No more ads for prescription drugs!

Kudos to the American Medical Association for pushing back against “big pharma” and advocating for their patients! Today’s headlines announce a new AMA policy that blames “direct-to-consumer” prescription drug advertising for skyrocketing drug costs and inappropriate treatment. This is more than good PR for the AMA, it is a warning to the pharmaceutical industry:

“Delegates at the influential group’s policy-making meeting in Atlanta voted to adopt that as official policy as part of an AMA effort to make prescription drugs more affordable. It means AMA will lobby for a ban.” –CBS News 

dtccartoonWhat is so harmful about DTC advertising? It takes the doctors out of the loop. We have all heard (and memerized) the catchphrase: “…talk to your doctor today, to see if this new prescription drug might be right for you.” The everyday consumer is led to believe they may have a medical condition requiring this new, expensive prescription drug – and may seek unnecessary testing and treatments, even switching doctors several times until they find one who will write the prescription. Alternatively, a consumer may demand the brand name rather than a generic based solely on the powerful influence of pharmaceutical marketing.

Don’t get me wrong: I am 110% for patient advocacy, for transparency from the entire healthcare system, and for health literacy. With their new task force, the AMA is fighting for access, because advertising drives up the cost of prescription drugs; and fair play, because demand for brand names ultimately monopolizes YOUR health care.

What it really comes down to is fear: do you have such-and-such symptoms? (leading questions) do you think your doctor doesn’t have your best interest at heart? (underlying suggestion) you may be at risk for such-and-such terrible disease if you DON’T take this new drug! (blatant provocation) and…don’t forget the long, long, looonnngg list of potential side-effects. (because, after all, we are being completely honest here…)

If you think consumers are being empowered by having a “choice” regarding the many, various options for their chemo-therapy, the real effect is just the opposite:

This type of advertising is big business. Ad spending by drug makers increased 30 percent from 2012 to 2014, reaching $4.5 billion, according to market research firm Kantar Media.” – U.S. News & World Health Report

Who regulates DTC prescription drug advertising? You guessed it – the FDA. Here’s what they claim:

“The United States is one of the few places in the world that allows DTC advertising. (New Zealand is the only other developed nation that does.)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees prescription drug advertising with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and related regulations.

Through its Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising, and Communications (DDMAC), FDA ensures that all prescription drug promotion provided by drug firms is truthful, balanced, and accurately communicated.”

While it sounds well and good that all advertising should be “truthful, balanced, and accurately communicated” the subtle psychological effects are not balanced at all. We are bombarded with the message that we are sick, and that this-or-that pill is the only cure.

Devil’s Advocate

photo credit Jeffrey MacMillan for US & World Health News

photo credit Jeffrey MacMillan for US & World Health News

On the other hand, pharmaceutical companies hold fast and strong to a very persuasive justification for DTC advertising:

“The justification for direct-to-consumer advertising has been focused on patient education.  The stated goal has been to provide patients with information about new medicines and treatments for diseases that were previously untreatable.  Furthermore, it is believed that advertising encourages patients to open a dialogue with their doctors about medical conditions and illnesses – communication that might not have previously existed.” – Maybe it’s time for drug companies to drop TV ads, Forbes Magazine

Perhaps this is why we decided to give it a try – but not without serious reservations:

“Underlying this policy debate are profound disagreements over the role of consumers in medical decision making, the appropriateness of consumers engaging in self-diagnosis, and the ethics of an industry promoting potentially dangerous drugs.” – A History of Drug Advertising, National Institute of Health

The AMA is making a definitive statement about the doctor-patient relationship, and how they view “the role of consumers in medical decision making”. As consumers, we need to be asking what our role is in the big picture, and how we can advocate for our needs, how can we contribute to better health care overall?

Finally, and most persuasively, we have this comment from a retired pharmaceutical executive, posted on the AMA website:

The worst thing I ever saw in my adult lifetime of involvement in manufacturing and supplying a panoply of prescription drugs to the global marketplace was DTC (Direct To Consumer) advertising. We all knew immediately that drug advertising in public media would result in huge numbers of prescriptions written that were simply wrong. Why? Because the physician no longer controlled the drug to be prescribed. The patient did. It just doesn’t get any dumber than that. It’s like handing a loaded gun to a child.

My take, as a holistic practitioner who does see clients though I do NOT claim to diagnose, treat or prevent any disease as such, is that pharmaceutical advertising muddles the picture. All advertising sets us up to develop skewed pictures of ourselves, who we really are, and our potential as happy and healthy individuals.

brought to you by your friendly, neighborhood homeopath

brought to you by your friendly, neighborhood homeopath

The more aggressive drug advertising becomes, however, the more I see clients who ask me, “do you think I might have this condition?” “should I try this new drug?” “do you have an herbal alternative to this prescription medication?” – my answer, from the bottom of my heart, every time, isn’t to re-watch that commercial – rather, go ask your doctor.

Fun with electuaries! (And three easy DIY recipes)

“Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down…” sings Mary Poppins. A spoonful of sugar is the best definition of an “electuary” – making those bitter, astringent, spicy, pungent herbs and spices more palatable with sugar! This is especially useful for kiddos with highly discerning palates.

Best base ingredients

But, not just any sugar will do. The first and best choice for suspending herbal medicines is raw, local, honey. It doesn’t take much – about 1 Tablespoon of honey to 1 gram of powdered herbs (adjust to taste) – taken directly from the spoon, or dissolved in 6 oz of hot water. Honey is preferred for individuals prone to seasonal allergies and with depleted immune function, as the enzymes and phytonutrients in raw honey have been shown to improve resistance to disease and bolster the body’s healing response.

If I am needing an iron boost – organic blackstrap molasses is a medicine unto itself. Containing high amounts of calcium, magnesium, selenium, phosphorus, antioxidants, and other essential vitamins and minerals, molasses is a veritable multi-vitamin by the spoonful. Molasses is very important for those who are anemic or have chronic borderline anemia as it has high amounts of readily assimilated iron.

Last but certainly not least, we come to nut-butters and oils. Organic peanut butter hides medicinal and culinary herbs like raw garlic, fresh parsley, and ginger so brilliantly my two year old doesn’t bat an eye when he gets a dose in his PB&J. Organic and unrefined Coconut Oil contains beneficial probiotics and gives a smooth, creamy texture to any electuary – I use this in my “Fiber Power” electuary.

Whatever you choose, make sure it’s as raw, organic, unrefined, non-irradiated, and GMO free as possible. Why? Because food is medicine, and the other way ’round.

Best kitchen cupboard remedies

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAWhile this list is certainly NOT exhaustive, I wanted to share some of my tried-and-true favorites with you from The Way of Herbs by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D.:

  • Tumeric – known as a blood purifier and can reduce GI inflammation; used internally and externally to “heal wounds, relieve pains in the limbs, break up congestion…” as well as benefiting the circulation, reducing fevers, and regulating the menstrual cycle.
  • Sage – slows the secretion of fluids, can be used as an anti-bacterial wash or poultice to septic wounds or infected eyes; “also used for the early stages of cold and flu, sinus congestion, bladder infections and inflammatory conditions.”
  • Mustard (seed or powder) – yellow mustard can be made into a poultice to relieve congestion and to quickly and painlessly heal the skin from severe burns! The plaster also relieves aches and pain from sprains and achy areas – any place requiring increased circulation. Internally, a small amount is laxative, a large amount will produce vomiting.
  • Ginger – digestive stimulant and warmer, increases circulation and relieves indigestion, cramps and nausea. Dr. Tierra also uses ginger to treat earaches and dandruff.
  • Garlic – Mother Nature’s #1 anti-viral, anti-bacterial, immune boosting cure-all! Garlic is most effective taken raw, as garlic oil (unheated), or the freshly expressed juice. This is where your skill at electuary formulation is really put to the test!

I could go on and on – just keep digging through the spice cabinet and see what wonderful medicines are hiding there!

Before we get to the recipes, you may also consider tracking down dandelion leaf, nettle, parsley, yellow dock and/or plantain. I add these to every electuary for a touch of green, and for the universally reliable nutrition they provide, just for good measure. ;-)

Three recipes to make and enjoy with your kids!

“Immune Booster”

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAFor that nasty bug that goes around the school, and everybody’s getting it!

1 part raw honey

1 part freshly minced garlic

1 part freshly minced parsley

1/2 part tumeric powder

Mix extremely well until you get a syrupy, golden paste. Adjust honey to taste. Dose is 1 Tablespoon every morning (mix it in the oatmeal, in the morning smoothie, or take a brave spoonful…not too bad)!

“Iron Rich”

To curb the cravings at that time of the month, or treat chronic anemia. I do not recommend this formula for very young children, nor do I recommend the use of this electuary simultaneous with any Iron supplements.

1 part organic blackstrap molasses

1 part nettles (fresh or dried leaves)

1/2 part dried apricots and raisins, chopped very small

a dash of pumpkin seeds

1/2 part fresh organic kale (adds Vitamin C to boost Iron absorption)

Mix thoroughly, you may need a powerful food processor, or very strong wrists. Form paste into balls with a spoon, about 1 inch in diameter. Wrap with wax paper and store in the fridge. Eat no more than one a day, check blood iron levels with your doctor.

“Fiber power”

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAKeeps you regular without bloating and cramping!

1 part nut-butter of choice (I use MaraNatha no stir peanut butter)

1 part organic coconut oil

1 part Bob’s Red Mill Fiber Plus Hot Cereal with Flax (this is an amazing product! no cooking required, it softens in the mix)

2 or 3 dates, chopped very small

a dash of dried plantain leaves (and seeds) for good measure

Mix thoroughly with a good spoon in a bowl. Try not to eat all of it while you’re mixing! Line a shallow piece of tupperware with wax papaer. Fill the container and flatten by pressing down with the back of the spoon. Score the top into wedges or cubes. It will solidify nicely in the fridge. Recommended dose is 1 a day, or more as needed.

What are your favorite ways to get your kids to take their medicine? Like, comment and share!

It doesn't take a magnifying glass to tell which one of these items is NOT natural...

Why I’m boycotting the FDA’s attempt to define “natural”

Yonder younger years, when I was a wee one curious about all things in the natural world, I was full of quarrelous quandries for my poor mum: “What is superfluous?” “What does ironic mean?” “How would you explain redundant to someone?” Looking back, I can appreciate the intrinsic value in her rote answer:

“Look it up.”

Her advice served me well through college and beyond. I became a verified reference book junkie, and for one Christmas all I wanted was the complete, unabridged, Oxford English Dictionary. Here’s what I got:

my dearly cherished complete, unabridged, Oxford English Dictionary printed so small that it comes with a magnifying glass!

my dearly cherished complete, unabridged, Oxford English Dictionary printed so small that it comes with a magnifying glass!

So, FDA, if you really want to know how to define “natural”, I will give you the same advice. Look it up. Oh, maybe you don’t have a copy of the OED? That’s okay. I’ll read it for you:

“1.1 Of law and justice: based upon the innate moral feeling of mankind; instinctively meant to be right and fair though not prescribed by any enactment or formal compact.” 

So even the very act of defining “natural” is an unnatural act? Oh, that’s not the definition you were looking for? Let’s try another:

“b. Of substances or articles: Not made, manufactured, or obtained by artificial processes. Also sometimes applied to simple products in contrast to those requiring more elaborate preparation.”

Simple enough, FDA. That means NO additives, NO artificial dyes, flavors or fillers. Wow – that would put a lot of companies out of business like “I can’t believe it’s not butter”, “Miracle Whip”, Kraft “Easy Cheese”, and Kellogg’s “Frosted Blue Raspberry Pop Tarts” – oh no!

“d. Of vegetation: Growing of itself; self-sown or planted; not introduced artificially.”

Does this also negate the Monsanto loophole for considering GMO foods “natural”?

Or maybe you’d like to do to our food what G.D. Read did for defining “natural childbirth” in 1930:

“Methods of relaxation and of physical co-operation with the natural process of childbirth…with minimal medical or technological intervention.”

(The underlying assumption here is that by 1930, modern medical science had led us so far afield that we had forgotten what “natural” childbirth had been for hundreds of thousands of years….hmmmmm….something smells fishy….)

What?! Now you’re saying my fish aren’t even natural?

Maybe they are, it’s just that the company that caught and packaged the stacks of canned tuna that I get from the food bank didn’t want to pay the premium soon to be required by law to use the word “natural” on their packaging. Just like the USDA did for “organic”:

chemical carrot

As it turns out, the FDA already has a general policy regarding whether or not something is considered “natural”:

The FDA has considered the term “natural” to mean that nothing artificial or synthetic  (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food.  However, this policy was not intended to address food production methods, such as the use of pesticides, nor did it explicitly address food processing or manufacturing methods, such as thermal technologies, pasteurization, or irradiation. The FDA also did not consider whether the term “natural” should describe any nutritional or other health benefit.”

The GOOD NEWS: According to this CBS news report, 80% of consumers prefer to spend a little more for organic and natural foods. And, if you want a quick peek on how your shopping list stacks up to healthy choices for your family, you can go to the Environmental Working Group’s website and peruse their Food Scores, Dirty Dozen or Shopper’s Guide for reliable food safety and chemical components ratings.

Here’s my proposal, FDA:

Rather than defining, trademarking and enforcing the arbitrary use of the word “natural” – which inevitably leads to overhead requiring registration, investigation and a massive financial burden to anyone who wants to tout their products as natural, enforce the exact opposite: require every manufacturer who uses anything artificial, synthetic or chemical in their food production to label their products as “unnatural”, and charge them a fee. Consumers will easily be able to tell the difference without spending any extra time at the grocery store examining labels for ingredients they can’t pronounce.

At the outset, the FDA will make more money by penalizing the big-business players in the food industry, you will have implemented a standard that increases awareness among consumers and protects their health all at the same time. Producers of foods that are truly “natural” will be allowed to flourish without the burden of proof, unless specifically pointed out by consumers, at which point they will have to furnish sufficient evidence that their product is 100% natural, which will also mean organic, which will also mean non-GMO.

Awesome. I should have been a lawyer. ;-)

It doesn't take a magnifying glass to tell which one of these items is NOT natural...

It doesn’t take a magnifying glass to tell which one of these items is NOT natural…

What do you think? Is it worthwhile to participate in the FDA’s call to action? Is this a trustworthy attempt at sound policy making? Do they really have our best interest at heart, or does “natural” eventually come down to “less than 2%” of the following artificial ingredients?

Holiday gift bags are here! Pre-order yours today!

Get a head start on Holiday Shopping at The Homestead

I can’t believe my friends are already asking about my Homestead holiday gift bags…sheesh, folks! It’s still November, right? The great news is, they are ahead of the curve to pre-order my best selling gift bags – $25 worth of goodies fresh from the Homestead! Free shipping in the continental US, gift wrapping available, plus you have the peace of mind that your holiday shopping is taken care of AND you’re supporting a cottage industry/soon-to-be-totally-legit non profit! Hooray!

Most Popular! DEEP BREATH GIFT BAG includes: 

Holiday gift bags are here! Pre-order yours today!

Holiday gift bags are here! Pre-order yours today!

  • 8 oz Deep Breath Blend (mullein, mugwort and mint…yummm…) or try my Get Well: rose hips, pine needles, mint, yarrow and bee balm!
  • 8 oz Dr. B’s cough syrup (wild cherry bark, lobelia, horehound, licorice root, organic cane sugar)
  • 10 Homestead Cough Drops (mint, horehound, cherry bark) or 1 oz Aspen Bark Tincture

“Mountain Mama” – recommended by midwives and mamas! Includes: 

sustainably, ethically, beautifully wildcrafted nettle, raspberry leaf and red clover for my Mountain Mama blended herbals

sustainably, ethically, beautifully wildcrafted nettle, raspberry leaf and red clover for my Mountain Mama blended herbals

  • 8 oz Mountain Mama Blend (nettle, raspberry leaf, red clover)
  • 2 oz tin “Magic Owie Salve” (arnica, yarrow, comfrey, pure beeswax, organic olive oil)
  • 2 oz Nettle-Me seasoning

Clean Livin’ (pick up only for items requiring refrigeration):

My Clean Livin' herbal blend includes nettles, blessed thistle and dandelion root

My Clean Livin’ herbal blend includes nettles, blessed thistle and dandelion root

  • 4 oz Homestead Hummus (all organic ingredients include chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, paprika, salt)
  • 8 oz of my famous “Nettle-ette” dressing/marinade (all organic ingredients include olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette, dijon mustard, salt, pepper, fresh nettle, garlic and parsley)
  • Nettle-Me all purpose seasoning or 1 oz Clean Livin’ tincture

To order: click here to order with your credit card or pay pal account through Pay-Pal. Please include your name, mailing address and which Gift Bag (or bags) you would like to purchase along with your $25 “donation” per gift bag.

Mix-n-match – well, of course you can mix and match your own holiday gift bags! Just send an e-mail to theholistichomestead@gmail.com for a free PDF of our complete catalog! 



13 Natural Remedies for Pink Eye

When the school calls in the middle of the day, my stomach jumps into my throat. “Oh no – something’s terribly wrong!” While my bit of panic is certainly justified – usually a phone call means a sick kiddo means a trip to the hospital – this time it was far more benign: “Jimmy’s got a touch of pink eye so we have to send him home.” Blessed relief! Pink eye, that’s it? “Awesome! I’ll be right there!”

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAMaybe she thought my enthusiasm was misplaced. Pink eye, formally known as conjunctivitis, is no fun at all. You get the “glue eye” effect where crusty discharges can literally glue the eyelids shut, the crusty, weepy, crunchy around the eyes and under the nose, pink inflammation around the rims of the eyelids (hence the “pink” eye) and a hoarse, rattly cough to boot. Poor kiddo!

While conjunctivitis is highly contagious and can linger for over a week, this diagnosis is no cause for alarm, and certainly does not justify a trip to the hospital. Denver Children’s Hospital – a place we frequent more than we’d like – always asks us these questions before we load up the car and make the two hour treck down the hill with a sick kiddo:

  1. Is he vomiting? Does he have diarrhea? (looking for significant fluid loss)
  2. Does he have a fever? Is he lethargic or acting unusual? (looking for definitive symptoms of an emergency such as axillary temperature over 101 F, pre-epileptic tics or twitches, weakness indicative of paralysis)
  3. When was his last intake? (is he tolerating fluids or food? Fluid intake is most important, and we don’t get really concerned until he is unable to drink anything for several hours with significant fluid loss)

But driving all the way to Denver (over 100 miles round trip) is certainly not justified for a minor inconvenience like pink eye. And frankly, it is not even necessary to bother his pediatrician at the clinic in town for pink eye, either. All he would do is tell us to keep it clean, to wash our hands frequently – especially after touching Jimmy’s face – and he would probably give us some antibiotics.

But this mommy knows better – and there’s not one Doc or institution who would argue that home is the best place for healing. So, while we are interred together – Jimmy with his crusty eyes and me with a cough – I want to share with you how we are clearing up the pink eye quickly, safely and naturally while also strengthening his immune system!



The first Homeopathic remedy to consider with eye infections of any sort is Euphrasia (renowned in the herbal world for treating similar complaints, commonly called Eyebright):

“One of our most important coryza and hay fever remedies is Euphrasia. We think of Euphrasia when we find a case of coryza or allergy which is centered especially in the eyes.” – Roger Morrison’s Desktop Guide 

If you were to walk into a homeopathic clinic with allergies, colds, conjunctivitis, iritis, pertussis, or even measles Euphrasia is likely to be one of the first remedies you would receive. But I felt like there was more to Jimmy’s case – and I wanted to treat the whole picture and not just the acute. So I considered the different aspects of his eye infection, what seemed to make it better or worse, and I also looked at his behavior and energy level.

Often a case of pink eye presents with the following rubrics:

  • eye, discharges, yellow-green
  • eye, agglutinated
  • nose, coryza, green
  • nose, coryza accompanied with cough
  • cough, rattly, suffocative
  • generals, fatigue
  • generals, worse right side

These rubrics will paint a beautiful picture of conjunctivitis, giving you remedies that speak to the overall symptom picture for your kiddo. For Jimmy, I added the details that he generally does not agree with cow’s milk, and even refused breast milk as an infant; the fact that he gets really clingy to mommy when he’s on the verge of getting sick; and the interesting detail that he craves peanut butter (just like his mommy…hmmmm…).

This deeper analysis yielded remedies like Thuja (more often considered when symptoms are a reaction to vaccination); Lycopodium (a remedy with strong psychological insecurities); Calcarea (a classic remedy for kiddos who seem tired all the time and are prone to frequent bouts of cold and flu); Silica (especially for marked vertigo with sinus problems, acute and chronic otitis media, sinusitis and “chronic, dry dasal obstruction”). Pulsatilla, however, was the only remedy that featured the unique qualities of clinginess, craves peanut butter and sleeps on his tummy with the ability to treat conjunctivitis.

So, Jimmy received two doses, one hour apart of Pulsatilla 30c. His energy perked up and he became less clingy. But still the crusty, weepy, drippy continued, unabated. I decided Silica would be a close second for Jimmy because he really is prone to every little bug that goes around. The constant routine of hospitalizations and antibiotics during his first year and a half of life did considerable damage to his immune system, no doubt.

Two doses of Silica 30c one hour apart seemed to dissolve the crusts, and Jimmy’s nose and eyes were streaming profusely with clear to yellow mucus, thank God it wasn’t green anymore. His cough also worsened, I believe this was from an excess of drainage and he’s not old enough to blow his nose quite yet.

Right before bed, the crusties returned – though just about everything else had improved. Time to break out the Euphrasia. One dose of 12c before bed and he slept soundly most of the night – waking up to cough a bit and then rolling over and falling right back to sleep. The next morning his eyes were not nearly as bad as the previous day – no pink-ness or inflammation – and significantly less crusty. But as the morning wore on, the crusts became thicker and he was peeling at his eyelashes to clear them. One dose of Euphrasia 30c (the next highest potency) stopped the progression of sinus discharges and started giving some movement to the phlegm in his chest.

Now, for the herbal protocol: 


If I had Eyebright in my herbal apothecary, I would have used it first thing. But I was feeling under the weather myself, and not up for a trip to town to track some down. Instead, as my mentor always reminded me, “the best remedy is the one you have at hand”. So I found some powdered goldenseal and made a diluted eye-wash with warm water (about 1/2 cup) to 1/8 teaspoon of goldenseal powder. Stir well, dip a clean clean clean washcloth in the solution and apply the opposite side to the eyes (to prevent the gritty goldenseal from getting in the eyes, you can also strain the solution before applying to the washcloth). I washed his face 2 to 3 times a day, or as needed to clear out the build-up, and also to take advantage of goldenseal’s powerful anti-microbial properties.

“Wicks” is the name my partner gave to my natural, homemade version of Vicks chest rub. This rub alleviates congestion and has the added benefits of anti-bacterial and anti-viral essential oils. To one Tablespoon of Organic Raw Unrefined Coconut Oil I added three drops each of Eucalyptus, Peppermint and Spearmint essential oil. I also mixed in one clove of freshly minced raw garlic for good measure. This gets massaged into Jimmy’s feet and onto his chest several times a day, as well.

It is important to note that the herbal treatments recommended here are not compatible with the homeopathic protocol. Herbs like mint and eucalyptus, and strong tinctures or oils will negate the energy of a homeopathic. With my little one, I always start with the homeopathics first. He is so good at taking the tiny sugar pills and the response should be noticeable within an hour. Herbal remedies, on the other hand require more time – their benefit is cumulative.

To learn more about using herbs for nutrition and homeopathy for evolution make sure you are following this blog by entering your e-mail below! Thanks!

Dislocated shoulder? That’s a tough row to hoe…

5-Things-About-Shoulder-InjuryWhen I first dislocated my left shoulder last May, I was overwhelmed with the urgent pleas of my peers that I see a doctor. Finally I gave in and made the appointment. The poor doctor could barely examine my shoulder I was in so much pain. She said she could give me prescription pain killers (I already had some from the ED, which I couldn’t take because they made me so sick!) and would try and get me a referral to an orthopedic doctor.

I waited…and waited. I called, I tried other doctors. We finally tracked down one orthopedic doctor in Denver (about 50 miles away) who took my insurance – but his waiting list was several weeks long! Finally, I gave up. I got tired of waiting – I decided to take my health into my own hands.

The prescription medications I received in the ED were Percocet and Vicodin. Vicodin contains the habit-forming narcotic hydrocodone, which can also cause a host of undesirable side-effects (nausea, vomiting, dizziness, constipation and diarrhea to name a few). Percoset also contains an addictive narcotic, oxycodone. I followed the recommended doses for two days directly following my discharge from the ED (where they also gave me IV morphine for the pain!) so you can imagine I was pretty out of it for a while.

The hardest thing with severe and traumatic pain Continue reading


Prescription for “A Jug of Wine, A Loaf of Bread…”

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,

A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread–and Thou

Beside me singing in the Wilderness–

Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow

-From the Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam

This is not the usual rant about the scientifically proven health benefits of wine and bread. So – all you gluten-free folks out there can put down the pitchforks, please.

The peacock is renowned for it's ability to eat poisonous plants and live - imbibing toxic substances is what lends the iridescence to peacock plumage

The peacock is renowned for it’s ability to eat poisonous plants and live – imbibing toxic substances is what lends the iridescence to peacock plumage. Homeopathy is also based on the principle that any substance that can harm can also heal. It takes wisdom to discern the difference. 

No. Rather, this is a meditation on the #1 top search on this date in 2015: “What is health?” As a writer I’m always following my readers lead – what are you searching for? Why have you landed here? And finally, when you lay down at the end of the day, looking up at the ceiling, did you find what you were looking for? “What is health” is a delightful ice-breaker – especially with complete strangers.

If you really want to break it down, some folks classify “health” into six distinct categories: (you may or may not want to play this at full volume…)

But, for the purposes of my brief ruminations, I think Omar Khayyam truly touches upon the essence of health in the classic epic poem The Rubaiyat:

“Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring

Your Winter-garment of Repentance fling:

The Bird of Time has but a little way. 

To flutter–and the Bird is on the Wing.”

This poem speaks differently to me than it did the first (and admittedly last time) I read it in High School. As we age, we lose our picture of health as youthful, energetic, flawless, ambitious. But don’t overlook your present grace – or the radiance of the next moment or the next – just because you don’t look like you did when you were twelve or twenty-something…and you certainly don’t feel that youthful, either.

In this present moment, I toast to health at 21, at 31 and 61 and at 91! Life is too short to count calories, to obsess over a few erroneous tics on the bathroom scale. A few extra creeks in the knees, and cracks in the hands, and of course it takes a little longer to get out of bed in the morning. And maybe that afternoon nap they made me take in preschool wasn’t such a bad idea.

“The Bird of Time…is on the Wing!” What is the “book of verses” but a book calling our spirits beyond our temporal cares? The “Thou” of Khayyam is the divine source of life – not literally the jug of wine, but represented as a spiritual character weaved throughout the verses of The Rubaiyat.

Myself when young did eagerly frequent

Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument

About it and about: but evermore

Came out by the same door where in I went.

And in his ongoing quest for wisdom, he continues his dialogue between “me” and “Thee” until he is beckoned beyond himself, intoxicated with the Great Spirit:


Then to the lip of this poor earthen Urn

I lean’d, the Secret of my Life to learn:

And Lip to Lip it murmur’d–“While you live

Drink!–for, once dead, you never shall return.”


Bindings and illustrations for the Rubaiyat are abundant with peacock imagery

Perhaps, finally, we can imbibe some truth, and saturate your searches with some sanity, albeit from a 12 century Perisan luminary. Do you understand? – here we have the secret to lifelong health and happiness. The object of your quest is henceforth obtained. May these words be like a big juicy steak: nourishing, rib-sticking, and requiring time and energy for proper digestion.


How to quit smoking cigarettes naturally



photo copyright MJ Freeman 2014

photo copyright MJ Freeman 2014

Tobacco addiction has been a part of my life, off and on, since I was a teenager. When I first started smoking I thought – “well, if I’m going to have a nasty habit, I better smoke the highest quality and most expensive cigarettes I can find.” Which, to my adolescent mind meant Galoise!

Since then I would smoke whatever was handy – even half-burnt butts out of the ashtray. Yeah, disgusting, I know. When my habit was at its height I was smoking Virgina Slims with the errant belief that smoking a skinny cigarette would keep me skinny.

The psychology of addiction is complex and powerful – many of my friends who have quit went through many years of on-again off-again smoking, quitting cold-turkey (some with success, others not so much), trying hypnotism, patches, homeopathics, smokeless tobacco, herbal cigarettes, and giving up altogether.

I told a friend last week who claimed to be a dyed-in-the-wool lifetime smoker: “Never give up.” I am not claiming to have the cure-all for quitting tobacco, but for those of you who struggle with nicotine addiction, for your families and friends…I wanted to offer one more tool in your “quitters” kit.


Quitter’s Blend


SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAMy Quitter’s Blend incorporates three simple herbs: mullein, mugwort and lobelia. Mullein is traditionally smoked for relief from bronchitis and deep lung congestion. Mugwort is anti-microbial and anti-viral, can be made into smudge sticks and is burned for moxa treatment (holding heated herbs above acupressure points to activate the chi). Lobelia is also known as “Indian Tobacco” and has similar effects to nicotine – relaxing, calming, and dilates the lungs allowing for a deeper, more satisfying breath.

The lucky testers for my Quitter’s Blend all agree that it is totally smokeable (the essential oils in the mugwort keep it burning smoothly) that the mullein is helping to clean out their lungs and the small amount of lobelia is just enough to give a lasting nicotine-esque satisfaction, without the jitters and cravings. Because large amounts of lobelia can have similar side-effects to nicotine such as nausea and dizziness, I recommend no more than four “Quitter’s Doobies” or fresh bowls of my Quitter’s blend within a 24 hour period.

Also, it is a good idea to use it for a few weeks, and then take a week off to allow the system to normalize and see if a reduced nicotine intake is really holding as part of your new lifestyle. Any substance that is combusted and produces smoke that is subsequently inhaled (intentionally or not) leaves particulates in the lungs. These particulates will accumulate and can lead to congestion, increased risk for lung infections and reduced resistance to bronchitis, pneumonia and developing certain cancers.

The Quitter’s Blend is not meant to be a lifetime substitute for smoking cigarettes, rather it will help you wean off of nicotine when combined with other therapies like acupuncture, hypnotism, and meditation. In fact, as I was slowly replacing my cigarettes with Quitter’s Doobies, I needed them less and less. Then one day, without even thinking about it, it occurred to me that I hadn’t had anything to smoke that whole day.

Other helpful allies:

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAHomeopathic Tabacum 200c can be taken when you feel the cravings coming on. Take one pillule under the tongue, take a few deep breaths while it dissolves. Occupy yourself with something else for a few minutes and then check in – is the craving still there?

I have found Tabacum to work for some, and not at all for others. When Tabacum isn’t effective, homeopathic Lobelia is the next remedy of choice. Look for 30c at your local health food store, or contact your friendly local homeopath for a higher potency. Lobelia may also be effective in quieting chronic smokers cough, helping you sleep more soundly through the night, and reducing back pain.

Ten reasons to quit smoking today:

  1. Reduce risk of heart disease
  2. Reduce risk of lung cancer
  3. Save money!!! 1 pack / day x $7/pack x 30 days a month = $2,520/year up in smoke!
  4. For my kids – for their lung health, so they don’t pick up the habit…
  5. Healthier teeth – ALL commercial cigarettes contain SUGAR!
  6. Taste buds – smoking tobacco burns out your taste buds…most anyone who quits successfully will tell you, “Wow! I can taste food again…”
  7. Smoking accelerates mental decline (ie, higher incidence of Alzheimer’s and Dementia among smokers)
  8. There is also a positive correlation between auto-immune disorders and smoking, as well as Rheumatoid Arthritis.
  9. Look younger! Smoking accelerates ageing, increases wrinkles and grey hairs. Quit smoking so your body can have more clean oxygen and energy to repair itself.
  10. Erectile dysfunction and impotence – need I say more.

Three Things to do Besides Smoking:

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERANext time you have a smoke break, instead of lighting up and slumping down in a cold lonely corner…or being just another smoker in the crowd, try these strategies to break the habit. I personally used ALL of these strategies when I was trying to quit…sometimes they worked, and sometimes I came back for a smoke, anyway. Eventually, however – I was able to transcend the social and emotional aspects of smoking tobacco that I enjoyed so much: being part of the cool crowd, re-enforcing my rebel identity, having an excuse just to get some fresh air and some quiet time outside and alone (especially for stressed out mamas who need a break), and in a way, the ten minutes it took me to smoke a whole cigarette became a way for me to center, to re-ground. So I invented these other ways to accomplish the same things, like go for a walk, lie down, take deep breaths…and:

  1. Smoke a Quitter’s Doobie! As an added bonus, your friends will ask you what is that and can I have one, too?
  2. Carry incense or a smudge stick to light – smudge yourself in healing energy and cleanse your aura
  3. Invent a dialogue with your cigarette, aka Spirit Tobacco – maybe it goes something like this: “I recognize your power, Spirit Tobacco, and I honor and respect it.” Then unwrap the cigarette and sprinkle the tobacco into the wind, “Thank you for your gifts, may your medicine carry wisdom and blessings to all.” (Actually, I didn’t make this up. It’s a real Shamanic technique/ritual, also known as making “tobacco ties”.)

More to come on my journey toward being tobacco free! Have you recently quit smoking? What worked for you? Please like, comment and share!

Is it safe to smoke pot during chemo and radiation?

The short answer is – YES! Medical grade marijuana, in-fact, is most often prescribed, legitimately, legally and successfully for cancer patients while they are undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments for cancer. Author, advocate and edibles expert Angel O’Grady agrees:

“Yes yes I would say yes! Unless it’s for lungs then I would say no and maybe do a vaporizer or stick to edibles.” (Connect with Angel, founder of Mountain High Pharms and author of Hemp and Cannabis Cooking Basics on Facebook to learn more!)

The long answer is also YES! but it’s worthwhile to investigate the “how” and “why” and “what distinguishes medical marijuana from recreational pot?” Let’s take things one step at a time:

HOW is marijuana safe to smoke during cancer treatments?

There are hundreds of active chemical compounds in the marijuana plant. The most popular of these compounds is called THC, or tetra-hydro-cannabinol. THC is the chemical responsible for the “high” feeling you get (or, that you’ve heard about others getting, ahem…) when you smoke a joint. (Need a MMJ primer? Read this first.) High quality recreational marijuana is cultivated to have up to 70% THC, especially if it comes from the Colorado Rockies.

(Can’t say exactly how I know this…since I live here, and all my neighbors are the licensed growers who supply the retail recreational marijuana outlets. Spend any amount of time in a high-altitude coffee shop and you can learn A LOT about the art and science, and the do’s and definitely-DO-NOT of cannabis cultivation…oh, and one more thing: that’s why you should really take it easy on the Colorado pot – it’s significantly more potent!) 

Conventional cancer treatment kills the cancer cells by burning with radiation and poisoning with deadly chemicals. These treatments also kill just about everything else for the patient – his energy, his appetite, his hair, his digestion, his sex-drive, his joy for living. I’ve seen this with friends and recently with my mom. My mom lived in Utah for the duration of her battle with cancer, where marijuana is still illegal. However, she was able to secure a valid prescription for medical marijuana during her cancer treatments to help with her appetite and depression. Medical marijuana, however, has almost no THC. Rather, it is cultivated specifically to be higher in a compound called cannabidiols, or CBDs. CBDs don’t make you feel spacy or give you that out-of-body trip, rather they alleviate pain, increase appetite, normalize hormonal function and even slow the growth of cancer cells.

Here’s an interesting thread I found that speaks more specifically about the chemical/biological changes your oncologist may find when you are using marijuana – prescription or otherwise:

“This topic is always quickly elevated. I think this question is best suited for you and your medical team. I would definately tell your Onc you are occasionally smoking because MJ can cause a rise in HCG and Estrogen. both of which you probably want to keep low as possible.” (from tc-cancer.com)

Marinol is a syntheitc THC pill that is often prescribed during chemo treatment. I did not use either, Ativan and Phenergen worked great for me with little side effects. My best tip is to get on a anti-naseau routine and stick to it. For me I took an 1/2 a phernegen 30 min before eating and took an ativan if I started feeling funny.”

It is worth noting as well, that the FDA, the AMA and the NIH agree that not enough research has been published to positively demonstrate the efficacy of incorporating marijuana into routine cancer treatments. Read what they have to say here.

Here’s what scientists at the University of Washington Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute discovered:

“Like opiates (substances derived from the opium poppy such as heroin), cannabinoids affect the user by interacting with specific receptors, located within different parts of the central nervous system. Two kinds of cannabinoid receptors have been found to date and are termed CB1 and CB2. A substance that occurs naturally within the brain and binds to CB1 receptors was discovered in 1992 and termed “anandamide.” Additional naturally occurring substances that bind to CB1 have since been discovered, and these, together with the receptors are termed the “endogenous cannabinoid system.

“The actual effects that the cannabinoids have reflect the areas of the brain they interact with. Interactions tend to occur in our limbic system (the part of the brain that affects memory, cognition and psychomotor performance) and mesolimbic pathway (activity in this region is associated with feelings of reward) and are also widely distributed in areas of pain perception.”

– See more at: http://learnaboutmarijuanawa.org/factsheets/cannabinoids.htm#sthash.05LtuipP.dpuf

Why medical marijuana versus other ways to cope with cancer treatments? 

Conventional treatments for the effects of chemotherapy and radiation focus on one symptom at a time – for diarrhea, take over-the-counter anti-diarrhea medicines. For nausea, take anti-nausea medicine. For pain, here’s some morphine – never mind the added side-effects from each of these medications, and potential negative drug interactions.


According to the American Cancer Society, nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy are typically treated with Seratonin and dopamine antagonists are often combined with steroids. These drugs have common side-effects including headache, diarrhea, constipation, trouble sleeping, increased appetite and weight gain, dry mouth, and dizziness. They also list cannabinoids as an effective medication to combat many of the symptoms of cancer treatment:

“Most commonly used drugs in this group:

  • Dronabinol (Marinol®)
  • Nabilone (Cesamet®)

These drugs may be used to treat nausea and vomiting from chemo when the usual anti-emetic drugs do not work. They also may be used to stimulate appetite.

Common side effects:

  • Mood changes (anxiety, depression, paranoia, euphoria, apathy, and more)
  • Confusion, disorientation
  • Drowsiness
  • Muddled thinking, trouble concentrating, poor memory
  • Dizziness
  • Change in ability to perceive surroundings
  • Poor coordination, clumsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased appetite
  • Low energy
  • Feeling like you are moving when you are not (vertigo)

These drugs contain the active ingredient in marijuana [aka, CBDs]. Younger patients and those who previously used marijuana tend to tolerate the side effects better.”

Empirical research reveals a lower prevalence of severe side-effects from CBDs versus conventional medications. CBDs are also credited with a broader range of action – so incorporating them into routine cancer treatment covers more of the ill-effects from chemo and radiation. CBDs can be taken orally via capsules or pills, they can also be applied to the skin to speed skin cell recovery from radiation burns and eczema, they can also be smoked to obtain therapeutic benefits.

From my personal experience, I have never heard of any negative side effects from smoking pot. Marijuana has never been positively correlated with addiction and withdrawl symptoms, permanent loss of vital functions or further cancerous developments. In fact, laboratory studies show again and again marijuana’s power to inhibit the growth of cancerous cells.

The prescription CBDs come in pill form or as concentrated oils in a capsule. Sometimes, the CBDs are not even derived from an actual cannabis plant, rather they are chemically manufactured in a laboratory. Previous research compares the difference in efficacy and cost to the consumer of laboratory manufactured CBDs versus naturally grown and extracted CBDs in treating ADHD – I wonder if similar research exists for CBDs and cancer treatment?

What distinguishes medical marijuana from recreational pot?

Now, I think, you’re starting to get the picture. Check out this straight-forward 3 minute presentation by Dr. Sunil Kumar Aggarwal:

HPV vaccine Gardasil at the center of international controversy

hpv vaccineMore headlines about adverse affects from vaccines are a double-edged sword: they add fuel to the fire for detractors of mass vaccination OR they are chalked up as more “hype” by proponents of vaccination. Most parents and health care providers are left somewhere in the middle – wondering where they can find reliable information, and more fundamental truths about our modern approach to preventative medicine to guide the decision making process.

It is notable that today’s headline regarding “horrendous” effects of the HPV vaccine – designed to prevent cervical cancer and genital warts, arrives on the front page within days of an announcement by the World Health Organization that 2/3 of the global population are currently infected with herpes.

Scientifically speaking, genital herpes is not related to human papillomavirus (HPV, the purported cause of cervical cancer), though the vaccine claims to prevent cervical cancer as well as genital outbreaks. And, just to be clear, there are no “proven” vaccines for herpes on the market, yet…

What is the real risk of cervical cancer? 

The percentage of cervical cancers caused by HPV is relatively low. While some studies have shown “more than half of women by the age of 50 have been exposed to HPV, but most HPV infections clear up on their own.” Cervical cancer develops in some women with a rare and “high risk” strain of the virus.

Commonly accepted and widely recommended sound medical practices for preventing cervical cancer involve reducing the risk factors associated with a higher prevalence of cervical cancer:


Women who smoke cigarettes and engage in unprotected sex with multiple partners have a higher risk for developing cervical cancer. (From medicinenet.com, “Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer”)

What a heavy guilty trip for parents! The CDC propaganda patrol knows how to lay it on thick...

What a heavy guilty trip for parents! The CDC propaganda patrol knows how to lay it on thick…

The HPV vaccine may only be effective in preventing cervical cancer if administered (three shots spaced six months apart) before a woman becomes sexually active. HPV is the most common Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) among US teenagers. The earliest a girl will be offered the HPV vaccine in the US is age 9, and is offered throughout her teenage years importantly before she starts having sex. Even the CDC must concede:

“…it is important that women continue to be screened for cervical cancer, even after getting all 3 shots of either HPV vaccine. This is because neither vaccine protects against ALL types of cervical cancer.

The vaccines do not protect against all HPV types— so they will not prevent all cases of cervical cancer. Since some cervical cancers will not be prevented by the vaccines, it will be important for women to continue getting screened for cervical cancer.”

The CDC claims the vaccine is perfectly safe as it was tested and tried on thousands of individuals before receiving the sanction of the FDA and the CDC. Furthermore, it is championed by the WHO and is mandatory in DC and Virginia for “all girls entering the sixth grade to be vaccinated against HPV”. (Further in-depth reading about the politics of HPV in this article: “Childhood Vaccine and School Entry Laws: The Case of HPV Vaccine” published by the National Institute of Health)

hpv politics

But one mother’s anguished cry for justice will not be ignored: 

Fiona Kirby, the Irish nurse and mother bringing a complaint against Ireland's High Court for the "horrendous adverse affects" of the HPV vaccine Gardasil on her 11 year old daughter who is now permanently disabled after receiving two out of three doses of the vaccine

Fiona Kirby, the Irish nurse and mother bringing a complaint against Ireland’s High Court for the “horrendous adverse affects” of the HPV vaccine Gardasil on her 11 year old daughter who is now permanently disabled after receiving two out of three doses of the vaccine

Irish nurse and mother Fiona Kirby is fighting to have Gardasil removed from the market in Ireland after her 11 year old daughter became seriously ill, and then permanently disabled after receiving the vaccine. Her daughter’s symptoms began with weakness, fever and fatigue; progressing to severe nausea and pneumonia leading to a long course of antibiotics, weight loss and muscle wasting. Fiona Kirby thought her experience was an isolated case, but later found more than 100 other girls in Ireland experienced very similar symptoms with severe impacts on their health.

She is now allied with a parental support network called REGRET: Reaction and Effects of Gardasil Resulting in Extreme Trauma who has joined in on the lawsuit to stop the use of Gardasil in Ireland. While the manufacturers of Gardasil have several weeks to come up with a formal reply, Gardasil will continue to be administered to young girls in Ireland. They may return with certain evidence stating the cause and effect cannot be definitively proven; or they may settle with the “hot batch” excuse: the fact that some batches of vaccines are distributed with active strains of the virus or containing bacterial contamination. This is a fact that has underlined more than a dozen settlements between vaccine manufacturers and the broken-hearted parents whose children lost their health, their futures and in some cases even their lives to a “routine” vaccine.

The problem is much bigger than a “hot batch” in Ireland

hpv global

Health Impact News reports in 2014 that Spain joined a growing number of countries who have filed criminal lawsuits against HPV manufacturers – including France, India and Japan. What are the grounds for a criminal lawsuit?

“The complaint states that Merck Laboratories failed to use an inert placebo during clinical trials, thereby manipulating data and marketing Gardasil under false pretences. Despite complaints of several young women with similar new medical conditions after Gardasil injections, the Spanish health authorities ignored calls for a moratorium on the use of Gardasil until the safety issues were resolved.”

First: Clinical trials were not conducted according to scientific standards; this oversight in testing was intentional leading to misleading claims about the viability of Gardasil (the trademarked name for the HPV vaccine). Second: Health authorities continued routine administration of Gardasil despite complaints, and even while the safety of the vaccine was being investigated. Apparently, a vaccine is considered safe until proven otherwise.

“Both regional and national health authorities made no attempt to verify the accuracy of the safety data Merck submitted to gain approval for the widespread administration of Gardasil as a cancer preventative; nor did they make any attempt to inform the public that an already proven safe and effective means of controlling cervical cancer was already in existence.”

While this study does not specify what the “proven safe and effective means of controlling cervical cancer” would be – my guess is the obvious preventative measures of reducing risk by quitting smoking and engaging in protected sexual intercourse with a limited range of intimate partners. The frightening thing here is that the government agencies charged with protecting public health made no attempt to “verify the accuracy of the safety data” from the manufacturers, taking them at their word and giving Merck carte blanche for the “widespread administration of Gardasil” under the pretense that it could prevent cancer.

“The complaint goes on to say both national and local health authorities had adequate knowledge regarding the potential harmful effects of Gardasil and chose to recommend administration of the HPV vaccine anyway. The complaint alleges this showed an absolute disregard for the health and well-being of young Spanish girls.”

Health officials in Spain have no room to claim ignorance about the potential harmful effects of Gardasil. So why did they allow and promote this vaccine even though they knew it was not adequately tested, and had full disclosure about the negative effects? What motivated them to completely ignore their mandate to protect the health and safety of young Spanish women?

“According to the complaint, the attitude of the Merck pharmaceutical company and Spanish health authorities (both national and regional) before, during and after the administration of Gardasil shows they care nothing about the risk to which medical consumers expose themselves whenever Gardasil is used.”

Is anyone really that surprised that a multi-million dollar, multi-national, mega-conglomorate pharmaceutical company cares nothing for the consumer? And that the nonchalant attitude toward real medical risks reflects the real priorities in the corporate culture of giant pharmaceuticals?

And finally, we have the icing on the cake:

“In the United States, however, you cannot sue the manufacturers of vaccines, as they are protected from civil criminal prosecution. As a result, marketing efforts to increase the sale and distribution of the HPV vaccine are increasing.”

The damage is done, and while the impact to individual families is permanent and irrevocable, the total cost to pharmaceutical companies like Merck is negligible. And in the United States, our “options” as parents are shrinking quickly…where will we turn for justice? Do you know someone whose life has been impacted by Gardasil or other vaccines? Where do you stand on the issue?

Devil’s Advocate: Obviously I am passionately against vaccination. But I want to make sure my readers get both sides of the issue, and that you have a chance to make up your own minds. Here’s a compelling antithesis to my take on today’s headlines: