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Robert Thurman: The Sacred Cows in the Health Care Debate

By Alison Rose Levy via The Integrative Health Outlook

Sacred Cow

Studies show that over half of all Americans are interested in promoting wellness and preventing disease. But some people are terrified that the food Nazis will come running after them and force feed them spinach.

In a series of upcoming blogs I’ll be speaking with thought leaders in integrative medicine and allied fields about the cultural divide on health care. For this blog, I spoke with Columbia University, Professor Robert Thurman, the leading U.S. scholar of Buddhism with a background in Tibetan Medicine.

Alison Rose Levy: Americans have poorer health outcomes than any other developed nation. That must be coming from how we approach health care. What are the blindspots that prevent us from recognizing and getting the health care we need?

Robert Thurman: It’s not a matter of fixing this or that institution or changing how we pay for health insurance. It requires a social movement. In Tibetan medicine and most other world medicines, when someone is unwell, they first look at lifestyle and diet because those two things are the major poisoning and major healing of people.

Health Benefits of Turmeric


Turmeric has a peppery, warm and bitter flavor and a mild fragrance slightly reminiscent of orange and ginger, and while it is best known as one of the ingredients used to make curry, it also gives ballpark mustard its bright yellow color.

Turmeric comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant and has a tough brown skin and a deep orange flesh. Turmeric has long been used as a powerful anti-inflammatory in both the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine. Turmeric was traditionally called ‘Indian saffron’ because of its deep yellow-orange color and has been used throughout history as a condiment, healing remedy and textile dye.


This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Turmeric provides for each of the nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source according to our Food Rating System. Additional information about the amount of these nutrients provided by Turmeric can be found in the Food Rating System Chart. A link that takes you to the In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Turmeric, featuring information over 80 nutrients, can be found under the Food Rating System Chart.

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The Relative Safety of Natural Products

By Neil E. Levin, CCN, DANLA via
Mortar Pestle

1. Some have stated that the dietary supplement industry is largely “unregulated”.

My response: This is not really a fair statement considering that recent regulatory efforts – supported by that same industry – have clamped down on the industry’s freedom to operate outside the regulatory system. Drug and dietary supplement regulation are becoming more and more similar, though the safety records of the two types of products are remarkably distinct. The dietary supplement industry is now largely regulated, with more and more regulations closing the gaps. Indeed, the industry strongly supported the law to ban steroid precursors from being sold as dietary supplements, making all such products illegal drugs. And the 2006 passage of a law to require all serious adverse events to be reported to MedWatch within 3 weeks – now in effect – is an appropriate method of monitoring safety and determining problem areas needing increased monitoring or official action; though we should not confuse raw AERs with actual evidence of causes-and-effects. The implementation of the long-delayed current good manufacturing practices (cGMP) regulations (that were actually authorized by the oft-maligned DSHEA law in 1994) now requires all supplement manufacturers to be cGMP compliant over the next two years, but with the largest manufacturers required to follow that standard no later than this coming June (2008). cGMP regulations are forcing manufacturers to have quality controls on raw materials and finished goods throughout the manufacturing process, including identity and safety testing. The FDA already prohibits all adulterated products, and has in fact used its authority to act against known offenders, as noted by the agency itself.

2. There are claims that “the Institute of Medicine and the Food and Drug Administration have found that supplement health claims are largely unsupported”.

My response: The FDA clearly regulates supplement label claims and requires manufacturers to submit all label claims and maintain proper documentation. The agency apparently does not review this information unless there is a problem; meanwhile making manufacturers submit such information to it while requiring a contradictory label disclaimer that the FDA has not reviewed the claims. I guess that’s what’s called “plausible deniability”. However, the vast majority of responsible manufacturers are careful to present adequate documentation to the FDA, and the cGMP regulations require well-documented justification of all processes, including the writing of label claims. DSHEA requires preapproval of all new dietary supplement ingredients with an eye to proving safety, though manufacturers are allowed to use existing ingredients if they first submit their new label claims to the agency. All new drugs need pre-approval, as do all new supplement ingredients, but drugs are approved for specific uses (though often used for other unapproved “off label” conditions) while supplements are not allowed to make any disease claims, with very few exceptions for FDA-approved health claims.

Bias Against Natural Products

By Neil E. Levin, CCN, DANLA via


Once again, a widely distributed article has savagely attacked the safety and efficacy of natural products; including vitamins, minerals, and herbs. That this article may be more commentary than journalism is immediately revealed by the author inexplicably linking energy medicine (with admitted health benefits for patients) with a concocted image of “shooing evil spirits”, even when performed by technicians in a top trauma hospital. The ignorance of journalists and medical experts is exposed when they claim that natural products are intended as cures and treatments. These products are actually prohibited by law from claiming this; allowed only documented claims to support healthy body structures and functions. Ironically, this is the same law – the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, DSHEA – that is falsely mischaracterized as “deregulation” of the industry. In fact, this law prohibits new ingredients without FDA pre-approval; empowers the agency to regulate manufacturing, advertising, and label claims; prohibits unsafe, adulterated, and mislabeled products; and even allows banning a product based on only theoretical risks. A recent companion law requires all serious adverse events be reported to the FDA; generating far fewer reports than expected.

The erroneous assumption that dietary supplements should be considered as potential treatments or cures has resulted in many negative reports. One problem is that some medical researchers, perhaps too used to drug studies using novel substances, sometimes base reports mainly on supplementation levels but fail to properly understand or explain other relevant variables such as dietary intake and relationships to other nutrients that affect body levels and functions of the targeted nutrient. The synergies of natural substances in the diet are complex and interactive, but many researchers design simplistic studies that generate incomplete or misleading data; often leading to dramatic conclusions that the pharmaceutical advertising-dependent press eats up. A press that fails to investigate and present all of the relevant facts and perspectives in a sensational negative report may be accused of laziness, if not bias. Rigorous studies refuting negative reports about the safety of vitamin E, beta-carotene, herbs, the use of supplements with cancer treatments, and drug-nutrient interactions have been noticeably absent from the same media that eagerly broadcasts reports attacking nature’s own nourishing substances. Sadly, there is no matching eagerness to set the record straight.

Let’s keep this in perspective. We have all seen drugs pulled from the market because of unforeseen safety issues, medical schools and authors of articles published in peer-reviewed journals accused of being on the take from pharmaceutical companies, contaminated drugs as well as hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of hospitalizations caused by pharmaceutical side effects each year. Foods cause hundreds of deaths and millions of illnesses annually. Compare this to dietary supplement safety, where proven deaths are extremely rare. Supplement users believe in the healing power of nature, at odds with the often unproven treatments of conventional medicine. The goal of Integrative Medicine is putting aside traditional institutional medical bias to allow science to dictate the comprehensive treatment of an individual patient, including quality of life issues. Many millions of Americans choose to use natural products in order to protect and improve their own health and vitality. Reasonable people will reject these sensational assaults on natural health (including dietary supplements), recognizing that conventional medicine sometimes fails without a little help from Mother Nature.

Acidophilus and IBS

The Good Guys

Why Acidophilus? How Does it Help Treat My IBS?

Acidophilus has long been used as a very important part of natural IBS treatment for a few reasons. Acidophilus is thought to help control and help correct bacterial imbalances in the digestive tract and colon, which is said to be one of the major contributing factors to the IBS condition. So, what exactly IS acidophilus, and why should you incorporate into your overall treatment for IBS?

Acidophilus is a type of “healthy” bacteria that is found in natural yogurt, which provides a supportive bacterial environment for intestinal tracts which have been damaged due to long term antibiotic usage or illness.

Taking acidophilus supplements or getting a lot of acidophilus in your diet (eating a lot of yogurt with live cultures), has shown to help improve candida (candidiasis, or yeast imbalance) and yeast infections that occur in a woman’s vagina. It also has been useful in helping to remedy and control the symptoms of IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

How Exactly does the Acidophilus Bacteria Help in the Treatment and Curing of IBS?

Well, Acidophilus helps treat IBS is many ways, but the most important are that it:

1.) Acidophilus helps treat diarrhea associated with IBS by helping to correct the bacterial imbalances caused by long term antibiotic use. Long term antibiotic use has been shown to build up unhealthy flora and bacteria in the colon and digestive tract, causing diarrhea, bloating and irregularity.

The reason for this is that most antibiotics have a serious side effect in that they destroy a lot of the health “friendly” bacteria in our digestive tract that prevent nasty digestive problems such as excess gas, bloating and diarrhea. Acidophilus benefits our entire digestive system since it brings back an optimal natural balance of the bacteria that inhabit the human digestive system.

2.) Acidophilus helps to reduce the flatulence associated with IBS by restoring a healthy balance of bacteria in the digestive tract, it helps keep the gas-producing bacteria in the large intestine from multiplying, and therefore decreases the incidence, severity and frequency of gastrointestinal pain and flatulence. This is a major benefit for IBS sufferers in the treatment of their IBS, since much of the discomfort IBS induces is caused by gas buildup and pressure.

Another Acidophilus IBS Benefit:

Another added benefit of Acidophilus is that people who are lactose intolerant can take this supplement, since it does not have an adverse effect on them, and they may be missing out on the beneficial effects of lactobacillus and acidophilus due to their condition since yogurt and foods with active yogurt cultures is out of the question.

Did you know there are over 400 different types of bacteria living in your digestive tract, some that you benefit from greatly, and some that produce gas, bloating, constipation and even diarrhea? That just goes to show the importance of these bacteria, and how easy it might be to have an imbalance of healthy, friendly bacteria and the destructive type which often causes most of the problems associated with IBS.

As you can see, acidophilus as a treatment for IBS should be an integral part of your comprehensive treatment for IBS. Make sure this is incorporated as part of your regimen, and I am certain you will feel the benefits of its positive effects sooner than you think.

Visit 3 Part Herbal Remedy for IBS with Acidophilus for more information on one of the most powerful, multifunctional and multisymptom targeted IBS remedies on the market today. Danna Schneider is the webmaster of Herbal Medicines and Natural Supplements.

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The Two Sides of Oregano

By Brenda Hyde and Lucinda Jenkins via

Like most herbs, there are two sides to oregano: the culinary and the medicinal. For centuries people have used plants and herbs of all sorts for their apparent health giving qualities. How convenient that something so healthy can also add so much flavor to our daily diets.

To explore the two sides of oregano, we’ve enlisted the help of Brenda Hyde, editor of, a website dedicated to creating and sharing family memories, and Lucinda Jenkins, editor of, a comprehensive herbal website.

We’ve filled this article out with some recipes from right here at, so you can experiment with the distinctive flavor of oregano yourself.  Find them in the related recipes section below.

The Culinary Side of Oregano
By Brenda Hyde

Oregano is an herb everyone is familiar with in some form or another. It’s an easy to grow perennial with some controversy surrounding it.

I was told long ago that true oregano has white flowers, but many times we end up with a plant that has pinkish flowers. This is actually wild marjoram. I have two large oregano plants that are probably not true oregano but sure do work well in all recipes, vinegars and the flowers are wonderful dried and used on wreaths. To be sure of what you are getting talk to someone at your garden center that understands the difference.

Oregano can be used fresh with sautéed zucchini and onions, or is a welcome addition along with cilantro to black beans.

For a simple elegant appetizer, carefully grill thick slices of provolone cheese that have been sprinkled with oregano. When the cheese is warmed and starts to melt spread on crusty fresh bread with a butter knife.

Add oregano to your fresh salsa recipes, or any Mexican dishes as well as Italian recipes.

The leaves can be dried on the stem and crumbled into jars, or frozen in individual bags, then used as fresh.

One oregano plant that is put in full sun, fairly dry soil and harvested frequently will supply all that you need. It does grow quickly and spread, but that will allow you to pot up some oregano for your windowsill and for your friends!

The Medicinal Side of Oregano
By Lucinda Jenkins

Oregano: origanum vulgare

Heard the spicy news about oregano? There is a lot of research going on right now with this common kitchen cupboard herb. It seems to be able to land a knock punch to free radicals those awful compounds in our body that cause us to age and get sick.

In a recent study sited by James Duke in his book the Green Pharmacy, Oregano a member of the mint family out ranked over 100 mint family herbs in delivering rosmarinic acid.

Action and uses:
Rosmarinic acid is a compound in oregano that is

  • antibacterial: will kill bacteria
  • anti-imflammatory: will ease swelling
  • antioxidant: means anti-aging
  • anti-viral: it will kill a virus

So not only is oregano tea good for helping to heal from a cold ,it is helpful with arthritis.

I read a comment on the internet that Oregano essential oil is strong enough to treat sewage, meaning it could kills all the nasty bacteria in sewage. I can’t back that up but thought it was an “interesting” claim.

Oregano is currently being studied by the Delaware State Univerisity with federally funded dollars, which means there is something to the powerful claims made by Scientist W H Martindale in 1910, documented that the essential oil of oregano is the most powerful plant-derived antiseptic known. He showed it was 26 times more active as an antiseptic than phenol (a powerful disinfectant).