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February 10, 2009 1:45 PM

Herbalist Susan Mead on her new book "Take Back Your Body"


Mark_Wolf(P) Welcome to Susan Mead, author of Take Back Your Body: Using Time-Tested Health Tips and Common Sense.
Mark_Wolf(Q) What do you mean by "taking back your body"?
Susan_Mead(A) It has to do with taking back your body from pharmaceutical companies more interested in profits than actual healing, and also from the health insurance companies that often deny claims after decades of premiums paid. It's taking back responsbility for our own health care--through self care.

Mark_Wolf(Q) How did you become interested in herbals?
Susan_Mead(A) My interest in herbal remedies actually dates back to my great-grandmother who was a cook for the railroad in the 1850's as a "respectable" way to get out West. She used many healing plants to help injured and sick workers, and I heard the storeis about it. But I got distracted with 20 years in the business world, before deciding to seriously start studying health and herbal medicine--though I had used it myself for years.

Lisa_Ryckman(Q) Hi Susan! Love your book! Could you talk a little about the impact stress has on our health?
Susan_Mead(A) Hi, Lisa. Thanks for a great article today! Even the modern medical community now acknowledges that stress contibutes to 80-90% of all disease. The way that often happens is by depleting the adrenal glands of necessary hormones to keep us active and feeling energetic. Those adrenal glands are the number one area of the body to be affected by stress--and often when that happens, the adrenals "steal" hormones from the thyroid which then leads to many (often mid-life women) being put on synthetic thyroid meds for the rest of their life--but the problem was in the adrenals which are still unaddressed. So what does this mean for the average person? Low energy, chronic headaches or migrains, hot flashes than often have nothing to do with estrogen and depression, too.

Lisa_Ryckman(Q) Some people are very wary of using herbs because they have no idea what they're doing. Could you give some advice on a way to ease into herbal use?
Susan_Mead(A) It's actually wise to be cautious with new herbs or supplements; I only wish most Americans would be equally cautious about taking a newly-prescribed pharmaceutical drug. In that case, it's best to always ask your physician for a copy of the PDR (Physicians' Desk Reference) listing for that drug to learn about potential side effects. With herbs, there are many Materia Medica ( a big herb book that lists potential side-effects, interactions etc) which you can use as a reference and if there are not contraindications and you are on no pharmaceutical drugs or OTC drugs, experimenting a bit on your own will rarely be a problem. But for those on any type of drugs, professional guidance from an exeperienced practitioner is a must--also if pregnant, or nursing.

Lisa_Ryckman(Q) How careful do you have to be with herbal remedies? Should you worry about interactions with OTC or other drugs?
Susan_Mead(A) The reality is that about 4 people die each year from potential herb-drug interactions, while about 160,000 people a year die from drug-drug interactions and "properly prescribed drugs". I'm not sayint to be cavalier about it, and certainly seek professional guidance when in doubt, but it's important keep our fears about herbs in perspectives. They have thousands of years of "empirical" evidence, which means which plants have worked the best on real people over many years. I personally trust that a lot more than new drugs with limited testing--and the Amercian people then being experimented upon until too many negative side effects pop up.
Lisa_Ryckman(P) I've had a number of readers ask where they can get Susan's book. The website is www.susanemead.com.
Lisa_Ryckman(P) Her site also offers lots of great tips and info.

Lisa_Ryckman(Q) As a mom, I'm always interested in ways to help my kids feel better without using drugs. Can you give herbals to kids?
Susan_Mead(A) Yes, again using the same common sense and professional guidance. It's best to start by using food as medicine. For example, a teaspoon of raw honey for a cough, or the same amount of cod liver oil daily to strengthen immune response. Many herbal teas are completely safe for children, and can be looked up in the Materia Medias I mentioned earlier. One of the simplest, which I recommend in the Digestion Appendix in my book, is using peppermint or catnip tea to ease digestion--or chamamille tea to help facilitate a good night's sleep.

Lisa_Ryckman(Q) Can you give an example or two of an herbal success story?
Susan_Mead(A) Sure. One common experience for women is chronic yeast infections/vaginal infections. I've worked with many people who have been on several rounds of antibiotics, but they only set up the body to quickly be infected again. Instead, if they make some simple diet modifications (I do believe in yummy food!) and take herbs like calendula for a week or so, they improve 99% of the time. Another favorite example is a 90 year old man who had undergone 10 rounds of antibiotics for a chronic sinus infections without getting healthy again. Within a few days of taking fresh, raw garlic, staying away from sugar, and also using some herbs like prickly ash and eyebright which specifically help with that type of infection, he was well on his way to feeling great--and 100% in 10 dyas.

nottoobright(Q) Susan, I have not read your book so this may not be within its realm but are there any herbal or other organic type materials that can ease some aging issues such as aching joints, lack of energy, a reduction in sex drive (not to be offensive)?
Susan_Mead(A) You certainly don't offend; the number one complaint of men I see is sexual dysfunction of one type or another. The place to start for that, and also support to reduce arthritis pain, is with a simple and inexpensive nettle tea which costs 20 cents a day. I have a 74 year old client who wasn't able to quit smoking or modify her diet much--but within 2 weeks of drinking a quart a day of the nettle tea, she was able to enjoy gardening and horseback riding again without pain. Oh, and the side effects? Thicker hair, better-looking skin and stronger nails without the ridges!

Lisa_Ryckman(Q) What's the deal with stinging nettles?
Susan_Mead(A) The reason I often start with that nettle tea is twofold: 1) Nearly everyone is affected by stress (see earlier question and response), which affects about everything else. 2) It's super inexpensive, which is importnat for many right now--with a host of positive side effects.

nottoobright(Q) What about the issue of feeling a loss of desire for sexual relations?
Susan_Mead(A) That issue is very complex, and often takes months to see improvement. Good diet is important, and regular exercise even more so. Also, a trip to your physcians' office to test hormone levels might help point you in the right direction. The ginsengs are often touted as helpful--but be careful if on *any* medications!

LIsa_Ryckman(Q) Susan, are there any herbs that can ease the side effects of chemo or other cancer drugs/therapies?
Susan_Mead(A) Absolutely, Lisa. In that situation, you *definitely* want to work with a skilled practitioner, but I can tell you I have seen many simple herbs like reishi mushroom, Siberian ginseng and even something as simple as dandelion make a big difference in how well people can tolerate those treatments. For nausea, ginger tea is a great place to start--adding honey to taste is fine.

sprite(Q) I would like to plant an herb garden this year. Can you suggest herbs that I can grow in Denver's climate?
Susan_Mead(A) Oh, I love that question! The simple kitchen garden has much more healing power than given credit for. Basil, rosemary (which can winter through in a sunny spot), cilantro and thyme all do well here--and all help protect us from cancer!

Lisa_Ryckman(Q) Susan, I especially appreciated the tips you give in your book for stress reduction. Could you please share some of those?
Susan_Mead(A) I'm happy to, since stress is such a big factor in our lives. Besides the nettle tea, there is much we can do. I look for simple ways to focus on a deep breath, like a red light at just the wrong time or standing in a long line at the grocery store. Just breathing more deeply can help oxygenate the body and begin to release the stress. Another thing that makes a big difference is focusing on gratitude. Most stress is due to fear, and only one thought can exist at a time in our heads. If we simply acknowledge the fear, and instead focus on all we have to be grateful for, it really helps to de-stress. Even writing down 5 things we are grateful before going to bed can be helpful--and also insure a better night's sleep! And don't forget regular exercise--just a 5-10 minute walk in the sun can make a difference--and give you important Vitamin D if you're not wearing sun glasses.

Mark_Wolf(Q) Everybody we know is either battling a cold or just getting over one. Tell us about the ginger bath treatment.
Susan_Mead(A) That is a very favorite remedy of mine--but you must catch the cold on the very first day for it to work. Maybe a throat tickle or headache is your first sign--don't wait until you feel crummy the next day! Before bed, draw a bath as hot as you can stand while steeping 1 tsp. of freshly grated ginger (kept in your freezer for this very instance) in a small pot of water. Get in the bath and drink the tea (added raw honey is fine). You'll feel yourself starting to sweat which is perfect--the virus' can't take the heat. Once the bath starts to cool and you've had your tea, go immediately to bed and stay covered even though you'll still be sweating. Sleep as long as possible--no alarm--and you should wake without a cold. But be smart--stay way from sugar next few days, and take a rest or two of 10 minutes throughout that first day, if at all possible.

Lisa_Ryckman(Q) What kind of exercise do you do, and are there herbs that can help post-workout?
Susan_Mead(A) My exercise has evolved some, but I currently walk 30-50 minutes most days (6 out of 7), practice yoga daily (5 min or up to 90 min in a class) and lift weights 2-3 times a week. Skiing, hiking, etc. are all fun add-ons but not often enough to replace my basic activities. If you feel really sluggish after a workout, you probably just need a good meal. Morning workouts tend to be best for regular incorporation into very busy lives--a breakfast with quality protein (like eggs) and fat (like organic butter) can help you recover faster. And lots of water/herb teas. A little licorice rt. can help as a pick-me-up, too, but be careful with it if you have high blood pressure.

jeffindenver(Q) What if anything can be used to increase male libido as you start to get older? Talking to doctors they indicate that there really isn't anything out there that has been proven to work??
Susan_Mead(A) Best to start with the basics after getting some testing for hormone levels done with your doctor. You'd be surprised what a healthy diet (including plenty of fat and protein) and regular exercise can do. With professional guidance, you also may want to try one or more of the ginsengs.

Lisa_Ryckman(P) Thanks for the great informative chat, Susan! For anyone who wants to know more about Susan and her book, go to www.susanemead.com.
Susan_Mead(A) Lisa, it was my pleasure! The book is also available on Amazon, and I so appreciate your great column this morning. :)



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