Looking Into Your Natural Medicine Cabinet

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It seems like everyone I know is publishing a book these days.  Which is great.  We can never have too many good books on health and healing, since, it seems to me, that that is the most important topic we could spend our time exploring.

The new book in question right now is Your Natural Medicine Cabinet, but Burke Lennihan.  It has a publication date of September 1, 2012, but it is available for purchase today.

What sets this book apart from others on similar topics is that, while this book is certainly homeopathy-centric, it is not limited just to homeopathic remedies.  Other therapies related to homeopathy, notably Bach Remedies and cell salts, are also considered, as are supplements and herbal remedies.

In other words, Your Natural Medicine Cabinet takes a more general, naturopathic approach to family health care.

 


The book is well written, well researched and very well organized.  Everything is according to diagnosis, with conditions listed alphabetically and treatments outlined for each condition.

So it should be very useful for many common household emergencies.  With one proviso:  you should never wait until the emergency to read the book.  Spend time with it when you get it. Absorb it, consider it.  Then, when the emergency comes and your husband has a toothache in the middle of the night, or you baby has a fever at 2:00 a.m., you will be much more centered and focussed in your reaction and much more helpful to your loved one.

One question, though.  Should I be bitter than, in listing her favorite books on homeopathy, Dana Ullman and Miranda Castro get the lion’s share, with Amy Lansky and Judyth Reichenber-Ullman also on the page, but none of my books are mentioned?  Surely not.  No.  Certainly not.

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Juicy Juicy

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I guess that it should not surprise me that I haven’t written as much about my experiences on the month-long journey of the juice fast as I’d intended to. The days have caught up with me. I’m surprised to look at the calendar and see only one more day left of fasting. I was on the phone with my naturopath two days ago, checking in with her, and going over some of the foods that I will be using as I start my raw diet for the next ninety days.

While I have done juice fasts before (I have habitually done juice fasts in the high heat of August every year, fasting as briefly as three days or for as long as the entire month, depending upon the year, my schedule and the way my body feels), I have never attempted a raw diet—vegetarian, yes, raw, no—before and needed some guidance.

I was pleased to hear from her that perfection is not required in a raw diet, that only about 80% of the foods need to be strictly raw and that I was allowed, for instance, brown rice (which I love) and baked tofu (ditto) while on the diet. I feel that with these allowances, and with the occasional baked sweet potato, I’ll be able to make the diet work, especially with the help of books like Raw Food Made Easy by Jennifer Cornbleet and Ani’s Raw Food Essentials by Ani Phyo to help offer food plans, great recipes and, perhaps most important, composed shopping lists for staple foods.

But I digress: the juice fast.

The who/what/when/where/how of it. The thing in life that I have found easiest and hardest, both at the same time.

The first thing you need to know about juice fasts is that you are not really fasting at all. You are flooding your body with every nutrient it needs, in a form in which it need not be digested, only absorbed directly so that every ounce of the goodness is easily used by your body. You will be amazed by the lack of waste. Your body will use everything you give it if your juice is well-composed. And the energy (and a great deal of energy it is) that your body usually uses for digestion is instead used to heal that which needs healing.

Thus, after a juice fast, I have been told by a dental assistant that I had the healthiest gums she’d ever seen. I have had my blood tested before and after juice fasts to prove that the process of fasting has a dynamic influence over everything, from high blood pressure to cholesterol to blood sugar.

Everything comes into balance; the body heals itself. This is the blessing of the juice fast.

Along with the complete detoxification that also takes place. Using only pure organic juice allows the body to flush out all that it is holding in. The bowels detoxify. (I leave that process to your imagination. I will only say that that part of the fast—the first ten days or so—is unpleasant.) The body breaks down fat that is has hurriedly stored, in which it places excess sugars, uric acid, etc. (Also no fun, but the way you feel after it has been broken down and the toxins flushed away is well worth it.)

The process of detox can be harsh; the person fasting may need to use probiotics to support this phase and may also need to use a source of protein (I use brown rice protein powder) to supplement the juice in order to keep strength up. Once the detox phase passes (you can see it pass by watching your tongue, which will at first be thickly coated and later a clean pink as the toxins leave your system), the fast becomes pleasant.

I have never experienced actual hunger while on the fast. Because I make sure that I have plenty of juice at all times. I make sure I am satisfied; so what I miss is not actually eating but chewing. There is something in the act of chewing that is pleasurable. Believe me, you miss it when it’s gone.

To give you some general information about juice fasts, it’s important, right up front, to point out that they should always be undertaken with the agreement of and supervision of your health care professional. Like anything else that dynamically impacts health, they should never be done in secret. (It always amazes me how many Americans feel that their health care professional should be able to help them, even though they keep secrets form them, go to other doctors to get other pills that they want that they never mention to their primary care doctor. They abuse the trust that exists between themselves and their doctors and then get angry when that doctor can’t help them to get well.)

Once you’ve set up the terms of the fast (and, as I’ve said, they can be as brief as three days or as long as thirty—after thirty days, the body may begin to digest muscle as well as fat, and we don’t want that, so thirty days is the absolute limit, even though I tend to feel, after three weeks in, as if I could fast endlessly, which is when my naturopath steps in and tells me to stop), you begin to prepare yourself for it.

First, you need a proper juicer. There are many on the market. Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that Breville makes the best juicers. They are expensive, but they have strong motors that last a long time, sharp blades and, best of all, wide mouths that all whole apples to pass into the machine without needing to be chopped. You can do the research for yourself; there are many fine juicers on the market. But one tip: don’t bother with those under a hundred dollars. They never work right and break immediately under constant use (and during the fast they will be used constantly).

Find the juicer that is right for you and order it. While you are waiting for it to arrive, begin to prepare yourself for the fast. You can’t just start fasting, you must allow your body to slowly prepare itself.

You do this by dropping specific foods over the days. Stop meat first, then the rest of animal proteins (dairy, eggs and the like), then stop with any processed foods, like catsup, and then stop with the carbs, like rice or wheat, and then slowly winnow down off vegetables and fruit alike until you are ready to let go completely. I take a week to do this. (On the other end of the fast, you have to do the exact same thing and add foods in slowly, slowly to allow your body to adjust.)

Then, juicer in hand, you begin. Over the years, I have always used a full array of fruits and vegetables when I’ve fasted. I would make “meal” juices of vegetables and “snack” juices out of fruit.

This time, I decided to do a much stricter fast. One that involved only green vegetables. So I was juicing kale, Swiss chard, cucumber, zucchini, celery, cabbage, parsley, watercress, and the like. For fun, I occasionally threw in carrots (too much sugar for this fast, so I limited them), tomatoes, and radishes.

What I have found is that the juice fast that involves fruit juices in easier and more fun, with its balance of sweet and savory juice, but the fast like the one I am on now, the fast involving green vegetables only is deeper and far more powerful. I’ve lost more weight on this fast than I have on any other. It also has cut through bloating, and given me a deeper sense of detoxification as well. I recommend it, although it is a more difficult fast.

In fact, as I look over the last paragraph, I see that I (subconsciously?) omitted broccoli from the list of things I juiced. Perhaps because I’ve found broccoli juice to be the single worst taste I’ve ever had on my tongue. And yet, broccoli is such a powerfully healing food, it is needed to be included in the juice. (By all means, mix some coconut water—you can find raw coconut water if you are a stickler—and some green tea into the juice to cut it and give it a sweeter, more pleasant flavor.)

I make three juices a day and I make about 30 to 40 fluid ounces at a time. This is a lot of juice, several glasses per juicing. But in this way, as I’ve said, I never experience hunger.

It is important that you drink the juice within fifteen or twenty minutes of juicing for best benefit, but, as we live in an imperfect world in which we tend to be running around all the time, it is possible to keep juice for a few hours. It won’t be as good as it would have been in the first few minutes, but what can you do? Just keep it in a closed, opaque container, like a water bottle. Don’t let the air get to it, or the juice will oxidize like an apple that has had its skin removed. Nothing will kill the benefit of the juice faster than contact with air. And make sure the container is opaque to keep it away from sunlight as well. Finally, keep it cold. Either in a hamper, like you’d use on a picnic—I know people who keep these in their trunks to protect their juice during the workday—or the refrigerator.

Finally, there is one other aspect of the juice fast that I want to mention: time.

You will find that, during the fast, you have so much more of it. You don’t take hours a day to prepare food. You don’t take more hours to eat it. When on the fast, I find that I have more time for myself and my thoughts than at any other time. And this is great, because I also find that, during the fast, while my body heals, my mind and spirit do also. In taking the time to slow down, to rest (and you do have to rest as much as possible as you simply will not have all the energy that you regularly do and because rest is key to the healing process), issues that have been as or more toxic to the body than sugar, flour, etc, will also be washed away. The fast brings a mental and spiritual clarity as well as physical.

As I said in the beginning of this post, I was talking to my naturopath the other day to help set up the plan for the days ahead when I step away from fasting (which is, strangely akin to going away to a health spa, even if you are at home in your own bed, kitchen, etc) and return to eating.

What I haven’t shared as yet is what I said to her. I told her that, since beginning my fast, I’ve been sleeping deeply, drinking in sleep. I’ve awakened energized, where I usually awaken to find myself still exhausted. I’ve lost weight—about twenty-five pounds so far. All bloat is gone. My feet have bones showing. My chin has reappeared and the shape of my face has changed from round to the oblong thing that is was twenty years ago. My skin is clearer and the texture of it has changed. My energy is up—in the last week or so of the fast, it always amazes me how much energy that I have in spite of not having had a solid meal in weeks.

My naturopath said to me, “You sound so good.” She sounded very pleased. Then I thanked her for her help and said that she had quite literally given me my life back. The arthritic pains that trouble me constantly have fades. My joints are fluid. My feet don’t hurt. I now have dropped two pants sizes and one shoe size. I’ve even dropped as ring size. Best of all, I look and feel younger, rejuvenated.

“The only thing that worries me,” I said to my doctor, “Is where I will be in five years. Will I be able to keep this up?”

“As long as you know me you will,” she answered.

I found this very comforting.

Do-It-Yourself Medicine: Does Homeopathy Offer the ONLY form of Effective, Safe and Affordable Medicine?

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A hundred or more years ago now–roughly the time between the Civil War through the whole of the Great Depression, it is said that every home in New England had a homeopathic kit under the bed.  And that the woman of the house knew how to use it.  During that same time period, between one third and one half of all the doctors in the United States used homeopathic remedies to one degree or another.  “Eclectic physicians” roamed the land–practitioners who today we would call naturopaths, who exclusively used natural therapies to strength the immune system and to combat disease.

Then things began to change.  We moved into a period in which antibiotics and steroids seemingly replaced the need for natural medicine, specifically for homeopathy.  During these years–the period of time in which I was born and grew to adulthood, always partaking freely of all that allopathic medicine had to offer–homeopathy came to be seen as old-fashioned. Then it was seen as something silly.  And then, with the best efforts of the quackbusters, as the worst form of medical fraud.

In this environment and during this period of time, only those who, like me, experienced a total failure of allopathic medicine in our own lives were ultimately desperate enough to give homeopathy a try.  Personally, when I attended my first lecture on the subject in the summer of 1980 (having moved to the state of Connecticut, which, unbeknownst to me, was a hotbed of homeopathy), I made so much fun of the subject matter and of the speaker–an unfortunate little gentleman with a bow tie and a passionate dedication to what I thought was the stupidest excuse for “Medical treatment” that I had ever heard of–that I not only was personally unmoved by his lecture, but managed to undermine his message for everyone in the room, thanks to the series of bon mots that I delivered in not too much of a sotto voce from the back row.  I sat with my arms folded, staring at my red Converse All-Stars, waiting for the lecture to end.  Peggy, my friend who had brought me, was red-faced.  She jabbed me in the side with her elbow, but I was enjoying the moment too much to stop.  And, besides, it was all just too easy:  Microdoses?  Come on.  Like Cures Like?  On what planet?

It was voodoo to me.

It was still voodoo when I ultimately went to see my first homeopath. By then, I was producing TV for PBS stations in New England and co-hosting my own show as well.  The job was good, but stressful.  I developed colitis which morphed into Crohn’s Disease and, after I got a prognosis of a strong likelihood of colon cancer at some point in the future, I decided what so many others have decided:  that I had nothing to lose by giving homeopathy a try.

Where allopathy couldn’t cure me–despite the fact workers had good health insurance in those days and I lived in a state with some of the best medical professionals in the nation–homeopathy did.  It’s just that simple.  It wasn’t overnight.  But I improved seemingly overnight.  Within days of my first visit, and within hours of taking my first remedy, Sulphur, I improved dramatically.  And I haven’t had a bout of colitis in over twenty years.  It’s gone.  I am healed of it.

That’s my story in a nutshell.  It was a common enough story in the ’70s and ’80s and ’90s.  But things are different now.  Not that we have found a better form of medicine, something that works better than homeopathy.  No, what has changed is the sheer number of people who are now desperate as I was desperate.  In this time of great economic strife, with millions unemployed and many, many millions uninsured or underinsured when it comes to health care–and, worst of all, in a time in which our politicians are using health reform as a means of getting votes and not as an issue that needs to be tackled head on and solved (Are you listening Congressman Boehner, you of the orange face and the shriveled heart?)–the crisis and the desperation is not being caused by any one illness, but, instead, by the fact that so many of us have no means of getting any form of healthcare.  We have no access to it.  We can’t afford it.  I have been denied health insurance for years now–not because I can’t afford it, but because I inherited labile hypertension from my father and therefore can’t find an insurer who will cover me.  (Are you listening, Mr. President–when you push for coverage of pre-existing conditions, could you also push for a cap on how much the insurers can charge me before you force me by law to buy health insurance?  Just a thought…)

With so many of us uninsured, unemployed, underinsured and underemployed, we need to take a tip from the New England housewives of old:  we need to all have a homeopathic remedy kit under our beds, and we need to learn how to use it.

I’ve spent thirty years of my life studying, teaching and writing about homeopathy and I have learned the following:  it is a safe form of self-treatment, it is a form of self-treatment that the average lay person can learn to use effectively and appropriately for typical household emergencies, it is a surprisingly cheap form of medical treatment, and it is, above all else, a wonderfully effective form of medical treatment.

This is not to say that there are not some other great forms of holistic healthcare available today.  Acupuncture is a magnificent form of treatment, as is chiropractic medicine.  But the difference is this:  of all the forms of safe and effective holistic treatments, only homeopathy can be learned and practiced in the home.  I, for one, could not imagine learning how to stick needles into my own arm or the arm of someone dear to me who is suffering.  In the same way, I can’t imagine doing a chiropractic adjustment on myself, my family members or my dog.  I can and do, however, know what remedy to use when I have a cold or a flu, or when someone in my family has a toothache or experiences a physical injury.  In more severe emergencies, I know what to do until the ambulance arrives.  But taking charge myself, but learning what I need to learn, I am able to cut my medical expenses (you should excuse the pun) to the bone, while enjoying a form of medicine that is safe, effective and inexpensive.

I say that it is time for millions of Americans to realize that our circumstances have shifted. That there will be no quick solution to the economic troubles that we are in.  Hillary Clinton once famously noted that “it takes a village” to raise a child.  Nowadays, it takes a village to keep a village afloat.  If we are to wait until the politicians solve the almost overwhelming array of issues in front of us, we shall surely die.  If we wait until healthcare reform actually takes place in this country, I fear that our deaths will be from old age.

Better to let this circumstances that are now driving so many of our thoughts and actions lead us to a better way.  In these days of desperation, isn’t it time we all gave homeopathy a try?

Do we really have anything, at this point, to lose?