Archive for December, 2013

Book Review: Planet Medicine: Origins, Revised Edition: Origins by Richard Grossinger

Posted on December 17, 2013. Filed under: Book Reviews, Path of the Healer |

Planet-medicine

I recently finished reading Planet Medicine: Origins, Revised Edition: Origins by Richard Grossinger  and what a ride it has been.

At its base, this book is an anthropological survey of healing systems from around the world as well as a bit of a philosophical examination of healing and healing systems.  Which by itself is completely made of awesome.

It is also a big shaggy dog of a book that often meanders about sometimes uncovering thoughtful treasures and sometimes digging up old shoes that may not be quite so exciting.    I have to admit there were times when I skimmed sections not quite convinced of the points he was making nor where he seemed to be going, but those were more than balanced by absolute gems and insights that would start me into deep attention.  Followed but exciting turnings of my own thoughts.

In amongst the surveys of different traditions you’ll find intriguing quotes like this scattered about like gold glittering in a stream bed:

1)  Allopathy has become, first and foremost, a competitive multinational corporation with trademarks to protect, products to sell; second, a means for preventing disease and curing sick people.

2)  Western medicine is based on healing people to go back to jobs and niches. Disease in indigenous society is an opportunity for life change.

3)  Most of daily life hypnotizes us—its customs, jobs, vehicles, clocks, billboards, and other media all implant “post-hypnotic” messages while keeping individuals in zombie-like trances.

Wow, I love those quotes because they do capture a bit of truth so well.

Beyond just being a fascinating look at so many varied philosophies of healing it has a couple of particular things that I really appreciated in its general approach.

One was how he also talks about Western scientific medicine as one of the systems.  A philosophy with good points and bad points, strengths and weaknesses as well as blind spots and agendas.  Which is a valuable POV that should always be remembered – heck no system of healing, thought, etc. should ever be treated as truth with a capital T!

I’ve seen too many books like this simplify the explanations and theory so much to make them accessible that they instead instead end up uncomfortably bland and generic sounding.  It’s like saying most people have two eyes, legs, etc. – true but it is not a useful way to talk about different peoples around the world, any more than it is useful to talk too simply about different healing modalities.  And thankfully he doesn’t do that.  Instead he digs in to the stuff that makes them different and the things which leave the uninitiated going – “really? You think that?”

That is good. Actually really good because…

Real knowledge and understanding isn’t found in only being reflected back your current understanding and beliefs – but in being forced to re-consider them as you are exposed to different ones!

So sayeth I.

Lastly, there was one tidbit that really struck me, especially since I’ve had similar experiences in my yoga practice and working with my teacher.   In one section of the book  a man is told in a Tai Chi class to feel something in his body and had no idea how and was told “To whom did you sell your body? I hope you got a good price.”

Isn’t that one of the keys?  How many of our problems come from no longer being connected to ourselves?  Having a sense of ownership and care for our bodies and our health?  It gets too easy to ignore or treat our bodies as foreign things to be done with, or done to, rather than developing that understanding and connection with.  If there is one commonality to all good healing modalities to me, it is one of re-building that lost connection – buying back our bodies, our health.

Just my insane .02

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My Little Chickweed

Posted on December 5, 2013. Filed under: Herb(s) of the Week, Uncategorized | Tags: |

Chickweed and me have been having this crazy little affair going on.

Mouse-ear-chickweed

Chickweed (Stellaria media) ; Family Caryophyllaceae

Chickweed is just wonderful in the many ways you can use it – how it molds itself to be so very helpful in so many forms is just part of its special magic.

You can eat it in salad, cook it with foods, make it into tea, juice it, make vinegars with it, make salves, oils and just about anything you imagine you do with it.  But before we get into some of that, how about if I get the herby facts out of the way…

It has lots of useful phytochemicals – as well as vitamins and minerals in it such as:  flavonoids, triterpenoid saponins, coumarins, mucilage, vitamins A, B, C, D; calcium copper, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc.

In herby speak its actions are considered:   antiarthritic, emollient, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, demulcent, astringent, febrifuge, expectorant, antitussive

In words we may actually know, it is historically used for things like: gastritis, colitis, peptic ulcers, IBS, constipation, asthma, dry coughs, bronchitis and sort throats.   Or in other words it is great for soothing the irritations in the respiratory and digestive systems.

Externally it is most often used for anything where there is inflammation and heat involved such as  eczema, itching, heat rashes, sunburns, oils and acne.   Fresh leaves can be helpful for burns as well as for  insect bites where their drawing action is great as well as to help in drawing splinters.

Kind of a nifty list, huh?

In general, Chickweed has a great affinity for fluids helping to release them when blocked and to aid their movement within the body.  It’s easy to think of it as dissolving blockages in the body – physical as well as emotional.   Culpepper thought of it as being under the domain of the Moon with its connection to water and flow.

Part of its magic as a cooling and soothing herb is that it helps with excess pitta and makes for a great ally in Spring when those of us with occasional Pitta imbalances can feel it most.

Beyond just the usual teas/infusions here are some of the fun ways I like to spend time with Chickweed:

  • Infuse it in wine – a great traditional remedy for rebuilding strength after a prolonged illness
  • Make flower essence which helps you be in the present and let go of the past – who knew Chickweed had such a strong Buddha nature!
  • Make a Chickweed infused vinegar which is wonderful nutritive (throw it on salads!) and great for baths and the skin in general
  • Throw some fresh Chickweed in with some water a blend it for a refreshing juice
  • Take that juice and freeze it in ice cube form to have around to sooth dry skin, rashes or just throw in your drinks year round

And just plain eating Chickweed and drinking Chickweed tea to is pretty awesome.  I can’t count the times I didn’t know what I wanted and it turned out some Chickweed tea was the answer!

Somehow it’s like a song (with apologies to Barnes and Barnes and their song Fish Heads!):

Chickweed, Chickweed,
Rolly-polly Chickweed,
Chickweed, Chickweed,
Eat them up, yum!

In the morning,
Laughing happy Chickweed,
In the evening,
Floating in the soup!

(BTW – here’s the original song…)

Now, while I will never get that song out of my head, I always welcome Chickweed in my heart. 😉

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