Thursday, November 6, 2008

~ the reluctant herbalist

Although I think of myself as a staunch rationalist, some of the things I do don’t quite fit the picture. For starters, I’ve always been addicted to the emotional thrill one gets from certain moments in sport, film, music and politics...

Yesterday morning I was walking around carrying dream-like expectations in my heart. Could America again be something other than a villain? With Obama in the van, it seems possible. But on what am I judging that? Probably some propaganda spillage. Media bullets aimed at wavering voters in marginal American states which hit me instead. Yet I was certainly not the only one ... And this morning the US seems like a wholly different land.

Sometimes I just take it on trust and hope and faith. Because it’s so important that I mollycoddle my liver, my ears are open to tall tales of herbs that can protect or nourish it. Or even ‘aid in the secretion of bile’.

Western medicine recognises these substances, but rarely recommends them. You are left relying on the wisdom of the naturopathy industry which is veined with homeopathy, witchcraft, Ayurvedic, Chinese and Thelemic medicines, and a whole lot of other things which, though interesting, aren’t strictly evidence based science, and which provide green fields for mountebanks and quacksalvers.

Never mind, I’ve decided to trust Microgenics. I’m fairly certain what
they sell is actually Milk Thistle. And they’re one of the few companies that supply the high dosages used in clinical trials. The medical establishment does take the active ingredient, silibinin, seriously. After all, House even mentioned it once, (albeit at a moment of desperation). And a company in Belgium has created an injectable form, (primarily to treat poisoning by Death Cap toadstools).

Turmeric with its active ingredient curcumin is something no one’s going to make a lot of money on – somewhat like aspirin - so perhaps that makes it a good safe bet, as unpleasant as it is to ingest. Currently, I’m mixing 2 measured grams with a teaspoon of marmalade to form a semi-edible bolus. Curcumin is said to dissolve amyloid protein deposits in the brain. This, apparently, is why Indians have far less Alzheimer’s. It’s also supposed to be good for the liver, but at least one naturopath has told me this is ‘because of the colour’. I’ll have it just for the brain thing, thanks.

Shisandra, the five-flavoured-fruit, is the latest addition to my regimen. It’s an ancient Chinese herb with a good safety record. It’s easy to find as part of a liver tonic, but not in a discrete form. I’m getting mine from a Chinese herbalist in Springvale. Wikipedia speaks of studies done in China which suggest benefits for sufferers of chronic hepatitis. Should one trust studies done in China, after the hair-sauce thing? I don’t know, but this herb is really delicious as a tea. Something like rosehip.

After watching a recent episode of Sixty Minutes, I’ve started buying a trans-resveratrol formulation. Now this is a very good money maker, as it’s showing marked life prolonging properties in laboratory mice. Only problem is the dosage. T-resveratrol is made from red grape skin. My current daily dose is equivalent to 6 bottles of red wine. The dose that helped the mice was a massive fifteen hundred bottles of red wine.

I also consume dandelion, goji berries, artichoke tea and probably others I can’t recall just now. I spend a fair amount of time on what is ultimately an act of faith. You swallow this pill or drink the tea and then what? It all melts and joins the complex digestive soup in your stomach. Certain molecules shear off and work their certain magic in a biomechanical operation of mind-boggling intricacy. Without vast scientific expertise, how can you really know what's going on?

I’ve no idea whether I’m feeling better as a result. I am feeling good, but that could be the exercise, or the almost-vegetarianism, or the near-total exclusion of alcohol. I’d hate to think I was being taken for a ride. Especially someone as rational as I. But then a sense of looming mortality can lead you in directions you might otherwise not take.

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NickH said...

As long as you're feeling good, what the hell. I applaud the fact you've taken the time to investigate these alternatives and are giving them a whirl while maintaining a healthy dose of skepticism.

Re: dosages. It reminds me of reading about turkey and how it can help produce tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin, in the brain. Problem is, you'd have to eat about 100 turkeys to get the therapeutic dosage you might find in, say, a prescribed medication like Prozac. Same with potatoes, I think.

I have often heard that exercise helps relieve stress and boost mood because it jettisons the chemicals and hormones etc which build up in the body during periods of duress. I can vouch for that one.

I suspect sedentary lifestyles are major contributors to the "modern plague" of depression and anxiety, for example (aside from other factors such as genetics, environment etc).

ross b said...

I myself ingest copious amounts of herbals on a daily basis. In my instance, I’m attempting to ward off high blood sugar without the use of medication for my diabetes type 2. For d2, diet and exercise – and serenity and contentment - are the premium therapies for tackling this annoyingly incessant disease. If these factors are in check then the supplements and herbs will also contribute significantly to keeping this disease reversed.

My closest friend carries hc. I’ve recommended her Olive Leaf Extract and CoEnzyme Q10, both of which I ingest on a daily basis. They seem to be working well for her, she’s less fatigued and clearer, sharper of mind, and her general sense of well-being has improved. Olive Leaf & CoEnzyme have helped me immensely. CoEnzyme is supplementary to natural reserves in the body, and works to stimulate the mitochondria of very cell, ie, it stimulates energy production at a cellular level. It worked wonders for me when I was battling fatigue, and it helped to get me off d-drugs. I’ve never felt better, despite that my blood sugars are hovering that bit higher than where they should be.

I too ingest Milk Thistle, taken daily within a liver tablet. I drink dandelion tea, usually immediately after my morning coffee, I find that energises and "concentrates" me. I sprinkle tumeric in my olive leaf. I've been ingesting a fair amount of Noni juice over the past 3 days. My flu has vanished and I feel invigorated, alive (just like I'm meant to after imbibing noni). I munch on goji berries, I swallow fenugreek, pau d’arco, bitter melon powder, gymnema…it doesn’t end!

Gymnema is to d2 what Milk Thistle is to hc. I live on 10g daily.

I wish you well in the quest for keeping hc at bay. It sounds like you're doing the very best you can. ...but do look into Olive Leaf & Co-Enzyme Q10 as these therapies could be quite useful.

I strangely remained unfazed by Obama's win. Perhaps I’m brainwashed by reading too many doomers. My favourite is a guy who runs a storable food store in the USA, Survival Acres. His blog is He’s genuinely well-informed, and I find him to be an engaging and enthralling writer even if he is at times somewhat over-zealous!

The Knitting Songbird said...

Interesting post. The sentance that struck me most was "Sometimes I just take it on trust and hope and faith." I think that's the key to turning an illness around. My mate Ross turned his diabetes around solely through homeopathy and, as he puts it, southern Italian willpower.

I think we dismiss the power of the invisible too often in this material, tangible world of ours...

Ann O'Dyne said...

just eat a lot of curry - it's mostly turmeric and cumin isn't it?
Curried vegies. Curried eggs.
I know a herbalist who is excellent. She does the hair analysis test - hair holds everything in it that we have in our bodies.
Enough people care about their liver function to have made Dr Sandra Cabot very rich from selling zillions of her Liver Cleansing Diet book.
Good luck with the whole darn thing.