Archive for April, 2007

Invitation to an herbal blog party.

What: An herbal blog party!

When: The last day of each month.

Who: Plant writers of all species.

Host for May: The Herbwife’s Kitchen.

Theme for May: Forgotten herbs.

Directions: Sometime during the month of May, write a blogpost about an herb that’s not commonly used by herbalists these days. It might be a regional herb, a neglected weed, or something that’s not generally thought to be “medicinal.” It should be an herb that you won’t find on a health food store shelf, or in popular herb books. Include this link——and send me a note when your post is up—rebecca {AT}

On May 31, come by and join the party!

PS: If you’re interested in hosting an herbal blog party or if you have ideas for future themes, please email me!

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The importance of recuperation: my own bad example.

I’m not a very good patient. That is, I’m not very patient.

When someone else is sick, I make them a nest in front of the fire, bring them chicken soup and tea, and make sure they have everything they need so they don’t have to get up or do anything.

When I’m sick, well, I get antsy. And it doesn’t do me any good.

So last week when I was getting over that last-gasp-of-winter virus, I should have been taking it easy. But Monday night I stayed up late doing research, and Tuesday morning I skipped breakfast and ran out the door to a meeting. As it happened my meeting was at a cafe that served nothing but awful, spongy muffins and “scones.” I didn’t eat any real food until maybe 2pm.

By that evening, I was already coming down with a second cold, worse than the first. So did I cancel my dinner plans on Wednesday so I could rest? Of course not. Was I even sicker on Thursday? You betcha.

Thursday I tried to take my own good advice: I drank tea all afternoon and went to bed early. Friday I felt so much better that I went to dinner at a friend’s house. Which turned out to be too much. This morning I felt awful.

And would you believe I almost didn’t cancel my trip to Montreal this weekend? Ridiculous.

So here I am, in front of the fire, drinking homemade lamb broth and remembering that most basic of old-fashioned cures: convalescence.

Our great-grandmothers knew the power of rest. So many of us these days just want to swallow our pills and get right back at it. But that’s not how the human ecosystem works. If we’re depleted by an illness (or some other stress) we need time to recuperate. And we need to be slow and careful as we “get back at it.”

On that note, I’m off to bed. Goodnight!

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Bad medicine: my run-in with a fancy cardiologist.

I recently spent some time at a hospital with a family member who had a heart attack. And I’m shocked to be reminded of the mainstream medical establishment’s attitude toward food.

This is what a cardiologist said about his patient at one of New England’s “finest” hospitals:

He certainly seems to enjoy his food! [Snicker.] Well, I think we know what caused this heart attack, don’t we? [Wink, wink.] Probably not much chance of a heart-healthy diet for him, is there? All that fat…. [Shaking his head.] Well, we’ll just make sure he takes lots—and I mean lots—of lipitor. [Smiling as he moves on to the next patient-victim.]


Classic food puritanism mixed with backward nutritional advice. What a doctor.

His first mistake: Assuming that the enjoyment of food is inherently unhealthy. (After all, pleasure is a sin, isn’t it?)

His second mistake: Defining a “heart-healthy” diet as low in fat but not necessarily low in sugar. (None of the hospital’s nutritional literature mentioned the relationship between blood sugar and heart disease.)

His third mistake: Declaring that there’s no use bothering with a patient’s diet when you can prescribe medications instead. (Especially medications with dangerous side effects.)

Absolutely infuriating, this cardiologist.

My boyfriend says I “shouted him down.” Not quite, though I might have been a little sharp. After all, he was a condescending twit.

I’m not going to go into all the details of why the conventional “heart-healthy” low-fat diet is wrongheaded. For that, you might check out Nina Planck’s Real Food: What to Eat and Why.

But I will say this: Doctors seem to be most comfortable condemning and blessing foods in categories: butter is bad, olive oil is good; beef is bad, fish is good. But really it’s not like that at all. It’s a question of what kind of butter or olive oil, beef or fish. Conventional feedlot beef and butter are straight-out poisonous, it’s true. But grassfed beef and butter contain Omega-3s and CLA—truly “heart-healthy” fats. Likewise organic extra virgin olive oil and wild-caught fish are great for your heart, but solvent and pesticide-laden “pure” olive oil and antibiotic-laced farmed fish are not.

So the challenge for this family member of mine is not to eliminate all fat from his diet, but to learn the difference between butter and butter, between fish and fish, between olive oil and olive oil—to learn the difference between modern industrial foods (refined sugar and flour, hydrogenated oils, fake sweeteners) and real, nutritious foods (traditional fats, grassfed meat, fermented whole grains).

(Oh, yeah, I can’t even begin to write about the food they fed him in the hospital. Are they trying to murder people, or what?)

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