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by David Osborn, MH, L.Ac
Sunday, January 17, 2016

I spent a few days for Christmas with my sister in San Francisco. My sister and I have often had many heated arguments about dietary matters. Back when my mother was alive, both she and my sister would frequently go on the low carb, high protein Atkins diet in order to lose weight. The Atkins diet never struck me as a diet that was even remotely healthy – all that meat and steak day in and day out, washed down with thick cream… guaranteed to pickle your arteries with cholesterol and send you off to the cardiologist in no time flat. I would lecture my mom about the deleterious effects of such a diet to no end, but it didn’t seem to sink in at all. It really worked for losing weight and giving my mom that slim, trim figure that she was known for, and that’s all she cared about. And my sister took after my mom when it came to dieting.

One of the most formative influences in my life, especially when it came to diet, nutrition and natural healing, was my best friend John Hopkins, proprietor of Oh Happy Days Natural Food Store in Altadena, California. Just as zealously as my mom and my sister were in following the carnivorous Atkins diet, Brother John, who I like to call Saint John, the health food Gandhi of Altadena, was a staunch vegetarian. Vegetarianism is a dietary way of life with a lot of good, solid epidemiological evidence to back it up. It really does seem to reduce the risk and occurrence of morbidity and degenerative disease, especially as one ages. Brother John called fresh fruits and vegetables the protective foods, and from my own personal experience, I would have to agree with him. Although I may not be a complete vegetarian, as an herbalist, I have always felt that a plant centered diet is the foundation of good health.

When I was living in Romania, I was involved with a bunch of Romanian yogis who were vegetarians of the ovo-lacto-vegetarian persuasion, who included eggs and dairy products in their diet. At that time, communism had only recently fallen in Romania, and the food and dietary options available to the Romanian people in those days were still quite limited in terms of protein sources. There were walnuts and sunflower seeds, but other nuts and seeds were in short supply. Avocados, a mainstay of the California diet, were unheard of. We had all the feta style cheese that we wanted – from cow, sheep or goat milk, take your pick – and we had eggs, and without those protein sources, we’d be sunk. When it came to eggs, the yogis had some mighty strange notions – they considered the cholesterol-rich yolk the healthy part of the egg, and discarded the protein-rich whites, which are usually considered to be the healthy part of the egg back home. We also had beans, but these were mainly white or navy beans and chickpeas.

In the early days with the yogis in Romania, I was living with them in their ashrams in a rather squalid, slum-like neighborhood in Bucharest. And I ate what they ate – no meat at all. I also adhered to their intensive regimen of yoga training, and the young yogis, who were considerably more youthful than myself, were always telling me how pallid and run-down I looked. But then, wanting a little more privacy for myself, I moved out and rented my own apartment. And, as a kind of little experiment on the sly, I went out and supplemented my vegetarian fare with a chicken leg at a restaurant in town about once or twice a week. Of course, I didn’t breathe a word about it to my yogi friends, but I kept on getting spontaneous complements from them about how healthy and robust I looked. I just smiled and said, “Thank you!”

When it comes to keeping my diet in order, I tend to follow the dictates of my natal astrology chart. With my natal Ascendant in Scorpio, I need some meat in my diet to nourish my blood and hemoglobin adequately, due to the Martian classical rulership of this sign. But at the same time, Scorpio is also a Fixed sign, and Fixed signs generally have problems with elimination and detoxification – and so, my diet should include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to cleanse and detoxify the blood and lymph, as Scorpio, a Water sign, has an affinity for the vital fluids of the body and the moist, flourishing Phlegmatic and Sanguine humors. One of the things that my sister told me she found out about our family medical history in our dietary arguments over the holidays was that Crohn’s disease, and other inflammatory disorders of the GI tract ran in my mom’s side of the family – and I have the two fiery, Choleric planets, the Sun and Mars, associated with inflammatory disorders, in direct opposition along the Taurus / Scorpio axis, with Mars, most closely linked with pathological inflammation, conjunct my Scorpio Ascendant. Between Taurus, which rules the mouth and throat, and Scorpio, which rules the rectum and anus, I have the whole GI tract contained within this inflammatory opposition – and believe me, I have really had to watch my digestion all my life. Because of the influence of Mars, its classical ruler, which rules the bile, Scorpio can also have bilious problems from eating too much meat.

And so, there it is – different strokes for different folks. I have found that the natal astrology chart is a pretty reliable guide in dietary matters, like a dietary and overall health maintenance manual for your bodymind. Another thing that many holistic healers have found to be very valuable as a guide in dietary matters is the Blood Type Diet – and it just so turns out that my sister and I have two different blood types, even though we’re siblings. My sister, not surprisingly, is a type O – the hunter / gatherer, and most meat-friendly of all the blood types – whereas I am a type B – the omnivore. In Japan, where I was born, the whole matter of blood types is quite the rage, although not so much as a system of dietetics as a guide to one’s personality and behavior.

Although I have some credence in the idea that different blood types, in a general sense, may thrive on different types of diets, I have quite a few reservations about adopting the whole Blood Type Diet, as outlined in Peter D’Adamo’s book, Eat Right for Your Type, hook, line and sinker. Nevertheless, I have many colleagues as holistic healers who swear by it. One of the nagging unanswered questions I have from that book is that there are two herbs – Rhubarb root and Red Clover – that are on every blood type’s “do not take” list. Now, Rhubarb root I might be able to accept, since it is a vigorous laxative / purgative, and not for everybody; but Red Clover??? It’s one of the mildest, most innocuous herbs that I know of! Why the heck is it on every type’s “do not take” list? I think I first noticed this peculiar anomaly when I was perusing the book at Oh Happy Days, Brother John’s health food store, which is frequented by quite a few eccentrics – and I vividly remember falling into a crazy argument about the whole Red Clover question with one of them!

The blood type diet book also seems to fall into some magical thinking as far as I’m concerned – it chalks everything up to what they call “lectins” which precipitate a kid of harmful coagulation of the red blood cells and hemoglobin in your bloodstream. For me as a type B, I’m OK with duck and turkey, but chicken is supposed to be bad for me, and to set off these “lectins”. But golly, gee – all these varieties of fowl seem to be pretty similar to me. A colleague of mine, and an ardent follower of the blood type diet, told me not to eat sesame tahini, that it was bad for me, and advised me to have almond butter on my morning toast instead. But when I took a serum IgG antibody blood test for hidden food allergies, I found out that I was allergic to almonds (they do give me problems if I eat too much of them), but not to sesame! But the blood type diet people just counter that the whole blood type thing with the “lectins” is one thing, and food allergies are another, and that both operate independently of one another. Lamb is supposed to be the best meat for type B’s like me, and I must admit that I feel pretty good after eating lamb. Might also be the Greek in me – who knows?

I went to acupuncture school and got my license way back in the early days of acupuncture in California. At that time, the curriculum, or instructional program for licensing in acupuncture and Oriental Medicine was quite short and sparse, and did not include a bona fide course in nutrition. This deficiency in my training prompted me to take a continuing education course in nutrition, which I enrolled in, eagerly hoping to get filled in on some of the nutritional basics I had missed out on in school. The abstract of the course sure looked promising. But when I actually took the course, I was quite dismayed to find that about three quarters of it, after a pretty perfunctory introduction to the subject, was – Peter D’Adamo’s blood type diet! My heart sunk to my feet – there was nothing about this in the course description! I could have just bought the book and read it, at considerably less expense than paying for the course, and gotten my continuing education credits elsewhere.

And so, my “inner jury” is pretty much out on the blood type diet. The Red Clover question still nags me, I must admit, and I can’t quite figure out what the magic of these “lectins” is all about. And colleagues of mine in the natural healing business continue to get remarkable results with it, even to the extent of healing chronic and recalcitrant diseases in their patients. And my sister, the type O hunter / gatherer, is filling up on meat, this time under the auspices of the Paleo diet. Doesn’t all that meat really drive up your cholesterol, doesn’t it really acidify your blood and load it with harmful toxins? My sister is quite a zealot about exploding what she sees as these “myths”. But a huge amount of epidemiological evidence does show that a plant based diet does indeed lower rates of morbidity and degenerative disease, and prolong the lifespan considerably. Just ask Ancel Keyes, the discoverer of the plant-based Mediterranean Diet, who lived to be over a hundred on his diet. And remember that Saint John, the health food Gandhi of Altadena, is smiling down on you when you choose to go vegetarian!


by David Osborn, MH, L.Ac
Wednesday, December 2, 2015


A lot of time has passed since I left California, and a lot of water has passed under the bridge, so to speak. I have been on a long quest, a journey, which has been quite an odyssey for me, all in the pursuit of the elusive bluebird of happiness. And the happiness that continues to elude me so far in my 63 years on this planet is one that has come fairly easily for many people, and which they take for granted: happiness with a woman, or a romantic partner of the opposite sex. If God wills it, I shall hopefully fulfill this dream of mine before this life is over.

And along the way, I have been able to explore the world of herbal healing, and Greek and Unani Medicine, and do what I could to network with those who were interested in Greek Medicine. Perhaps foremost among these journeys were my two trips to the Holy Land, the first of which I made from Altadena California in 2010, and the second of which I made from Redlands, California in 2012. Upon my return to Redlands in 2012, I soon moved down to Guanajuato, in central Mexico.

From Guanajuato, Mexico, where I stayed for a few months, I moved back to Tucson, Arizona, in the heart of the Sonoran Desert. Tucson was a very metaphysically and holistically aware city, and, while meeting many companions along the healing path, I succeeded in getting licensed in acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in Arizona. I also got to know some of the healing herbs of the Sonoran Desert, like Yucca or Ocotillo, and connected with an Apache medicine man.

From Tucson, Arizona, I made two journeys back to Bucharest, Romania, where I first put up this website. I was seriously looking to settle down there, but alas, it seemed like it wasn’t meant to be. Nevertheless, I did enjoy some speaking engagements at conferences of the AAR, or the Romanian Astrologers’ Association. I even wrote an article on one of their conferences for a major American astrology magazine.

In the fall of 2014, I took a side trip from Bucharest down to Athens, Greece, where I was most warmly greeted by the Greek Naturopathic Doctor, Matina Chronopoulou. We visited famed healing and retreat sites sacred to Mother Nature in the region of Arcadia in the central Peloponnesus, and feasted on all the wonderful natural cuisine of the region – roast lamb, Dandelion greens, chestnuts, walnuts and golden honey.

On my second trip back to Romania, I tried to make another visit to Greece, but was sidetracked by two things: the unfolding political and economic crisis in Greece, and a Mexican lady who a mutual Mexican-American friend of ours was trying to introduce us to. I even went back to Mexico from Romania to meet her, but alas, the relationship didn’t work out. And so, I am still looking for that special lady. If you think that you might have something to offer me, and we might be able to find happiness together, and you resonate personally with what I have presented on this website, and you are a lady between the ages of 50 and 60, I would love to hear from you, and enter into a dialogue.

So far, this website on Greek Medicine has been my most significant and meaningful achievement in life, and it continues to warm my heart to hear how it has helped and enlightened many seekers of healing wisdom around the world. I cannot afford to let this internet mission of mine that I have taken up slide, I cannot afford to neglect this cause, out of a sincere desire to be of assistance to my readers. And so, I have embarked on a program to expand and upgrade my website, to make it even more enlightening and informative. Yet I do not wish to sacrifice fulfillment in my personal life for the sake of my professional life, and am seeking that balance between head and heart, between partnership and praxis.

I am currently residing in the state of New Mexico, in the city of Santa Fe, the state capital, which is a great center for holistic healing, natural therapies, and spiritual teachings. It is a truly beautiful place, and they don’t cal New Mexico the Land of Enchantment for nothing. However, I can do my internet work from anywhere in the world, and am willing to relocate anywhere on earth to be with the right person.

And so, if you would like to contact me to offer me any feedback or suggestions on expanding and upgrading my website, or improving its outreach ministry, please contact me. If you are in need of a health and wellness consultation, or a Medical Astrology consultation, please contact me. And if you are a lady who is interested in exploring the possibilities of a meaningful relationship or partnership with me, please contact me. My contact email address is:

David Osborn, MH, L.Ac.


by David Osborn, MH, L.Ac
Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Dr-OZ1Dr. Mehmet Oz is a name that is so trusted for health advice in our media these days that he can make a recommendation for a dietary supplement or health product one day, and stores sell out of that same product the very next day.  As such, he belongs to a very exclusive club, the likes of which include such celebrities as Oprah Winfrey – who first invited him on to her show as her “go to” doctor to discuss various health issues of the day and make his recommendations.  With patronage from the most respected lady in daytime TV, it wasn’t long before Dr. Oz developed a huge following of his own.  The huge amount of trust and respect that Dr. Oz commands, and the huge influence he wields on the viewing public, have put him in a very enviable position indeed.

So, it is not that surprising that Dr. Oz has come under a lot of fire recently, ostensibly for hawking herbal and nutritional supplements which many have branded as “quack treatments”.  In fact, a group of ten doctors got together and wrote a letter to Columbia University’s medical school, at which Dr. Oz holds a faculty post, demanding that he be fired by the University for promoting these treatments.  He was even summoned before congress and cross examined for promoting what many have claimed to be dubious supplements and treatments that many claim have departed from what they call evidence based medicine.  In the process, Dr. Oz has come under a lot of fire from those who have their doubts about the safety and/or efficacy of the products and treatments he is recommending, whether they are motivated by a professional or industry agenda, or just plain skeptical about health supplements in general.

Dr. Oz chose to passionately defend himself and tackle his attackers head on, exposing them for who they were.  Many worked for conservative think tanks and had a vested interest in defending GMOs, or genetically modified foods, and the current anti-labeling status quo in the United States.  It turns out that another doctor who signed the letter had been implicated in major Medicaid fraud.  Defending the public’s right to know what is in our food, and advocating for GMO labeling is one of the things that Dr. Oz supports.  Dr. Oz passionately proclaimed that he would not be silenced in a TV announcement to confront his critics.  Identifying his critics, the ten doctors who signed the letter to get him fired, and their ties to the GMO industry, Dr. Oz brought the GMO issue front and center, suggesting that perhaps this was the real reason these doctors wanted him silenced.

And he may well be right.  Polls show that about 90 percent of Americans would like for GMO foods and ingredients in foods to be labeled as such.  From a moral, ethical, and even a common sense standpoint, GMO labeling just makes sense.  GMO advocates claim that GMO foods are no different from, and just as safe as, non-GMO food, whereas GMO opponents claim that GMO foods have not been adequately researched and tested, and may not be safe.  But leaving this obvious controversy aside, doesn’t the public have the right to know what is in their food?  Even ingredients which are not controversial are routinely labeled because someone can have an adverse reaction to virtually any food ingredient.  People are very health conscious these days, and many are choosing to buy organic – and these same people don’t want to be inadvertently buying and eating genetically modified foods.  And who can blame them?

Perhaps the real reason why Dr. Oz’s critics have mounted this attack against him for promoting what they claim to be “quack treatments” is because they know that they could get much more sympathy from the public on this issue than if they chose to attack him on what is their real agenda: his stance on GMO foods, and having them labeled.  With the vast majority of the American public supporting GMO labeling, they could not get any sympathy or support from the public on that issue.  But if they silence Dr. Oz and shut him down for these alleged “quack treatments”, they have also silenced a powerful voice for GMO labeling as well.  So, the recent attacks on Dr. Oz could very well be summed up as a stealth or false flag operation.

What the recent attacks on Dr. Oz have made clear is that there is still a lot of widespread skepticism and even downright opposition to herbal and dietary supplements, and how to regulate the industry.  The spectrum of opinion on these matters is quite diverse, and runs all over the map.  The supplement and health food industry still has powerful opponents in high places who would like nothing better than to shut it down for good.  Many of those who profess skepticism about dietary supplements even allege that the basic quality and purity of the ingredients contained in these supplements is highly questionable, but in my experience, if you do your research and homework, and buy your supplements from a reputable company, the quality, potency and purity is pretty consistent and reliable.

But what about the claims that Dr. Oz and others have made for these supplements?  Haven’t they gone way over the top in touting them?  Here again, opinions range from unqualified support and agreement with these claims, or at least the freedom of speech for Dr. Oz and others to make them in a free and democratic society, to downright condemnation of these claims as misleading and dangerous.  Those who make powerful claims for health and dietary supplements are often stigmatized as “snake oil salesmen” by skeptics in the media.  But where does the truth lie?  Are these health and dietary supplements powerful therapeutic tools and allies in the improvement of one’s health, or are they worthless frauds, preying upon the gullible and infirm?  Or does the truth lie somewhere in between?

In watching current videos on the whole Dr. Oz affair, I heard a very important point being made:  That Dr. Oz, or any other licensed physician who touts or makes claims for a certain health or dietary supplement on TV isn’t, in the strict sense of the word, practicing medicine – they are simply educating and informing the public about what their general opinion is on these products and what they can do.  The actual practice of medicine, on the other hand, is a much more personalized affair, and involves the personal clinical assessment of the patient by the physician in order to recommend or prescribe the treatment or remedy that is best suited for them – on an individual, personalized basis.  And so, if you see Dr. Oz, or any other media doctor or expert touting some nutritional or dietary supplement on TV, it is up to you to do your homework and find out if that would be the right treatment for you – and in that process, it is often, perhaps even usually, a wise option to consult with a physician or licensed healthcare practitioner.

As a general rule, herbs, vitamins and nutritional supplements are generally of a much milder nature and character than pharmaceutical drugs.  And because they are generally gentler and milder, they are usually not as sure to work for treating or correcting the condition or symptom that you are using it for as taking a pharmaceutical drug would be.  But then, on the positive side of the leger, you don’t have all the negative or adverse side effects that you experience with pharmaceutical drugs either.  In the United Sates, herbs, vitamins and dietary supplements are classified as a food product, which reflects their generally gentler, milder, more nutritive nature and character.  Actually, supplements fall somewhere in between food and medicine, and when you take them, you are, in a sense, following Hippocrates’ dictum to let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.

And so, taking those pills of Green Coffee Bean Extract may not melt away the fat on your belly just as magically as Dr. Oz said it would.  It’s up to you to do your research and homework on that matter, and find out just how well those Green Coffee Beans are suited for melting away that fat in your case.  And, as part of that process, you shouldn’t be averse to seeking the personal advice and guidance of a physician or healthcare practitioner.  Those Green Coffee Beans, or those Sea Buckthorn Berries, or whatever, may have an impressive amount of clinical research to back them up, but this is no guarantee or substitute for personal, individualized guidance and treatment from a licensed physician or health professional.

Source Videos for Further Study

In the preparation of this blog posting, I watched several videos about my subject, and drew from them as source material.  I will provide you with the links to them below:


by David Osborn, MH, L.Ac
Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Just yesterday, I was contacted by a drug treatment center called Steps to Recovery.  Amy, one of their staff writers, had written an interesting and informative article about the prevalence of Adderall abuse and addiction amongst college students seeking to improve their mental, cognitive and athletic performance levels.  Adderall, it turns out, is a psychoactive drug, a stimulant and cognitive function enhancer, whose principal use is in the treatment of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).  However, because it enhances certain memory functions as well as cognitive performance, it is commonly used, and abused, by college students, especially right before exams and term paper deadlines.  The drug seems great, the ideal solution to make the grade, but there are hidden dangers and drawbacks to its use, both nutritional/physiological as well as psychological, and the drug often takes its abusers off into precarious and unforeseen directions.  For the past couple of years, I have been based in Tucson, Arizona, a college town, and so, this drug and addiction issue seemed to hit particularly close to home.

The Social Symbiosis of Drug Dependency and Abuse
If one takes a little stroll down through the pages of history, one can find interesting case histories of how psychoactive drugs have been used, in many ingenuous ways.  There is the ritual use of hallucinogens, or entheogens, like Ayahuasca in the Amazon or the Peyote cactus amongst the Native Americans of Mesoamerica and the Southwest in shamanic journeying ceremonies.  In a darker vein, there is the use of addictive drugs to enslave or oppress a nation or a people by a foreign colonial power, as in the Chinese Opium Wars perpetrated by the British around the turn of the last century.  But what seems to be the prevalent dynamic, in any given nation, culture or subculture, is a kind of peculiar social symbiosis between that nation, society, culture or subculture and their prevalent drugs of choice.  For example, why the predilection for stimulants and amphetamines amongst the Nazis?  Because when you’re riding high on them, you’re all pumped up and feeling like the Master Race!  The drug of choice of an individual, or a society or subculture, says a lot about the underlying imbalances, fixations or pathologies that are at work in it.  

In more traditional societies, the use of mind altering drugs, as in the examples cited above, tends to be kept within a certain circumscribed religious or ritual context and niche, and abuse of the drug for other purposes, and in a general context, seems to be relatively rare.  But in these traditional societies, there is also a strong family and social structure, in which the more addictive, dark or destructive aspects of human nature tend to get channeled in more innocuous ways.  But within the modern world there has been tremendous social change and upheaval, in which the traditional support structures have degraded or broken down to a large extent.  In today’s fast paced modern world, it seems like people don’t want to take the time or to be bothered with the inner psychological and spiritual work on themselves that is often necessary in life, and are rushing around looking for the quick fix.  And ironically, the chemical fixes or solutions that they find don’t wind up being quick fixes at all, but rather things that complicate and drag out the necessary work of healing, transformation and recovery.

I have seen, in the people I have known around me in life, many examples of drugs being used as a “quick fix” by well meaning people, which later led to huge problems.  A lady friend of mine, who is quite rebellious and independent by nature, told me that her mother would just pop her a benzodiazipene drug to calm her down as a kid, as a kind of instant substitute for proper parenting; this led to an addiction that was very hard for her to beat.  When I was in Romania, I met a young lady who was very focused and intent on getting into the national music conservatory whose mother, as a quick fix substitute for proper nutrition – and parenting as well, perhaps – would give her a chemical sedative to calm her nerves before a big performance or audition.  After I lectured her on the nutritional importance of fresh fruits and vegetables and a sound, balanced diet in the health and wellbeing of the nervous system, she protested that that was all fine and dandy, but the cold, hard reality of it all was that fresh fruits and vegetables happened to be one of the more expensive food categories at the food markets of economically strapped post-communist Romania.

Here, back in the USA, we may not have the same conditions of economic deprivation to contend with, but there are other deleterious forces at work.  Everyone’s familiar with the “Ritalin Generation” – a whole generation of kids who, all too often, were slapped with a diagnosis of ADHD and given drugs that would conveniently mask or manage their symptoms and make them more docile or compliant.  A friend of mine, the mother of such a child, complained to me that too many children, perhaps even most of them these days, are pathologized and given a medical diagnosis, and the drugs to boot.  Imagine if Einstein, who could easily have been diagnosed with ADD, were numbed down with Ritalin – we might not have the Theory of Relativity.  Or, if Mozart, whose behavior was also quite precocious and unmanageable, and left a lot to be desired, had also been “managed” and turned into a placid zombie – the world might not have his prodigious musical creations, and would be culturally a lot poorer.  Yes, pathologize a hard to manage child who doesn’t fit, and lude them out with drugs as a quick fix to avoid taking the extra time and effort necessary to help them cultivate their extraordinary gifts.  Many times, and this is often symbolized in spiritual allegory and world mythology, a hideous or threatening monster guards a precious gift or treasure.

Then there’s also the allegorical symbolism of the genie getting out of the bottle, or the mad scientist whose creation runs amok.  Once these drugs and inventions of the pharmaceutical industry are out in circulation, they may wind up being used, either rightly or wrongly, constructively or destructively, for purposes other than that for which the drug was developed.  And no matter how hard you try to control access to the substance, it seems, it always gets out into these illicit and unintended venues.  And such seems to be the case with Adderall.

Filling the Hole, Remedying the Deficiency
Drugs are the quick fix; they’re the instant remedy that is used to fix what is perceived as personal inadequacies or shortcomings, or to plug up what we feel to be the holes or deficiencies within us.  A Native American medicine man once explained to me that there is, all too often, the looming gap or chasm, that big hole that we feel within between what we are, and what we feel we should be – and there ain’t enough sex, drugs or rock ‘n’ roll in the world to fill up that huge hole.  That takes more time, patience and inner work on oneself, which seems to be in very short supply these days.  Sure, there is the psychological and spiritual side of the holes and deficiencies we all face in our lives, but all too often, and perhaps virtually always, there is a huge nutritional dimension to that hole as well.  Depressive bouts and mood swings, for example, can often be linked to the roller coaster ride of blood sugar instability.  Take an inner psychological and spiritual approach and reach out to a Higher Power on the twelve steps to recovery, but at the same time, do something, whatever you can, to improve your diet and nutritional status as well.  Nutritionists often like to point out that there is no such clinical entity as a deficiency of a psychoactive or mood altering drug, but there are definite deficiencies and imbalances in things like blood sugar and adrenaline levels, as well as neurotransmitters, and that these can often be traced back to nutritional causes.  Many pharmaceutical drugs have been shown to create nutritional deficiencies, so you can be getting into a vicious circle of mounting deficiency and dependency.

If you’re going to use a substance as a crutch, or as a hurdle to get you over a performance challenge in your life, it is always better to use a substance that is more natural and less toxic.  You can arrange the possible options that you have for using a substance to aid you in a kind of continuum from the very synthetic, extreme and toxic at one end to the relatively natural, nontoxic and innocuous at the other end.  Let’s take stimulants, for example:  At the extreme and toxic end you would have amphetamines and pharmaceutical stimulants or “uppers”; then, you would have caffeine and other stimulants; and finally, a gentle stimulant that is not as sleep depriving as caffeine, like Yerba Mate (Ilex paraguayensis) on the most natural and innocuous end of the spectrum.  But even this most natural and innocuous option should not be construed as a substitute for proper diet, nutrition and exercise.  There are also medicinal herbs, called Nervines, which act as general tonics and balancers to the nervous system.  Examples would be Skullcap, Valerian, Gotu Kola,Passion Flower, Damiana and Royal Jelly.  These can go a long way as part of a nutritional and health regimen to heal and rebalance the nervous system.  The herbal supplement user must also beware that the herb is being used properly, and not abused.  An herb that has made the headlines in recent years as being commonly abused as a stimulant is Ephedra, or Mahuang – a Chinese herb that is traditionally used not as a stimulant or energy tonic, but as a remedy for asthma and respiratory tract infections, for short term acute use only.

Greek Medicine on Drug Abuse
In Greek Medicine, there is an intimate relationship between inner predisposition and outer pathogenic agents or factors, including the potential for drug abuse.  Simply stated, it states that a pathogenic factor or agent will not be invited in unless the individual or host has an inner predisposition or weakness towards it.  And although everyone has their own unique individual constitutional nature and temperament, there are four basic constitutional types, or pure types, from which each individual’s constitutional makeup is composed and derived.  When it comes to the potential for drug abuse, two basic dynamics seem to come into play:  Either the individual, according to his or her dominant nature or temperament, will crave a drug that feeds or aggravates that nature and is congruent with it, leading to further imbalance, or the drug is sought out as a crutch to remedy shortcomings of a certain constitutional nature or type, where it may be unduly aggravated or imbalanced in a certain individual.

Let’s take stimulants, for example:  People of a fiery, Choleric temperament like to seek out thrills and excitement, and are prone to using stimulants to feed this craving for thrills and adventure; this can then consume them, and their energy and vitality, leading to burnout and exhaustion.  Such an individual needs to learn constructive moderation and purpose in their search for challenges and adventure.  On the other extreme, people who are overly sluggish and Phlegmatic in nature may be attracted to stimulants for the opposite reason – just to be able to drag themselves out of bed in the morning, and give themselves a much needed “kick in the pants”, or a wake up call.  Such an individual will find that, over time, the stimulants deplete his or her energy even further, and that the post-stimulant crashes get lower and lower.  Time to learn moderation, or to seek out more natural and innocuous substitutes for the hard drugs.

Those of a Nervous or Melancholic temperament can often be plagued by feelings of nervousness, depression or anxiety, and take sedatives or mood elevators to remedy these perceived defects in their inner psychological makeup.  On the other end of the spectrum, those Sanguine types who like to follow the pleasure principle often find themselves attracted to “feel good” drugs that induce states of heightened sociability or euphoria to kick what is already the keynote of their inner natures up a notch – or even many notches.  Often, the up / down mood roller coaster is linked to similar concurrent swings in things like blood sugar levels.  And so, food and diet should be your first medicine or mode of therapy, to stabilize those blood sugar levels.  Even candy and sugar can be a feel good drug for many, many people, and has all too often been used as a baby pacifier, with disastrous results for one’s dietary and eating habits later on in life.

Herbs and herbal medicines are often used as an adjunct to dietary therapy when the latter is insufficient to do the job, but they should never be used instead of, or as a substitute for, a sound, balanced diet and good nutrition and eating habits.  Then, herbs can essentially become no better than drugs in the way that they are used.

In my website, I advocate Philosophical Counseling as a holistic, drugless substitute for psychotherapy, but most philosophical counselors agree that if an individual is way out of balance in their core bodily functions, and has a hard time getting sufficient sleep or having a good appetite and digestion, that they may need remedial therapy with psychological counseling and mood controlling drugs to bring themselves to the point where Philosophical Counseling and other more natural methods like diet, nutrition and herbal medicine can work.  Once this point is reached, Philosophical Counseling can be used to help one get to the bottom of WHY they use the drugs they do, or have a craving or dependency for them.  What are you after, what are you trying to find when you take drugs?  And, are there any more natural and constructive means for getting there than these harmful, addictive drugs?

For those who want to read Amy’s original article, they can do so by clicking on the following link:


by David Osborn, MH, L.Ac
Thursday, December 11, 2014
alchemyAlchemy is a very misunderstood and unappreciated art.  When the word “alchemy” is mentioned, ,most people simply shrug it off as some sort of superstitious medieval hocus pocus about turning base metals like lead in to gold.  But this notion is but a prejudicial caricature of an art and a science that was very influential in the development of not only chemistry, but of pharmacology and medicine as well.  In an English language bookstore in downtown Bucharest, Romania, I recently came across, and purchased, an introductory book on alchemy, entitled Real Alchemy, by Robert Allen Bartlett.  It had some pretty nice “blurbs” on the back cover that lavished the book with praise, so I decided to buy it.
I have not yet finished the book, but already it has opened up my eyes to a lot of the basic principles of alchemy that were obscure to me before.  As the blurbs on the back of the book promised, this book was clean, clear, simple and easy to read.  That was quite a relief, since I had tried to read books and articles on alchemy before, but found my eyes glazing over after just a few paragraphs.  Or, you would pore over what appeared to be a rambling mumbo-jumbo of seemingly meaningless or paradoxical gobbledy-gook, wondering what kind of code language and dog whistles were hidden in the narrative for the initiated.
This book starts from the most basic principles of Hermetic philosophy and classical Greek science and metaphysics, and builds on things in a methodical, step by step manner.  It explains how the Four Elements were derived from the primordial prima materia and its binary division into Celestial Salt, or the Fixed Principle, and Celestial Nitre, or the Volatile Principle.  The Fixed Principle of Celestial Salt then manifested as the two Cold, gross, heavy elements of Earth and Water, while the Volatile Principle of Celestial Nitre manifested as the two Hot, subtle, energetic elements of Air and Fire.
Then, the next step is what has always puzzled me: the alchemists’ assertion that every known physical substance is composed of the three basic components of Sulfur, Mercury and Salt.  But hold on – this is only figurative or symbolic terminology, and not literal.  In other words, when an alchemist talks about Sulfur, he is not literally referring to that yellow, foul smelling powder that stinks like a rotten egg; similarly, Mercury is not literally like Mercury from your thermometer.  And likewise, Salt is not literally Salt either.  So what do these three basic alchemical components of substances actually mean?
Sulfur, explains Bartlett, refers to the subtle aromatic, volatile or gaseous components of a substance.  It is that principle that is the combined essence of the two light, energetic elements of Fire and Air.
Mercury is not literally the toxic metal Quicksilver, but rather, the wet, flowing fluid components of a substance that mediate between the most dense and fixed principle of Salt on the one hand and the most subtle and volatile principle of Sulfur on the other.  It bridges heaven and earth, as it were, and is formed from the combined essence of the two wet or fluidic elements: Air and Water.
Salt is the most dense and fixed of the three basic principles, which is the body of dense physical matter that acts as a carrier, anchor or vehicle for the other two principles.  It is formed from the combined essence of the two heavy, dense material elements: Water and Earth.
So how do these three basic principles, or essentials, of Sulfur, Mercury and Salt apply to a medicinal herb?  When we make a Spagyric Tincture of an herb, says Bartlett, we first distill these three essentials out of the plant or herb and then recombine them.  Bartlett pronounces “Spagyric” as “Spa-jeer-ic”,  but I could swear that it was “Spa-jeye (as in ‘eye’)-ric, and will go on pronouncing it my way!
First the Sulfur, or the most volatile components of the plant are distilled out.  If we are making a Spagyric tincture of Rosemary, for example, this first step would consist of steam distilling the essential oil out of the plant.  The volatile Sulfur component of an herb is analogous to its Soul, or consciousness – that which is most subtle and incorporeal.
Secondly, the Mercury, or fluidic essence, of the plant is distilled out from the semi-aqueous mix or mush that remains after the essential oil has been distilled out.  The traditional method, explains Bartlett, is to first ferment the herbal mush, and then distill the alcoholic principle out of it.  The Mercury of a substance, or its subtle fluid essence, is analogous to the vital force circulating within a living body – its Qi, pneuma, or prana, and is called its Spirit.  
This, explains Bartlett, is why distilled alcoholic beverages are often referred to as “spirits”.  This term of “spirits” is one that has traditionally pervaded the fields of chemistry and pharmacology, and has been used to describe substances like Spirits of Turpentine, or Spirits of Chloroform.  Not only in this instance, but all throughout the book, Bartlet gives priceless little tidbits of practical wisdom such as this one to explain why certain things were the way they were in the fields of chemistry and pharmacology.
And thirdly, the Salt, or solid body of the herb, is extracted out of it via the alchemical process of calcination, which is burning it until all the organic matter has been vaporized, and nothing remains but a white ash, which is the mineral content.  This whole process of calcination, or reducing a substance to ash, is most famously used in preparing the alchemical mineral ashes, or bhasmas, of Ayurvedic medicine.  But such alchemical practices are not limited to Ayurvedic medicine; these alchemical mineral ashes or oxides are also used in the Unani, or Greco-Arabic system of traditional medicine, where they are known as Kushtajat,or literally, substances that have been killed – by burning.  Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust, goes the old biblical saying.
The final step in the preparation of an alchemical Spagyric tincture is what is called cohobation – the recombining of these three distilled and purified principles back into one finished product.  Alchemists maintain that the Spagyric tincture of an herb is more powerful than the original herb itself, since it has been concentrated and purified, its active essences distilled out of it.
Alchemy has been an important part of traditional healing systems around the world because it has expanded the range of medicinal substances available to the physician.  The basic idea and promise of alchemical medicine is that an herb or medicinal substance that is, in its natural state, too toxic, unbalanced, or otherwise harsh or harmful can be transformed, through alchemical processes, into a nontoxic or less toxic and therapeutically useful substance in the treatment of illness and disease.  This is the fusion of Nature and Art.
In Chinese herbal medicine, for example, the rhizome of Aconite or Monkshood(Aconitum carmichaeli) can be alchemically transformed from a deadly toxin into a powerful circulatory and metabolic stimulant through a secret alchemical process that is known only to traditional Chinese pharmacists.  The resulting herb is very potent, and still quite toxic, although its initial toxicity has been reduced by 90%.  Still, Fu Zi, or Chinese Aconite, is too potent and dangerous to be used without expert supervision and a prescription form a Chinese herbalist.
Homeopaths have taken the European variety of Aconite (Aconitum napellus) and have rendered it relatively harmless and therapeutically useful through another process that is basically alchemical in nature: the homeopathic procedure of successive dilutions and succussions.  And so, homeopathic Aconite is a very useful remedy for colds and flu, for example.  Homeopathy, which uses many substances which are deadly poisons in large doses and renders them therapeutically useful and beneficial through their dilution and potentization process, is essentially alchemical in its nature and approach.
My third and final example is that of a wonderful Calcium supplement that I took while I was traveling in India, which was sold and marketed by the Himalaya company.  It is based on a traditional Ayurvedic bhasma, or alchemical ash preparation, of Calcium.  The remarkable thing about this Calcium supplement was that if you broke the pill up and started chewing it, it literally melted into your mouth and was quickly absorbed by the body.  So far, I haven’t been able to find any other Calcium supplement, no matter how natural or organic it claimed to be, that could do that.  This is the basic purpose behind many Ayurvedic bhasmapreparations: that a formerly inert, inorganic mineral has been rendered into a very easily absorbable and assimilable form, and made very “user friendly” to the body.
I was once privileged to be a student at a summer intensive on Ayurvedic alchemical medicines, or bhasmas, that was given by Dr. Vasant Lad at the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  He called bhasmas “Alchemical Power Medicines”, which states another objective of alchemy in the art of pharmacy – to produce medicinal substances that are more powerful and efficacious than the ones found in nature.  We were introduced to alchemicalbhasmas made from a wide variety of substances, including shells, sulfur and various gemstones.  And these alchemical ash or oxide preparations are not the exclusive province of Ayurvedic medicine, but are used in Unani Medicine as well.
The whole field of alchemical medicines is a very fascinating one, and a very controversial one as well.  According to the traditional theory and practice of alchemy, even substances that were initially very toxic can be rendered harmless and therapeutically beneficial through alchemical processing – but this flies in the face of modern science and chemistry, which holds that certain metallic substnces, such as Mercury, are elements, which cannot be changed or transformed in any way.  And so, many alchemical medicines containing alchemical preparations of toxic substances like Lead and Mercury have been banned by the US Food and Drug Administration.  However, there are still many alchemical medicines left that do not contain these (initially, in their raw state, according to alchemy) toxic substances.  Nevertheless, the old saying goes, the more powerful and potent a substance is as a healing, therapeutic agent when used correctly, the more potentially harmful it can be when abused or used incorrectly.  At any rate, alchemical medicines should definitely be used under expert guidance and supervision from a licensed health professional.  As Robert Allen Bartlett warns his readers at the beginning of his excellent book:  Kids!  Don’t Try This at Home!


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?


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.


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.
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!


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, 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!


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.

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.