Health & Wellness


Wary of mainstream medicine, expats look to their history to cure ailments

© Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times
Eliseo Trinidad, left, the owner of La 21 Division Botanica in the Bronx, with a customer.
On a recent afternoon, Ina Vandebroek was poking around the shelves of La 21 Division Botanica on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. Its narrow aisles were crammed with thousands of votive candles, herbal potions and brightly colored plaster statues of saints.

Dr. Vandebroek, a Belgian-born ethnobotanist, paused to gaze at herb-infused oils. The vials had names like Amor Prohibido ("Forbidden Love"), for those in search of adventure, and Conquistador, for the timid — both of them big sellers. Bendicion de Dinero Al Hogar ("A Blessing for Money in the House"), which comes in a spray, is also popular. But Dr. Vandebroek was not there to jump-start a flagging love life or curry the favor of spirits. La 21 Division is a regular stop for her, a mile or so from her laboratory at the New York Botanical Garden, where she is the assistant curator of economic botany.



Stop the growth of several cancers with Cloves

You might like the spicy taste of cloves in your meal. But cloves have a deeper side: The ability to halt the growth of a number of types of cancers, including breast, pancreatic, liver, and ovarian cancers.

So you like the taste of cloves as a spice? Turns out that cloves run deeper than taste.

Quite simply, cloves are dried flower buds from a plant scientifically called Syzygium aromaticum L.

Cloves have been used for centuries in several traditional medicines, including Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. They have also been used in Indonesian, Thai and Kampo medicine of Japan for centuries.

This means that cloves have been clinically used as a medicine on billions of people for thousands of years.

Comment: Cloves Are the Best Antioxidant, Says New Study


How much iron is too much? Health issues from excess iron

Iron has an unequivocally positive reputation among the general public. After all, pregnant women use it to construct tiny humans, tiny humans use it to become slightly larger, more functional humans, and our cells require it to grow. And in many developing countries, iron deficiency is a real issue. Too little iron can have disastrous effects on cognition, growth, and overall physical robustness. Even adult women who aren't building tiny humans inside their wombs may run low on iron due to menstrual cycle blood loss. Ask the average person and you'll hear "the more iron, the better." Consequently, many countries mandate iron fortification of wheat flour; in the US, we fortify pretty much everything with the stuff because it's just so, so good for us. Is it true, though?

Not necessarily.

There's another side to iron. Its inherent proclivity for electron exchange can create free radicals that damage DNA, cells, and blood lipids. Observational studies link iron intake and stored iron to diseases and disease states like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, insulin resistance, inflammation, Alzheimer's disease, hypertension, fatty liver, hypothyroidism, arthritis, and cancer. The list of disease states connected to excess body stores of iron is impressive and, frankly, daunting. You name it, it's probably linked to excess iron levels. A huge post on the link between iron fortification and obesity went up at Free the Animal earlier this year. Heck, one researcher even thinks the iron content of tobacco smoke may be responsible for its negative health effects.

Comment: An additional piece of the puzzle with iron consumption is a genetic condition called Hemochromatosis. The relatively small, but by no means insignificant, portion of the population that inherited this condition absorbs iron dramatically better than people without this condition, setting them up for potential problems on a paleo or ketogenic diet. The condition may not become apparent until one cuts out gluten, dairy, sugar, and junk food for long enough for the gut to heal, in which case the body of the Hemochromatosis afflicted person may then begin to assimilate much more iron than they were with a poorly functioning digestive tract and they begin to have health problems. The good news is that the condition can be managed (without the need to return to junk food!).

If you suspect iron overload, it's recommended to get the proper blood work to determine if you have an overload, as well as determining if you have Hemochromatosis, then donate blood on a regular basis and/or take other measures to reduce iron in the body.

For more information, see:


Grocery Manufacturer's Association wants GMOs labeled as "Natural" food

Last week, the FDA announced that it would be accepting public input on how—or whether—to define the term "natural" on food labels. This action came about as a result of a number of petitions filed by the Grocery Manufacturer's Association (GMA) and Consumers Union.

The GMA asked the FDA to redefine "natural" so that foods derived from biotechnology (read: GMO foods) could use the label, while Consumers Union separately filed a petition asking the FDA to prohibit the use of "natural" on food labels altogether since the term is vague and misleading to consumers.

The Consumers Union petition to the FDA is based on data from a Consumer Reports National Research Center survey. According to the survey, nearly 90% of consumers expect "natural" on a food label to mean much more than it does. About two-thirds of consumers thought that "natural" meant that no pesticides, GMOs, or chemicals were used in food carrying the label. Currently, however, the FDA's policy is that it won't object to a product sporting the word "natural" so long as it doesn't contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.

Comment: Grocery Manufacturer's Association overtakes Monsanto as "Most evil corporation on the planet"
The latest developments in the fight for GMO labeling actually makes a strong case for giving the title of "Most Evil Organization on the Planet" to the Grocery Manufacturer's Association of America (GMA), which represents the processed food leaders, including Pepsi, Coke, Kraft, Kellogg's, and General Mills.

The Grocery Manufacturer's Association also lists Monsanto as a member, so it would make sense that the sum would be greater than the parts.

GMA Now Pushing for Industry-Friendly GMO Labeling

As reported in the featured article7 and elsewhere,8 the GMA's preemptive attempts are now in full swing. As stated earlier, a major part of the GMA's plan is to prevent states from creating their own labeling laws by pushing for an industry-friendly, voluntary labeling law at the federal level.
"The push for a softer national standard on GMO labeling comes as consumer interest in biotech foods has blown up into an intense national conversation, and the food industry is clearly trying to get out ahead of a strong, vocal movement pushing strict labeling requirements in multiple states around the country," Politico writes.9"GMA's proposal is aimed at protecting its members from having to fight a series of state labeling efforts as several states..."


Is the chicken pox vaccine behind the outbreak of shingles in children and adults?

Shingles infection
The rate of shingles has been increasing since the 1990s, and it is now estimated that about one in three adults will develop the disease in their lifetime. A certain number of these people will experience recurring outbreaks. About one in five of them will suffer severe and often debilitating pain known as postherpetic neuralgia (PHN).

Officially, the cause of this increase is unknown. Yet studies suggest that at least part of the explanation could be the chickenpox vaccine.

Chickenpox and shingles are caused by the same virus, which is known as varicella zoster. Shingles cannot occur in someone who has not been previously been infected with the virus, presumably resulting in a chickenpox infection. Why, then, would the vaccine against this virus be causing more severe outbreaks later in life?

Comment: There is one silver lining in this shingles debacle. It can be treated using Vitamin C.

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Health and Wellness Show: Medicinal Herbs

Today on the Health and Wellness show we'll be discussing medicinal herbs - various applications for different herbs, benefits, warnings and interactions.

The pet health segment will be discussing a biogenic stimulator developed by a Russian scientist. It's going to be an interesting show! Tune in weekly at 10am EST on Fridays.

Here's the transcript of the show:


Parasitic worm infections can increase susceptibility to tuberculosis

Collage of various helminth eggs, from left to right: Trichosomoides egg, Ascaris lumbricoides with larva hatching, sample of adult roundworms, Hymenolepis nana, Schistosoma mansoni and Toxocara canis with larva hatching
Scientists have shown how a parasitic worm infection common in the developing world increases susceptibility to tuberculosis. The study demonstrated that treating the parasite reduces lung damage seen in mice that also are infected with tuberculosis, thereby eliminating the vulnerability to tuberculosis (TB) that the parasite is known to cause.

The study raises the possibility of using inexpensive and widely available anti-parasitic drugs as a preventive measure in places where the parasite and TB are common -- stopping infection with the parasite and reducing susceptibility to TB and the risk of a latent TB infection progressing to disease.

The research, from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, appears online Nov. 16 in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

"Scientists and doctors have known that having both infections -- this parasitic worm and tuberculosis -- results in increased susceptibility to severe lung disease than having TB alone," said Shabaana A. Khader, PhD, associate professor of molecular microbiology. "But if we don't understand why co-infection increases the susceptibility to TB, it is difficult to know how to deal with the situation."

Comment: Studies have found that most people, especially those with chronic diseases and cancer, are host to at least one kind of parasite. Parasites can range from tiny organisms, visible only by microscope to long tapeworms. They can enter the body through food, drink, contact with animals or infected persons, or even just skin contact, and parasite infections can last for years.

Parasitic microorganisms: Chances are, you've got them


Outspoken drug critic Dr. Carl Hart: Popular big pharma drug Adderall is pretty much crystal meth

© Wikimedia Commons
Dr. Carl Hart, an associate professor of psychology and psychiatry at Columbia University who specializes in drug abuse and drug addiction, is also an outspoken critic of the drug war, and made comments in the media recently about how the popular big pharma drug Adderall is pretty much the same thing as crystal meth.

When appearing on All In with Chris Hayes on MSNBC, Hart spoke about the crack epidemic and how it allowed the media and the politicians to overlook many of the issues with poverty and violence that existed in poor areas of America's cities and instead use crack as a scapegoat. Hart admitted that crack is dangerous, but that it has been used as a scapegoat by the government, and like many drugs, there is a lot of misinformation out there about it.

Comment: Adderall... entirely legal and prescribed to millions:


World Health Organization: Prolonged exposure to low levels of radiation increases the risk of cancer

Over 300,000 Nuclear Workers from France, the UK and US Studied for Radiation-Cancer Link

A major new study coordinated by World Health Organization's cancer division - the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) - finds that even low-level radiation increases the risk of cancer, if exposure occurs over time.

The IARC announced last week:
New results from a study coordinated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization, show that protracted exposure to low doses of ionizing radiation increases the risk of death from solid cancers. The results, published today in The BMJ [the prestigious British Medical Journal], are based on the most powerful study to date and provide direct evidence about cancer risks after protracted exposures to low-dose ionizing radiation.

"The present study demonstrates a significant association between increasing radiation dose and risk of all solid cancers," says IARC researcher Dr Ausrele Kesminiene, a study co-author. "No matter whether people are exposed to protracted low doses or to high and acute doses, the observed association between dose and solid cancer risk is similar per unit of radiation dose."


A collaboration among international partners, evaluated the exposures of more than 300,000 nuclear workers in France, the United Kingdom, and the USA over a period of time between 1943 and 2005.

Comment: Living in a toxic world: Iodine to the rescue


Iodine: An old life-saving medicine - rediscovered!

It is not an understatement to say our existence, and the quality of our lives, depends on having adequate iodine levels. In spite of this, mainstream medicine generally ignores the importance of this element. The following fifteen facts will reveal not only how important iodine is, but how much better your life can be with balanced levels of this life-giving element.

1. Iodine is an Essential Element

The thyroid creates hormones to regulate metabolism and cellular function. The two most important hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) require iodine for formation. Without iodine, the thyroid under-produces these hormones leading to hypothyroidism and other metabolic disorders.

2. Iodized Salt is Not a Good Source of Iodine

Most table salt has been iodized in an effort to eliminate iodine deficiency. Unfortunately, the process of manufacturing this salt can include adding artificial versions of iodine and other chemicals, making it anything but healthy. Plus, to make it white, most table salt is bleached. Dietary iodine can be found in better sources. And, for salt, go with Himalayan Crystal Salt.

Comment: Also the little bit of iodine in table salt tends to vapour out once the package has been opened. The dose of iodine is only designed to prevent goitre, but the amount ingested with it is not high enough for general health.

3. Iodine Deficiency Remains a Problem

Much of the world continues to suffer from iodine deficiency. While many developing countries lack adequate dietary iodine, many western countries suffer iodine deficiency from diets based on processed foods. These foods introduce toxins which disrupt absorption of dietary iodine. This problem afflicts women more often than men.

4. Iodine Deficiency and Breast Cancer Have Been Linked

Although breast cancer has a number of causes and simply taking an iodine supplement shouldn't at all be interpreted as a standalone cancer-preventative, studies have shown a correlation between breast cancer and thyroid disorders. Both the thyroid and breast require iodine to function properly. It has been noted in countries with a documented consumption of iodine rich foods that both problems occur less frequently in women. [1]

Comment: The main benefit of iodine supplementation seems not to lie with upregulating thyroid function, but with detoxification - mainly of bromides. Bromides are used as fire retardants and can be found virtually everywhere - in food, clothes, mattresses, cars and consumer electronics.

For more information - and before embarking on iodine supplementation - we recommend the following book:

The Iodine Crisis: What you don't know about iodine can wreck your life, by Lynne Farrow