Marguerite Dunne is a city girl and traveler. Visit her website at www.herbs-on-hudson.com or listen to her radio show, The Urban Herbalist, on www.wtbq.com. Marguerite was also the third place winner in The Herb Companion's essay contest, "Looking Forward to Herbs."
The holidays, especially New Year’s, always invite us to reassess whatever the heck it is we think we have to reassess about our own cacophonous agendas. I like the Japanese tradition of making New Year’s a time to clean out the closets; a little feng shui de-cluttering sounds like a good start to the new year. ‘Tis also the season of more than enough colds, flus, indigestion, and even a little heartache; add in all the holiday spending we do, and who’s got time to figure out how to stay healthy?
I was shuffling these (almost) disparate thoughts around, thinking about what to write here, when I opened up my latest email question post to by fellow writers from The Association of Health Care Journalists. I thought the questions represented a good state of art in health care:
“….a story involving a hospital board and its political lobbying, conflicts of interest, illegal awarding of salaries and severances to executives, possible violation of non-profit statutes and IRS codes. Can you suggest any experts or former attorneys general who advise boards in these areas…..?”
“…in California, people are going to alternative treatment centers to be injected with sodium bicarbonate ‘because their pH is too high.’ Has anyone else heard of this…?”
Whether we are seeing doctors in hospitals or visiting alternative health practitioners, we must be ever viligent about the care we are depending on, seeking and choosing.
Since it is winter, and we are facing that tricky combination of crowds coughing, flu germs flying on close-quarters sneezes, weakened livers from festive holiday drinking, and sugar-overload from sugar plums dancing in our mouths, it’s very tempting to just grab the first echinacea tea bag and hope it will all go away. At this propitious moment, we need more information to take care of ourselves right. Our health won’t come from any laws passed; by taking the reins, we can give ourselves a blooming health annus mirabilis. The feng shui of our vitamin/herb/nutrition routine is the key; however, the riddle of our story is: Where were you before?
• Have you been eating cheeseburgers, French fries, and a coke 4 to 8 times a week? (Did you see Supersize Me?)
• Have you been getting frequent colds and flus since you moved to a new place? (Have it checked for mold and other resident bacteria.)
• Did your digestive problems begin when you got back from that exotic vacation to Africa? (It’s nice to see the animals, but many Third World populations hardly receive any vaccines, and frequently, the living conditions breed illnesses we’ve never even heard of.)
• Did you change jobs recently and are now sitting at a new desk in a new room with new people? (You are now in a new germ pool, and when this happens, your body goes through a lot of readjustments.)
Sometimes, taking care of your health means getting to the deeper, deeper layers first—address those issues and then go for the immediate symptoms.
David Winston, founder of Herbalists and Alchemists and the author of many books, has several favorite seasonal supports. I’ve added to some of his.
• Holy Basil. Long in use in Ayurvedic medicine for the mind and nervous system, holy basil helps lift the spirits, dispel depression, and acts as an antiviral.
• Schisandra Berry. A powerful adaptogen, schisandra berry helps strengthen the pituitary and adrenal functions. It is rich in anti-inflammatory flavonoids and is useful for mild asthma as well as cleansing to the liver.
• Elderberry. Rich in antioxidants, elderberries have been shown in clinical trials to inhibit viruses, especially the flu. And your great-grandma might have even made some nice elderberry wine for those cold, winter nights.
• Goldenseal. Goldenseal treats gastric inflammation, upper intestinal tract deficiency, eye inflammations, hemorrhoids, liver congestion and jaundice, sore throats, coughs, and more and more and more. This one’s my favorite and I won’t leave home without it.
So how much to take? It goes back to where were you before? One cup of tea daily or two capsules or fifteen drops of the tincture are usually safe places to start….Where’s my dust bunny?
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