Growing up in the Country
I grew up in Western New York in a small town surrounded by farms. The air and water were clean, the grass smelled heavenly and the food was pristine. My Italian grandparents lived down the street and had a garden of vegetables and beautiful flowers. Every spring my grandfather would dig up the dandelions and cook them with olive oil and garlic. He would tell us he was doing his “spring cleaning.” I did not know until I studied herbs that dandelions help to stabilize blood sugar and detoxify or “clean” the liver. It’s too bad more people don’t know how healthful these plants are.
A few miles away in a very small town of 220 people, my grandmother had a 150-acre organic farm. Of course, back in the 1960’s you did not have to say it was organic, because most family farms did not use chemical pesticides or fertilizers.
My grandmother knew how to grow plants in a way that the plants would help each other, now called permaculture. Science now shows that plants and trees send out chemical messengers to talk and help each other. She knew how to plant something the bugs liked around plants you want the bugs to ignore. It was a smart and easy way to protect her plants from bugs. She would also plant a deep-rooted plant next to a shallow rooted plant. The shallow roots would have water brought by the deep-rooted plants in case of a drought. Grandmother had a deep well with delicious cold, clean water, and developed an irrigation system to water her plants directly from the wonderful well.
My grandmother did not have electricity and did not want it. I remember when my father, who was the plant electrical engineer at a prominent company, was excited to tell grandmother he was putting in electricity. She said in her gruff way, “Not in my home!” because it disturbed the electrical current in her body. 40 years later I now know she was correct. As a member of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine we learn about patients who cannot tolerate being near electric lines or wireless EMF (electromagnetic frequency). My grandmother was very intuitive and respected lessons learned from her elders.
My grandmother would take us for walks in the woods showing us the herbal wildflowers and mushrooms. I think she knew it would calm children down. They call this forest bathing or Shinrin-yoku. Studies have shown this practice to lower stress chemicals in the body. I really liked the beauty of the turkey tail mushrooms, and never knew they had been studied to help cancer until I became a Master Herbalist. My grandmother was the local medicine woman who people would seek out for her knowledge in natural medicines. She never took a manmade medicine until she was 80 and broke her hip in a car accident. This was in 1980, and I was very upset when the doctors said she had a less than a 1% chance of living. After the surgery the doctors came out and said “Amazing! She has the bones of a 50-year-old!” She went back to her farm and lived another 13 years, working her garden and canning all of the food she had grown.
Today we are fortunate to have integrative medicine which brings together the best of both worlds: Life-saving plants and advanced man made drugs. When we learn the truth about both we can pick and choose what to use for the best patient outcome.
My Path to becoming a Body Detective
In New York, the high school curriculum was more difficult than most states. We had to take a regent’s exam which required you to know quite a bit about a subject in order to pass. This made my first couple of years in college quite easy, but when I got to pharmacy school it was a whole different experience. We were taught difficult sciences and had to interpret them as they pertained to the biochemistry and physiology of the body. We studied how drugs and herbs worked, and what drugs and herbs are needed for absorption, distribution and excretion in the body.
The first day of pharmacy school, we were told, “Look to the right, look to the left, one of you will be gone before school is over.” I could not believe it because I was surrounded by students who excelled in biochemistry and calculus. But sure enough they were right. About 30% of the students failed the physiology course. The professor, Dr. Becky Bunce, required us to realize that the body is programed a certain way, and one system affects other systems, and symptoms may show up in many places. She taught us that the adrenal glands can affect heart rhythm and so many other things that are not taught today. It is because of Dr. Bunce I became a “Body Detective” and want to share this knowledge with you!