Archive for May, 2011

Some Thoughts About Physical Stress

May 25, 2011

I’ve received many messages from well-wishers (including great research on shingles)  as well as much help from friends and neighbors. Nothing like a little debility to let one see the web of connection that binds us to our community, and a great opportunity for gratitude for what we do have in our lives. However, a few folks have bravely asked why I think I “got” shingles…as if herbalists and those who take ridiculous amounts of supplements and really pay attention to diet were somehow immune to the ills “lesser” mortals are prey to. We are not “greater” and we are not immune. But all of this did get me thinking, especially when so many well-intentioned blithely talk about “stress” and how I must have been under a lot, etc., you get the picture.

If I were to ask all of you reading this if you are under a lot of “stress”, I bet most would say yes. The economy, dealing with illness and death, years of war, personal problems, Congress doing more harm than good, working too hard and too long, social inequality, anxiety…the list seems endless. Mostly though, it seems that when we think of stress we think emotions, thoughts: worry, doubt, fear, anger, frustration.

Not all stress is lodged in the heart and mind; much is in the gut. And certainly stress can be and often is a mixture of thoughts and feelings that twirl about stealing our rest and our peace of mind. That’s why so-called stress relieving practises, like meditation, mild to moderate physical exercise, visualization, etc., are so helpful: they really do calm the heart and mind and relieve stress. However,  I did a little research from the Chinese perspective, as well as one of my Western medical (both allopathic and alternative) databases, and came up with an interesting piece of information: some stress is actually physical in origin, and it can lower immunity (and according to the Chinese way of seeing the world), is one of the major cause of a shingles outbreak.

Physical stress–which includes lack of sleep (or sleep interruptions), changes in diet (especially from a good diet to one that is less healthy for the individual), changes in climate (e.g., from hot to cold, dry to damp), recreational drug use, strenuous exercise, exposure to environmental toxins (e.g., chemical, electromagnetic, radiation), allergens, etc.–is just as pernicious as the emotional and mental stress that we more commonly think about as “causing” dis-ease. And no one thing “causes” dis-ease: the terrain of the cells is just as (if not more) important than any particular “germ entity.”

So all this rumination is a gentle way of saying to my self and friends that the whole person is a mysterious miracle. We can try to mitigate stress of all kinds; we can be happy and fulfilled in our work and/or our emotional life; we can monitor our thoughts and meditate and be filled with joy… and we still may become ill. My shingles were “probably” the result of physical stress on my vacation (that was added to some emotional stress around work, and a genetic predisposition to shingles). Take home message: how can we each lead a less stress-full life on all levels…and still be authentically ourselves?

PS Next week I’ll look at statin drugs and their natural alternatives. Then some thoughts on cholesterol. What else?

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Shingles Adventure and OK Blog Readers: What Next? Plus Update on Radiation

May 18, 2011

No I am not abandoning Detox, gentle or otherwise…it seems I have material enough to beat this subject to death; therefore  I’ll continue to talk about detox a bit at a time. Since our bodies are constantly detoxifying (or trying to) every day, I’ll keep adding tidbits from my stacks of research as we wander into the future.

Shingles is not something I thought much about until I “got” them. Now I find that almost everyone I’ve spoken with in my age group (and older) knows a friend or relative who has had them, or has suffered themselves. Who knew!? And that many did not know what it was for several days (myself included). And anyone can get them (children, teenagers, young adults: no one who has had chicken pox is immune). So, if you have NOT had them, after reading this blog, please find a good website that shows you pictures so you can recognize the lesions (they looked like the systemic poison ivy I once had). They key info: the outbreak is preceded by a  burning feeling in the area, and pain along nerve endings, even before eruption. As the eruptions increase, so does the pain. Also: they do not necessarily occur in the most common places (around the middle or on one side of the trunk).

The allopathic response (and the one I had to take as I was away on vacation) is Acyclovir (or other heavy-duty anti-viral). It really does work to halt the progression, and start the lesions’ reduction in size.  The holistic response: double-blind placebo studies have shown that the immediate use of very strong proteolytic enzymes (Wobenzyme N has been used with success) can work as well as anti-viral drugs. Another possibility (especially if this is a recurrence) is large (approx. 5 grams each per day) doses of Vitamin D, Vitamin C and l-Lysine.

On the lesions themselves: clay with essential oils of tea tree or other anti-viral oils (see previous blog posting), powdered charcoal and cornstarch (equal parts) mixed into a paste and applied, St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) oil or salve, hydrogen peroxide gel, and the following as herbal tea poultices: Lemon Balm, Baikal Skullcap, Mullein Flowers, St. Joan’s wort, and/or Turmeric (found a great Chinese recipe that called for Turmeric, honey and yogurt: kinda messy, but very cooling).  Aloe Vera Gel is nice and cooling as well.

Now for the pain…suffice it to say that I have the deepest sympathy for any and all who have suffered intense pain, having now made a very personal acquaintance with it for a month. I fully understand why folks get depressed, discouraged and hooked on pain meds. I am currently weaning myself off Gabapentin (and it doesn’t really work unless you’re damn near unconscious). The Western herbs I am taking now in rather large doses during the day: 2 parts St. John’s/Joan’s wort, 2 parts Skullcap (I’m doing 1 part regular and 1 part Baikal) 2 parts Oats, 2 parts Licorice, and 1 part Ginger. Kathy Keville’s original recipe called for an additional 1 part Vervain (which I’m getting and making into a tincture pronto). There are other excellent Chinese possibilities; however, they work best with an individual diagnosis. My friend (and fellow blogger) Lisa Goodstein is formulating one for me now that she’s seen me.  Acupuncture in general is very helpful with post-herpetic neuralgia (the official term for the pain that often INCREASES after the lesions are almost or fully resolved). However, one must see an acupucturist at least once a week for  4 to 6 weeks.

And here’s an interesting herbal and pharmaceutical combo: Capsaicin creme. Works for 80% of the folks who use it (myself included). The really effective stuff is prescription only (but not terribly expensive), and the studies are impressive. The usual dosage is 0.075% Capsaicin (an oleoresin derived from Cayenne peppers) added to a (wish it were organic) hypo-allergenic base. Any compounding pharmacy can make it. One applies it 3 times daily.

And here it comes: the detox part: 2 especially great liver detoxifiers: Milk Thistle Seed (as a tincture or standardized extract) and the supplement Calcium-d-Glucarate. This patented form of glucaric acid is supported with numerous studies and used in several cancer centers. It works by assisting the liver and healthy cells to eliminate wastes and foreign elements (and those pharmaceuticals and their metabolites I’m taking are definitely in that category). I won’t get all technical on you here, but it is a really cool (though expensive) supplement, especially for anyone that is concerned about breast cancer.

What Next, dear blog readers? Please let me know what you’d like to see me address. Either respond to this blog or email me: irisherbal@yahoo.com.

Radiation from Japan update: check this out for an in-depth expose of the current situation…NOT for the faint of heart. And may we all continue to send prayers and energy to the people of Japan who must persevere through this enormity.

More Aromatherapy for Gentle Detox

May 10, 2011

As I’ve been dealing with shingles, I’ve found some new ways of using essential oils.  When applying essential oils on the body, they must be diluted, and sometimes (like with shingles lesions or broken skin)) you do not want to use the more common mediums like oils and lotions. So I’ve been using alternatives: yogurt, fresh aloe gel (just the inside goop, not the skin), honey and clay. If you are wanting a drawing, astringent, use the clay (and for shingles, tea tree is a great addition, as is any anti-viral including bergamot, niaouli, cajeput, basil, lavender and eucalyptus). The yogurt is cooling and good for hot conditions (and is aided by using cooling essential oils like the chamomiles, lavender, blue cypress and yarrow). Honey is anti-microbial as well as soothing, and helps prevent secondary infections. Use any of the first list for added antiseptic power, and any of the second list for the anti-inflammatory effect.

Eucalyptus is penetrating and cleansing; helping to disperse negativity and constriction through clearing stagnation, thereby bringing inspiration for positive change. {anti-microbial, stimulant, decongestant/expectorant, mild diuretic}  There are several species of Eucalyptus that are useful in aromatherpy. Here are some of the most commonly used:

Peppermint Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus dives) is great for bronchitis (as it thins the mucus very effectively) but not for children or pregnant women.

Narrow Leaf Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus radiata) is strongly anti-viral, an expectorant, and anti-inflammatory. Is excellent in a vapor steam.

Blue Gum Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) is the most commonly used; be aware that much of this Eucalyptus sold (even in natural food or herb stores) has been redistilled and is not as therapeutically valuable as the pure and natural oil, which is an excellent expectorant.

Lemon Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodora) smells like a combination of regular Eucalyptus and Lemon. With its high aldehyde content, it is anti-viral and calming (but irritating if not well-diluted).

Gully Gum Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus smithii) is the safest for children because it is milder. Like all Eucalypti, it is antiseptic, anti-catarrhal, analgesic and fever-reducing.

Grapefruit this fresh, light citrusy oil is essentially cleansing, especially of deep-seated frustration, self-blame, and feelings that lead to “comfort eating.” It helps disperse the heaviness of angry disappointment. {liver tonic, digestive stimulant, lymphatic decongestant).

Juniper with its pungent woodsy aroma, has been used since ancient times to purify on the spiritual level, using its power to drive away negativity (this is the herb we commonly call cedar). There is also a sweeter note that reflects Juniper’s empowering potential  as it helps us to confront the rigidity of worry. {loosens phlegm, lymphatic decongestant, anti-rheumatic, stimulates circulatory system, a general tonic– especially of the nervous system–and anti-microbial}.

Bay or Sweet Laurel has been a symbol of triumph and achievement since ancient times.  Its fresh camphoraceous scent brings warmth to chilly, congested folks who are burdened with doubt and debility. {pulmonary antiseptic and expectorant, anti-spasmodic–especially of the digestive system–stimulant, diuretic, anti-rheumatic and nervous system tonic}.

Any of the above oils may be purchased from www.irisherbal.com , as well as individually formulated for specific health enhancement purposes. None of the info presented here in this blog is for diagnostic or treatment purposes. It is just the traditional wisdom of our ancestors conveyed in a modern way. Nothing here has been approved by the FDA as a treatment for specific illnesses. For that you must consult a qualified health care practitioner. This info is for educational purposes only.

My 60th Birthday Adventure

May 6, 2011

Or, why this blog is late!

In February of 2010 I suggested to an old friend of mine that we go back East to an intentional community we helped found as a way to celebrate my 60th birthday. By February of 2011 it had morphed into a “Founders” Reunion. So on April 15th I began the kind of road trip I used to do when I was much younger: drive lots of miles one day, and not so many the next because there are friends to visit, or, in this case, friends I didn’t even expect to see. And everywhere spring was busting out: dogwoods, redbud, wildflowers, so much green for our high desert hearts to enjoy.

The place we helped establish back in 1980 had for infrastructure a pre-Civil War log cabin and barn, plus a couple of hippie-made structures, none of which were winterized. No phone, no running water, no electricity, and a rudimentary outhouse: primitive. I was there living in a tipi for 6 months, and ended up going back to the big city because there was no way to make money, no warm place to live in the winter, and just too much isolation. But the 8 of us who started this experiment did the ground work, including by-laws for what became a non-profit intentional community that has persisted 31 years.

When we rolled up in my friend’s car we were greeted like visiting royalty by the 15 residents (and several others who were there preparing for the annual  Beltane celebration) and given the grand tour: a large bathhouse with a sauna and massage tables, a well-appointed outhouse, a huge industrial kitchen and places to eat, decks, porches, cisterns, running water, hot water, solar electricity, and real homes with insulation….only the garden looked much the same (though larger), and all the trees had grown. Oh it was beautiful.

So I became part of an oral history project, reconnected with another founder, hiked the verdant spring mountains, made Bloodroot tincture, taught how to make Nettles tincture, engaged the residents and visitors in conversation, danced, ate great food, and basically had one of my best birthdays ever. I was honored for being a pioneer, and humbled by the appreciation. Definitely a peak experience….and then I “got” shingles.

Yup, from the sublime to the ridiculous, as in ridiculously painful, turning the last part of my vacation into an exercise in enduring being debilitated (I cannot sit or drive).  And so I managed to limp home (on the train, which was quite an adventure) and am now slowly catching up. So next week I’ll get back to essential oils and detox, which I’ve been putting to good use in treating my condition. Nice to know this isn’t just theory…