Friday, December 31, 2010
" Never hurry, take plenty of exercise, always be cheerful and take all the sleep you need, and you may expect to be well." -JF Clarke
" The well rested person is able to accomplish more" -W Nevels
It is logical that if you sleep more you will be well rested. For me, I do not sleep that well. I am trying to recharge my battery. Although traveling is taxing to me, I get my best rest when not in New York City. The quiet and peacefulness of Blackwell Island ( aka Roosevelt Island) has improved my sleep. Did you ever try to go to sleep and you can't ? Your mind is still wandering, but your muscles are tired? This is me. My medical training was the start of my sleepless nights. I have always adjusted to little sleep. I know it is not healthy. Over the years I had to learn to meditate, pray and do yoga in order to go to sleep? I know when in the countryside of Virginia I sleep better. Changing the midnight hour of my twelve step meeting has improved the time I start to fall asleep. I sleep better when on a 'real' vacation. When was the last time I had a real vacation ? Sorry, when was the last time you had a real vacation ? How many of you fall asleep with the television on? How many read in bed ? How many of you have partners who snore ? I always am in awe at various sleeping habits. I am sure there are books written about rituals before one sleeps. What is your bed time ritual ?
Did you know...
1. The record for the longest period without sleep is 18 days, 21 hours, 40 minutes during a rocking chair marathon. The record holder reported hallucinations, paranoia, blurred vision, slurred speech and memory and concentration lapses.
2. It’s impossible to tell if someone is really awake without close medical supervision. People can take cat naps with their eyes open without even being aware of it.
3. Anything less than five minutes to fall asleep at night means you’re sleep deprived. The ideal is between 10 and 15 minutes, meaning you’re still tired enough to sleep deeply, but not so exhausted you feel sleepy by day.
4. Dreams, once thought to occur only during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, also occur (but to a lesser extent) in non-REM sleep phases. It’s possible there may not be a single moment of our sleep when we are actually dreamless.
5. REM dreams are characterised by bizarre plots, but non-REM dreams are repetitive and thought-like, with little imagery – obsessively returning to a suspicion you left your mobile phone somewhere, for example.
Sleep is defined as a naturally recurring state characterized by reduced or lacking consciousness, relatively suspended sensory activity, and inactivity of nearly all voluntary muscles. Books have written about sleep. Research has been done about sleep. Certain medical conditions have been extensively discussed. Sleep deprivation leads to other metabolic and hormonal disturbances which will tire our bodies. Lack of sleep can cause adrenal gland fatigue or exhaustion.
Make this part of your New Year's Resolution
Get plenty of rest, drink more water, do moderate amount of exercise eat healthier for your body.
As the year closes we all start to reflect upon the entire 365 days. We will recall the happy as well as the sad times. I reflect upon a year at the time of my 12 step anniversary in the same way I will reflect tonight. I always thank God for my blessings in the morning and at night. For me, this is very important. I have a conscious contact with my Higher Power. I do not like the phrase, " The Highlights of 2010 were..." The most relevant or memorable moment for me this year was entering another decade-- I turned 50. Beyond my wildest dreams, my partner for whom I would not be the man I am today, actually surprised me. I am a grateful sober man.
In my profession or as they say, " my line of work" , every day is a challenge. I am always confronted with challenges. The challenges vary from life decisions for some, and for others, just talking or changing their medications. I try to be supportive to all I encounter. I was supportive and present for my children when tragedy occurred in their family. This is what life is all about. Pages and pages could be written, but I hope you understand that being present, responsible and loving are basic. The individuals I meet have an ever lasting effect or 'stamp' in my life. On this Day is December bow your head for the souls/friends that are no longer here...
Rudolf B, Jeannie C, Matthew D, Nina F, Sara G, Katherine M, Gayle P, Peter P, Sam P, Phyllis P, John R, James R, Lucia S, Jerry S, Mark T , Susan L , Adolfo D and Elena D.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Growing old isn't so bad when you consider the alternative" Maurice Chevalier
I am still not comfortable saying that I am 50, but it is only a number. I do not feel my age, certainly do not act my age, but I 'think' my age. I am old and wiser with many life experiences. Mr Chevalier was known in his later years for his famous 'old' quotes. To me, he exemplifies how I want to feel and look when I reach 80. When I was young I read James Barrie's Peter Pan- about the boy who never grew up. He didn't get old--I did.
Mr Barrie does discuss getting old with this quot ,Life is a long lesson in humility .
I have seen that as we age, we sometimes tend to get more anxious. There are many causes of this age related anxiety. The anxiety can stem from seeing other family members and friends get ill and leave this Earth. Another cause of anxiety is fear of isolation or being alone. I find the best way to deal with anxiety is first to discuss it with a patient. This is an open communication policy between the doctor and the patient. I begin with a discussion of basic concepts regarding how imbalances in the stress system underlie the anxiety symptoms. I then focus on how mind-body practices may correct these imbalances without the need for pharmaceutical anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications. Once a patient can understand the connection between their breath pattern and anxiety regulation, they are more likely to comply or at least attempt these practices.
I love the 4-7-8 method of breathing. Take a deep breath in on a count of 4 seconds; hold the breath for 7 seconds; and fully exhale the breath on a count of 8 seconds. I always tell the patient to start slow. First block a period of time in your schedule . For example 15 minutes twice a week are carved into your busy schedule. You will only start to the do the 4-7-8 breathing for 3 minutes out of the 15 minutes. Every week we increase the 4-7-8 breathing technique by 1 minute. In 12 weeks you will now have 15 minute of 4-7-8 breathing
Another simple introductory method of breathing is called Coherent Breathing (CD) I suggest
www.coherence.com The individual follows paced breathing at 5 breaths per minute thus allowing a gentle relaxation. I ask a patient to do 10 minutes twice a day.
Many breathing technique are used in the Practice of Yoga. One of the Five Principles of Yoga is Pranayama or Breathing Exercise which promotes proper breathing. Proper Breathing, in a Yogic point of view, is to bring more oxygen to the blood and to the brain, and to control prana or the vital life energy. A type of breathing called Ujjayi Breathing also called loud breathing is very effective for anxiety issues.
Ujjayi strengthens the nervous and digestive systems and gets rid of the phlegm. I find it best to learn this breathing in a Yoga class. This alternate nostril breathing can be difficult especially for the elderly population. There are many senior centers which now offer Yoga to the ever-growing older population. It is hard to describe how to perform this method of breathing.
Below is a textbook description of the type of breathing. I would encourage to look on line for a video showing how to perform Ujjayi breathing ( Loud breathing). Those who practice Loud breathing have a immediate sense of well-being and calmness within 5 - 10 minutes of doing this technique. This technique was taught to those who were present at the World Trade Center disaster. It has been used for Post traumatic stress disorder patients.
This consists in drawing air in through both nostrils with the glottis held partially closed. Ujjayi translates as "what clears the throat and masters the chest area." This partial closure of the glottis produces a sound like that heard in sobbing, except that it is continuous and unbroken. The sound should have a low but uniform pitch and be pleasant to hear. Friction of air in the nose should be avoided; consequently no nasal sounds will be heard. A prolonged full pause should begin, without any jerking, as soon as Inhalation has been completed. Closure of glottis, use of chin lock and closure of both nostrils are standard. Prolong the pause as long as possible; but it should be terminated and exhalation commenced smoothly and slowly. When properly performed, exhalation proceeds slowly and steadily through the left nostril with the glottis partially closed as in inhalation. One may begin to exhale with release of air pressure by lifting the finger from his left nostril, loosening his chin lock and then partially opening his glottis. Exhalation should be complete.
One of my goals for the New Year is to explore other Yoga Practices.
I'M NOT YOUNG ANYMORE
" How lovely to sit here in the shade
With none of the woes of man and maid -
I'm glad I'm not young anymore!
The rivals that don't exist at all,
The feeling you're only two feet tall -
I'm glad I'm not young anymore!
No more confusion, no "morning after" surprise,
No self delusion
That when you're telling those lies, she isn't wise.
And even if love comes through the door,
The kind that goes on forevermore,
Forevermore is shorter than before -
Oh, I'm so glad that I'm not young anymore.
The tiny remark that tortures you,
The fear that your friends won't like her, too -
I'm glad I'm not young anymore!
The longing to end a stale affair,
Until you find out she doesn't care -
I'm glad I'm not young anymore!
No more frustration, no star-crossed lover am I;
Just one reluctant reply, "Lady, goodbye!"
The fountain of youth is dull as paint;
Methuseluh is my patron saint.
I've never been so comfortable before,
Oh, I'm so glad that I'm not young
Maurice Auguste Chevalier (September 12, 1888 – January 1, 1972) was a French actor, singer, and popular vaudeville entertainer. Chevalier's signature songs included "Louise", "Mimi", "Valentine", and "Thank Heaven for Little Girls". His trademark was a boater hat, which he always wore on stage with his tuxedo (dinner jacket).
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
"Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease. "
'Healing,' Papa would tell me, 'is not a science, but the intuitive art of wooing nature.'
Have you ever thought about what is a good physician or healer ?
The process of being a healer is very demanding. It depends how you define ' what is a healer' Only in the last nine years did I question what is a healer. I believe the studying of plants and herbs confirmed for me - the question of what is a healer. More often than not, when we think of healers ,we think of John of God, or the water at Lourdes, France. Physicians are healers, but all healers are not physicians. A healer who is also a physician must find the time to understand himself through the eyes of nature, and where he/she fits in. This has been quest for the last two years. It is written that a healer should be one with Earth. The philosophical and spiritual concept of a healer associated with the Earth has been a struggle within myself to accept. I have come to understand if a physician is to be regarded as a healer, there should be within a world of peace, love and joy. When I tried to find peace, love and joy externally it only caused distractions within my life. I am a believer in life. This is a strong concept for me. Is disease just a disharmony of life ? Is it a unbalance? I always seek the cause when someone presents with a disease. I do the discovery of why, but sometimes I cannot prove why the patient has the disease. For example, why a patient gets cancer with no known risk factor , is still a mystery. But is it ? This is where I rely on Faith. I try to listen with my heart and work with my brains. This allows me to truly care for patients. Sometimes it is at my own expense --getting too involved but for me this is medicine. I pray for those unfortunates who have done me wrong. Do you pray for people who have wronged you? I have replaced my own negativity and negativity of others with love and understanding.
As a physician/healer I know my patients well. I try to get to know them as if I were their closest family relative .I also know when to back off on discussing psycho social issues or sore subjects. None of this was taught in medical school. There is not a course on these topics. It comes from experience but basically comes from the patient himself/herself. If your doctor spends time talking to you--you, the patient will give him the answer--if you tell the truth. Modern medicine must be overlapped with other modalities, as herbs, supplements, acupuncture, reflexology etc. If a patient decides that the integrative approach will not work for them, then there is no reason to pursue or labor the issue. What I have learned is this. My ego must never get damaged by such instances. I believe in whatever works for patient. A good patient knows his diseases better than anyone else.
Friends and family ask How do I do what I do ? Honestly I do not know. I love talking to patients about their diseases. I just plain love talking to people. Sometimes it tires me, but more than often it exhilarates me because I know I can be of some assistance to the patient. A healer who is a physician that looks TIRED, is DOING HIS JOB.
I always remember I am a student. A student who wants to continue learning.
No matter what profession you have chosen--always try new things. Life is a constant learning experience.
When was the last time you learned something new ?
The winter has definitely begun. This especially happens when the nights draw in and of course, the warm weather disappears. There are some great uplifting herbal remedies. One of these herbs is Rosemary. In the book, Natural Healing Remedies, there is a recipe for Rosemary Tonic Wine. You will need:
1. Fresh rosemary leaves ( www.mountainroseherbs.com )
2. 2 cinnamon sticks
3. 5 cloves
4. 1 tsp of ground ginger
5. gratings of nutmeg
6. A good quality red wine ( Cabernet, Merlot, Shiraz )
1. Put the cloves, rosemary and cinnamon into a jar and crush
2. Add the ginger and nutmeg
3. Smell the aroma
4. Add the wine and leave to sit in a cool dry area for 10 days
5. Strain and seal with airtight stopper
6. Have a 2 - 4 oz glass of this wine every day
This is very uplifting.
For those that do not drink alcohol, hot ginger tea with lemon and wild flower honey is great. Have two cups a day for three weeks. Incredible cleansing tea.
Another good alcohol free booster tea: Use 1/2 teaspoon of oats, the herb vervain and borage. Add this to 2 - 3 cups of boiling water. I would add peppermint. Steep for 5 10 minutes and serve
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
" THE PARADOX OF CONTROL IS SIMPLE. THE MORE WE TRY TO CONTROL LIFE, THE LESS CONTROL WE HAVE "
Now that is not how I thought years ago. I wanted to control every aspect of my life from career, to family, to children, to finances and even to life-partners. My twelve step lifestyle has allowed me to control less and to 'let go' Actually for today I do not want to control my life. You would think that if someone controlled their own life it would be less hectic. However the more you control your life, the MORE hectic it will become. As it states, " It is simple" It is life on life's terms. Do you try to control every aspect of your life? Did you ever try NOT controlling it?
It Amazes Me how much we eat during the Holidays. Yes, I said we because I did also eat too much during the Holidays. After all it is Christmas and I deserve... You have heard this before. New diet pills will keep coming off the assembly line one after another. Dropping out of programs like Weight Watchers or NutriSystem is so common. For a better path we might look at those success stories who have succeeded in keeping fit, NO MATTER which nutritional track they found to suit them. I will tell you that those success stories are those individuals who have treated their path as a new dietary lifestyle. Why take an appetite suppressants when there are natural appetite suppressants These natural appetite suppressants, as ginger encourage a healthy communication between cells, thus between organs and thus between systems of the body. I love Ginger ( Zingaber officinalis). It soothes the gastrointestinal tract and helps with nausea. It does slow the gastric emptying so it allows you to feel fuller for a longer period of time, thus suppressing your appetite. Ginger tea reduces blood fats even after eating a meal rich in fat. This is a herb. Sip some ginger tea hot or cold during a meal and see how you feel.
Another herb, Hoodia gordonii has been tauted as the premier appetite suppressant. I have used it with some success. I find it doesn't suppress every one's appetite. It is a genus of 13 species in the flowering plant family Apocynaceae, under the subfamily Asclepiadoideae. It has large flowers and a distinctive smell/
Many Hoodia species are protected plants. Some stopped harvesting Hoodia for two reasons: one as a protected plant ( even if not this species) and the other because our clinical studies revealed that products using hoodia would not meet our strict standards of safety and efficacy.
Only two years ago, the Botanic Gardens Conservation International stated that "400 medicinal plants are at risk of extinction, from over-collection and deforestation, threatening the discovery of future cures for disease." These included Yew trees, Magnolia trees and the Hoodia species. I heard one herbalist state that there is not enough Hoodia in Africa for the amount of Hoodia on the United States shelves. Therefore one can conclude are you truly getting Hoodia in your product?
You could use steel cut oatmeal ( gluten free) which has some protein and fiber to keep you fuller. Using this oatmeal, Bulgar or quinoa which are cooked cereals does lower BMI over time.
Avoid diet soda as they can make you crave
Water is your best friend (of course your pet is your best friend)
Sweet potatoes can lower blood sugar
No one should be on a DIET, instead a Dietary Lifestyle.
IT AMAZES ME by Cy Coleman was sung by many individuals. My favorite is Blossom Dearie. Who is Blosson Dearie ? She is the coolest white jazz singher you ever will hear --
Blossom Dearie (April 28, 1924 – February 7, 2009) was an American jazz singer and pianist, often performing in the bebop genre and remembered for her girlish voice
She divided her time between NYC and London. Rick and I heard her album while shopping in New Hope some years ago. Dearie died , age 84, at her apartment in Greenwich Village, New York City. You have to love her own record label, Daffodil Records. You go Girl !
IT AMAZES ME
My height, just average
My weight, just average
And my IQ is like you'd estimate, just average
But evidently he does not agree
Consequently if I seem at sea
It amazes me
It simply amazes me
What he sees in me dazzles me
That I've learned to clip my wings
And soften my ways
These are ordinary things unworthy of praise
Yet he praises me
Just knowing I try for him
When so many would,
If they could, die for him
I'm the one who's worldly wise
And nothing much fazes me
But to see me in his eyes
It just amazes me
I'm the one who's worldly wise
And nothing much fazes me
But to see me in his eyes
It just amazes me
Monday, December 27, 2010
Advice is like snow - the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper in sinks into the mind.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
In my occupation I advise. I do not make anything I say mandatory. I feel if I make a statement harsh and rash, it will not do anything but harm to the patient. I would rather talk over the subject. I want the patient to come to a conclusion. If not that day, then another day-- maybe a month later.
I do not want to dwell upon anything too long. It starts to create "stinkin' thinkin". I want the snow to fall upon my jacket so I can think about it for a minute or two and then brush it off. I want to brush it off especially if this is part of old behavior, bad memories or resentments. Hopefully at this time in my life my anger and resentments are few. I find it so interesting that when I honestly share something that has been on my mind with someone, there will be one of two reactions. One, the individual and I will discuss it and resolve the situation; or two, the individual will no longer call. Oh, there is a third, the individual will rally others on their side. Now this is drama to the ultimate degree.
Today we have lots of snow. What does that remind you of? For me it is childhood memories of my brother and I playing in the snow. Either we went sleigh riding in the 'lot' or built snow igloos across the street. I recall so much more snowfall in the 1960's than in the years that followed. Today is one of those fond memory days of years gone by. My mother would wait for us by the door with hot chocolate. Close your eyes. What snow memory do you recall? Snow can be beautiful and peaceful.
As the New Year approaches most of us make New Year Resolutions. Many will involve food and a new diet. It is common sense that if you take in more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. Obesity has reached epidemic proportions. Here in Manhattan where the most efficient mode of transportation is walking, we do not see a large number of obese individuals. But in other areas of the United States, how many overweight people will you see? I can tell you this , there will be NOT one or two, but 20 or 30 in a crowd.
Everyone says decrease the carbohydrates, increase the exercise and drink plenty of water. Then why are some of us still overweight? It is about changing a lifestyle, not just cutting down. I want to educate you about your self image, self esteem and how psycho-social issues can drive the appetite--usually in the wrong direction. Are you an emotional eater? You have heard this before! When you get upset to you grab the chocolate, the bread or a cookie? Or do you starve yourself ?
Are you obese. What is obesity? Obesity is defined as a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 25 kg/m2
Do you knwo how to calculate your BMI? There are programs on the Internet that do it for you, but here it is: BMI = weight in kg/height in meters, squared. Use the BMI calculator on the Internet. It is far easier.
Have you tried any of the OTC (over the counter) aids to lose weight? Some are high fiber intended to be eaten before meals to decrease the absorption of food and calories. Many try fat burning pills to increase the use of fats. These can lead to irritability and disrupt normal metabolic pathways.
You might have tried the Cabbage Soup Diet, The God Makers Diet, The Blood Typing Diet and hundreds more. I am no expert on diets, but after co-working with founder of the most famous diet, Robert Atkins (The Atkins Diet) I have a few thoughts of my own. I will say time and time again, THERE IS NO ONE DIET FOR EVERYONE. A diet should be a lifestyle change. Again, think 'lifestyle change' instead of 'going on a diet'.
Desperation can make you gullible. This is the number one message for today before embarking on a new dietary lifestyle: DO YOU LOVE YOURSELF?
Sunday, December 26, 2010
" JOY IS NOT IN THINGS; IT IS IN US" - Richard Wagner
Joy, Happiness and Serenity must be found within ourselves. I know now it is not found in things. We must create our own joy, happiness and serenity. It is within each of us; within our reach. Of course each of us had some joy in one or two of the gift's we received this year. I know I did. It is not in the worth of the gift; It is in the act of giving and receiving. I never thought I would say this, but " I do not want for anything nor do I need anything" The thoughtfulness and the insight in the gifts I received were beyond reproach. In my wildest dreams would I ever think a book called , " Plant Lore, Legends, and Lyrics- Embracing the Myth , Traditions, Superstitions, and Folk-Lore of the Plant Kingdom"- an 1892 reproduction from Cornell University Library ever grace my shelves not enthrall my desires for the love of plants. Yet I yearn for nothing. I yearn for peace and serenity among the men and women of this world. I yearn to have my Higher Power continue allowing me to serve thy fellow man to be the best of my ability. I am grateful. I love the South ( especially Virginia) not only for my family but for the people who work and serve in various occupations. As they hand you your purchase, nine out of ten times he/she will say to you, " Have a Blessed Day."
The poet, Wordsworth wrote these words
" God made the flowers to beautify
The earth, and cheer man's careful mood;
And he is happiest who hath power
To gather wisdom from a flower,
And wake his heart in every hour
To pleasant gratitude."
I hope that the love of human kind for flowers would be shared among those who read these words. I would hope that those who have gardens would consider Horticulture Therapy (HT) by which you can harness the healing power of plants. I know it sounds ridiculous and childish. Research has been done that HT can improve mood and irritability. HT can assist in depression, loneliness and desperation for some individuals. HT can boost your self esteem. HT can become your new hobby for the Spring.
Of course in such therapy not only will vocational and physical skills be improved, but more profound are the mental, emotional and spiritual gains. I have seen HT assist the cancer patient in accepting her illness as well assist a patient with sever debilitating rheumatoid arthritis cope with her/his chronic illness.
Plants and my new garden related activities is a way for me to reconnect with different types of people. It has introduced me to a landscaper whose love for the Fauna of Fire Island inspires me. It has introduced me to Grass Roots movements and Free Clinics in Ithaca. It has introduced me to the World of Bees. The possibilities are endless. The practice of gardening and planting for me is as healing as a conventional medicine. For others, a different practice might produce the same effect. The benefits from HT are diverse. There are physical benefits as increasing strength in the outdoors as well as dexterity; The cognitive benefits range from self worth to a new learning opportunity; The emotional benefits are recalling memories. Planting brings up childhood memories of caring for the vegetables with my Poppy and picking the Lilly of the Valley with my mother. The next important benefit to me after the emotional is the spiritual connection . I feel blessed to practice free will and plant what I want. I feel hopeful that my seeds will grow into beautiful plants with flowers. The added addition is that some of these plants are herbs. The gift is that herbs and its various parts ( stems, leaves, roots ) can be used as medicine.
Until tomorrow... I leave you with this English phrase from Essex. The moon and mushrooms
" When the moon is at the full,
Mushrooms you may freely pull;
But when the moon is on the wane,
Wait ere you think to pluck again."
" SNOW, SNOW, SNOW " This is a song sung in Holiday Inn with Bing, Danny, Vera and Rosemary.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
" WE not only need to BE willing to give, but also to BE open to receiving from others."
This is truly what this day blessed day means. What is the meaning of Christmas to you ? It is the birth of a child in a dirty old barn with the assistance of many. Those parents were open to receive gifts from others, and thus were willing to give their only child to the world.
Here is a truly Christmas story...three 'son' elves- two natural and one adopted elf descend upon a small town in Virginia. Two from the east coast of the United States and the other from the west coast. This is an example of what children should do for their parents. As my Nanny always said, one mother can care for ten children but ten children cannot care for one mother. So descending from the sky on US Airways each elf has their gifts wrapped. It didn't matter if an elf had no gifts, for the gift of love just being there was enough. The two parents are under the weather and are in need of some assistance. One elf makes Christmas eve dinner. When mom and pop are in need of sleep, another elf puts them to bed. There is no Christmas tree. No store has any left. Two of the elves remember an 'antique' silver tree in the garage. One son elf rummages through the boxes. A silver foil branch glistens from the box. In its original box, each foil silver branch is carefully wrapped. Slowly and carefully each elf puts together the Christmas tree from past years gone by. It is carefully decorated with bulbs as old as the tree itself. No lights can be put on this antique tree. There is no need with the silver foil branches. The elves stand back two feet from the base of the tree. One elf is crying, the other is smiling while the last elf looks up and says ' Thank you , Higher Power."
Happy Holidays to you followers and your family. I wish you nothing but health, peace, love, serenity and happiness today and for the New Year.
This is best medicine one can give.
Friday, December 24, 2010
" Get and keep a good humored attitude toward life. This will bring you support rather than opposition"
It sounds wonderful but how practical is it this with your busy life. I can relate totally. With all my earnest I try to keep a good humored attitude towards patent's illnesses and their lives, but it does get to me. This time of year especially 'hits' me hard. No individual wants to hear bad news at any time, but the Holidays is supposed to be a joyful time. Twenty eight years ago my mother died in June. With the Italian wake, autopsy etc her wake was two days before my birthday and buried on my birthday. It seems to me so long ago. Do you think I wanted to celebrate my birthday in years ahead. Hell, no. The same is true of any illness around the Holiday time. This is where a good humored attitude , meditation and prayer plays a significant role in my life. I am responsible for the sick. I try to the best of my ability to help every person however my mind makes every case a personal struggle. It wears and tears on my soul. It is the caring me. I do not like it always as I suffer but when a Holiday card with holly on the front comes to the office and reads, " For a Skilled Doctor---It must be rewarding to help people feel better" you can't help but cry. I was chosen by my Higher Power to assist the sick. My good humored attitude does support me every day.
It seems decades, but this day is a day of preparation for most Italians. The 7 course Christmas Eve fish dinner. I miss those times. The eel,clams, smelts, cod, shrimp, and of course the linguine. I know people that still carry this tradition forward, I am not jealous, but envious of the large families of by-gone days.
I read a lot. I have been reading about A HEALING GARDEN. I know many herbalists that have such gardens. This is not a new field, but a different twist or concept. This is Horticulture Therapy. (HT) The definition of horticultural therapy is a process which uses plants, horticultural activities and the natural world to promote awareness and well being by improving the body, mind and spirit. Horticultural Therapy is universal, adaptable and validates by research. (Canadian Horticultural Therapy Associtaion 1997) The American Horticultural Therapy Association has different words but the same concept.
Herbs and plants for centuries have been considered magical or mystical. In their own right, plants and herbs have been medicinal for those who choose. Plants are and will always be the basis for modern pharmaceutical science. That means any pharmaceutical drug that you consume was derived from a plant. Some people, as myself are attracted to plants. Think about this--are you one of those individuals who glow when you see a bouquet of flowers ? How do you feel walking in the woods or in Central Park ? I am drawn to plants. Are you drawn to plants ? This is the basis of Horticultural Therapy. We as a society mark significant days as Birthdays, Valentine's Day and even Christmas with plants and cultures. I do not know a single person that has not been attracted to plants or flowers at one time in their life. Then there are those, like me whose heart beats stronger, palms get sweaty and feel energized by plants. This is not an anxiety attack, but a spiritual awakening.
The research about HT is remarkable. HT can be a benefit to many individuals with a variety of diseases. Cancer patient as in the photo above can peer down into the heart of a dwarf juniper shrub before making the first cut. For this patient it is exhilarating. This is at a HT session in Chesapeake General Hospital.
HT relieves pain, reduces stress and improves self-esteem, mood and muscle tone.
A goal or rather a dream is to have my own Healing Garden. It will be my Secret Garden to share...
Top photograph: Two best friends keep a good humored attitude toward life -12/23/10
Thursday, December 23, 2010
" Many chance happenings will be recognized as a guidance when we look back at an entire chain of events."
All things happen for a reason. I have found there is never a coincidence. I do not question things that happen. Sometimes it is a chance meeting of someone, or an event. I used to doubt everything. Maybe it was a trust issue. I am not saying to trust everyone, but I do trust my Higher Power. Whoever or whatever you regard as your Higher Power --trust. I know now that everything or anything placed in my path of life is for a reason. It is learning experience and life is a process. What is the chance happening of having snow on before or on Christmas Day thus making travel plans a disaster. Well, I am not a weatherman, but I researched the possibility. The latest European run shows a huge storm for the entire East Coast, but on December 26 into December 27 as opposed to Christmas day. Essentially, it slows the progress of the southern storm allowing it to completely phase (or combine) with the northern storm. The result is a major snow/wind storm (blizzard) in this simulation. It is also a chance happening that I have met some of the most gifted, talented, creative and loving individuals. Beyond my wildest dreams...
The meeting of your soul mate is another chance happening. I do believe that we have two soul mates in the world . It is a true blessing and gift if you meet one of them in your lifetime. You will know when you do... I did.
Everyone wants longevity and youth. I have discussed the aging process and the natural body changes that occur. I do know that dietary and exercise lifestyle changes will extend your longevity. For some, this is not enough.
Everyone searches for the Fountain of Youth. The Fountain of Youth is a legendary spring that reputedly restores the youth of anyone who drinks of its waters. Tales of such a fountain have been recounted across the world for thousands of years, appearing in writings by Herodotus, the Alexander romance, and the stories of Prester John. In grade school we all learned about the Fountain of Youth attached to the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León, first Governor of Puerto Rico. According to an apocryphal story that features a combination of New World and Eurasian elements, Ponce de León was searching for the Fountain of Youth when he traveled to what is now Florida in 1513. Since then, the fountain has been frequently associated with Florida. Wouldn't it be fabulous to 'dip' yourself in a fountain of water and become youthful !
Some consumer ads in various magazines taut the Anti-aging vitamin/supplement. Is is a mushroom? Is it testosterone? Is is Co Enzyme Q10 or is it Growth Hormone. I do not think there is one essential supplement that increases longevity. It is a multitude of changes that need to be made. From seventh grade biology one may recall that every cell has a "powerhouse" or energy source. This organelle is called the mitochondria which produces energy, called ATP. CoEnzyme Q10 is a co factor needed in the formation of ATP as well as NADH. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could produce more mitochondria thus producing more energy ? Now there is Pyrroloquinoline quinone, also known as PQQ. It is a factor found in a variety of different foods. In humans, the benefits reported from PQQ supplementation range from improvements in cognitive function ( brain function) to an overall reduction in internal inflammation.
Remember that inflammation is the underlying cause of most diseases. Recent published research also suggests that taking a PQQ supplement has the potential to stimulate mitochondrial function (the primary energy source in cells) and protects from excessive oxidative damage, a major cause of rapid cell aging. PQQ was first recognized as a cofactor (a component essential to enzyme action) in bacteria. It has also been examined as a potent plant growth factor. In humans and animals, PQQ acts in a similar fashion to resveratrol or quercetin (so-called food biofactors) in that it serves as a mimic-signaling molecule important to sustaining cellular functions and mitochondrial action. Both resveratrol and quercetin are anti oxidant. Resveratrol is red wine extract, and quercetin is a bioflavinoid. For animals and humans there has been a constant exposure to PQQ. For example, soil bacteria that have a symbiotic or mutually favorable relationship with plants make it. . As a supplement, PQQ has many of the same benefits as the beneficial flavonoids found in chocolate and green tea.
I have been fortunate to have more than a few patients reach the age of 100 or better.
Below is a list of PQQ-rich foods which you might to increase in case you are not consuming them
PQQ is not NEW. This supplement has been cited in the literature as early as 1997.
. Food ng/g or ng/ml
Broad bean 18
Green pepper 28
Green tea 30
Kiwi fruit 27
Miso (smooth paste of fermented soybeans) 17
Natto (fermented soybeans) 61
Oolong tea 28
Sake( Japanese distilled liquor) 4
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
" As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence" Benjamin Franklin
Over the last eight years I have learned, gradually and painfully, how to sit still and idle, and let the uncertainty of life spin around me in its way. I have learned to balance very fragile symbols of meaning in my empty hands before I hold them up and say " Is That All There Is" With all I have done in my life, I am still amazed at my or one's transformation. I cannot pin point the exact time I started to undergo a spiritual transformation. I didn't look back. I was afraid to look back because I was afraid to see a very different face of my transformation. I do not see my transformation unless perhaps I qualify in my twelve step program. It is only through the comments of the audience sitting at that meeting with their own comments do I see that have transformed into the man I am today. For me to sit idle is an accomplishment in itself. How to define idle ? The definitions of idle are numerous. Some are of no account; useless; vain; trifling; unprofitable; thoughtless; silly; barren. It can also be defined as not called into active service; not turned to appropriate use; unemployed; as, idle hours. I like the definition of given rest and ease. I never wanted to sit idle for fear that I would miss something. I felt I always had to doing something. I didn't want to waste time. My idle time in the far past was taken up by addictions. Today I sit for idle time reflecting, meditating and praying. In early December I stepped inside The Chapel of the Good Shepherd on the formerly called Blackwell Island, now Roosevelt Island for a mass . I went early to sit idle and pray. The chapel first opened in 1889 and designed by architect Frederick Clark Withers. For many years this chapel served both Protestants and Catholics. It was closed in 1958. It was reopened in 1975 to service as a place of worship for the Roosevelt Island Community. It was surreal to be meditating in this remarkable church.
I mentioned Clary Sage the other day. I realized I didn't know enough about this herb/spice. Clary Sage
also known as Salvia Sclarea is native of southern France and Italy. The name is derived from the word sclarus, or known as clear because the seeds were thought to clear the eyes. This reminds me of the whites of the eyes also known as the sclera. Dr Parkinson famed for Parkinson Disease which bears his name though Clary Sage was a good herb for "weak backs and to straighten the reins" I do not understand the term 'straighten the reins' He had a recipe for cooking clary leaves. The plant can be used as a perfume made from the whole plant. The leaves of Clary were used historically as a flavor for all homemade wines, ale and beer. I know a herbalist that uses its leaves as an aromatic tea. I have eaten an omelette with clary leaves in a small cafe in Paris. It did taste delicious.
IS THAT ALL THERE IS ?
I remember when I was a very little girl, our house caught on fire.
I'll never forget the look on my father's face as he gathered me up
in his arms and raced through the burning building out to the pavement.
I stood there shivering in my pajamas and watched the whole world go up in flames.
And when it was all over I said to myself, "Is that all there is to a fire?"
Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing
Let's break out the booze and have a ball
If that's all there is
And when I was 12 years old, my father took me to the circus, the greatest show on earth.
There were clowns and elephants and dancing bears
And a beautiful lady in pink tights flew high above our heads.
And as I sat there watching the marvelous spectacle
I had the feeling that something was missing.
I don't know what, but when it was over,
I said to myself, "Is that all there is to a circus?"
Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing
Let's break out the booze and have a ball
If that's all there is
Then I fell in love, with the most wonderful boy in the world.
We would take long walks by the river or just sit for hours gazing into each other's eyes.
We were so very much in love.
Then one day, he went away. And I thought I'd die -- but I didn't.
And when I didn't I said to myself, "Is that all there is to love?"
Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing
I know what you must be saying to yourselves.
If that's the way she feels about it why doesn't she just end it all?
Oh, no. Not me. I'm in no hurry for that final disappointment.
For I know just as well as I'm standing here talking to you,
when that final moment comes and I'm breathing my lst breath, I'll be saying to myself,
Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing
Let's break out the booze and have a ball
If that's all there is
"Is That All There Is?" is a song written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and made a hit by Peggy Lee from her recording in November 1969.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
" The art of living lies not in eliminating but growing with troubles" Bernard M. Baruch
It is impossible to live life without any troubles. It is life of life's terms. Shit happens as stated in the 1994 Best Academy Award Film, Forrest Gump. In this movie during his capricious run, a bumper sticker salesman running alongside him points out to Forrest that he has just stepped in a pile of dog feces. When Forrest replies, "It happens," the man replies, "What, shit?", to which Forrest replies, "Sometimes". The man is then inspired to create the "Shit Happens" bumper sticker. There are many memorable quotes from that movie. One that applies to the quote above is said by Mrs Gump, portrayed by Sallie Field, " Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." This is life. I do not think the God of my understanding would put anything in my life path that he/she knew I couldn't handle. Sure there are many challenges in life. We all have had to face one or two challenges in our lifetime. These challenges always seem to appear when we least expect it, but we can always handle the situation. This is the positive side of our lives. I do know that meditation and pray has helped me to deal with life on life's terms. The troubles we all encounter allow us each to grow. Growing is a process. It can be difficult if we fight the process. I have learned later in life (better late than never) to flow with the waves. Waves have ups and downs and so does life. My father used to say " Go with the punches" or better stated " Go with the flow"
I accept and do not question. It makes it much easier.
As I discuss my quest to be a bee keeper with friends and family, their reaction is always the same. " Why a bee keeper, don't you enough to do with your busy schedule" This may be true, but I want to help the environment in any way I can. First, going GREEN to the best of my ability in New York City and in Fire Island has taught me a lot about what Green means, and my role in helping the environment stay safe.
Why bee keeping ? Simply stated, There are more than 100 agricultural crops in the United States are pollinated by bees. This means bees are important, if not essential, for the production of nearly $7 billion worth of agricultural crops produced annually in various States. Examples of bee pollinated crops include watermelons, cantaloupe, citrus and apples (see story below). Although some of these crops are pollinated by bee species other than honey bees, honey bees are the only ones that can be easily managed, moved around and are known to exploit a wide variety of crops. If we have no bees through insecticides, mites, pollution, then we have no crops. Some plants, for example grasses, produce light pollen grains that may be carried by the wind or water from plant to plant. Other plants need help from insects, birds, or bats for successful pollination. Without this assistance, fruit and/or seeds would not be formed. In fact, about a third of the food Americans eat is the direct result of pollination by insects such as Honey Bees While a worker bee is in a flower gathering nectar, pollen from the anther ( male part of the flower) often sticks to her hairy body. Because the bee generally visits a number of the same type of flower in a patch, she will rub some of the pollen off onto the stigma of another flower and complete pollination. Some flowers such as orchids have elaborate mechanisms to make sure bees are dusted with pollen when they visit. The insect world is made of geniuses. Part of the reason honey bees are so important as pollinators is that they actively seek out flowers with pollen, unlike pollinators such as bats and hummingbirds who are primarily interested in nectar. Pollen stored in the hive is used as a source of protein in feeding the developing larvae. Bees are highly intelligent insects,as so many other insects. My reading has lead me to find out that some bee keepers consider Parsley to be an important Honey Plant.
I have learned from reading that there are 5 top plants for Honeybees. The first is Borage ( Borago officinalis), Echium ( Echium vulgare), Goldenrod ( Soligado species), Phacelia, Tansy ( Phacelia tanacetiflora) and Lemon Balm ( Melissa officinalis).
I have never thought of the Honey Bees as major pollinators. I knew of course in my mind it was true, but I needed to read , A Spring Without Bees." to justify and clarify the ever growing grave situation . Today, I received a package from a patient I first discussed my bee project with some months ago. It was so thoughtful to receive books on bees for this Holiday Season.
I am grateful and blessed.
Monday, December 20, 2010
“Celebrate the happiness that friends are always giving, make every day a holiday and celebrate just living!” - Amanda Bradley
It would be a blessing if every day we were giving unselfishly and it was a holiday. A holiday without the shopping, the crowds, the bustling and endless commitments.
Every day should be a holiday for you. Make every day a new day. A day of happiness, health, serenity and peace. I am so looking forward to the warm blanket in from of the fireplace in Virginia. I just want to relax, watch an old movie or two and of course do some needle work. It is a gift of just living ! How grateful are you ? It is always gratitude not attitude especially at this time of the year The Internet has saved me from entering some of the stores this year. Actually to be honest, I am growing rather fond of my Internet shopping every year at this time. For the last ten years I do less and less shopping and more and more hand-made gifts. I find it gratifying. I hope the person receiving it does also. It is never about what you give, but it is how you give. It should come from your heart and soul.
So before the cheese dishes and before the main entree you might put a bowl of nuts before your guests. Which types of nuts do you use ? Do you think it makes a difference? Well, there should be no peanuts. Nuts are an excellent source of B complex vitamins and Vitamin E. Although Vitamin E can be controversial, it is a very potent anti oxidant. Nuts are also a useful source of protein, but can be high is calories. This means you cannot eat a bagful or handful(s) in one sitting.
Here are some nut facts:
1. Brazil nuts - high in saturated fat, but low in cholesterol. Rich source of selenium
2. Chestnuts - usually seen at this time of the year- Holidays; very little fat but high in potassium.
3. Pecan nuts - high in fat; I prefer you do not eat a lot
4. Walnuts - great source of omega 3 fatty acids ( better than almonds) They are also useful for inflammation especially of the joints. Walnuts are rich in potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc , copper and selenium
In my childhood after the main dinner came the nut and fruit platters. The nut crackers were put on the table. Then the espresso pot went on the stove and the pastries. It was a wonderful time of my life when 30 people gathered around the table.
NEVER eat a rancid nut as they are linked to formation of free radicals.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
" Keep your mind and your heart going in the right direction and you will not have to worry about your feet."
I let my feet do the walking for the last 16 + years when it has come to attending a 12 step meeting. Even when I didn't want to go on a rainy or cold night I would some how end up in a church basement. It has been a blessing is disguise. I never underestimate the cunning, baffling and insidious onset of any addiction.
My mind is on medicine and Mother Earth
My heart is on Rick, Alyssa , Gregory , family , friends, patients and the unconditional love of our pets
My feet are always in the right direction guided by my Higher Power
The Holiday times creates stress for me. I do not like shopping. I always try to make hand made Holiday gifts and cards. As I start to get stressed my lips quiver and the residing dormant virus on the nerve endings occurs. It is the painful fever blister known as Herpes I. These fever blisters are agitated by stress, tension, a lowered immune system ( in my case lack of sleep ) and sometimes even a diet rich in sugar and nuts. Nuts contain arginine which is the herpes virus fuel source.
I have learned to prevent outbreaks. I know when they start to happen as I get a sensation in my lower lips The following are steps to prevent the outbreak
1. I start to drink bitter teas to cool of my liver. I will tell you straight out that they do not taste well. These are Oregon Root, Dandelion and Yellow Dock
2. I add some Reishi mushrooms to my diet
3. I take echinacea tincture 1/2 dropperful twice to three times a day
4. I immediately start the two amino acids, lysine and proline in high doses
Lysine 500mg (6-8/day ) and Proline 500mg ( 6-8/day)
I have listened to many other herbalists regarding Licorice ( Glycyhhriza glabra) for the treatment of Herpes simplex I and II.It is the genus of the pea family. There are many medicinal uses for Licorice. I have used it in the treatment of peptic ulcer disease, but in the deglycerized version
In addition to starting some or all of 1-4 above, start applying licorice tincture to the affected area. I have seen others talk about adding lemon balm in the essential oil form. I like the combination of three tinctures St John's Wort, Licorice and calendula. Mix and dab throughout the day. I prefer due to work situation to drink the maximal dose of 1 teaspoon three times a day.
When I feel under-the-weather or in need of the ever TLC ( tender loving care) there is nothing better than nap with Spencer, Grant and Jack ( oh yes, with my partner is the icing on the cake. Thanks Rick)
Saturday, December 18, 2010
" The best way out is always through" - Robert Frost
Does anyone still read a book ? Do teachers still teach literature ? Did you ever read any literature by Robert Frost ?
I loved reading as a child and teenager, and I still love reading today. While I was conducting medical residency interviews at the hospital this morning, I always ask the potential medical student/soon to be doctor this - " What is the last non medical book you have read ? " Some might think it is an odd question since I am interviewing about a position in the medical residency program. I do not think so. I want to find out the diversity of the student. I feel candidates or rather most people should be well-rounded. To be a doctor, medical intellect is required, but so to me so is a knowledge of literature, art, and music, as well as other interests of the candidate. One student answered she just finished Wuthering Heights. I was impressed. What is the last book you have read ? Entertainment Weekly, or the Enquirer does not count !
I have always loved Robert Frost. Robert Lee Frost (March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963) was an American poet. He is highly regarded for his realistic depictions of rural life and his command of American colloquial speech. His work frequently employed settings from rural life in New England . It was depicting real life in the early twentieth century. He personal life was full of grief and loss. Perhaps the quote above is how he lived his life. Always headstrong and the way out is through the problem. In 1885 when Frost was 11, his father died of tuberculosis, leaving the family with just eight dollars. Frost's mother died of cancer in 1900. In 1920, Frost had to commit his younger sister Jeanie to a mental hospital, where she died nine years later. There is a strong family history of mental illness int he Frost family. Out of six children, only two survived longer than he did. As a father he buried four children. One son, Carol committed suicide at age 38. Perhaps that is the basis of one of his most famous poems, The Road Not Taken.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference
This particular poem if read more than once should put many thoughts in your consciousness. Did you travel the road less traveled ? Did that diverging road make a difference in your life?
Since the beginning of time man has used scented products in bathing, massaging religious ceremonies and well as personal grooming for hair and skin. Physicians int he 10th century learned to distill oils from plants and thus we have Aromatherapy. This particular field has made an enormous leap into the consciousness of mainstream allopathic medicine as well as the mainstream consumer market. It does depend where you shop. It is a booming business of greater than $300 million, and I could see easily quadruple in the next ten years. Essential oils can be extracted from a variety of plants, including and not limited to citrus fruits, herbs, spices and shrubs. Most people think these oils can sedate and relax. This is true. I have used some that refresh and even stimulate my body. These oils have healing powers when used correctly. The definition of an essential oils are natural volatile substances that evaporate easily releasing aroma into the air. The easy method to fragrance a room is by means of a vaporizer or oil burner. There are 3 important things everyone should know about essential oils.
1. Never take the essential oil INTERNALLY
2. Always use the oil DILUTED
3. Do not use the same oil a lot : ROTATE
THE USES OF ESSENTIAL OILS:
Bathing | Amount of essential oils to use in bath
Foot and hand baths
Hair care | Amount of essential oils to use in shampoo
Massage | Amount of essential oils to use in massage blend
Skin care | Amount of essential oils to use in creams
Most know the tree oils better than any other category. The tree oils consist of the popular, Eucalptus, Cedarwood, Tea tree, Pine and Sandalwood.
The herb and spice oils are Peppermint, Nutmeg, Ginger, Clary Sage and Majoram.
The shrub and vine oils are the popular Lavendar, Juniper, Geranium, Rose and Rosemary. I prefer Jasmine oil as it can lift the mood as well as relax.
Jasmine oil is extracted from Jasminum officinale Although expensive, Jasmine essential oil does more than just smelling exquisite - it deeply relaxes, lifts depression and boost confidence. It has been used to ease childbirth, helps with sexual problems, sooths coughing and tones and improves skin elasticity.
The self-esteem task for today is to get a massage by a therapist who uses essential oils.
Friday, December 17, 2010
“Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.”
The quote sums up my feelings for today. The wind, a smile, the rain and a bumble bee in one single quote. It only forgot the plants. I am trying to live my life to the fullest potential. I fall short sometimes. Who doesn't fall short ? I feel as long as I tried my best with my heart and soul, I am content that I did the best of my ability. As a parent, I want my children to live their lives to their fullest potential. I do not necessarily tell them to fight for their dreams, but shoot for the stars. You never know. Have you fulfilled your dream in life? Do you think you are where you should be at your age ? I do not think you always have to be where you thought you should be. It is not in your time. It is not determined by you. It is determined by 'someone' greater than you. Whomever and Whatever you chose to call him/her. This is where meditation and prayer play a role in my life and hopefully in your life.
As the year comes to a close in fourteen days, I want to express my thanks, gratitude and love to every individual who ever opens these pages. For me this year has been a fascinating journey. I feel in love all over again except this time it was with plants. My herbal sense and appreciation has been mainly limited to cardiac herbs and from my childhood of watching my family use herbs in a culinary vein. I imagine all the people of the world using herbs medicinally allowing Mother Earth to sustain our longevity. Remember when we all used pay phones, banks and typewriters ? Can you imagine your great grandparents digging roots of plants/weeds from the ground ? Or hanging garlic in the kitchen ? It is a time lost in pages of books or in memories of your mind. I never thought that I would be buying seeds for the upcoming spring/summer for the garden. I am even buying plants that the bees will love and the butterflies will be attracted to. I am making a conscious effort to savour the moment. I feel the same way when I sip chamomile or lemon balm tea.
Since reading this blog have you tried a different herbal tea ? Many of your ailments can be dissipated by drinking a tea.
Yesterday a patient presented me with nutmeg, Cinnamon and turmeric from her homeland, the Spice Island, Grenada. That certainly conjured up many memories.
There are many herbs to start thinking about for your garden in 2011. I was going to discuss Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni, but there is too much politics with the FDA involvement of this plant. So, I settled on Levisticum officinale. I have never heard of this plant, nor have eve3r used it. This is my learning experience. It is commonly called Lovage. Since it almost spells 'love' I thought i research this herb. I must find it and taste it as books describe it as a taste between celery and parsley( which I love) and the roots, stems , leaves and flowers are edible. How delicious it would taste in a salad.
Lovage tea can be applied to wounds as an antiseptic, or drunk to stimulate digestion. The seeds can be used as a spice, similar to fennel seeds. In the UK, lovage cordial was traditionally mixed with brandy in the ratio of 2:1 as a winter drink. Lovage is second only to capers in its quercetin content. So it contains the essential bioflavinoids-- a great anti oxidant.
I knew I was drawn to this herb because the Italians have used it extensively in Liguria. Liguria is a coastal region of north-western Italy, the third smallest of the Italian regions. Its capital is Genoa. It is a popular region with tourists for its beautiful beaches, picturesque little towns, and food. Lovage used to be grown extensively in this region.
The capital Genoa, one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean and home to Christopher Columbus Today one can find impressive buildings, elegant mansions, and wonderful churches . An intact and luxuriant Mediterranean vegetation exists in the mountain regions of Portofino and Cinque Terre.
Liguria is where pesto is originally from, one of the most popular sauces in Italian cuisine. Now this is the real reason I love 'LOVAGE'
I also LOVE TO DREAM
DREAM BY JOHNNY MERCER
Get in touch with that sundown fellow
As he tiptoes across the sand
He’s got a million kinds of stardust
Pick you fav’rite brand, and
Dream, when you’re feeling blue
Dream, that’s the thing to do
Just watch the smoke rings rise in the air
You’ll find your share of memories there
So dream when the day is through
Dream, and they might come true
Things never are as bad as they seem
So dream, dream, dream
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.
- Bishop Desmond Tutu
Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.
- Vincent van Gogh
The little bits of good and great things done in a series are actions. Your actions are really your only true belongings. You have always heard that actions speak louder than words. For example, you have a disagreement with your partner. You start to react to the situation. Try -action rather than reaction. I have always stated that if a family member/patient/friend complains more than three times about a current situation, then he/she cannot complain anymore to me. That individual has not taken any action to correct the situation. I have been in the above situation. I even have to tell myself, Get up and take some action. I need the constant reminder. My father, a courageous , loving Archie Bunker prototype would say, " Sh*t or get off the pot" to many situations when individuals complained to him. Maybe he had a point !
Harry and David, a company that sends fruit send fruit throughout the year. I always get baskets of fruit - mainly apples and pears at this time of the year. This fruit is referred to as 'nopal" in Mexico. In South America this fruit is known as 'tuna" ( not the fish) It is cultivated and domesticated for the fruit, known as Prickly Pear ( Opuntia )
At this time of the year you might have a species of Opuntia in your house. Yes, in your house. The species is called Opuntia leptocaulis. It is the Christmas Cactus. My mother loved Christmnas Cactus. After my mom died my father always had one around the holiday time. Rick and I even have one in the living room in bloom.
For the adventourous, Opuntia can be made into jam and jellies. Italy also produces a after dinner liqueur from Opuntia.
It was not mentioned in James Duke Handbook of Medicinal Plants of the Bible. Some cultures eat the cactus pads especially when the plant is young. I personally have never tried eating the pads. So another 'yet' is added to my wish list.
All plants have some chemical constituent that may or may not be medicinal. In Opuntia it is betalains and flavinoids. These are two of the finest anti oxidants. Beta carotene and lutein ( used for eye problems) are also found in Opuntia. Minerals, amino acids and sterols are also found in these plants.
For those that drink and suffer from hang-overs and 'kiss the porcelin' sometimes, you will happy to know that old folklore claims that Opuntia is the hangover cure.
If you haven't noticed while walking in both New York City and other cities throughout the United States,w e are in the midst of two great epidemics, Diabetes and Obesity. These twin peaks will lead to heart disease. There are millions of Americans walking around with pre-diabetes. This is also known as Syndrome X, Insulin Resistance or Metabolic Syndrome. The pathology in Metabolic syndrome involves elevations in all lipids, especially the triglyceride level (TG) and glucose ( sugar) plus a resistance to insulin ( high 1 hour and 2 hour insulin level)
Opuntia does exert his metabolic effects on Insulin Resistance. Other countries market Opuntia by other names. The French studied Opuntia with results stating that within 14 days there will be a decrease in total cholesterol (TC), Low density lipoproteins (LDL) and triglycerides (TG).
Top photograph: Our Christmas Cactus photo credit: Rick Byrd
Rest of photographs: Species of Opuntia
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
" Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor"
-Thich Nhat Hanh
Today is a windy day and the clouds come and go. We all have feelings, or do we? Do you show any emotion ? When was the last time you had a good cry ? Tears stream down my face when I hear Bing sing 'White Christmas' It reminds me of Christmas Eve and Day with large numbers of family all gathered around the table. Life goes on. Visuals and sound may bring up an emotion whether in a song or seen in a movie.
Feelings are important part of our lives. I feel balanced or anchored as long as I meditate and pray. I never understood why people pray every day. I could not go through a day without meditation/prayer. It is my balance. What do you to balance yourself ? Some might eat comfort food to balance feelings, others might exercise
and yet others might drink alcohol. Have you tried to meditate ? Try sitting quietly a hear your breath as you inhale and exhale.
As an integrative cardiologist I am not fixated on cholesterol. I concentrate on the individual as a whole - body, mind and spirit. I look beyond cholesterol. The only time I look at total cholesterol ( normal < 200) is when I see a very low cholesterol. By low I mean a total cholesterol less than 130 and the individual is not on any cholesterol lowering drugs , nor supplements/botanicals. We all need cholesterol. Cholesterol is the building block for many other necessary hormones, as testosterone,aldosterone and others. For men, testosterone is very important. Yes, not for what you are thinking of right now in your mind. If the total cholesterol is low I need to check in a male patient, the total and free testosterone level. This topic is very controversial. I have followed the studies on testosterone. When it comes to current research I scan the journals on line in all fields. I am not an expert in all fields by no means, but I need to be kept abreast of conventional, nutrition and botanical studies.
During a two year period from 2000-2002, 930 men with known coronary heart disease were studied. All the men had cardiac catherizations ( also known as angiograms) The total and free testosterone levels were measured . These men were followed for an average of 6.9 years. There were 129 deaths. 21 % of those deaths had deficient bio available ( free) testosterone compared to 12% of those that had normal bio available testosterone. The study was published in Heart ( 2010 Nov; 96 (22):1821-1825.)
In conclusion is that men with a low testosterone are almost twice as likely to die over a seven year period.
For those men with other cardiac risk factors, please check your testosterone level.
Testosterone decreases as we age, but numerous herbs and nutrients can help increase the blood levels of this hormone. Low testosterone can not only increase the risk of heart problems but affects as well as depression, osteoporosis, and dementia.
The UCLA School of Medicine studied the plant MUIRA PUAMA and found it had the ability to increase testosterone production in men. South American shaman and healers have used this plant from the Brazilian rain forest for generations. Known as "potency wood" it has been used as an aphrodisiac as well. I have used MUIRA PUMA to increase sexual libido and help with erectile dysfunction but there was no increase in testosterone levels. There are many herbs to increase sexual libido as horny goat weed, ashwaganda, and the amino acid, arginine for erectile dysfunction.
A clinical study with 262 patients complaining of lack of sexual desire and the inability to attain or maintain an erection demonstrated Muira Puama extract to be effective in many cases. Within 2 weeks, at a daily dose of 1 to 1.5 grams of the extract, 62% of patients with loss of libido claimed that the treatment had dynamic effect while 51 percent of patients with "erection failures" felt that muira Puama was of benefit. Primary chemical constituents of muira Puama include alkaloids (specifically muirapuamine), esters, plant sterols, free fatty acids and phytosterols.
If you want your testosterone level to directly increase, then you must take testosterone. I prefer testosterone to be administered either by cream, sub lingual drops or even capsules. It is beneficial to get testosterone compounded for you.
Some use DHEA which can convert to testosterone, but DHEA can also convert to the female hormones.
For those that want to read about botanicals for men I suggest 'The Male Herbal'
by herbalist, James Green.
Photographs: Muira and Man - The male physique on this man does not imply that he takes muira nor testosterone. His posture suggests he does yoga and meditates.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
" Cease to inquire what the future has in store, and take as a gift whatever the day brings forth" Horace
Do not live in the past, nor live in the future. Live for today. As I have discussed many times having expectations for the future might lead to disappointments. Why be disappointed ? If you have no expectations you might get surprised. This is a time of giving from your heart. You do not give to receive something in return. I learned that the hard way. I do not know if giving a gift when you go to someones home is customary or just, Italian. It is how I was raised. I do not think that is a bad quality.
The following three quotes from three different sources exemplifies is how I give in life. Give of yourself--
“If you wish to experience peace, provide peace for another.”
Tenzin Gyatso, The 14th Dalai Lama
“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”
“If you have much, give of your wealth; If you have little, give of your heart” Arab Proverb quote
Rick and I start the holiday season with individuals giving of themselves through song. This year we even sang Holiday tunes at Carnegie Hall with Brian Stokes Mitchell. When individuals are gifted with a voice, it is truly a gift when he/she shares their voice with the world.
On a cold day who doesn't want a cup of tea ? Last night I felt stuffy so I had a cup of nettles tea. It was delicious with a 1/4 tsp of wild flower honey. This morning I have no stuffiness. I gain much information when I use a botancial for a patient for a specific condition. One herb, Cinnamon ( Cinnamomum zeylancium ) has been used for centuries as a culinary herb, as well as for gastrointestinal disease. The conventional or allopathic community always wants studies, research and even sometimes double blind studies to show the efficacy and health benefits of an herb. While I find this important and necessary, I also feel that a health care practitioner clinical experience is important as well. Cinnamon has been one of the herbs that has recently been used more and more for diabetes. Although there are few human trials to study its efficacy, I have found it useful in controlling blood sugar levels as well as exerting a hypoglycemic control. I have relied on cinnamon alone to control blood sugar or glucose levels. I usually combine cinnamon with two or three other herbs, including fenugeek, rosemary and gymnena. I also have had much success with three vita-nutrients in high doses. These are chromium, alpha lipoic acid and vanadium. I always get asked how much cinnamon should I ingest on a daily basis? There are studies with ineffective blood sugar control at doses of 1 to 1.5 grams daily, with positive or beneficial effects at dosages of 6 grams daily. I do not know if I like cinnamon that much to ingest 6 grams unless I am using the method of delivery in capsules.
I also get asked , "Is cinnamon only used for sugar control" The answer is NO. There are other studies to support the anti-inflammatory effects of certain Cinnamon plant species, especially C. cassia. There are also anti-bacterial effects against some species of bacteria. Since some studies also support the anti oxidant effect of cinnamon I use Cinnamon as a supportive treatments for patients with cancer and other infectious diseases, as Lyme and HIV.
I have had success treating fungal infections with three herbs: Cinnamon, Thyme and Cloves. Oral thrush has been eliminated in 3 out of 5 patients using cinnamon in a small study. I have seen some herbalist using cinnamon for the eradication of H. pylori. I have never had success with cinnamon with H pylori. I prefer to use Mastica if the patient cannot tolerate the conventional oral antibiotics.
In children, the use of warming spices as cinnamon , ginger and cloves are an important treatment for chronic catarrh ( excessive mucous production) I do find that not every child will like the taste of some of these herbs. In children, I encourage elimination of wheat and dairy to eliminate catarrh.
I would love to see more studies between herbs and conventional drugs. I thin these studies would be important for allopathic physicians to see that botanicals are equally effective, and sometimes more beneficial than synthetic drugs.
I do not think Mother Earth would have an abundance of plants just for us to look at their beauty. A Higher Power placed them here and allowed them to grow for a reason. I do not think we have discovered all the medicinal benefits of all the plants growing on Earth.