Friday, December 11, 2015

Seeking wellness

I had the expected childhood diseases– Mumps, Chicken Pox, Measles, - and in each case the country doctor drove out to our farm and examined me and then gave me terrible tasting medicine that he poured into small brown glass bottles – it was to be taken one spoonful at a time… Some ‘wise’ parents arranged to have ‘parties’ in the summer time when it was more convenient to be sick – When parents in the community heard that a kid was sick with one of the common childhood diseases  they would arrange for other kids to visit to ‘catch’ the disease –”It was going to happen anyway.”


Wounds and infections were often treated with poultices – A soft mash was bound in place over infections to ‘draw out’ the redness…The two favorite poultices in my family were made from boiled bread paste and boiled flax seeds... About a half cup of the still warm mixture was placed over the wound and held in place with a bandage.  I’m sure this was a traditional treatment carried over from earlier pre medical societies. 

Poultice before wrapping
Since those early beginnings – I am now a member of Kaiser Medical – an HMO – and I can be seen by my personal doctor anytime – and if she things its appropriate I can see a specialist… It is a great comfort to know that I can have anything from a skin rash to hip replacement for a minimal cost, with a skilled practitioner…  I got into this topic this week because I have developed recurring back pain (This condition seems to be common among people in our time and age) … 

Modern drug development requires careful testing

My Kaiser doctor suggested that besides physical therapy I might like to try Acupuncture… As a scientist I have serious questions about the theory of Acupuncture – something about the flow of energy, ”Chi”, within the body – The concept of chi has never been observed or accepted by the scientific community…  (I have the same problems with the theory of chiropractory)  Still I thought – it has worked in the Asian world for thousands of years – so out of curiosity I went to my first session – about 10 chairs were facing one wall, and 10 more facing the opposite wall – with an aisle down the middle… the acupuncture practitioner explained the procedure to us all – then went down the row and inserted 5 very fine needles in each ear.  

Acupuncture of the ear

It was virtually painless. We sat there listening to soothing music for 40 minutes – then the needles were removed.  Read more here:… My back doctor had told me that my back would be like the stock market – sometimes 'up' and sometimes 'down'… So I don’t know how to judge my acupuncture results – Maybe its wishful thinking or maybe I am a highly suggestive person – but I think I feel  better… so much that I have been back for 3 more acupuncture treatments… Do I think it works – I don’t know – but what the heck – it’s a pleasant experience…
Mexican herb store in San Francisco 
I have in my travels observed other alternative medical practices… In Austria a friend took me to visit her “Kraut Hexa” – (Kraut=Herb, Hexa=witch) … this is a grower and practitioner of using herbs for medical treatments.  In much of the world ( Europe, Latin America, Asia, Africa, Native Americans) there are long traditions of using natural plant products for healing.  Many of our modern medicines are developed from products first identified in natural herbs.  My grandmother used natural herbs. 

The European herbal tradition goes back to the first humans in Europe - this is a Medieval wood cut...
Folk healers learned the use of local plants for treating a wide range of health issues. Today in many modern countries, herbs are seen an a more natural, less invasive ‘cure’ than chemical drugs. I still seek and take what my Kaiser doctors give to me but I respect herbal traditions in other lands. … So the "Kraut Hexa" looked into my eyes and felt my pulse and gave me something for my hay fever – But I was impatient and returned to my chlorphrenamanine…
Herb sales in Africa
In Chiapas Mexico I observed a curandero healer inside a church use live chicken when treating a patient – he chanted and passed the chicken over the body of the sick person – and then both he and the patient drank the local home made distilled alcohol – and I suspect the patient felt much better (at least temporarily).  We modern folk would call this a 'placebo' effect cure.

Curandero practitioner

In a native village in the rainforest of Ecuador I went with my small group of 5 people to the home of a shaman… His healing method was to drink a potion (not the patient!) made for a jungle plant.  This caused him to see visions and to see the ‘evil spirits’ affecting the sick person… he would then know how to dispel the spirits and heal the person. I didn’t try it…These traditions are accepted as valid by the local populations that have not been trained otherwise. 

The Shaman that we visited - we drank homemade Chicha together ( in the bowl)

So we in the west are still believers in our antibiotics and steroids… our Tylenol, Levitra, and Penicillin… I like learning about other traditions but I trust my scientifically tested medical practices…  But what the heck – we still all live with the same human condition seeking to maximize our health and well being…