I recently conferred with a patient who had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a chronic inflammatory type of arthritis that affects the lining of the joints, causing painful swelling and potential joint destruction and deformity. The standard treatment for the disease is high dosages of pharmaceutical drugs, including anti-inflammatories, steroids, and immune suppressive drugs. The danger is that although these drugs suppress symptoms and may keep the disease somewhat under control, they do not address the underlying causes. And the side effects of these types of drugs can be significant, including serious liver damage, increased risk for infection, and heart disease.
When I think of foods that have “super” health-promoting properties, berries are on my list of top ten favorites. Not only are they delicious, but bilberries, black currants, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, elderberries, raspberries, strawberries—in fact, every berry you can think of—offer an enormous range of health benefits. What all of these berries have in common are anthocyanins—the pigments that give them their rich deep red and purple coloring. Although berries are perhaps the best-known sources of anthocyanins, other foods with the same colorants—for example, beets, cherries, eggplant, plums, pomegranates, purple cabbage, purple grapes, and red onions—also contain these valuable compounds. Grape seed extract, an especially rich source of anthocyanins, is the most widely researched anthocyanin supplement. Another excellent anthocyanin source—and one of my favorites—is a blend of fruit anthocyanins, which contains red grape, elderberry, blueberry, aronia berry, pomegranate, and red raspberry.
Anointing has been a sacred ritual for thousands of years in many different religions and ethnic groups, as a means of spiritual refreshment and physical invigoration. In the Orthodox tradition, the sacramental act of pouring aromatic oils onto the body, most often the head, is also called unction, and is primarily administered for physical and spiritual ills, although everyone is anointed during Holy Week. In this act of blessing, the aromatic oil used is believed to have both spiritual and physical healing qualities.
In my last post, I discussed the benefits of phytoestrogens, and how these plant compounds may help to regulate the effects of estrogen. While soy foods are perhaps the best-known phytoestrogens, there are a number of herbs with apparent phytoestrogenic properties that have a long history of use in herbal medicine. Current research has demonstrated the usefulness of these botanicals in protecting breast and prostate health.
In the quest to identify nutritional compounds that potentially influence breast cancer (and other hormonally driven cancers), phytoestrogens are among the best researched. The label “phytoestrogen” has been given to specific compounds in plants and foods that under certain conditions appear to have a modulatory effect on estrogen and other hormone receptors.
Plants contain a diversity of beneficial compounds, including a wide range of phenolic compounds, flavonoids, lignans, and phytosterols. Each phytochemical exerts multiple actions, both alone and in combination within and on target cells, including the epigenome. Abundant data indicates that these compounds act on estrogen receptors; for example, isoflavone and other compounds referred to as phytoestrogens have an ability to inhibit local estrogen synthesis and induce epigenetic changes.1 According to the most recent literature, phytoestrogens have demonstrated positive effects on breast cancer prognosis, including breast cancer recurrence and mortality in survivors of the disease.2
“Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And departing leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.”
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (a favorite of Eli Jones)
In my opinion, one of the greatest physicians of all time—and perhaps the person that has influenced me more than any other in my clinical practice and pursuit of doing all that I can to help those with cancer—was Dr. Eli Jones, an American Eclectic physician. He was a master of knowing the specific actions and indications of each herb, and especially the applications of herbs for cancer.
The basic principles of Eclectic medicine can be distilled to these simple precepts:
- Nature is the great physician who, if permitted and not interfered with, provides for our physical requirements.
- Disease (dis-ease) of whatever nature is caused by a lack of equilibrium (an imbalance), the result of an abnormal condition in the body, or the result of congestion due to poor elimination.
Dr. Jones was a true Eclectic in that he read all medical textbooks of that time, including allopathic, Physiomedical, homeopathic, and of course, Eclectic. He believed in the exploration of every system of medicine, regardless of its origins, to discover and apply the most useful principles for the wellbeing of humanity. He combined his own botanical formulations (internal and topical) with simple Nature Cures such as hydrotherapy, and he also used some homeopathy.