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integrative health

A worldview that fosters human freedom looks at living systems as integrated wholes. It takes into account the interconnectedness of all things.

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Beware The Body Snatchers

Beware The Body Snatchers

In Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, Jacob Marley, Scrooge's dead partner, appears to him as a ghost: `You don't believe in me', observed the Ghost. `I don't', said Scrooge. `What evidence would you have of my reality beyond that of your senses?' `I don't know', said Scrooge. `Why do you doubt your senses?' `Because', said Scrooge, `a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheat. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!' Scrooge was right. Biochemical changes brought about by what you eat, how well you eat, and how often you eat, can affect your brain and alter consciousness enough in some people to produce imaginary fears—even hallucinations—not to mention depression and anxiety as well as chronic fatigue and chronic insomnia. The very worst of the body snatchers are the sugars in their myriad of forms. More about this in a moment. Meanwhile, everybody knows that fruit contain a kind of sugar known as fructose. Does this mean we should ban fruit from the table? GOOD FOOD BAD RAP Somehow fruits seen to have have earned themselves a bad name. Why? Because fruits contain fructose—fruit sugar. Nonetheless, it’s fructose that gives glorious organic navel oranges, blueberries, apples, and golden kiwis their marvelous sweetness. And the right amount of organically grown, whole fruits do as lot to keep us well. Fruit plays an important part in any high-raw way of eating. These colorful gifts of nature cleanse the body of the toxicity we absorb from our environment, the water we drink and the dreadful packaged convenience foods people eat. That’s why fruits are so valuable to any serious detox program. So what’s the problem with fructose? First of all, there is evidence which indicates that people who eat too much fruit can make themselves vulnerable to chronic problems like insulin resistance, diabetes and obesity. And this is important. For most fruits we eat today contain between 30 and 50 times the amount of fructose compared to the fruit our hunter-gatherer forefathers munched on. This has come about because, during the 20th century, enormous hybridization projects continue to make fruits sweeter and sweeter. As a result, not only has the incidence of chronic illnesses—from heart disease and diabetes to cancer and mental disorders—exploded in developed countries: So has our consumption of sugar in its many forms—of which fructose is one. WHERE DO YOU STAND If you are someone with high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, insulin or leptin resistance or hypertension, then it is best to limit your fruit intake so you only get, say, 15 grams of fructose a day. How do you do this? Choose your fruits carefully so that most of them are low-fructose. If you do not fall into these categories, you should be able to eat a lot more fruit and have it do you nothing but good. That is, of course, provided the fruits you choose are organic and therefore not sprayed with chemicals. Make sure they have not been GMO grown. Under no circumstances do you want to put genetically modified foods of any kind into your body. All GMO crops are dangerous, despite all the corporate hype designed to make us think otherwise. BIG CONTRADICTIONS But findings about the effects of fruit eating are contradictory, to say the least. The British Medical Journal published three observational studies that examined the effects of fruit-eating on human health. These studies analyzed the diets of almost 200,000 people between 1984 and 2008—none of whom had indications of heart disease, diabetes or cancer when the studies began. On completion, the studies indicated that, far from fruits predisposing us to degenerative diseases, some fruits including grapes, blueberries and apples may actually reduce the risk of diabetes. This is great news and somewhat unexpected, since apples and grapes contain a lot of fructose. But beware. Drinking juices made from these fruits that are bought rather than being homemade from fresh produce do contribut to the development of the same diseases that eating whole fruit can help prevent. Steer clear of all packaged and tinned fruit juices and fruit drinks. DEVIL IN DISGUISE One aspect of fructose is as dangerous as hell—high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). The ultimate body snatcher it is. If you value your health and the health of your children you’ll want to avoid it at all costs. But avoiding it is not easy. HFCS is added to just about every packaged food and drink you buy. So read every label on every packaged food or drink you buy and reject every food or drink containing it. HFCS is deadly stuff. A highly processed form of liquid sugar extracted by a nasty chemical solvent called glutaraldehyde, is not only HFCS frequently contaminated with mercury. Putting it into the body is a major cause of obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, and mood disorders, and hyperactivity in children. High-fructose corn syrup is similar in composition to sucrose, with levels of around 45% glucose to 55% fructose. And, as with sucrose, its harmful effects are concealed from view. It does not raise blood sugar, as it is processed by the liver. There it promptly turns into fat. In 1978, HFCS was brought in as a substitute for sugar in soft drinks. This quickly became a real game-changer, but not in a good way. By the year 2000, sugar consumption in America increased by 25 pounds per person per year, nearly ALL of it in the form of HFCS. These days the average American consumes a massive 35 pounds of HFCS each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It’s no coincidence that the obesity rate in the US has reached epidemic proportions worldwide. SNEAKY AND SINISTER You’ll find HFCS in thousands of grocery items, even in places you might never suspect—such as pizza sauce, salad dressings, foods from sodas, drinks and sweets to sauces, breads, and delicatessen foods like smoked salmon, luncheon meats and salami. Farcically, HFCS is often labeled "all natural" because fructose is found in fruit—even though it is mass-factory-produced, using a process which dramatically increases the fructose content of corn syrup. Fructose in these protucts bears little resemblance to fructose found in fresh fruit. It also lacks the fiber, antioxidants and nutrients found in fresh fruit. As pediatric specialist and childhood obesity expert Robert Lustig puts it, high-fructose corn syrup is “a poison all by itself”. Lustig doesn’t distinguish between plain sugar and HFCS when it comes to health perils—they are “equally dangerous”, he insists, like two sides of the same coin. And what’s so insidious about HFCS is that it is sold to the public as a “healthy alternative” to regular sugar. You should avoid it at all costs. MY OWN FRUIT EXPERIMENT Most of you know that I am a passionate fan of organic raw food and have been for almost half a century. A high-raw way of eating in my mid-twenties healed me from so many illnesses contracted as a result of being raised on junk food throughout most of my unpredictable childhood. A few weeks ago, Aaron and I decided to experiment by returning to being on an all-raw fruits and vegetables diet for a period of six weeks. We wanted to check out what, if any, ill effects eating an all raw diet containing lots of fresh, organic fruits would have on us. The results of our little experiment have turned out to be excellent. We ate a lot of fruit. We put it in our salads, we made juice from a mixture of fruits and included in it much of the pulp produced from the juicing. We loved the way this made us look and feel. I’m happy to report that the results of ouro little experiment has been nothing but good. Like vegetables and herbs, fruits are not only a storehouse for vitamins and minerals; they boast high levels of phytochemicals. These powerhouses for health and vitality are not nutrients like vitamins and minerals. Yet they carry colored plant factors which play an important role in our health. A good supply of these phyto-nutrients helps minimize the incidence of cancer and heart disease and protect from degenerative conditions associated with aging, such as inflammation of the joints, loss of memory and concentration. They even help slow the aging process itself. Large quantities of these plant factors with many different names are found in common fruits, from berries, oranges, lemons and grapes to cantaloupe, kiwis, cranberries and cherries. However, in any diet based on manufactured convenience foods, they are scarce as hen’s teeth. MEET THE GOOD GUYS Berries, grapes and cherries as well as citrus fruits are excellent sources of water-soluble phyto-chemicals known as flavonoids. Flavonoids guard the integrity of collagen within the body. They work together with vitamin C and—as do many of the other phyto-nutrients—enhance the positive effects of antioxidant vitamins, improving the function and the integrity of tiny blood vessels known as capillaries, which deliver nutrients and oxygen to our cells. This helps raise overall energy. It also helps keep skin smooth and elastic, protects against bruising while improving memory and eyesight. Phyto-nutrients often carry weird names like catechin, quercetin and hesperidin. Among the more than 20,000 known, hesperidin, rutin, quercetin, catechin and pycnogenol are especially important. Catechin reduces allergic reactions by calming histamine release in the body. Rutin helps guard the integrity and health of capillaries, veins and arteries, as well as the skin itself. Many phytochemicals protect our health by interfering with or blocking specific disease processes. They do this either by acting as antioxidants and preventing free radical damage, or by inhibiting enzymes which promote the development of diseases like cancer. Some plant factors found in fruits and vegetables clear our cells of toxins and other damaging substances such as herbicides and pesticides we take in from our environment. HEALTHY SUPPORT HERE At Tufts University in the United States, scientists developed a method of quantifying the anti-oxidant power of specific fruits and vegetables by measuring their ability to quench free radicals in a laboratory test tube. To test a food’s oxygen radical absorbance capacity, called the ORAC test, scientists have been able to categorize a fruit or vegetable according to its overall anti-oxidant power. Fruits like blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries are at the top of the list. They can be highly protective of our health. While we’re talking of lists, here is a list of some of the most common fruits indicating how much fructose is in each. Become familiar with it and, given the state of your own body, you can easily make your own decision about what kind and how much of each fruit suits you best, as well as how much you want to eat of it. FRUIT SERVING GRAMS OF FRUCTOSE Lemon 1 medium 0.6 Passionfruit 1 medium 0.9 Apricot 1 medium 1.3 Raspberries 1 cup 3.0 Kiwi 1 medium 3.4 Cherries 1 cup 3.8 Strawberries 1 cup 3.8 Pink grapefruit ½ medium 4.3 Nectarine 1 medium 5.4 Peach 1 medium 5.9 Orange 1 medium 6.1 Banana 1 medium 7.1 Apple 1 medium 9.5 Persimmon 1 medium 10.6 Pear 1 medium 11.8 Grapes 1 cup 12.4 Mango 1 medium 16.2 Here are my suggestions on how to get the very best from fruits, now and always: If you know you have insulin or leptin resistance, suffer from food cravings and are overweight, it’s pick your fruits from those with the lowest levels of fructose and limit your fruit intake to around 15 grams of fructose a day. If you are not troubled by any of these conditions, you can experiment by eating fruits which give you from 20 to 40 grams of fructose a day and work out by trial and error what the levels of fructose best work for you. Always eat your fruits whole if possible. If you choose to juice them yourself, make sure you keep the valuable pulp from the juicing process and add a good quantity of it back to the juice. Go for organic fruits. You might even try growing a lot of your fruit in your garden if you have the space. Never eat GMO fruits...something difficult to ascertain in most countries these days since corporate interests have lobbied hard to prevent GMO labeling. This is another reason to choose organic. Never eat or drink anything with high fructose corn syrup in it. It’s deadly stuff—so read labels carefully. Fruits are one of nature’s most glorious gifts to us. Know the ones that work for you and shun those that don’t. Above all steer clear of high-fructose corn syrup and read labels carefully to make sure you do.

Mineral Supplements And Nutritional Supplement Are Important

Mineral Supplements And Nutritional Supplement Are Important

YOU NEED MINERALS Your body cannot make minerals. It has to take them in, in a good balance, from the foods you eat. In addition to nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, it requires magnesium, manganese and calcium, selenium, zinc, copper, iodine, boron, molybdenum, vanadium and other elements—many as yet undiscovered—to stay healthy. These elements need to come from the foods you eat. Generally they do, when foods are grown organically in healthy, traditionally fertilized soils. But they are increasingly missing and unbalanced in the foods we buy today thanks to our legacy of chemical farming. High-tech farming methods have destroyed so much of the organic matter in our soils that fruits and vegetables no longer contain a good quantity of minerals and trace elements. Commercial food processing wipes out most of what’s left. Buy organically grown fruits and vegetables whenever you can. Herbs can help redress the balance. Take dandelion, for instance. Dandelion is rich in iron, silicon, magnesium, sodium, potassium, zinc, manganese, copper and phosphorus in an unbeatable synergistic balance. Put dandelion leaves in your salads. Drink dandelion tea often. It will help restore your body’s lost minerals, and you will also be getting an extra dose of vitamins A, B, C and D in the bargain. DRINK THE DANDELIONS Dried dandelion root is easy to come by—you can even find it in tea bags and is one of the great mineral supplements. Or you can dry your own and grind it in a coffee grinder or pestle and mortar. DANDELION TEA HERE’S HOW Use 2-3 teaspoons of dried dandelion root to one cup of water. Simmer it in a pan for fifteen minutes. Strain. Drink as much as three cups a day. GIFTS FROM A HORSE’S TAIL Silica is another essential trace element. Our daily requirement for it is high, at 20-30 mg. Unless we eat organically grown food, we simply don’t get enough—often not even when we do. Silica binds to minerals needed for strong nails, hair, and bones, making them available to our bodies. It is also essential to the production of our skin’s connective tissues—collagen and elastin. The delicate horsetail plant is one of the world’s earliest forms of plant life, and one of the richest sources of bioavailable silica you will find anywhere. Horsetail also boasts an amazing 15 other minerals and is a good source of bioflavonoids too. Drink horsetail tea as often as three times a day. HORSETAIL TEA—HERE’S HOW Put 2 teaspoons of the dried plant in a tea pot. Pour a cup of boiling water over it and allow it to infuse for 15-20 minutes. Strain, and drink. Be patient when learning to use the plant powers. Remember, it may have taken years for your body to become depleted in essential minerals and trace elements. A few weeks of herbal help is not so long to wait to restore your nails, hair, skin and body as a whole to a healthy balance. Besides, it is so much fun to learn to use plant power. The gifts these humble plants offer us are worth their weight in gold, and the plants are everywhere—just asking us to get to know them and use them.

Make Friends With The Sun

Make Friends With The Sun

We’ve inherited a fear of the sun. It has developed out of simplistic thinking and a commercially-fuelled set of false beliefs. Here’s the inside story: Ultraviolet light is NOT the fundamental cause of skin aging nor skin cancer. Exposure to the sun is not the main reason that skin wrinkles happen. And here’s some shocking news: The chemical sunscreens we now use to protect ourselves from wrinkles and cancer contribute to both. EXTRINSIC AGING Rough, loose, creviced, wrinkled skin, complete with irregular blotches—it’s known as photo-damaged skin or extrinsically aged skin. It is always blamed on exposure to sun. It is not exposure that causes it; it is the misuse of sun coupled with exposure to mounting levels of destructive chemicals that are the real culprits. To get a first-hand feel for what this looks like, take a look in the mirror at the skin on your bottom. It looks ten or twenty years younger than skin on your face. The difference speaks volumes about what extrinsic aging looks like. How do you avoid it? The ads tell us to smear on more sunscreens. The truth is far more complex. Extrinsic aging means skin damage triggered by external factors—high exposure to UV light from tanning beds or sitting in the sun at the wrong time of the day, chemicals in the environment, and—in many ways—the products you’ve been told to use to protect yourself from them. Mounting evidence indicates that many sunscreens contain carcinogens and that the rise of skin cancers parallels the increase in sunscreen usage Lita Lee, pHD BANISH SUNSCREENS Most sunscreen chemicals which should be protecting your skin from damage actually cause it. They eat up your body’s natural enzymes designed to guard against degeneration. A growing awareness of this in the cosmetic industry has led manufacturers to add free radical scavengers, like vitamin A derivatives and phytonutrients, to their sunscreen products. It’s a bit like sweeping dust under a carpet; this only hides the issue. Chemicals used in sun products and other toiletries do not belong in our bodies. As Rachel Carlson insisted half a century ago, their ubiquitous presence in animal bodies undermines health, vitality, and in this case, beauty too. COSMIC RADIATION The sun produces high energy rays from cosmic and gamma and X rays through longer, lower UV, infrared, microwaves and radio waves. Gamma and X radiation are mostly filtered out by the earth’s atmosphere, although flying in jets at 35,000 feet exposes your body to them in big quantities. This is one reason we need extra antioxidant protection when boarding a long haul flight. When gamma rays—which are also used to irradiate foods and sterilise medical equipment—hit water molecules in a living body, free radicals are generated in large numbers, important enzymes are destroyed and your skin’s natural protective ability is undermined. BREAKING THE WAVES The UV rays—most likely to trigger aging in an unprotected or polluted skin span from 190 to 400nm. They come in three varieties: UVA (320-400nm). Deep penetrating ‘silent-killer’ aging rays. UVA radiation can delve deep into the dermis and wreak havoc with DNA and collagen, triggering degenerative changes especially in light-colored skin, messing up the skin’s enzyme systems and cross-linking its collagen. UVB (200-290nm). Shorter, these guys penetrate more superficially. They can oxidize skin’s natural oils, dry it out and undermine its ability to protect itself on the surface. UVB are mostly responsible for burning. They are what chemical sunscreens try to mitigate in an attempt to prevent sunburn. UVC (280nm and shorter). Highly dangerous to skin. Most of these are filtered out by the biosphere, but you can be subjected to them from most office lighting. FACTS AND FICTIONS Photo aging got its name because it often develops out of excessive exposure to UV radiation. You see it in sun-worshippers on the beaches of Australia’s Gold Coast or California’s Venice Beach. Extrinsic aging mimics the destructive damage all skin is exposed to over time. This damage can happen fast when you hang out too long in the sun, especially between 11am and 4pm. Chemical pollution, long periods of intense physical activity, alcohol, cigarettes and drugs—just like excessive UV radiation—all generate high levels of reactive oxygen species in the skin: Super oxides, hydroxy radicals and hydrogen peroxide. These cause free radical damage, degrade and cross-link collagen, and help produce wrinkles, sags and age spots. Like the rest of these onslaughts, big doses of sun also accelerate the formation of advanced glycosylation end-products (AGEs) to interfere with cellular functions and make skin lose elasticity. However, the notion that sunlight is the bête noir in all extrinsic aging is absolutely untrue. REAL CAUSES Our ancestors were exposed to the sun’s UV rays for over a million years of evolution. The human body is genetically adapted to sunlight, and well equipped to handle it. The exponential rise in skin cancers began in the twentieth century—not in all those years of evolution. What’s happening? Two things. With each decade that passes, we are bombarded with higher and higher levels of chemical aggression in our environment, and forced to handle more electromagnetic pollution. Together they produce toxic build-up in our body, stressing its natural antioxidant systems and undermining our immunity. This triggers degenerative processes, increasing our skin’s sensitivity to UV damage. It also makes us highly susceptible to cancers. Yet we continue to assault our skin with more chemicals in the form of irresponsibly formulated cleaning products, herbicides and insecticides, and to use skin and body care products to deliver yet more chemicals directly to the skin. CHEMICAL OR PHYSICAL The standard protocol for sun protection is to smear on more chemical sunscreens. Selling them is a $3.5 billion a year business, and growing rapidly. We fear aging and skin cancer so we keep buying. Yet much of what we buy significantly contributes to the damage we are trying to prevent. Sun “protection” products come in two forms—chemical sunscreens and physical sunblocks. A few products contain both. Physical block products literally create a physical barrier of fine, non-reactive minerals on the surface of your skin, rather like micro-fish-scales. They reflect excess UVA and UVB back into the atmosphere instead of letting skin absorb it. They are good and not dangerous. Using them is like wearing a hat or a veil so the sun’s rays don’t penetrate at all. No commercial sunscreens have been proved safe. Their chemicals penetrate the skin into the circulation and add to the burden of toxins to be detoxified. Joseph G. Hattersley Chemical sunscreen products—most sun protection products fit into this category—are different. They do not reflect. They absorb UVB and UVA rays, allowing them to penetrate your skin. Many chemical screens these days have begun to target UVA radiation as well as UVB, but the “sun protection factor” (SPF number) you read on a product’s label will have been calculated entirely by how much UVB radiation the chemicals it contains are able to absorb. Unlike physical sunblocks, chemical sunscreens “absorb” the UVB radiation in an attempt to neutralize. They are rapidly used up in the formation of new chemical compounds which your skin then has to find ways of detoxifying from your system. WAY TO GO To protect yourself from aging and cancers, you need to limit your use of chemically-based sunscreens. Better still, throw them out. Go for a mineral-based sunblock, or use one of the new mineral foundations every day. Based on physical agents like titanium oxide and zinc oxide, these products reflect the light instead of relying on chemicals to ‘absorb’ and transmute it. They are safe, inert, and protective. Other physical screens are commonly used by surfers, skiers, cricketers, and tennis players. But choose your block carefully. Unless the mineral fragments have been milled into micro-particles, they can make you look a bit like Marcel Marceau. GET SAVVY ABOUT THE SUN Here are some important things to remember about tanning and how to protect your skin from extrinsic aging and cancers: There is no way to get a safe tan. Never use a sunbed. They filter out UVB burning rays but let the UVA in deep. They are automatic aging machines which increase your risk of melanoma. SPF numbers don’t tell you about UVA protection from wrinkling and aging. Most only deal with UVB protection against burning. For the safest protection from aging and burning, read labels. Shun chemical sunscreens in favor of physical sunblocks—products based on micro minerals such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide which won’t absorb the sun’s rays or react with your skin. Apply a sunblock a quarter of an hour before going out into the sun. Water resistant products are not what they seem. Their effectiveness is compromised by sweat and swimming. Reapply your sunblock often. If you are or have been using any kind of AHA’s, Retin-A or Renova or any other pharmaceuticals on your face, cover it with a hat as well as a physical sunblock and don’t spend a lot of time outdoors. Never get sunburnt—the damage it causes continues to get worse for 24 hours after the initial burn appears, and when the burn has been severe, can last a lifetime. Think twice before taking oral contraceptives or HRT. Use of these hormone-based drugs is correlated with a three times greater risk of sunburn and skin damage. Take a tip from the Arabs, who know a lot about sun protection. Cover your body well when you plan to spend long hours outdoors. Always wear a hat. Use one of the excellent non-reactive mineral-based makeup products on your face which last all day, look natural, cover your skin and reflect UV rays, while making your skin look fabulous. Devita Solar Body Block SPF 30 Natural, Safe, and Inexpensive Buy Devita Solar Body Block SPF 30 Jane Iredale Mineral Makeup GLOW TIME™ FULL COVERAGE MINERAL BB CREAM Glow Time comes in six great colors, covers blemishes, minimizes pores, disguises wrinkles and smoothes and brightens skin while providing SPF 25 UVA?UVB PA++ Buy Jane Iredale Mineral Makeup

Ten Steps To Energy

Ten Steps To Energy

“I’ve got no energy.” It’s the complaint I hear most often from men and women...an experience which carries endless consequences: feeling sluggish, unmotivated, and devoid of the sparkle that makes life enjoyable. In truth, energy potential is still there within you. It just needs to be rediscovered and set free. Begin by listening to the whispers of your soul, and the rest will come naturally. I’d like to share with you my Ten Steps to Energy. They work. For some they have even been life-changing. So let’s get started… STEP ONE—GET INTO BODY Did you know that how you think and feel are inextricably linked to how well your body functions? Mind and body are integrated through our nerve pathways, hormones and chemical messengers. The first step, therefore, requires a real change of perspective. Start to see your body as not external to yourself: but as the physical expression of who you are. Decide you matter. Decide that you have a right to energy. You do. STEP TWO—RECORD IT As when embarking on any new journey, it helps to know where you’re starting from. So as you’re starting the energy journey, take note of where you are now. Start an energy diary. Try writing down a few sentences about how you think and feel, where you want to be, and record anything you think may be holding you back. Form a crystal clear vision of what you are seeking to achieve. The clearer your visualization, the easier it becomes to make high energy a reality. STEP THREE—FIND THE DRAINERS Unfortunately, our world is filled with external energy parasites. Environmental poisons—like pesticides, solvents, estrogens, heavy metals, junk foods. Then there are the inner energy thieves: Negative emotions. Addictions. Low self-esteem. With all these energy enemies pitted against us, it may seem like an uphill battle. But don’t be disheartened. Once you have identified the drainers at work in your life, you can take action to fight them. STEP FOUR—DO A HEALTH CHECK Not only are there environmental and emotional energy drainers to watch out for. Biochemical factors may also come into play. These include things like low blood sugar; allergies; anemia; yeast infections; leaky gut syndrome. How do we start addressing these drainers? Identify and eliminate foods from your diet which are causing or worsening these conditions. You might also want to supplement with the nutrients or digestive enzymes you’re low on. STEP FIVE—CLEAR THE JUNK So far you’ve started your energy journey and dealt with the baddies sapping your vitality. Now is the time for bold action. It’s time for a detox—spring cleaning your body from the inside out. Over the years, a less-than-optimum diet results in wastes building up in the tissues. The energy expended on dealing with these toxins is less energy for you to utilize. So it’s time to clear out the junk. Quite literally, throw away all your junk food. Drink plenty of water. Try a fruit-fast for a day or two. Then you’re ready for the next step—making alterations to the kind of foods you were eating before. STEP SIX—EAT REAL FOODS Too few people know that grains and grain-based products are terrible for energy levels—especially in the amounts that many of us eat them in. This is cutting edge science—still ignored by the media and much of the medical profession as a result of pressures from Big Pharma and the multinational convenience food industry, as well as the FDA. Grains, cereals, convenience foods—which most of the western world lives on—turn rapidly into glucose when we eat them. This creates serious health issues: Weight gain in those with a genetic propensity to it, rapid aging, and degenerative diseases such as heart disease, arthritis, and even cancer. This is hot stuff, yet still largely unrecognized by most. A high-energy way of eating shuns them. It emphasizes lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, pulses, sprouted seeds and lean, high-quality proteins. STEP SEVEN—EAT MORE SUPERFOODS Next, it’s time to acquaint yourself with some of Nature’s superfoods. To name just a few: Spirulina—seaweeds— chlorella, white tea, immune-enhancing mushrooms like shiitaki and maitake. Tap into their amazing power. You won’t look back. STEP EIGHT—GET MOVING Pick a physical activity that you absolutely love, and get into it. It can be anything you like, so long as it’s regular (done maybe three times a week), consistent (lasting 20 to 30 minutes each time), rhythmic, and uses plenty of large muscle groups. If you’re stuck for ideas, here are a few suggestions: Walking. Easily incorporated into daily life, and a great option if you’re unfit. Yoga. Incredibly adaptable and practical, especially for frequent travelers. Rebounding (bouncing up and down on a mini-trampoline). So much fun, and perfect to do at home, regardless of your fitness level. It may be a little hard to get started, but once you do, you’ll look forward to it. Exercise becomes a reward in itself. STEP NINE—LAUGH IT OFF You’ve learnt the serious stuff. Now it’s time to start living with energy and joy. Laughter is a great way to start. It’s good for your immune system and your entire body. Seek out and spend time with the people whose sense of humor you love. Watch wonderful comedy movies like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Bowfinger, Roxanne. They will cheer you up endlessly and help you energize your life. STEP TEN—LOOK AHEAD We’ve now come full circle. Go back to your energy diary and the questions you asked yourself in step two. Have your answers changed? Set some more goals, and be specific. Ask yourself positive questions, and record answers when they come. Make a long-term energy plan featuring aspects of the other steps you found most helpful. Remember, the energy process is an ongoing journey. And it’s an amazing one. Enjoy it!

How Not To Catch Colds And Flu

How Not To Catch Colds And Flu

Each year we hear about some “deadly” new strain of flu. The powers-that-be incessantly spread fearful propaganda about their dangers. So much so that vaccination has now become widespread from cradle to grave. Despite all the media hype, we know little about the long-term consequences of most inoculations being forced upon us today. We do know that some of these vaccines provoke illnesses they are supposed to be preventing. Meanwhile, what few are aware of as yet is this: Microchip implants have become so small now that they can be, and frequently are, injected direct into the human body via a hypodermic needle while a vaccination is being given. This is without consent. Many are injected into the bodies of newborn babies. There the implant remains. Thanks to its presence in the body, with the help of satellites, any implanted person can potentially be tracked anywhere on the planet, since these minute implants respond to low-frequency radio waves. Enough about these questionable high-tech practices. When it comes to prevention and treatment, I’ll opt for nature power every time. Simple herbs work better and are far safer. They keep me from being laid low by illness even when people all around me are dropping like flies. NATURE’S WAY If you are generally healthy, yet lead a stressful lifestyle, the occasional cold is simply your body’s way of getting rest and clearing out toxins. However, if you find yourself spending most of the winter with your nose in a handkerchief, then it is time to take preventative action. Both colds and flu are viruses. There are many plant friends that can help protect from them. Viruses cannot replicate themselves without entering your own cells and altering their function. If you can prevent a virus invading your cells, you will stop cold and flu in their tracks. Giving your immune system a boost for the colds and flu season is the key to doing this. Eat well—plenty of fresh vegetables and some low-glycemic fruit, and cut out all the packaged convenience foods. They are worthless when it comes to protecting or enhancing your health. AT FIRST SNIFFLE The moment you feel you may be coming down with something, it’s time to listen to your body. You might like to stop eating cooked food and go raw. In such circumstances, I often don’t eat anything at all—just take live, fresh organic juices like carrot, spinach, apple, celery, kale—whatever I have in the house or can pick up at the market. Animals stop eating when they feel unwell. So do children. The body needs all its strength to get rid of the invasion. Trust this. Boost your immunity by wrapping yourself in your favorite blanket, watch your favorite film or listen to music you like. Have a glass of juice or, if you prefer something warm, a bowl of tonic soup. Remember, your body is trying to clear itself of stuff that does not belong in it. Make time to let the clearing take place. GOOD OLD VITAMIN C Remember the discoveries of two Nobel Prize winners—back when the Nobel Prize still meant something: Begin by taking at least 4 to 8 grams of vitamin C a day. This may sound excessive, but if you are under-the-weather or your immune system needs a boost, you will soak up vitamin C like blotting paper. It’s worth remembering that we don’t make our own vitamin C like other animals. If we were goats, we would be making 5 grams of vitamin C per day or more for ourselves. The body simply flushes out any vitamin C it doesn’t need. If you find your bowel movements are loose, reduce the amount you are taking a little. You can rest assured that your cells are being adequately flushed in ascorbic acid. Look for a supplement that has bioflavonoids in it as well. And if you have a delicate tummy, go for a brand that’s “buffered.” Personally, I take 3 grams of Vitamin C 3 or 4 times a day when I feel a cold or flu threatening, until 2 days after all symptoms have disappeared. SWEET PROTECTION Astragalus is the root of the yellow vetch plant. Unlike many herbs, it actually tastes good. Creamy yellow, it’s a favorite among the Chinese for strengthening digestion, overcoming chronic weakness, and enhancing wound-healing. Astragalus brings deep strength to the immune system, increasing the number and quality of white blood cells used to fight infection. It even boosts the production of interferon. This is why it is often used with HIV and cancer patients whose immune systems have been undermined by chemotherapy or radiation. Astragalus is also an adaptogen, a plant which is often called a ‘medicine for well people’ that, taken over time, brings strength and support to the whole body. Three cups of astragalus tea a day helps ward off colds and flu, so long as you take it consistently every day during the cold season. Chinese medicine defines ailments as being either ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ and herbs as being ‘warming’ or ‘cooling’. Astragalus is a warming herb to be used with ‘cold’ illness. Use it for protection as well as an immune boost after any bout of cold or flu. Organic astragalus is increasingly available in herb stores dried and shredded. Bought from Chinese pharmacies and Asian markets, dried astragalus root looks like ice-lolly sticks. It is cheap and simple to prepare, and it makes a mild, sweet tea. Look for sticks which are long and thick, firm yet bendable with a few striations. They should have a sweet taste when you chew on them. DRINK ASTRAGALUS TEA I make enough for three or four cups at a time. This recipe can make a sweet chilled drink, but I prefer to reheat mine and drink it warm. Here’s how: Put 6 sticks of astragalus, 3 pieces of licorice root sticks and a 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thinly, into a saucepan (not aluminum or non-stick). Pour 1 ½ liters (just over 2 ½ pints) of cold water over the herbs and bring the mixture to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Take it off the heat and allow to stand for 10 minutes. Strain and keep in the fridge. (You can also buy astragalus herb tea in a packet, which you can prepare as you would a cup of ordinary tea.) ELDERBERRIES FROM THE GARDEN Elderberries too make an excellent healing tea. It has been shown in trials to help protect from infection. If ever you do succumb to flu or a cold, elderberry tea can shorten the length of time you are ill. If you are one of those people who tend only to be recovering from one illness when another hits, these wonderful berries can help break the chain and give you time to recover completely. The way it works against flu is fascinating: The flu virus breaks into healthy cells by piercing them with spikes on its surface. Elderberry appears to make these spikes useless, so defeating the virus before it has had a chance to do any damage. You can make your own Elderberry tea from the garden. Here’s how: Put 2 tablespoons of crushed fresh or frozen elderberries in a tea pot. Pour three cups of boiling water over them and steep for 5 minutes. Strain and drink. JAPANESE HELPERS Shiitake and Maitake mushrooms not only taste delicious, they contain excellent immune strengthening compounds, among them the compound lentinan. This phytochemical helps lower elevated cholesterol. It also boasts anti-aging and anti-tumor properties. You can take Shiitake and Maitake in capsules or as extracts, but I prefer eating the mushrooms themselves. I soak the dried mushrooms and put them in salads, soups and stir-fries. All of these will help you to ward off colds if you make them a part of your daily life. You won’t get their full benefits, however, unless you support your body with a good supply of all the nutrients it needs for good health. HOW TO LIVE A COLD-FREE LIFE 1. Cut back or eliminate completely cereal-based, grain-based and sugar-based carbs. 2. Eat a large, raw salad once a day. This is the best possible way of enabling your body to rebalance and rebuild itself, restoring metabolism to its peak level. Choose high-quality real foods. Shun all packaged convenience stuff. 3. Eat plenty of ‘high water’ foods. Your body is 70% water. For it to cleanse itself properly, it’s useful to make at least 50-75% of your daily diet high-water foods—fresh, low-glycemic fruit and vegetables—most of them eaten raw. This is one of the easiest stay-healthy guidelines to keep. If you are eating fruits or vegetables for breakfast and at least one big salad a day, it just about takes care of itself. 4. Don’t eat between meals. If you are truly hungry, have a piece of non-sugary fruit such as berries or some crunchy raw vegetables. Your system thrives when you give it time to complete the digestion of a meal before you put anything else into it. Four or five hours should elapse between lunch and dinner, otherwise digestion (never at its best when you are unwell anyway) can be incomplete. 5. Drink plenty of clean water—up to 3 liters a day if you have a cold or feel yourself coming down with one. Avoid coffee, milk, which is mucus forming, and alcohol. Instead, drink plenty of filtered water. Take advantage of the huge number of delicious herb teas now available. 6. Try sprinkling a handful of sage or eucalyptus (or a few drops of the essential oil) onto a bowl of hot water and inhale the steam to ease any respiratory difficulties—cover your head and the bowl with a towel to keep the steam in. Celebration Herbals Organic Astragalus Root Tea Astragalus is one of the most famous herbs used traditionally in China. The long oval leaves have a feathery appearance and the Astragalus puts forth handsome bell shaped flowers with pale yellow petals. The root, which is used in herbal preparations, has a yellowish white interior and faint sweet taste Buy Celebration Herbals Organic Astragalus Root Tea Celebration Herbals Organic Elderberry Herbal Tea The Elder is a legendary tree, considered magical and sacred in folklore and myths. Some herb manuals refer to it as the medicine chest of the country people. The Elder Tree produces creamy-white flowers in late spring which give way to bunches of juicy, purplish black berries in early autumn. Birds love Elderberries and will eat entire crops if given the opportunity, so harvesting must be done quickly. Buy Celebration Herbals Organic Elderberry Herbal Tea Mushroom Wisdom Super Shiitake Tablets Paradise Imperial Mushroom Blend is a Full Spectrum hot water extracted concentrated formula. It provides a complete full spectrum with active levels of polysaccharides in the balanced ratio nature intended without isolating, fractionizing or using toxic solvents, harsh chemicals or gases to ensure all active and synergistic constituents are present. Buy Mushroom Wisdom Super Shiitake Tablets

Life Force

Life Force

The secrets of aging are hidden deep within the molecular structure of the living organism. One of the great biological mysteries, aging is a universal phenomenon - a simple fact of being alive. But how rapidly it occurs is by no means universal. By now much research has been carried out into the processes of aging and all sorts of theories have developed about how and why it happens. The aging clock theory sees aging as programmed by a preset number of cell divisions, the time between which is said to determine our life span. The cross-linking of protein theory suggests that molecular alterations in the body's protein molecules cause micro fibers to be laid down creating loss of elasticity, stiffness and degeneration. The errors in DNA theory insists that chemical exposure, general toxicity and basic genetic tendencies distort the genetic material of cells so they can no longer reproduce normally. Still other theories claim aging comes from changes in brain function to undermine the function and regulation of balance in hormones and the nervous system, or from auto immunity where the immune function declines, or from stress. The one thing that all theories of aging seem to have in common is recognition that degeneration is associated with free radical damage. The more free radical damage takes place, the older you get. The more you are protected from free radical damage the more you are protected from aging.

Inhale

Inhale

Like music and meditation, aromatics can be used to alter your consciousness and deepen your awareness. Using environmental fragrances is also a delightful way of lifting your mood and sharpening your mind. A cool whiff of neroli sets your brain racing. Sniffing white rose can nestle you down into the most enjoyable indolence. Immerse yourself in the rich warmth of the ambergris and, even if you are the most timid of creatures, you can begin to feel bold and daring. Tibetan lamas mix an extraordinary combination of herbs and flowers to produce an incense which heightens concentration and centers the mind for meditation. In ancient times, temple prostitutes knew every secret of blending aromatics to create a heady aphrodisiac which was completely irresistible to their worshippers. And astrologers advised their clients which balm to use when a specific planet made particular transits in their chart. The special substances that make all this possible are the plant essences - the light, fine, almost etheric essential oils taken from roots, leaves, barks and flowers of plants in their prime of life. A plant essence plays an important role in the plant's growth to maturity, is forever changing its chemical composition in the plant, and is present in greater quantities in young plants. Many experts in the use of plant essences believe that, in some way that no one has been able to identify, these substances contain much of the life force of the plant, including the basic characteristics of its leaves and flowers that give it a unique character, smell and ability to affect human beings in specific ways. Some plants, such as jasmine and rose, require hundreds of pounds of live flowers to produce even a tiny bottle of the essence. They are very expensive. Other oils, such as cinnamon and basil, are easily extracted and inexpensive. But you should know that the 'synthetic' version of a plant essence (in spite of the fact that its main constituents have been chemically reproduced) does not have the same effect on a person. This is probably because the terpene alcohols, phenols and esters that make up these natural substances have a synergistic quality - they work together to produce an effect greater than the sum of each working on its own. Some natural therapists rely on many plant essences for their restorative and stimulating actions in treatments for skin and hair, as well as for combating cellulite. They are also important constituents in many expensive face creams and lotions. But the way in which aromatic vibrations from essential oils can be used in your environment to alter mood and mind is something quite different from their therapeutic uses, when mixed with carrier oils and spread on the skin in aromatherapy treatments. Oil of geranium, for instance, is a mild diuretic useful in aromatherapy for treating fluid retention, eczema and anxiety. But burn it as incense, or let it diffuse into your environment as a fragrance, and it can make you act with uncharacteristic rashness - an effect quite separate from its therapeutic properties. Aromatherapy is a tool for healing. Aromatics belong to the realm of magic. The best way to discover what its magic can do for you is to experiment with a few of the real essences. Start with six, and then enlarge your repertoire as you get to know the quality and characteristics of each, and as you discover those you particularly like. Because they are natural substances, and highly volatile, they rapidly diffuse into the environment. They just as rapidly disappear or can be replaced by other fragrances. When you choose essences and oils for burning, make absolutely sure that those you buy are natural. The current fascination with aromatherapy has led to the appearance of a myriad of poor quality so-called essential oils, which are nothing of the kind. They are cheap chemical analogues and are currently being sold in chemists, department stores and specialty shops all over. Trying to use them for mind-bending is a grave mistake. They can actually make you feel quite sick, not to mention the unpleasant fact that they tend to infuse into a room and then imbed themselves in the carpets, curtains and furniture with the tenacity of a cheap perfume. Only real essential oils have mind-bending magic. But what a wonderful magic that can be. Cedar heightens creativity Chamomile soothes panic and hysteria Marjoram calms irritability, soothes panic Cinnamon is a natural stimulant Frankincense calms irritability and impatience Neroli is an anti shock aid, and heightens mental functions Basil banishes fear and indecision, and is antidepressant Clary sage clears the head after mental activity Juniper improves concentration, and banishes fear Sage dispels anxiety Lily restores energy Geranium is anti-anxiety Ylang Ylang is aphrodisiac and antidepressant Lavender calms irritability, and soothes impatience Patchouli is an antidote to apathy, and is good against exhaustion Peppermint uplifts the spirit, is good against apathy, and is a mental stimulant Jasmine is an antidote to shyness Sandalwood helps new ways of thinking Rosewood calms an aggressive mind Vanilla heightens nostalgia - especially for childhood USING AROMATICS FOR MINDBENDING * Put 30 to 50 drops of essential oil or oils into a half pint size spray bottle filled with water. (The kind you use to spray plants is ideal.) Use this mixture as a room spray. * Put 8 to 10 drops of essential oils on a small piece of cardboard and place it on a warm radiator. * Put 5-10 drops of an essence on a small plate and put it on top of an aga or wood stove. * Place a few drops of essential oils on a cotton or linen handkerchief and sniff it periodically. (This is a particularly good method if you are in a public place where the air is full of cigarette smoke or the room is stuffy.) * Place 10-15 drops in water which is simmering on a hob. This will humidify the environment as well as scenting it.

Color Your Life

Color Your Life

Color matters. Seeing, wearing, or being exposed to a color - whether in the form of cloth or pigment or light - affects you below the level of your conscious mind. It can make you feel happy or sad, aggressive or peaceful, determined or indifferent. Each color has its own personality, and appears to offer a particular quality of energy for work as well. Researchers have found, for instance, that the color green can help provide 'elasticity of will' which makes you able to persist despite opposition or setbacks to finish a task. Exposure to green can also enhance your sense of self-esteem. Red's "workforce" is different altogether. The color red represents the power of will to strive for effective action, and exposure to it can help develop the will power. Yellow, the other color particularly useful for work, brings the spontaneous enjoyment of action and the ability to project yourself beyond your present work goal towards the future. Colors also have strong emotional or symbolic qualities. Blue symbolizes the feminine and the mystic. It is a color that tends to make people feel peaceful and calm. Red incites sensuality, voluptuousness and sometimes anger. Yellow makes you more cheerful. Violet symbolizes the magical; black, renunciation. And color's affects are not just psychological either. Because of the complex way in which exposure to various colors acts via the brain upon the autonomic nervous system, exposure to a specific color can even alter physiological measurements such as blood pressure, electrical skin resistance, and glandular functions in your body. color as energy Like both light and heat, color is an easily defined part of a whole gamut of energy, which comes to us from the sun and other sources. It is the part that makes itself easily perceptible to the human senses by reflecting off or interacting with matter. While heat is the perceptible effect of disturbed oscillation of atomic particles, light is the visible reflection off the particles in the atmosphere. Color makes up a band of these light wave frequencies from red at 1/33,000th's of an inch wavelength to violet at 1/67,000 of an inch wavelength. Below red lie infrared and radio waves; above it you find the invisible ultraviolet, x-rays, and gamma rays. The colors we see are nothing more than the vibrationary rebound of frequencies which a particular object has refused to absorb. For instance, black hair absorbs all the color rays and gives back none, while snow rejects them giving them all back. That is why it appears white. A red flower has absorbed all except that which we interpret as red, and so on. The colors we see are wavelengths of energy that our brain interprets as seven basic shades or hues: red, yellow, green, blue, white, black and violet. And the experience of these frequency rebounds affects us profoundly and subliminally. As one highly respected color researcher puts it: Colors are not only and usually, not even primarily 'recognized', but they are felt, as exciting or soothing, dissonant or harmonious... joyous or somber, warm or cool, disturbing and distracting, or conductive to concentration and tranquility. And one of the remarkable things about the affective and biochemical powers of color is that they do not appear to be dependent on a person or animal seeing a color for it to work its magic. Russian scientists experimenting with the blind have found that earlobes and fingertips are highly sensitive to color. So probably are other parts of the body. And many studies show that even a blindfolded animal or person exposed to specific colors by having pigments rubbed on them, by shining light on the skin, or even being made to live in an environment of a carefully chosen shade will register predictable physiological and psychological responses. Learning about color's affective qualities and putting color to use can not only enhance your spirits and improve your looks; it may even improve your health and expand your consciousness. ancient color practices Although color effects are now beginning to be studied and described in biochemical terms or in the language of modern physics, the health benefits and consciousness-altering effects of color being used by these color therapists are not a new discovery. Celsus, the famous Roman physician of the first century AD, used colored plasters on the skin to promote healing, and prescribed medicines in specific colors to treat different ailments. In the Middle Ages different colored rooms were "prescribed" to heal various sicknesses. And ancient religious traditions reflect a clear awareness of the energy variations we now measure as wavelengths of different colors. They knew, for instance, that red has the slowest rate of vibration and the longest wavelength, while violet was energy vibrating at the highest rate with the shortest wavelength. And they associated the different colors and their vibrations with the specific energy centers or chakras in the body - three dimensional pulsating wheels which can be seen by clairvoyants, and are said to be centers in the energy body that govern physical and emotional changes in a person. Chakras are much represented in Eastern religions. (Even Christian art traditions acknowledge chakra energy when they depict saints radiating a halo from the head.) The halo represents the highest chakra - what the Buddhists call the "Thousand Petal Lotus" - but there are said to be seven chakras in all, each believed to be responsible for regulating energy in specific systems and parts of the body. Red is said govern the lowest reproductive chakra at the base of the body, and to impart a strong physical energy. The orange related chakra at the navel is concerned with digestion, while the yellow chakra at the solar plexus is said to be linked with certain emotional states and associated with the functions of organs such as the pancreas and the liver. Green is the color linked to the heart chakra, and with the qualities of courage and love. The blue center in the throat is known as the chakra of higher creativity and of self- expression. The color indigo belongs to the brow chakra, and is said to be concerned with such qualities as intuition, and right-brain-dominated thinking. The violet chakra, which is supposed to be situated at the crown of the head, is said to be linked with the body via the pituitary gland and the endocrine system as a whole. And, while color therapists who claim to work with chakra energies are quick to point out that many different colors can appear in the various chakras at the same time, visualizing or being exposed to the colors most associated with each, they say, can dramatically improve the functioning of that chakra and those physical and psychic links with it. We use color a great deal in our lives - to change our moods or to intensify them, and to explore different kinds of feeling and response. Following the ancient color chakra guidelines, you can buy color gels and place then on lights or windows where the natural light shining through creates wonderful prisms. You can experiment with different colors of fabric stretched over home made frames, or with huge pieces of brightly colored paper hung on the walls and changed frequently. You can play with color changes in what you wear and see how different this makes you feel and how different colors seem to bring out different parts of your nature. We like to color old tee shirts using fabric dyes in different shades such as clear green, yellow, apricot and brilliant orange. It is remarkable how changing the colors you wear can alter the way you feel and your sense of your self. And not only is exploring the effects of color rewarding in terms of exploring your own physical and psychic energies, the experience of playing with color can be sheer delight.

My Love Affair With Plants

My Love Affair With Plants

For more than a million years, our ancestors lived with herbs. They cooked with them, healed with them, used them to scent their bodies and sanctify their prayers. On a molecular level, the human body recognizes herbs when we take them. Get to know the nature of a few specific plants and they will enhance your life immeasurably. In a very real sense, we can come to know an herb the way a woman knows her lover. The spirit of a plant meets the spirit of a human. Expect magic. You won’t be disappointed. A FINE ROMANCE My own passion for herbs began when I discovered the help they could bring me and my family. Simple plants such as nettle or golden rod (Solidago virgauria) have a natural cleansing and diuretic effect on my body. Traveling on airplanes, my ankles used to swell up. I discovered when I got home and made a cup of golden rod or nettle tea, the swelling would vanish. Fascinated, I began to read about what herbs can do for the immune system. I began to experiment with other plants—goldenseal and echinacea, burdock and shiitake mushrooms. I began to give herbs to my whole family whenever any of us threatened to come down with flu or a cold. I discovered that, provided we took them in time, one or a combination of plants would clear the problem before the full force of any illness hit. A doctor friend, Gordon Latto, taught me that gargling with red sage and sticking a clove of garlic in its paper shell in between the teeth and the inside of the mouth for a few hours a day would clear a sore throat and nip throat infections in the bud. I began to wonder just how many other remarkable things plants could do for us. THE SUPERB ADAPTOGENS I was lucky enough to meet with the famous Russian scientist I.I. Brekhman, expert in adaptogenic herbs, who won the Lenin Prize for Science. From him I learned that the adaptogens such as ginseng, eluthrococcus or Siberian Ginseng, and Suma from South America strengthen a person’s ability to resist illness as well as making it possible for us to work and play longer and harder without experiencing the negative effects of prolonged stress. That was thirty years ago. Since then I have come to use herbs and flowers, fresh raw juices and vegetables, water and tender loving care to help the body protect itself from illness, heal a sickness when it struck, calm an agitated mind, induce slumber when unable to sleep, clear depression, and care for my skin. I have also learned to use herbs to decorate my house and sanctify my working space. I also fell in love with photographing them. Meanwhile, I raised four children without antibiotics or over-the-counter drugs thanks to the blessings of herbs. DAZZLING POWER The classic definition of an herb is ‘a non-woody plant which dies down to its roots each winter’. This definition is far too limiting. It was probably made up by 19th century European botanists who had never seen the rainforest in which, of course, there is no winter to die back in. Neither had they ever heard of woody trees and shrubs such as hawthorn, ginkgo and elder, which provide us with some of the best-selling herbs on the market these days. My own definition of an herb is simply a medicinal plant. It can come from any climate and be a leaf, a bark, a flower or a root. It can be home-grown or wild—a weed, a spice, a plant which is used for its healing, culinary or beautifying properties. So powerful are the health-enhancing capacities of herbs that a vast number of common prescription drugs have been derived from a mere 90 species of plants. According to Professor Norman Farnsworth—leading American expert in pharmacognosy at University of Illinois —74% of common drugs have been developed directly out of traditional native herb folklore. In the United States alone, the annual sales of prescription drugs developed from plant products used by tribal cultures is already in excess of $6 billion. Unlike prescription drugs, whose side-effects can be devastating, most herbs are both safe and simple to use. Most carry no side-effects at all. MEDICAL FAILURE The way we have thought about health and healing for the past century—what the experts call our biomedical model—has come to the limits of its usefulness. Conventional medical practices view the body as a collections of structures—bones and blood, cells and tissues. Common medical treatment consists of acting on these structures in a symptomatic way. Doctors give one drug to lower blood pressure or cholesterol, another to get rid of headaches or put you to sleep. Whether these drugs are medically prescribed or over-the-counter products, virtually all carry negative side effects. Most have no concern with genuine healing. They instead focus on ‘managing’ illness by suppressing symptoms. Herbal treatment, like all of the great natural approaches to health through history, looks at things differently. It insists that at every level of biological organisation—from chromosomes in our DNA all the way up to our eyes and toes, stomach and liver—the body has a stunning capacity for self-treatment. It is capable of removing damaged structures and renewing them on its own. The natural capacity of living organisms as complex as ours to regenerate themselves is something that symptomatic drug-based medicine ignores altogether. Yet self-regeneration lies at the very core of using natural foods, water, air and movement therapies, and of course herbs, to strengthen, balance or heal. Chinese medicine is functional medicine; it did not develop along structural lines as Western 20th century medicine did. So is Ayurvedic and Unani medicine from India, and nature-cure in the West. The Chinese pharmacopoeia is the richest in the world. Chinese doctors value plants for their ability to strengthen the body’s functioning, heighten its own defences and improve immunity. They use herbs, as we are only now beginning to in the West, to extend longevity, to increase resistance to illness, to heighten energy, and to calm disturbed emotions. BRING MAGIC INTO YOUR LIFE There is an endless parade of different ways you can use herbs. In the health food store and mail order catalogue you can find a confusing array of capsules, pills, tablets, extracts, tinctures and ‘whole herbs’ or ‘bulk herbs’, none of which seem to relate to the ‘infusion’ you have decided you would like to take. And what about the herbs you have growing in your garden? Here is a rough guide to finding your way through the confusion. First, find yourself a reputable supplier. I have a passion for iHerb.com, since the variety of herbal products they offer are the best and cheapest anywhere, and they ship worldwide. Personally, I’m wary of buying herbs in health food stores or pharmacies unless they come from a manufacturer or supplier I know. With a supplier you trust and with whom you can discuss your needs, you can be sure you are getting a good potency and that the herbs have not been sitting in a cupboard somewhere for months. BULK/DRIED/WHOLE HERBS What you are buying is a bag or box of a specific weight of dried herb, either in its whole form, crushed or powdered. This is the best way to purchase herbs if you want to make teas (infusions), decoctions, or your own capsules, or if you want to use them in potpourris and sachets. It is also about the cheapest way to buy dried herbs. TINCTURES A tincture uses alcohol diluted in water to draw out the plant’s chemical constituents and preserve them. You can buy tinctures by the bottle and they are pretty potent. You take from several drops to 1 teaspoon or more of a tincture in a little water several times a day if needed. Tinctures are best bought from a reputable supplier. You can make them yourself, but the process is less accurate than when they are professionally produced. I buy many herbs in tincture form as I find them so convenient. You will sometimes find a figure such as 1:4 on a bottle of tincture. This gives you the ratio of the weight of the herb—in this instance 1 part of herb—to alcohol/water mix. An herbalist may suggest you take a specific ratio in which case your supplier can advise, but for general usage you don’t need to know the ratio. EXTRACTS Extracts are easy to confuse with tinctures. They are far more concentrated. They aim to contain all the active chemicals of the plant, not only those that will dissolve in alcohol. Extraction processes vary from pressure rolling to heat treatment to vacuum extraction. These are best left to the experts. Extracts have a limited shelf life. They should be kept in the fridge. Herbalists often prescribe extracts during an illness, rather than using them for prevention. Extracts can also be useful to add to a cream or salve for external use: ¼ extract to ¾ base. They are pretty strong in their action. TABLETS, PILLS & CAPSULES Tablets, pills and capsules are often more readily than the loose dried herbs themselves. Tablets, pills and capsules usually contain the whole herb, not just the constituents extracted in a tincture or infusion. Therefore, in taking them, you are making use of the synergy in action between all the constituents of each plant. Choose those from a reputable manufacturer/supplier. Tablets are made from dried plant material—leaves, roots, bark and/or flowers—mixed with a base, sometimes lactose, both to help you hold them in your hand to take them and to aid absorption in the stomach. Pills are, basically, tablets with a coating. If the plant is sticky, smelly, or tastes dreadful—or all three—it is more likely to come in pill form than tablet form as the protein or sugar coating disguises less pleasant aspects of the plant. Usually I avoid these, since sugar in any form is far from beneficial. Capsules, made of gelatine or a vegetarian equivalent, are filled with dried herbs—even the stickier, smellier ones. They need to be stored in a cool, dry place, but they preserve herbs well. You can buy gelatine capsules from a chemist and fill them yourself, either with herbs you have dried yourself or with dried herbs you have bought in bulk. The standard 00 size capsule holds about ½ gram (500mg) of herb. Make sure the herb is ground into as fine a powder as possible before filling, so that it can be easily absorbed by the body. A WONDROUS WORLD Plants speak volumes when you know how to listen. One of the great joys of our herbal tradition has been the love affair that takes place when the spirit of an herb meets the spirit of the person using it. It is an old art by which, using your intuition and trusting your instinct, you can move towards an awareness of the central nature of a plant and how best it can be used. For example—the herb Leonurus cardiaca is a powerful strengthener of the heart, reducing tachycardia and hypertension and promoting normal heart action. The essence of its personality, however, is better expressed in its common name—motherwort. This herb has the ability to bring a sense of absolute security—the way a baby feels lying in the arms of its mother—during periods of deep and unsettling change. Every plant has secret wisdom and power. It will tell you its tales and offer its richness to you as you open your heart to it.

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