In my blog post last week I talked about why I’m opposed to flu shots, and outlined a holistic approach to supporting the immune system and increasing the body’s ability to resist pathogens. Because botanical medicine is central to my healing practice, I’d like to address in more detail the herbal protocol I use for protection during the changing seasons.
As October comes to a close, the enormous amount of publicity given to Breast Cancer Month wanes a bit. I’m a strong proponent of education, and of preventive health care. But unfortunately, for many women, the fear of breast cancer has now reached epidemic proportions. Fear is a stressor that, left unchecked, can actually contribute to cancer. Stress heightens endocrine and nervous system activity, contributing to allostatic overload and exceeding our ability to adapt, restore energy, and maintain health and balance. This interferes with our body’s natural cancer-protective abilities. It’s important to realize that much of the fear propagated by the media is fueled by misinformation and misunderstanding. For example, studies show that most women believe that their risk of breast cancer is far greater than it really is.
“Feel better! Have more energy! Live longer!” Sounds like a late night infomercial, or the claims made for patent medicines in the late 1800’s, doesn’t it?
But in truth, there is a class of herbs that will increase your energy, help to prevent disease, and even likely extend your lifespan. These herbs are called “adaptogens”, and I recommend them to everyone for increasing vitality and well-being.
Adaptogens got their name from their unique ability to buffer the effects of stress—they actually help the body adapt more readily to the demands of life. Everyone experiences stress, whether it’s everyday worries about work, money, and relationships; the physical demands of athletic competition; or the emotional and physical stressors of chronic illness.
If you’ve ever walked into a room and couldn’t remember why you were there; misplaced your keys (or even your car in a parking lot); or forgotten the name of an acquaintance, you might have momentarily wondered about your memory or if you were losing your mind. If you’re over the age of 50, you might even be seriously concerned about the possibility of Alzheimer’s.
It’s a valid concern. According to the 2008 Alzheimer’s Association figures, more than five million Americans over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, approximately 500,000 Americans under the age of 65 suffer from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
Although a decline in memory and brain function is generally regarded as an inevitable part of growing older, in reality, brain aging is caused by poor cerebral circulation, mitochondrial dysfunction, inflammation, oxidative damage, and decreased levels of anabolic-repair hormones, including DHEA and testosterone. All of these factors contribute to changes in the brain that lead to neuronal degeneration and cognitive impairment.
I’m intent on helping people to live fully, and I untiringly seek ways to optimize health, vitality, and wellbeing in every aspect of existence. My life’s work as an herbalist and healer, supported by decades of scientific research and infused by my spiritual practices, have culminated in the creation of the Eclectic Triphasic Medical System, a unique healing approach that draws from both the Western and the Eastern traditions of medicine.
These philosophies are at opposite ends of the medical spectrum. But instead of choosing one over the other, I’ve found that it is the synthesis of these two approaches that facilitates the greatest healing, by providing me with a wide spectrum of tools from which to draw. There’s no question that Western medical technology can be extremely useful, and even life saving. But there is much more than technology involved in true healing, and this is where I find great value in the Eastern approach to medicine.
Both Eastern and Western healing traditions have long known that strengthening vitality is the basis for improving health and recovering from illness or injury. Early American herbal systems such as the Eclectic tradition understood this concept as central to healing. In my 25 years of clinical practice, I’ve found that enhancing vitality, although often ignored in modern medicine, is essential for health. As such, the Eclectic model has provided me with a wealth of information that informs my healing practice today.
As their name implies, the Eclectics encouraged exploration of every system of medicine, regardless of its origins, to discover and apply the most useful principles for the wellbeing of humanity. 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.
- These conditions of dis-ease can be truly cured only by the use of plants or other agents that conform to the laws of life and assist the powers of nature.
- A physician is spiritually inclined; he or she loves and lives for their profession. Their feelings are always for those who suffer and their intention is to bring as much relief to the ill as may be in their power.