Folk Medicine: Herbs and Plants

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I recently started taking a course in Folk Medicine based upon the use of herbs, healing rituals and prayer. The knowledge and techniques are based on experiences of the peoples of the southwestern U.S. and Mexico. But the knowledge was transferred from cultures as ancient as the Conquistadors, the Moors, and the Mayans, as well as Native American tribes. This Folk Medicine is not intended to replace modern medicine, but to supplement it. Folk healers refer their patients to doctors and medical facilities when they see the need for a modern medical approach.

Many of our pharmaceutical products are based on discoveries of herbal ingredients. For example, the effectiveness of aspirin is based on chemicals found in the bark of willow trees. While pharmaceutical companies do not use these ingredients directly from nature, they attempt to duplicate them through the use of chemistry. However the use of natural medicine, such as herbs, seems to be regaining popularity.

The key to using herbs in healing is to first learn what herb is recommended for what ailment. Then it is also important to know what part of the herb to use because different parts of the same plant may contain different chemicals. For example the leaves of the Kava plant from Hawaii have been used for centuries to calm the mind. But the roots and stems have different chemicals than the leaves, chemicals which can cause illness. So it is important to know what part of the plant is in the package you buy from different companies before making them into topical treatments or teas.

While this knowledge seems new to us, the Native Americans (North and South America) have helped keep their people healthy using plants and herbs for hundreds of years. In Healing Secrets of the Native Americans (page 10), Porter Shimer quotes John Lawson’s History of North Carolina which was published in 1714. Lawson wrote “Among all the discoveries of America by the French and Spaniards, I wonder why none of them was so kind to the world to have kept a catalog of the illnesses they found the natives able to cure.” Obviously those groups were focused on treasure as opposed to healing.

 

 

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Allergies

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Neti Pot

Neti Pot

 

In mid-August, 1976 I had my first attack of hay fever and I have had it every year since. At one point my wife, Marilyn, found a product that was wonderful. I thought it was a miracle drug. In recent years I have been taking Wal-itin, Walgreen’s version of Claritin. It too, has worked wonders, but it had side effects. It affected my mental sharpness and made me feel depressed. I am a very optimistic person but I began telling friends that, if I ever committed suicide, it would probably be on a Monday in the middle of hay fever season.

This year I saw an ad on a TV channel, describing the benefits of using a neti pot (pictured above). The ad said it worked for allergies , including hay fever. I had already taken a couple of doses of my allergy medicine and I was already feeling depressed, so I decided to give the neti pot a try. Am I glad I did!

I went to Walgreens and bought a product called NeilMed NasaFlo. NeilMed is a company founded by Dr. Ketan C. Mehta, M.D. For twelve dollars I got the neti pot and 50 premixed packers of sinus rinse. You pour a cup of distilled water into the pot, add a packet of the rinse and apply it to your sinuses. You do this by tilting your head to one side, pouring the mixture into one nostril, and letting it flow out the other. Halfway through, you switch nostrils.

I know this sounds messy, but it is working so well for me that I had to tell everyone about it. For the record, I have no connection with the doctor or his company, no stock or anything. This is just one of those products that works very well. For example, this morning, before I used the neti pot, I went for a 45 minute walk outside. When I got back I saw an allergy report that said ragweed was the number one weed allergy for today. While  I did sneeze a couple of times during my walk, I did not have a big allergic reaction. And after I used the neti pot, the sneezing stopped.

If you have allergy problems, give this a try, especially if you get depressed using your medication like I did. It used to be that I struggled with allergy problems from mid-August until the first frost. Now, I feel great. I’m anxious to see how this works at the peak of allergy season, late August to early September. I’ll let you know. I wish you health and happiness!

Inside Animal Brains: Dogs

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I caught another Nova presentation on WTTW Prime. And the reason I’m so interested in these programs is that they help me understand and appreciate nature more completely than I have in the past. I feel more connected to it the more I know about it. The most recent program was about dogs and their sense of smell.

The entire program was worth watching, but the part that absolutely blew my mind was the segment about sniffer dogs; dogs that are trained to use their sense of smell to locate specific items. These include drug sniffing dogs and dogs that can locate people buried in snow after an avalanche.

In the experiment for the sniffer dogs, a crew of people sank a container in a large lake. There was only meat in the container. They sank it twenty feet deep and noted the location using geological coordinates on a hand-held computer.  The dog and dog owner were not present when they did this.

Later, the crew gave the dog owner a general part of the lake to check out. The search section was approximately thirty acres in size. The owner got into a row boat with the dog seated in the prow and started searching the area by cruising back and forth across the surface. For some time, there was no reaction from the dog. Eventually it started to bark. The owner cruised back and forth over the area that caused the dog to bark and finally stopped over what the owner thought was the most likely spot, given the dog’s reaction.

When the first crew came out to the spot and checked their coordinates, they found the dog was off by about two feet. I think that’s absolutely amazing. I knew dogs had a great sense of smell, but not that great. A dog expert interviewed on the program said that the dog’s sense of smell is about 100 million times more sensitive than human smell. I am a believer.

Another question they investigated was how dog’s know when their owner is coming home; how they tell time. The experiment performed was not conclusive, but it seemed to indicate that the dog could tell how long the owner was gone based upon the amount of the person’s scent lingering in the home. I’m not sure about the conclusion. If I remember correctly, our dog Peaches could tell not only when my wife, Marilyn, would come home from work, but also when she would return from shopping. When Peaches knew Marilyn was coming home, she’d lay down by the front door with her nose parked against the crack in the door, waiting for her favorite member of our family.

If you have similar dog stories, feel free to share them here. Thanks.

Inside Animal Brains: Bird Genius

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The tem ‘bird brain’ is used to describe someone who has acted stupidly. But are birds really dumb? We assume, because of their size, that they have small brains and aren’t very smart. However this assumption is not correct. On Thursday, August 7th I watched WTTW/World at 7:00 PM (www.wttw.org/nova). What follows is taken from that program.

In one college course I took (1960’s) we were taught that what separated man from the other animals was our ability to use tools. This falsehood was put to rest by Jane Goodall when she observed chimps using sticks to ‘fish’ termites out of decaying logs. They dipped the stick into a hole, pulled it out with a termite attached, and ate it. Since then, other scientists have observed that other animals also use tools.

The main focus of the program was a raven. They tested it by arranging problems that required the successful completion of several steps in proper order to get food. In one test, a piece of meat was in a long narrow container. You could only get it out by using a long stick. The long stick was in a container that had openings on the top, but could not be pulled open. To get the stick you needed three rocks. The three rocks were in three cages. To get the rocks you needed to use a small stick tied to a string. The whole process was eight steps in length. The raven studied the problem; got the small stick off the string; used the small stick to push each rock out of its cage; dropped each rock into the container with the long stick, causing the bottom of the cage to open, allowing the long stick to drop out. Then the raven used the long stick to get the food.

As if this wasn’t enough, the next test consisted of four mechanically operated locks. The raven passed with flying colors. Then the scientists changed the locks so that the raven only needed to open the last two to get the food. The raven flew up, looked at the locks, opened only the last two, and flew away with the food.

Scientists have concluded that the important measurement is the mass of the brain in relation to the mass of the body. The raven’s brain is twice as big as its body mass. And they believe it has developed that way because the raven lives in an environment where understanding, flexibility and planning are rewarded; an environment where food is scarce. Survival of the smartest.

 

Dreamcatcher

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Dreamcatcher

 

I just made this dreamcatcher this weekend. It’s small, about four inches in diameter and I made it from a kit I got at Hobby Lobby. For  a first attempt, I think it turned out well.

The idea of a dreamcatcher is that it filters out bad or negative dreams and only allows good dreams to enter your thoughts at night. This is the first time I tried using one and I modified the concept by praying that the dreamcatcher would be highly selective. I wanted this one to be focused on one specific issue and to only let good dreams about that issue pass through. I didn’t know if this would work, but gave it a try. Last night was the first time I hung it in my bedroom.

I woke up around three AM and four AM and didn’t remember any dreams. Then I fell asleep again and had a dream after five AM. I won’t go into the details of the dream because I don’t want to divulge the purpose of the dreamcatcher, but it did work. OK, I’ll give you a hint; the feathers are turkey feathers and the turkey is a symbol of abundance. In the dream I was moving along past and through various difficulties for a long, long time. I never lost my determination to succeed. I kept moving forward. Just before the dream ended I could see the way ahead of me was clearing up. I knew I would accomplish my goal as long as I kept moving forward. With this knowledge, I moved confidently ahead.

I plan on keeping the dream catcher for the foreseeable future. I’m hoping that, over time, it will help me focus on specific things I can do to make progress. And since this seems to be working well, I plan on making a dreamcatcher for a friend who is ill. The new dreamcatcher will be focused on bringing my friend healing dreams to cure my friend’s medical problem. I’ll let you know how that goes and I’ll keep you informed about my future dreams. Have a great week!