About Me

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I have actively practiced as a Holistic Health Practitioner (HHP) and massage therapist since 1993 with special interest and training in the Vodder method of Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) technique. My experience is with lymphedema disease, edema in general, pre- and post-surgery massage, cosmetic surgery edema  and more.   My search for a low or non impact movement modality led me to become a certified trainer in the GYROTONIC EXPANSION SYSTEM® I have found it to be a helpful movement modality to stimulate the Lymphatic system and other stagnation out of the body. The Gyrotonic method is the base for movement sessions used at the office. Palliative care is another direction of great interest, as many of my clients are in disease states.  My mission is to provide compassionate care and resources for my clients.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Echinacea has been used in north America for centuries as a sort of "cure-all," for infections, wounds and many of the diseases now treated with antibiotics. Now, it is often used to reduce the severity and duration of the common cold. Is it effective, what are the important components of echinacea, and are there any concerns you should know about?

The echinacea plant contains polysaccharides, glycoproteins, alkamides and flavonoids, all beneficial compounds. Polysaccharides in particular are known to trigger the immune system. The above-ground portions of the plant contain more polysaccharides, the roots contain more essential oils. If you are taking echinacea, find out what part of the plant is used in your echinacea supplement. Many supplements contain both root and aerial portions of echinacea.

Research seems to indicate that echinacea does in fact boost the immune system. This might help you overcome an infection faster than it would if you didn't take echinacea. However, because it is an immune stimulant, people with immune disorders such as HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis or other autoimmune diseases, tuberculosis, leukemia or liver disorders should not take it. If you are concerned about whether you should take echinacea, discuss it with your doctor.

If you take prescribed medications, check online or with your pharmacist to see whether echinacea interacts harmfully with your other medicines. Herbal supplements might seem safe, because the entire plant is used, not just an extract. But, some herbs such as echinacea can have a potent effect on your body and can interact with other herbs and medicines.

If you are allergic to other plants in the daisy family, such as chrysanthemum, ragweed or marigold, you might possible be allergic to echinacea. So, if you use it and notice any allergic symptoms, especially difficulty breathing or swelling of your lips or face, see a doctor immediately to prevent a severe reaction.

Don't take echinacea for more than two weeks. Taking it for an extended time may stress your liver.

University of Maryland Medical Center: Echinacea
NCCAM: Echinacea
MedlinePlus: Echinacea
Susan G. Komen for the Cure: Echinacea

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Essiac Tea: An Example of How Herbal Knowledge Grows and Changes

Continuing the ideas I mentioned in the last blog, let’s use Essiac tea as an example of how herbal knowledge grows and changes, helping you make better decisions about alternative/complementary treatments.

Essiac tea, also called Flor Essence, Tea of Life or Vitalitea, is an herbal formula promoted by many websites as a cure for cancer. The formula for the tea, which includes burdock root, slippery elm inner bark, sheep sorrel and Indian rhubarb root, comes from a Canadian nurse named Rene Caisse, who opened a health clinic in 1924 and treated thousands of patients with the formula.

Caisse said she got the formula from on Ojibwa medicine man, which may be true, although there is no evidence to support her assertion. Ancient people developed many medicinal formulas using herbs, many of which have been passed down through the centuries, so it is possible that this is actually an old herbal blend.

The principal ingredient in Essiac tea, burdock root, has historically been used to treat conditions like arthritis, diabetes and hair loss. Rene Caisse claimed it could cure cancer. All of these ideas are based on tradition. The question is, does modern science support those uses? Has research discovered any important uses for traditional herbs not known before?    

As for its ability to cure cancer, research indicates Essiac tea is not effective. Does that mean the formula is useless? No. In fact, research has discovered that “Essiac tea possesses potent antioxidant and DNA-protective activity, properties that are common to natural anti-cancer agents,” according to the January 2006 "Journal of Ethnopharmacology.”  In an article published in the November-December 2007 “Anticancer Research,” authors reported that Essiac has “significant antioxidant and immunomodulatory properties as well as neoplastic-cell-specific cytotoxicity, “ particularly mentioning ovarian epithelial carcinoma cells.  Authors of an article published in the June 2010 “Journal of Food Science” agree that burdock contains antioxidants, which help to block free radical molecules that damage your cells. Research indicates that ingredients in Essiac tea may also lower blood sugar and alleviate the severity of liver damage from carbon tetrachloride or acetaminophen.

What’s my point? Well, many of the herbs that have been used for centuries to treat disease are validated by modern research; although the research doesn’t always support traditional uses, it reveals new uses. Essiac tea, for instance, may be more effective for preventing cancer than curing it. 

A final word: if you want to use herbs along with mainstream medical treatment, or instead of it, be aware that not all herbs have been studied for effectiveness or safety. Also, herbs are quite potent and can interact harmfully with other medications you may be taking. Do your research, so you make better decisions. The previous blog post listed several places you can find more information about herbs and alternative treatments, and there are many more reliable sites online that can give you information.

"Am J Chin Med"; Hepatoprotective effects of Arctium lappa on carbon tetrachloride- and acetaminophen-induced liver damage; Lin SC et al.; 2000;28(2):163-73
"Anticancer Res;" In vitro analysis of the herbal compound Essiac; Seely D, Kennedy DA, Myers SP, Cheras PA, Lin D, Li R, Cattley T, Brent PA, Mills E, Leonard BJ; 2007 Nov-Dec
"Eur J Cancer;" How useful are unconventional cancer treatments?; Ernst E, Cassileth BR; Oct 1999
"J Altern Complement Med;" Trial of Essiac to ascertain its effect in women with breast cancer; Zick SM, Sen A, Feng Y, Green J, Olatunde S, Boon H; Dec 2006
"J Food Sci"; Antioxidant Activity and Chemical Composition of the Fractions From Burdock Leaves; Lou Z, Wang H, Li J, Chen S, Zhu S, Ma C, Wang Z; June 2010
"Journal of ethnopharmacology;" Essiac tea: scavenging of reactive oxygen species and effects on DNS damage; Leonard SS et al; Jan 2006
"Nutr Cancer;" Evaluation of the antiproliferative effects of Essiac on invitro and in vivo models of prostate cancer compared to paclitaxel; Eberding A et al; 2007 188-96
"Oncol Rep"; In Vitro Comparison of Essiac and Flor-Essence on Human Tumor Cell Lines; Tai J, Cheung S, Wong S, Lowe C; Feb. 2004
“Am J Chin Med “; Lin CC, Lu JM, Yang JJ, et al. Anti-inflammatory and radical scavenge effects of Arctium lappa. 1996;24(2):127-137.
“Am J Chin Med “; Lin SC, Chung TC, Lin CC, et al. Hepatoprotective effects of Arctium lappa on carbon tetrachloride- and acetaminophen-induced liver damage. 2000;28(2):163-173.
“J Biomed Sci “; Lin SC, Lin CH, Lin CC, et al. Hepatoprotective effects of Arctium lappa Linne on liver injuries induced by chronic ethanol consumption and potentiated by carbon tetrachloride. 2002;9(5):401-409.
“Mutat Res “; Morita K, Kada T, Namiki M. A desmutagenic factor isolated from burdock (Arctium lappa Linne). 1984;129(1):25-31.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mainstream Medicine or Alternative Treatments? How To Decide

If you have a serious, chronic or life-threatening illness, you are probably worried or frightened as well as sick. And you've probably been inundated with advice from well-meaning friends. Some friends may advise you to try alternative treatments rather than trusting mainstream medical treatments. How do you decide between alternative or mainstream medical treatment?

In the end the decision is up to you, but I have a few thoughts that may help you make sense of it all. I'm a firm believer in the benefit of herbs, supplements, acupuncture, massage and other treatments. However, I think sometimes people overlook a couple of important points about alternative/complementary health treatments.

The first point is this: ancient people trusted these treatments because it's all they had. It wasn't that they were somehow wiser than modern people, it's just that they used what they had available to them, to the best of their skill. Imagine how different things might be if, for instance, they had antibiotics during the plague years.

The other point is this: although herbal treatments, supplements and manual therapies are indeed often helpful, they are slow. Building your health through improved diet, nutritional supplements, herbs, body therapies and exercise takes time. If your disease is very aggressive, you might not have that time. Mainstream medical treatment may be able to give you more time, even though the treatments might be difficult to bear for a while. You might decide that the best use of both is to combine complementary treatments with medical treatments for the best of both worlds.

Finally, don't allow people to frighten you. Do some research. If someone recommends Essiac tea, for instance, there is a lot of medical research into the herbs in that tea. Learn all you can about the various treatments available to you, so that you can make your decisions from a position of knowledge. The National Institutes of Health have an office of alternative medicine and they publish a great deal of information on their website. You can also search for studies done about many different herbs and herbal combinations on the NIH website.
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
NCCAM Health Topics A -- Z
Explanation of alternative and complementary health treatments

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


One of the most useful recipes ever!

In this Moroccan recipe, sweet green peppers are slow-cooked to the point of softness in olive oil with vinegar, garlic and coriander.  You can make it quickly and easily, and store it in the refrigerator to use as needed.  It's called chermoula, and  is delicious served with crackers and cheese, or in a salad, or on an antipasto platter, and is especially good on pizza.  The garlic cloves are wonderful, so delicious it’s tempting to fish one out and eat it every time I see the jar.  The oil is good in a vinaigrette, or drizzled on bruschetta or fresh sourdough bread.  Chermoula looks pretty in the jar, so it makes a good hostess gift.

The vinegar and coriander are essential for the flavor.  The combination of garlic and vinegar is one of those felicitous combinations like bacon-lettuce-and-tomato, a classic taste that everyone loves.  

The recipe:

Slice three large bell peppers into thin strips, using green, red, yellow or orange peppers. Combine the pepper strips with one cup olive oil, ½ teaspoon of ground coriander and ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar in a saucepan.  Add as much garlic as you feel like peeling, an entire head of peeled cloves if you like.  Cook over low heat until the garlic and pepper are tender, which may take up to 15 minutes.  Do not allow this mixture to fry as it will become bitter and won’t taste good.

While the peppers are cooking, wash a pint canning jar in very hot water and rinse it with boiling water. Drain it on a clean kitchen towel. Rinse the lid in boiling water also. When the peppers are tender, use a slotted spoon to put all the vegetables in the sterilized jar, pour in the oil, seal and store in the refrigerator. The mixture keeps for up to two weeks in the refrigerator, although it's so good, it usually gets eaten before then.

To use on a pizza, prepare your usual pizza dough and roll out to the desired size.  Brush with the oil from the chermoula and arrange slices of bell pepper and slivers of garlic from the chermoula over the pizza.  Add cheese, such as goat cheese, and bake as usual until the crust is done and the cheese melted and bubbling.

To serve as antipasto, arrange the bell pepper and garlic on a platter with cheese, olives, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, sliced sausage such as pepperoni or salami.  Drizzle the oil from the peppers sparingly over all the goodies on the platter.  Serve with toasted rounds of sour dough bread or French or Italian baguettes that have been brushed with the oil.