Sunday, January 30, 2011

Questions for Dr. Duckworth: Seasonal Changes

In reading your site and looking at some of the videos here, I've seen you reference the changing of seasons and what this can mean for physical and emotional health. Is this based along the lines of our common calendar? Or in the actual temperatures that we feel on a yearly basis? When would you suggest that we're in for our next seasonal adjustment? And what would you suggest as good health policies as we transition from winter into spring? Quite a few questions there....

M. Graham


Dear (Mrs, Ms, Mr, Miss) M. Graham, your questions concerning the seasons are great...and challenging. The language and references we use is less about the calender and more about the weather itself. Granted, the 17th of December is the winter but....let me start over. In Oriental Medicine, there are five seasons of the year. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Do-Yo Do-Yo is the time of change between the seasons. For example, in late February/early March, the day time temperature may be quite spring-like but the nights are still wintry or in late Spring when the day is like summer but you need a sweater at night, these times are the fifth season. It is not just the temperature, it's the environment.The practitioner must factor this when treating or making dietary recommendations. The acupuncturist should plant the needles accordingly. In the summer, needles are planted more shallow, winter, deeper. However, if a resident of Hawaii is visiting St. Louis at Christmas and comes in for a treatment while it is snowing outside, I will treatment him as if it be summer because that is the environment that he is still synchronized with. Just as there are five seasons, that are five tastes (and, by no accident, five vowel sounds). Each taste has an association or relationship with a season. The taste of Spring is sour/tart, summer is bitter, Autumn is hot/pungent, winter is Salt and the Do-Yo season's flavor or taste is sweet. An excess or definciency of a taste will influence how well you cope with each season and how well you handle this season will influence how well you handle the next season.

When are we due our next seasonal adjustment?? Right before the spring winds begin to blow. Probably late February/early March - maybe later...and as we transition, we need to start moving away from heavy, dense foods - eat less red meat, eat less potatoes, squashes, gravies, rich foods. Spring is the beginning of the year, the beginning of new life. This is when seeds sprout and animals give birth. We neeed to eat sprouts, lighter foods. Springtime is a good time to 'fast' and do 'cleansings', it's time for walking and being in the sunshine. I suggest you grow sprouts to eat - radish, pumpkin, mung bean, soy, alfalfa - so many seeds to sprout - so many salads to make!

Keep the questions comin' !

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Questions for Dr. Duckworth: Ginger

Recently, I went to the market, saw a deal on ginger and bought a couple of large... whatever they're called. Chunks for ginger? Stalks? At any rate, though I use ginger in cooking and in making my daily tea, I'm wondering if you've got any extra uses for the ginger? Noticed that you mentioned it mixed with sesame oil as a balm for wintry skin. Anything else ginger can do?



Dear Franklin,

Ginger root, those clunks of ginger are the root of the plant. When you purchase a goodly amount - and if you own a food processor, chopping the roots up, placing in baggies (about a handful per baggy) and freezing the chopped ginger root is an excellent way to preserve large quantities of your purchase. Don't refrigerate the fresh ginger (it will get moldy), leave out with your fruits. Ginger root will dry/dehydrate but it is still quite usable, Anyway, Franklin, ginger is a very useful plant. It has been found that 2-3 capsules of powdered ginger root are twice as effective as Dramamine in addressing motion sickness. It is quite helpful with nausea, including morning sickness. It may also be used to counter the diarrhea and vomiting of gastrointestinal "flu". The effective dosage seems to vary person to person, with some taking as many as 10-12 capsules an hour. Unlike Dramamine, ginger has no effect on the central nervous system and it apparently absorbs toxins and restores normal gastric activity. However, excessive doses may irritate the upper G.I.

In Oriental Medicine, Ginger Root is used to stimulate the organs, provide heat and restore vital Qi (Ki, Chi). Stagnation of Qi (the Life Energy of the Universe & therefore, the human body) impairs function and results in disease. Sore throat, swollen glands and other discomforts in the throat; sleeplessness; mental disturbance; unexpected or unexplained pain anywhere in the body and nervous system problems are some of the manifestations of Qi disharmony. Ginger is used to heal diseases attributable to Qi stagnation.

There are many herbal preparations that incorporate ginger in their formula. For example, a tea made of soya or tamari sauce, ginger, umeboshi plum (Japanese Salt Plum) and Bancha Tea (Japanese Twig Teat) is used to strengthen the heart. It is also drunk for fatigue, poor circulation and sluggish metabolism. The recipe: 1/2 umeboshi plum, 1 teaspoon soya sauce, 5 drops of ginger juice, 1 cup of Banch tea (boiling). To the boiling tea, add the salt plum, soya sauce & ginger juice; stir and leave on low heat for a minute or so. Drink hot.

Ginger is quite useful for digestive issues such as nausea, colitis, diverticulosis, indigestion, morning sickness, any kind of upset stomach. It is useful for menstrual cramps (internally & externally), hot flashes, muscular spasms and circulation problems.

Externally it is used to address joint issues, curvature of the spine, muscle contractions, bone spurs, inflammation, headaches, earaches, dandruff, skin problems and bronchitis. Cooked in water, it is used as a compress or soak for muscle and joints.

Yes, ginger oil is made by mixing ginger juice and sesame (or olive) oil. A very strong decoction is a mixture of 1 part oil to one part ginger juice; weaker mixtures would be 2:1 or 3:1. For skin issues, I'd start with the 3:1 mixture. Ginger oil is useful for aches, pain in the spine, joint and muscle pain, earache and dandruff. It makes a wonderful massage oil also.

Most of this information, Franklin, is contained in a 4 page info sheet entitled "Ginger. Out of the kitchen, Into the Medicine Cabinet" that I put together in 1998. You can get a free copy at the Natural Life Therapy office.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Video: Patient Conversations with Jodi Apter

Patient Conversations: Jodi Apter with Dr. Duckworth from Thomas Crone on Vimeo.

Vegan for a Month, post-script

You know how the holidays roll around each year? And how people tempt you with delicious, non-vegan foods at every turn? Yup, I know all about that time of year, too.

The wheels came off the vegan train during the latter days of December, but not before some good work was done. After talking to Dr. Duckworth, I feel better about the fact that almost everyone faces a certain weight-challenge during not just the holiday season, but during the winter. Weight stays on during this season; our body wants to hang onto it, for a host of reasons.

The good thing about an attempt at turning vegan for a month is that it cleans out some bad habits. For example, after deciding to eat fish about three years ago, I realized that I wasn't just enjoying a fine cut of tuna, or some high-grade salmon, from time-to-time. Instead, I wound up enjoying the heavily-battered, deep-fried weekly fish-and-chips special at my favorite pub. That kind of sloppy thought process (equating quality fish consumption to health, but then heading to the least-healthy version of some type of "trash fish") gets reconsidered.

So, a couple weeks into January, I've followed the vegetarian diet that I adhered to for 20 years, with the exception of a cup of shrimp bisque on a very cold night spent outside.

Attempts... sometimes you don't make it all the way. But the partial victory is there. You take and it realize that Lent is just a few weeks away. Another perfect time for dietary experimentation, whether, or not, you're even Catholic.

Happy eating, friends.