Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Meaning of Scent

This post references the radio broadcast "Scratch and Sniff", that can be heard by clicking on the link in the post previous to this one on this blog.

Listening to the radio interview with Chandler Burr, author of The Emporer of Scent, I felt a feeling of likeness, of comfort of being understood. Smell means a lot to me. I am one of those sensitive people. When someone is smoking a cigarette in another car with the window down, two lanes away, at a stoplight, or even in slow traffic, I can easily become nauseated and get a headache. I have a relative that has worn a perfume for as long as I can remember that caused me such olfactory discomfort , that I am convinced that it is one reason why we never had a close relationship. I haven't seen her in years, but I can still smell it clearly when I think about her. When I was a child, my mother drove a woman to church as an act of charity each week, who perpetually needed to shower. I will never forget the torture of sharing that small, enclosed space with her. There is an upside to this sensitivity. I have the most delightful smell experiences. When someone or something smells good to me, it nearly brings ecstacy.

The topic of conversation in this radio broadcast covered the idea of how each of us has our own set of experiences that dictate an emotional reaction to the vibrational input that smell is to our senses. What is stinky or offensive to one person is another's greatest creature comfort, because reaction to scent is not universal, it is subjective. Further, Americans have a problem with smell. It is part of (an unfortunate part of in my opinion) our culture of over-sanitation as well as fear of individuality and being naturally unique. The example of the French was given to us as a way to understand how in some cultures, a certain level of potency is considered an attribute- something attractive and intriguing. Think of the cheeses, the wines and the more distinctive (because they are less obsessively scrubbed and deodorized) natural body musk. With awareness of this American fear of odor, I will not be surprised if when I reveal some of my most comforting smell loves, I am met with great distaste and disgust.

I love the smell of a newborn baby. It is not the bathed in Johnson and Johnson shampoo and fed-from-a-sanitary-bottle-smell that I love. Rather, I love the smell of babies who have been born at home, who still wear the protective layer of white vernix from before birth on their skin, and who have been nursing at my engorged, newly filled breasts and have that smell of warm, spilled, slightly soured Mama milk all over them. I could drink it in. Additionally, I love the odor of my body when I have just given birth days before, and do not want to leave my precious one for even a moment to shower, so my sweat glands are ripe with the hormones emitted from birth and new motherhood. These smells are the ones that have been with me when I have done my best work, have created and nurtured something/someone amazing, and have been absolutely satisfied, happy and living in the present moment.

In case those descriptions rubbed anyone the wrong way, I will list a few more "conventional" favorites: the mineral smell in the atmosphere with a new rain; warm beeswax from candles; whole grain yeasted bread rising and then baking; the sulpher after lighting and blowing out a matchstick; jasmine flowers bottled with oil and diffused in glycerine soap; Autumn in the Western United States; hot spiced apple cider on the stove with cinnamon sticks, oranges and cloves, pine tree sap; my hands after touching a fragrant rosemary shrub, popcorn from my air popper... the list is endless, and when I look at it, I see that even those are all wrapped up in experience. My art museum of pleasure is smelled entirely through my mental and emotional filters. These include my memories, accomplishments, joys, hurts, sorrows and loves. I cannot imagine experiencing something visually that is nearly as satisfying as a good smell. Art? YES!

I am talking about art not only as something that brings sensual pleasure and gratification, which I think is a very simplified but nonetheless acceptable definition of art, but also as something that has gone through an artistic process. What artistic process has a scent gone through? Well, I have two answers for that. Oddly, in recent years, I have rarely liked manufactured perfume. I find it to be overwhelming and like cigarette smoke, it can give me a headache. I have long held slight judgment for those who choose to pollute my air with it's odor, think of it as artificial, and generally disrespect the whole idea of it. When I listened to the radio interview, I heard something that surprised me. I heard it defined as art. Someone smelled two scents, one that was a natural extract from a live flower, and one that was a chemical rendition of a combination of scents. The person sniffing and comparing the two, said they liked the perfume better than the the natural flower scent. The person presenting the two was not remotely surprised. He stated that it is because the perfume is art. It was conceived of, labored over, created and perfected as a perfectly blended combination of ingredients to express a certain scent that conjured up the sensual experience desired by the maker. I felt shocked by this idea. Perfume made as art is just as natural or respectable as an acrylic painting or a mixed media presentation. I may not prefer it for my own sense experience, but now I must see it with renewed respect. So what is scent as art? It could be defined as something that was created carefully by the maker to be art, as in a perfume, or it could be something naturally occurring like the sap of a tree, that when experienced by a person who values it, art happens for them in their mind and body. Art is the creativity- the creation of feelings and expression- art is a mental and emotional process. Smell is art and with it we go through an artistic process seen, heard and experienced by no other.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Scratch and Sniff - Studio 360

Scratch and Sniff - Studio 360

This is such a fascinating radio show! The art and science of scent. As someone who has always been very sensitive to smell, who can be easily turned off, but just as easily turned on, or warmed, or comforted...this talk was right up my alley. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness

Ellen Dissanayake had some interesting thoughts to share in What is Art? She listed in one portion of her lecture, some historical events and ideas that she thinks have changed and influenced the way that people create art, look at art, and define art. The following quote was written in reference to changes that happened in the 18th century when new “social and intellectual trends” came about and interacted together to create an intense “moderninity” of art.

“Among these trends I will mention—and I hope you will forgive the rather breathtaking oversimplification—five important and unprecedented changes. 1. A gradual secularization of society, whose aim became life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for individuals rather than acquiescence to a humanly unknowable divine plan. 2. The rise of science which not only fostered questioning and dissent but made possible the development of technology and industrialization. 3. The social or interpersonal changes that resulted as the emotional and effective ties of fuedal and kin loyalty were replaced by instrumental relationships based on the exchange of money…”

As I read this, the importance of the statement dawned on me. I have never really thought about the gravity of what it is we say that we are living for, here in America—“life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”?! While each of those items is deeply important to me as an individual, seeing the phrase typed in the context of the lecture, I rethought about those values. After reading about the history of art being more connected in the past with spirituality and the church, until the rise of a more scientific and individualistic age, suddenly my own personal life, my liberty and the pursuit of my own happiness appeared to be rather shallow and selfish purposes. In this context, I see that we have come far in progress, but for the sake of progress, we as a culture have forsaken community and connection. Instead of living with and for each other as a larger unit, we are pursing life for individuals, in a way that makes each of us happy regardless of or even despite the effects on our neighbor, brother or entire village. Naturally, this would make for a less thematic or universally understandable expression of art, and result in a disjointed, subjective and highly varied new artistic jumble. I do not mean to criticize uniqueness in art, doing something different and never before seen, and expressing the absolutely least understood parts of oneself in a way that cannot be easily grasped by an audience. I have respect and appreciation for all of these things when I make and view art. Still, knowing that the gamut of art out in the world is a direct product of this disconnected, lack of a community that the largely unchurched population live in, I see much of the creativity that flows forth from the people of our times as lonely, selfish, and lacking in the substance that used to bind us as a people.

The author went on to say something that reinforces these nostalgic and disappointed sentiments that have come up for me around the realities of recent artistic expression. What we saw even many years ago showed the experience of solitude that artists and people in general began to live with in the past as all of us live with increasingly today.

“What we now call ‘the Romantic Rebellion’ was a reaction to the goods and evils inherent in these great changes. For example, while individualism became possible and people could be freed from tradition, custom and authority, they also became more alienated from their work and from other people. New possibilities for thought and experience were accompanied by an unprecedented loss of certainty and security about one’s place in the world.”

I wonder how we can keep our unique viewpoints, our newfound independence and individuality and our freedom of expression, while reconnecting with other humans, re-forming traditions with sacred shared beliefs and elevating art with an infusion of enlightened purpose- individuality, unification and community?

Dissanayake, E. (1991). What is art for? In K. C. Caroll (Ed.). Keynote adresses 1991 (NAEA Convention), (pp.15-26). Reston, VA: National Art Education Association.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

What Really Matters

An interesting assignment for my Art and Human Values class. We were given this list of twenty values to order as we think they are prioritized in our lives. I put them in the order that made sense for me...

20 Ordered Values













13)Personal Development

14)Personal Accomplishment







...then I listed things that I did that day and how they correspond to my values. I discovered some unexpected correspondences....

How I spent my day and the values that correspond to these activities

-Made breakfast for kids and dressed them (family, health, service)

-Showered (enjoyment, personal accomplishment)

-Packed kids school lunches (family, health, service)

-Took kids to school (family, service)

-Drank tea and juice at coffee shop (health, community, enjoyment)

-Responded to emails (friendship, security, integrity, location, loyalty, community, enjoyment, service)

-Worked on charter school paperwork (family, security, wisdom, integrity, location, loyalty, community, power)

-Did school work (security, wisdom, personal development, personal accomplishment, expertness, power, independence, leadership, wealth, prestige)

-Picked up kids from school (family, service)-Made food and fed us (family, health, service)

-Took lots of supplements (health, security)

-Put child down for nap (family, health, service)

-Cleaned up kitchen (service, expertness)

-Read stories to daughter (family, integrity, enjoyment, service)

-attempted to work on school work more, but daughter wouldn’t let me (family, security, wisdom, personal development, personal accomplishment, expertness, power, independence, leadership, wealth, prestige)

-Put away folded laundry (service, expertness)

-Attempted to work on homework some more

-Took son to dance class (family, creativity, service)

-Did some grocery shopping (family, health, service)

-Bought more herbal medicines and consumed some (health, security)

-Bought dinner to go from natural food store deli (health, service)

-Did errand for supplies for school science project (security, wisdom, personal accomplishment, expertness, power, independence, leadership, wealthy, prestige)

-Stopped home to get laundry off clothesline (family, service, expertness)

-Went to son’s choir concert (family, creativity, loyalty, community, enjoyment, service)

-Uploaded photos and videos of concert to computer for children to see (family, loyalty, enjoyment, service)

-Bathed children and put to bed (family, service)-Called cousin (family, integrity, loyalty)

-Watered houseplants (enjoyment, service)-Spent time comforting emotional son (family, loyalty, service)

-Made medicinal tea for our colds (family, health, security, service)

-Returned more emails (friends, security, integrity, location, loyalty, community, enjoyment, service)

-Began schoolwork again and worked until I could not keep my eyes open any longer (security, wisdom, personal development, personal accomplishment, expertness, power, independence, leadership, wealth prestige)

...housework is for expertness? Yes, for me it is, because I'm working on the image that I present for myself and others... work is security? Yes, it keeps the student loans coming, makes me feel like a responsible person, and keeps me headed toward future security...

I thought I was not serving others enough lately, but I see that as a mother, that is what I do all day and night. My service is within my own family at this time...

...but where is my focus on friendship in all of this? Email is the only way I am in contact with friends, and even that is minimal. I am not surprised. I am overwhelmed with school and children, yet, this is a goal to work toward. I love my friends, and must find time for them before long. And, if I am ever to pursue a partnership, ever, ever again, friendship must be in there. It is withing the deepest friendships that we begin to create family. Number 1 and 2 on my list are essentially interchangeable and that is the missing part of the expression of my value system.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Mrs. Spider at my door

Look who came to hang out on my front porch this morning. Mrs. Spider with a very cool web. I am graced by her gorgeous presence, as well as just a tad bit intimidated. Anyone know anything about this kind of spider? I'd love info.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Final Project for Holistic Health Class- Study of Anthroposophic Medicine


I chose the subject of anthroposophic medicine as my topic. Anthroposophic Medicine is allopathic medicine taken to a further degree, in which the use of natural remedies and spiritual understanding of the body enhance the scientific knowledge and practice. It is closely tied to Waldorf Education, as both are born from the teachings of Rudolf Steiner 1861-1925, an Austrian scientist and philosopher. (Who Was Rudolf Steiner, 2009) I interviewed Dr. Adam Blanning, in Denver, Colorado. I sent him the following list of questions by email, but he only answered a small handful of them, and explained to me that my questions would take a lot of time to answer, stating, “This is the stuff that books are made of.” He emailed me links to web sites that I could look at and find answers to the others, and said that he would be happy to be quoted as saying anything found on those sites. The following answers are a combination of statements from my interview with him and information that I was able to find from sites that he recommended.

The Interview

1)Would you please define the term anthroposophic?
“Anthropo” is Greek for the human being, “-sophy” for wisdom

2)What can you tell me about the philosophy that underlies anthroposophic medical practice? Is there a spiritual path associated with this philosophy of medical treatment?

It is explained on the Physician’s Association For Anthroposophic Medicine, “An individual is not simply a body, there is also the psyche and personality to take into account as well. Anthroposophic doctors regard physical and mental existence together with personality as a unit, each element having the capacity to influence the others. One of the fundamental aspects of anthroposophic medicine is to take this into account during diagnosis and therapy.

Nevertheless, it is not an “alternative medicine”– it doesn't aim to replace conventional medicine. On the contrary – it is based on accepted medical science; it just takes things a step further. Or in other words, anthroposophic medicine makes use of everything that scientific research has revealed to be of benefit to the human being. Moreover it supplements “material science” with aspects of spiritual science in order to assess the individual as a whole entity. For instance, this may include body language, personal history, breathing, and many other aspects besides– all of which determine an individual's personality. Anthroposophic medicine therefore attempts to include the individuality of the patient, as well as the accepted features of an illness, in the treatment process. For just as each person is unique, so is each treatment – even though some may appear to apply to many people.” (Anthroposophic Medicine in Practice, no date of publishing listed)

3)How does one become an anthroposophical doctor?

Taken from the Physician’s Association for Anthroposophic Medicine web site,
“What are the certification criteria for medical doctors?

1. Licensed to practice medicine in the U.S. or Canada

2. High moral and ethical standing

3. Engaged in developing his/her soul and spiritual faculties and continuing to broaden his or her knowledge.

4. One year’s full-time or three years’ part-time study of the basics of anthroposophy and anthroposophic medicine, or the five-year IPMT course. This criterion is individualized.

5. Two years’ practical further training at an anthroposophic clinic or hospital, an anthroposophic medical practice, or in the applicant’s own practice under a recognized mentor.

6. Final exam consisting of submission and discussion of two cases, showing ability to handle the basics of anthroposophic medicine independently.” (PAAM, no year of publication listed)

4)What range of conditions and illnesses are addressed by your practice?

Dr. Blanning said, “This list of therapies is from the web site of my practice, which is The Denver Center for Anthroposophic Therapies:

Working with a wide variety of challenges in childhood, such as:
Developmental, behavioral, and learning difficulties
Enuresis (bedwetting), Encopresis
Inattention and Hyperactivity
Sensory Integration Problems
Disordered Sleep, Nightmares
Colic, Food Sensitivities
Separation Anxiety

Recurrent and chronic inflammatory illness such as:
Asthma and seasonal allergies
Ear Infections
Recurrent Bronchitis or Pneumonia
Rheumatoid Arthritis
Autoimmune diseases

Digestive imbalances, such as:
Irritable Bowel
Constipation, Chronic Diarrhea
Poor Appetite, Sugar Cravings
Multiple food allergies
Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn's disease

Mood and emotional imbalances, such as:
with a special recognition of the role of Biographical Rhythms
in cycles of change and crisis

Neurologic disease, such as:
Supportive treatment in Epilepsy
Supportive treatment in Multiple sclerosis and
other kinds of progressive Neuropathy

Adjuvant (supportive) treatments for Cancer, including:
Mistletoe Therapy
Art Therapy
Movement Therapy
Rhythmical massage
Dietary and lifestyle recommendations

Home Care Recommendations:
for helping families work through common acute illnesses at home

5)What is the main difference between allopathic and anthroposophic medicine

The main difference between anthroposophic medicine and conventional medicine is that is doesn’t only look for the illness in the person, but rather the person in the illness. The diagnostic procedures and the symptoms observed therein may be identical, but a holistic interpretation can lead to different treatments being recommended or conventional therapies being supplemented by additional measures.” (Anthroposophic Medicine, no date listed)

6)What should a new patient expect from a typical appointment with you? How long does it last? What do you do? What would be an average cost?

Dr. Blanning wrote, “A first visit is typically an hour. It includes taking a full medical history, appropriate physical exam, and a discussion of ways to work with an illness, both in terms of medicines and in terms of life rhythms, consciousness of patterns of behavior, adequate rest and nutrition. A first visit is typically $150 (other anthroposophic doctors charge considerably more).
A lot of the visit is devoted to conversation, asking also about sleep, digestion, diet. The goal really is to develop a "constitutional" understanding of a person, which brings certain strengths and potential weaknesses, and then trying to see how a particular illness or problem can be helped by balancing and supporting an overall shift in those weaknesses. As an example, someone who tends to be tight and cramped may have problems with stomach cramps, tight muscles, anxiety and asthma. All are cramping processes on different levels (physical, functional, emotional, etc.) Treating that constitutional tendency would likely help all of those problems.”

7) I know that the remedies used are similar to homeopathy? Are there ways in which they differ? Also, how are they regulated?

Quoted from the article, Anthroposophic Medicines , “Anthroposophic medicine uses mineral, vegetable, metal, and animal-based raw materials in the production of medicines. For instance quartz, sulpher, and lime are typical mineral substances, while anrnica, yellow gentian, and chamomile are well-known medicinal herbs. Of the metals, gold, silver, iron and tin are frequently used, while animal-based substances include insect venom…Anthroposophic medicines, on the other hand, are multi-faceted in orientation. Their spectrum includes homeopathic potencies, vegetable concentrates, not to mention compounds of a more complex nature. In addition there are several substances that typify anthroposophic medicines, such as metal mirrors or tinctures derived from plants fertilized with metallic salts (vegetabilised metals). An anthroposophic pharmacopoeia is currently being created with the aim of providing a published summary of all substances used in the production of anthroposophic medicines and the forms of processing approved.” (Anthroposophic Medicines, 2003)

8)What can you tell me about curative education and the ways in which anthroposophical medicine parallels or overlaps with education? Do you help people/children with disabilities?

Dr. Blanning wrote, “Anthroposophic medicine is a close cousin to both Waldorf education, and curative education. I actively observe in the classroom and work with the faculty for two Waldorf schools, looking at problematic behaviors and trying to see what the child is trying to accomplish through a behavior. Sometimes it is a very physical need (desire for strong touch, movement, vestibular stimulation) and sometimes it is wanting social acknowledgment or attention.
Curative education is usually centered in communities called Camphills, with work with both children and adults with developmental disabilities. The "villagers" (those with disabilities) live in group homes, receive education and are engaged in practical work, like cooking, spinning, gardening. Great focus is placed on making life as rich and productive as is possible. Most communities work close with an anthroposophic doctor as well.”

9) Do you know of any scientific research that has been done on anthroposophic medicine? Have any of the treatments been scientifically proven? How do you feel about scientific studies, and do you do any yourself?

Dr. Blanning answered, “My research is only working to try to fully understand each person as a completely individual being, and to really address them as a human being, not just a disease or an organ system.
There is a great deal of research work done on therapies for cancer using mistletoe preparations. You might check those out on”

I went ahead and checked the site that Dr. Blanning recommended above, and found this example to share. It is one of many study summaries that I saw, many of which are related to anthroposophic cancer therapy:

“Mistletoe Complementary Treatment in Patients with Primary Non-metastatic Breast Cancer. By Paul R. Bock et al.

Category: Cancer and Iscador

Published by `Arzneim.-Forsch./Drug Research' on 10/1/2004

Summary: The results of the present study confirmed the safety of the complementary therapy for patients with primary, non-metastatic mammary carcinoma with Iscador ® and showed considerably fewer ADRs attributed to concurrent conventional therapy, as well as reduced disease and treatment-associated symptoms, and suggested a prolonged overall survival in the Iscador ® group as compared with controls.” (2009, AnthroMed Library)

10) Please share a success story that stands out for you, with a patient in your practice.

Dr. Blanning replied, “I was called last week by the parents of a child who had come to see me for problems with tics and repetitive behaviors, as well as problems with constipation and a sensitive digestion. He had been taking natural medicines (in this case homeopathic and herbal preparations) for almost two months, and virtually all the issues were gone. The call was short, because the parents really had nothing to complain about, no concerns. It is reassuring and gratifying to see that kind of change.”


1.Who was Rudolf Steiner. Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association. Retrieved from:

The following references are arranged in order and are for questions that were not answered by direct quote from Dr. Blanning.

Question #2. Anthroposophic Medicine in Practice. Physicians Association for Anthroposophic Medicine. Retrieved from:

Question #3. Training. Physicians Association for Anthroposophic Medicine. Retrieved from:

Question #5. Publisher’s Medical Section of the School of Spiritual Science, Geotharium. Anthroposophic Medicines. Retrieved from:

Question #7. Publisher’s Medical Section of the School of Spiritual Science, Geotharium. Anthroposophic Medicines. Retrieved from:

Question #9. AnthroMed Library. 2009. Retrieved from:


To summarize what I learned, anthroposophic medical doctors are highly educated, having earned not only a doctorate and license to practice medicine, but more than three years of additional training in anthroposophical medicine and anthroposophy. Included in this medical practice are healing through nutritional therapy, drugs, homeopathy with specific formulas not common to other homeopathic practice, movement therapies (eurythmy), behavioral therapies, and much more. Issues that can be treated range from disease to disability, and many, many issues in between. Anthroposophic doctors operate similarly to naturopaths in the following ways. They offer long appointments, taking time getting to ask patients about stress, diet, activity, pain and any other influential factor, and know the full picture of the patient; treat with mostly gentle, plant based medicines, and look at the body from a holistic perspective. The idea is to look at the person, not the illness, and find out what can be done in the larger picture to balance the person, and consequently eliminate the cause of illness and the condition that brought illness forth. There has been research done on the anthroposophic medical model, on a limited variety of treatments, mostly in Germany. The findings have been promising. Anthroposophic physicians treat adults, children, and people with disabilities. Waldorf schools (based in anthroposophy, which essentially means “man wisdom” and refers to a spiritual science perspective introduced by Austrian scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner in the 1800’s) employ anthroposophic doctors to observe and help certain children. There are also entire communities based on this approach, where disabled people live, work, learn and are treated by anthroposophical doctors.

Video Link

I chose a video to share with you from the Rudolf Steiner Health Center web site at . Scroll down a bit on the page, to find the vimeo video and click on it to play. This video has a great deal of information and addresses a broad spectrum of history, explanation of therapies, and variety of therapies. I enjoyed the fact that it is mostly in German (with English subtitles) for authenticity! This video is not short- my apologies. This medical model has great depth and complexity, so a longer, more informative video seemed appropriate.

Organizations that support Anthroposophic Medicine

Two organizations that support this healing modality with their associated web sites are:
1)The Physician’s Association for Anthroposophic Medicine
2)The IVAA (International Federation of Anthroposophic Medical Associations)

Where to Find the Research

I could not find anthroposophic medicine addressed by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, but Pub Med had several articles about it. One article can be found at . The article is titled Anthroposophic medicine in pediatric primary care: a prospective, multicenter observational study on prescribing patterns. It describes a study on everyday anthroposophic medical practice for children. The main conclusions were that anthroposophic doctors are very balanced in their approach, using a combination of both conventional and anthroposophic medicines in their prescriptions. I am primarily interested in working with children, as a holistic practitioner, so this article was of interest to me, although many varied articles on other Anthroposophic medical subjects exist on the pub med site.

Faerie house built by my kids!

The children have been industrious for weeks. I am so excited about what I see! The details of this faerie house inspire awe and pride from one Mama who loves it when they play in nature in such a magical way.

This is the what it looked like in progress.
And then the addition of a sweet fence.Here mom, where I am pointing is the slide for the faeries to play. Notice the ladder of moss and sticks leading up to it on the tree trunk?
Lanscaped paths and a sand-pit for faeries that dig.
A swing of course, and finally the roof!


Monday, July 25, 2011

Three Perspectives: Can you tell which one is the one I actually support? (this was for school if that's not obvious- oh, and APA formatting sucks))

Essay Against Natural Products Being Made Illegal

Nine years ago, congress unanimously passed DSHEA, a legal act allowing natural medicinal products to be sold over the counter, without requiring or allowing the food and drug administration to regulate safety and quality before it is sold. This law reflected the desires of consumers in America. In the PBS Frontline video, The Alternative Fix (2003), it was explained that One hundred million people who take or support the availability of dietary supplements wrote letters to Congress to support this act. This is a huge show of support, and exceeded the number of letters that came in during the Vietnam War. Much of the motivation to support DSHEA came from people’s desire to keep supplements affordable, as well as a fear that many supplements that people need would be outlawed. (Section “How Safe are Your Vitamins?”). Recently, the issue has arisen that the FDA should have control, and that natural products and therapies should be tested before becoming available to the public, because of concerns about possible drug interactions and lack of consumer knowledge. This worries David Eisenberg MD of Harvard Medical School (2003). He thinks that many consumers don’t realize that the herbal remedies at drugstores, displayed near over-the-counter drugs, are not scientifically tested or proven to be safe and effective, and that their interactions with other medications could be dangerous and possibly life threatening (Section “Where is the Evidence?”). While safety is important, this line of thinking takes decision-making power about people’s own bodies and medical care, away from them. Also, testing natural remedies is not always possible because of the prohibitive expense of the tests and the problem of a lack of interest in alternative products on the part of those who hold the money and power to decide what is tested. Patients respond to natural therapies in a wide variety of ways, and these responses are sometimes subjective and difficult to measure scientifically. Dr. Andrew Weil says (2003), “We don't have the resources to test everything that's out there in the world of alternative medicine using randomized controlled trials. And practitioners are always going to be guessing and operating in the midst of great uncertainty.” (Weil. Section “Where is the Evidence?”) If an individual feels supported by a therapy and is experiencing increased wellness, but a positive result cannot be scientifically be detected, there is little sense in denying the person’s subjective experience and/or taking away the therapy for lack of knowledge about it. This is well stated in a quote from Frontline’s The Alternative Fix, in chapter 5 (2003): “good progress with illness cannot always be documented. Sometimes you have to trust the patient who is sure that they are doing better.” (Section “The Alternative Doctor) A similar idea was expressed with conviction by a cancer patient who is convinced that an untested therapy has worked for her (2003). “I’m getting results and I’m feeling well. It would be ridiculous for me to not trust what is happening. Nothing that anybody could say would make me feel differently.” (Section “The Mainstreaming of CAM”)

To require that all natural medicines be proven safe, could be called extreme, considering that patients choose natural medicine in part because of it’s gentle nature and the lack of side effects (2011). “One of the expressed reasons for the popularity of homeopathy among patients at the RLHH is that it does not have the side effects associated with many conventional drugs.” (2011, Safety and Cost Effectiveness) Additionally, consumers are probably capable of making good decisions about products if they take the time to read labels carefully.

According to the FDA (2011), manufacturers must make sure that product
label information is truthful and not misleading. Under the FDA Final Rule 21 CFR 111, all domestic and foreign companies that manufacture, package, label or hold dietary supplement, including those involved with testing, quality control, and dietary supplement distribution in the U.S., must comply with the Dietary Supplement Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPS) for quality control. (2011, Dietary Supplements)

Also, the FDA (2011) is already monitoring new ingredients more carefully than some people think, which
could be enough to suffice for safety. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the act) requires that manufacturers and distributors who wish to market dietary supplements that contain "new dietary ingredients" notify the Food and Drug Administration about these ingredients. (See Section 413b of the act (21 U.S.C. 350b).) Generally, the notification must include information that is the basis on which manufacturers/distributors have concluded that a dietary supplement containing a new dietary ingredient will reasonably be expected to be safe under the conditions of use recommended or suggested in the labeling. (2011, Dietary Supplements)

Finally, it seems possible that the argument about regulation and the threat to force scientific testing on all products and therapies, is a way for mainstream medicine and drug companies to remain in control of all things medical or health related. If they are feeling at all threatened by the increasing popularity of complimentary and alternative medicine, then they would have sufficient motivation to propose an extreme change in regulation. “The 500-patient survey at the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital showed that many patients were able to reduce or stop conventional medication following homeopathic treatment. (2011, Clinical Outcomes Studies) “Another research group in Germany compared homeopathic and conventional GPs’ outcomes in chronic diagnoses commonly treated in general practice (adults – headache, low back pain, depression, insomnia, sinusitis; children – atopic asthma, dermatitis, rhinitis). They collected data at 6 and 12 months regarding symptom severity, quality of life, and costs of consultations, medication, physiotherapy, hospitalisation, sick pay and medical devices. 493 patients were treated by 101 homeopathic GPs and 59 conventional GPs. The findings suggested that patients who received homeopathic treatment had better outcomes for similar cost.” (2011, Clinical Outcomes Studies)

Studies and surveys such as this show the increased popularity of replacing traditional medical care with holistic care, which could make doctors and drug companies mighty uncomfortable. It is unfortunate though, that their desire to remain in control and profitable could influence them to make decisions about changing regulation that will decrease freedom of medical choice and ultimately reduce the availability of viable care options and ultimate healing for citizens. Ideally, the current policy set up by DSHEA, which calls for minimal regulation until reports of harm show a need for intervention by the FDA, will remain intact. This policy seems to best facilitate a path toward motivating people to take responsibility for their own health and achieve maximum wellness.
PBS Frontline (2003). The Alternative Fix. Chapter 4. “How safe are your vitamins?” Retrieved from

PBS Frontline (2003). The Alternative Fix. Chapter 3. “Where is the Evidence?” Retrieved from

PBS Frontline (2003). The Alternative Fix. “Where is the Evidence?” Retrieved from

PBS Frontline (2003). The Alternative Fix. “The Outlaw Doctor” Retrieved from

PBS Frontline (2003). The Alternative Fix. “The Mainstreaming of CAM” Retrieved from

Sharples F, van Haselen R. Patients’ perspectives on using a complementary medicine approach to their health. A survey at the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital NHS Trust. London, 1998, as cited in Faculty of Homeopathy (2011). Safety and Cost Effectiveness. Retrieved from

US Department of Human Services. FDA US Food and Drug Administration (2011). Food. Dietary Supplements. Retrieved from

US Department of Human Services. FDA US Food and Drug Administration (2011). Food. Dietary Supplements. Retrieved from

Sharples F, van Haselen R, Fisher P. NHS patients’ perspective on complementary medicine. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 2003; 11: 243–248., as cited in Faculty of Homeopathy (2011). Research. Safety and cost Benefit. Retrieved from

Witt C, Keil T, Selim D, et al. Outcome and costs of homeopathic and conventional treatment strategies: a comparative cohort study in patients with chronic disorders. Complementary Therapies in Medicine 2005; 13: 79–86), as cited in Faculty of Homeopathy (2011). Research. Safety and Cost Benefit. Retrieved from

Compromise Essay

There is great controversy between the greater American public, who continue choose complimentary and alternative medicine, and those who seek to outlaw products and services that have not been or cannot easily be scientifically tested. The former group wants a wide range of options and good faith to exercise appropriate caution, and latter group wants to put the control in the hands of the food and drug administration, regarding what is and is not safe to sell. With both interests in mind, there are surely solutions that allow freedom of medical choice while prioritizing safety and minimizing risk.

One thing to bring to light in this controversy is that it is possible that products do not need to be tested as much as consumers need to be educated about products and choices. This could be achieved though a focus on good labeling practices. Bottles of herbs should have clear statements about whether or not they have been tested, and that they can not be guaranteed to be safe with prescription drugs or for certain health conditions. This is not necessarily the responsibility of the FDA, but rather the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) (2011). “The FTC is the Federal agency charged with protecting the public against unfair and deceptive business practices. A key area of its work is the regulation of advertising (except for prescription and medical devices)”. (2011, “Are You Considering Complimentary and Alternative Medicine?”)

As far as scientific testing is concerned, it must be noted that the apparent safety of drugs and therapies that have been scientifically tested and approved is questionable, mostly because the studies themselves are questionable. These studies tend to be biased and misleading, as is suggested by the following questions asked in Richard Smith’s article about medical journals (2011): “Why are pharmaceutical companies getting the results they want? Why are the peer-review systems of journals not noticing what seem to be biased results?” (2011, “Audio File About the NCCAM Health Care Provider Portal”) His proposed answer is that “the companies seem to get the results they want not by fiddling the results, which would be far too crude and possibly detectable by peer review, but rather by asking the “right” questions—and there are many ways to do this.” (2011, “Audio File About the NCCAM Health Care Provider Portal”) In looking at the results of studies created by or funded by the companies that own what is being tested, the findings were concerning. “Overall, studies funded by a company were four times more likely to have results favourable to the company than studies funded from other sources. In the case of the five studies that looked at economic evaluations, the results were favourable to the sponsoring company in every case.” (2005, “Medical Journals Are an Extension of the Marketing Arm of Pharmaceutical Companies”). So, to prove safety, we need to make sure that both the testing and the journal reporting is accurate.

Richard Smith of the Medical Society of London stated his opinion in the article, “Medical Journals Are an
Extension of the Marketing Arm of Pharmaceutical Companies” (2005), Firstly, we need more public funding of trials, particularly of large head-to-head trials of all the treatments available for treating a condition. Secondly, journals should perhaps stop publishing trials. Instead, the protocols and results should be made available on regulated Web sites. Only such a radical step, I think, will stop journals from being beholden to companies. Instead of publishing trials, journals could concentrate on critically describing them. (2005)

Once the accuracy of the scientific process and subsequent reporting is improved, a workable compromise could be established about what alternative products and therapies truly need to be tested, and which are passable as benign and not worth the investment of science. This evaluation would be fundamental to solving one funding problem for testing natural medicinal products.

Dr. Andrew Weil presented this solution in his interview with Frontline’s The Alternative Fix (2003).
One concept that I'd like to get across is that I think it would be very useful if people, instead of just calling for evidence based medicine, if we conceived of a sliding scale of evidence that would work this way: that the greater the potential a treatment has to cause harm, the stricter the standards of evidence it should be held to [in terms of] efficacy. … That kind of sliding scale of evidence would simplify things because we don't have the resources to test everything that's out there in the world of alternative medicine using randomized controlled trials. And practitioners are always going to be guessing and operating in the midst of great uncertainty. (Weil, Section “Where is the Evidence?”)

Dr. Weil’s point is important, because it seeks to have the two sides meet at a halfway point, testing when necessary, but trusting nature and people’s free choice when appropriate. In this way we can remember that in all things we must seek balance. If we live in a world completely run by science and devoid of intuitive influence, we may lose our sense of spirit, and of humanity. Matt Fink of Beth Israel Medical Center says (2003), “There will always be a certain art to the practice of medicine. Part of it is art, and part of it is beyond science.” (2003, “The Mainstreaming of CAM”)


National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2011). Health Info. “Are You Considering Complimentary and Alternative Medicine?” Retrieved from

Lexchin J, Bero LA, Djulbegovic B, Clark O (2003) Pharmaceutical industry sponsorship and research outcome and quality. BMJ 326: 1167–1170. F., as cited in National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2011). News and Events. Audio File About the NCCAM Health Care Provider Portal. Retrieved from

Sackett DL, Oxman AD (2003) HARLOT plc: An amalgamation of the world's two oldest professions. BMJ 327: 1442–1445., as cited in National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2011). News and Events. Audio File About the NCCAM Health Care Provider Portal. Retrieved from

PLOS Medicine (2005). Article. Medical Journals Are an Extension of the Marketing Arm of Pharmaceutical Companies. Retrieved from

PBS Frontline (2003). The Alternative Fix. Chapter 3. “Where is the Evidence?” Retrieved from

PBS Frontline (2003). The Alternative Fix. Chapter 6. “The Mainstreaming of CAM” Retrieved from

Essay For Making Alternative Products and Therapies Illegal

For the safety of the American public, consumers must be able to trust that the products sold at retail stores and medical establishments have been scientifically tested, and that their side effects and interactions are fully tested and widely known. This is also true of any services, therapies and procedures offered by health care professionals. Currently, untested herbal and natural products are widely available for purchase and use. This is of concern to David Eisenberg MD of Harvard Medical School (2003). He worries that many consumers probably don’t realize that the herbal remedies at drugstores, displayed near over-the-counter drugs, are not scientifically tested or proven to be safe and effective, and that their interactions with other medications could be dangerous and possibly life threatening (2003, “Where is the Evidence?”). Frontline’s The Alternative Fix (2003) stated that there have been more than 700 adverse reports linked to increase blood pressure, heart palpitations and in some cases death, received by the FDA regarding dietary supplements in recent years.” (2003, “How safe are your vitamins?”) This history raises a red flag to the FDA, and they are working on legislation that would allow them to pull all supplements from the shelves and illegalize all therapies and treatments that have not been scientifically tested and proven to be safe and effective. Opponents of the requirement of scientific testing argue for historical proof and validity, which supposedly replaces the need for further testing.

Dr. Bratman makes the following statement about the subject (2004):
Most alternative medicine methods are grounded in tradition, common sense, anecdote, and testimonial. On the surface, these seem like perfectly good sources of information. However, double-blind studies have shown us otherwise. We now know that a host of “confounding factors” can easily create a kind of optical illusion, causing the appearance of efficacy where none in fact exists. The double-blind study is thus much more than a requirement for absolute proof of efficacy (as is commonly supposed) — it is a necessity for knowing almost anything about whether a treatment really works….

…Think of the practice of “bleeding,” slitting a vein to drain blood. Some of the most intelligent people in our history were sure that bleeding was a necessity, and the medical literature of past centuries is full of testimonials to the marvelous effect of this “medical necessity.

Today, though, it’s clear that bleeding is not helpful, and no doubt was responsible for killing a great many people. (2004, “Double Blind Studies: A Major Scientific Advance of the 20th Century”)

Clearly, modern scientists have gained understanding over years of research, and the practice of medicine is not as simple as it once was. Frontline’s The Alternative Fix pointed out (2003): “The content of these herbal drugs is far more concentrated than how they were used historically, and many people are on other medications these days. (2003. “How Safe are Your Vitamins?”)

This awareness is echoed and reinforced by the words of Steven Strauss MD, Director of National Center
of Complimentary Health and Medicine, National Institute of Health (2003). We know today that dietary supplements are chemically active. They must be, of course, if they're going to be beneficial to one's health. [But] those activities can interfere with the body's handling of life saving drugs. When people ate herbs 100,000 years ago, they didn't have to worry about whether it was going to interfere with their AIDS drug, but today we have that concern and some do interfere with AIDS drugs (2003. Steven Strauss).

With the knowledge and warnings that come with many years of advancement and cultural change, as well as recent history of dangerous drug interactions, many believe that it would be irresponsible to continue to allow unproven products and therapies to be condoned and easily accessed by the general public.


PBS Frontline (2003). The Alternative Fix. Chapter 3. “Where is the Evidence?” Retrieved from

PBS Frontline (2003). The Alternative Fix. Chapter 4. “How safe are your vitamins?” Retrieved from (2004). Steven Bratman M.D. “Double-Blind Studies: A Major Scientific Advance of the 20th Century”. Retrieved from

PBS Frontline (2003). The Alternative Fix. Steven Strauss. “How safe are your vitamins?” Retrieved from

Friday, July 8, 2011

An amusing anecdote

At dinner time we often light a beeswax candle, and as we strike the match, we sing,

Fire faeries come to us,
bringing golden light from the sun.

Then we join hands and sing a blessing of gratitude for our food. Lately Reya and Galen are really into the blessing, and sometimes they want to do it again, and again.

The other night we failed to light a candle.

Halfway through dinner Galen grabbed a box of matches, picked one up and held it out toward the candle in the center of the table. He has this two-year-old way of speaking lately, where every word is somewhat separated with an extra space that makes him sound just a teeny bit robotic. He also repeats every statement umpteen times. Holding his match, he requested, "I--burn--faeries--mama--I burn--faeries--I burn--faeries--mama--I burn." We all busted up laughing, which of course made him want to say it all through dinner, and at breakfast the next morning, and every day since. Little ham.

Friday, July 1, 2011


I have been focused lately, on getting as many raw fruits and veggies as possible into my diet. Mind you, I'm not going completely raw or anything, but I am just trying for an increase. I'd love to be at least half raw, and eat mostly produce. I have sprouted off and on for years, and have always known it was a good thing, but all of a sudden it occurred to me in a new way, as if it was a totally novel thought, that my kitchen is never completely without produce. Even if I don't have fresh greens in the fridge on a particularly frugal week, I almost never am without my stockpile of bulk grains, beans, legumes, seeds, nuts, etc. Sooooooo, all I have to do to have veggies, is continually have one of those items soaking and sprouting. Wala. Live food for my body. I love sprouts, and so do my kids. At this current moment I am sprouting, quinoa, almonds, clover seeds, wheat berries and sunflower seeds. I just ate the last of the pea sprouts. Feeling so good.