to its strong, musky odor.  True Musk, however, comes from the scent gland of the Musk Deer, which is also highly valued, both as a perfume and as a medicine.  Substances which are strongly aromatic, such as Musk, have the medicinal ability to revive and resuscitate consciousness, much as Sal Ammoniac or Smelling Salts were used at the turn of the previous century.  These super aromatic substances, like Musk and Camphor, also have the ability to penetrate and open the vital and sensory channels and orifices in heart and circulatory conditions, as well as convulsions and seizures, when skillfully used and combined with other medicinal herbs.

Besides the scent gland of the Musk Deer, the scent glands of other animals were also used medicinally, as well as in perfumery; these include the beaver, from which we get Castoreum, as well as the wild Civet Cat.  Way back in the eighties in the Chinese herb stores of southern California, authentic Musk from the Musk Deer was still available.  I remember, as a newly licensed acupuncturist and practitioner of Oriental Medicine, treating a young lady who had a kind of epileptic condition in which she was prone to periodic fits of drooling, spasms, catatonia and seizures with an herbal formula I made up which contained Musk from the Musk Deer.  It worked surprisingly well in ameliorating and managing the young lady’s symptoms, although I would not call it a complete cure.  There was also a kind of herbal patent medicine that was available back in those days, called Da Huo Luo Dan, or “Great Activating the Channels and Collaterals Pills” which contained many aromatic ingredients, including Musk; it was used for a weak heart and circulatory problems, and to revive the Vital Spirits.

In Aromatherapy, it is well known that natural fragrances and essential oils have a powerful effect on the mind and Spirit.  This is because the sense of smell is our most primitive sense; anatomically, the nasal chambers lie directly beneath the frontal lobes of the brain, affecting the latter by their sheer proximity.  Powerful fragrances also have the ability to awaken long lost memories and emotional associations, which can be either pleasant or unpleasant, depending upon the particulars of the aroma, and its associations in the individual’s past.  As proof of the ability of scents and aromas to exert a powerful effect on the mind and consciousness, not only within the human species, but in other species as well, we need only think of how cats go crazy for Catnip.

Aromatherapy usually involves the inhaling of fragrant essential oils for their scent, and the power that various natural scents have on our vitality levels, moods and emotional states.  Yet there are other ways to use fragrant or aromatic natural substances medicinally, and these involve their topical application in ointments, liniments and massage oils, as well as their internal ingestion in the form of teas and powders, pills and capsules, or even in the form of medicinal pastes, or electuaries, commonly called Majoon in the Middle East.  What are the basic properties of aromatic medicinal substances like Indian Spikenard, which enable them to exert their medicinal effects?

First of all, aromatic substances are penetrating and volatile.  This penetration and volatility enable them to penetrate and open the pores and channels of the body, both subtle and gross, to break up congestion and stagnation, and their volatility stimulates the circulatory and metabolic processes of the body and the parts into which they penetrate to disperse that stagnation, blockage or congestion.  In the skin, essential oils and oleoresins that are exceptionally light and volatile can open the pores to induce sweating where that is desired in the process of detoxification, or to sweat out a cold or respiratory tract infection.  In the digestive organs, aromatic substances can break up congestion and blockage, and stimulate digestive metabolism and functioning.  In the musculoskeletal system, aromatic essences can penetrate tense, tired or inflamed muscles to soothe and loosen them, having a relaxing and antispasmodic action, and in the process, they can also relieve pain and soreness.

The Indian Spikenard ointment that anointed the feet of Jesus had a relaxing, loosening and antispasmodic action to soothe pain, relax sore, tired muscles, and to help him let go of his suffering and attachment to the physical body and its inevitable traumas in preparation for the transformation and metamorphosis that he was about to undergo.  Topically, the essence of the Spikenard penetrated into his muscles and tendons, and aromatically, its scent had a soothing, relaxing, mood elevating effect on Jesus.

Another interesting property of aromatic medicinal substances is that they are antiseptic, helping the body to fight off infections and sepsis from pathogenic bacteria and microbes.  The way that early healers  discovered this property was very direct and experiential.  They saw that putrefactions and sepsis, whether occurring inside the body or outside of it, as in spoiled or rotten food, invariably produced a foul, rotten odor; for a woman, a good example would be a vaginal yeast infection.  What better way to fight a rotten smelling infection than with sweet smelling aromatic substances?

Some of the strongest natural infection fighters we have are aromatic essential oils that are distilled from medicinal herbs.  Of these, Thyme Oil, followed by Oregano Oil, are two of the strongest.  Even Cinnamon has a beneficial antiseptic effect on many morbid or pathological microbes, while promoting the growth of friendly ones.  And Indian Spikenard or Jatamansi Oil has the ability to fight off fungal infections, just as its botanical relative, Valerian does.  Garlic was used by the English in World War II to fight infections, since the supply of antibiotics ran low during the war.  Garlic, Valerian, and to a lesser extent, Indian Spikenard, don’t have aromas that are that pleasant, but they are indeed strong and powerful.  Perhaps their smell is so strong that it overwhelms or overpowers the pathogenic microbes, which flee in terror!

Yes, aromatic medicinal substances such as Spikenard Oil are legendary, and have a long history of use in medicine, both ancient and modern.  In the ancient world, the Egyptians were especially famous for their use of aromatics, both in perfumery and in medicine, and in the embalming of their mummies.  The Spice Trade between Europe and Asia that went through the Middle East and along the Silk Road was not just for gourmet cooking use, but more importantly for medicinal use, and many old medicinal formulas contain many aromatic herbs and spices as ingredients.  Just about every balm, unguent, ointment or aromatic substance that you can find in the Bible, or in other hallowed scriptures or manuscripts from antiquity can be traced down and found today with enough patience and persistence, as well as the proper insight and guidance to discern its true identity.

THE MARCH OF MEDICAL PROGRESS – BUT TO WHERE?

by David Osborn, MH, L.Ac
Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Diogenes

The evolution of medicine and healing down through the ages, and through various civilizations, cultures, and traditions is indeed a spectacular and panoramic thing to behold.  It is forever spurred on by man’s persistent drive to find new ways to relieve suffering and disease, and to heal the afflicted.  One can only marvel at the amazing ingenuity and resourcefulness of man in his attempts to find new cures and treatments for old, and even new, diseases and infirmities.  Almost everything you could imagine has been used as a medicine or therapy.  Some of the avenues pursued, and some of the things tried, have turned out to be misadventures or blind alleys, and others have turned out to be real winners – and many things have even fallen somewhere on the broad spectrum in between these two extremes.  Hopefully, being Homo sapiens, or Man the Wise, we hold on to that which works, and discard or toss out that which doesn’t – or at least that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Yes, that’s the way it’s supposed to be, and the way that many apologists for modern medicine would have you believe.  These apologists for modern medicine paint such a dark and gloomy picture of pre-modern medicine that you sometimes wonder how the human race ever survived; then, in contrast, they paint a rosy and upbeat picture of the progress of modern medicine.  If you listen to them, a doctor’s office before the twentieth century was a pure disaster zone, and it’s a wonder that anyone ever got out alive.  People lived woefully short lifespans – some have said 45 years or so, others have said even as low as 25!  Then we hardly had any grandparents at all back then?  And how is it that Hippocrates ever, as it is written, lived to a ripe old age, dying in his nineties?  And if the medical profession was such bad news back then, how could doctors have ever made a living, or how could they ever have had a new generation who would have considered it worthwhile to learn the knowledge they had to pass on?  Surely, only the very naive would believe such a simplistic portrayal of things, yet it does seem to have become incorporated into modern mythology and popular “wisdom”.

A particularly fertile era that these apologists for modern medicine like to mine to buttress the points they are making is the nineteenth century, and perhaps back into the late eighteenth century as well, which could be seen as the transitional period towards modern medicine.  Modern orthodoxy in medicine had not gelled yet, and there was a lot of wild experimentation in the air.  Society at large had not yet come to a firm consensus as to which drugs it would approve of, and which would become illicit, and so, opiates like Morphine and Laudanum were even in things like babies’ teething lotions and cough syrups; Cocaine, which had its staunch advocate in none other than Sigmund Freud, the founder of modern psychiatry, was touted as a great tonic, stimulant and pain killer.

Even worse than this, perhaps, was the love affair that the conventional doctors of the day had with Mercurials like Calomel, which would now make one shudder.  Even I, as a child, had over thirty Mercury amalgam fillings in my mouth, which I had all removed and replaced with plastic composite resin back in my thirties, thank God!  All that Mercury has definitely taken its toll on my health, and it has also probably been the cause, or at least a co-factor with, my immunological sensitivity to Thimerosal, the Mercurial preservative commonly used in vaccines, as well as my immunological intolerance of every metal used in dentistry except Titanium.

Thank God that modern dentistry has now found filling materials that are relatively biocompatible and nontoxic to replace Mercury amalgam fillings!  Mercurial compounds like Thimerosal in children’s vaccines have been linked to autism spectrum disorders, but this continues to be controversial, with opposing camps, or schools of thought, battling fiercely back and forth.  Obviously, not all children who get vaccinated develop autism spectrum disorders.  Could it be that only the children who have an immunological reactivity to Thimerosal develop these disorders?  It would be a relatively simple matter to give children serum antibody reactivity tests for Thimerosal before vaccinating them, and to withhold vaccination from those who test positive, or give them Thimerosal free vaccines.  But the medical authorities insist on taking a “one size fits all” approach.  Is this “Man the Wise”?  Or Man the Compassionate?

The whole “Thimerosal wars” over childhood vaccinations could be resolved fairly easily by simply having every child undergo a serum antibody screening test for immunological tolerance and reactivity to Thimerosal.  Yet the two sides of this war continue to “duke it out”, with each side refusing to budge, and  above all, the medical and pediatric establishment refusing to yield or give an inch on anything that would put a chink or a dent in what they feel is their armor clad entitlement to their professional “gravy train” of profits via forced mass vaccinations.  It seems like the people involved, mainly young children, have taken a back seat to the profits that can be made off of them.  The Thimerosal wars could easily go the way of the Mercury amalgam wars, and the march of medical progress could take a heroic step forward, but as it is, everything is stuck in gridlock.  Just as the multinational oil corporations want to squeeze every last drop of oil out of the ground in their own mad drive for maximum profit, so does the medical establishment want to squeeze every last penny of profits from vaccinating as many children as possible.

Traditionally, the medicinal herb Mistletoe (Viscum album), which is one of Nature’s finest anticonvulsants, has been used to treat epilepsy and other seizure disorders.  In fact, Mistletoe is so efficacious and effective for this that, in 18th century England, it was a standard medical treatment for epilepsy, according to Mrs. M. Grieve, in Volume 2 of her book, A Modern Herbal, on page 548.  Mistletoe is a very potent medicinal herb, and should only be prepared and taken under medical or professional supervision; when this is done, the treatment is safe and effective, producing virtually no negative side effects.  Another thing that should be paid attention to is that the European Mistletoe is taken, and NOT the American Mistletoe, which has totally different properties and effects entirely.

So, here we have a traditional or pre-modern medical treatment for a rather serious and difficult condition, namely epilepsy and seizures.  I decided to see what modern medicine has to offer for treating the same condition, and found that the main older medication for treating it was Dilantin, but nowadays, doctors are turning more to newer medications like Keppra.  I decided to look up Keppra’s negative side effects online, and found that a full listing of them numbered, in my estimation, around a hundred, including the very seizures they were supposedly taken to treat!  And as I scrolled down and down through the voluminous listing of negative side effects, a pop-up window appeared from the side of my computer screen, with a friendly and obliging pharmacist – or more precisely a pharmaceutical pimp and drug pusher – trying to initiate a live chat with me to get me to place my order for this pharmaceutical crap!

With modern, state of the art science and technology to back them up, and all the latest scientific equipment, it’s a real wonder that the modern pharmaceutical industry has not found anything better to treat epilepsy, or a whole host of other medical conditions, for that matter, that work any better than they do.  Let me just put it plain and simple – if most other major industries or businesses tried to sell products that had as many major defects – and I am counting negative side effects as defects – as modern pharmaceutical drugs, they would be laughed out of town, and no one would buy their junk!  But the pharmaceutical industry, in collusion with the governmental powers that be, have so perverted things and rigged the system that this is simply shrugged off as being normal!

Put another way, is it really medical progress to abandon a natural treatment for a medical disorder like epilepsy that works very well and satisfactorily in favor of a synthetic drug with a hundred-odd negative side effects?  Heck NO!  Yet the spin masters of the pharmaceutical industry’s PR team, in collusion with government regulatory agencies that they have subverted, and with doctors and pharmacists standing by to fill your order, are trying to convince you that somehow, indeed it is, and are really anxious to sell you the stuff.  If we were really interested, as a society and as a nation, in true medical progress, and serving the needs and quality of life of the patient above our own profits, we would be investing everything we could in further refining and upgrading many of these traditional treatments and therapeutic protocols, like Mistletoe for epilepsy.

The degree to which drugs and medicines that are so obviously full of negative side effects as the one I just cited, and which are somehow shrugged off as being normal, or even desirable or in demand, is a good reliable indicator of the degree to which our medical establishment, and our whole society and its governmental system, have become corrupt and self-seeking.  And so, I will echo the words of the old philosopher and cynic Diogenes:  Is there an honest man left out there?

SOURCES:

A Modern Herbal, Volume 2 by Mrs. M. Grieve, page 548.  Copyright 1971 by Dover Publications, Inc., New York, NY

http://www.drugs.com/sfx/keppra-side-effects.html

Greek Medicine for the Greeks? What a Novel Idea! After Its Long Odyssey, Will Greek Medicine Finally Come Back Home?

by David Osborn, MH, L.Ac
Friday, March 14, 2014

the thinkerOver the years here at GreekMedicine.net, I have heard from various people in Greece, and many of them were seeking to revive or resurrect, in one way or another, various aspects of Greece’s glorious past and hallowed wisdom and traditions.  Most recently, I heard from an American expatriate living in Greece who was interested in starting a healing center on the island of Kos, which is where the great Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, and the Father of Greek Medicine, lived and taught.  It would be a center for spa treatments and medical tourism to awaken interest from abroad in Greek Medicine and its ancient healing traditions, and it would also be an educational center for conducting seminars and retreats, to educate both foreign tourists, as well as practitioners from both Greece and abroad.  And by reviving traditional Greek healing knowledge and practice, it would also be serving the health care needs of the local Greek people.

Jesus once remarked that a prophet is seldom recognized in his own country.  Many times, people take for granted and fail to adequately appreciate what is their own, while clamoring for what is new, and what seems to sparkle brighter, from foreign lands.  In music, I have heard that many Europeans have a deeper appreciation for American Jazz than most Americans do, for example.  And such may well be the case with Greek Medicine.

When I visited the headquarters of CCRUM (the Central Council for Research in Unani Medicine) in Delhi, India while I was in the process of putting up my website, there was a large mural on the wall entitled, “The Caravan of Greek / Unani Medicine”, depicting a grand odyssey that originated in the Greek homeland, on the island of Kos, but which grew over the centuries to span three continents, stretching all the way from Moorish Spain in the West to Malaysia and Indonesia in the East.  What if, after all these centuries of tireless wandering, Greek Medicine were to finally return home to its native Greece?  That would be a prodigal son story of epic proportions!

It turns out that Greek Medicine, as Unani Medicine (Unani is the Arabic word for Greek) really took root, flourished and continued to grow and develop in the Arabic, Persian and Muslim lands of the Middle East and South Asia, whereas  in Greece, and in the rest of Europe, traditional Greek Medicine became regarded as antiquated and outmoded, especially after the Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution.  But in countries like India, Greek Medicine, as Unani Tibb, continued to grow and progress, until today it is supported in its medical schools, research centers, hospitals and clinics by the Indian government’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare alongside better known systems like Homeopathy and Ayurveda.  Unani medicines and treatments have won broad based popular support as being gentle yet effective, and modern clinical research has proven the effectiveness of many of these medicines and treatments.

India, as a developing third world nation with limited financial resources, has chosen, as have others, to continue researching and developing the healing resources and wisdom of her indigenous traditional healing systems, like Unani Medicine and Ayurveda.  Many treatments of these traditional healing systems are just as effective, but less costly, and have fewer negative side effects, than modern medical treatments for the same diseases and conditions.  If the access and availability of these traditional healing systems and their alternative treatments is improved, the nation’s health care dollar is able to go much further.

One of the first things a student of Greek Medicine notices is how absent Greek Medicine is from modern Greece.  On previous trips to Greece, I have met various individuals who had their own reconstructionist ideas of reviving Greek Medicine as a functional healing system, but no one had put together a complete, comprehensive system that really worked.  “Greek Medicine for the Greeks!” would be a nice slogan to emblazon on a tee shirt, for example, and one that is painfully obvious to anyone who has done a little thinking on the matter.  After all, Greece gave the gift of civilization to the whole Western world – and that includes its classical medical system – now why won’t they proudly reclaim their healing heritage?

Of course, the natural place for a revival of classical Greek Medicine would be, above all places, the Aegean island of Kos, which was home to Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, and his Koan school.  From this epicenter, the waves of new and revolutionary ideas that he set in motion regarding the theory, philosophy and practice of medicine would spread to some of the farthest reaches of the world.  Before this American expatriate lady contacted me with her idea, her vision, for a healing center on Kos, that whole idea had been nothing more than a nebulous generality to me.  But now I think that it is an idea whose time has come.

What makes this an idea whose time has come?

Before the recent financial meltdown, Greece enjoyed a public health care system that was modeled along the lines of those of Western Europe, which functioned quite well.  But financial pressures and cutbacks coming in the wake of her recent economic meltdown have led to the crumbling and degeneration of Greece’s health care system, to the point at which many Greeks now find themselves slipping through the cracks, and unable to afford and receive the medical treatment they need.  Using real life examples of cancer and cardiac patients, the following article explains what has happened to Greece’s ailing health care system:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/25/world/europe/greek-unemployed-cut-off-from-medical-treatment.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Why doesn’t Greece now do as India and other developing nations have already done – to integrate the cost effective treatments from her traditional or classical healing system into her present day system of health care?  The realities of Greece’s broken health care system are, in many ways, similar to those faced by the US, to which it is often compared – runaway costs, poor affordability, and too many people left uncovered and falling through the cracks.  But in the US, such medical experts as Integrative Medicine pioneer Dr. Andrew Weil have advocated the integration of complementary and alternative medical systems, including those of traditional healing systems like Greek Medicine, as a way to lower costs and improve affordability, while also, in many instances, reducing negative side effects and improving patient health care outcomes.  Since India is where Unani Medicine, which is the heir to the healing tradition of classical Greek Medicine, is the most highly researched and developed, Unani Hakims (physicians) from India could serve as consultants and advisers to the Greek government if it wishes to improve the cost effectiveness of the Greek health care system through the integration of traditional Greek and Greco-Arabo-Persian medicine back into its overall regimen of health care.

Obviously, such an effort would require a mass movement and persistent efforts at organization and reform that would be far greater than any single individual could bring about.  Such a national effort would involve scientists, doctors, researchers and experts in both modern medicine as well as traditional Greek / Unani medicine to decide, for each disease or disorder, what the best and most cost effective treatment, traditional or modern, would be, and how best to incorporate traditional Greek and Unani medicine into the nation’s health care system for the best cost effectiveness and patient outcomes.  In such a process, clinical results would be the bottom line, the final determining factor.  This reform process would also involve persistent and sustained political effort and consensus building by legislators and public health experts as well.

For medical tourists visiting a healing center or spa on the island of Kos, or elsewhere in Greece, the historical authenticity of the cleansing, detoxification and restorative treatments they receive would spark international interest and tourist draw, while bolstering the national pride of the Greeks themselves in being the fathers and progenitors of the healing art in the Western world.  For health care providers to the Greek people, clinical results, cost effectiveness and patient outcomes will be the central concern in the healing of Greece’s broken health care system.

The Herculean task of actually mending and reforming Greece’s broken health care system will have to be undertaken as a mass collective effort by the Greek people themselves, in whatever way, or to whatever extent, they feel inclined and able to do so.  All I can do from this virtual forum, and with this blog posting, is to put forth the vision, and sit back to see how it will be received and implemented by the Greek people.

Superfood Scammers – You Know Who You Are!

by David Osborn, MH, L.Ac
Friday, March 8, 2013

Over the years, I have examined various multi-level or network marketing opportunities in the booming health and wellness industry to see if there were any ones that were worth getting involved with, and more importantly, if there were any ones that I, as an herbalist and licensed acupuncturist, could, in good conscience, get involved with.  Sure, the money, and the enviable opportunity to build a hefty residual income, looked good, and was very alluring.  But all too often, I have found significant faults with these multi-level marketing schemes – not so much with their business models and compensation plans, but with the products they were selling, upon which the marketing plans were based.  Basically, my personal experience in evaluating their product lines has shown me that there are two major potential problem areas:

1) They may be selling and promoting products as universal panaceas which are uniformly effective for everyone, when they actually aren’t.  The truth is, when you are mass marketing a product line, you have to design it to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people in your target market, and also take care that, although it may not have the same level of effectiveness for everybody, or may even be ineffective for some, that at least it won’t wind up hurting anyone.  But because network marketing products aren’t personalized, you probably won’t get a product as specifically tailored and targeted to your needs as you would if you went to have a personal consultation with a qualified holistic practitioner or herbalist, often with a corresponding compromise of overall effectiveness.

2)  In order to afford the money to make the generous payouts to the downline sales networks, there is a great temptation to cut corners and skimp on the overall quality, potency and often, on the resulting effectiveness of their products as well.  To compensate for this inherent lack of quality and effectiveness in the products themselves, many network marketing product formulators are then tempted to lace their products with cheap stimulants like caffeine or guarana to keep their sales networks all fired up and ready to sell, sell, sell.  The degree of personal integrity and conscientiousness that network marketing organizations and their product formulators have displayed in this delicate balancing act between product quality and value on the one hand, and the financial bottom line on the other, has spanned the whole gamut, from a genuine desire to give the consumer something truly worthwhile in terms of health and nutritional benefits, to out and out swindling and sacrificing all considerations of quality and value to the almighty dollar.

The first consideration I have outlined above has led many network marketing companies involved in the health and wellness industry to turn to more universal considerations that apply across the board to everyone, like basic nutrition; this is actually a wise and realistic move, since so many people in our modern world are overfed, but undernourished.  The body’s own innate healing wisdom then assimilates these vital nutrients and decides how and where to use them for optimum healing effectiveness.

And the latest buzz word in the health and nutrition industry is superfoods, which are natural botanical or herbal sources of concentrated, potent nutrition.  This idea of superfoods actually isn’t anything new; even Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, working in ancient Greece some four hundred years before the birth of Christ, used superfoods like Fenugreek seed or the Sea Buckthorn berry, which are now being touted by leading health experts like Dr. Oz.  The use of herbal superfoods is even advocated by the book of Genesis in the Bible, in which God tells the first man and woman to eat the fruit of the tree for food, and take the leaf of the tree for medicine.  The important herbal truth contained in this biblical passage is that herbal superfoods span the gap between food and medicine, and can be used as both.  After all, Hippocrates said, “Let your your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.”

I was recently invited by a friend of mine who I had met a few months back to come and get in on yet another multi level marketing opportunity, marketing a line of health and wellness products based on an herbal superfood that has recently been making the headlines.  I was frank and up front with her in our initial phone conversation when I told her that, in light of my past experience with multi level marketing organizations, I would make my decision as to whether or not to become a part of it on the products themselves, and what my conclusions were, as an herbalist and natural healer, as to their overall level of quality, potency and effectiveness.  She offered to give me some samples, and I told her that I would take them for a few days, and report back to her on how I felt.

Before I could meet with her, I decided to make the rounds of local health food stores and see what kinds of deals were out there on this particular herbal superfood, and what regular retail marketers of the stuff were offering in regards to overall quality and value.  I found out that the stuff definitely wasn’t cheap, but when I took out the intensely green capsules and chewed into them, I found that their color, taste and aroma were quite strong, and remarkably similar to that of wheatgrass, another superfood made famous by Ann Wigmore and her Hippocrates Health Institute.  And when I read the nutritional stats of this superfood, I was truly amazed: ounce for ounce, the same calcium as four glasses of milk; the same amount of Potassium as 3 bananas, the vitamin C of 7 oranges, etc…  And the immediate and well-grounded energy boost that I was getting felt like a nutritional blood transfusion; no doubt that this was a truly potent superfood, since I had only taken two little capsules of the stuff – less than a gram’s worth.

Then, later on that afternoon, I met with my friend to receive samples of her company’s product line.  I took out my glasses and started to read the lists of ingredients on the containers she gave me.  I noticed that one of the products contained a large amount of sugar, which I kept quiet about for the time being, although it distressed me.  I then pointed to the substantial levels of caffeine listed on another product, and she assured me that she had checked with her doctor on that one, since she was also sensitive to caffeine, and her doctor had told her that the “natural caffeine” in this product was OK to take.  She also left me with some samples of a couple of capsules which were supposed to be taken in the morning to get you going for the day, and another pair of capsules which were supposed to help you relax and unwind, to get to sleep at night.  She also offered to give me samples of a product to loosen up the bowels if I needed it; I politely declined her offer, thinking to myself, “Boy, they have their reps programmed with products they gotta take all throughout the day, whether they’re coming or going!”

As soon as I got home, I promptly opened one of the packages, from which I was to make a nutritious instant drink, which supposedly featured the superfood.  To my great disappointment, the color of the powder wasn’t anything like the bright green I had seen in the capsules of the superfood I bought at the health food store, but rather, it was basically white, tinged or dusted with flecks of green and grey.  And when I tasted it, it didn’t have the wheatgrass – like flavor I was expecting from the capsules I had taken earlier, but rather, it was insipidly sweet, not unlike instant Koolaid or tropical fruit punch.  Overall, the product’s appearance was remarkably like a white, sweet food staple commonly available at your local supermarket, and its granular texture sure resembled that staple.  In other words, it was mostly granulated white sugar, laced mainly with citric acid and assorted flavors, and only lightly dusted with the highly touted superfood.

The other drink, the energy drink, was similarly white, granular and intensely sweet, but it gave me quite a bit of a buzz, which made it almost impossible to nap afterwards.  And I had only tasted a bit of it!  Yep, it sure went heavy on the caffeine, in addition to the sugar and other cheap, empty stimulants.  I then bit into one of the capsules to be taken at bedtime, and from the taste of it, it seemed to be almost entirely made up of the concentrated extract of a certain relatively cheap Ayurvedic herb which is commonly used to powerfully lower blood sugar.  In other words, after taking those drinks and being high on a sugar rush all day, the sugar levels had to be brought down for bedtime so that one could sleep; and then, upon awaking, take the AM capsules for a kick in the pants to get you going, because there sure as heck wasn’t anything of any nutritional value in the drinks to truly nourish and sustain you throughout the day.

My heart sank when I thought of my friend, and of others in her sales network who felt really jazzed and excited about what they were taking and selling.  I didn’t have the heart, and I didn’t quite know how to break the terrible news to her that at least ninety percent of what she was selling was sugar and empty stimulants like caffeine, supplemented by herbal supplements that would give you a jump start in the morning and wind you down at night.  It was all those nutritionally worthless ingredients in the stuff she was taking, all those cheap, empty stimulants that had her so energetic and jazzed up, and NOT the superfood!  I reflected back on prior experiences I had had, when I was called on board to be part of the product formulation team for a dubious herbal multilevel startup venture:  “Let’s ‘bless it’ with this, let’s ‘bless it’ with that”, they said.  And anyone in my friend’s sales network who was exclusively counting on the products they were selling to fulfill all their nutritional needs, and who had serious hidden or underlying nutritional deficiencies, was doomed to see their health come down, crashing and burning, sooner or later, I realized.

My friend, when I had met her that afternoon, boasted that she was feeling so much energy, and that she had also lost quite a bit of excess weight.  The highly touted superfood, which was, in fact only a minor ingredient in the products she was taking, indeed had a solid reputation as an aid in weight management, from all that I had read about it; and according to the studies conducted, it reduced the superfluous food cravings that led to undue weight gain in a sound and natural manner, by providing concentrated, optimal nutrition.  But this crap she was taking was only working to help her loose weight because the caffeine and other empty stimulants in it are powerful appetite suppressants.  Sooner or later, if she kept this up, she would wind up critically underfed and undernourished, which in many ways, is more dangerous, especially over the short term, than overfed and undernourished.

Heck, I don’t know if it was the caffeine, the sugar, the empty stimulants, or exactly what it was in the stuff she gave me, which I had only tasted, not taken, but I had a hard time getting to bed that night.  I was really worried for my friend, and that she had fallen for this scam.  And for the many like her, who were either so ignorant and unaware of matters pertaining to herbs, nutrition and health; or blinded by the placebo effect and the sugar and empty stimulants; or, totally mesmerized by the financial payoff and under the seductive spell of making a whole kit and caboodle of cold, hard cash.  Or, all of the above.  Phantasmagoric apparitions of many of the heroes and role models I have had, some living, some dead, and some heroic, iconic historical figures, taunted me in my dreams to speak up, so I felt moved to come out and tell the truth in this blog post.

My dear, beloved father, now dearly departed, a diplomat who served his country well, would definitely stand up to this scam if he were me.  When I grew up during the Cold War, and our country was involved in the fight against communism, there was a slogan involved in our national and diplomatic efforts which rings true, regardless of what your conclusions are as to the worthiness of that fight:  “All that is necessary for evil to win in the world is for good people to do nothing.” In other words, I don’t want to be the one who, when the superfood scammers finally came for me, there was no one left to speak out.

Jesus also showed up, telling me, “What doth it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his soul?” And I thought of all those who had sacrificed their better judgment and their God-given conscience on the altar of the almighty dollar in the mad, soul-less pursuit of profit.  “The Truth will set you free!”, he proclaimed.  “Let all who have eyes to see, see, and let all who have ears to hear, hear!”, to which I might add, “Let all who have tongues to taste, taste!”

Hippocrates also checked in, with the high ethical and moral standards he set, not just for the medical profession, but for all involved in health and healing, and the health and wellness industry.  “First do no harm!”, he told me, but these nutritionally worthless products being touted as a miracle superfood were definitely harming people nutritionally.  No doubt, Hippocrates is turning over in his grave about this.

The great Lakota Indian chief Sitting Bull came riding in as well, reminding me of what he said about the White Man:  “Love of possession is a disease with them!”  And I thought of all those superfood hucksters who were riding this gravy train for all it was worth, so blinded by their own personal greed and avarice that they were either unable or unwilling to open their eyes and taste buds and do the simple tests that I did, and come to the blatantly obvious conclusion that the emperor was, in fact, wearing no clothes; or because they really didn’t care or give a rat’s derriere about the true worth of what they were selling, cynically seeing it as only a means to an end.

Then came good ole Honest Abe Lincoln, the man whose head is on the penny, who once walked miles through the frontier woods to return to a customer a few pennies that he had overcharged him while working at the country store.  “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time”, he reminded me.  But by Jove, how many people have been fooled and taken for a ride by this crooked venture!

And finally, the spirit of Dr. Kim, who exerted a very formative influence on me in acupuncture school, drew near.  Perhaps what left the deepest impression on me regarding all the things he said was that the health and healing knowledge of Oriental Medicine had true value in its own right, and would prove itself worthwhile in the great value and happiness it added to one’s life, even if one didn’t make one red cent with it.  He reminded me of the simple truth that the primary exchange between those providing a health oriented product or service and those on the receiving end was the gift of health and healing, and that all else, and all considerations of profit or loss, were secondary.  These multilevel superfood scammers were definitely putting the cart before the horse, or the cart instead of the horse!

The offenses committed by this latest multilevel scam operation that I have uncovered are by no means unique; however, in my experience, they far exceed, by degree, those of any other multilevel company that I am aware of.  I do not wish to resort to the tiresome and redundant task of naming names here, but I do invite others to open their hearts, minds and senses, as I have done, and examine the evidence with an open mind, as I have outlined for you above.  And if you should find that the shoe fits, don’t wear it – discard it, and renounce any ill-gotten gains that might have been had.  And although I have not named any names, anyone with sufficient intelligence and objectivity can piece together the clues and information that I have given are free to do so, and will probably arrive at the same conclusions as I have.

And so, like Diogenes, I am holding up my lantern and asking if there is any honest man left, if there are indeed any truly honest and worthwhile companies and ventures left in the multilevel health and wellness industry who are truly offering their customers products that are of real value and worth for their hard earned money, and which are truly free of the faults and shortcomings I have cited in this posting. If you are out there, and are conducting your multilevel health and wellness business in a truly honest and ethical manner, and are truly offering something of value to your customers, I would love to hear from you.

THE SUMMER WANES

by David Osborn, MH, L.Ac
Sunday, August 21, 2011

The ancient Greek philosopher Democritus wrote that nothing is constant in this universe, that all is ebb and flow.  The Moon waxes, and then wanes in Her monthly cycle, and so do the seasons of the year, as the Sun’s light and heat first waxes, and then wanes.

Summer, which once seemed so blazingly hot and overpowering, is now on the wane – at least in the northern hemisphere, where I and most of the world’s population live.  The seasons are doing a critical shift, which presents us with some new health challenges as the organism strives to adapt.

In the middle of Summer, the heat was overpowering, and never really went away, as scorching days turned into warm and sultry nights.  The body was geared to hot weather full time, 24 / 7.  Appetites waned in the peak heat of Summer, because blood flow was diverted away from the digestive organs in the body’s interior to the capillaries and sweat glands at the periphery.  In addition, care had to be taken to adequately hydrate the body, to protect it from dehydration.

But now, the days are growing noticeably shorter, and the nights longer.  Although the days can still be intensely hot, the nights can be, by contrast, quite cool, especially after midnight in the wee hours of the morning.  And so, the body must struggle to adapt to these more extreme swings and fluctuations in temperature.  You can go to bed with your bedroom window open and wake up with some sniffles and a scratchy throat because it got quite cool at night, after you had thrown the covers off.

Or, you may hike up to a mountain top, or even to the top of a high hill, offering a magnificent view of the surrounding countryside.  It may be quite warm and sheltered down in the valley, and you dress very lightly.  As you do the long hike up to the summit, you sweat quite profusely, and your pores open at full throttle.  But then, when you reach the summit, where the cool breezes blow, you may catch a chill, which could precipitate a late Summer cold.

This may not yet pose critical or extreme challenges for your health, as the more severe cold snaps of Fall will.  But if the necessary changes are made to adapt to the milder cooling of mid August, or early fall, the body will be more prepared for the bigger climactic challenges to come.  This is not too difficult if you follow a few sensible guidelines.

The first guideline is this:  Eliminate or greatly reduce your intake of ice cold drinks, and cooling foods and beverages. Don’t eat ice cold foods straight from the refrigerator.   Most people in our modern world are totally unaware of the full extent of the insidious damage and injury to our bodies and their vital functions by excessive or indiscriminate cold.  Ice cold drinks, ice cream, and the like may feel very good in the heat of midday, but they make you more vulnerable to colds and chills when the cool nights come.  Cold can linger in the body, and not be noticed, for a lot longer than most people realize.

The ancient Greek physician – philosophers reasoned that Hot or heating influences on the body were inherently less risky to the organism and its homeostasis than were Cold or cooling ones because Cold is basically contrary or inimical to Life.  Living bodies all generate heat, whereas dead bodies are cold.  And so, it is especially important that we do not overindulge in cold, especially when the seasons start to change.

The ancient Greek philosopher – physicians also categorized all foods, herbs and medicinal substances as being either heating or cooling in nature.  Heating or warming foods and herbs add to, or build up, the inherent metabolic heat, energy and vitality of the body, whereas cooling foods and herbs disperse it, and thereby deplete it.  The prevailing seasonal changes that are taking place are moving towards increasing coldness, which will require increasing inherent metabolic heat and energy to withstand.  In accordance with the prevailing direction of seasonal change, we must abandon an overindulgence in Cold or cooling foods and herbs, and concentrate on warming, or at least neutral or temperate, foods and herbs.

Start to rebuild the nutritional status of the organism, and its immunity. The constant, overwhelming heat of mid Summer is now gone, that oppressive heat that stifled the appetite and digestion, and we are now free to eat more copiously of heavier, more nutritious foods, especially in the cooler evenings.  Luckily, Mother Nature has provided us with some great foods and herbs for rebuilding our bodies and their immunity:

Pumpkins, squash and yellow vegetables: These are all rich in carotenes and vitamin A, which increases the health and immune resistance of the body’s mucous membranes in preparation for the coming Fall and Winter.  They are also a rich source of caloric energy and complex carbohydrates.

Whole grains: These are also harvested in the late summer or early Fall, and are an excellent source of high quality nutrition, with B vitamins, vitamin E, and plenty of fiber.

Dark Forest Berries: These include Raspberries, Blackberries, Blueberries, Grapes and Black Currants.  They are rich in flavonoids and antioxidants to strengthen vascular and connective tissue and, with their rich vitamin C content, to boost circulation and immunity.  Whereas mid Summer has dilated and expanded the peripheral capillaries, the mildly astringent nature of these dark forest berries restores their normal tone and equilibrium.

Lately, there has been a lot of scientific research into the health benefits of red grapes and red wine for maintaining cardiovascular health.  This is primarily due to the influece of a flavonoid pigment that red grapes contain, called resveratrol.

In closing, I wish to leave you with a couple of beneficial herbs to use to boost immunity for the coming Fall and Winter.  These are both herbs that are native to Greece and the Balkans, and healing plants that date all the way back to Hippocrates and beyond.

Olive Leaves (Olea europea): The powers of the leaves of this ancient tree of Greece, the Mediterranean and the Holy Land to boost immunity and fight infection are legendary.  Due to the action of Oleuropein and other flavonoid antioxidants contained in the leaf, Olive leaves have a broad spectrum antimicrobial activity against many types of bacteria, molds, yeasts, fungi and viruses.  Olive leaf tea can be drunk freely instead of water, and is quite pleasant tasting, somewhat like Green Tea, only more aromatic.  Or, you can go to your local health food store and get capsules of Olive Leaf Extract, which provides the essence of the herb in its most concentrated, and tasteless, form.

Besides building our immune resistance to infections, Olive Leaves are also quite useful for relieving other health conditions.  The flavonoids they contain dilate and tone the blood vessels, protecting against hypertension and cardiovascular disease.  The beta Sitosterols in the leaves help to lower blood cholesterol.  The flavonoid compounds in the Olive Leaf also have a hypoglycemic effect that lowers blood sugar in those who have problems with high blood sugar.  And finally, they have a beneficial protective effect against upper respiratory tract infections and allergies.

Sea Buckthorn berries and oil (Hippophae rhamnoides): The late Summer and early Fall is also the time of year when the Sea Buckthorn berries ripen.  Mother Nature, recognizing this as the season for building immunity, has made the Sea Buckthorn berry a nutritional powerhouse to do just that, packing them chock full of important nutrients and antioxidants like vitamin C, flavonoids, vitamin E, carotenoids, phytosterols, B vitamins, Iron, and much, much more.

Sea Buckthorn berries can be taken in many forms.  You can take the juice concentrate or syrup, or the oil.  Or, you can grind the dried berries into a powder in an electric coffee grinder, and mix them with honey to make a delicious medicinal paste, or electuary.  Any way you take them, Sea Buckthorn berries provide wonderful nutritional and immune protection against the coming cold season.

Mother Nature, in Her infinite healing wisdom, practices preventive medicine by providing us with the foods and herbs we need, all in the right time and season, to prepare us for what lies ahead.  All we need to do is to partake of Her healing bounty.    

The Dog Days of Summer

by David Osborn, MH, L.Ac
Thursday, June 23, 2011

Well, well, my readers, the Summer Solstice was just yesterday, and in Redlands, California, where I live, the heat was quite oppressive, and almost unbearable!  At least in the Northern Hemisphere, we have summer from around June 21st to September 21st.  During Summer, the Sun transits through the tropical zodiac signs of Cancer, Leo and Virgo.  The first two of these signs, Cancer and Leo, are ruled by the two luminaries – the Moon and the Sun, respectively, and when the Summer season is at its peak, so is the power and blazing heat of the Sun, which is in its domicile sign of Leo in Summer’s middle month.

Ancient Egyptian priests and astrologers noted that at the advent of Summer, Sirius, also known as the Dog Star, rose in the East with the rising Sun.  From this observation comes the expression, “The Dog Days of Summer”.  In the dog days of Summer, you sweat like a dog, pant like a dog, and may even die like a dog if you don’t take measures to protect yourself from sunstroke and heat exhaustion.

In Greek Medicine, the inherent temperament of Summer is Hot, Dry and Choleric.  The heat of Summer, soaring upwards from the moderate warmth of Spring, has gotten so extreme that it has evaporated all the residual moisture of the previous season, leaving the climate Hot and Dry.

And if you yourself don’t take sensible measures to prevent it, you too could dry up inside, and succumb to heat exhaustion and dehydration.  Fluids sweated out in the hot weather must be replenished, and you must keep yourself well hydrated.  This is especially true if you are not only out in hot weather in the summertime, but also like to stay active and exercise.  So, drink at least eight full glasses of water daily in the summertime.

Always take along a lot of water when you go hiking, or are in the outdoors during the Summer, and drink and hydrate yourself often.  That’s because dehydration can creep up on you without your knowing it – until you start to experience the first symptoms of weakness, giddiness and light headedness.  Even if you have usually handled the Summer heat quite well, extreme conditions could still creep up on you unawares.

Summer is inherently Hot, Dry and Choleric in temperament, making it identical in its basic qualities to that of the Choleric humor, also called the Bilious humor, which is Yellow Bile.  And so, the inherent qualities of Summer have a tendency to aggravate the Choleric humor, or Yellow Bile.  Physically, we may feel weakness, malaise, or may be feverish; we may sweat profusely; or we may feel a bit nauseous and giddy.  Psychologically, with Choleric aggravation, we may get angry or irritable, get red, sore eyes or headaches, and be on a short fuse as our tempers flare.

The Choleric temperament and its predominant humor, Yellow Bile, have long been associated with boldness, contentiousness and audacity.  We speak of “the pure, unmitigated gall” to do so and so.  Historically speaking, many nations, such as the United States and France, had their revolutions in the Dog Days of Summer.  The people got bold and feisty, couldn’t take it anymore, and decided to do something about it.

Those of a Choleric temperament usually have the hardest time in Summer, and weaken a lot in the intense Summer heat, sweating profusely and getting all hot and feverish.  They may experience headaches, sore eyes, liver problems, and fevers, as well as toxemic and inflammatory conditions.  These are mostly the manifestations of aggravated Yellow Bile.

Conversely, those of the contrary Phlegmatic temperament, which is Cold and Wet in its basic qualities, generally has the easiest time dealing with Summer – provided that they are basically healthy, and not too overweight, as those of a Phlegmatic temperament often struggle with excessive weight gain.  If excessive weight gain or obesity should be a problem, then Summer becomes a difficult season even for Phlegmatics, since the external body armor of fat or adipose tissue acts much like a heavy overcoat, holding body heat in, and not allowing it to vent or escape properly.  So, besides wanting to cut a superb figure when you slip into that sleek bathing suit or skimpy bikini, here is another reason why you want to lose weight in preparation for Summer.

Another important physiological response of the organism to the extreme heat of Summer is for the body to shunt blood and its circulation outwards towards the periphery in order to dissipate a lot of the internal heat that has built up in the body’s interior.  The capillaries open and flush, and you start to sweat profusely.  The shunting of blood towards the external capillaries alone will dissipate quite a bit of heat, but perspiration adds the cooling effect of the complementary Water element to quell the Fire of excessive body heat.  Just drink enough water and fluids to replenish that which is lost by sweating.

Sweating is good, sweating helps us release toxins that have accumulated in our bodies, which can come either from exogenous dietary or environmental sources, or from internal or endogenous causes, such as metabolic residues that have accumulated due to imbalances in digestion and metabolism.  In summer, deeply held accumulations of toxins also tend to arise towards the skin and surface of the organism, hopefully to be released with the escaping sweat.  But if too many toxins accumulate in the sweat as it is being released, the sweat can become toxic, with the main manifestations being either sweat that stinks or sweat that itches, irritates or burns excessively.  This latter manifestation can be a comon cause or aggravating factor in heat rash.

If these types of skin conditions should be a problem in Summer, it helps to cleanse your blood with herbs that are alteratives, or blood cleansers, combined with herbs that are cooling, sedating diaphoretics. In Indian Ayurvedic medicine, Neem leaves (Azadirachta indica) are a frequently recommended blood cleanser in hot natured skin rashes and eruptions.  In Western herbal medicine, Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia) and Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) are a commonly recommended dynamic duo of blood cleansers that can help.  In Greek and Unani herbal medicine, the miracle herb for skin eruptions and rashes is Fumitory (Fumaria officinalis).

If you would like to make an herbal formula composed of alteratives and cooling diaphoretics that is good for handling Summer skin rashes and eruptions, the following would be good:
Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
Goldenseal herb (Hydrastis canadensis)
Echinacea herb
(Echinacea angustifulia, E. purpurea)
Red Clover flowers
( Trifolium praetense)
Burdock root
(Arctium lappa)
Elder berries
(Sambucus nigra)
Figwort herb (Scrophularia nodosa)
Fumitory herb
(Fumaria officinalis)
Fennel seed
(Foeniculum vulgare)
Mix the above herbs together in equal parts and grind to a powder in an electric coffee grinder.  Make this powder into an infusion or tea by steeping one rounded teaspoon of the powder in one cup of boiling water.  Let steep and cool down to room temperature.  Drink as needed for skin rashes, irritation and eruptions, or as a preventive medicine against this condition in summer.  You may sweeten this with a little lemon and honey if so desired, but stay away from sugar.  You can make as many cups as you want to have on hand; you can even store it in the refrigeator, but don’t drink it when it is too cold.

If you are sweating profusely when you’re out in hot Summer weather, this is all normal, provided that your strength and vitality are up, and you don’t feel too weak, giddy or lightheaded.  Sweating is good, since it releases toxins.  But if the sweating should get too thin or furtive, or should disappear altogether in hot Summer weather, this is a cause for concern.  Generally, it shows that the body does not have enough fluid reserves to sweat properly, and indicates a need to consume more fluids to rehydrate the organism.

Another thing that a lot of people notice in the hot Dog Days of Summer is that their appetite often diminishes, and they don’t want to eat that much.  The reason for this is that, with all that blood circulation shunted outwards towards the external capillaries, quite a bit of blood is taken away from the body’s interior, which includes the digestive organs.  Also, if you are a bit dehydrated, and your fluid levels are low, the body may not have enough fluids to put into the digestive secretions of the GI tract, which require quite a bit of fluids.  And so, even though it’s generally not a good idea to drink too many fluids when you eat, drinking fluids while eating may actually be a good idea in Summer, especially if fluid levels are low, and may actually help your digestion rather than hurt it.

Because appetite levels often drop in Summer due to the above mentioned climactic and physiological conditions, in a lot of cultures around the globe, people have developed the tendency to eat light, easily digestible foods in Summer.  There’s nothing wrong with this, just as long as you’re consuming plenty of fluids, and are eating enough to keep your energy levels up.  Actually, many people tend to overeat anyways, and the Summer activities and “fun in the Sun”, combined with a lighter diet, may actually be a good thing, and do wonders for your health.

“But still”, you may be asking, “How do I really beat the Summer heat?”  Of course, you can be a party pooper and hang out indoors, inside your comfortably air conditioned room all summer long, watching soap operas on TV.  But the natural answer, as provided by Greek Medicine and the world’s other great traditional healing systems, is to eat foods and drinks that are of an exceptionally cooling nature.  By this, I DON’T mean eating ice cold foods and drinks straight from your refrigerator or icebox; that is UN-natural cold that is too extreme, and therefore damaging to your health.  Even in Summer, normal body temperature is 37 degrees Celsius, or 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, which is quite warm.  But eating and drinking foods that are of a naturally cooling, sedating and detoxifying nature will help your body FEEL a lot cooler and more comfortable, even in the blazing Summer heat.

Fruits are naturally cooling and detoxifying, and of these, Citrus fruits like Oranges, Lemons and Limes are a perennial favorite in things like Lemonade or freshly squeezed Orange juice.  In fact, Oranges and their juice can be used medicinally to bring down fevers.  But this is best, and the effects are most cooling and sedating to the organism, when the Orange juice is cut 50/50 with water.

Melons are another perennial Summer favorite, and all your major Melons are really quite cooling in nature.  Cantaloupes and Honeydews are all quite cooling, as is Watermelon. Watermelon is a good diuretic, and is good for cleansing the urinary system.

The old Greeks and Romans used the fresh, green shoots of the Elder Flower (Sambucus nigra) as a cooling, sedating summer drink, prepared with honey to sweeten it in much the same manner as one would prepare Lemonade. To this day, such is a popular country custom in Romania, in the heart of the Balkans in Eastern Europe.  The Elder flowers bloom in mid June, and when they do, they must be picked and used quickly, as they fade and wither fast.

When one thinks of a cooling herb, the first one that usually pops into one’s mind is Peppermint (Mentha piperita), as well as its close botanical cousin, Spearmint (Mentha spicata). These form the basis for the ever popular drink, the Mint Julep, which is a perennial favorite of the Old South, in the USA.  But how many of these stately southern ladies and gentlemen know that their Mint Julep, and the Julep itself, was the invention of Arab physicians as a cooling, sedating drink to cool off the blazing heat of Summer?

Grapes are another cooling fruit of the Aster family, as is Lettuce, which is one of the most cooling of vegetables.  So, that’s why you like to eat a lot of salads in Summer – to cool your body off!  The great product and bounty of the Grape Vine is its Wine, which can be made into a number of tasty, refreshing, cooling drinks.  Just try making Red Wine into Sangria, by soaking it with fruits – some Citrus fruits like Oranges, Lemons and Limes, some Melons, or perhpas, if you want to be very herbally creative, some tender young Elder flower shoots!  And you can take that Wine or Sangria and mix it with some sparkling Mineral Water to make a Wine Cooler!

Yes, there are a number of different fun, creative ways to stay cool in Summer and beat the heat.  Just do so sensibly, to protect and preserve your health.