Archive for December, 2009


Of the gifts of the magi, in the modern world, we’re most familiar with gold. It’s an easy seasonal joke to say something along the lines of, “What’s the other stuff for?” Wikipedia says they were used in embalming and to mask the smell from funeral pyres. Incense. That sounds about right.

From plants grown in East Africa and Arabia, frankincense and myrrh are useful items in the Chinese Materia Medica, particularly for pain relief and to promote healing. Ru Xiang and Mo Yao (frankincense and myrrh, respectively) both invigorate the blood, reduce swelling, and alleviate pain. While they both address pain of the chest and abdomen as well as carbuncles, swellings and traumatic injuries, ru xiang also relaxes the sinews. It is used for rigidity and spasms, while mo yao is better for severe, stabbing, pain. In Chinese medicine, this is stasis pain, and mo yao is also indicated for immobile abdominal masses. Topically, they are both used to promote healing. Ru Xiang is used for traumatic injury and is said to “generate flesh,” while Mo Yao is better for chronic, nonhealing sores.

In clinical research, ru xiang treated tuberculosis in rats. Mo yao lowered serum cholesterol and prevented plaque formation in rabbits with diet-induced hypercholesterolemia. It also was shown to stimulate gastrointestinal motility and kill fungus. You may have heard of boswellia, or some derivative of the word, for arthritis, or as a component of skin cream. The genus of trees that produce frankincense is Boswellia.
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Bensky, Dan and Andrew Gamble. Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica. Revised ed. Seatttle, WA: Eastland Press, 1993.

Go read this before the NYT starts requiring a password to access the archives: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/06/opinion/06kristof.html?sudsredirect=true

“What if breast cancer in the United States has less to do with insurance or mammograms and more to do with contaminants in our water or air — or in certain plastic containers in our kitchens?” A leading question, for sure, but it is notable that puberty is happening earlier and earlier in girls, and there are more and more common chemicals that were not around 50 years ago. An easy thing you can do to reduce your exposure is check your food containers. Plastics of grades 3, 6, and 7, should be discarded if they are not labeled BPA-free. 1, 2, 4, and 5 are considered safer. Do not microwave food in plastic containers or put plastic in the dishwasher. Stop buying bottled water and start carrying a reusable water bottle. (Bottled water is an ecological nightmare, anyway. Get a filter if you don’t like the way water tastes from the faucet.)

And a note on more physical environmental concerns, I’m trying to do some serious housecleaning and decluttering. I was trying to cram too many boxes under my bed, and one of them stuck out a bit from the edge. Not enough to be visibly that bad, but the extra inch or two I had to twist to avoid it while getting out of bed made a difference! My SI joints have been much happier since I admitted those boxes don’t all fit and moved them around so the remaining ones are all the way under the bed.

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