Do you have a favorite tree? A favorite memory of playing in trees, romping in the nearby woods, catching frogs or playing hide and seek? What tree plays a role in those memories?
My native elders felt trees had traits, some like humans. For example, maples are considered social, living nearby homes. The white pine often referred to as the Tree of Peace, held a position of respect and figures in stories of salvation from our own human follies. Seek peace not war becomes the white pine’s message, symbol.
Tree hugging is not uncommon. Many of us who enjoy the outdoors might take a moment or two, savor the forest’s smells and silence while hugging a tree.
Gardening, walking in the forest seems to calm us, eases our breath from everyday concerns. Do we need scientific studies to prove this? I don’t think so. We seem to thrive in some ways when we venture into nature.
In Last Child in the Woods, author Richard Louv, laments that our children are removed from nature, by at least two generations.
“The young spend less and less of their lives in natural surroundings, their senses narrow, physiologically and psychologically, and this reduces the richness of human experience.” He further explains: ” at the very moment that the bond is breaking between the young and the natural world, a growing body of research links our mental, physical and spiritual health directly to our association with nature – in positive ways.”
A paradox for our day and age. We stay inside with our gizmos, lead busy lives. Complementary and alternative medicine, CAM, seeks to explore and encourage simple practices that enhance well being including “getting out in nature.”
The world of alternative medicine is often confused with complementary medicine. Yet in some ways, they complement each other. How? Many of us, when faced with a serious illness, seek some other way to cope with this illness, a disease. We get on the medical program advised for us but want something more; we want to add something to hopefully speed up our recovery if possible. We may choose modalities such as massage, maybe investigate nutrition and make dietary changes. We may add aromatherapy and meditation to our routines. In this sense, we are adding modalities to complement our medical program.
In other instances, folks choose other modalities first. They put aside medical protocols and delve into alternative practices that could make a difference. They put body and soul into a program that hopefully brings changes.
My podcast guest this week, Lynne Hartwell, Alternative Medicine Practitioner, stressed simple ways to bring in balance on a body, mind, soul level. Focus on breathing. Exercise. Lynne recommends “getting out in nature” too. Remember childhood wonder and the ability to be completely in the moment playing in the woods? How we couldn’t wait to get outside? There was no time.
Lynne and other alternative and complementary practitioners often recommend “getting out in nature”. Reconnect. Feel the breeze. Smell the woods. Relax and breathe.
“Connect with nature.” I couldn’t agree more.
The book Ecospasm, by Robert Radin, my podcast guest this week, takes science from today’s knowledge base and plays it forward. He uses the science of GMO seeds, systemic pesticide use and explores possible consequences for our future food supply through fiction. If you missed the podcast on 3/6 you missed a rich discussion concerning unintended consequences.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a series of blogs to understand the details of our big agriculture system and its use of GMO seed and the use of systemic pesticides. It seemed confusing to me. John and Ocean Robbins conducted a GMO summit in 2014. I thought the speakers, the research available astounding. The more I learn about soil and soil health, watch reports about health concerns, these articles still seem relevant. (You can access these articles right here on my blog page. The category list has GMO and you will find several articles, speakers, scientists, farmers etc. with valuable contributions.)
Ecospasm, a sci-fi environmental thriller, plays it forward, a science-based idea of what could happen based on the choices we make for product development. Maybe as the author suggests, we should try to play it forward. What are the consequences for future generations? Sustainability means we are using enough regenerative practices in farming to ensure our future generations have enough and can do the same and so on.
GMO’S: The Science and The Myths: Part 7
Today I would like to share reports and information coming from farmers. These are real-time farmers working the land and livestock, producing crops and meat the rest of buy and eat. What have they observed with the advent of genetically modified seed crops? Bt corn was the first to be introduced in our food supply of which a huge portion went to livestock feed.
In the GMO summit, I heard Howard Vlieger share his research and observations when GMO’s were first introduced to farmers around 1994. Howard serves on the board of directors for the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA) and The Food Freedom Foundation.
Farmers began to notice when Bt corn in the feed was introduced to livestock, the livestock shunned the GMO feed over the non- GMO feed. Also, he states that in a non-scientific manner where livestock and wild animals were given the choice between the two feeds, they consistently walked away from GMO feed.
Howard along with Judy Carmen and colleagues conducted the first scientific study involving feeding GMO grain to some hogs and non-GMO grain to other hogs for their entire lifespan. Here’s what they found in GMO feed hogs:
- Their uteri were larger
- They weighed 25% more than non- GMO fed hogs
- Had severe stomach inflammation: in fact in young males, it was 4x as high.
- This study confirmed that GMO feed is related to digestive and inflammation problems
In the soil we see other problems with the use of GMO crops and pesticide spraying:
- They extract minerals, chelate them which decreases the amount left for plants uptake.
- Last year Iowa experienced a severe drought. Droughts decrease soil microbial activity and decrease soil aggregates which basically loosens the soil structure.
- The GMO fields, in the same area experiencing two days of heavy rains, suffered terrible erosion. The non-GMO farmed fields did not. They held up well with two days of intense rains.
Are the crops we grow healthier with the use of roundup ready seed and systemic pesticides sprayed on these crops? Mr. Vlieger states that contrary to what these chemical companies would have farmers believe, they are not. They are more susceptible to funguses and therefore the use of fungicides on crops has increased. These products have created a generation of superweeds and now Monsanto, Dow, for example, are looking for other more potent pesticides. They are seeking approval for application to the farms with superweeds. and they want it ASAP.
Also, the FDA keeps raising the allowable limit of glyphosate to meet Monsanto’s demand.
Finally, glyphosate was patented as an antibiotic in 2010. Remember in a previous post I mentioned that glyphosate is not given by itself but with adjuvants to help drive it into the cell? Ampicillin is one of the adjuvants. Today it has been estimated that 880 million pounds of this antibiotic have been put on the ground. Wildlife, livestock, our pets, and humans are ingesting small amounts of the pesticide, with the adjuvants such as an antibiotic, now found to be present in our food and water supply. The photo to the right shows an aerial view of an extensive Iowa farming area.
Dr. Seneff in her interview during the summit series mentioned that butchers are finding the livers of cows so badly deformed they are not offering beef livers in our supermarkets. And their intestines are so thin they cannot use them to stuff sausages. Check out sausage ingredients. I did. I am seeing on the ingredients label: “in a natural lamb casing” Did you know that that very casing comes from NON- GMO fed sheep in New Zealand?
Howard Vlieger is from Iowa and is a part of the Council for Healthy Food Systems.
Farmers have first-hand knowledge of these problems. I hope you will join me in supporting our local farmers’ efforts to create biologically and organically healthy farms and livestock. Check out your state’s farmers organizations and find out what they are doing to grow safe food. Remember farmers markets are great for our communities but some farmers who come to these markets do use roundup ready seed and spray pesticides. I ask questions if I do not see any organic signs by a vendors booth. I hope you will too.
“What we do affects the next seven generations.” Native American philosophy.
I began the podcast series The Holistic Nature of Us because I want to connect the dots that we and nature have so much in common.
I remember my Native American elders saying over and over that the mountains are the spine of the earth, the bones. Rivers are like our blood, they are the Earth Mother’s blood. Trees, plants breathe out oxygen for us as we breathe out carbon dioxide for them, a true symbiotic relationship.
Yet, it seems we disregard her. We have exploited resources, caused toxic pollution never before seen on this planet. Today, some states do not have recycling laws or refunds, do not manage their waste efficiently.
We have stretched some resources to the point of genuine concern. The planet has lost one-third of its topsoil in the past century alone. Desertification of our planet is a real concern. Our precious water is polluted and unpotable in many areas. Though we have initiated clean up efforts is it enough to counteract the rate at which we continue to pollute, create trash?
Several years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting some camp counselors nearby my health food store. We engaged in enjoyable environmental discussions as they taught environmental classes through the camp. One day they burst out into song: Where is Away?, a song about when we throw it away, where is away? Most of us have no clue unless we receive a Facebook video about the build-up of plastic bottles etc on coastlines.
There are many innovations out there that are helping. Crowdfunding is helping visionaries, engineers, entrepreneurs create solutions and it’s exciting.
I hope to bring in guests from many different perspectives. Their sharing is a strand, a piece of the web of interconnection to the web of life in some measure. They all offer practical tips and wisdom from their chosen fields, something we can connect with to bring back respect for this place we call home, not for ourselves but for all species. They are passionate and knowledgeable. Join us. It is my sincere hope you will be inspired to take practical action today!
My podcast series will be posted here and on several platforms. What are you doing to make a difference? How has a podcast inspired you? We’d love to hear from you. Enjoy.
Most of us are fascinated with rainbows, are we not? Thunder, lightning, swirling storms clean the air. When conditions are right a rainbow forms giving us a spectacular show of color that can simply be enchanting even magical. Of course legends abound about the significance of this phenomena perhaps a gift from the gods. Beautiful and majestic a rainbow feels like a gift.
In the field of nutrition and herbs rainbows have an interesting place. The rainbow is an arc of light whose colors are sunlight refracted by water molecules. When we look at the world of herbs, keeping with this theme, we see the same colors reflected in the edibles and medicinals in nature. We know from nutrition studies that each color in foods signifies a variety of nutrients but especially an array of anti- oxidants. From purple to red and all colors in between we have a compliment of substances that have the unique ability of scooping up harmful byproducts which leads to a healthier environment within our cells, our biology. Oxidants contribute to the aging process. Whether flowers, leaves or roots we see antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin A, C, E represented, sometimes in trace amounts sometimes in significant amounts. For example, dandelion leaves, 1 cup chopped, have 112% RDA of Vitamin A not to mention 19 mg of Vitamin C.
These leaves also have a wide variety of B vitamins and minerals. This compliment of nutrients is recognized by our biology and though dandelion may have an affinity for the liver, gallbladder and kidney systems it does contribute its nutrients and support to the whole body.
When we eat a variety of foods from the color spectrum we support foundational health and vitality. When we choose different herbs varying our choices the same thing happens: we ingest a variety of nutrients in various amounts that supports our biology. Homeostasis is maintained, synergy occurs in a holistic way. Holism, the third concept I wish to highlight, is a concept I will repeat over and over in that we are a part of the whole. The macrocosm, the universe, is in the microcosm, the individual, and all that that implies. A holistic approach to health means we choose those modalities that support us on a mind, body, spirit level.
In the not so distant past, herbalists chose some herbs for their effect on the psyche, to enhance romance and chase away the blues. With our mechanization of the herbal industry we take away some of the spirit, the energy of the plant that goes beyond the science. My teachers have taught me to give thanks for everything I pick, harvest and use, for my food and my medicine. It is said that when we acknowledge this plant kingdom in this way they can work more holistically within us. Holism is about relationship.
Homeostasis, synergy, holism, three broad concepts incredibly relevant in the understanding and application of herbs in our healing and in our kitchens.
My Native American elders often referred to the merging of cultures here in North America as the place of the rainbow people. Isn’t fitting that science is meeting the legends and confirming that when we eat a rainbow of colors we are supported on all levels of our being. As above so below, comes to mind.
Maybe rainbows are the gift of the gods.
Autumn is here. Many plant cycles of bloom have ended. Yet our eyes will feast on the vast array of colors in the natural world around us as autumn dazzles us with her dance. . I ask you to give thanks today for the food and medicines you need.
Enjoy your day. Judith
Snow keeps us wrapped in a cocoon of white here in New England. Grey skies, snow flakes and sleet keep falling. Snow piles are so high that many bushes and shrubs are invisible. Pine cones dangle from the tops of evergreens. A bit of brown grey of barks and the winter green of evergreens give us a spot of color. However, around here bluebirds alight from time to time. A wonderful bit of color that perks up a branch, gives our eyes and senses delight. I learned that they do show up here in New England in the winter to have their babies and then are gone.
Roots. Many tea blends contain roots of plants. They usually need a bit longer to steep but add their own flavor and nutrients. Some, like dandelion root, are delicious roasted and make a coffee like beverage to enjoy first thing in the morning. Dandelion root supports and tones the gall bladder and liver systems. Echinacea root is another addition to a tea blend. Echinacea sps have scientific research to back up the claim that it can boost certain immune system markers. Perhaps one of my favorite roots to add to a blend is marshmallow root. This plant adds a mucilaginous quality and sweetness to taste that soothes mucus membranes. I add it to soothe digestion especially after holiday type meals.
Three suggestions: dandelion root, echinacea root and/ or marshmallow root can easily be added to peppermint, spearmint, chamomile flowers, even organic rose petals or orange peels to create a tasty, nourishing tea blend. You do not need much. While herb books suggest 1 teaspoon dried plant/cup I find that varies when I make a blend. Some roots are quite bitter. Personal taste is a factor in creating blends. Supermarket rows of tea blends attest to this fact. Experiment. If a blend is not to your liking add something else or add it to the compost pile and begin again. Tea blending is an art and a science.
Do you have jars of dried and stored plants maybe some you have even forgotten about? Want to make your own tea bags? This can be a great winter activity when snowed in. Sometimes I forget the plants sitting in the back of my cupboard. Getting my supplies out, filling tea bags with blends gives me an easy way to consume teas for the remainder of the winter and spring before new growth occurs once again. Using fusible paper tea bags:
1. Pull out the jars, get a clean towel to place on ironing board.
2. Place a flat dish to catch the spills.
3. Take a measured teaspoon, fill tea bags (I use fusible paper tea bags) with plants.
4. When several tea bags are filled, then seal the edge (fusible tea bags )with the iron.
Also I have heard that conventional tea company tea bags contain a potentially harmful ingredient. Here’s what Golden Moon Tea company reports:
“If you have ever gotten a piece of paper wet, you know that it tends to fall apart easily. The solution that companies created was to treat the paper with something to make it stronger. The chemical of choice for this treatment was Epichlorohydrin. Epichlorohydrin is a dangerous little bugger. According to Dow Chemical (who is the largest producer of this substance):
Epichlorohydrin has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals. In the U.S.A. it is considered to be a potential carcinogen for purposes of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) hazard communication standard, 29 CFR 1910.1200.
If you look at the European Statement from Dow Chemical:
“The substance should be regarded as if it is carcinogenic to man. There is sufficient evidence to provide a strong presumption that human exposure to the substance may result in the development of cancer.”
Want to make your own bags this winter? Here’s a great site that shows you how to do just that. I prefer to use fusible paper bags that I purchase from my local mail order herb vendor, Useful Weeds.
These are usually dye and chemical free.
Do you have a favorite tea blend? I would like to hear from you and we can pass it on.
Snow has stopped for today but more is coming. My tea bags are ready to steep and a few good books are on hand. How about you?
I came across this TED Talk on one of my Facebook friends feed who is an organic farmer. It’s good. Alan Lewis gives facts and figures of how we have had our food system taken over by big corporations. Today “the few” control what we eat, the way its produced, and simply have hijacked our food freedom. Our farmers lose. Today only 14% of our food dollars pay the farmer. As you can imagine a hefty amount goes to marketing and advertising. We lose too.
Alan Lewis encourages us to resist the misleading labels, advertising and promotions that we all know on some level are meant to sell us something rather than look at the underlying problems. For example, CAFO’s, Concentrated Animal Feedlots photos, ake most of us deeply saddened. Many sources show us the poor living conditions of our animals that are penned in huge feedlots and the resultant health problem and drugs needed for these populations. And sadly most of us do not want these drugs in our food.
He raises an interesting point: the food war is lost. He suggests all we can do now is resist. Sign petitions. Speak out. Boycott brands with deceptive advertising. Support organic farming in your local area. All actions we can somewhat easily put into our schedules. Pick one and begin.
I encourage you to get on Organic Consumers blog list. They are one of many watchdogs in the food industry that seeks empirical evidence to refute the many claims made by the food industry. Petitions are easy to sign on their site.
Want to understand the GMO issue with science based evidence proving GMO’s do cause problems? I highly recommend the following book:
GMO Myths and Truths from the Organic Consumers Association. It’s easy to download and it’s free. And though it is more technical and science based, the reader can easily read the talking point and view the conclusion.
Do you agree with Mr. Lewis that the food war is over and we lost?
How are you resisting misleading nutritional/product information?
I would like to hear what organizations you support. Our local farmers need us to speak up and use our food dollars wisely. As I mentioned in a previous post, Jeanne Nolan describes in detail the Chicago based city farming efforts that have produced huge results. Check out her book, From the Ground Up.
Also, don’t forget the master gardeners in your area. State Agricultural help desks are manned by volunteers to get answers to your questions. It is there for the beginner and seasoned gardener alike.
Let me know what you have been doing to resist.
Judith Dreyer, MS, BSN, Writer, Speaker, Holistic Health Consultant and Workshop Presenter, Master Gardener.