Toxic Tea Party

I’ve written about the health benefits of green tea, and I’ve personally enjoyed at least one cup of tea daily for many years. I buy organic, high quality products  so I thought I was safe from heavy metals an other toxic chemicals.  It turns out I was wrong! 

I got a phone call from a friend who had been mixing his own chai with organic herbs and black tea. He was drinking a lot of it, and started feeling sick with brain fog, muscle weakness, insomnia and fatigue. He said his symptoms went away when he stopped drinking it. I wasn’t sure that it was the tea causing his symptoms, and thought maybe it was Lymes disease, thyroid imbalance, adrenal fatigue, other environmental toxins, or something else. So, I started doing some research on the potential toxicity of our tea supply. 

I was surprised to find out that all black, green, white, and oolong teas, organic or not, have been tested to contain significant amounts of contamination by toxins and heavy metals-namely lead, flouride, and aluminum. Some even had levels that are considered by the FDA to be unsafe for human consumption in just one cup of brewed tea.

In one study, all 30 teas tested contained dangerous amounts of levels of lead for pregnant and lactating women. (1) 

The cheaper teas such as Lipton, Allegro, Celestial Seasonings, Tazo, Teavana, Bigelow, Republic of Tea, Twinings, Yogi, Tea Forte, Mighty Leaf, Trader Joe’s, and Tetley contained dangerous levels of synthetic flouride and pesticides. Toxic amounts of synthetic flouride, a pesticide byproduct, can cause bone fractures, thyroid disorders, tooth, and kidney problems, impaired brain development and function, and cancer. It accumulates over time and can sit in your body for years before causing health issues. (2)

Flouride accumulates in the tea plant as it grows, and the older and smaller leaves contain the highest levels. This is the cheaper tea found in teabags. Higher quality tea is usually sold as loose leaf tea and costs more, but in general has less toxic load. But even those teas that claim to be organic and pesticide-free have been found to contain known carcinogens in quantities exceeding FDA guidelines. 

There are no current guidelines for routine testing or reporting of toxins found in naturally occurring products. Some companies do independently test their products like my Chinese herb supplier Mayway. So, if you still want to drink tea, I’d recommend finding the highest quality product available, and not overdoing it. As with all things, listen to your  body and intuition. Whether you’re a tea drinker or not, pesticide residue is an issue that affects us all, and threatens both our global and local food supplies.

Personally I’ve cut my tea habit to once a week, and have replaced it with brews made from nourishing herbs from my backyard and local growers- my current favorites are nettles, red clover, dandelion leaf, bee balm, lemon balm, skullcap, tulsi, and mint. If you’re not a gardener or forager, these are available at the Brattleboro and Putney Food Co-ops too or at various online suppliers including MountainRoseHerbs.com. Place a few of your favorites in a glass jar, fill with hot water, cover and let sit for at least 20 minutes. Strain and enjoy. 

In nature, a poisonous plant will grow in close proximity to its antidote. For example, poison ivy gives you a skin rash, but it usually grows next to jewelweed which prevents the rash.  I wonder if this is still true, if the remedies for our toxic overload are right under our noses?

See my next article about Decontaminating Heavy Metals coming soon.

References

  1. The Benefits and Risks of Consuming Brewed Tea: Beware of Toxic Element Contamination by Gerry Schwalfenberg, Stephen J. Genuis, and Ilia Rodushkin. 9/2013. Journal of Toxicology Volume 2013, Article ID 370460, http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/370460

  2. Toole, Michelle. Warning:Shocking toxic chemicals found in teas. https://www.healthy-holistic-living.com/warning-shocking-toxic-chemicals-found-teas.html

  3. Alexa Erikson, Popular Tea Brands found to contain illegal amounts of harmful toxins. 9/2016. https://www.collective-evolution.com/2016/09/27/popular-tea-brands-found-to-containillegal-amounts-of-harmful-toxins-avoid-these-brands/

Handpicked Nettle Infusion

Handpicked Nettle Infusion

Summer Update

     All is well here.  Michelle will be continuing to offer transformative acupuncture sessions in Brattleboro through the summer and new patients are always welcome, but she is booking up fast for summer so schedule soon.

     Michelle has spent the past two years exploring healing with horses at https://patchofdiamonds.com/ Last winter she adopted Jasper, a majestic painted mahogany horse who has turned out to be her greatest teacher in being present, flowing with the rhythm and breath of life, and staying intact and calm in all situations.

     Jasper suffered trauma and abuse early in life but found his way from Alabama to Vermont, eventually making his way to the P.O.D. ranch. Now we do trainings and bodywork with him weekly and his transformation has been rapid and beautiful. He went from being completely unmanageable and fearful to recently allowing me to calmly ride him bareback and even giving pony rides to my 5 year old.

      What this shows me is that no fear or trauma is too deep to be released and transformed. While everyone is on their own unique journey of self-discovery and healing, we all have access to this amazing human machine we call our bodies. If we have the right tools and the right surroundings, we can take leaps and bounds through our spirals of transformation and enlightenment, letting go of old patterns and walking into something new. What do you want, and how do you want your life to feel?  I'll be learning more about this new form of leadership this year and how to apply it in a healing context through the organization Position Purple.

Drinking Tea Can Prevent Hypertension

 

Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world after water. Habitual tea consumption has long been associated in China with reduced blood pressure and has also been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels and protect the body against certain kinds of cancer. Containing over 4000 chemical compounds, there’s still a lot about tea that remains a mystery, but studies have proven its effectiveness in protecting heart health.

One comprehensive study following more than 1500 people found that despite regular tea drinkers being more obese than non-drinkers and “smoked more, consumed more alcohol, ate fewer vegetables, and had more frequent high sodium intake,” they still had lower blood pressure levels than non-tea drinkers. Those who drank the largest amounts of tea (over 20 ounces daily) and for the longest duration (for 10 years or more) had the lowest blood pressure of any group. The majority of the participants were drinking green
or oolong tea without adding milk. 
The study authors were unable to pinpoint what exactly about tea lowers blood pressure, but offered several possibilities:
-caffeine, which lowers blood pressure for short intervals only,
-theanine, a component in green tea and a neurotransmitter in the brain that has been shown to reduce blood pressure in rats,
-polyphenols, antioxidants that help reduce effects of free radicals and prevent the growth of certain cancers,
-green tea extracts that relax smooth muscles, and
-other undetermined compounds. 

Resources
Yang YC, Lu FH, Wu JS, et al. The protective effect of habitual tea consumption on hypertension. Archives of Internal Medicine July 26, 2004;164:1534-1540.


Study: Daily Tea Consumption Reduces Risk of Hypertension. Acupuncture Today, Oct. 2004,V5.I10. http://www.acupuncturetoday.com/mpacms/at/article.php?id=29020.

Alternative Treatments for Hypertension

Hypertension (high blood pressure) has been around since ancient times but affects a growing number of people as life becomes more stressful. The effectiveness of pharmaceuticals for controlling hypertension is limited, and many people are turning to complementary and alternative medicine for better solutions. Oriental Medicine has been used for centuries to treat hypertension symptoms and has the ability to revolutionize hypertension treatment in the West. Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine might be more effective than pharmaceutical treatment with fewer side effects and a lesser cost, but more research is needed before these approaches can be implemented on a larger scale. 

Hypertension is a leading cause of death worldwide but can remain undetected for a long time. It’s considered a gateway to more serious heart and kidney disease; approximately 62% of strokes and 49% of myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) are caused by high blood pressure [1] Early warning signs include confusion, vertigo, headaches, nosebleeds, fatigue, blurred vision, headaches, chest pain, and an abnormal heartbeat. 

Of the 62 million Americans who have hypertension, only half are receiving treatment and of those, only half have it under control. [2] In fact, of those people being treated for hypertension worldwide, no more than 25% have achieved a normal blood pressure with SBP/DBP values under 140/90 mmHg [3].

Effective treatment is limited by availability, cost, and adverse effects from antihypertensive medications[4].  Concerned about the side effects of hypertensive drugs—extra urination, erectile problems in men, excessive hair growth, weakness, leg cramps, depression, sleep problems, dizziness, and fatigue—a growing number of people are turning to complementary and alternative medicine for solutions. The question is, what are the most effective ways to lower blood pressure with the fewest side effects? Are there alternatives to pharmaceuticals that are more effective, have less side effects, and are more cost effective? Should we have to sacrifice our sexuality or quality of life to prevent death from a heart attack?

As an acupuncturist I’ve experienced the healing power of acupuncture, herbal medicine, breathing techniques and other alternative approaches firsthand over and over again. As I ponder theories versus reality more questions arise than answers. What if these alternatives are also more cost-effective, have fewer side effects, and contribute to a better quality of life overall? Shouldn’t this knowledge be available to a broader audience?
-  Can the effectiveness of herbal medicine, acupuncture, and lifestyle changes be proven through clinical trials?  How effective are they compared to pharmaceuticals?
- Do these alternative approaches work on real people? If so what works best?
- Can these approaches be integrated into mainstream medicine care during routine doctors visits and help lower the overall cost of health care, creating healthier people and more stable communities?

 Following is an overview of the Oriental Medicine approach to the treatment of hypertension along with various studies that have shown their efficacy. More trials and research is needed but as you will see, there are effective alternatives available that are being used daily worldwide. Why would these methods exist for centuries and be used on such a broad scale if they didn’t work? There is no single cure for everyone, but working with an individual’s unique patterns to create balance within, from the source, can bring great results.

Universal Patterns

China’s ancient ancestors meticulously observed and documented patterns in nature, the human body and the cosmos to create their traditional medical practices. Oriental medicine (including acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, moxibustion, cupping, Qi Gong, diet, and exercise therapy) has been developing over the last 2500 years and is still evolving today to fit the needs of our changing lifestyles, culture, and environment [5][6]. Acupuncturists continue to draw from the same source of ancient information when diagnosing patients and forming treatment plans. Humans haven’t changed much over the past few thousand years, so while some treatments change to compensate for extra stress, environmental toxins, and lower food quality, many stay the same. 

The Oriental Medicine approach to hypertension is similar to its approach to all disease, where specific herbal formulas and acupuncture points are chosen to bring balance to the individual based on their internal patterns as revealed in the pulses, tongue, personality, symptoms, etc. Our energies (Qi) follow universal patterns, and these are matched with the patterns defined by Oriental Medicine. Herbs and acupuncture points affect the body in predictable ways based on observation and documentation over the last few thousand years.  If the correct formula or acupuncture points is used on the correct individual pattern, healing or achieving a greater state of balance is very likely to occur. 

Treatments change as the patient changes, and there is a spiral of healing that occurs on all levels. Physical pain affects the emotions and spirit, emotional pain can manifest physically, spiritual stagnation can cause physical disease, everything is connected. That’s why one specific treatment may work for some people but not others. And that’s why clinical trials and double blind studies are so difficult to perform in this medicine.

Hypertension can be divided into three major types based on the stages and symptoms. Fire syndrome, Phlegm-fluid retention syndrome, and deficiency syndrome.

Fire syndrome can be found in various stages of hypertension, and includes
1. Liver fire
   1.1 Heart fire
   1.2 Stomach Fire
   1.3 Intestinal Fire
Common herbal formulas for Fire syndromes hypertension are Luo Bu Ma Pian or  Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin San/Wan . 

Phlegm-fluid retention syndrome is usually found in later stages and can be divided into
1. Fluid retention in the upper jiao syndrome
   1.1 Fluid retention in the middle jiao syndrome
   1.2 Fluid retention in the lower jiao syndrome
A common herbal formula for phlegm-fluid retention hypertension isBan Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma San.

Deficiency Syndrome
1. Spleen deficiency syndrome
   1.1 Kidney deficiency syndrome
A common herbal formula for deficiency syndrome hypertension is Du Zhong Pian.

Each pattern above causes various symptoms and can be treated with specific acupuncture points and herbs. The most common pattern I have seen in my clinic is a combination of Spleen and Kidney deficiency syndrome, possibly with fire present in the liver or heart. Symptoms may include tiredness, weakness, dizziness, low back pain, forgetfulness, knee pain, night sweats, feeling cold, indigestion, and anxiety/depression or a general sense of unease. The pulse will be weaker in the Spleen and Kidney positions and the tongue may be pale, thin or have teeth marks on the edges.  

Emotionally, a feeling of fear or lack of safety in the world is more common with Kidney deficiency, while Spleen deficiency may manifest as compulsive overthinking and trying too hard to impress others. Overall, stress & overwork with an inability to be creative and fulfill your life to the fullest potential (a Wood element imbalance) can also contribute to high blood pressure in the long run because the constant tension in the body constricts the blood vessels. Breathing techniques, yoga, qigong, and tai chi are all beneficial practices to help liberate the Wood element, attune your body with the Earth and let go of stress and tension. 

For this pattern of Kidney/Spleen deficiency with Liver heat or stagnation, a formula called Du Zhong Pian or Eucommia Combination tablets by Plum Flower is indicated.
 As a practitioner of Planetary Herbology, I integrate local herbs with Chinese, Ayurvedic, and other worldwide herbs when necessary. There are very few herbs that are known to reduce high blood pressure. Eucommia is one of the major ones, and appears in many of the herbal formulas prescribed for hypertension. I like Plum Flower brand because they test all of their herbs for quality and toxicity and guarantee them free from contaminants.


Du Zhong Pian (Eucommia Combination Tablets) by Plum Flower

Cost: $30-$45 monthly ($15/bottle)

Ingredients: 
Du zhong 50% (Eucommia ulmoides bark)
Gou teng 20% (Uncaria rhynchophylla twig & thorn)
Xia ku cao 20% (Prunella vulgaris spike) Self-Heal
Huang qin 10% (Scutellaria baicalensis root) Baical Skullcap Root

Functions: Strengthens Liver and Kidneys, Calms Internal Wind, Clears Heat, Drains Dampness, Calms the Spirit

Biomedical Applications: Hypertension, atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, low back pain, sciatica, edema, pre-eclampsia

Cautions: Use with caution in Spleen-deficient patients with a tendency to loose stools, diarrhea, poor appetite, or chronic digestive weakness.

Dose: Plum Flower brand, 5 tablets 3 times daily away from food

Eucommia bark (Du zhong), is a temperate rubber tree that is only native to Asia. It has been widely used as an “anti-aging” remedy nourishing the kidney essence and Jing, the root of life. It has a long history of being used to relieve low back pain, to prevent miscarriage, and to mend fractures and broken bones along with another herb Xu Duan. It also tonifies the Kidney Yang to help with impotence and urinary incontinence. (Remember that pharmaceuticals for hypertension are known to cause excessive urination and erectile dysfunction? Eucommia has the opposite effect.) Through animal studies, Eucommia was found to sedate the central nervous system creating a calming effect, and to possess immunostimulant and anti-inflammatory properties [7].

Eucommia’s effectiveness for treatment of hypertension has been a more recent discovery. It lowers the zinc/copper ratio, which is significantly high in people with hypertension. In the 1980’s there were several studies done that found Eucommia bark to effectively lower blood pressure, which was attributed to its effect to dilate the blood vessels. It was found that the water extract (tea) was more effective than the alcohol extract (tincture) and the effects were more powerful when it was dry-fried first. 
In one clinical study of 251 hypertension patients, they took a tea of either the bark or the leaf three times a day for 30 days. The people taking the bark, 80 showed moderate to significant improvement and 24 had no response (76.9% effective). Of the people taking the leaf, 125 had moderate to significant improvement and 22 had no response (85% effective) [8].

Eucommia has no known side effects nor are there any reports of toxicity due to overdose. However, do not use it if you have low blood pressure, and it should be used with caution in people with severe blood or spleen deficiency because of its drying nature. Taking it with honey can mitigate its drying effects. It’s best to see a qualified herbalist before trying this remedy.An interesting side note, Eucommia bark has also been used to treat sciatica. Here’s the remedy: Cook 30 grams of Eucommia with a pair of pig kidneys for a half an hour. Filter out the herbs and serve the soup and kidneys. Six patients with sciatica were successfully treated by eating this once a day for 7-10 days[9].  I’ve never tried this because I’m not sure where to find the pig kidneys, but you can find 7-10 pairs of pig kidneys I can supply you with a pound of Eucommia bark. 

[1]: Farsang C, Naditch-Brule L, Avogaro A, et al. Where are we with the management of hypertension? From science to clinical practice. The Journal of Clinical Hypertension. 2009;11(2):66–73. PubMed ()

[2]: Hudnut, Fritz. Our Medicine: What does hypertension really tell us? Acupuncture Today December, 2011, Vol. 12, Issue 12

[3]:  MacMahon S, Alderman MH, Lindholm LH, Liu LS, Sanchez RA, Seedat YK. Blood-pressure-related disease is a global health priority. The Lancet. 2008;371(9623):1480–1482. PubMed ()

[4]: Chobanian AV, Bakris GL, Black HR, et al. Seventh report of the joint national committee on prevention, detection, evaluation, and treatment of high blood pressure. Hypertension. 2003;42(6):1206–1252. PubMed ()

[5]: Chen KJ, Li LZ. Study of traditional Chinese medicine—which is after all the right way? Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine. 2005;11(4):241–242. PubMed ()

[6]: Wang J, Xiong XJ. Control strategy on hypertension in Chinese medicine. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2012;2012:6 pages.284847

[7]: Chen, John and Chen, Tina. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. Art of Medicine Press, 2004.  

[8]: Xin Yi Yao Xue Za Zhi (New Journal of Medicine & Herbology) 1978;10:30.

[9]: 10. Zhong Yao Xue (Chinese Herbology) 1998;797:799
 

Sunbathing for Maximum Immunity

I’ve always loved the feeling of warm sunlight on my skin. When the sun is shining, everything seems happier and brighter. It is a well-known fact that exposure to sunlight increases vitamin D levels, which helps to boost the mood and immunity as well as protect against bone loss, cancer, type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis. However, most people are Vitamin D deficient. We need UVB sun rays to get our Vitamin D, but sunscreen blocks this almost completely. Also, UVB rays cannot travel through glass, but damaging UVA rays can, so don’t expect to get a vitamin D boost sitting in a bright sunny room with glass windows. 

 When taking supplements, animal sources of Vitamin D3 are much more effective than plant sources of D2 as D3 is converted to usable vitamin D by our bodies 500% faster than D2. Egg yolks (especially when the chickens are exposed to sun and have rich yellow yolks) and salmon are my favorite sources of Vitamin D after sunlight, and my favorite supplement is D3 and fish oil supplements by Nordic Naturals. 

According to Dr. Mercola, the best time to be in the sun for Vitamin D production is as near to solar noon as possible, typically around 1pm for most time zones. This is because the beneficial UVB rays are low in the morning and evening and high at mid-day. So, in the hours between 10-2 you will need the least sun exposure for the most benefit. Those with pale skin may need just a few minutes of sunlight, all you need is enough to turn your skin the lightest shade of pink. Darker skin types may need a little longer. Most people will max out their Vitamin D production after 10-20 minutes of sun exposure. After this, the body will not absorb any more vitamin D and only the harmful effects of the sun will linger. It’s best to protect your thinnest skin, around your eyes and face, from too much sun exposure to prevent damage and premature wrinkles.

To check your vitamin D levels, you must do a blood test. Since Vitamin D is emerging as a key player in fighting cancer, it is highly recommended to stay on top of this. As the Chinese proverb states, don’t wait to dig the well until you are thirsty; prevention in key to health and happiness.  

Now scientists at Georgetown university have discovered a new way besides Vitamin D absorption that sunlight is beneficial-by activating key immune cells that fight infection within the body. This is how it works. The dermis, our second layer of skin, has a high concentration of T-lymphocytes, a type of immune cell. When T-lymphocytes, or T cells are stimulated by foreign invaders or infections in the body, they release hydrogen peroxide to mobilize other immune cells and mount an immune response. According to this new study, the blue light aspect of sunlight penetrates to the dermis and activates these T cells automatically, releasing them into the bloodstream to boost the body’s overall immunity.

The National Academy of Medicine still does not recommend boosting sun exposure as this can increase risk for skin cancer and skin aging, but this new study has opened the possibilities of using special blue spectrum lamps for healing purposes. It has also confirmed my feeling that our bodies thrive by being exposed to nature in more ways than we currently understand. 
 

 

References
1. Manson, JoAnn E. MD. “Some Benefits of Sunlight May be Independent of Vitamin D.” Medscape Ob/Gyn 1/2017.
2. Mercola, MD “3 Reasons You May Not be Getting Enough Vitamin D this Summer.” July 30, 2012 accessed 1/2017
3.Phan TX, Jaruga B, Pingle SC, Bandyopadhyay BC, Ahern GP. Intrinsic photosensitivity enhances motility of T lymphocytes. Sci Rep 2016;6:39479.
4. Ware, Megan. “Vitamin D: Health Benefits, Facts and Research.”Medical News Today” 1/2017.